which sound do you like better?
how long are the two cables?
how long are the two cables?
Before you decide anything are you level checking with a SPL meter when you switch between coax and USB? We tend to favor the louder sound at least short term so even if you just download a SPL app and try to get the sound level close at your listening position you're not giving yourself an accurate assessment of the two.
I agree with Dow Jones. Level matching is very important when doing comparisons.
Also, from my experience only, take it for what's worth, USB cables tend to differ much more than the coaxial digital cables. In other words, upgrading a USB cable may give you more overall gains than upgrading a coaxial cable.
This all,depends on your Dac‘s inputs. Many still have mediocre USB implementations whereas S/PDIF is established and seems easier to get right. Big issues on USB tend to be galvanic insulation and managing EFI/RMI. Conversely USB tends to allow for DSD and higher PCM sampling rates which Coax can‘t accomodate. It‘s not just the cable, I am afraid...
Thanks for advise, I did check with a SPL meter and had to back down 3 notches on a 100 step preamp with the coax wire to match USB before I posted. I like that USB sample rate is higher but I do find some high-rez is not always the best in my system, can sound a little compressed. Is reason Coax sounds more natural because sample rate is lower? This is very confusing how to pick a type of cable, I'm still lost!
Rather than pinning all of the differences only on the USB cable vs the SPDIF one, which are passive components, keep in mind that we also have two substantially different active circuits involved, as antigrunge2 has already noted.
I'd give it good odds that the more natural sound you're hearing from coax may in your case be due to nothing more than it is a better circuit and more suited to quality audio than your USB option. (And, keep in mind, there is sending circuitry at the Aries end and receiving circuitry at the RME end, so even there the "blame" could be only in the USB circuitry at one end of the chain, or alternatively, the interaction of both ends.)
However, to me it doesn't seem to be a hard decision to go with the better sounding one.
I'm going through the exact same dilemma with a Auralic G1 streamer to Mytek Manhattan II DAC. The coax brings the vocals front and center with satisfying warm tones, but it lacks the detail and refinement of USB. I'm stuck deciding between the two because they both offer benefits! Nonetheless, my research has suggested coax vs. usb is component dependent. I believe coax relies on the streamer's clock while usb uses the dac's clock. Also, manufacturers implement usb and coax differently so there is no universal "superior" connection. Awaiting upgraded USB cable to match the coax cable tier for A/B comparison.