You'll get past your resistance to replace the DAC much sooner than you think.
What makes you think I haven't played cable swap?? One variable at a time.
I suspect that this will make most coax sound better:
It did with anything I’ve thrown at it.
USB is a relatively new requiment. It can with the need to connect computers to audio systems. Before this SP/DIFF was the connection. USB presents a completely different input to the DAC… the DAC must retime the bitstream. Which sounds better depends on your DAC and streamer. In general, if your streamer is better than your DAC then USB might sound better, and visa versa. Some DACs were produced specifically to be connected to computers and hence only have USB inputs. But of course some streamers then started to have USB outputs.
For contemporary and equal quality streamers and DACs SP/DIFF (or AES.. the balanced equivalent) is best. But you have to try both to be absolutely sure. I have very high quality equipment, there is really no substsncisl difference between the two, so I use the AES.
@ghdprentice I think what you said makes a lot of sense. What connection and cable do you use from your Aurender? I believe your model has the option of all three connections, AES, Coax or USB. I would think the AES or Coax would sound better than USB. Interestingly,well respected models from Innuos only allow for USB, and I think that USB is perhaps a downgrade to Coax or AES...maybe not for their gear??
The type of cable or the cable itself is not generally the issue but rather the designer's implementation of the connection interface at both the source end and the receiver (i.e., DAC) end. Isolation, grounding, power, and more all make a difference. As an example, JCAT makes a USB CARD XE selling for $909, which is said to be an excellent USB interface when properly implemented. The point is, rather than generalize one type of cable/connection being inherently better than another, use what sounds best with your specific gear. If you like your DAC, and it only accepts a coax (S/PDIF) input, then make sure your streamer/server offers a good coax output, or use a commensurately capable converter or DDC.
Depends on the quality of the streamer in my experience. I currently use a BlueSound Node 130 (With LHY LPS) with various USB cables, to a Denafrips Iris DDC, and then I2S Audioquest Vodka 48 8K/10K HDMI cable to a Denafrips Pontus II DAC. The sound improvement of this stack is impressive for such a low cost combination, with each upgraded component adding to the SQ.
That said, I've borrowed a couple of streamers (Aurender N10 and N200) that were amazing and much better than my set up, and I suspect that the iris is not needed....but those are $6,000 streamers or there abouts. I am currently saving the funds to upgrade to the usual suspect streamers (Innuous/Lumin/Aurender)
@vthokie83 Agree that the quality of the streamer is important. Although, IME the ability and quality of the DAC is actually a lot more important. Seems to be about 20% for the streamer and 80% for the DAC.
If you place a great sounding streamer with a marginal DAC, you will not be that happy, OTOH, if you place a great sounding DAC with a marginal streamer, this will still be very satisfying. At the highest level, it all matters, but my ratio still applies. Cabling and connections matter as well. So does all of the set-up and upstream/downstream gear. BTW, what to you is the 'lower levels'??
I'd try an Aurender UC100 converter, at $700 it's not cheap but you may be able to get one used. I use their UT100 usb to fiber converter and it works just great.
I'm not going to argue the pros or cons of USB sound quality, I just don't like it due to it losing connections between equipment if I jump around tracks too quickly. Every other SP/Diff connection I use simply locks onto the signal.
Best of luck and enjoy that DAC.
@daveyf I don't know how universal this is but I think it will work with most streamers that have a usb output. I've used my UT100 on a MacMini M1 without any issue at all. Windows would probably need a driver which could be an issue but I think a streamer would just see these devices as a DAC.
@treynolds155 Thanks again. This is really good to know. It could open up a much larger number of potential streamers for me. I was leaning towards a Aurender, but was only considering their N200 and up as they have a coax output. Now the lower model N150 could be an option, along with the Innuos line. ( which i really like as well). Assuming of course that what you said about compatibility is correct. I will ask my Innuos dealer.
From the Aurender website…
You can pick up a used Denafrips Iris for $399 and have your problem solved…