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The Musical Fidelity X-DACv8 has a USB port (I2S?) input on its DAC. This DAC is well below US$2500.
I evaluated this very combination (MacBook Pro as a transport feeding a MF X-DACv8) a few months ago hoping that the sound would be able to replace a good CD front-end.
Unfortunately, the CD player (Arcam FMJ 36) I was comparing it to was clearly superior in every way. The MF sounded better as the day grew longer but it still was no match for the quality CD player.
Given that I'm a computer geek and a huge fan of the Music Server convenience (I have a Squeezebox2 in another room), I really really wanted the Mac/MF combination to be better. Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough to replace my critical listening requirements.
No, the X-Dac does NOT have an I2S port, and no the USB is not an I2S port, CNiker. They are not the same. USB is a pc-based universal serial bus connection; I2S was developed as a micro-link between circuit boards and has become a sort-of purist connection for DACs as it connects directly into the DAC chip and is typically the native DAC connection, bypassing further jitter-producers. Other DACs that have I2S as options include the Perpetual Tech,Zanden and Audio Logic. I didn't think the Benchmark USB had an I2S connection stock; it needs to be modded (WEmpirical Audio, for example).
Thank you Cknicker for your evaluation information. I was perhaps as disappointed in reading it as you were with the MacBook/Musical Fidelity X-DAC V8 combination. I say that because my system at home is comprised of MF components, MIT cables and Spendor 1/2E's. which produce amazing results to me ears.
But I'm not here to plug my stereo components. I was considering getting the X-DAC V8 to link a digital server to my stereo, but have become skeptical over the past few weeks. Your post and Tedmbrady's follow-up verify some of what I've been reading.
So, I have a question or two. I would like to find an intermediary between the server and my stereo. It has to be have an I2S link, pull data from the server and accommodate a screen for list navigation. Oh, and the intermediary has to cost less than $1,000 because, though I love music, I am not wealthy.
One last question, if you will. Is it the case that the sea of solid technical possibilities is too vast for me to comprehend or is it the sea does not yet exist? This search is taking a lot longer than I had anticipated.