The first thing that comes to mind is the m2tech EVO for async USB>AES. There is also probably a SPDIF>AES-EBU adapter options.
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Buy a cheap medical grade glass fiber optical cable.
I use a Behringer DEQ between my transport and DAC usiing the optical in. (and the AES-EBU out, via a cheap pro model digital AES-EBU connector)
Just Google glass fiber toslink or such and plenty of great $15 or so glass fiber cables.
I bought like 7 just to have extras. (the place I bought from charge a lot for shipping $12, one or twenty one, same price for shipping!
(PS: I think depending on internet second hand info (or from a dealer salesman or buddy) to decide the toslink is "not as good" is really not the best way to judge. from my own experience, there is no real difference between a toslink and a metal connection if you do not have a super expensive system. ($50,000.)
I have a $30,000 + system and cannot hear any difference worth bothering about between the three linking forms Toslink, SPDIF wire, or AES-EBU. Though it is worthwhile to use a glass fiber toslink instead of a plastic one.
PPS I use the AES-EBU because it is on the DAC, and offered an additional input.)
Although I typically agree with Elizabeth, I do not on this one. I agree that glass is noticeably better than plastic, but I have never experienced toslink better coax or AES-EBU. Furthermore, they are the same signal, toslink just has additional optocouplers to convert from light to electrons. The potential for galvanic isolation seems moot as most good digital gear has isolation transformers on the digital inputs anyway.
OK so a glass fiber toslink cable should be noticably better than my plastic Monster Cable optical cable from Best Buy?
How alarming is the octopus of USB cables going to a passive USB hub?
Interesting that in a forum where we debate magic markers on the outside of CDs, that this application seems to be more robust and less sensitive to debate?
From your original post, "Therefore, can anyone please advise or update the possiblities for using the DEQ 2496 and PC audio successfully?". I currently have set up a NAS 1 TB Drive, using a PC, Media Monkey with ASIO Drivers to access the music, then output via USB to Teralink 2 24bit/96kHz. From here using Toslink to DEQ2496 as a DAC, then to pre-amp onwards. The DEQ2496 previously was used as a step filter for the Magnepans as I felt they were too bright. However with the Dali Helicon 400, I remove the Step filter and use the DEQ purely as a DAC. Is this pure? If you look at Audio Physics and other active systems, Berhringer is used and later upgraded to DBX, Lyngdorf and other eq.
The cost of the DEQ is so cheap and the quality is so good, it is hard to move away from it.
If you consider the signal path, there are other areas that you could improve before upgrading from the DEQ.
I use balanced outputs for the whole system from the DEQ onwards. This really helps with the low level noise on all the components.
With regards to SPDIF outputs, toslink, BNC, etc, as an engineer, the Toslink should provide the purest transport - glass being the cleanest. Plastic will fade the optical light for longer distances and may mar the light with it less then crystalline properties. However cheap glass will have the same effect. It is not cheap or easy to make good glass optical fiber. Having many strands allows the light to have many redundant paths, hence improving the quality of the light that arrives. However if the glass is of high quality, then only 1 strand is all that is necessary. Although not of high quality, optical lines travel across the Atlantic and pacific (with repeaters every so often) but each signal runs only on one strand, not multiple. I used to be with the group that did this. Many forum posting prefer the "warmer" sound from BNC. I suspect it is because BNC has a capacitance and this will alter the sound - rounding off the highs, smoothing the noise and interference. BNC can carry very high frequencies - video, so my explanation could be wrong. It could also be that the BNC converters are changing the sound and not the cable itself.
For the ultimate PC music, store music as uncompress (WAV), use a very good USB cable, make sure the DAC's have a isolator, use Asynchronous USB, reclocking is best and isolating the PC ground which is really noisy works. After that you are home free.
Personally I have enjoyed the DEQ. It is not superb music, but up there and I have many other weaker links to correct before I change out the DEQ.
The USB hub got to go.
Re USB, in my opinion, as long as it is shielded, it should be fine. There is a guy on Audiogon selling "Silver" USB for $50. It is shielded. Also you can add ferrite cores at the end to remove high frequency noise. If you are DIY guy, the USB cable is very simple, with 4 wires. Braiding does not work for USB. I found a braided USB with Ferrite core at the end to use - about $30. If DAC's would have buffering like in the Mark Levinson DAC, that would be the best! Otherwise Asynchronous USB to SPDIF/Toslink will be very helpful (M2tech $150).
A reasonable company for Glass Fiber will also work. I am not sure a $1 glass fiber has the quality and the other extreme of $200+ in my opinion is too much. Siltechs are always good but margins on cables are 80% and up, so you pay a lot for the name. I had Audioquest for $100 and went to the Amphenol Ultra Premium Optical Glass TOSLINK at 16 ft so I could put the computer in the closet. This is longest Toslink specs allows. Having the computer in the closet removes the physical noise and perhaps electrical noise - I use another outlet with a filter.
I currently use a Behringer 2496 for it's PEQ. I'm confused by what people are doing with it with regard to PC Audio playback? I'm under the impression that people use PC Audio as a convenience vs. creating the ability to download hi-rez music.
I hope this isn't so far off topic as to be irrelevant, but I'm curious about why I might rip all my CDs and go to the music server idea. I have a macbook pro laptop and the time capsule backup module. I have no discrete DAC and have no music currently on my computer. Just CD, SACD and vinyl.
My interest would be in chasing hi-rez playback, and I have been reading various forums about PC Audio, but I can't decipher what the benefits are after all is said and done.
In my case, I use it as a decent, but cheap and versatile device to switch between cable HDTV and PC based sound on my desktop.
Its not state of the art, but surprisingly good, and fun.
If I were trying to build a single use, dedicated 2 channel audio system using PC as a source, I might not use the Behringer.
Or any Behringer.
Bogartgl - one of the biggest advantages of PC audio is convenience. Don't underestimate this. It might be easy to think that loading CDs one at a time is no big deal. But when you have your entire library at your fingertips, controllable from your sofa with an ipod or itouch, you find yourself listening to music you haven't heard in years. Another advantage is space - once your CDs are ripped, they can be moved into storage (or sold, if you should choose). Another convenience is portability. If you rip to an external harddrive, you can take your entire library with you (be sure you have a backup plan, with your music existing on at least two different drives). Lastly, sound quality can be spectacular if you pay attention to it. With the right choices in gear, you can get superb sound, and have the ability to chase the Hi-Rez stuff.
Your 2496 has a respectable DAC built in. Just take analog out of it to your preamp, and you're off to a good start.
I used the 2496 for a long time for its digital EQ capabilites. I recently changed to a DEQX which is definitely a bit cleaner, but the 2496 is quite a device.