How are most audiophiles going from streamers to DACS

USB a to b, , Coax, or Optical ? what's the better one ?   I have a Node 2I and a Denafrips ares 2 dac thats  in transit , what is everyone using for audio ? not brands of cable just format what way is better for streaming High rez music ?
When in doubt, use the theoretically superior cable. If you can’t, use the connections that your gear has. Distance between components and speakers (cable) should be as short as possible. (low resistance).
bs node 2i offers spdif optical or rca coax for digital bitstream output

rca electrical coax is considered slightly better than optical, use a good cable, ideal length 1.25 to 2 m, most use 1.5m length... good cost effective cables are available from cullen, canare/blue jeans, lower audioquest etc etc - about $100

if using optical, get a true glass optical cable from lifatec, dh labs or the link below keep lengths short as possible - less than 5 m definitely
How are you going to get there?
I use i2s, AES/EBU, USB X2, coax and toslink. My DAC designer states that they should sound alike and they do.
No clue what you are trying to determine.

I have a Node 2I and a Denafrips ares 2 dac thats in transit

i think the op is trying to simply determine what is the best way to connect a to b
Obvious. But "most" of us do not have a Node > Denefrips with his ears.
Do not use optical, that is a rule of thumb. Then whether the USB or COax would need to be tested. Given the inexpensive nature of the two components you could just get two budget interconnects USB and COAX. Since USB re-times the signal, this may sound better. COAX uses the timing of the streamer.
In my experience, the answer to your question mostly depends on how the associated equipment is optimized.  I have used the USB, Coax, and optical connections that you asked about, plus AES/EBU and I2S.  In general, I2S was intended for very short runs inside of equipment and not as an external connector for two different pieces of equipment.  My current main system gear is set up to optimize USB so that is how I use it.  However, I use optical for my less expensive garage/outdoor system (Metrum Baby Ambre to Jade) and do not perceive any loss of SQ.  In cases where all connections were assumed to be equal with the gear being used, I have mostly preferred AES/EBU.  When using coax, I have mostly used BNC (and not RCA) connectors for reasons quoted below by the owner/designer of Empirical Audio.

I have explained this many times on this forum.  RCA connectors cannot be properly terminated to coax cable, I don't care what RCA you use. Coax cables have BNC connectors specifically designed for each type, so that the impedance discontinuity is minimized. Using RCA terminated to a coax will cause unwanted reflections, resulting in jitter at the receiving device. Adding a BNC to RCA adapter is usually harmless and does not result in compromised SQ.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

In summary, try the different connections and use what sounds best to you.
I have 3 ways I can hook my streamer (node ) to my Dac (ares2) I just dont know what way would be the best   1-optical, 2 coax, 3 USB A to B . I dont know enough about the pros and cons of each and apparently theres a difference in audio data and digital data im just confused at this point . I read optical breaks the grounding therefore its like getting a free galvanic isolator but there is a drawback to , no 1 cable gives you all the pros and no cons , I just would like to know from someone that knows what's the better connection for connection a streamer to a dac thats all cause I don't know. 
when I said in transit I meant its physically on its way to me in the mail , so I just need to buy a cable to hook it up when it gets here. 
Post removed 

I have 3 ways I can hook my streamer (node ) to my Dac (ares2) I just dont know what way would be the best 1-optical, 2 coax, 3 USB A to B

sorry but no you don’t, as i said earlier, you have 2 only ... the node 2i does not have a usb digital output... there is a usb jack on the back panel but that is for memory devices to read from and such, it is NOT an output

the newest iteration of the node, just released, has added a usb digital output as one the ’upgrades’ from the prior gen 2i ... your node 2i does not have that feature <--- read the 5 paragraphs in the detailed info prose section, 4th para down
For your setup get a Audio Quest Carbon RCA digital coax cable. Inexpensive and good quality. Or if you want to spend a little more Kimber Kables D60 digital coax. AQ has a little warmer sound.

And if your equipment doesn’t have it then you need to change
I agree with lawyer203 - USB
Of course, the general answer is "it depends on the implementation of each". But a few rules of thumb are useful and I am very familiar with the denefrips.

1. Toslink is always inferior. I wont get into detail on why, but both jitter and sampling rate are worse. Pretty cut and dry. Its great when EMI immunity is required.

