Computer audio, I am not convinced yet ......

I am extremely interested in using the computer (Mac or PC) as a source for a digital playback. It seems to be the right direction for modern digital playback, a good alternative to the age old CDP, has endless potential and most convenient. So, I got an EMM DAC2 (retail $10000) with USB input and connected it to an Windows laptop via USB. My preamp, amp, speakers and cables are also of very good quality. Played some track on my system from the PC (used Audacity software, a very good and high quality software for sound processing). In 2 minutes I had to turn it off. It is just mediocre sound compared to playing the same track through a $1000 CDP(Sony SCD XA5400ES). It is almost like listening to an internet-radio through my PC speakers. I was wondering what happened to my first rate sound system ? Later I replaced the Windows PC with a Linux based MacMini, hoping that I will get the result I wanted. But it did not improve much. I did not like the outcome. My listening experience with the computer set up was 4 minutes(2 with PC and 2 with Mac) total. Since then I have gone back to using the same old CDP. I think I blame on the USB interface for this failure. The USB interface has not come up to the state of the art of a modern CD player. I did not try other interfaces purposely. No High-Res, only 16bit/44.1 audio files. I dont listen to SACD. Fire Wire to USB, USB to SPDI/F, Fire wire to HDMI, Firewire to SPDI/F, and almost an infinite combinations of patch up ideas are out there. But I dont like a patch up solution nor do I like to compromise the sound in favor of convenience.

I have heard many audiophile friends changed to computer based playback system many years ago for good and they are happy too. But I am not convinced yet. I am eagerly waiting for computer audio to catch up. I am sure it is in the making but it still has to go quiet a long distance.

Your thoughts are most welcome.
Try SACD on your Sony 5400 if you want HIgh Res audio.

The 5400 is up to date CD/SACD playback, and IMO beats every digital file (computer based) playback with 24/96K or higher files that I have listened to.

The USB port technology is the problem IMO. Pro digital High Res audio processing for the film industry does not use USB.
There is common misperception that if a DAC has jitter rejection circuitry and stand-alone clocks then its immune from the imperfections of the incoming digital signal. Its not correct, the principle “garbage in – garbage out” is applied to this situation equally well (or equally bad),

Regular computer parts create a soup of electro-magnetic and radio frequency interference. They contain a plethora of clocks and other ultra sensitive components that must operate in that soup. This environment, along with the quality stability and level of noise of the underlying power source, impacts the accuracy of each of those components. Audio playback happens via “real-time” communication between the server and the DAC. Unlike the data operations we use our computers for every day (downloading files, saving document and editing photos) audio playback has no error-correction built into the protocol. Consequently, most of the noise and all jitter created by the regular computer is passed along to your DAC where it may or may not be slightly attenuated by DAC circuitry.

Carefully select your music server (there are many choices today) and you will be surpised how mmuch better sound is when its played as a digital file from the quality server (file is copied or ripped from CD) as compared to exactly the same CD played using optical CD Transports.

Until you HEAR it - all words are useless, IMO

Don cc55: I bet you never ever ever ever ever compared dsd files played from quality music server versus the same music played from SACD read by optical SACD Transport.

For illustration purposes I have APL HiFi NWO-MasterJ - one of the best CD/SACD Player&DAC in the world (at least extremely expensive) and I demoe it to a number of my friends and visitors and enjoy the moment then their jaw meets the floor..:--)

All The Best In Your Search!

Simon Thacher
Musica Pristina
Just like with CD players, you have to be sure the components work together and give you the sound you like. Some things to try.

Have you tried the Digital input from the Sony to the EMM? That would tell you how you like the EMM DAC.

Try J River Music or foobar Windows players, using WASABI Event Style (async) or ASIO. Audcity is usually used for editing rather than playback. Do you know what playback mode Audacity used? If it went through the Windows audio stack using dirct audio that might be the problem.

Try a different USB to COAX adapter.

I replaced my Classe CDP-10 with a PC system when it sounded at least as good as the Classe. It took while to get the right competition, but it now sends better than the Classe and I would not go back.

I would not jump to a quick decision. Unfortunately, PC audio does take some tweeking, just like non PC audio.
I am no expert on the DAC2, butit looks like the USB on the DAC only does 44.1KB and 48KB and I am not sure it has a separate driver. That makes me wonder about the async USB implementation. It came out just as true async USB was being implemented. It would be nice to know more about the USB implementation or maybe try a newer USB interface that will go to at least 96 KHz, if you can.