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Long cable for DAC/headphone amp, what's best for Hi Res audio?

citysoundman

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Hi all, first post here. I've been enjoying all the awesome threads and reviews, and now I need some help.

I want to setup a headphone listening station (a DAC/headphone amp combo unit) in my living room but it's kinda far from the source. Source being a soon-to-be-installed CPU and DAC which will be connected to my main stereo. I'll be playing hi-res FLAC (up to 192K) and DSD. (I'll be asking later on about advice for the CPU and DAC).

I'd like to run the cable 10 meters/30 feet (maybe more if possible), but I definitely want a reliable signal (goal is bit perfect). Since I haven't yet purchased any gear I'd like to ask what is the best method for connection? This can help me decide what to purchase. I've tried to look up max cable length for TOSlink, S/PDIF, USB, etc. Also there's audio over ethernet (i think). I know ethernet can go for long runs (CAT6 says 100 meters) but I've only used long CAT6 for network data. Although I guess in this case digital audio is data :confused: Are there DAC/headphone amps with audio input on ethernet?

PS I'm assuming I can't do this wireless over Wifi....can I?

thanks in advance!
 
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citysoundman

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I realize now, a far more practical solution is to get an extension for the headphone jack and have a remote controlled volume on the DAC so I can adjust volume from across the room.
 

radix

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Digital audio cables can vary quite a bit, especially for a long run. I believe if you want to play DSD, the best interconnect is USB. If you try doing DSD over digital audio, then it's converted to DSD over PCM. I believe for a 10m USB cable, you're looking at a "powered cable" that has a repeater in it.

toslink and spdif (coax) can all work over long distances, but at those high data rates it will be highly dependent on your particular source and sink. If I were to try it, I'd go with coax to balanced adapters for better noise isolation. If you google for "AES balun" you'll find a bunch of options, but I don't have any experience with them. I think toslink is usually limited to 5-10m, but again that will be data rate dependent. There was a tech discussion on optical dispersion in another thread you could search for.

A long headphone cable will likely have different issues, but I don't have experience with that to say. It's analog, so it will get changed one way or another, the question is if it's audible.

Personally, a longer USB cable would be my first choice as digital. If it's within spec, can be bit perfect. USB 2 is up to 480 Mbps, which is plenty for DSD128 or DSD256. Just make sure you get a cable that supports high rate usb over that length.
 
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citysoundman

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Thanks Radix for your reply. So USB is probably the best digital option. My feeling is that any problems due to a long digital connection would be worse than any problems from a long headphone extension as long as it's a good quality cable.

For just extending the headphone out, I was thinking that a balanced headphone extension might be the best solution. (I'll be sure to get an amp with a balanced out.) But if anyone here has experience or knowledge with using extensions for headphones please chime in!
 

cryptout

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If you don't mind ripping your CD's you might want to look in to a network streamer.
 

voodooless

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One can also get USB (extension) cables that use fiber optics. They can be much longer than the normal 5 meters and should be very reliable.
 

ZolaIII

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Somehow you answered the question by your self the a good quality CAT6 network cable for data transfer and balanced connection for a analog signal. The WiFi with good antennas (18~23 dB) can reach a mile or two. There are and BT solutions (again with big antennas) which will reach 200 m. So if you have a good cower age with WiFi (router that reaches place where you want to listen with good signal straight) then your solution is network streaming and you don't need nothing much a phone and portable DAC/AMP.
Disclaimer a lot of players support DLNA while how good it's implemented depends of implementation (app).
 
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citysoundman

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Thanks for the replies. I decided to run analog balanced cables from my DAC out to my headphone amp, it ended up being 45 feet of cable. This way I can have the amp next to me and not need to use a remote to adjust headphone volume. I used Mogami 2930 2-pair cable with Neutrik XLRs. It worked out well.

PS I got the Topping D30 Pro & SMSL SH-9 amp, and Drop HD 6xx headphones. Music files playing from JRiver on a Mac Mini. Listening to Kind Of Blue SACD DSF files right now...I'm a happy camper!
 

Gekel

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I want to setup a headphone listening station (a DAC/headphone amp combo unit) in my living room but it's kinda far from the source. Source being a soon-to-be-installed CPU and DAC which will be connected to my main stereo. I'll be playing hi-res FLAC (up to 192K) and DSD. (I'll be asking later on about advice for the CPU and DAC).

Maybe cheaper: store the FLAC at a central place, e.g. a NAS. Put a network audio player at each place you want to listen to music (RAspi Pi3 or 4 running moode e.g.) and attach a DAC to such a player. This saves you from trying to run long cables across the rooms. If you try to reach or even beat teh max. length of such cables, then you should pick a better one to maximize the chance of picking one which works. If you keep the cable length short then you can use whatever you want without running into issues.
 
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