Why does my DAC sound so much better after upgrading digital SPDIF cable?


I like my Mps5 playback designs sacd/CD player but also use it as a DAC so that I can use my OPPO as a transport to play 24-96 and other high res files I burn to dvd-audio discs.

I was using a nordost silver shadow digital spdif cable between the transport and my dac as I felt it was more transparent and better treble than a higher priced audioquest digital cable a dealer had me audition.

I recently received the Synergistic Research Galileo new SX UEF digital cable.  Immediately I recognized that i was hearing far better bass, soundstage, and instrument separation than I had ever heard with high res files (non sacd),

While I am obviously impressed with this high end digital cable and strongly encourage others to audition it, I am puzzled how the cable transporting digital information to my DAC from my transport makes such a big difference.

The DAC take the digital information and shapes the sound so why should the cable providing it the info be so important. I would think any competently built digital cable would be adequate....I get the cable from the DAC to the preamp and preamp to amp matter but would think the cable to the DAC would be much less important.

I will now experiment to see if using the external transport to send red book CD files to my playback mps5 sounds better than using the transport inside the mps5 itself.

The MPS5 sounds pretty great for ca and awesome with SACD so doubt external transport will be improvement for redhook cds


80ed0208 31c0 4577 9fa1 e63df01d1a04karmapolice
Just remember that everything about audio is not written in stone or was dictated by a burning bush and you'll be fine. Trust your ears.

All the best,
Nonoise
Read this. Same principles apply to all digital cables. The digital signal is actually generated from analog electric signals. In the case of optical, it comes down to how precise the optical transceivers are.

https://positive-feedback.com/audio-discourse/why-usb-cables-can-make-a-difference/
Recently, for the first time, I actually heard a difference between two optical cables w/ my ADI-2 DAC. One was: https://www.ebay.com/itm/12-12ft-GLASS-Digital-Audio-Toslink-Cable-Premium-Perfect-for-Sound-Bars/39... The other was a Lifatec glass optical cable "TOSLINK / TOSLINK Premium Silflex Glass Cables with Optisilk™ Jacketing " Both were 10 ft in length. The former had brittle, harsh sounding highs, and the latter smoother, cleaner highs. The difference was not subtle. Perhaps the Lifatec had better connectors, or the cheaper cable was in general poorly constructed? Thus the Lifatec stays in. This was the first time I’ve ever noticed differences between digital cables.
It’s really simple, there’s documented studies showing that digital signals can sound totally different when using S/PDIF cables that are over $30...it’s called placebo.
mzkmxcv Stole the words right out of my mouth. 
the difference is huge....no placebo effect.....you guys are hitting the pipe hard if you think its just placebo
As was said above, what passes through the wire that we CALL a digital signal is really an ANALOG signal.  It is subject to distortions.  This video is a pretty good, clear and simple explanation of what can go wrong:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grzoqEb2KMk&feature=youtu.be


As nonoise hit on, a digital cable still is just transmitting analog signals in pulses. Doubters seem to focus on the concept that a bit is a bit and it’s an irrelevant argument. The issue isn’t the data usually but the transmission of it. The same design philosophies that can be beneficial or detrimental to analog cables apply to digital cables. Noise picked up, created, or transmitted by the digital cables will carry through your system and be audible artifacts. Also, conductor type and sound signature of the cable will also showcase themselves. 
@audiothesis

Yes, a 50¢ optical cable you find on Aliexpress may have issues, but any AmazonBasics, Monoprice, etc. cable will not have any issues unless it’s a super long run, but anything under 10ft will be fine.

@karmapolice

Saying you heard a drastic difference that means the decibel change would likely be 2dB or higher, or the original one you had (>$50) had audible distortion that was really close to the fundamental, which just isn’t going to happen.

@melm

Jitter is well documeneted. However, comparing jitter between DACs has nothing to do with if you are using a $20 generic digital cable (coax or optical) or a $4000 Nordost one.

There’s one story where people have said they’ve hear a difference when switching between a cheap solid state amp and a McIntosh tube amp, yet the McIntosh didn’t even work and the solid state amp was always in use. If those people heard a difference when nothing in the system changed, you should just own up to the fact that your brain is telling you that your new digital cable sounds better when it in fact is outputting an identical signal.

