Question about USB connection from PC to DAC


First post here.

I wanted to ask my question in this forum as it seems the users here are quite knowledgeable.

I am a bit of a newbie when it comes to hi end audio and digital music but learning more and more all the time.

I am also in the process of building my 2 channel system.
I thought or think i am on the right track but I recently read that a USB connection is not ideal for hi res music playback (connecting a PC to an external dac).

I recently bought an external DAC and have purchased some hi res music (DSD) and well it sounds pretty good to me. But after reading what I did, now I am wondering, am I still missing something?

I really have nothing else to compare it too, so perhaps I am missing out, I don’t know.

My question is, I know I can probably get better USB Cables and that might make a difference but should I also invest in getting a device that supposedly cleans up the usb output before getting to the DAC?

Also, what other way can you output from a computer?

Most DAC’s that I have seen have a USB Type B input specifically to connect to a computer.

Any info would be awesome!



Welcome, Jay!

Welcome! Your computer might have an optical (Toslink) out available. Most Macs do. It would help if you listed your equipment.

Thanks stevem2,

I recently built a new HTPC for the purpose of storing hi res files and ripping all my CD’s to it.

You mentioned, Toslink. That would be better then usb to dac?

So I would connect toslink to dac? But can that handle DSD?

By the way, I am in the process of researching for a new Integrated Amp or Separates and PS Audio is high on my list. Thinking about possibly getting a Stellar Dac/S300 Combo.

Current Equipment:

HTPC - for his res music playback
Questyle CMA 400i external dac
Martin Logan Motion 40 Tower Speakers
Denon AVR-5700 - Being used as main unit at the moment (looking to upgrade)
Denon DBP-1611ud - used to playback CD’s and SACD’s


Hi Jay. To get an introduction to some of the how and why about USB audio quality, start with a look at the product pages for the iFi digital line and the Sonore UltraRendu:

You should find plenty of branches out from there to explore. Then there’s the mega thread on this forum regarding the Matrix X-SPDIF 2:


Toslink officially only supports PCM up to 96/24. DSD64 files are transmitted as DoP files that appear as 176/24 PCM files. Sometimes Toslink can handle that but it’s unpredictable. USB is more reliable in that sense. The advantage of Toslink is the optical cables do not introduce ground loops.

I just purchased a couple of these for my equipment. With the B model, you plug it straight into the back of your DAC. Only additional consideration is the spacing of the USB jack and any impact to adjacent plugs.

Hi Jay, I have a setup with iMac, Stellar Gain Cell DAC (SGCD) and very revealing active studio monitors.

I do exactly the same as you, store my ripped CD’s and DSD on the computer and play it through a 5 m Atlas Element SC USB cable to the SGCD. That cable cost me EUR 129 the system is dead silent when playing no music and volume is max. It plays very audiophile and revealing as for the first time I notice a clear difference between lossy and lossless Apple file formats and DSD and CD. The sound causes no fatigue at all.

So I have spent more than EUR 2300 on the Stellar upgrade incl. cables.

For me it sounds perfect, TOSLINK from MAC to Stellar DAC is no alternative, it will not play DSD.

I see no reason to fix a problem I do not have and go down the ifi rabbit hole. Go to darko for the review. His conclusion was: If there is a scale of 1 to 10 for USB sound quality the ifi isolator (> EUR 600 incl associated cables) that measure would be an improvement from 2 to 2.2, his sarcastic conclusion was, that ifi’s Call to fame was correct in that it did improve the sound. Now ifi doesn’t even have USB cables 5 m long even when 2 are connected by their devices.

Somewhere else I read that the impedance of the long USB power leads takes care of the computer noise, well I have that long USB cable and it works perfect.

Yes! Welcome to the forums. For what it’s worth, USB is an excellent way to connect your computer to your DAC as long as you at least have a decent USB cable and are using the right program on your computer to serve the music.

On my system, I connect my Mac Mini to my external PS Audio Directstream DAC, through a Curious Cable What really makes a big difference is the server program on your computer. Most computers (Windows and Mac) have lousy sounding audio paths. You’re going to want to use a program like Bit Perfect, Audirvana, J River, or others that help with obtaining the right sound quality.

Just received a little chinese box which converts usb to toslink. Somebody in the forum recommended it, supported by Ted. It does not work yet between my computer (usb out) and the ds (optical in).

Any advice to get it working? I use the right tos input, but when i reinstall the usb driver, my computer does not recognise the dac.


The computer probably needs to recognize the box rather than the DAC. Does the box require a driver? For example, I believe the Matrix X-SPDF 2 requires a driver on at least some Windows machines (but not Macs, which is how I use mine).

Thx. Good point. It is a breeze audio usb converter. Have to search…

Got an evalution driver from xmos which does work for 16/44. It is a start does not have the right one for dop yet.

Hello Paul,

Thanks for chiming in. I will take a look at your suggestion on the Curious Cable.

For my software, I downloaded Foobar, Jriver and Audirvarna and I think I am going to stick with Jriver as it seems to allow me to do everything I need and so far sounds pretty good.

By the way, I enjoy watching your videos.

Also, thnx to everyone for their suggestions, I am going to research the different options.



While you are searching for that better cable, listen to some nice music and enjoy your recently purchased SGCD. Even with a printer cable I trust you will enjoy it. Have a nice weekend.