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coolajami

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 6, 2009
245
163
Hi


I'm the (generally happy) owner of the Caldigit TS3+ dock connecting my Macbook Pro 15" (2018) to a home office setup. I recently acquired a nice pair of stereo speakers (Ruark MR1 Mk2) that have optical input, that I thought to use.


I have found two issues, one major and one minor:


  1. minor: No volume control thought the MacOs. you can only mute/unmute the speakers. No major issue because there is a roto-dial in the speakers to adjust volume.
  2. MAJOR: there are significant issues with the sound quality as there are sudden drops of the sound, or it may become distorted, muffled for a few seconds, before gets back to normal. This is happening irregularly but frequent. The issues iron out after 10-15 minutes but still happening.

I troubleshoot the latter issue heavily but trying another set of speaker with optical input, different cables and still happening. Also everything were tested with another audio output, and they worked fine. I even removed all the other peripherals from the Caldigit, so only the MacBook and the speakers to be connected to the dock, and also I removed any possible source of interference (power adaptors etc). The sound from the minijack comes out normal with no problems, it's only the optical that seems to be the issue.


Is anyone experienced similar problems or can suggest a possible solution?The expiry date of the guarantee have lapsed ages ago, and I'm not sure if this is a hardware problem needs repairing.


Thank you!
 

MHenr

macrumors regular
Dec 22, 2008
116
146
Sounds like hardware. Quick solution could be to bypass the Caldigit SPIDF with something like a Behringer U-Control. It's a pretty cheap USB to SPDIF solution (25€) when the repair option will probably cost you a lot more.

I've used a u-control for years without issues. But I'm moving to a new house and I've ordered the TS3+ which will replace it.

However volume control isn't possible over SPDIF. So you'll always need an external volume control.
 

coolajami

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 6, 2009
245
163
Sounds like hardware. Quick solution could be to bypass the Caldigit SPIDF with something like a Behringer U-Control. It's a pretty cheap USB to SPDIF solution (25€) when the repair option will probably cost you a lot more.

I've used a u-control for years without issues. But I'm moving to a new house and I've ordered the TS3+ which will replace it.

However volume control isn't possible over SPDIF. So you'll always need an external volume control.
Yes, I thought that this is a hardware problem, just wondering if anyone manages to get a workaround without adding new accessories to the system. Apparently the sound output was (is?) a problem with early batches of the dock and I'm a bit bummed that didn't find out earlier.

For the SPDIF sound control there is a software work-around, for anyone who cares, by diverting audio through soundflower driver.

https://www.macrumors.com/how-to/use-mac-volume-keys-adjust-monitor-audio/


Thanks for the tip, I was thinking the same, get a USB interface, and get done with it.
 
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coolajami

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 6, 2009
245
163
ok, if anyone still watching this space, the problem may be shared between the dock and the speakers. Caldigit's optical data-stream may not work particularly well with some speakers with internal DAC. Not sure why but it may have to do with the type/quality of the data-stream coming from the dock that stresses the DAC causing audio dropouts (especially if the DAC is an old model).

As nor Caldigit nor the speakers' manufacturer give any info about their audio data streams they supports, there is no way to check this. I would try to check with soundflower if I could change the bitrate of the optical audio and if that makes any difference.

Any other ideas are welcomed
 
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choreo

macrumors 6502a
Jan 10, 2008
847
323
Midland, TX
I have Logitech Z906 Surround Sound Speakers connected via optical port on TS3+ to my 2019 Mac Pro.

Works most of the time, but I have had several crashes (usually on waking from sleep or while playing Quicktime tutorials), but not sure if any of the crashes are related to the CalDigit. About 20% of the crashes start with the speakers making a loud pulsating static sound for about 5 seconds.

Also after most crashes and some planned restarts the sound source reverts back to the internal speaker and I have to manually reset to CalDigit in the sound menu.
 

coolajami

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 6, 2009
245
163
I have Logitech Z906 Surround Sound Speakers connected via optical port on TS3+ to my 2019 Mac Pro.

Works most of the time, but I have had several crashes (usually on waking from sleep or while playing Quicktime tutorials), but not sure if any of the crashes are related to the CalDigit. About 20% of the crashes start with the speakers making a loud pulsating static sound for about 5 seconds.

Also after most crashes and some planned restarts the sound source reverts back to the internal speaker and I have to manually reset to CalDigit in the sound menu.
I was checking Caldigit website and the info they're providing is substandard at best. They write that they support "pass through" audio for multichannel speakers, but what that does it mean?

Regarding your issue, have you tried to use an external DAC or usb interface? Behringer UCA-222 is dirty cheap and could do the trick bypassing Caldigit internal DAC. On my case I thought to prop-up quality and I got a K3 Fiio DAC that is more expensive but still under 100$ and drives well my active stereo speakers (so far) but not sure how it work with multichannel speakers.

Maybe an investment on an external DAC/sound-card like a Soundblaster X5 would worth the money for surround speakers?

I'm a teeny tiny annoyed; we spend so much money on expensive equipment hoping peace-of-mind, just to discover that we'll need to spend more money to make them worked as advertised.
 

choreo

macrumors 6502a
Jan 10, 2008
847
323
Midland, TX
I'm a teeny tiny annoyed; we spend so much money on expensive equipment hoping peace-of-mind, just to discover that we'll need to spend more money to make them worked as advertised.
You make some good suggestions. Unfortunately, my Caldigit sound issue is a minor problem compared to all the panics and restarts I get on the Mac Pro (unless it is the cause). The general consensus on this Forum is my problems stem from the Apple-installed w5700x GPU that came in both my 7,1's.