Now, if you hear difference, then that’s money well spent. However, there is no difference and I hope you never recommend someone do the same as you. Spend money on better room acoustics, not replacing your over expensive optical cable with one even more expensive.
@mzkmxcv
Some people have better hearing than others.  They hear differences that others don't.
Some people have better equipment than others.   And by better I do not necessarily mean more expensive.   That equipment reveals differences that lesser equipment doesn't.
Some people, having less discerning hearing and/or lesser equipment don't hear any differences among cables and other relatively passive devices.  Not experiencing those differences themselves they cannot comprehend that others can! 
It's an argument that has been going on among audiophiles as long as there have been audiophiles.

Post removed 

If you want a good Toslink cable, get this one:

https://btpa.com/TOSLINK-XXX.html

@melm

I will be the first to say I don’t have a golden ear, my $4000 towers speakers don’t sound much better than my $300 bookshelves and my $15 headphones don’t sound much worse than my others costing far more (all are well reviewed/measured, so it is simply on my ability to differentiate being poor). The good thing though is that doesn’t matter as the signal is 100% identical for music.

I have seen measurements showing jitter in Toslink, but they were showing >100kHz and even in the MHz range, so it has no influence on music.

Proper digital cable should be 75ohm many are not, sometimes 50 or 100ohms.

Also rca’s connectors are not proper 75ohm So Blue jeans Cables and many others say
http://www.bluejeanscable.com/articles/75ohmrca.htm

BNC are proper 75ohm, but there are two types, make sure it the 75ohm not the 50ohm.
http://www.cctvinstitute.com.br/images/pasted%20image%20640x560-crop-u8521.jpg

It said these can effect jitter if all (cable and connector) are not 75ohm.


Cheers George
I have seen measurements showing jitter in Toslink, but they were showing >100kHz and even in the MHz range, so it has no influence on music.

Most jitter measurements are not useful if not even bogus. One number is insufficient unless there are plots to back it up.   When I reduced jitter from 22psec to 7psec with improvements to my Synchro-Mesh reclocker, the difference was easily audible to me and my customers.  You can never have jitter too low or inaudible IMO, at least not with todays technology.

It said these can effect jitter if all (cable and connector) are not 75ohm.

Very true, although the losses, dielectrics and even the conductor materials also have an effect.  The ONLY coax cable to be using is a BNC-BNC.  If you must have RCA connectors, use BNC to RCA adapters that are 75 ohms on the BNC end.  I verified last year that even Belden 1694A is not close enough to 75 ohms. I had used it as a reference for tuning my products and had to go back and retune all of them when I got an aerospace quality cable that is quite close to 75 ohms.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I've got Steve's Synchro-mesh reclocker and cables and I have to say I find it annoying when people insist that he's got to be marketing the placebo effect when he's politely putting the data in front of you. And inviting you to check it for yourself. 

If you don't want to look at it, that's fine, but before you question his motives I think it's polite to point out that he's recommending an optical cable that he doesn't make, and in other threads he's recommending a whole ethernet rig that consists mostly of stuff made by other vendors like Wireworld. I'm particularly impressed that the guy only sells results he can prove empirically (he put it in his name!) and his biggest flaw in my opinion is that he is too polite to point that out when he could. 

Let me share with you this experiment I just did. My DAC, an Aesthetix Romulus, has a CD player in it. I put in a CD and press play, and I cue up that same track on Tidal via Sonos, which everybody knows is a lo-fi piece of garbage. I have the Sonos wired into my DAC via Steve's reclocker and cables. 

I cue everything up so I can switch between the CD and the Sonos source playing the same track. The added clarity and detail via Steve's rig is easy, obvious to hear. It just sounds better. It could be, of course, that the CD player or CD or whatever just sucks so much that it makes the bits here in the same room sound worse than bits coming from California. It could be placebo effect, of course.

The simpler explanation, which is that the bits going to the DAC are the same, but the Empirical rig is just dealing with jitter better. And if we think of each link in the digital chain as adding or reducing jitter, we're closer to understanding why it sounds the way it does.

I'm an idiot and whatever is wrong about this should reflect on me and not him. Obviously I'm a fan of his work and I think we can learn a little bit from him. But that's just me.

