Toslink to External DAC: Does Sound Card Even Matter?

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by Zarathustra[H], Oct 20, 2016.

  1. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Hey all,

    I've been running the original Schiit Asgard amp with my Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro's since the Asgard was originally launched, and I've been very happy with it (apart from the power switch being on the back which is inconvenient to reach in my setup :p )

    For all this time I've been using the analogue RCA outputs from my Creative Sound Blaster Titanium HD. The DAC's (Burr-Brown Advanced Segment PCM1794A) on that card have done an admirable job, but it still resides in the noisy interior of my PC). Lately the noise has been getting worse (presumably due to water pump in case) and I figured it was finally time to move the DAC outside the case, so I ordered a Schiit Modi Multibit.

    I plan on using the Toslink connection to my computer to electrically isolate it as much as possible.

    Thing is, I don't fully understand how Toslink works. Does the soundcard I use even matter anymore when I use the Toslink out or does it just bypass it?

    Once I get it I could plug it in to the optical out on my EMU20k2 Titanium HD to my Schiit DAC, or just free up a PCIe slot and plug it directly into the Realtek ALC888 chip on my motherboard.

    Does it even make a difference once using an external DAC or does it bypass the chip all together?

    Thanks,
    Matt
     
  2. DrLobotomy

    DrLobotomy [H]ardness Supreme

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    Realtek optical out to DAC.

    No card needed. Digital is digital.
     
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  3. King of Heroes

    King of Heroes [H]ard|Gawd

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    The Modi Multibit has a USB input so you don't even need to use optical out. Just run a USB cable from the back of your PC to the Modi. In fact, using USB appears to be preferable going by its spec sheet:

    Schiit Audio, Headphone amps and DACs made in USA.

     
  4. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Back when I emailed with Jason Stoddard a few years back, he was suggesting that jitter and timing issues are MUCH better over to slink than over USB, and if it were up to him he'd use toslink only, but maybe things have changed since then.
     
  5. DoubleTap

    DoubleTap [H]ard|Gawd

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    From what I've been reading, you need an Asynchronous USB DAC - otherwise it uses the USB clock on the source device and some motherboards use sketchy usb clocks that have issues.

    Schiit Audio Wyrd USB 'Decrapifier' review | DAR__KO

    I'm always skeptical of magic cables and whatnot, but this sounds like it could help some situations but I wonder if it would increase latency.
     
  6. Reimu

    Reimu [H]ard|Gawd

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    RIP sound card.
    I've been feeling this very vividly as of late.
     
  7. HammerSandwich

    HammerSandwich [H]ard|Gawd

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  8. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    So, just to be clear, everyone agrees that sound card vs on board audio chip set makes no difference if you use the optical output?
     
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  9. DrLobotomy

    DrLobotomy [H]ardness Supreme

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  10. Reimu

    Reimu [H]ard|Gawd

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    No difference. Optical output is still bits. Just make sure that you don't snap your toslink cable and you will be golden.
    Ahh yes. Zarathustra, just be aware that toslink can carry 2 channels uncompressed, and nothing more than that. If you want to push 5.1 or 7.1, go with HDMI. This doesn't matter for stereo (headphones) obviously.
     
  11. DoubleTap

    DoubleTap [H]ard|Gawd

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    I don't completely trust USB so I ordered the Modi 2 Uber (USB, Optical and Coax inputs). I'll try USB but at the first sign of issues, I'm going optical.
     
  12. GotNoRice

    GotNoRice [H]ardForum Junkie

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    It's important to avoid generalizations. The only thing that gets "bypassed" on a sound card when connected via toslink (or coax) digital to an external DAC is the DAC on the soundcard. Nothing else on the soundcard other than the DAC is "bypassed". Many don't use their soundcard for anything other than it's DAC, so in that situation it is being functionally replaced. That is likely the basis of most of the answers in this thread so far.

    If you do use other features on your soundcard however, you absolutely CAN continue to use them! The X-Fi has other nice features that have nothing to do with it's DAC, such as CMSS-3D virtual surround, etc. You can still use those features even when running digital from your soundcard to an external DAC. So at that point the question really becomes, "What do you use your soundcard for?"
     
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  13. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Personally, I use it almost exclusively for music and games.

    I remember playing around with the 3d audio settings when I first got it, and not liking them, so in games I usually just use a basic 2 channel headphone mode.
     
  14. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Holy shit.

    Just used a mini-toslink to toslink cable and hooked it up to my Titanium HD to start with. May switch it at some point when I feel like opening the case up, if I need another PCIe slot.

    Can I say I am absolutely blown away by the sound quality? It is every bit as large a leap as when I first got a good set of headphones, and first got a dedicated amp. I wasn't expecting this much of a clarity improvement. I just wanted to lower the noise floor by electrically isolating my DAC from my noisy computer. (Water pump really made it noisy).