2. While there are different profiles, and i’m peaking very loosely, in general SPDIF depends on the clock of the sending unit and USB is asynchronous, mostly, so timing is by the clock of the terminating unit (DAC). Since the denefrips DAC’s timing ( and most of it) is vastly superior to the Node, you want the Denefrips in total control. This means USB. Any quality cable will work fine.

Important note: But you still have some ground noise issues with this direct connection, so.....

The best is to run the streamer via ethernet to a fairly quiet (electrically and mechanically) bridge that terminates the ethernet (isolation) and spits out the USB High res profile 2 data. Make sure this unit has a quiet, linear power supply. The denefrips has, again, an isolated USB interface, which helps and will re-clock and read out everything. This is how i run:

  1. ROON ROCK streamer
  2. Custom modified Raspberry Pi runnign Roon Bridge, with a cusotm made low noise linear power supply
  3. USB cable to Denefrips (apple if you care, i dont)

Voila. Superb.


Blue Jeans Cables made me a coax that worked out fine...
USB a to b. Acoustic BBQ or Shunyata Alpha USB cables. Acoustic BBQ is the best value for your money.
I'm using nice, short spdif cable with my node 2i with good results.  Optical I didn't get excited about.   Used USB with another DAC, wasn't impressed with the DAC so can't comment on the cable.  --Jerry
With my Lampizator DAC and their USB module it’s a no-brainer - USB!

Their module uses a 32-bit engine capable of 384 kHz speed. It is asynchronous and uses two internal clocks for re-clocking. It also is self powered from an internal power supply so you use a non-powered USB cable. No power is taken from the computer and the noisy computer line is physically interrupted and insulated.

Also it’s not converting to SPDIF - it is much better than that - it converts to i2s and it is connected DIRECTLY to the DAC chip, bypassing all input and receiver stages. This really is the best USB solution - at least right now.

If you can’t go USB, then go coax. But don’t go optical - it may not be able to handle data flows over 96.

The most Superior Connection at this moment for digital which not even MSB or DCS or any other high end audio company has managed to work out is what Playback Design (Andreas Koch) uses, a proprietary technology using Fiber Digital Connection from Streamer to DAC. 

The Guy who invented the DSD Recording Machine that allowed you to records mix and master all in the DSD Domain with out conversion, at the time he invented this no one else could figure it out and Sony sold these machines to studios.

Because of where things must be physically, my router sends wifi (16 bit/44.1 KHz PCM) to an Audioengine B-FI. I connected its Toslink output to the Toslink input of the DAC. It sounds great to me. The important components are the amplification - a Quicksilver Integrated in my case - and the speakers - Focal Aria 906's. They both made major improvements over what was in their place previously.

Ethernet or I2S. Most people will say there dac doesn't have those connections and you would be right. The better dacs do and for good reason. You can spend hundreds if not much more trying to get USB to sound half way decent and that's after spending $1000 for a good USB cable. Using a good ethernet cable, now you don't need a server in your audio room. Another plus!
The most important piece of a server is the software that reads ripped data or streams data from an outside site like tidal. There are some very good software programs that will do this on a $200 linux raspberry pi box or a $50,000 linux server (I had such a box that I used for work with TB's of commercial NVMe and SSD storage along with 256G ram) and there isn't any difference in sound quality going thru ethernet and with better SQ than using USB.
If I had to have a dedicated server in my audio room, then use I2S.
@itsjustme nailed it.  USB to the DAC.  Change the streamer if it has no usb out. 
everybody's got an opinion...

please refer to these for a proper explanation and perspective
at the top of the food chain it’s USB. the top dacs and servers are optimized for USB. it’s where companies like MSB are designing proprietary interfaces for USB optimization and servers like the Taiko Extreme have custom USB output cards.

USB is not perfect which is why there are quite a few different efforts to optimize it. it’s just the least compromised approach. it’s what i use. i also have Ethernet and a Renderer for my MSB dac but the USB interface sounds better.

however there are no wrong answers, and in the middle of the market there are many reasonable ways to get the digital stream from the server/laptop to the dac.

choose a dac then ask the dac maker what interface works best with that dac.

keep in mind that it's inevitable that better digital interfaces will be implemented, which is why if you invest in an expensive dac it should be modular so the interface can be upgraded reasonably and your dac won't become an expensive door stop. my MSB is fully modular and designed with future changes anticipated.
+1, @rbstehno,

i2S (RJ45 or HDMI) is the way to go! Once you hear a i2S capable DAC / Streamer setup, you wouldn’t wanna listen to anything else. You just to need to make sure your network is up to the task :-) 

Back to OP’s query, given his components; I suggest SPDIF cable from DHLABS and Supra Ethernet cable from eBay.

