Computer, software, USB cable or ?

Had some friends over for the holiday weekend and was playing a bunch of different stuff.  Started with some cable radio @ 48K via TOSLINK into my C50 DAC.  Sounded about as you would expect; good but not great.  Standard streaming, IOW.  Moved on to digital from my laptop via USB.  It's a MacBook Pro from 2012 with OS X 10.11.6 (El Capitan), 2.5 GHz i5 processor and 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM.  I have the audio MIDI interface set to upscale everything to 32 bit 192 KHz so I can use iTunes as the file serving app for both standard and hi-rez files.  The USB cable is a decent quality computer cable, not an "audiophile" cable.  The sound was again good, but not great.  All files are ripped in WAV at source resolution (e.g. 16/44.1, 24/96 etc.). Bluntly, it just doesn't compare to my MVP 881 BR disc player.

I'm not expecting my computer source to rock my world, but I am wondering if there might be some way to get better performance.  Thanks in advance and I'll look forward to your input!
If you were running the laptop on AC a worthwhile experiment might be to try running it on its battery.  I'm envisioning not only that the AC power supply might be introducing noise into the system, but when on battery power the computer might operate in a somewhat different manner internally, in the interests of conserving power, conceivably resulting in less digital noise and/or jitter on its USB output.  And if the USB interface of the DAC in your C50 is not asynchronous, it might be particularly susceptible to that kind of issue.

Best regards,
-- Al

Also, I’ve found laptop USB interfaces are usually very poor quality when compared to desktop. Another suggestions would be reclocker (such as Remedy Reclocker by Wyred 4 Sound). This may make the audio much more solid and better.

Moving up to better silver/silver-plated based USB cables can also improve things.

That being said, it’s going to be extremely hard to beat your McIntosh MVP 881 as both a transport and a DAC/player.

Also, what DAC are you feeding the laptop into?

could be lack of galvanic isolation

some say SSDs sound better than a HDD - which did you use?

I suggest you post on

where a lot of engineers involved in designing DACs and related products hang out
i’ve used lots of different approaches when streaming via computer, but here’s the best combination of solutions I’ve found to date

If the DAC utilizes the USB power (many do)
- I found the best cable solution to be a dual lead USB cable - this has separate cables for power and signal.
- get a separate power supply - Enercell does a really affordable 5v USB power supply that performs well
- Pangea and Doukmall(Ebat) sells reasonably priced cables ($50-60)

Get Audirvana streaming software - it bypasses the Apple routines which "colour" the sound.

Copy CD’s using DBpoweramp - it does a great job and let’s you know if data errors are present

Next I would consider getting a V-link192 USB/SPDIF converter - it has a superb USB interface and improved quality a lot. They are no longer made, so you’ll have to look at used

I’ve since done away with the computer/DAC/V-Link and opted to go with the Blusound Node 2 connected via Ethernet cable to a router and NAS drive.
- it’s simple(even my wife can use it), great sounding and by comparison to the computer/DAC/V-link/cables/powersupply combo - it’s affordable

The Node 2 is the best streaming solution I’ve experienced to date, but there are many similar products out there - so find one that fits you

Hope this helps - Steve

I appreciate the input, everyone.  Specific answers:

@almarg - I run my laptop on battery when connected to the stereo.  If I run out of juice, I take that as nature's way of telling me to switch to vinyl or go to bed;-).

@auxinput - The DAC in my C50 is supposedly a stereo-only version of the 5 DACs used for the 7.1 capability in the 881.  Unfortunately, the 881 doesn't allow a DAC-only loop, so can't try an A-B between the two.  I'll consider the reclocker idea, and I appreciate your brining it up.

@randy-11 - My Mac has a 500 GB HDD; the SSD wasn't available in the 13 inch version at the time.

