Overcoming USB Streaming Issues

There’s a lot of discussion on the web about why the USB interface is not suitable for streaming music.

Much of the discussion promotes solutions that require the use of additional components that strip the music related data from the data stream, reassembles it with new clocking data and presents a squeaky clean version to the DAC.

Some even converts the data stream to a format supported by either the S/PDIF or Toslink interface.

The bottom line is, that you end up spending lots of money on a new component, related power cables/adapters and the various interconnects required, when in fact your own personal listening requirements may be satisfied with a less complicated solution

So let’s look at some of the issues...

Three issues I consider the most serious with respect to the degradation of the digital stream when using the USB interface are...
  1. EMI between the power and signal conductors inside the USB Cable - i.e. noise in the data stream resulting in jitter and noise in the power conductors effecting DAC performance.
  2. the unstable and noisy USB power supply - can effect DAC Performance
  3. the quality of the USB interface in the DAC you are using - unable to handle noise in the data stream effectively

Addressing #3 is not covered here since it is manufacturer specific and dependent on the DAC you are using.

Issue #2 may also related to the DAC you are using because some DAC’s utilize the USB power supply to power their own internal USB circuitry. Those that use their own internal power supply are much better equipped to handle a USB Data Stream.

Issue #1 boils down to the USB cable you select - not all cables are equal!
  • The most effective solution is to separate the data and the power conductors by using a cable like the one below...

The Power supply and USB with cable separate audio signal cable from Doukmall on eBay

Now, you can still insert both USB cables into the computer, but for the best solution a separate power supply should be used.

Once again there are a myriad of solutions out there, but after trying several different power adapters I have opted to use...

The ENERCELL AC to USB Power Adapter 5VDC 1000mA 2730414

I have found that using this adapter is as effective as using a battery power supply, which is perhaps the most stable 5 volts you can get.

Now, this IS NOT the be-all and end-all of solutions for USB interface issues, but for those of you looking for a cost effective solution that will address many of the most severe problems without adding even more components and cables to your rig and more importantly, without breaking your bank - then give it a try.

I hope you found this useful Happy