    The fact that I can no longer hear my mouse pointer move when things are quiet is huge too!

    I was under the impression that the Burr Brown advanced DAC's on the Titanium HD were good, but this is huge.

    Rocking to "Phil Bailey and Phil Collins - Easy Lover" and loving it.

    I haven't even gotten into tweaking the settings. (Any point to turning up the frequency above 48khz?)

    Either way, the Modi 2 Multibit + Asgard are a great combo. :D
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2016
  15. cageymaru

    cageymaru [H]ard|News

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    Ha ha nice! I'm listening to Phil Collins right now also. "In the Air Tonight" for me. ;) Thanks for the information of the toslink cable. Maybe I need a new receiver or DAC with optical in this holiday season?
     
  16. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    My only complaint with Schiit's devices is the location of the rear power switch, which is probably evident once you see where I ahve to put it:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Actually, this is probably better:

    19039313541_80c893e63e_o.jpg
     
  17. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    I will say this, the sound is less bassy than I am used to. I'm not a basshead, but despite my Beyerdynamic DT770's which are supposedly bassy as it is, the bass feels a little weak on this combo. I may just EQ it up a bit.

    It's probably fine, and very flat and balanced, but I have likely just become used to the HiFi sound of the Titanium HD.
     
  18. dukie

    dukie Limp Gawd

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    I also have the Titanium HD PCIe (since 2010). I just ordered the Philips X2 headphones and a SMSL M3 usb dac/amp.

    Currently I've had my PS4 plugged into the toslink in on the X-Fi, from there I RCA to a FIIO E9 headphone amp for my Senn HD598, then from there I RCA from the E9 to my Corsair SP2500 2.1 set. My X-Fi as of the past 2 years would constantly have an issue (since win8.1) where suddenly sound would start crackling and popping until I either switch from entertainment mode to another and then back again, or go into system audio playback devices and disable/re-enable x-fi speaker output. It's annoying. I do not know what's causing it. SO my plan is to still use the toslink in for the PS4 and then output toslink to the SMSL M3 and output from there to the SP2500. I know I can use the USB on the DAC and plug the PS4 into the toslink on it, but then I lose the ability to listen to pc audio while gaming on the console. So I plan to use the optical in on the X-Fi and output optical to the dac so I can still get both PC and console audio. I hope the issue I had was limited to the DAC on the card. wish me luck >.<
     
  19. vorrh

    vorrh n00b

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    Apologies for dredging up a somewhat dated thread, but I'm approaching the same question, albeit from a slightly different (kind of opposite) angle.

    I have been using a DAC plugged into the S/PDIF output of my motherboard. My motherboard just died, and the only problem with the most obviously suitable replacement is that it doesnt have S/PDIF output. I was wondering if I could overcome this problem by buying any soundcard that had an S/PDIF output, but want clarification about whether this would bring the DAC on the soundcard into play at all, which I would prefer not to do.

    So, whereas the OP was asking if they could remove their soundcard without having any effect, I'd like to clarify whether I can start using a soundcard purely in order to provide an S/PDIF socket, without introducing the soundcard's DAC into the process.

    If I'm interpreting this quote correctly I should be OK as the soundcard's DAC will be bypassed, but I just want to check that I'm not misunderstanding.

    In other words, if I replace a motherboard with S/PDIF output with a motherboard without such an output plus a soundcard with an S/PDIF out, will there be zero difference?

    Any insight would be much appreciated.
     
  20. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Yep, the Toslink optical format is an entirely digital format, so the output happens pre-DAC on any device that outputs it.

    Your plan should work.

    If your DAC has a USB input I'd try that first and see if you have any noise. If not, save yourself the money (and the PCIe slot) and just use it via USB.
     
  21. vorrh

    vorrh n00b

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    Great, thanks for the advice. I guess I'll go for this one as it's as cheap as I can find.

    I'm inclined not to use USB as from the specifications of my DAC it seems like, in theory at least, performance would be diminished.

     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2019
  22. Commander Shepard

    Commander Shepard 2[H]4U

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    I got tired of tricky USB drivers and just went with Toslink from my PC mobo to DAC. So much easier and sounds fantastic.
     
  23. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Official Forum Curmudgeon

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    Honestly optical trends to strugföe at really high frequencies too.

    And none of this matters unless you actually set it to that high of a frequency, which you shouldn't

    With digital playback you should always match your playback device to the content you are playing, otherwise it interpolates.

    So for CD's and most online music that's 16bit 44.1khz.
     
  24. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    The dac consumes 5 watts of power, why do you bother to turn it off?
     
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