PC Audio via S/PDIF question

If I wish to use my PC (Win 7) laptop as a music server via S/PDIF outs to an external DAC, is there anyway to avoid using the laptops internal sound card? Or is it preferable to use a USB out - either to a USB to S/DIF converter or direct to USB input on the DAC?
The answer depends on the quality of the equipment you have.

If you have a very good sound card with S/PDIF out ( Lynx ? ), you're better off using that and a good cable.

If your sound card is ordinary, you have to use USB but you will need a good-quality cable ( cryo treatment is nice ) and a decent DAC.

if you need a USB-to-S/PDIF conversion box on top of that you'll need the S/PDIF cable too. ( 1.5 meters long, essential. )
Thanks Tobias. Since posting the question I've realized that sound quality via S/PDIF from will be poor (internal sound "card" is ordinary at best) & a that a USB to S/PDIF converter is the best route.
Yes, you are correct. For sending PCM via USB you don't need any sound "card" or chip to get involved. Make sure you use a player and "kernel streaming" to bypass Windoze internal mixer. There's a couple documents around that can help you set up the player. The Ayre site has one and so does the dCS site. And there's probably others. Sorry I don't have pointers to them easily accessible. There are links to them in some posts in this forum.
Your conclusion is correct. I have found that even the best internal sound cards are not as good as an external USB converter or USB DAC with its own power source and low-jitter clock, particularly the ones using async USB protocol. Battery power for the digital parts make it even better. Here are some tips for getting good results from ripping and playback:


Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Good to know for sure that external conversion is the way to go.
Thank you too Larry & Steve - helpful, constructive advice.