Ditto the USB advocates. When in doubt, start USB. There's a reason Aurender and Cocktail offer few if any other connections. True, all streamers and all DACs are different, but let the default choice be USB and regard that as the norm from which your components may ultimately be found to deviate.
I have the Denafrips Ares 2 connected by the coaxial with a decent 75ohm cable, far superior to the fibre optic connection which I also tried, but once I get a better streamer with usb out I will go that way.

ps they are a fantastic DAC, you won’t be disappointed. 

569 posts
08-18-2021 9:06am
Do not use optical, that is a rule of thumb.

why not ?  i think it is the best possible solution
I don't use any of this stuff.
I2S or AES/EBU. Metrum Acoustics Ambre streamer to Pavane DAC
The Node 2i does not have USB output. The new Node spec page claims that the USB-A jack will be an output in a future software update, which has not occurred yet to my knowledge. At present it is only an input, same as in a Node 2i.  That said, I use an AQ Coffee 1M interconnect from my Node2i to my Mytek Liberty and that clearly beat out the BJC and Transparent Performance coaxes used previously…both much less $$$ than the AQ.  At least I think so!
This can be very frustrating for someone setting up a new system.  I did not keep up with latest changes for 20 yrs.

I have a bluesound.  I think the streamers that have USB are higher $$.  Your streamer and DAC will give you satisfying sound.  I am using a COAX, this is what is most common.  Other quick sound improvements are better power cords for your Dac and streamer and an ethernet cable directly from router to streamer.  All this for $300.  You can obviously spend more.  Hook up everything and read some more before you change course and lose money.
I still use a Node2 in my second system connected to a Benchmark DAC3 using coax with good results.
I have a bluesound. I think the streamers that have USB are higher $$. Your streamer and DAC will give you satisfying sound. I am using a COAX, this is what is most common.

for the new release bluesound node, the usb digital output that is coming will satisfy some users who like that connection interface

i have had very good results using spdif digital out from the node 2i... since late 2019 i tried and compared it to much pricier streamers from auralic, aurender, innuos, mytek, and using them as streamer only (not their dac outputs) with their suggested output connection, i did not hear a difference in sq

in theory, the spdif format slaves the downstream dac to the clock of the upstream streamer, whereas usb 2,0 will allow the dac to slave the server... but if the sending unit clock is sufficiently stable and does not introduce jitter (and the connection length does not create reflections), the bitstream can and will be properly received at the dac using spdif
I use the Nordost Silver Shadow Coax cable from my BlueSound Node 2i to my DAC. Silver Shadow retailed for $540 when new. Some Nordost dealers have this in stock. Because Nordost discontinued the Silver Shadow they sell them for $270 new. I know this is half the cost of the Node 2i. You will not care when you hear the sound especially if you have a decent DAC. If you live in the Chicagoland area this store had some in stock when I was picking up my IsoAcoustic order.
You can try them out in your home before you buy them. If they don’t match your system just bring them back to the store. That’s why I love this store. No buyers remorse. Also, They are not audio snobs. If you want to buy some for $10 they don’t talk or look down at you. Take it from someone who has been a customer for over two decades. Believe me, I did not have a lot of money back then. This is why I go to them first. They will probably ship the Nordost Silver Shadow if you cannot find it in your area. I hope this helps. 

Obvious. But "most" of us do not have a Node > Denefrips with his ears.

Ah, so by your standards, since none of us have *his* ears he shouldn't have even asked the question?

Give me a break. He wanted advice and to learn and voila! Lots of helpful posts and virtually no snark. This is called civilized conversation, by the way.
Use coax. Make sure it's 1.5mtr or longer.
I2S or AES/EBU. Metrum Acoustics Ambre streamer to Pavane DAC
I had that exact set-up with Pavane and then later with their Adagio. I agree that with those pieces either I2S or AES/EBU sounded best. However, for my tastes, my Mojo server and DAC connected by a short USB cable is sonically equal in every way and better in some ways. I doubt the differences are solely related to the connection method but rather the digital processing implementation, power supply, and other factors. The server uses JCAT’s highly regarded XE USB card and the DAC is also optimized for USB so, at least with this gear, USB sounds very good. This is why IMO there is no one universally superior connection format but rather it depends on how the partnering equipment is designed.
3.5 foot Townshend digital SPDIF coax to Classe SSP-800 DAC.