--Matthew
Anyone who thinks "bits are bits" are fooling themselves. If that is the case try a toslink cable from best buy & compare it to a true 75 ohm coax cable. I've done it / The difference is not subtle. I'm also sure that Steve's " Synchro-Mesh reclocker" would improve the sound even more. Just saying there are improvements to be had with the bits. 
i strongly recommend looking into NBS cables.   Their coaxial cable are outstanding!  
Ah! The ol' "Better hearing", "Better equipment" argument. Neither will defy physics. Moving your speakers 1" will have an infinitely larger effect on your systems sound compared to changing Toslink or RCA cables.
@boxer21

And yet you do not know it actually made a difference, all you know is that you heard a difference.

@audioengr3

I know a few psec makes a difference, and the measurements I was talking about showed digital coax around 100psec at 100kHz to 1.4MHz and Toslink at 500-1000psec for the same reason. However, that’s well beyond human audibility so it doesn’t matter.

Show me the jitter difference between an Amazon Basics optical cable and then from an AudioQuest Diamond optical cable. I have seen one users measurements where he compared a ~$3 optical cable to a $200 glass one, and the $200 was 5psec less.

However, keep in mind any properly made DAC (I’ve seen $1000 ones perform worse than $100 ones) will get rid of jitter anyway, even the AudioQuest DragonFly USB DACs will reduce the jitter to be inaudible.
" And yet you do not know it actually made a difference, all you know is that you heard a difference" 

In regard to audio, that is exactly what I'm concerned with. 

" Ah! The ol' "Better hearing", "Better equipment" argument"

Yep

@boxer12

If the difference is due to placebo, it at the end of the day makes no difference from an actual improvement, as you feel the system is sounding better. However, your perception may not work in the same way as someone else, so actually claiming it performs better would be disingenuous.

The fact of listening for a difference itself will lead you to look for differences and possibly hear them even if they don’t exist. This also is in replay to audioengr and how he said his customers heard a difference, just the fact of asking if they heard a difference would itself invalidate any findings. Just remeber the story I told in the beginning, people heard distinct differences even though the system stayed the same. Our brains are easily fooled, just think back to what color that dress was (it’s black/blue; I saw white/gold the first day and the next day I could only see black/blue, truly mind blowing).

@audioengr

Also, I mixed psec with ns. Going from 22psec to 7psec is not audible. Some studies/trials have been done, and human audibility of jitter is >10ns (~20ns one study found), which is 10,000psec. And again, any good DAC would get rid of jitter to beyond audibility in the first place.
mzkmxcv
I will be the first to say I don’t have a golden ear, my $4000 towers speakers don’t sound much better than my $300 bookshelves . . .
Your honesty is greatly appreciated.    Fortunately, I can hear a difference.  

@ mzkmxcv

You wrote, "I have seen measurements showing jitter in Toslink, but they were showing >100kHz and even in the MHz range, so it has no influence on music."

IMO this reveals that you don''t understand the influence of jitter, to wit, what jitter is all about.   My DAC, for ex. uses  femtosecond clocks to minimize jitter.  And they do.  The difference between clocks like these and lesser clocks can be heard.
@melm

Look at how Stereophile tests jitter, it actually is in our hearing range. Who cares if the timing errors are at 500kHz?

You claim the clock differences can be heard, I no doubt believe you hear a difference, I do doubt though that any differences are above our audibility thresholds (and not by a reasonable margin, you are claiming differences that are magnitudes upon magnitudes upon magnitudes lower than what studies have found).  

And again, our audibility threshold to hear jitter has been tested to be >10ns, the fact of using a femtosecond clock is irrelevant, as a jitter error of 1 femtosecond won’t sound better than an error of 1 nanosecond.
audioengr,
What you say makes sense. Do you have a recommendation for a high quality audiophile BNC to RCA adapter? 
I know a few psec makes a difference, and the measurements I was talking about showed digital coax around 100psec at 100kHz to 1.4MHz and Toslink at 500-1000psec for the same reason. However, that’s well beyond human audibility so it doesn’t matter.

It does matter.  Once you get a rig put together that is truly resolving, you can easily hear these differences.  Everyone has a system they believe to be resolving but it just isn't the case.

Show me the jitter difference between an Amazon Basics optical cable and then from an AudioQuest Diamond optical cable. I have seen one users measurements where he compared a ~$3 optical cable to a $200 glass one, and the $200 was 5psec less.


I don't have any way of measuring accurately Toslink cables, only coax cables.  Just spend $25 and get the Toslink I recommended.  You will hear the difference.


