USB DACs with 24/192 via USB

Are there any "audiophile" quality DACs that can receive a 24/192 input via USB?
There's a great article about this in the current Absolute Sound and the limitations of USB audio. But the BelCanto USB interface, that then is meant to go from the USB interface into a DAC, improves the sound tremendously. I don't have one, since I don't use USB as an output, but a guy in our audio society did a test using it and there was a huge difference. He used the BelCanto USB interface from a MacMini into a BelCanto DACIII and the differece with and without it was incredible.
A great article that was severely flawed by the absence of Gordon Rankin's Asynchronous USB interface. This is what most of us wanted to hear about, and TAS dropped the ball.

A great article that was severely flawed by the absence of Gordon Rankin's Asynchronous USB interface. This is what most of us wanted to hear about, and TAS dropped the ball.

Agreed; Rankin's technology should have been included. I wish they'd also included Empirical Audio's Pace Car, which I've heard make a significant improvement in computer>DAC interface. It seemed like a pretty small sampling they decided to include given that it is a pretty strong movement in audio trends.
Answering question of the original poster: - No, today there is no DAC that can receive a 24/192 input via USB.

Vast majority of them is limited to 16/48. The best DACs which can accept 24/96 are that of Gordon Rankin and Charles Heston who uses Rankin's technology.

For the record, Ayre stated that they hope to have 24/192 on their USB DAC by the end of this year...but I doubt

Good Luck
I'm pretty sure the Weiss Minerva Firewire DAC can support that sample rate via Firewire. I think the USB bus runs at 12mhz which limits throughput to 44.1K or redbook. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
Bel Canto offers a 24/96 USB Link $495. I use the Bel Canto Dac3 vis USB and plan on adding the 24/96 Link when I start using higher resolution recordings.
I read that series of articles too. I think it would have been better to bring
more reviewers in on that series, as all the articles about the negative aspects
of USB conversion came from one author. And as has been mentioned, if
you're going to make sweeping statements about USB DACs, bring
Wavelength into the discussion. There are some who believe a PC into a
Wavelength Cosecant trumps just about any other 16/44.1 playback.

One other thing that piqued my interest, though, was the Focusrite Saffire.
While its list price is the same as the Bel Canto, it can do many more things,
the Firewire-to-SP/DIF sounds even better than USB-to-SP/DIF, and the
Saffire's street price is $350 at any music store chain. The LE version goes for

I have a MacBook with a Firewire output, so if I decide to up the sound quality
of my iTunes on it, I'll probably go with the Saffire to extract the digital
stream from the computer. Less money, better sound. What's not to like?
Lets' see the Benchmark DAC1 USB can handle 24bit/192kHz..., but not from its USB input, only from its digtial inputs.

So can you buy a new 24bit/192kHz Computer Audio/Sound Card for your computer that has digital out to the digital in on the Benchmark.

What about the new PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC? John
I posit that the 24 bits vs. anything less is far more important to sound quality than 192 Khz vs. 96. I'll take 24/48 over 20/192 any day. 24-bit has 16 times the amplitude resolution as 20-bit. 96Khz is plenty high enough to maintain phase relationships in the treble, overtones, and soundstage.
I'll take 24/48 over 20/192 any day. 24-bit has 16 times the amplitude resolution as 20-bit

I would respectfully disagree, Johnny, and I certainly wouldn't apply that as a general rule. At best I think it would depend on the dynamic range of the music, and perhaps the high frequency content of the music as well. Yes 24-bit has 16 times the amplitude resolution of 20-bit, but 20-bit has a resolution of approximately 2^20 = 1 part in 1,048,576 = less than 0.0001%, assuming the bits are used effectively (i.e., assuming that some of them are not thrown away to provide overly conservative headroom in the recording process).

While on the other hand a 48kHz sample rate barely exceeds the theoretical minimum Nyquist rate (40kHz for a 20kHz signal bandwidth), and invites pretty much the same side effects of anti-aliasing and reconstruction filters which are generally recognized to have limited cd sound quality right from the start.

-- Al


So....What are you planning to do with such a piece? Play DVD audio via your PC/MAC or ?

Are there any audio discs being recorded and available for download in that format now? Some threads here point to websites which are approaching sampling rates of 188… but 192?

