I while back I mentioned that I placed an order for a Bel Canto USB Link converter (converts USB to SPDIF digital) to connect to my Mac Mini music server.
I placed the BC USB Link into my system last night (Mac Mini >Kimber USB > BC USB Link > Classe SSP-800 prepro/DAC > Classe amp > Wilson Benesch Discovery speakers). Frankly I wasn't expecting much, but I bought the BC Link with the interest of providing a lower jitter signal to my prepro and the hope that this would improve the resolution / definition of the sound. First I have to say that I in no way felt my system was lacking in either of these areas--my system already has excellent resolution (even though I use the jitter-prone toslink output of my mac and a relatively inexpensive plastic fiber toslink cable). But I thought what the hell, everything is relative and maybe there is another level to all of this.
At first it was hard for me to hear any difference at all. I was hoping that the difference would be immediate and undeniable, but I had to resort to hours of A/B testing between the USB Link and the Toslink connection to dial in on the sound (if any) of the USB Link. It wasn't until I went through about 20 different songs last night and 50 more tonight that some qualities started to become more clear . . . I think.
The USB Link does bring more definition to the sound. It has more snap and edge definition, and at first I thought I liked this, but towards the end of last night I noticed that this came at the cost of some "musicality". Things like the strike of a cymbal or the pluck of a guitar string were more crisp, but the overall sound is slightly cold and metallic. Voices sound more granular and sibilance was also increased. The bass may be a hair tighter and defined through the USB Link, but not enough to sway me. I guess you could say that the USB Link made my system sound slightly more "digital", and that the toslink sounds more natural to these ears. Maybe I like the sound of jitter? I dunno. ;-) I heard no difference in soundstage, imaging or any of the other things we audiophiles typically listen for.
I'll be the first to admit that the difference between the BC USB Link and the Toslink are small enough that what I hear may all be in my head.
I'm going to hold onto it for another week or so to see if the sound quality changes with "burn-in" and I've got a better Toslink cable (Van Den Hul Optocoupler) on the way that I would like to compare it to, but at this point this interesting device doesn't look like it is going to stay in my system.
I would just to ask that anyone reading this take my comments for what they are-- one man's opinion of a device that has been inserted into a system that is probably nothing like yours. Like all things in this hobby, even though it didn't work out for me doesn't mean that it is a bad product. It may sound fabulous in your system. You'll just have to try it out and listen for yourself.
For a counterpoint to my experience, this guy loved it:http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f46/be...ml#post5459929