Firewire to SPDIF

Does anyone have any view on the superiority to Firewire to USB in terms of conversion to SPDIF.

one negative of USB is that if you are using a SPDIF conversion device then using another device like external HDDs is not recommended. it is also limited to 48/24 ..both unlike Firewire.

the only good device seems to be the Weiss Minerva..but that in the Uber price range for something like this.

Does anyne have any experience with Echo Audio ?
I don't think the information you got on USB is correct. I am connecting my Mac Mini to a Benchmark DAC-1 using USB and I can send 24/96 signal to the DAC without any problem.
I suspect that your question is mis-phrased, and you are referring to converting digital audio data carried via firewire or usb to analog audio, not to SPDIF. SPDIF is digital, and like firewire and usb is a means of transferring digital audio from a computer to a compatible dac or other device.

Also, many computers have SPDIF outputs, and if they do not, and it is a desktop computer, an inexpensive sound card with a SPDIF output can be easily added.

But to answer what I believe is your real question, whether or not usb can be counted on to consistently convey 24/96 digital audio to a dac, without intermittent breakup, it would be dependent on the computer. Quoting from myself in this recent thread:

It would be computer-dependent. USB relies significantly on processing by the cpu and its associated chipset on the motherboard. I would expect that a modern well-tuned computer with adequate memory will have no problems, but a computer which is bloated (as many are) with large numbers of useless background processes, and is configured with too little memory to support them optimally, and/or is running resource-hogging Vista, or is old and does not have typical contemporary computing horsepower, will have problems.

Firewire, in contrast, shifts most of the processing associated with the interface to the interface chip itself, and guarantees that the data rate will never fall below a certain amount (which was chosen to assure that the DV format (Digital Video, for which the data rate is much higher than for audio) could be transferred without interruption).

That thread does not address having the audio files on an external usb hard drive, which obviously would increase the possibility that problems could arise sending data to a dac via usb with a marginal computer (since the computer would have to simultaneously support inputting the data from one usb port and outputting it to another). Perhaps others will comment on whether they have done that successfully, including a description of their computer.

Hope that helps,
-- Al
The USB 2.0 can pass 24/96, but not USB 1.0. (USB 2.0 maxes out at 24/96). USB also uses the CPU which drains power usage (though there are some new USB utilazations by third party manufactuures which bypass the CPU issue). I have long been a proponent of the superiority of firewire over USB as respects PC Audio and from recent posts in other forums, more users are coming around. USB was never intended to pass audi. It was intended to daisey chain peripherals, ie mouse, keyboard, gamecontroler, printers, etc. I do agree that the new implementations of asychronious USB utilizations have narrowed, possibly eliminated the advantage, if processed (and installed) correctly. These are new developments and I have not had an opportunity to compare them. I am thinking that even with the new outboard USB advances, the datastream may still be better when handled by firewire as these new USB implementations are not able to change the issue of USB transmitting packets of info, rather than streams, as firewire does. can (and I do) convert firewire to spdif for my dac (M Audio Firewire solo). Do a search on firewire vs usb for audio. Here is just one of the many links I have found:

I haven't used the Echo.
Cerrot, My Benchmark DAC-1 instruction manual clearly stays that it utilizes USB 1.1 protocol, and is compatible with both USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 ports. USB 1.1 is the first widely used and bug fixed version of USB 1.0. It has a maximum data rate of 12Mbs (full speed), more than enough to pass 24/96 signal.
USB 1.1 still no where as fast as Firewire. USB still utilizes the CPU in your configuration and transmits packets, not data streams. Try firewire.
Cerrot, I am not quite sure what you are suggesting. Are you saying the
Benchmark DAC-1 instruction manual is mistaken and its USB port is in fact
unable to output 24/96 signal?
My Benchmark DAC-1 instruction manual clearly says that it utilizes USB 1.1 protocol, and is compatible with both USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 ports. USB 1.1 is the first widely used and bug fixed version of USB 1.0. It has a maximum data rate of 12Mbs (full speed), more than enough to pass 24/96 signal.

USB 1.1 still no where as fast as Firewire. USB still utilizes the CPU in your configuration and transmits packets, not data streams.

