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.
Can anybody comment on Lynx HiLo converter with USB input ? Is the USB implementation truely asynchronous ? How is the DAC performance ? How would it compare to a good USB/SPDIF converter + EMM DAC2 ? Thanks,

It takes time to get everything right. You need to optimize the computer OS for audio play. Not all computers sound the same. I have a friend that built 2 computers and one of them sounded awful. So you have software and hardware to get right on just the computer side. You also need a good USB converter they are not all created equal. I can tell you in my opinion and with my hardware Windows Server 2012 sounds amazingly better than optimized Win 7.
You should be able to beat the sound of a Sony 5400 as I owned one a couple of years ago.
Doggiehowser: To my regeret I did not auditioned EMM Labs DAC2. However, knowing reputatio of the designer you probably cannot go wrong with this choice

Audioeng: Lets not play with words, please. Typical average DAC has PPL i.e. as the rule, it has clock(s).

For music lovers who own DAC with SPDIF inputs only - your and very, very few others USB inteface plays enormously imprtant role - allowing these audiophile to continue to use their DAC and, as you said, frequently improve sound quality over "raw" SPDIF directly from the server. Your device is great, particualrly with its dedicated PSU
I think anything other than an spdif out via a sound card is a LARGE reduction in sound quality. Why would we go through the abomination of converting a usb signal into high end audio when you can have sound card doing it natively? USB in music is like flying to sweden for a sex change. Why go through such a drastic conversion? (because they can sell it easilly to everyone! - Techno phobes need not be concerned)

Today, I am seeing more and more people abandoning (finally) USB. They gave us usb because it was idiot proof - every puter has one and the user didn't need to open up the box. Well, great things usually take some effort. My dealer actually laughs when we discuss USB as an interface. I laugh as well.
Shame, Cerrot. Having the sound card in the computer just means it is susceptible to the EMI/RF noise that is in the computer.

USB provides a form of isolation from that noise.

Other options include what say Aurender has done which compartmentalizes the computer's components noisy sections which work just as well. But then you'd have to customize a completely new computer motherboard, power supply etc. Something few people have resources to do.

The closest you can achieve if you are building a music computer, is something like CAPS, and there're still benefits from USB.