DacMagic Plus USB v Toslink

#1

I recently purchased the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus, hoping anyone that has one or used on in the past might be able to chime in.

There’s a clear difference in sound between USB and Toslink, like they are using different EQ settings. Something I’ve never experienced with other DAC’s I’ve had. I updated to their v2.0 USB driver but that didn’t change anything.

Anyone have any insight into this? I haven’t been able to find anything online (posts, reviews, promo material) about the two inputs having different sound signatures.

Cheers

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#2

Are you on the USB 1.1 or USB 2 settings? Below info is from the owners manual page 22.
Advanced USB audio

The DacMagic Plus is both USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) and USB 1.1 (Full-speed) USB port compatible.

It will also work with the new USB 3.0 ports where the PC will simply treat the DacMagic Plus as if it were a USB 2.0 or 1.1 device.

The DacMagic Plus also supports two USB Audio protocols (not the same as the port types themselves) USB Audio 1.0 (which works over USB 1.1 ports and supports up to 24-bit/96kHz) or USB Audio 2.0 (which requires a USB 2.0 port and can support up to 24-bit/192kHz).

The default configuration is USB 1.1 and USB Audio 1.0 which works with nearly all common operating systems and computer types without drivers and supports up to 24-bit/96kHz audio, simply plug in and play.

In this configuration the DacMagic Plus is able to work at up to 24-bit/96kHz by declaring to your computer that it can handle any sample rate from 32kHz to 96kHz.

However in some Windows/Mac operating system variants the operating system itself may restrict or fix the output sample rate or re-sample the audio.

See our online guide at www.cambridge-audio.com/DacMagicPlusSupport on USB Audio for more details on this. With careful choice of playback software and settings many pitfalls can be avoided.

In particular our free Windows USB Audio 2.0 driver (available from our website) supports up to 24-bit/192kHz audio and WASPI Exclusive or ASIO modes that can give enhanced performance.

A brief explanation of your choices is below:

Switching between USB Class 1 and USB Class 2 operation

Your DacMagic Plus will come set to driverless USB Audio Class 1.0 by default, but it can be configured to run in either USB Class Audio 1.0 or 2.0 mode. To change USB Class, press in the ‘Filter/ Phase’ button during power up. One of the digital input source LEDs will illuminate to indicate current USB setting: Digital 1 represents USB Audio Class 1.0, likewise Digital 2 is USB Audio Class 2.0. USB Class is selected by turning the Volume knob, once set simply press the Volume knob and DacMagic Plus will restart in your chosen mode.

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#3

I’ve tried both protocols and switching USB ports, using the USB input over Toslink sounds like I’ve plugged in a different pair of headphones.

I put in a support ticket and received a pretty underwhelming response (from my perspective).

“The two connections will sound different as they use a differing method of connection. Generally, we prefer the sound of the USB Audio as this has less jitter and sounds more lifelike.”

Was just hoping someone else who owns/has used one could confirm if they do sound different and I’ve just made a bad purchase, or that they should be pretty much the same and there’s something not quite right going on.

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#4

I wouldn’t call the two variants night and day. I no longer have the DAC Magic Plus but it always worked pretty well in whatever connection mode used. Have you tried some different cables. From my experience, USB can be quirky at times. Several companies make USB decrappifiers (for a reason I suppose)…Schiit Wyrd, and Uptone Audio USB Regen to name a couple. The Schiit Wyrd is relatively inexpensive. Take a look at Schiit.com for details. I have one of each those. Audioquest makes one as well, but I haven’t tried it.

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#5

What are you driving the DAC from (specifically)?

If two different devices, one USB the other TOSLINK then the issues is likely there. If it’s the same device, then I’m assuming a Windows PC … and if it has S/PDIF output then I’d guess it’s either an integrated motherboard output or an add-on card.

Sound output settings for Windows vary in their defaults based on the output mode, and it is not at all uncommon for default USB audio settings to have things like ASRC involved as well as other tweak settings like bass level enhancement and so on.

So check the settings are the same for both outputs.

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#6

Are you feeding from a computer/laptop? Or a stand alone device?

Shane D

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#7

USB output is via PC, Toslink is from my TV through HDMI (LG C7) via PC/Xbox/PS4.

I’ll put in my purchase/performance history to see if that sheds any light.

