Amazon may have the original Musical Fidelity V-Link usb/spdif converter (24/96) for well under 100.00. Last time I checked, they were 89.00.
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digital out from a PC is a waste. Ive built a PC music server from scratch, played with the ASUS Essence STX, Musicstream II async USB DAC, and am using a Vlink async USB converter to PS Audio Dlink III DAC now. No onboard PC option ever sounded close to an async USB option. Buy the Musicstreamer II if you are cash strapped,
I just bought a HLLY MMK-I 24bit/96k USB to SPDIF off eBay for $70 or so. It works amazingly well. Add a 10v dc wall wart and it kicks it up another notch. Remove the power feed leg in the USB cable altogether and it sounds even better. It doesn't do anything over 96k, however. What a great sounding unit. No complaints.
thanks again everyone.
i'm debating between shiit bifrost and emotiva dac.
re: USB vs optical, it seems optical produces better results. as for a high end sound card, isn't that redundant (or rather pointless?) if you're out to a nice DAC? i thought the whole point of a PC music server is to circumvent all internal hardware to get to the DAC as directly as possible.
Davide256 - already being done. It's called Play To and available on Win8. There are several CE manufacturers that have in on their receivers, including Yamaha. These of course are not high-end implementations, so they will probably not beat a CD transport.
There are fewer hoops to jump through with Ethernet, but USB performance can match it with the right software/hardware.
"USB vs optical, it seems optical produces better results. as for a high end sound card, isn't that redundant (or rather pointless?)"
Actually no. The jitter from a USB interface can be much lower than Toslink from the computer. The DAC will not reduce jitter significantly, so you need it to be low going into the DAC. Anything that you have read to the contrary is marketing BS IME.