USB and I2S: which is better for connecting DACs

Do you feel like you have to upgrade something? In that case, start with the speakers or headphones, then the amp.

Nothing to upgrade before the dac. Unbelievable! Only about 1/2 a dozen things, probably more, but only on systems that provide you the opportunity to get better sound

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I got my first streamer, a Linn Akurate DS, 15 years ago. No usb. Linn shunned usb and still do. I also had the Auralic Aries, full fat and Mini. My son still has the Mini. I never had a computer in my system, until today, a Mac Mini M2 Pro for HQplayer and Roon Server. It goes to an Innuos Pulsar with HQplayer embedded endpoint and then native DSD256 to Holo May L2 over USB. Both devices are optimised for usb and do it magnificently, whether PCM or DSD. The Pulsar only has usb output.

Up to yesterday I was sending files in their native format to the Pulsar and over usb to Holo May was still excellent. No reclockers or switches needed. I have a fibre network.

The Holo May has two I2S input. Innuos are developing a modular I2S output, but they tell me they still prefer usb.

The only upgrade in the signal path is a £50 EMO isolator just before the streamer, I also have a 9v battery power supply to my TP-Link media converter to keep it off the mains power. Otherwise, the network components were all from Amazon, save for an enterprise level Ubiquiti switch, controller and wifi system, because I have almost 100 IPs and 24/192 wireless audio in 9 zones.

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So that’s 6 things? Can you include a list?

I would if I knew the recipient would benefit from it. 1 would be a cable going in and going out but I know how you feel about cables so I won’t waste my time

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What I know about digital cables and transports has nothing to do with how I feel.

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Did you read the Axpona review in TAS? It’s on page 40 in the July/August issue. The most significant product at the show for Andre was the $64,000 kalista mantax dac. It has all the normal inputs like spdif, aes, i2s, and usb. He made the point that the optimal connection to the dac is the i2s input.

I only read reviews of DACs $100k and up. The higher the price, the more compelling the evidence.

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I think we each decide how much money we want to allocate for this hobby and then spend accordingly. My four DAC’s all use USB input and that works for me. It is not a “one size fits all” proposition.

EDIT: My main DAC’s are a Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier and Power Supply used as a pre-amp to Denon AVR-2805 and Chord Mojo 2 used with Focal Clear headphones. Both are fed by RPi4’s running RoPieee.

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$64,000 ??? I guess it plays music live by itself. You don’t need any input, the musicians are already inside. :rofl:

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Sarky - I like it :grinning:

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Isn’t this talk of jitter and clocking on a USB missing something. I thought the reclocking is done to the DAC not the USB since the USB, and or I2S, is just a data bus that dumps into a buffer in the DAC. The buffer is a slush bucket to hold and feed bits that arrive faster than the DAC can deal with. On the bus, bits are just ones and zeros and the music time domain has not yet entered the picture. There should be no jitter if there is a buffer in the DAC and I can’t imagine a DAC or any digital processor without a buffer, even in the least expensive ones, because it just wouldn’t work otherwise. Jitter can onl enter during the DAC processing. Before it gets processed by the DAC no changes to the sound can be possible, none, zilch, they are ones and zeros and there is nothing mushy between binary values. I2C vs USB should be irrelevant.

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You perfectly nailed it. DACs can’t work without internal buffers, so at the end of the day, only the DAC’s clock matters during D/A conversion. We can cross off jitter as a problem with well engineered DACs, and all re-clockers are inherently snake oil.

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