However, keep in mind any properly made DAC (I’ve seen $1000 ones perform worse than $100 ones) will get rid of jitter anyway, even the AudioQuest DragonFly USB DACs will reduce the jitter to be inaudible.

I definitely will not keep this in mind, because it's simply not true.  There is no such thing as eliminating all jitter, even if companies advertise this.  Most DAC's benefit from a reduction in input jitter, even if they have reclocking inside. I used to mod many different DAC's, so I have a lot of experience here. I'm not a fan of reclocking inside the DAC BTW.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Also, I mixed psec with ns. Going from 22psec to 7psec is not audible. Some studies/trials have been done, and human audibility of jitter is >10ns (~20ns one study found), which is 10,000psec. And again, any good DAC would get rid of jitter to beyond audibility in the first place.


I've heard this mantra over and over.  You are believing the marketing BS.  It is audible. Here are the customer feedbacks to prove it:

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=157348.msg1687192#msg1687192

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=157348.msg1709284#msg1709284

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=157348.msg1709326#msg1709326

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=157348.msg1709507#msg1709507

The studies that have been done by AES and others are flawed. I have read them and pointed out flaws in all of them.

As for the DAC reclocking: in your dreams. The only DAC that I have encountered where a customer thought it was totally immune to incoming jitter was the Benchmark DAC3. This result was probably clouded by his system which was likely not resolving or low-noise enough.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

audioengr,
What you say makes sense. Do you have a recommendation for a high quality audiophile BNC to RCA adapter?

High-quality, not really, but you can get 75 ohm adapters at Markertek..com. They are a bit short for some component jacks, but they perform fine.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

all my cables are frosted with voodoo
and my little dance i do at teh 4 equinoxes
page used to do this before every show
i heard
canibefrank, Seems easier to buy a better cable. Life is harder when you're poor. 
@audioengr  
 
I didn’t say the DAC would eliminate jitter, I said it would reduce it to beyond audibility. 
 
Just take a second (pun intended) and just think how short a nanosecond is, and then a picosecond. Sorry, but no, we can’t hear a difference. And again, any customer feedback is irrelevant. There is positive customer feedback on using pebbles scattered across the room to act as diffusers.
mzkmxcw, it sounds like you're a genuine skeptic so why don't you just admit YOU don't hear a difference instead of discarding other people's opinions. There are a couple of other threads in progress right now debating similar arguments and there will never be a consensus on these topics.  
mzkmxcv
... any customer feedback is irrelevant.
In the real world of business and commerce, customer feedback is vital. Dismiss it at your peril.

I didn’t say the DAC would eliminate jitter, I said it would reduce it to beyond audibility.

In your dreams.

Just take a second (pun intended) and just think how short a nanosecond is, and then a picosecond. Sorry, but no, we can’t hear a difference.

I know exactly how small a nsec and psec is, 10-9sec and 10-12 sec.

Who is we? You mean you I think.

I get this all the time on the forums. People with unresolving, noisy systems that think they have something great. All it takes is an inexpensive preamp to prevent you from hearing most of these differences. I have had systems for a decade that can discern easily the difference between a wav file and FLAC, AIFF and even uncompressed FLAC files. I can easily hear the difference in files with different offsets. You probably don’t know that this is. Some people reading these posts have much better systems and they can benefit from my advice.

I have been designing digital systems and managing design groups for 42 years as an EE. I know what I’m talking about.

Just got another feedback today:

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=157348.msg1715109#msg1715109

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Jitter is well documeneted. However, comparing jitter between DACs has nothing to do with if you are using a $20 generic digital cable (coax or optical) or a $4000 Nordost one.

It certainly enters into it. If the cable is really poor, the jitter added will swamp what the DAC will deliver in terms of jitter. See these plots:

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154425.0

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

@Kalali

I’m a skeptic because I reference studies showing the differences are inaudible?

@audioengr

That’s BNC, not optical. And again, that’s at frequencies we can’t hear.

Since you know how quick a psec is, let’s listen to what 2 microseconds (2 million picoseconds), http://www.sereneaudio.com/blog/what-does-jitter-sound-like

On my phone, I could guess the original 1kHz vs 2µs periodic (the others were obvious), but was magnitudes more difficult with music.

