Sending music to DAC wireless vs wired

Is there a sound difference? I have read the sound quality suffers when transmitted wireless from computer to DAC. Has anyone A/B'd wireless/wired?

wireless is far better due to electric isolation.
look at this french moded airport expess'n' .

this little black box is making a big buzz here in FRANCE..
it replace a an Audio aero capitole 24/192MKII in my system..
you can have digital and analog out in the same time.

Depending on bandwidth, distance and network type.

If the wireless router is fairly far way or going through many walls, signal will drop enough and there will be some drop outs.

If the network is full of other traffic like downloading large files and etc, it will also slow down enough to have drop outs.

Wifi-N network is much better but all network connections should be the same network to keep the same speed. Mixing network might slow some router down.

The new Sonos has an excellent wifi solution for wifi. Check it out. It uses a propritery network system instead of typical wifi.
I'm more concerned about sound quality than, dropping signals, etc.
I checked out that site. Wow! Of course, I cannot understand a word, but from the pics, the concept is intriguing. Can you elaborate? I use an AE also to my PS Audio dac with excellent results. But a modified AE sounds like what I've been searching for!
Thanks in advance,
Drop outs are a different issue than sound quality. For sound quality, wireless is superior as Juanitox has stated.
hi , the fact is the stock airport express is very good but not as big Cd palyer or Drive , the reasons is , poor and noisy power supply , bad signal routing, bad ceramics caps on sensitive place and usual cheap clock.

what "Dan" do ( the more i know) is to put a double regulated and filtering power supply, rerouting signal on the airport express, add silver wires and lunndhal transfo for the digital out , a external superclock with it's own power supply, uppgraded caps on the airport card. ..
it is so good that i no longuer use an external dac with it .. ( my past dacs and CD players were Pass Labs moded D1, audio aero 24/192MKII and wadia 860X)
i have not the english words for describe the sound of the Zardoz but just ine word " Musicality"
i have two things that i will not change in my system, my SP tech timepiece 3.0 speaker and my moded airport express ZARDOZ.

Hi Juanitox,

I believe you are called "CaptainCaverne" in France? If so, and if I understand correctly, you have used an Empirical USB/SPDIF converter before.

Are you saying that the Zardoz (via analog out) is better than a PC + Off Ramp + Pass Dac ???

Yes you are right my nickname in France is captaincaveman.
and yes i have used my D1 dac with many kind of PC drive , waterminal U24, OFFRAMP turbo, moded squeeze box, and the best drive i ve found was this moded airport express.. but from the day i have tried the analog out of the Zardoz , i have sold my PASS D1 dac and no longer need anything else ..

the sound is simply more natural with the Zardoz alone...

Interesting ...
Do you know if any Zardoz (or Roseta sp?) can be demoed in Paris? I have a short trip to Paris in September.

Thanks for your input.
hi hokhost , yes the best is not to trust my audiophile blah blah but listen one unit by yourself :)
i live in Cannes french riviera a little far from Paris..
but i will try to find a reseller in Paris and give it to you in P.Mail.

cheers .

My house has thick plaster interior walls and poor wireless propagation. But I have a full basement with mostly open joists. So I move audio (and other data) around my house via wired ethernet.

But I always assumed that ethernet was intrinsically better than wireless for audio anyway. Is this not the case?

I thought the same, and have read it somewhere as well. Anyone do an AB test on wired vs wireless with the squeezebox? I have a long enough ethernet cable that I can try, just didn't get around to it yet. (I don't have any dropouts, either).
That's probably not a good question to ask then if you are concerned about electrical isolation.

That depends much more on the exact DAC and interface used from media player/HTPC -> DAC.

For a simplified example, toslink automatically removed the electrical isolation issue but leaves much to desire on the jitter front. A regular BNC 75ohm coaxial cable will do much better at the jitter front but does carry the ground over. So if the DAC and media player has a good noise rejection circuit with a decent power supply, that would be prefered.

Regarding signal/noise issue on wired and wireless, any decent Cat5E ethernet cable system is great at noise rejection. Cat5E can transmitt 1gigabit/sec over 100ft easily without signal loss. That's far greater bandwidth than any DAC at 24bit/192Hz and any existing Wifi Network.
Ejliu - S/PDIF coax does not necessarily connect the two grounds. Some DAC's and reclockers have isolation transformers.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Did not know that isolation transformers are used in the digital input. I thought it can be used rather easily in the power supply but anyone can do that cheaply.

I figure that most of media players have rather inexpensive computer power supply so most of the ground noise is coming from the supply line instead of the nicer DAC.

Any inexpensive ones? Meaning <$1k. I figure it would rather expensive to implement a transformer for a digital signal.
Ejliu - most DAC's and Transports save money by not using pulse transformers, or they use cheap ones. It's completely different type than transformer used for power. It's a pulse transformer. They cost about $10-20 for a good one.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Juanitox,Busheep and others,

Trying to get my undereducated brain around the contention that wireless is better than wired. Only thing I can think of is that RF energy might be "cleaner" than electrical energy. But if this is the case, RF energy is certainly subject to various conditions which effect propagation and which do indeed effect the sound quality. Still I can accept the possibility that wireless is better, I just don't understand why.

