Ethernet vs USB DAC Connection - Why?

I use a USB connection from a PC to my DS Junior. I am contemplating futzing with the Ethernet connection. All my music is on a NAS, no wireless in any link. I am very happy with my USB connection. I use Foobar as my PC player software and again, I am VERY HAPPY with Foobar (and it is free!).

What are the advantages and other implications (player?) in moving to the Ethernet connection over USB? Honestly, I see only problems with Ethernet here on these forums.

I planned on having some fun trying out the different options, but frankly, I ain’t getting the value of the Ethernet connection. BTW, my NAS supplies music files, photos, to PCs around my house and I never had a performance problem. I am not running any special services on my NAS other than the most basic file sharing. My NAS is also the primary backup of all my home machines. And yes, my NAS is backed up to two other systems… yes I am paranoid. Oh, and I have a separate battery backup that supports the NAS, Ethernet switches, and Comcast Xfinity modem… the NAS powers down when the battery is at around 50% power.

Bruce in Philly

A link to a discussion about Foobar: Foobar - Why not? Why not many users? Its FREE!

Just try to play something via UPnP on DSjr. Never let you down. The bridge is more than good for me, clean & punchy , beats the usb every time.

I think it all depends on numerous factors applicable in your system. I’ve read some/more than a few prefer USB. I’m more than happy with the convenience of Roon-ready Ethernet interface but then I’ve done a bunch to improve my Ethernet infrastructure to make it as good as reasonably possible. Inexpensive linear PS powering switch, along with battery powered fiber media converters. All inexpensive, along with inexpensive cat 6 cables.

I’ve used Foobar for decades (along time anyway) but its not very friendly or pretty for normal people to use. By normal I mean non-techs, significant others, etc.

Try it and listen

I am still not getting the Ethernet thing…

My bias: When the smart TV thing came out and the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) came out… yadda yadda… NONE of that crap worked. It just didn’t. It was cludgy, slow, and what was supposed to be simple was still more complicated that just assigning static IP addresses and using older services.

Kuddos for PS Audio for trying to tackle Ethernet, NAS and the layers of standards and apps… I am shocked any of this stuff works. But then I still read that folks have problems… and then when I read someone’s post where every other word is a three-letter acronym and they are dicking with different routers etc…, I scratch my head and wonder how anyone new to networking will get any of this stuff to work… I think how much money are these folks going to waste before they even get a peep out of this stuff…

After all of that, a simple USB cable is not just easy, but is easy,… oh and is easy and works. So, what am I gaining by stressing out and throwing money at the whole Ethernet linkage?

Bruce in Philly

I have a big, powerful Win 10 tower computer in an upstairs office. That computer runs JRiver and is hard wired connected to my home network. The tower includes a main music hard drive, back-up hard drives, etc… It communicates to the Bridge II through the network. I use an iPad/iPhone, while sitting on the couch, to select music and adjust volume through the JRemote app. Keeps all the computer stuff and associated fans out of my family/listening room. I think it works great and was well worth the effort. I fire up the upstairs computer, grab my phone and/or iPad and select music all night while surfing the internet (often posting on this site) on the same device or just listen.

The same system also drives outside speakers and allows me to select music and control the volume from my phone while outside on the deck. Maybe the new PSAudio server will be better, maybe not. In the meantime, the network connection and Bridge II works really well.

Interesting… doesn’t controlling the volume at the JRiver app defeat the whole purpose of bit perfect? Did you try lowering the volume (anything under 100%) and then try the PS Audio bit perfect test? Does it pass?

Are we expected to remove bit perfect audiophile pursuits for convenience?

Bruce in Philly

Nope it controls the volume directly through the DAC. I can see the DAC volume go up and down consistent with slider in JRemote. System passes the bitperfect test every time I run it.

Plus if I feel all super serious about listening, I run the DAC volume to 100% and control the big rig, inside system, with my pre-amp volume control. Keeping the system “bitperfect.”

I am using the Melco music server (where all my music files reside) which is connected to the Bridge II with the ethernet cable. It bettered my previous setups, one was desktop computer/JRiver-NAS-ethernet-BridgeII, another was Harddrive-laptop-USB-DS DAC.

I tried both, bridge and usb on the ds sr. I found the usb connection much better in sound quality. That was a bonus, because my first purpose was not to use my 165 watt pc with jriver and use a simple 15 watt Intel NUc. Saves a lot of energy. Just buy a 300 euro nuc, with 8 gb ram, 120 gb hdd, windows 10 and shift your jriver licence to this platform. Just use it for this purpose. Sound quality is clean, cost is much much lower than a bridge. Put it close to your ds and it is full functional with an ipad and jriver. Super! Oh, forgot, my music is on a synology nas on my network. Of course the nuc is connected.