@williewonka - The C50 DAC is internally driven, so not an issue.  I'll check into Audirvana; I've been using iTunes simply because it came with the computer.  On the BlueSound Node, a buddy of mine has one hooked up through a Hegel H300 integrated and a pair of Martin Logan ESL EFX.  The combo sounds really good, and it's something I've considered.  The issue I have there is that there is no way for me to connect a Node or Vault to my router via Ethernet.  The C50 doesn't have a wireless capability and there is no way for me to run computer cable to it of any kind short of tearing out the ceiling in my basement (long story about bad decisions by prior homeowners).  The USB connection I've been using is a Rube Goldberg rig that I uncoil from the bottom of my audio rack and run across the floor to my laptop when I want to use it.  Makes it a real PITA for streaming Internet radio.

FWIW, I did just discover that the C50 automatically up-samples all digital inputs from whatever to 32/192 internally.  Amazing what happens when you re-read a manual after a few years.  This defeats (duplicates) the MIDI configuration in the laptop and raises questions about hi-rez file handling.

More to follow & thanks again!
I use a PC and can run Fidelizer. It made a huge difference in sound quality. I don't know about Mac, but there must be another OS optimizer that can do what Fidelizer does.
I also upgraded my USB cables to Audioquest Forest and noticed a small but noticeable change for the better.
Post removed 

  The C50 doesn't have a wireless capability and there is no way for me to run computer cable to it of any kind short of tearing out the ceiling in my basement 
The Node 2 has wireless as well as Ethernet networking, so it should connect to your router OK

it also has... 
- Digital Coax and Optical outputs
- a USB port - so you can connect a USB drive directly to it

- it can connect directly to your C50 via SPDIF or optical
- it can connect ro a USB drive directly, i.e.  requires no networking for playing your digital library on a hard drive
- connects wirelessly to the internet via your router - for the various streaming services

From the Blusound web site: 
 Access your downloads and your entire iTunes library – or any other USB NAS drive connected – all without ever turning on a computer. 

FYI - I did run it wireless at one point, but experienced dropouts playing 24/192 tracks - however that was when my wife was working from home adn using the computer + VOIP phone.

Once she got off the phone everything was OK :-)

It's a pretty flexible unit + it has a pretty good DAC and Analogue output stage (if required)

Something to ponder :-)

@williewonka - Just got done reviewing the user manuals for both the Node and the Vault.  Yes, indeed - they both connect to the network via WiFi.  That should solve just about everything, and I thank you for cluing me in.

One question I still have however, is about Internet radio.  90.7 FM out of New Orleans streams their broadcast, and it's one of several stations I like to listen to in this way.  Does the BlueSound control app allow streaming from these stations (sites) directly?

BTW, my buddy went from the Node 2 to the Vault because he had the same problem with playback of hi-rez files when using the Internet (he cut the telephone cord years ago).  He says it worked well.
Effischer - re:...
One question I still have however, is about Internet radio.  90.7 FM out of New Orleans streams their broadcast, and it's one of several stations I like to listen to in this way.  Does the BlueSound control app allow streaming from these stations (sites) directly?
I'm listening to it as I type :-)

Simply select "Tune In" from the controller app  interface and then select
- State
- City
- then the radio station from the list provided

There is also a "custom setup' facility for stations not on the list, but I've never had to use it.

I did not go for the vault because I wanted to implement a mirrored RAID NAS. 

In the event of a hard drive failure I simply plug in a new hard drive and the NAS copies everything from the mirror automatically.

Yes - my hard drive failed - so I have first hand experience of drive replacement - RAID makes life very simple.

Regards - Steve
@effischer - I just came across another re-clocker option.  Take a look at the Gustard U12.  You can get it for $169 at Amazon.  It uses TCXO clocks and had a much better power supply than the Remedy Reclocker.  I think it would beat the Remedy.  Gustard products have had excellent feedback.  I would use COAX digital output from this to feed into your C50.

The Singxer SU-1 and F-1 are at the top of the heap right now .

The group @ Head Fi have this topic covered .

There is much SQ in the choice of a good DDC