PC Audio and the Behringer DEQ 2496

As mentioned in other threads, I use this device to switch between PC and HDTV inputs for a desktop system, with generally good results.

As I wonder about upgrading amps and monitors, however, I am experimenting to see how good the PC audio really might sound.

Do I understand correctly that the optical input on the Behringer is the least desirable way to input digital data?

Because unfortunately, I am currently going USB out of a netbook, to a passive USB hub, which then connects to a "cheapo" Behringer interface, and exports with an optical cable to the DEQ2496.

Having said that, it all sounds suprisingly good for my desktop.

I also have a Hagtech USB to SPDIF interface, but the Behringer does not have a coaxial input, only an AES EBU input, other than the optical input.

Therefore, can anyone please advise or update the possiblities for using the DEQ 2496 and PC audio successfully?

Thank you,
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.

Thank you for all the information - this is very helpful.

Is there any consensus on "high end" USB cables or glass fiber cables?

Or have the Siltechs of the world not gotten involved yet?
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.