Server to DAC connection

Robert Harley recently reviewed the top Aurender server, which offers several choices of connection to a DAC. He preferred USB via a Berkeley Alpha USB converter. By adding a cable and complicated piece of hardware, this seems to go against the 'simpler is better' philosophy. But, I wonder if there might be an overall gain with the Berkeley. I have the Aurender N10, and I'm currently using the SPDIF connection, as my DAC does not have a USB input. I'm thinking of trying the Berkeley Alpha USB. Has anyone else compared the Berkeley to AES or SPDIF? For those with a USB DAC, how does the Berkeley compare to a direct USB connection?
IMO, since your DAC lacks a USB input, you will gain next to nothing with Berkeley Alpha USB. It would make sense to use Alpha USB with a Aurender N100 or any other streamer / computer with USB output only.

On the flip side, if you prefer to use N10 USB audio output then I would recommend trying Alpha USB or Schiit Audio Wyrd 'Decrapifier' and draw your own conclusions on which connection sound better to you.  

I do realize that Berkeley Alpha USB is an outstanding product, just not so sure that your setup will reap it's intended benefits. 

I have done A/B comparison with USB and SPDIF connections and to my ears, SPDIF sound more transparent and robust.  And by no means, I am saying that N10's USB connection sounded bad. 

Cables / Components: 
Aurender N10
Modwright Elyse DAC
Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 USB
Verastarr Signature SPDIF 
Verstarr Grand Illusion Signature 2 Power Cables
Audience aR6-TSSOX Line conditioner

Like yourself, I am curious to hear opinions from fellow audiophiles as well. 

Happy Holidays! 

Now that I recall, you were going to try M2-tech HiFace Evo (USB converter) in between your DEQX HDP-4 preamp/DAC and N10?

I agree with Lalitk, that spdif is superior sounding to usb. At least, a few years ago when I did a/b testing with my own gear.
l'm not familiar with your equipment, but I own a music server that is usb only, and a DAC that can accept various inputs including usb. I went with an Audiophelio usb to spdif converter, and this dramatically bettered the straight usb to usb connection in every musical sense.
In your case, you can do spdif to spdif, so less may be more, unless there is real magic in the Berkeley.
I'm not sure if this helps you, but wanted to share my experience, because my Audiophileo does work magic in my situation. Did Hartley explain his opinion on why the Berkeley improved things? For example, it further reduced jitter thus sounding better than Aurender's straight spdif output?

I did briefly compare the M2-tech HiFace Evo to SPDIF, and I preferred the M2-tech. However in the process of fiddling with the M2-tech, I  damaged it. It is not a robustly made unit. My understanding is that the Berkeley is even better than the M2-tech.

I don't think Harley explained the reason he preferred the Berkeley converter to AES or SPDIF. But, I suspect its related to the reduction of jitter and the re-clocking that occurs in the Berkeley.
Based on the above responses, one could surmise that direct SPDIF beats direct USB, but USB converter (Berkeley or M2-tech) beats them both.
You're making way too much of Harley's statement.  I just don't think you can generalize about what connection is better across different systems with different digital components.  The exact implementation of the interfaces can easily override any theoretical considerations.  If you setup allows multiple signal paths, then take the time to try each one and determine which one you prefer.

IMO, N10 does a great job of minimizing digital noise and jitter control.  If you do end up up trying Alpha USB, please post your finding here.

Here's to another tweak and relentless pursuit for audio nirvana 🍻
 I went with an Audiophelio usb to spdif converter, and this dramatically bettered the straight usb to usb connection in every musical sense.
Kennythekey, I am considering trying a converter (Off Ramp 5) with a server that has only a USB output.  I would be interested to hear specifically how the USB to SPDIF converter bettered the straight USB connection with your server.  Also, what server were you using at the time, and were you using the 5V power leg of the USB cable into your DAC?  I am wondering if the reason some who report better sound with SPDIF connections through converters are experiencing worse sound because of noisy 5V power going through the USB cable.


In my situation, improvements have mainly come from improving power.

At the time, my DAC's one review fault was with it's USB input, but with the upgraded model that I own (+), improvements were made to that. I put together the C.A.P.S. Carbon music server, so usb to usb. The two sounded pretty good, but when I hooked up my old CD player to the coaxial input, that bettered my Carbon. So, more detailed and dynamic,etc.. That's when I started looking into a converter and wound up with the Audiophilleo2 with the optional PurePower.

The dirty power from the usb cable is used to charge the PurePower battery and do some processing work, but the power to the clocks and the spdif output stage is completely clean. So, you are probably correct about some experiencing worse sound with straight usb. I'm sure, that this also depends on the gear being used and what kind of job, if any, that the gear does to handle the dirty 5v.

Power is very important to me, and it has made dramatic improvements across the board to the sound of my system in every aspect. No need for specifics, because as you remove the background noise all things improve.

I have also applied this power philosophy to my Carbon and even my Squeezebox. The Carbon is DC and fanless, and powered by a SOtM multi-rail power supply. I also built (kit) a power supply for the Squeezebox. The sound improvements, in my system, are not limited to usb vs. spdif, because I have always used spdif for my Squeezebox. So, going from the wall wart to the power supply for the Squeezebox was big.