On a likewise note previously mentioned about the restrictions of USB… from my laptop I go out via USB into a cheap Creative Labs 24/96 USB card, and then out via coax into my Sony HT receiver…. I use J River MC 12 AS THE MEDIA PLAYER…

I have MC 12 set to output audio at 24/96.

When I play ripped music from either WAV, ALAC or FLAC files the OSD on the Sony says 24/96 PCM is the current input stream. If I set MC 12 to go 16/44.1… it reports just that as well.

If USB is restricted to 44.1 > 48Hz… what is going on?
"Are there any audio discs being recorded and available for download in that format now? Some threads here point to websites which are approaching sampling rates of 188… but 192?"

Yes, you can buy Reference Recordings HRX formats, as well as CLassic Records HDAD formats...downloading the format could still be daunting as files sizes are pretty large
The Apogee Mini-dac can do that and sounds terrific.
Hi Blindjim, you're right, there are only a few sources of 24/192 recordings now, such as But there will be more.

Also, I'm in the camp that you get lower jitter from a PC server by using USB/Firewire/Ethernet out of the PC compared to a digital signal that comes out of an internal sound card.

So, I'm trying to avoid spending big $ on a high-end DAC that only supports 48 or 96KHz via USB, because I see it as a white elephant in a year or two.

I suppose if someone like Empirical Audio had a Turbo-3 that did 24/192, then my problem would be solved; and I could let it convert the 24/192 USB to AES for any DAC that takes a 24/192 AES input. But it would be cleaner and cheaper to just plug the USB 24/192 cable directly into the DAC.
Are you sure the Apogee Mini supports high sample rates over its USB port?


My point is as Onhwy61 said... does the "???" DAc support more than 16/44-48 over USB?

Can DACs in fact accept higher word lengths and bit rates using USB as the conduit, or why not?

My own meager trials indicate to me using USB as the only interface for music is not as positive as is using a sound card which outputs via coax, or AES instead.

I've not tried the Wavelength designs on USB, but sure wouldn't mind doing it just to see the degree of diff. But I am satisfied a sound card, either on board or USB which allows a pass thru of higher bit information bests USB alone.

...and yes, I've even bought the De ASIO driver online and implemented it too.

Now I'm not saying the sound isn't any good going USB alone... I'm saying placing a card in between the PC and stand alone DAC sounds better noticeably.... even with an inexpensive USB sound card!

What gets me in this topic is the notion USB only transmutes limited bit rates.

NOTE > Onhwy61 is right agbout many DAC makers indicating high word lengths and bit rate decoding, but they're not as clear on which or if all the interfaces of their DACs do indeed handle them... ya have to look closely to see who's doing what where.

Then too is the idea regardless the numbers... some will outperform others, as it's seldom as simple as a numbers game entirely.

I kinda think USB does transmute 24/96 presently.. or my sony sure thinks it does... but it's old, and may be developing a case of 'bitzhymers'.
Blindjim, I see where your external soundcard would be better than an internal one. This sounds like a good solution. And I agree that a 24/192 DAC may only be able to receive 24/96 signals or less via particular inputs. The buyer has to look at the product specs to make sure the DAC can receive the higher sample rates via USB, or that its even a true 24/192 DAC.

For example, the new Emmlabs DAC2 is a 24/96 DAC, but it can only receive 24/48 via USB -- I would love to buy this DAC for its sound but it's a non-starter for me because it can't even receive 24/96 via USB.

The other background fact here is that my PC server is 60 feet away from my audio rig. I run a 30 meter fiber optic USB cable between PC and rig. This only goes up to 24/96. I suppose I could also run a 60 foot AES cable for 24/192 files, as you suggested; or put an external sound card at the end of that 30 meter USB cable and then feed 24/192 AES from the sound card into the DAC. But best case would be only a 30 meter USB cable that does 24/192 (no sound card or USB-to-digital converter).

There are DACs out there that take a 24/196 USB input, such as the Emu 404 DAC. I'm looking for a higher-quality DAC, such as an Emmlabs or whatever, that can do this. That way, one cable that does it all and great sound.

The other background fact here is that my PC server is 60 feet away from my audio rig.

My server is two floor below my rig in my basement. I use a Modwright Transporter, which is an outstanding wireless server using an AKM DAC. You can also wire it to the network via cat-5 (Ethernet) cable. Unfortunately the specs are up to your standards (I believe it's limited to 24/92), but a network solution would eliminate your USB limitation.

The EMU 404 uses a USB 2.0 interface which is capable of higher bandwidth than the standard (original) USB interface that most of the others mentioned here are limited by. This is why it is capable of the higher resolution. As I pointed out, you can also use a Firewire DAC to get higher resolution also via the greater throughput capacity of that bus.

well if you can’t relocate the server or just don’t want to, there are the usual ways of getting the music into the system… wireless laptop into the DAC via USB, or via an USB sound card and THEN into the ??? DAC. NOTE the shorter the USB cable there, the better.

Or you could choose one of the wireless sort of devices like the Squeeze Box, Duet, etc. and eliminate the laptop from that chain. Also, an iPhone for the remote track picking duties, or a laptop again, purely for selecting tracks or URLs.

I have my main ‘audio’ PC on my Sound Anchor rack just above the BC DAC3 and hook to it by a Stereovox BNC cable. I can interface with it in a number of ways, lengthy USB cable & USB hub for keyboard and mouse, with a small VGA LCD monitor. Or by remote desktoping into it with the laptop, or by using the HDMI output of it’s video card into my HDMI receiver to an overhead BenQ projector. I prefer to use the LCD, USB hub, and a small folding table to rest the monitor onto.

I’ve tried a fair number of approaches to get HDD based, and digital audio into my stereo. Single box CDPs, CDP + DACs, servers + laptop going USB alone, two different desktops using various sound cards and/or USB with several ASIO drivers.

My fav in the end is using my old XP Home desktop, a good PCI sound card within it, a pretty good power cord for it, the Stereovox coax cable, and the DAC3…. After all those trials.

At the “computer audiophile” website you’ll get lots more input/insights on how others have done things. Stuff like what can be done, and what can’t with USB.

The one particular thing I noticed overall at that site? I get the notion feeding a really nice DAC with a very good to excellent sound card is best. My own meager attempts seem to bare that out too…. so far anyhow. Although I am limited to only 24/96… I’m not unhappy about it. I’VE NOTICED SCANT LITTLE DIFF IN THE 24/96 TO 24/192 debate either… not enough to warrant my investing far more into a DAC which can and does decode the 192, 188, etc bit rates… I’ll just stick with the 96ers for a while more. It sounds excellent to me on my stereo…. So I’m happy now.

Good luck.
I'm playing 24/96 files (recorded from vinyl by me) via my Mac Mini to an Empirical Off Ramp to my Audio Note Kits DAC. The AN DAC does use an 18 bit chip, so it truncates, but note that 18/96 is still more than 8x the information of redbook.

This sound is incredible, close to vinyl much of the time.

Most of you guys are really too hung up on technology.
Paul, I'm sure your setup sounds amazing, and you are right that some of us, including me, are too hung up on the technology... With 24/192, you might have vinyl... ;)
I think differences between 24/96 & 192 would have to be very slight.

1st of all, it's only a difference of 2x the information.

2nd, 24/96 is really a staggering amount of information.

Then again, "hunches" and feel don't count for anything in this game.

My digital setup is far from the stratosphere of price but is really is pretty darn good. The AN DAC is the most important part, and I wouldn't trade it for any DAC with a 24 bit chip I've heard! Though eventually AN will go there.
I think differences between 24/96 & 192 would have to be very slight.

That would be my instinct as well, and I would expect that differences in implementation and quality would generally overshadow the difference in sample rate.

Compared to redbook, though, although most of us are aware that 24 bits represents a 256-fold increase in information compared to 16 bits (at least potentially), I would view the benefit of the higher sample rate (even at 96kHz) to be at least as significant, if not more so. It is probably tempting to think of it as a little more than a doubling, but I think it is best viewed in relation to the Nyquist frequency (the 40kHz minimum sampling frequency which is theoretically required to capture a 20kHz bandwidth). Redbook's 44.1kHz exceeds the Nyquist rate by about 10% (which to me has always made it seem wondrous that it works as well as it does); 96kHz exceeds it by 140%, which should make possible vastly reduced side effects from anti-aliasing and reconstruction filters.

-- Al
Al, I think that is quite a good point.

I would say that the benefit of the ultrasonic information is the real boon, though, at least for users of DACs with no filters like me.
Can you use FireWire instead of USB? The Focusrite Saffire has AD/DA, mixing, and a lot of different format conversions (e.g., SP/DIF I/O) for a street price of $349. As for audiophile quality, Alan Taffel, who did the series on USB digital audio in the Aug. issue of TAS, much preferred the results of the Focusrite Saffire's format conversion of FireWire-to-SP/DIF over what the Bel Canto was able to do with USB-to-SP/DIF.

And he wasn't blaming the Bel Canto; he just feels that FireWire's additional bandwidth creates a better digital stream. That may also explain why this fairly inexpensive and easily accessible gizmo does 24/192 while you strain to find a 24/192 USB DAC.
This is a transition period for hiresolution audio and highend.

You can use any dac you like in the market and connecti it to dCS Uclock, with its asychronous usb you can have full bandwidth and native 24/96.

For the moment if we had all of our digital library in 24/96 native!!! it would be marvellous.

Of course if money is not the object, you can go with dCS Paganini and Scarlatti systems for 24/192 or use Alpha dac with Lynx & RME sound cards also for true 24/192 but no usb.

Ayre also has a usb adapter for 24/96.

I guess in the next years all new DACS from respected digital companies will have built-in usb asychronous 24/96 and if new usb3.0 allows it even 24/192. And the new platoforms media players from microsoft and apple will make the simple 44.1/16 history.
[of course the music companies should let their native material of 24/96 to access]
"I think differences between 24/96 & 192 would have to be very slight..."

I believe that sometimes 96 kHz can be better. Still, we all "feel" that difference should not be great.

Yet, Reference Recording charge for their 24/192 WAV files (HRz) - $45 and 24/96 FLAC files (via for $12 or $15 i.e. three times difference. I do not believe that RR take entire audiophile community as idiots so there is something there which I do not understand.

If I buy new DAC and I do - I will take one with 192 capabilities even if I have to pay a bit extra
To the posters early in this thread that criticized the TAS article on USB for not including any Wavelength product, Wavelength may not have been included but it was not overlooked. This is what the writer had to say about Wavelength:

"When it came to selecting USB DACs for these sessions, my biggest challenge was narrowing the burgeoning field of candidates. In the end, I chose the Benchmark DAC1 Pre, Bryston's brand new BDA-1, the equally fresh Audio Research DAC7, and my trusty, Golden Ear Award-winning Resolution Audio Opus 21 stack. (Wavelength Audio, which builds intriguingly innovative USB DADs, unfortunately declined to particpate in these tests.)"

The conclusions of the survey may have been flawed by the absence of Wavelength but, at least in this case, TAS did not drop the ball.


Could you or someone else, post a link to that article, please?


There are two problems in posting a link to the TAS article on USB DACs. First, the article appears in the current issue of TAS, and the magazine's website does not include content from its current issue. Second, I believe TAS posts only reviews of specific products, not surveys or articles of general interest, so I'm not sure if the article will ever be available on the website.

If you e-mail me off-line with your address, I'll send you copies of this article and the same author's review of the Bel Canto USB Link.

To all: Sorry for the typo in my previous post. Wavelength may be innovative, but it still designs DACs, not DADs.
I think you might be able to buy the issue as a .pdf online.

I'll encapsulate what the issue has to say via two reviewers, FWIW: USB is an inferior interface, even using the better USB>SPDIF converters (which in the one reviewers estimation amounted to the Bel Canto Link, per Johnnyb53 above). Reading the issue would probably have most folks here avoiding a USB DAC or converter and seeking out Firewire, or Wireless Network solutions (which were not really addressed in that issue, but IMO also clearly superior to USB). There are quite a large number of options out there to choose from in USB DAC's and accessories. The TAS issue only touched on a very small sampling. I also wonder how the introduction of a good dejitter device in the mix may have changed things. I find it interesting that Rankin refused to include Wavelength gear - didn't he used to write for one of the rags? Has he commented over on AA as to why he declined? Did anyone read Gilbert Yeung's response to Steven Stones article?
Jax2, interesting summary of the article. You've definitely got my interest and I will download a PDF copy. I'm not married to USB and would consider other options. I believe Opticis makes a 30 meter fiber optic Firewire cable that I could run from PC to DAC. The Weiss dacs look interesting for this.

I just noticed the Berkeley dac may have an HDMI interface in the future. This is cool (for me at least) for a few reasons: 1) I already have a 30m HDMI cable run, and 2) if the jitter is OK, then HDMI would be "perfect" because HDMI supports 24/192, DSD, and Blu-Ray (I can sense the eye rolls; Blu-Ray trickling in guys; just listened to my Neal Young box set last night on the Blu-Ray player).
Marco (Jax2), the TAS article has indeed been controversial, and Gordon did answer why he withdrew his DACs from the review (questioning the competency of the reviewer). See the following threads for some more information:

Audioasylum: Did I miss the discussion re: the latest TAS article on USB DACs ...

Audioasylum: An Open Letter To Robert Harley

Audiogon: Absolute Sound Article on USB and Firewire
Hey Rene - thanks for the links. I'll check them out when I get home. I'm just getting out of a Cowboy Junkies concert! I can guess what the gist of the content of those threads might be. I won't go any further than that here, but to suggest, as I hinted at before, read some of the responses and get more information before making any knee jerk judgments and rule things out. And as always, ultimately you're the one listening - use your own ears, your own music, your own system and your own room. Take everything you read with a bag of salt, and keep in mind we're all human (and everything that goes with that). I'll ping you off the thread, Rene, and will check out your links soon.
Jax2, your summary of the TAS article omits the fact that the reviewer repeatedly stated that both USB and Firewire were inferior to coaxial connections.
Good point, Onhwy61. Thanks for adding that, and yes, that is absolutely something that was brought up many times as a point of comparison.

The issue baffles me, quite frankly. I've heard too many USB DAC's that do not fit the harsh critical descriptions of those reviewers (MHDT Havana, Wavelength, Empirical, heck, even the Benchmark DAC 1 which I did not like at all would not fit in the realms of their criticism by my ears). I did get to read the threads that Restock points to and I'd recommend others check those out as well. I think that the TAS article does the potential of the interface some injustice. That's not to say that SPDIF and Firewire can sound better, but I don't think the margins necessarily are as dramatic as they are made out to be in that issue and in those reviews. That said, I have not listened to any of those components that they reviewed (again, a very small sampling, with champions of the interface omitted). The one single firewire component that was included was a pro-audio solution. If I were to conduct such a review I would be sure to have the participation of Wavelength, Empirical, Ayre, and Red Wine Audio, among others. Also omitted were the two favorite affordable pro-audio solutions; Benchmark and Apogee. Other affordable USB DAC's from the far east with a great reputation among audiophiles go without mention. MHDT and April Music, among others there. I'd also like to see a comparison to my own favorite front end, the Modwright Transporter, which would add the network interface into the picture. That, in turn, would add a whole other group of worthy competitors into the mix. But I digress, as the intent of the issue is to examine USB. In that regard I find Gordon Rankin's refusal to participate very telling of something not being right.
Ugh. Head hurts. Me waits. Vinyl spins. Digital product change fast. Digital resale value drops. Head hurts again. Ugh... Cheers,

RME has recently come out with a 24/192 capable USB digital interface. It's a pro oriented piece and offers a vast number of input/output options. For audiophiles it does offer a S/PDIF I/O. I believe the price is $1300.
Let’s think for a second here about when USB for music playback came into being… and why.

It seems to me the USB interface was directed towards the ‘sake of convenience crowd’, far more so than for the ‘audiophilic nervousa crowd’.

But just as with the Pro Audio sector, the audiophobic crowd has found yet another vein for which to investigate and try bending to their ends. With a modicum of success only, they then have the audacity to cry for excellence from this interface while still in its infancy and as yet ill defined in it’s metamorphoses.

Goodness. See how much those little iPods have done to us? More so, I think than they have done for us, at times.

USB was to us… however large or small the promise was on it’s lips. A simple, widespread interface that yielded plug and play use. No learning curve to speak of, and it’s CHEAP!

Well…. It sounds pretty good on the desktop… let’s see how it sounds on the big rig! Hmmm… needs some tweaking but it has potential. Enter then, G Rankin, and those of that ilk offering the use of that simple convenient nothing to it cable, and assuring better than ever performance with some interesting and unique designs. Great!

Hard Drive acreage plummeted like A.I.G. stock, and now storing vast amounts of media could be had almost for the asking.

High Def… finally had sufficient egress. A new home almost anywhere and for mere pennies. Confusing the issues further was Hollywood. Namely with a covetous protection array instituted purely for their own ends called HDMI.

24-192 capabilities over HDMI 1.3a. one wire! Indeed an audiophiliac’s notion of heresy! I was just getting used to USB 1.0!

How better to serve the music nut than to enable them to render veritable square miles of HDD space than to make great DACs that also (oh by the way), have USB inputs? As well, for the more discriminating ($$$), some other levels of higher yielding digital fare?

Wait a mo’…. What about I2S, and Firewire… oops… USB 3.0?

USB was made for computer users. Personal confusers outdate themselves quicker than chickens eating skinny worms! Geezzz louise, they have obsolescence built into the equation as standard operating proceedure!

Now there’s a new USB format upcoming?
Hmmm…. Let’s see… can I keep up and live comfortably on the ‘bleeding edge’?

Nope. It’s too costly as the changes arrive too quickly and with too vast an assortment. Latest and supposedly greatest isn’t always bestest in truth.

So what’s to do? Well, what has worked in digital for some time now during the inception of iPods, HDMI, Why Fi, firewires, the various USB iterations and those which inevitably will follow?

AES… BNC, and Coax SPDIF… yep and TOS too.

So if it’s a digital world we’ll be a dwelling’ ing, All one needs to do is convert properly the digital signal, preferably outside the PCs domain to these aforementioned units and be done with it and let the digital dust settle.

According to the Stereophile review by JA on the BC usb converter, he made a case for the M Audio $99 unit too for that task, and the EMU USB card for a second option while addressing the 24/96 devotee needs.

there are others, BTW…. RME, Lynx , etc. which satisfy higher word lengths and bit rates.

I don’t think the digital world and the audio purists worlds are ever going to be on par with one another. The focus for each is different. The targeted audience is different. Blending new school tech with old school traditions is where things become muddied.

AS much as I respect efforts from Wavlenth, Imperical Audio, Bel Canto, Lavry, etc… using a standard (gosh) high end DAC being fed by a good to very good sound card via AES, BNC, or coax sure has it’s benefits. Not to mention the abilities to process more than adequately the higher ‘numbers game’.

True also for some configurations, the wireless route seems best and least pricey for some time to come yet. Unless of course, your pockets are as deep as are your ambitions.

As Jax2 said and I’ll support in other words, it always comes to this… “Just what flavor of chocolate does one prefer, and how much are you willing to pay the vendor for it? The digital world begs one other question… “…and how often?”

There’s an awful lot of ways around here to skin the proverbial cat than merely by USB alone that are a bit more ‘future proof’.
AS much as I respect efforts from Wavlenth, Imperical Audio, Bel Canto, Lavry, etc… using a standard (gosh) high end DAC being fed by a good to very good sound card via AES, BNC, or coax sure has it’s benefits. Not to mention the abilities to process more than adequately the higher ‘numbers game’.

I don't see any benefits of introducing an extra step of a sound card conversion from USB to AES/coax. In fact, I really don't see the advantage of using the badly designed AES/coax SPDIF connection that lacks a separate clock transfer and barely can make 24/192 (most SPDIF inputs are limited to 24/96 too).

One of the big advantages with asynchronous USB is that you can place the clock right next to the DAC chip and slave the PC to the DAC clock. That gives the lowest jitter and something that is not at all possible with AES, coax or any other traditional conversion schemes. Finally, the only limit to data transfer rates via USB is due to the lack of drivers. If a company is willing to write drivers for their DAC then 24/192 won't be a problem. And I don't see USB disappearing from PCs anytime soon.

There is something to be said for Firewire too - the best computer DAC implementation I heard to date uses Firewire (the Weiss DAC2/Minerva). But that requires extra drivers as well for 24/192 operation.
07-24-09: Restock
There is something to be said for Firewire too - the best computer DAC implementation I heard to date uses Firewire (the Weiss DAC2/Minerva). But that requires extra drivers as well for 24/192 operation.
That Focusrite Saffire, in addition to having two FireWire ports and RCA SP/DIF In and Out, also has built-in A/D *and* D/A converters with a max rate of 24/192.

List price $500 (same as the Bel Canto USB-to-SP/DIF converter), but typical street price is $350. And if the DAC isn't up to snuff, one can always send the SP/DIF signal to a Benchmark, Lavry, or what have you. (PS:Lavry eschews 192K intentionally).
Restock hit the nail on the head. It's not just souncard versus USB. If you feed a wordclock signal from the dac to the soundcard, you get better results than just sound card alone. Also, there a different ways to do USB - asynchronous, isochronous, different drivers, etc. And not all USB implementations are created equal. That's why other companies are now licensing Empirical Audio's technology for their USB implementations. A few years ago, there was a movement away from sound cards with AES and no wordclock feedback toward asynchronous USB because you could get lower jitter.