Both of these statements are correct. But as confirmed by several posters in the thread I linked to above, 24/96 can be successfully and consistently transferred between a computer's usb 2.0 or 1.1 output and a dac that has a usb 1.1 input. Although, as I said, a computer which is underpowered or software-bloated may have problems doing that.

Re converting firewire or usb to spdif, yes that may be necessary for specialized or professional applications, but if you want to send spdif from a computer to a dac, why not output spdif from the computer directly, without any conversion?

-- Al
I didn't say the manual was mistaken.
Hey thanks for the responses. I use a Reimyo DAC so 24/96 is not really a requirement.
I had read in a couple of places that with more than 1 USB devices the quality of audio out can suffer hence the question.
Cerrot, How would you rate the M Audio ? I already have a Trends Audio UD10 but even with a battery pack it is nowhere near the resolution given by my CD transport.
The empirical audio products are supposedly fantastic but will wait for a USB3 version before investing in that..
I like the M Audio alot. I tried the Trends with the stock and the battery power supply and neither worked for me. I just dismissed the usb altogether. The Maudio into my monarchy dip into Music fidelity XDac 3/PSU gets me close to my Esoteric xo3 se.
cerrot, thats really great to hear
Have just placed an order for the M Audio and plan to use it via my Monarchy DIP into my Raimyo Dac

do Firewire cable quality matter ?

Will let you know about it once i set it up
Not sure on the cables. I'm using the stock firewire that came with the MAudio and no issues. I have seen upgraded usb cables on line but have't seen any firewire by the high end mfg (Cardas, etc). I would bite if I saw one.

Good luck with your upgrade. I'm sure you will love it. Please report back.
Hello Cerrot,
Can you pls let me know whether this M-Audio unit can be used as a converter (Fireware to SPDIF)? also Which is the best firewate interface (400 or 800) for hirez audio files from my pc to external hard disc drive?

Thanks for your feed back on this.
Rabbani, I'm not up on the Hi ez downloads as I have only ripped CD's to an external HD using EAC. The Maudio (Firewire Solo) does convert Firewire to SPDIF, which is how I use it. I have a very simple need (no recording, multiple tracks, etc) so I ent with the Solo as I didn't need all the inputs that the 400 & 800 offer (saved some money).

I prefer Firewire over USB and the Solo allows me to (1)use my PC output of choice and (2) doesn't limit me to Dacs with a USB (or firewire--if there were any/many)input.

The firewire goes into a Monarchy DIP, and then MF XDAC V3 (w/PSU) into tube intergraded. The Solo does handle 24 bit 96kHz. They have a great
I just played back some HD Tracks I downoaded a while ago and the MAudio Interface does show 96kHz. Listening to Rimsky Korsakov now and it does sound......AWESOME.

I should look more into this Hi Rez stuff.
Al, I missed your post. A sound card with spdif out would be great. I didn't want to spend the bucks for a top flight sound card (Lynx, etc) so just went the firewire route. I used spdif out which was on my motherboard (SigmaTel) and didn't like it. I'm sure I would love the Lynx spdif out, just, at this point, I'm kind of done opening up my 'puter, configuring sound cards, driver compatability and all those lovely windows issues (I'm not a Mac guy). Just my preference.
Hello Cerrot,
Nice to you see your respond for hi rez download n play back the same though M-audio solo. To be frank I am an audiophiler but new in setting of computer based Transport. Can you pls suggest other than Apple, which company/model (IBM,Hp,del)PC can do/handle hi rez audio files?in my place the apple computers are very expensive also not available all models.

Your info. help lot for me to do the setting the computer based auido transport to my dac.

Thanks in advance.

