Round 2 continued. Jitters quickly morphed into confusion. That's because any expectations seeded by round 1 proved irrelevant. That had involved a very different converter with different digital receiver implementation. As it happened, that squarely ruined the type of automatic triangulations which beginners love to make until experience teaches them that things in hifi are rarely that simple and predictive. In this context now, I clearly preferred USB or thought it superior for being more pungent, assured and separated. After I'd gotten over that honest surprise, I swapped the Tombo Trøn S/PDIF cable back in. Sure enough, now USB was even better by contrast. In this hardware context, the legacy transport was audibly handicapped vis-à-vis USB until it communed with its matching converter via the rarer I²S protocol. That again made it slightly softer and mellower than the brisker fresher USB feed. Given the tube-buffered La Scala DAC's warmer fuller personality which I described in detail in its review, USB simply had my vote. Different sonic priorities might still call it different though.


Now factor into this scenario that many people believe iMacs to make poor digital transports. They claim that unless one went with an 'audiophile' server plus nearly obligatory nasty WiFi interface, one hasn't really heard digital at its best. In short, they'd pile on the goods beyond my iMac. The many reasons why legacy CD transports are an endangered species with very narrow remaining specialist appeal become clear. Obviously I've not yet heard an even silly-priced server which I decisively preferred to my setup. Otherwise I'd have finally gone that route. Alas, I'm not at all sold on the audiophile server breed. Many though are so it's fair to mention it as the other alternative to digital transports.


In my book's very latest revision, the #1 appeal of something like Aqua Hifi's La Diva today is as a no-brainer backup machine. Sooner or later computers go on the fritz. Some OS revision means your software player of choice no longer plays nice until a patch is released. Whatever the reason, having a mechanically sound backup on hand would alleviate any such downtime scenarios. With my COS Engineering D1, I found it every bit as persuasive as the USB feed despite involving S/PDIF transmission which had come in last with the La Scala MkII. Meanwhile burning 80-minute playlists to blank discs takes little time and no supervision. You simply insert your €0.50 blank disc, execute the right-clicked burn playlist to disc command and walk away. It's no different than performing a drag'n'drop playlist dump to memory card even it it takes a bit longer. Of course chances that a legacy audiophile would even have a music library on a computer somewhere are next to nil. As far as my personal inquiry is concerned which prompted this writeup to begin with, I feel rather reassured. My PureMusic-optimized iMac isn't merely a lifestyle convenience or utilitarian choice—how dirty certain pundits make these words sound—but a solid performance decision based on not blind belief but actual experience. I'll thus stick to my iMac, thank you very much...