My Node 2i has the upgraded PD Creative PSU interface and uses an SBooster LPS too.
I’ve got a Node 2 streamer hooked up to my MHDT Orchid tube DAC. As has been said, USB isn’t an option with the Node 2 and Toslink should be avoided. That leaves digital coax. I have RCA to balanced XLR. All of my interconnects are very affordable (direct sale only) entry level Silnote Audio out of Roanoke, VA. Top quality starting at $100. I’m very happy with their product and they have great customer service.
to KGBspy:

Actually the optical/toslink issue, unlike many sonic preference sin audio, is not a matter of opinion. It does not support high res; and the optical/electrical component plus the pulse spreading generates lots of potential jitter.  It is designed specifically for high electrical interference environments, and, according to lore, because Toshiba needed a differentiator.

Its great if you have lots of EMI floating around (TV sets for example).  It is definitively the wort otherwise For most it will sound fine I use it from my TV and love the results for involved movies of the symphony.

I connect a Cambridge CXNv2 streamer to a Benchmark DAC 3b via RCA digital coax.  I've tried about ten different digital cables and they all sound quite different from each other.  Buying one "quality" cable and being satisfied only works in a system that can't resolve the differences.    Experimentation with different brands will reveal the best for you.
I have the same setup and switched to a RCA coax, with a 1m Silver Solids cable. Cable is custom made and an inexpensive. Amazing sound and detail with that cable.

you can adjust your sound preference with your preamp/speakers and speaker cables
I find Ethernet is very good , and having a excellent dac
like The Bricasti -M3 dac with Streamer module option 
works great ,and even has a excellent Analog preamp section from their M21
if you want to run direct to amplifier ,it’s better then most any preamplifier under $5k.
Wow, a tremendous amount of pontificating, bad advice, and stuff that doesn't apply, If you are going to give "advice" you could at least see what the equipment is capable of. 

First of all, the DAC has USB, optical, and coax digital input while the streamer has optical and coax digital output. So all of you advocating Ethernet, USB, XLR, and/or I2S into the DAC are simply wasting his time since those aren't possible. 

Also a lot of people spouting marketing hype like the Lampizator being the best USB solution possible. Of course that is what lampizator says,. I'm pretty sure the poster has no way to test any of their marketing hype but it certainly looks good on paper. All of the other DAC manufacturers with USB inputs have similar claims of superiority.

And then you get things like advice to use coax to XLR, which isn't even an option without an XLR input, but there is no way to properly implement it if there was


Actually the optical/toslink issue, unlike many sonic preference sin audio, is not a matter of opinion. It does not support high res

all inputs on the DAC support 24/192. I don't know if the Node outputs 192 but that is not a Toslink limitation.

so back to the original question

USB a to b, , Coax, or Optical ? what's the better one ?   I have a Node 2I and a Denafrips ares 2 dac thats  in transit ,

The Node doesn't have USB out (future firmware upgrade with no stated date of availability) so you have the choice of coax or toslink. The cables are inexpensive so I would try it both ways, but my educated guess is the OP will not be able to tell the difference. I certainly would not invest in expensive cables. This is a classic case of audiophile nervosa. The equipment is nice but no amount of cabling is going to make much if any difference.... make a choice... move on.

Hmmm…. So many variations of advice. 
My streamer is a MacBook Pro that supports usb and optical. 
I tried many usb cables and while they all had a differing sound / noise signature all had a glare that induced listener fatigue. I tried the ifi device that allowed one to connect an external power supply to the usb connection. Improvement but still not great. And moving from switched power supply to linear also provided improvement. 
I moved to optical and the glare was removed. I could relax more and listen. And then moving to glass optical cable was a significant improvement over plastic/cheap optical cable. 
Optical support is going away unfortunately.
I'm going...

Innios Zenith -> USB to Matrix X SPDIF 2 (with separate LPS) -> i2S to Gustard X26 Pro DAC

Figured for digital i2S would be a good wat to go.

I'm happy with it.