So, it should be obvious that if 2 million psec is not easily differentiable with music playing, than your original statement of going from 22psec to 7psec being a drastic difference should show you why I stated it was bogus, even if your gear and room are near silent, the difference in the noise floor with content playing would be insignificant, just like how going from dithered 16bit to 24bit is impossible to hear, as dithered 16bit has a dynamic range of 120dB, and the noise floor of a song is never gonna be say 20dB, so one could have a song that’s 20dB to 140dB be perfectly reproduced by noise-shape dithered 16bit.

Of course, given your job, I highly doubt you would state otherwise.
@boxer12 
Try this premium Canare BNC-RCA (BCJ-RCAP) adaptor:

https://m.markertek.com/product/bcj-rcap/canare-bcj-rcap-bnc-jack-f-to-rca-plug-m-adapter?ne_ppc_id=...

The BNC female is a true 75-ohm connector and the RCA male is as good as one likely can get for an impedance match male connector. 


So, it should be obvious that if 2 million psec is not easily differentiable with music playing, than your original statement of going from 22psec to 7psec being a drastic difference should show you why I stated it was bogus, even if your gear and room are near silent,

It is not bogus. I have been demonstrating differences in jitter for 10 years at RMAF, THE Show, LA Audio Show and others. I can measure it and I can hear it with my systems. My customers feedback proves that these differences are audible. You need a system that provides pinpoint imaging and deep wide soundstage. You cannot get with this an iPhone.

Of course, given your job, I highly doubt you would state otherwise

What the hell is that supposed to mean?  Is this a personal attack?

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I guess I need to upgrade the speakers in my iPhone X. I only can discern the differences of random jitter noise from that website link on my iPhone, regardless of file samples. 

Yet I fall into Steve’s (@audioengr) camp regarding discerning obvious SQ differences due to a high quality jitter clock or external reclocker that produces ultra low jitter (e.g., 10 psec jitter output at the end of a BNC-terminated coaxial cable) when listening to digital music playback on my home audio system. A digital audio signal having psec-levels of jitter readily manifests itself as an improved analog audio SQ effect on the dimensionality of the reproduced sound field and the realism of instruments and vocals conveyed therein. 
Post removed 
@bluesmen:
I have owned both the AA DTI and the SF Ultra Jitterbug. Both are great digital signal reclockers, significantly reducing jitter in the resultant digital stream and yielded greatly improved SQ. I can’t recall the DTI’s output jitter levels, but the Ultra Jitterbug output jitter level was < 40 psec.

The EA Synchro Mesh reclocker takes this principle to another level with a reported output jitter level of 7 psec. I can’t recall, but I think one has to have Steve modify the SM design (remove the output transformer?) to get that reduced jitter level. It’s an inexpensive mod. Here’s a link: 
http://www.empiricalaudio.com/products/synchro-mesh

@audioengr

I know an iPhone isn’t resolving, just giving a reference point. However, did you use that link and take the test? Be honest if you actually could differentiate the 2 microsecond (random or periodic) with music playing; even if you could, now imagine the difference being ~91,000 times smaller (2 microseconds vs 22psec).

And again, customer feedback proves nothing, as placebo is more likely be factor.

As for a “personal attack”, Empirical Audio/you sell a $700 reclocking device, so I was pointing out it would be unlikely for you to admit, the truth, that jitter in Toslink cables is a non-issue.

Suggesting that for the time it takes for the speed of sound to travel 0.0000002979 inches (22psec), which is also a phase shift of 0.0001584° at 20kHz and 0.0000001584° at 20Hz, to be audible is on the verge of insanity.

Jitter is an issue with every piece of digital gear, even Toslink.  Toslink has the additional issue of conversion from electrical to optical and optical back to electrical.  Each of these stages adds jitter.  Even a single gate adds jitter.

If you don't think you can hear these differences, fine.  I have hundreds of Synchro-Mesh customers that do hear the difference.  I don't need your business.

The only reason that I respond to your posts is to debunk what you are saying, which may lead other audiophiles down the garden path.

It's like debunking the record crowd size claimed at the Trump inauguration.  Somebody has to do it.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

mzkmxcv,
To believe that we as human beings understand everything about how each persons ears convey information to their brain is almost as arrogant as making the jump that if they hear something you don't, it's a placebo.   
Post removed 
Post removed 
A quick look at this thread shows one to be sarcastic and the other, responding, but not in kind. Kind of a false equivalency to state otherwise, eh?

All the best,
Nonoise