I always built my own computers (never was a Mac guy) but got tired of it and purchased a gateway 2 years ago. Went a bit overboard spending $5,000 (it is a screamer) but I do photography so wanted the fastest available (CPU, HD and RAM) so went for the fastest I could find. You don't need to get that crazy. I absolutely HATE HP and most other commercial brands - they think loading up your hard drive with (nonsense) software is good while it only kills your operating system (in speed, boot up, etc)performance. I went with Vista OS. Would probably go windows 7 today. I have had a few Dells and as long as they followed my specs when they were built, I have not had any issues. (I would have gotten a Dell instead of the Gateway but they insisted in selling me a Blu Ray drive, which I did not want--gotta have it my way). I have no experience with IBM. Key is specs, no OEM products, licensed operating system, fast Intel CPU (try to get the latest), I like 10,000 RPM hard drives (in a RAID array suits me) and good ram (CORSAIR, etc). I don't need a good sound card as I use firewire out, so I don't have a spec for that. (I did go with a top shelf graphics card, though, for the photograpy). I'm a little fussy with my puter so I may not be the guy to ask. I'm sure you can get something very suitable for PC audio without spending that much money, in fact, I know you can.
Thanks Cerrot, Noted your detailed reply and can you confirm
whether vista and windows 7 is same?
I think Vista is a huge improvement over the prior microsoft os. Must cleaner, faster and I have been using for 2 years and have never blue screened - meaning computer got stuck in an application, needed to be rebooted, etc. I have heard from my IT guys that 7 is much better than Vista, but I haven't played with it yet. I wouldn't think that for PC music, there wouldn't be much of a difference as both do not use the windows Kernal (a big no-no in PC audio), but do not know 7 first hand. Years ago I would be the 1st to install 7 but these days, just leave my PC alone as it runs great. I believe the new PC's come with OS 7 and I wouldn't have an issue with it.
Thanks Cerrot, Well noted your message. Here the WS7 is not
lounched and expected only on December 09. I will wait to
buy the laptop with these OS or will buy now with vista and i will do upgrade later to WS7 (presume it is possible).

I thing WS7 home version is enough to do for hirez download!!!
The planned release date for Windows 7 is October 22, 2009.

Many people are already using the preliminary "Release Candidate" version, and it has received overwhelmingly positive comments. Most notably, it runs well on computers that have less powerful hardware, while Vista requires high-powered hardware configurations to do its best.

The upgrade path from Vista to Windows 7 is somewhat confusing, and depends on which version of Vista you are upgrading from, and which version of W7 you are upgrading to. This article covers it pretty well. In particular, click to expand the second figure in the article. You'll see, for example, that upgrading from Vista Home Premium to W7 Home Premium can be done "in place" (keeping files, settings, and programs intact), while some other upgrade paths require a "custom install" which will require that you subsequently reinstall your programs, and restore data files from backups.

-- Al
I'll echo Al's comments about the Win 7. A week or so ago I decided to reinstall Vista on my main PC. I dual booted it and Windows 7. It only took me a day to rid myself of Vista for the second time! lol

Windows 7 is plain and simply better with ease of use and not by a small margin either! I've seen several hardcore Mac users install Windows 7 over the past month on their Macs in place of OSX..that should tell you something about just how good it is! ;-)

Microsoft has hit a home run with this one!
I have finally set up my firewire Solo. is there a breakin period ?
Compared to my Classe CDT-1 transport the sound is detailed but seems to have a little less of musicality and sounds a little hard. this was after 30mins of listening to them. it is definitely better than the trends UD10 in details though.
i will do a more detailed check sometime this week again.

Compared to what you have experienced the other culprit could be the Firewire card...


laptop: Dedicated Dell D600 with minimum XP and 1GB ram
Firewire Card: Compaq with dual 6 pin out
Fire wire cable: 9 inch long 6 pin to 6 pin cable (from an old External HDD)

Solo Digital out via 1m Nordost Moonglo to a Monarchy Dip Classic
Monarchy dip is connected to a Reimyo DAP777 via DHL 110ohm XLR. rest of the setup is a Leben CS600 and merlin TSM MMe.
My solo sounded good out of the box. I don't recall a difference after break in. I run my firewire streight into the gateway motherboard (Intel w/southbridge chipset). I don't use a firewire card. Are you using the power supply for the solo or taking power through the firewire interface? I am not using the power supply and feel w/o power supply, it sounds better (on my rig). I use the same digital cable inthe the DIP. I'm not familiar with the Compaq card. Is that a PCMI to firewire card? I may try a different firewire cable as well. I may also try a new firewire cable instead of the old one (not sure why, I just would).

Pls also check your buffer size in the MAudio control panel. I use 512. Sync source is internal and spdif output source is set to mixer. I don't have the "disable direct monitoring" box checked. I am using WASAPI and JRiver 13.