I currently have 4 Dacs/Dac Amps and the DacMagic is the only one I’ve heard such a big difference from using different inputs.

First purchase: Aune X7S Dac/Amp (Sabre Dac) Toslink connection sound cuts out every 10-15 seconds after 5-10 minutes. USB doesn’t cut out, no discernible difference in sound when switching inputs (to me).

Second Purchase: FX Audio X6 Dac/Amp (Cirrus Logic):Toslink and USB connections both work without error. Can’t tell any difference in sound between either input.

Third Purchase: Breeze Audio Dac (Chi-Fi, AK4490): Toslink and USB connections both work without error. Can’t tell any difference in sound between either input. But after 6 months or so unit failed to turn on.

Fourth Purchase: Topping D50 Dac (Sabre Dac): Toslink connection sound cuts out every 10-15 seconds after 5-10 minutes. USB doesn’t cut out, no discernible difference in sound when switching inputs (to me).

Not sure if it’s the Toslink connector on the two Sabre Dac’s or just my specific TV or LG C7’s in general that don’t work well with Sabre chips, but both units with those chips have produced the same results whether plugged into TV/Xbox/PS4 through Toslink.

Fifth Purchase: Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus (Wolfson Dac, bought this specifically to test if I’d have any drop outs via Toslink). Toslink and USB connections both work without any drop outs. Significant difference in sound when switching between USB and Toslink, as I posted above, It’s like listening to a different set of headphones when switching from one input to the other.

I’ll try the USB on a laptop tomorrow and see if I get the same results.

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#8

Assuming you’re connecting directly to the TV (not through am AVR), then it sounds to me like you have either a marginal TOSLINK cable or output from the TV isn’t up to par (could be emitter/fiber alignment, a poor emitter, lousy clock stability or some issue in how it is driven internally).

Individual DAC implementations (or the S/PDIF receivers they use) can handle TOSLINK issues differently. Some will mute on getting bad data or becoming unsynced, some will keep playing but interpolate or pad data (WILL change the sound), some will show an error. If muting, it depends on how long it takes to resync the bi-phase clock as to how long the sound dropout will last.

Not sure what the cause of your shitty TOSLINK connection is (if coming direct off the console, instead of the TV, still exhibits the issue them it’s probably a bad TOSLINK cable). But it’s clear you have TOSLINK issues that are nothing to with the DACs in question - they’re just responding differently to a common upstream issue.

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#9

I owned an original DacMagic, but not the plus with integrated headphone amp. although I believe it’s the same WM8740 Wolfson chip.

But that doesn’t/shouldn’t really matter if the unit is functioning as it should
Reading what’s quoted above, it sounds as if your USB is direct out from the PC over USB-> DacMagic+ but the Optical is routed vie HDMI from PC -> TV -> TV Optical out -> DacMagic.

If this is in fact what your doing, then I’d assume you’re likely getting a re-sampled (possibly downsampled) TV “manipulated” Optical audio-out signal to the DacMagic+.

You’d need to confirm if I’m reading this right before I’d suggest anything further.

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#10

Correct.

But it’s the USB connection where it sounds “wrong”. I tried USB from a Surface Book > DacMagic and it sounds “right”. Thinking I might be going insane… I just tried the other Dacs through the Surface, A/Bing with the PC and none of those sound “wrong” no matter what they are connected to.

The issue is only from PC USB > DacMagic which I can’t pinpoint, I’ve tried every USB port available with the same results. I’d say the DacMagic is fine considering there’s no issues from the Surface USB.

It just doesn’t work correctly through my PC, I’m stumped.

#11

So the DacMagic + is fine.

Depending on the motherboard in your PC and it’s age (as well as other things, but we can start here) there are often two different internal connections.
There sometimes also a direct digital connection and an analog internal connection. You want direct digital out.

There’s often. an HD-audio connection and and an older (lower resolution connection AC97 I think?) Terms don’t really matter but the digital vs analog connections do and the HD audio vs AC’97 connection matters.

So, did you build your PC or is it a store bought brand, i.e. a pre-configured/built PC like a DELL, ACER, etc.
And most importantly are you comfortable working inside the desktop/tower PC? It’s nothing big but you’d need sone minimal knowledge of motherboard audio connections. At the very least you’d need to identify your motherboard and have a .pdf “quick start” manual.