So inquiring minds want to know (including Cerrot and Jpod) why is wireless better?
Jpod - you are missing the point. It's not that wireless is better than wired.

The point is that networked, packetized data is superior to USB protocol for music streaming. The reason that networked (ie; ethernet), both wired and wireless is better is because the data is packetized, flow-controlled and retried. USB is not packetized and typically has no flow-control and no retry.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Steve N,
Thanks for your response. Even though there was plenty of evidence to the contrary, I assumed that this thread was about "wireless vs. wired" in computer networks in general. But as I understand it now, this thread is only about getting data to a DAC.

I knew that a network connection was better than a USB connection for delivering data to a DAC. And I knew that devices like Sonos, Airport Express, Apple TV, Squeezebox and etc. do a great job of delivering networked data to a DAC. I guess what I did not know was what this particular thread was really about.

Dang, an embarrassment smiley face would come in handy right now.

Anyway, thanks again.

i have both wired and wireless hookups in my house. i have cat5e wire and use 802.11g wireless. the only issue i have had with the wireless connection is competing with another wireless device. i had to change the channel setting on my WAP and it has been fine ever since.

i would recommend hooking up your computer or external device (airport express for example) to a jitter reduction unit, then from there going into an external dac. there was a HUGE difference in the quality of the sound when adding these devices before the dac. i use a quality coax cable from the jitter device into the dac. all of my remote connections in my house have this type of setup with very good results.

i also believe after reading articles and reviews of usb connections with usb dacs that that is not the way to go. the other reason is you are limited on which dac you can by if you stick with usb. the best external dacs do not use usb and the reviews of the dacs with usb have not been favorable.
Rbstehno wrote:
"the best external dacs do not use usb and the reviews of the dacs with usb have not been favorable."

Not true at all. The review of the Benchmark DAC-1 USB, the Wavelength Cosecant and the Empirical Audio Spoiler USB DAC's were definitely favorable. There was a minor technical issue with the DAC-1 USB which was resolved later. The reviewers in the reviews liked the USB connections and found them comparable or better than the S/PDIF coaxial connections.

The thing that is spoiling the performance of many USB DAC's is the use of the TI PCM270X devices. These are essentially plug-and-play and very inexpensive, so many manufacturers have used these in their first USB DAC's. Unfortunatly, this chip does not sound good, even with the heroic attampts at low-jitter clocks and good power supplies etc. It is also limited to 16/44.1. Therefore, there were a series of reviews of these DAC's that were unfavorable, at least towards the USB inputs. But this does not represent the state of ALL USB DAC's.

None of the Benchmark DAC-1 USB, the Wavelength DAC's or the Empirical Audio Spoiler use the PCM270X chips. Instead, they use the TAS1020 from TI, which is designed by an entirely different group at TI and sounds wonderful, particularly with the right USB firmware inside it.

Please go read these reviews and discover how good USB DAC's can be:

Stereophile DAC-1 USB:

Empirical Audio Spoiler:

Wavelength Cosecant (before the synch USB upgrade):
audioengr: the best dacs do not use usb. i still checked and your dcs,esoteric, nagra, manley, the older audio research, levinson, classe (which i favor over the current benchmark) do not use usb. the new audio research dac is coming out with usb so we will have to wait and see how it compares. also, if i wanted to use an external clock generator, i would be out of luck since none of these that i know of can accept USB.
i'm not saying that you can't use a USB connection, but if you do, you are limiting yourself on what you can use with it. if you like the quality of the benchmark DAC with its usb connection, then by all means, go for it. if you want to get a better dac or get an older better dac, then you can't use USB.
I used a AirPort Express for a while. It sound pretty darn good but it would stop working when our Microwave Oven was in use. Other than that it was great.
Rbstehno - you obviously did not read the reviews that I cited. The Spoiler is not only the best USB DAC, but the best DAC that the reviewer has auditioned. He has heard a LOT of high-end DAC's too, you name it.

Steve N.
steve - i did read your 2 articles but i stopped after reading this in 1 of the articles:

"Turning to the Benchmark's sound via its USB connection, I auditioned it exclusively using a pair of Sennheiser HD650 headphones. Playing the 24-bit master files for my Stereophile recordings, everything seemed fine. But with iTunes running on my PowerBook as the source of 16-bit music files, the sound seemed a little grainier than I was expecting from my experience using S/PDIF and AES/EBU sources."

also, when comparing the benchmark using a digital connection, the reviewer liked the bel canto unit a little better. since you brought up this article, here is a review of the bel canto dac 3 that has a usb connection from 6 moons:

"Comparing USB to S/PDIF, the former sounded marginally constricted dynamically and showed far less separation between vocals and the backing instrumentation. The vocal was also placed further back in the mix and with less presence. In my system, the CD combo had greater dynamic contrast, a wider and deeper soundstage, again more flesh on the bone in terms of body and presence and more powerful and deeper bass. Dimensionality left to right, up and down and especially in the depth plane was more expansive on S/PDIF. Let's just say that the CD/DAC combo was superior in every aspect of music making by comparison."

again, this is not the only review of an external dac that includes a usb connection that a reviewer found the digital connections (non-usb) sound superior to the usb connection. here is the link if you want to see the review: