USB or Squeezebox Touch from Mac to DAC


My first question on Audiogon - so hoping to get useful responses!!

My Setup:

Mac (Runinng Squeezebox server) - All FLAC files!
Squeezebox Touch
Peachtree Nova (as DAC only)
Nait-5i reciever
Harbeth C7 Speakers

The dealer where I brought my speakers told me that I could signifcantly improve my sound by getting rid of Squeezebox and using USB directly from my Mac to the Nova.


a) Is that true?
b) My Mac is in another room - so will have to be a veeeery long USB. Does that still work?
c) How do I control the music (remote) if I use USB?

Thanks in advance...

"The dealer where I brought my speakers told me that I could signifcantly improve my sound by getting rid of Squeezebox and using USB directly from my Mac to the Nova.


a) Is that true?"

That depends entirely on the computer, playback software and USB interface that you use. The USB interface is the most important hardware piece, but the software pieces can be an impediment to achieving good SQ if you are not diligent.

Another option is just to reclock the Squeezebox Touch with something like the Synchro-Mesh. This will improve things a LOT, but still not quite as good as the BEST USB interface and software. This will cost you around $600 compared to at least $3000 for the USB solution.

To get to the good USB level, you will need to spend significantly more, both on the computer, the software and the USB coonverter or USB DAC.

Here are some tips about USB:

"b) My Mac is in another room - so will have to be a veeeery long USB. Does that still work?"

USB cables are limited to 16 feet and the better the cable, the better the result. This will ultimately limit the performance unless you spend big bux on the cable. You are looking at probably $800 for a 16-footer to get a good result.

You may be better off to just reclock the Touch and stay wireless.

"c) How do I control the music (remote) if I use USB?"

You can control it from the host computer or by using an iPad with caveats. If you use Mac, you can use the Remote app on the iPad, however adjusting volume from Remote adjusts iTunes. iTunes does not have a decent volume control. You would need Amarra, Pure Music, Audirvana etc.. which have good digital volume controls. These must be controlled from the host computer or you must use another screen control app to control them.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio

Listen to Steve (Audioengr), and also use your critical thinking when exploring options. Steve indeed knows a lot, but also tends to steer people in the direction of his products, which is particularly hard to perceive for the newcomers. The Synchro-Mesh he recomends is his own product.

Probably the best usb to S/PDIF converter out there is Steve's Off-Ramp, but you can also get an Audiophilleo 2 for $580 which is also excellent. So not necessarily going to spend $3k if going the USB route. BTW, with the Audiophilleo you also don't need a digital cable, which is also an expensive piece.

As for the remote, you can use JRiver Media Center as the player software on the Mac and get JRemote on an iPad and be done. Check out for a review of both. BTW, JRiver is $50 and JRemote is $10.

If I were you I would probably opt for either getting another computer for the other room and using the Mini for music, or getting a computer for music, have JRiver installed, maybe an iPad with JRemote (if you don't get a laptop), a USB to S/PDIF converter, and be done.

BTW, I do have a Squeezebox Touch which I love, but think I will ultimately end up with a computer and USB to S/PDIF converter into the DAC.

I hope this helps!
A slight downside to Steve's SynchroMesh is that it is tuned for one set of frequencies: so you have to choose 44.1kHz (most of your CDs) or 96kHz (for hires stuff).

You can purchase a software to enable the USB port on the SB Touch to work with USB-SPDIF devices so it opens up 24/192 capability on the Touch.

But I still find a dedicated Mac Mini to sound better (with the right software and USB-SPDIF device).
Thanks, folks!

Looks like i will need to invest on a mac mini.

However, why do i need a usb to spdf device - and why cant i feed usb direct from mac mini to the peachtree nova dac?

Raj - you dont "need" a USB converter with your DAC. It just depends on what kind of SQ you are after. Remember, it is the USB interface that is the most critical part of this. The more you spend on a converter and the S/PDIF and/or USB cable, the better the SQ.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I recall the Nova had a synchronous USB connection that did 24/96

It's decent but not great. Steve's Offramp is by far one of the best USB-SPDIF devices and would be significantly better than the Nova's internal USB.

I remember comparing a SonicWeld Diverter to the Nova's internal USB and it was simply no contest.
RMata thanks for asking all teh questions that I had wanted to ask. I considered also a long optical cable (minijack at one end and regular toslink at the other) from my mac to the dac, but in the end settled for an iMac.
You can use USB through your Touch with EDO if the DAC/converter supports the USB Audio standard. I use a Touch connected to a Wavelength Wavelink HS USB converter in my bedroom and it sounds great.

However, I think the Mac Mini is the best solution, which is what I use in my main system. The Logitech playback software sounds fine, but you can get better sound with other software. I like the Mac Mini because it is extremely quiet and supports both OS X and Windows natively with Bootcamp so you get the best of both worlds in terms of software. I think JPlay (Windows) and Amarra (Mac) are the best sounding, but both interfaces rather suck, so I reserve those for critical listening and mainly use Squeezeplay (this would be useful to you so you can keep your LMS library) or Foobar2000 with an iOS or Android remote app. Having a smartphone/tablet is soooo convenient and is well worth the modest cost for this function alone.

To me the USB converter is a key component and is a worthwhile investment.