Without owning one, it seems that Playback Designs and the new Emm Labs DAC2 eliminate the problem of which type of signal to use by doing whatever they do to correct the signal after it reaches the DAC. Now, is the result better if you use a less jittery USB signal compared to AES signal that comes off a noisy PC internal sound card? I don't know.


“I don't see any benefits of introducing an extra step of a sound card conversion from USB to AES/coax. In fact, I really don't see the advantage of using the badly designed AES/coax SPDIF connection that lacks a separate clock transfer and barely can make 24/192 (most SPDIF inputs are limited to 24/96 too).”

I don’t claim to have the professional knowledge of exactly what USB can and/or can not handle, nor the reaches of coax, be it thru put or bit rates beyond 96KHz… or if it is in fact as simple as a ‘driver’ issue for USB. What ever the case is, Coax, AES & BnC connections are on and have been on many stand alone DACs which tout processing 16/44 all the way up to 24/192 for some time now and they up sample or over sample the given input signal within. There are even one box solutions which do this as well. Long before USB or IEEE came along. They all seemed to be doing just fine using the interfaces I listed to supply the initial input signal (s). they too are all converting, or transmuting one signal to another… so adding steps to the processing of a signal isn’t altogether a bad thing then…. For some.

Of the DACs you mention most of them, if not all of them are well beyond certainly my own means. EM labs, Weiss, Imperical, etc., and perhaps those of many others. Consequently, my proposal was an alternative route to extract info beyond 24/96 without the use of a USB to ??? converter. After all if it’s a USB changeover device of sorts, or a sound card, the info is being converted at any rate. Some folks use still more pricey cards than I’ve employed to feed still more pricey DACs than I’ve had the opportunity to own. I’d not wish to had a DAC which ONLY supported one interface.

Then too, the only truly limiting factor is the system the information winds up being reproduced with.

“One of the big advantages with asynchronous USB is that you can place the clock right next to the DAC chip and slave the PC to the DAC clock. That gives the lowest jitter and something that is not at all possible with AES, coax or any other traditional conversion schemes. Finally, the only limit to data transfer rates via USB is due to the lack of drivers. If a company is willing to write drivers for their DAC then 24/192 won't be a problem. And I don't see USB disappearing from PCs anytime soon.”

You might want to look closer at some of even the lesser expensive sound cards now on the mkt. They allow for this particular step… slaving the pc to the clock in the stand alone DAC… even my M Audio 24/192 Audiophile PCI card can do that. Very well in fact, and for about $160 new… or you can set it to use it’s own internal clock. You pick.

I set it to external and make use of the BC DAC 3’s clock.

I don’t see USB going away either… I simply submit it remains unsettled. The addition of IEEE supports that remark. Some future iteration is also on the not distant horizon. What then?

I merely wanted to input alterior methods to convey pc info into a stereo system which permits very good to exceptional sound quality, if not truly remarkable, IMO. In fact I’ve found using much simpler paths a most satisfying, moderately expensive alternative route which allows for outstanding sound in my opinion, and in truth. Just as you said the best you had heard was via the IEEE WEISS MINERVA.

I’ve gone thru several ASIO USB drivers, cards, media players, file formats, interfaces and DACs. From modestly priced to significantly costly ones. What I mention here is exactly my own experiences and just what I use and own now. Nothing more.

I’d love nothing better than to drop $5K $ 10K on a DAC without blinking an eye. I can’t however. It’s that simple. I’ve heard upsampled signals too and I can take them or leave them… past 24/96 I don’t perceive a performance gain, but merely a difference in the sounds presentation itself. Some could well argue that diff is an improvement, subjectively speaking. I don’t.

AS to the driver barrier…. I doubt that issue will be resolved by confuser makers at large any time soon. Rather, I suspect such an area will be addressed by those DAC makers who wish to support ultra high res pc generated signals, or they’ll convert them in their own DACs, which will as now, remain financially well out of reach for many. It will be interesting to see who learns to write code proficiently enough to satisfy current driver needs, and supports such needs with future updates. So there’s a whole other bag of worms.