I remain astonished at how unfriendly computers in general and networking specifically remain. This is a mature technology (The IBM PC came out in 1981; the Mac, 1984. Many other computers were already successful in the market.)

Yet, 35 years later, the technology remains cludgy and difficult to use.

Very interesting… this has been my solution now for years. Being in IT for my whole career, I have a bit of a stockpile of old laptops… I pop these laptops into various systems in my home as you suggest and the work fabulously for a whole host of purposes. For example, I have an old laptop that has an HDMI port, I put this unit inside my home theater cabinet and hooked it as another HDMI source to my home theater amp/control unit. For a few dollars more, I have a little wireless mouse/keyboard unit so I can sit in the theater, select PC input, then surf the net on the big screen, or play Youtube, or play Foobar to my NAS where my music library is.

For most of my recent history, I had an old Dell laptop in the rack of my big stereo rig. Turntable, Tuner, PC/DAC, … just another source. I even hooked up a cheapie remote control for the PC! Yep, for a few bucks, you can set up a little remote control to start, stop, and scroll through Foobar from your listening chair. (Today I would not do this, I would use a wireless mouse/keyboard combo). None of this is hard to setup compared to a NAS and Ethernet.

To your point, I don’t understand why others aren’t doing this as these NUCs and old laptops (you can get an older WIN 10 laptop on ebay for next to nothing now) are cheap. To ELK’s point, more folks can configure a PC than these crazy network components… to me, a PC or NUC via USB is by far the easiest solution to make all of this stuff work.

Bruce in Philly

hmmm… In my SQ experiment, the conclusion is completely opposite to yours. In network playback, it is significantly better than the USB connection.
I’ll try the TOSLink next week maybe. :wink:

I have not tried the Ethernet yet… but, I am one of those folks who really don’t find any significant sound differences between USB cables or other digital links. For me, once I get “there” a tweak is not relevant to me… just hearing a “difference” is meaningless to me.

Bruce in Philly

Both Usb and Ethernet have major caveats and neither are easy.

Usb straight from a computer is compromised due to transmission of computer noise into the DAC. Also, you have the issue if the windows/Mac operating system butchering the bits through the operating system mixers. Hence all the fuss about Integer and Direct modes. With usb you have decrapifiers and regenerator galore. Don’t forget that usb carries a noisy 5V power line right next to the data lines further requiring audiophile cables to mitigate this design flaw for audio.

Ethernet was assumed, incorrectly however, to be cleaner due to isolation transformers. The transformers only block some of the noise while letting noise from smps supplies pass right through. In addition, clocking and the Ethernet PHY are both areas where sq degradation may occur. Power supplies used for Ethernet devices change the sound even when there is optical galvanic isolation (fmc’s) used in the system. Hence, this is why things like the new EtherRegen are in development.

Both have huge rabbit holes. Now you see why PS Audio is making a server :slight_smile:

My bridge connection did benefit from an optical isolation between pc and bridge. Seems not to be clean at all.

But do not forget the financials. A bridge ii did cost me about 1200 euro, my full nuc, including windows licence about 350 euro. Saving 150 watt on a continous basis saves 0.15 kW x 24 x 365 x 0.21 eurocent = 275 euro per year…

Are you using cat 6 or an “audiophile” Ethernet?

Normal, about 6 meter or so…

Good, Audiophile Ethernet cables are kinda silly because they defeat the galvanic isolation of the Ethernet design. So people are adding in different flavors of noise straight into their gear. And potentially introduce ground loops.

I’m among those who don’t use the Bridge because the UI just doesn’t cut it for me. I don’t care about how a player’s UI looks if it doesn’t have the ability to define and use arbitrary user metadata and doesn’t have a simple query language for ad hoc queries. I also use the multi-file tag editing in foobar2000 periodically, especially when cleaning up/regularizing the tags. I haven’t seen any UPnP or DLNA UI that seems at all related to how I listen to music. Conversely (my UI for) foobar2000 isn’t at all user friendly for others. I suspect that the fact that bruce-in-philly and I both use foobar2000 is correlated with our non-ethernet biases.

Well that pretty much seals it for me. If you are telling me I don;t have the library search and management functions as well as all the other powerful tools of Foobar when I use the Ethernet bridge, well… I AM OUT!

Spot on Ted.

Bruce in Philly