One more-from Maudio Manual
IMPORTANT: The FireWire Solo comes with a high-quality six-pin to six-pin FireWire cable. We strongly
suggest you use this cable, or one of equal quality, for optimum audio performance. If your computer is
equipped with a four-pin interface, you will need to use the included four-pin to six-pin FireWire cable.
Note that the FireWire Solo requires a six-pin FireWire connection in order to supply bus power; if you have
a four-pin connection you will need to use the supplied power adapter.
Thanks a lot for the info

I am using a PCMCIA adaptor with 6 pin output. it appears to be thicker and of better quality, but will try the other cable as well
since a PCMCIA bus does not carry power i am using external power.

regarding the settings I actually increased the buffer to 1024, bypassed the mixer (since it is a winxp),

I was using foobar...but will try out J River as well !

will try to change it to your setup and revert back

Thanks again for the tips an the time taken to find the above info..really appreciate it

Thank YOU for the tps. I just upped my buffer and bypassed mixer as well and soundstage appears deeper. I will do some A/P listening but, so far, think its a go. Think your issue is the cable and/or power supply. Please report back when you change cables.
BTW instead of using WASAPI you could use the M Audio FW as well to see if that is giving you any improvement.

I think the issue could be with the Firewire bus. I tried this out with my toshiba laptop which has a 4 pin firewire out and the sound became even more granular!. so that would mean that the firewire interface is perhaps a bottleneck.

BTW I tried the cplay player..very very basic but really good. am a bit busy at work the next few days but will try some more tweaking over the weekend.
I don't think it's the bus. Are you ripping with EAC into flac?
Yeah :( this weekend I tried out a couple of options with different Firewire cables,better digital cable etc. stillc annot make iot sound as good as my is the "smoothness' in music which is missing..something which the Trends UD10 does much better but at the expense of details.
i even re-recorded a FLAC into a CDR and that too sounds better ... are you using any other driver ? from what i read M-Audio drivers are C$@#

That is very strange. I haven't any issues with smoothness. I am running Vista service pak 2 (32 bit) and using the M Audio drivers, and no issues. I do have a pretty beefed up PC. Maybe the power supply is the issue. I used the power supply when I first got it and didn't like it at all. I haven't heard anything about the MAudio drivers, but than I really didn't look for info on it as it's working very well for me. I'll go through the above posts and see if you advised what os you were using, etc. If I see something worth mentioning, I'll let you know. Not sure if you tried the WASAPI but I keep thinking the power supply may be an issue-just not sure at this point.

I just did some poking around. The Compaq PCMCIA card may be an isue as well. I'm assuming device manager doesn't show any issues. I'm not familiar with the technology on the interface but I would speculate, perhaps, a better card may help? I'd hate to have you spend more money, but may be worth a shot. I am also thinking, with that great DAC of yours, you may not need the Monarchy? Or...are you using the dip to upsample? Maybe disengaging (upsampling)that as well-or just taking it out to listen? I only use the DIP cause my MF XDAC3 isn't very top of the line these days, while your DAC is pretty much state of the art. I use spdif - out from the DAC; I see you use the 110 ohm out. I'm searching for a PCMCIA card with a 4 pin out as well, whih would eliminate the power supply.
It just may be a bottleneck. let me try to borrow another card and give it a shot because i got worst results with the built in I-Link in my toshiba laptop
Arj & Cerrot -- Not sure if this is relevant, but I want to make you aware that firewire chips made by Via, which are widely used on many motherboards and cards that have firewire interfaces, have a long tradition of not working very well. TI (Texas Instruments) firewire chips are vastly preferable.

That is documented in many user posts you can find on the net, and I can tell you from personal experience that when doing digital video captures Via firewire chips drop frames at least every few minutes, while TI chips NEVER do, even in the same machine running the same programs. Although of course the data rates that involves are considerably higher than for audio.

You should be able to determine which chip you have by looking at the board or card, or possibly from the manufacturer's literature.

Hope that helps,
-- Al
Thanks, Al. Very good point. Another reason why I think Arj's interface is the issue. I have the TI chip and haven't had a dropout. I couldn't find much on the Compaq interface Arj is using.
Hi Al, Cerrot
2 days back i tried it with a Ornage link card which apparently uses an NEC shipset. cant really say it was better. my guess is Frewire cards+Laptop isnot good enough from an audio point of view..
Sorry to hear, Arj. I really feel Firewire is the better interface (over usb) but haven't played with it on a laptop/outboard card. Sorry for your experience.