Mastering USB music
Swapping the rWave dongle for a USB cable didn't have any noticeable impact on sound quality. To make USB-sourced music sound as good as possible, the rDac uses audio specialist Data Conversion Systems' (dCS) asynchronous USB system, which is essentially a way of ensuring a smoother flow of music data over the bus, eliminating digital audio artefacts.
I've listened to the rDac with dCS' system on and with it off, and there's a clear improvement to be heard. But it really depends on what your computer is up to: whether it's doing little more than keeping the USB buffer filled, or is busy performing other tasks too. It's the latter that can lead to the signalling issues that async USB counters.
USB audio enhancer
Finally, I also compared the rDac with a 40 quid CYP AUI-D3 DAC. Here the difference - using a DVD source, connected by optical cable - was an order of magnitude greater, with the rDac delivering detail and revealing subtleties beyond anything the CYP could manage.
The last test was conducted with an iPad and the rWand adapter. The resultant blend of convenience and sound quality is the most compelling reason I can think off for actually buying an iPad.
When it comes to getting music off your disk drive or handheld and into your hi-fi, the rDac is tough to beat and the connection options make it a very versatile device. You can get one without wireless for £75 less. ®
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I for one am highly suspicious of statements about quality being an "order of magnitude" better, which has a mathematical, not subjective definition. It's quite amazing that when properly set up double-blind testing is carried out, a lot of these differences suddenly become undectable.
As for gold plating digital connections. Well, I suppose it looks pretty and if you keep your audio equipment in a damp cellar, then it might prevent corrosion, but it makes sod-all difference to sound quality. It will basically either work or not without much inbetween, like pretty well all digital communication.
Not to say that bad DACs don't exist, but if they do, then it's objectively measurable with proper instrumentation. Any properly equipped audio lab would be able to measure how accurately the analogue output tracks the digital data for a lossless feed. However, obhective measurements like that don't sell over-priced electronics to gullible members of the public...
From the second link
"extremely precise dacs can be very unforgiving and too-controlled sounding, while other dacs can be extremely musical."
<sarcasm>Yeah, and my arse can be extremely musical too.</sarcasm>
Not entirely sure I don't prefer a reviewer to use his or her ears when testing audio kit. A string of numbers, stats and oscilloscope screen grabs may get some of you all moist but at the end of the day all most normal people are interested in is how it does the job and how does it sound compared to other similar devices. I'd say the Reg got both those boxes ticked quite succinctly.
It's all down to the quality of the interconnects...
'Swapping the rWave dongle for a USB cable didn't have any noticeable impact on sound quality'
That does surprise me. Especially when you consider that the sound quality would be adversely affected by the quality of the air you are using.
For future tests, might I suggest you try using cleaner air? 'Air dusters' that 'dust' the air for you can be bought from places like Maplin. Expensive, but well worth the cost IMO.
"the rDac uses audio specialist Data Conversion Systems' (dCS) asynchronous USB system"
Err, all USB audio is asynchronous. It has to be, otherwise it doesn't work. I suspect it's actually just a Texas Instruments USB<->I2S chip, and an upsampler chip by dCS.