God bless you if you can afford to dwell on that bleeding edge, for it is a less peopled region and changes all too rapidly.

I too feel much of the numbers game is simply that… a numbers game providing different more often than it serves the ideal of true betterment. I find that argument akin to that which opposes tube and solid state mavens. Neither camp there is without validation. Neither can one say which is definitely the best method for the end result to be had with those quite personal choices.

I don’t always feel that removal of items in the signal path is always the answer to improve performance, or arrive at a better sonic product…. Ie., Subtracting a preamp and going directly from a DAC to an amplifier, for example, or always use less components in a loudspeakers x over network.

I’m not going inside any of these gizmos. I won’t be modding them or seeking such avenues with these components. I would be simply plugging them in and listening. How many fewer or further steps are in the processing, matters not in the end.

Practically speaking, it’s always going to come down to as I‘ve already said, “What’s it sound like to me in my house, and can or do I want to pay for it.” Technology aside.

Until the dust settles, and prices drop, the majority will seek out, and very well should, other means which offer stability and well above average performance for lesser expense. Latest ain’t always greatest, and highest priced isn’t always anything but the highest priced.
Bindjim - here is some nice info on USB and the driver requirements in plain terms:

24/192 high rez via USB - Drivers, EMU0404, etc.

The biggest problem with USB right now is really the mediocre and after-though implementations of many current DACs that just add USB as a second interface without using the advantages of USB (the TAS review just reflected that). Some of the DACs that have a dedicated USB interface of course do have good implementations, except then you throw all eggs into one basket which is not always a good thing.
It seems from reading the above that, in terms of ethernet connections, wireless is considered better than wired. Why is that? Is it simply so that one can place the computer/nas/etc further away from the audio equipment?

Thanks for the links... and I do dig where you seem to be coming from. The info from this link says some of what I alluded to early on in my diatribe on alternative methods, when I mentioned the JA article in Stereophile wherein he points to the M Audio transit, (?) and this self same EMU 404, I also briefly noted above.

That links poster also confirms my convictions about the aspects of having to write the driver, and support it thereafter.... I know that takes some doing and resources most high end DAC makers aren't looking forward to doing, if they do them at all.

Again, I absolutely am confined to look towards the most practical, high value paths first and foremost.

With respect to all, once you start digging in the 'mine of diminishing returns', you're going to wear out a bunch of shovels for just a bit or perhaps better gold.... if then.

the sole attraction for me in the 192KHz arena is IF I can capture stereo or multi ch audio onto a hard drive from ripping it off the disc itself and thereby have the ability to archive, select, and play it back from there.

Thereafter for me, is the choice of which interface, which or how many steps in the conversion process, and their accumulative cost to performance ratio.

Naturally, and as well, its' comensurate level with that of my current stereo's abilities. As is usual for me regardless the component to be added next. Such is just my lot.

Having heard some high res played back, I've got to ponder the expense for such a result, or a change.

Do check out the computer audiophile website too for more insights and methods.
Are there any "audiophile" quality DACs that can receive a 24/192 input via USB?
It appears that the PS Audio Digital Link III has an internal native mode of 24/192KHz. It also has a USB input. As to whether it can actually receive 24/192 over the USB link, I don't know, but if it gets a 16/96 or 24/96, it's going to upconvert it to 24/196.
upconversion is wrong way.....native is needed
I may repeat some of what has been said:
-there are various USB Dacs that go all the way to 192 but I believe most stop at 96 for now
-firewire may generally produce better results, primarily used through Weiss equipment
-all high end manufacturers I spoke to assert that for very best performance you still need to have the interface be outside the DAC. Use a computer card or other interface
-so for best quality, run a firewire into a Weiss AFL1 or maybe a usb into other device. You can then run single or double XLRs into DACs such as the Scarlatti, Weiss Medea/DAC1, Accuphase DC801 etc and have the best possible sound you can get these days. I have not tried wavelength or the Wadia 9.

You can download from HDTracks, Linn, HDTT, BSO's site, etc. But get ready for some quality time with your computer as most of these sites are amazingly bad at bundling the metadata, so you will have to move things around manually at times. I assume at some point they will get it right, get cheaper and we ll hear most master recordings such as Reference Recordings online.

Of course, all this is only to get us closer to vinyl!