Do you have a sound card or is the audio direct out from the motherboard?

It’s a step at a time, process of elimination with the PC at this point.

So, again, are you confidant/comfortable working inside the case?

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#12

I built it and still have the manual. Can also get the manuals online.

Asus Z170 Pro Gaming Motherboard, no sound card. Comfortable working on it.

#13

I tried Toslink with the D50 and x7s again and noticed that the cables are loose when plugged in to both units (tried 4 cables, some more loose than others, but all loose). The D50 more so, but both of them wiggle where the cheap Dac-X6 has a tiny bit of movement and the DacMagic doesn’t move at all .

Nothing appears to be broken on either one

Having a quick look around google it looks as though loose connections aren’t all that rare but it’s usually due to the flap breaking. But they can be replaced or use tape/something to hold the cable in place.

I’ll try to get the cables in the sweet spot with some tape and see if that fixes the drop outs, if so I can look into getting them replaced.

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#14

It’s extraordinarily unlikely that the DACs here are the problem, nor the TOSLINK connectors on them. The chances of getting that many out-of-spec TOSLINK connectors are infinitesimal.

Get a proper TOSLINK cable, as I’m almost certain that you’re using one of the POS single-fiber plastic “optical fibers” that came in the box with one of these things. They’re not expensive. You want multiple strands in the fiber. Glass is better than plastic. But even a plastic Lifatec cable will have way better connectors and fiber than almost anything you can find.

Why is it that trouble-shooting basic problems with low-end audio products always seems to result in “James Bond Villain Syndrome”? Don’t overcomplicate a simple problem. And TOSLINK isn’t about “how tight” the connections are, it’s about proper alignment. Tape won’t fix that.

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#15

It certainly looks like a more than capable board, so with no way of knowing if everything is functioning as it should, I suppose it’s down/back to a process of elimination.

It sounds like you’ve had a fair bit of trouble with several DACs and it honestly does not seem the issue atm.
Without specific details only you could have as to what went wrong (and when) with the other DACs, it’s hard to know if some aspect of the onboard HD audio hardware has been involved in the past.
That’s of course assuming the same motherboard w. the other DACs and that you don’t already know the reason for the other failures or audio degradation with them.

With 5 HD audio outputs and a Headphone amp stated to be capable of driving 300ohm headphones, along with myriad settings, options etc., there’s obviously a process of eliminating to do (like you don’t already know that :wink:

I suppose if it were me, I’d disable every audio output except the HD digital out you use to the DACMagic+ and see when/where and if the USB audio problem persists under various configurations.

It really doesn’t sound like it’s the DAC Magic + at all to me.
Also, you seem to know plenty about your gear and I don’t/can’t know enough about your set-up (which has a lot of audio related gaming options) to make a proper diagnosis as to what might be affecting the USB audio-out, to allow for an offer of any specific suggestions.

If you engage the onboard HD audio (analog) headphone amp simultaneously, while using the USB HD digital out, there should be an option to disable it and all other audio device out out in the device manager.
I use Windows 7 Pro 64 bit and have an older Intel LGA1555 socket based board.

So for audio, just HD audio-out is in use and I rarely even enable the analog mimi-RCAs on front or back.
There’s been a couple of times I needed to update the audio chipset firmware/driver over the years.
As an aside, even when things work as they should on any Win 7 PC, it won’t output 24/88.2 or 24/176 without some kind of signal “handling” internally or before being sent to a DAC. I believe that’s fixed in Win 10.
But no matter the OS, I don’t envy the job you have sorting this out.

I suppose what I’m trying to say (likely with too many words) is that there are simply so many possibilities for degraded audio, that it sometimes depends on what your time is worth and whether you have access to another PC outputting a signal under the same parameter, to be able to determine if it’s worth sorting the source of things on the PC end.
Maybe you could pop in a “borrowed” PCIe sound card and see what you get. If it’s inappropriate and doesn’t do what you want it to, you can return it (or If it fixes things, maybe keep using it)?

I hate that all I can say after all these words is “good luck”. But I do hope you get things sorted and that any suggestions haven’t proved to make things even more frustrating!

(Maybe you solved things in the time it took to track down your mainboard and write all this! :roll_eyes:)

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#16

Looking at this interchange I’m somewhat confused. Torg is suggesting a new Toskink cable for a USB audio problem?

