Why don't you choose a track you know well and compare a CD (or better yet high resolution) version to Spotify. I'm wondering if you aren't chasing after spending money when the problem is a lossy source.
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Please read this post for details on the dual USB cable with seperate power
Its a great cable and will ensure a clean signal from the usb. The enercell
power adapter is as good as my battery supply and can be purchased from
eBay for $7 - believe it - surprised the heck put of me also
Total cost around $66 + shipping
This should fix a bulk of the problem
I'm running an iMac into my Schiit Bifrost USB port and it sounds superb
I also stream from internet radio and the hires stations also sound great
Sorry about that - I did verify it would work - anyway try these links...
Enercell Power Adapter
There is also a very good ASUS power adapter for $40 - I've tried both and they performed as well as my USB rechargeable battery - no noise at all.
The cable above outperformed my DH Labs USB cable and a more expensive Kimber USB cable
Let me know if you have any problems with the above links
Please post your findings
Your problem is jitter. The only way to fix this is to use a USB interface with better jitter performance. Most USB DACs will not get you this.
The jitter in the digital source is actually more important than the DAC. Spending on lot on the DAC without addressing the jitter is like buying a cheap stylus for your high-end turntable.
I have a lot of customers that spend more on the USB converter than the DAC. Many buy Chinese DACs. It makes sense. A good USB converter is the Off-Ramp 5. For a value proposition, the Audiophilleo. If you get upgraded high-performance linear power supplies for either, this will be even better.
Until you address the jitter, it will be harsh, fatiguing or soft and smeared.
Koestner - just a quick update...
Yesterday, I dusted off a DVD player that has a S/PDIF output and attached an extremely high resolution S/PDIF cable from it to my DAC.
I performed several A/B auditions with various tracks and found the USB implementation using the cable and power supply listed in my prior posts to sound marginally better.
Granted, the DVD player was not perhaps the best available, which may have contributed to it's slightly degraded performance - emphasis on the "SLIGHTLY" here.
But, both approaches provided extremely high resolution playback of the same tracks with very little, if any, jitter.
Hope you find the same:-)