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Adding optical or coax output to a PC

threni

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I have a Topping E30 fed from a Pi via USB. It works perfectly. Occasionally I'd like to listen to my desktop PC but it has literally no audio out other than a 3.5mm headphone socket. I've looked into getting something for it so I could connect to my DAC's coax or optical in but some of the hardware assumes I can run jumper wires from the add-on to an spdif header on the motherboard and I don't think I have any. I guess this means I'm looking at a USB based solution. So a few questions:

1) Am I going to be ok with literally any USB -> coax or optical convertor?
2) I assume that I just use a regular RCA lead for the coax?
3) Any reason to prefer optical? I did connect this PC to the DAC via USB and it was just ridiculously, unusably noisy, so I'm thinking optical may be the way to go.

I'm going to be playing FLAC files and watching the odd YouTube video or running Audacity or watching videos. It's not going to replace my Pi as the main player so I'm not all that bothered about the quality to the point where I'm interested in spending loads of money, but there's no reason for it to sound bad. The PC is runing Ubuntu 22.04.
 
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MarcosCh

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Check out amazon or your favourite retailer, there are usb soundcards with optical output any price you want starting at less than 20 euros
 
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threni

threni

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Check out amazon or your favourite retailer, there are usb soundcards with optical output any price you want starting at less than 20 euros
Thanks. Should I be looking any deeper than "it has coax output" regarding sound quality? It's really "they're like RCA cables - all the same", not "look at the reviews like you would a DAC dongle"? Would I be better off with a cheap motherboard-mounted soundcard maybe?
 

Omar Cumming

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A Topping D10s will give you simultaneous optical toslink, digital coax and analog outputs.

Cheers
 

MarcosCh

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Hm, i am not the right person to answer, sorry. The soundcard is going to transform the signal from your computer to a spdif signal. I don't know if the result is going to be the same no matter the card you use, no idea.
But for casual listening or YouTube videos as you describe i don't think you need to worry too much to get decent results if you stay in the digital domain. If not sure maybe wait that someone more knowledgeable answers.
 
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threni

threni

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A Topping D10s will give you simultaneous optical toslink, digital coax and analog outputs.
Spending £110 on a Topping DAC to feed my £95 Topping DAC would be one way of doing it, although I fear the noisy USB connection from the PC to the DAC I mentioned in my original question would pose something of a problem!
 
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threni

threni

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Hm, i am not the right person to answer, sorry. The soundcard is going to transform the signal from your computer to a spdif signal. I don't know if the result is going to be the same no matter the card you use, no idea.
But for casual listening or YouTube videos as you describe i don't think you need to worry too much to get decent results if you stay in the digital domain. If not sure maybe wait that someone more knowledgeable answers.
That's what I mean. You'd think taking a digital signal and outputting it to some arbitrary port/protocol would be lossless but it would be good to get some definitive answers from someone who's done this.
 

Digby

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Would something like a PCI Sound Blaster card be cheapest and easiest route here?
 
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threni

threni

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Would something like a PCI Sound Blaster card be cheapest and easiest route here?
If it supported digital coax out and worked on Linux, sure! I don't see any thing. I can't even find a USB -> digital coax one on Amazon UK. They all seem to be DACs.
 

Digby

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They are quite old cards, pretty good performing though, I'd be staggered if they weren't supported on Linux (they were the consumer soundcards to have at one point). Some of them don't have the output you're after, if you put title and description in ebay search I'm sure plenty will come up.
 
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staticV3

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Take a look at the newly released SMSL PO100:
1852237084-169583235.jpg
It's a sleek little Type-C to Spdif/Toslink converter that costs about $40.
 

Zorlac

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I wonder if that SMSL PO100 will work with the latest iPad Pro type C output and also supply the necessary power to the device?
 

tonycollinet

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MarcosCh

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If it supported digital coax out and worked on Linux, sure! I don't see any thing. I can't even find a USB -> digital coax one on Amazon UK. They all seem to be DACs.
Asus xonar u7 was reviewed here, works with linux, has spdif coax out (not optical) and nowadays is dirt cheap.

I thought you wanted spdif optical. With optical you are 100% safe from ground loops...

Soundblaster usb cards: some have optical out but beware: they do work in linux but sometimes a bit strangely...
 
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threni

threni

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Take a look at the newly released SMSL PO100:
View attachment 204757
It's a sleek little Type-C to Spdif/Toslink converter that costs about $40.
Looks good, thanks, although I'd need a USB adapter for my PC.

What motherboard do you have?
Gigabyte X570 GAMING X:

Many motherboards already have logic level SPdif interfaces built in. In which case all you need is a logic to optical converter riser such as thiss:
Yes, I noticed that on Amazon but it's what I was referring to in my original question when I said "Some of the hardware assumes I can run jumper wires from the add-on to an spdif header on the motherboard and I don't think I have any".

Behringer UCA-202 or UCA-222 provide optical output at max. 48kHz/16bit.
Looks like another option, thanks.

Asus xonar u7 was reviewed here, works with linux, has spdif coax out (not optical) and nowadays is dirt cheap.

I thought you wanted spdif optical. With optical you are 100% safe from ground loops...

Soundblaster usb cards: some have optical out but beware: they do work in linux but sometimes a bit strangely...
Exactly. I was trying to avoid legacy stuff. I'd prefer optical, because of noise. Having said that, if the noise is already present in what's coming out of the computer via USB then isn't every possible USB attached solution - whether it emerges from that solution as either optical or digital - just going to suffer from exactly the same problem?
 

staticV3

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Looks good, thanks, although I'd need a USB adapter for my PC.
Couldn't you plug it into your motherboard using a regular old Type-A to Type-C cable?
Or is that what you're calling adapter?
USB-Type-C-Cable-Download-Transparent-PNG-Image.png
 
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threni

threni

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Couldn't you plug it into your motherboard using a regular old Type-A to Type-C cable?
Or is that what you're calling adapter?
View attachment 204884
Well, I have some literal adapters I think although I might have a cable knocking around from a recent-ish phone purchase (sometimes chargers have Type-C sockets instead of the more usual Type-A.) I think my chromebook is the only PC-like device I have with actual Type-C sockets; not sure why more laptops/motherboards don't come with them.
 
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