I can only assume it’s two different issues being discussed here but I’m not gonna go back and read the entire thread again.

So, It’s either a glitch in the audio out of a decent gaming board (with ALC1150 HD audio on a media board with shielding, Japanese components + 300ohm headphone amp), or it’s a setting buried deep in the configuration settings you’ve missed.
I get some occasional issues with certain glitchy USB ports, but I think you said it doesn’t matter which USB O port you use.

Can’t think I’d anything else for USB.

RE optical? As Torq mentioned and I concur…
Lots of different components I own have varying degrees of “snugness”.
It’s a pain as some are loose enough to actually just fall out occasionally. But as you’ve already determined, it’s easily sorted by securing at input if needed.
That said, I do wish they’d standardize these wonky connections before they become obsolete!

PS I assume you’ve checked all the audio out parameters in your TV.
As it’s not the lousy USB audio, I can’t see why it would be a problem unless there’s some odd “exchange” of some kind involved.

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#17

The thread started with @schmick asking about why his USB sounds different to his TOSLINK connection. The discussion from there show CLEAR issues with his TOSLINK connections (across multiple DACs), so any comparison to that is essentially faulty.

If @schmick thinks the USB connection is the one that sounds “wrong” (something that he didn’t state until halfway through the thread), then the possible causes there are very limited (really down to either a faulty driver or having some sound-processing options enabled on the source - which they often are, by default, with Windows and USB), but that’s not how this started off.

Using USB decrapifiers and other such widgets should not be fixing tonality issues with USB. It might take the edge off some glare, harshness, or other noise-related issues, but the tonality comes down to the bit-level data being sent and that a decrapifier should NOT be changing!

So, in order to even meaningfully compare the USB and TOSLINK issues, you first have to get them both working properly. And, again, it’s clear that the TOSLINK connections here are broken.

If you want to focus on trying to widget/tweak USB to sound different without addressing the fundamental questions there, be my guest. But if your only point of comparative reference is a clearly broken interface setup (the only common factor for which as described is the TOSLINK cable) then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

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#18

I guess I didn’t make it clear enough in my initial post that USB was the issue. I brought up my other purchases to indicate that I hadn’t had any trouble with those USB connections, and only Toslink on two of them, but again I didn’t really make that clear.

Which wasn’t all that helpful when trying to diagnose a problem.

But there has been success with the USB issue, not in finding out what the problem was, but the sound issue has been resolved with a reformat and reinstall of Windows, something I hadn’t done in a while. I might have messed up the usb drivers at some point.

Where I usually have stuff sitting when in use, the cable comes out then to the right, which must have been pulling it out of place after I’d tried to get it in a spot where it wouldn’t have any problems.

Moved them somewhere that the cable is as straight as possible, no cable strain at all and won’t move unless something touches it (a spot that’s a pain to reach to turn on/off or switch between USB/Toslink), and had a couple of hours on each without the problem reoccurring.

The light cable strain must have been enough to shift the plug in the connector to pull it out of alignment.

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#19

You explained the problem well enough to realize it was either an HD audio board failure or a software issue (as opposed to the DAC).

That it turned out to be resolved with a Windows OS reinstall is hardly surprising, given Windows less than optimal handling of their software and their often glitchy “update” system.
You can take the blame if you like. And you may have mucked up your OS somehow.

But lots of people end up with different “issues” seemingly out of nowhere, especially after Windows updates.

Many don’t realize or experience the problem immediately, because they might not use the component or software (that has perhaps had an incompatible driver installed) immediately after an “update”.

Some don’t even realize what specific “KB updates” have been applied, if they don’t monitor Windows updates closely.
I’ve always left the setting on “check but allow me to choose whether & when to download/install updates”. I’d assume most who build their own PC and/or run music servers do the same.

But even on that setting, I’d run into trouble sometimes So now, I usually wait two weeks to a month and then check the askwoody.com site before installing any updates.

Anyway, I hope some of the possibilities presented helped to narrow down the problem, rather making things more confusing and/or difficult to resolve.

Glad you got it working, regardless. :+1:

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#20

Does Windows 10 even share that info?

I run 7 for everything I can but some of my PCs and all of my work PCs are 10 and they just seem to update every 5 minutes without even telling me what the update is!

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