Which DAC input is best?

i2S over HDMI (LVDS).

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Whatever you have.
Difference is infinitesimal.
Look to room and speakers if you want improvement.


@AndersVinberg “Difference is infinitesimal.”

Sorry, but this is bollocks. It largely depends on the DAC but in many cases there can be a massive, obvious difference in sound quality between these inputs.

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And assuming he has SOTA speakers and taken care of the room? Those inputs don’t matter? Or the DAC doesn’t matter either?

In discussions about the digital elements — usb or cat cables, network vs usb, MicroRendu vs. RPI, MQA vs. high res… — you often see discussion of whether a difference is audible, and double-blind tests, and whether somebody’s system is revealing enough…

I have never heard those phrases in discussions of speakers. Or rooms. Or room correction.


Rooms are often not a variable for many people. Room correction may also not be an independent decision, based completely on audio performance (some of us live with partners with other priorities). Speakers of course can make a profound difference to SQ, but they are entirely dependent on the quality of the signal they receive. I’d take a great source through an average set of speakers, over a crappy source through expensive speakers every time.

A rendu has to have a good quality power supply to sound better than a direct computer link, in my personal experience. But in this case, it’s clearly better.

Wich is really too bad because loudspeaker / room interaction it is THE utmost important part of your entire playback chain. The rest followes by a mile behind. I have seen and heard so many potential good systems being totally ruined by bad acoustics and wrong setup, then ruined even more by too much room correction dsp. Total waste of money imho. What’s the use of discussing anything that makes at most 1% difference when the most important part is totally ignored or waved away as being a non discussable topic. I’ll take a medium budget setup that integrates correctly with the room over anything else anytime.


I don’t think it’s being ignored or waved away it’s just an immutable. I can’t change my room, period.
Life is a compromise and my wife and I have compromised as much as possible in the setup. So now if I want to improve settings a bit I need to look elsewhere.
Many people are in similar situations and are just looking to see what can be done.
Could be because they are renting or have kids or many reasons.

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Same over here. But it’s not about rebuilding your home. It’s about how a certain loudspeaker acts within a given room. I see too many loudspeakers up against the wall while they are omnis in the bass through lower midrange and directive upwards. Inwall,.or cardioid would be much better. That doesn’t change how it looks or how much place is occupies. Bass can get much better with a couple of small subs in the right place wich don’t even have to be visible. Sometimes clever cornerloading works better in certain rooms, wich makes an even less visible system. Just some tiny examples of things that can be done wich have far greater impact then for instance any cable on this planet can ever do.

I agree. i2s versus USB or SPDIF is pretty darn close.

And they are off…

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Use a streaming DAC and ignore the digital connection and fight over Din, RCA or XLR instead.

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I see I have been made thread starter in this made up subject! I’ll qualify my comments.
i2S is the only input capable of the full array of PCM and DSD rates that USB can handle. Using my DAC I can switch between the two using the same source and hear any impact immediately. I can mute my DAC display so I don’t have to see which input is in use.
The rest of my setup is balanced using a passive preamp and Hypex NCore class D power so very low distortion and high transparency. My speakers are based on Tannoy monitors and were literally built to suit my room. Soooo, in a highly optimised setup small changes at the DAC input are both measurable and, in my case, audible. And my preference is i2S (LVDS) into both my AudioByte Black Dragon and my PS Audio Nuwave DSD compared to their USB inputs.
Recently I briefly heard the potential of a Pink Faun i2S card fitted in a streamer based on an ITX board. It is PCM only and only clocked to the 48k sample rates but getting Roon to output everything at 192k was quite a fun experience and one I’d like to make permanent.

I would say this is true to a degree. But it depends on where you start. I have so many friends with like Sonos One kind of systems. And, frankly, it’s not the room that is the issue here … :unamused::wink:

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I have a Pink Faun I2S card installed, it’s capable of 32 bit 192 kHz in my configuration (Arch linux streamer)

Also, SQ over I2S sounds cleaner than S/PDIF (coax) and to my ears better.

i have a similar setup

  • 2 pair of Tannoy’s
  • PC using Pink Faun modular Bridge, I2S and the AES/EBU + BNC version, on a ITX PC
  • ITX PC should be completely powered from a separate PSU (Motherboard, SSD and Bridge)

I strongly believe I2S is a better choice compared to USB if your Dac supports this input. Data and clock are on separate channels, and furthermore I2S is the protocol that the PC uses natively to share its internal data. no need to add a conversion step to USB.
USB is very very practical…so easy to use and setup.
Things are getting complex when trying to connect with old but “gold” generation of Dac/Decoding Computer (like Wadia X32 X64 and 2000) that usually only accepts BNC AES/EBU or optical

I am very tempted to use one serious Digital Interface with USB input and a quantity of outputs…
any idea/experience is welcome

The only advice I can offer is that the Pink Faun cards work best with Windows drivers. I failed to get mine working with Linux. I agree that i2S is by far the best way to move music around between components but I finally settled on a streaming DAC. I do intend to finish building a streamer with i2S out but I have one or two other projects on the go right now.

I failed too with PF bridge and Linux
and C-Media does not help or support
Linux or its flavours are by far more “clean” and efficient…but no way