Use the digital out on your PC.
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I called iTunes and changed my import setting to Apple Lossless...I bought a song and it appears as an AAC Audio File..it has a bit rate of 256...is this what you get? The 650 cd's I loaded (3 full days!) appear with a bit rate of 128 kbps and the purchased mucic from iTunes has a bit rate of 256. Both have a sample rate of 44.100 kHz
possibly some bad news for you. did you check the import settings? the cds you imported should have a bit rate of 600 to 900 kbps. also most people recommend having "error correction" box checked on. look at your settings in preferences and double check or you may be in for another 3 days of cd importing to get the sound quality you desire.
I think you are there...I've been using apple lossless, an IMAC, a PS Dlink 3, and the USB for a while now. In my system...the USB connection actually sounded much better...I'm not talking subtleties ...the Optical sounded washed out in comparison. Besides the better sound (for me)...you don't have to disconnect the cable (the dual purpose Optical/Headphone jack) every time you want to (instead) hear the computer's speakers.
USB and ITUNES (apple lossless) will match the performance of MEGABUCK stand-alones.
BTW, (IMO) that PS Audio DAC DL3 cannot be touched at anywhere near that price, it outperformed every similar or near priced DAC I've had in my systems... Multiple MFs, Bel Canto, etc.
It's only now that I've even considered getting a different one.... the ARC DAC7 (Used to have a DAC5 but it didn't do USB).
I bet you'll never look back to CD players.
(Make sure you back up your library though!)
BTW, Anyone who says "USB and ITUNES are mid-FI at best" has NO idea what they are talking about and probably have no first hand experience with a lossless/DAC/USB setup.... I think the BS start with people equating ITUNES to significantly compressed and compromised mp3 formats. In fact even some who are experienced with ITUNES don't know or understand what AppleLossless is about. Trust me on this...I'm an Audio/quality fanatic...and if this compromise the sound of my music, I'd have nothing to do with it.
One last thing...clearly none of these people have heard of or understand the Async/USB2 advancements...
(let me tell you a secret...some of these folks have spent 5, 10 or 20 thousand dollars on CD players....and the last thing they want to admit (even to themselves) is that a decent dac will totally take the expensive transport issue off the table and DAC have come SO far in the last few years...it makes their machines audio jewelry). And we're not even getting into the convenience elements!!!
you don't need an expensive DAC to get world class performance...just a relatively recent one. The DAC he speaks of (PS Audio Dlink III can be had anytime for $500 here...which is a steal...lots of people trading up... to take advantage of high res format and Asynch mode USB capable DACs). I chose the PS Audio mostly because it has a warmer/full bodied sound. I am not a detail junkie...not that the details not good...it's just not etchy like so many others I've heard. To me, detail is nice...but if it's clinical an edgy, I get listening fatigue.
The Wyred4sound DACs are supposed to be pretty sweet...(although I personally have not heard them).
One DAC that blew my mind and got me started on this whole PC/DAC/ITUNES thing is the Wavelength Cosecant...it's a wonderful smooth musical sounding dac that has recently been upgraded to (more expensive) V3 that is modular, asynch, and will handle high res. The V2 was so smooth...(the tube on it is not just a prop, it makes solid state sound like tubes (again, my opinion)...
I am expecting delivery of a ARC DAC7 tomorrow... else I wouldn't even think of giving up the PS Audio Unit.