SPDIF Input vs Optical/USB From Laptop

default -- Mon, 06/15/2009 - 18:54

I am looking to purchase a Moon CD3.3  CD Player that has a SPDIF (which I think means COAX) digital input.
I am quite naive with computer music but would like to be able to play music from my computer's hard disc using the DAC of the Moon.
Unfortunately my computer only has an Optical Output or USB connection, so I was wondering what the best way to get the digital data from the computer to the CD player is? In a way that retains the purest sound possible.
Thanks for your help

Robert Harley -- Wed, 06/17/2009 - 10:16

SPDIF is the format, which can be carried on coax of TosLink optical cables. If you have a choice between SPDIF and USB, there's absolutely no doubt that SPDIF will sound better. The next issue of TAS has a major feature article on the limitations of the USB interface, along with notes of listening comparisons between USB and SPDIF.

Andrew1 (not verified) -- Wed, 06/17/2009 - 20:18

Thanks for this.
Sorry I am a bit confused at how I can plug in an optical digital cable into a SPDIF (RCA connector) jack?  The laptop has a mini optical outlet so that works ok.
Are you saying put a Mini Optical connection into the RCA SPDIF jack?
Or perhaps if you know of any cables (and can send me a link here) I can look up to see for myself what you mean.
Out of curiosity, how much impact does quality of optical cable have on sound?

barondla -- Sat, 06/20/2009 - 20:52

 Andrew, you can't plug an optical cable into a RCA coax (electrical) input. Will need a box to convert optical to electrical.  The Monarchy jitter reducer box should do it (  less than $300). There are converters without extra jitter reduction/upsampling built in for less money. Not sure who makes them. Hopefully someone else will help out. Good luck.

byron (not verified) -- Sun, 06/21/2009 - 06:44

 Robert,  at this point, maybe a another full-blown digital issue would be in order, but with a difference this time - gear it towards computer audio, and more specifically the DAC. I know this'd get you a lot of mail from the irate vinyl junkies, but think about the fact that it really is the future of hi-fi...hi-rez recordings through a good dac are getting so close to vinyl as to being almost down to preference more than anything. 
There are now so many DACs with all the varying interfaces and bit-rates, etc, that it's hard to get good info....so how about an issue of TAS with, I dunno, 5 DACs at each of 3 price levels reviewed, as well as articles about S/PDIF, TOSLink, USB, AES/EBU, jitter reduction methods, dac chips, etc etc - could be a really great issue annd a very timely one at that, with the more recent popularity and resurgence of the DAC.

Robert Harley -- Mon, 06/22/2009 - 13:58

Thanks for the note, Byron. The next issue of TAS (Issue 194, August cover date) has a digital focus, with reviews of many DACs and a terrific feature article by Alan Taffel on the USB interface. I just received my issue on Friday, so subscribers will get the issue later this week and early next week.

Atul Kanagat -- Wed, 06/24/2009 - 08:51

With high rez software now appearing on optical discs (Chesky 24/192; RR 24/176.4) many audiohiles face confusion regarding how to extract these high bandwidth signals from the disc and transfer them jittrer free to any of a number of DACs now available to convert the high rez signal to analog. It would be great if TAS could update and de-mystify for the non techno-geniuses among us the following topics:
Disc players or computers that can read these discs and provide an output of the high rez signal?
Interfaces that are capable of handling these bit rates?
Options available to convert from standard interfaces (USB for computers?) to interfaces commonly available on external DACs (S/PDIF, AES/BU)
If the industry does not make it possible and easy to play back these wonderful discds,  is it kely that we will see many more of them?

Robert Harley -- Wed, 06/24/2009 - 11:18

Thanks for those suggestions. Some of those questions are addressed in the new (August) issue.

fmaster@udel.edu -- Thu, 07/16/2009 - 08:52

Given the superiority of SPDIF - what about using a PCI card with SPDIF output?  Random search finds, for example, a Diamond "Xtreme Sound" 7.1/24-bit sound card (XS71), $25.95 at B&H.  Is this a reasonable way to get SPDIF out of my PC?

Steven Stone -- Thu, 07/16/2009 - 09:22

 OK, I can't bite my tongue any longer.
It is not a clear cut-and-dried fact that S/PDIF is superior to USB.
One article by one reviewer does not a fact make. Three computers and four DACs is not a representative or statistically significant amount of test samples.
Before anyone can make such a universal statement a LOT more testing and listening must be done.
Using a $25 sound card to do conversion to S/PDIF will get the job done, but knowing what I know about the insides of a computer I cant help but feel that a sonically better solution would be a external converter.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound, EnjoytheMusic.com, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

cmalak -- Fri, 07/17/2009 - 23:36

I don't mean to ruffle feathers here but the suggestions above for a comprehensive issue on computer audio is warranted beyond this past month's issue. It looks like Alan's article has created quite a stir in the forums on Computer Audiophile website (link below) because his survey among other things excluded any aynchronous USB devices (which I believe by the way the Music Streamer devices that Steven Stone reviewed were). Here is the link:
I am a newbie myself to this subject and am trying to piece together a computer-based digital front-end and just happened on the Computer Audiophile website as part of my research. The options are vast and bewildering and while that site has some useful reviews and how to pieces as well, there does not seem to be a good basic primer that covers the basics of how to put togther a computer-based music server, including review of different typed of DACs, interfaces, music management software, NAS, etc...A comprehensive "how-to" on this subject will differentiate TAS from competing magaines/webzines but will also attract younger audiophiles who have grown up on computer audio. My 2cents worth. Thanks.

cmalak -- Sat, 07/18/2009 - 00:12

I just read through all the comments on the forum I mentioned in the link above and Alan makes a well-reasoned and thoughtful response to the various points raised about his article in that forum. I still think TAS could serve its readership and attract new ones with a comprehensive review of the emerging computer audio arena and how best to implement it in our systems. Thanks.

Robert Harley -- Sat, 07/18/2009 - 11:53

We intend to expand our coverage of computer-based audio with a regular column covering more gear as well as technology-background articles.

MikeE (not verified) -- Tue, 11/17/2009 - 16:41

Hey guys! I have a USB external soundcard for my laptop. It has optical in and out. For some reason, when I go to the mixer on the record section, the SPDIF-in is grayed out and I can't get any sound to come through. Does anyone have a clue as to why this would happen? I'm trying to record from my digital mixer and it worked when I had a computer tower with an optical in on that sound card. I feel like I'm overlooking something very simple.
Soundcard is SIIG USB SoundWave 7.1 Digital and I'm running Windows XP

DimitryG (not verified) -- Mon, 11/23/2009 - 01:34

A $12 optical --> coaxial converter will do just fine: http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=104&cp_id=10423&cs_id...
Remember, this is just an interface converter (the signal is digital to begin with). It simply converts light pulses representing your 0's and 1's into electrical pulses representing the same exact 0's and 1's. Your external DAC will do all the heavy lifting.

All content, design, and layout are Copyright © 1999 - 2011 NextScreen. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction in whole or part in any form or medium without specific written permission is prohibited.