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Old 07-19-2010, 02:27 PM
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fmueller fmueller is offline
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USB - toslink (optical) adapter

I am listening to a lot on music via Pandora on my laptop (Acer Aspire 4330) these days. The laptop's only audio output is a mini headphone jack, and I have that hooked up to one of the analog inputs of my Denon AVR-3300 - a pre HDMI AV receiver I picked up not too long ago for a song. The sound is better than I expected, but this fascinating recent thread got me thinking. How if I could use a digital output of the laptop, such as USB or firewire, and hook that up to a digital input of the AVR, such as toslink (optical) or coaxial. That would allow me to use the DAC of the AVR instead of the one in the laptop, and surely the Denon DAC has to be better than the one in the Acer!

Since I don't need a DAC, just an adapter to pass a digital signal from one type of connection to another, I am hoping quality for the connection would not be as crucial as it would be for a DAC. I am asking because I found a number of solution for my problem - some significantly more expensive than others! I am wondering if anybody here has experience with any of them. Short of that, would you expect this is yet another case of where you get what you paid for, or can I safely go with a cheaper option? Keep in mind, I am fairly happy right now with the output from the mini headphone jack on the laptop. But if I do upgrade, I want the improvement to be significant.

Here is some gear, all of which should in theory do the job:

1. USB 2.0 Optical Sound Card Adapter Mic/SPDIF - eBay $14.77 incl shipping from Hong Kong.

2. USB audio adapter with Optical S/PDIF out - Newegg $41.67 incl shipping from US.

3. USB Sound Card+SPDIF&Toslink&I2S - eBay $42.98 incl shipping from China.

4. USB to Spdif Toslink and I2S Converter - eBay $60 incl shipping from Taiwan.

I must admit that I am leaning towards 1. or 4. The only advantage of 2. is that it comes from a reputable seller in the US, but it does look like a piece of crap! 4. looks best, but it is 4x more expensive than 1., and I wonder if I'd hear a difference - even though it looks way better made.

One thing that could swing me towards 4. is that it can use an external power supply. I don't think it's included in the price even with 4., but all the others can only draw power via the USB connection. I have read that for similar devices that have a built in DAC (ie USB to analog audio converters), having an external power supply makes a huge difference. But without a built in DAC, maybe the power from USB is enough?
Sapere Aude!

Last edited by fmueller; 07-19-2010 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 07-19-2010, 03:08 PM
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MWalt MWalt is offline
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Nice Cichlid Tank!!
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Old 07-19-2010, 03:53 PM
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fmueller fmueller is offline
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Thank you! Maybe I should have left out the signature not to detract from the subject
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Old 07-19-2010, 04:59 PM
OldJBL OldJBL is offline
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I have one of these that is similar to #1. It works pretty good considering I paid $15 and it came from China. Mine is really only good for stereo use, and it sounds pretty good in that mode, and is not capable of passing raw signals so my AVR can decode DD, DTS etc. Mine looks similar to this one:

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