If you really want to get annoyed, wait until you spend a small fortune on a 7,1 and everyone says you can make it work for just another 3-Grand for a Vega II Pro GPU and Apple claims it is not the source of the problem!
 
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AppleBytes

macrumors member
Sep 7, 2016
53
81
You make some good suggestions. Unfortunately, my Caldigit sound issue is a minor problem compared to all the panics and restarts I get on the Mac Pro (unless it is the cause). The general consensus on this Forum is my problems stem from the Apple-installed w5700x GPU that came in both my 7,1's.

If you really want to get annoyed, wait until you spend a small fortune on a 7,1 and everyone says you can make it work for just another 3-Grand for a Vega II Pro GPU and Apple claims it is not the source of the problem!
I was having serious kernel panic issues, and they turned out to be related to the Caldigit. It started going bad, first the optical audio stopped working, then for some days Ethernet was showing as connected but no data was being transferred, and then it just stopped being recognized.

Drives and monitor still worked and it was out of warranty, so I figured I'd just get a usbc-ethernet dongle and figure out something else for audio. Then I started getting kernel panics, several per day. They stopped as soon as I unplugged everything from the Caldigit. I've re-plugged everything back in using 3 crappy $25 multi-dongles, and haven't had a kernel panic since.

They were all "iBridge" kernel panics in the crashlogs, but removing the Caldigit seems to have completely fixed the problem. On a side note, their customer service is terrible.
 

MoJoRo

macrumors member
Jun 22, 2017
48
102
I was having serious kernel panic issues, and they turned out to be related to the Caldigit. It started going bad, first the optical audio stopped working, then for some days Ethernet was showing as connected but no data was being transferred, and then it just stopped being recognized.

Drives and monitor still worked and it was out of warranty, so I figured I'd just get a usbc-ethernet dongle and figure out something else for audio. Then I started getting kernel panics, several per day. They stopped as soon as I unplugged everything from the Caldigit. I've re-plugged everything back in using 3 crappy $25 multi-dongles, and haven't had a kernel panic since.

They were all "iBridge" kernel panics in the crashlogs, but removing the Caldigit seems to have completely fixed the problem. On a side note, their customer service is terrible.
I was having lots of kernel panic issues with the Caldigit also (I was using Catalina at the time). The USB driver crashes and it would kernel panic the whole system. I am up to date with Big Sur now, and using the dock again after a decently long break. Hoping the kernel panic issue does not return.

That said, I am having intermittent (but frequent) garbled audio problems with my headphones plugged into the CalDigit dock... it just goes all distorted to the point where the audio is indecipherable. Then back to normal after 10 seconds or so. Seriously this dock is pretty crap overall. Returning wasn't really an option by the time I started having issues.
 

fpnc

macrumors 68000
Oct 30, 2002
1,966
125
San Diego, CA
An old thread but I wanted to report that I've had similar audio drop out issues with the optical port on my CalDigit Thunderbolt dock (but no crashes or distorted audio). Like the OP I've also found that the SPDIF port on the CalDigit is VERY loose fitting and that may or may not be contributing to this problem.

In my case the dock is connected to an M1 MacBook Air and the optical output is to a Schiit Modi DAC (yes, that's the companies name, not a comment on the product's quality). That said, I've found that there seems to be a belief that "better" DACs and receivers tend to have more issues with sources that have jitter in their output. The explanation being that higher quality devices have a tighter requirement on jitter so that they can be designed for a better sounding output.

One device manufacturer even recommends using either digital coaxial or USB for audio transport since those interfaces seem to suffer less from such problems (and the Modi DAC has those inputs too).
 
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coolajami

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 6, 2009
245
163
An old thread but I wanted to report that I've had similar audio drop out issues with the optical port on my CalDigit Thunderbolt dock (but no crashes or distorted audio). Like the OP I've also found that the SPDIF port on the CalDigit is VERY loose fitting and that may or may not be contributing to this problem.

In my case the dock is connected to an M1 MacBook Air and the optical output is to a Schiit Modi DAC (yes, that's the companies name, not a comment on the product's quality). That said, I've found that there seems to be a belief that "better" DACs and receivers tend to have more issues with sources that have jitter in their output. The explanation being that higher quality devices have a tighter requirement on jitter so that they can be designed for a better sounding output.

One device manufacturer even recommends using either digital coaxial or USB for audio transport since those interfaces seem to suffer less from such problems (and the Modi DAC has those inputs too).
I went down the same road, I had an Audioengine D1 DAC laying around and I connected it with the Caldigit through the optical port to check what was going on. Surprisingly I was not getting any drops of audio anymore (!) and everything was running smoothly. Strange. I've tried the same with other DACs and generally, the performance was fine. It was only when I was connecting the optical port of the TS3+ directly to the speakers that I was experiencing that audio dropout.

I had to dive deep into several forums to find sort-of answers, and I've reached the conclusion that there is a level of resampling of the bitrate taking place inside the Caldigit (why?)that is possibly done badly. This is something that the integral DAC of the speakers couldn't handle, as they usually are just integrated and outdated DAC chips from the cheapest vendor. The external DACs, possible, manage the resampled bitrate far better than the speakers as they could correct the resampled signal on the fly compensating for any issues caused by the Caldigit when decoding the bitrate, before translating to an analogue audio signal.

Considering that the Caldigit TS4 is out now, and the optical port is nowhere to be seen, I assume that there was a lesson learned for them.
 

feiticeira

macrumors newbie
Sep 13, 2021
11
1
Hi folks,
Late to this party and yes similar problem to OP. I'm running a M1 MBP connected to the Caldigit TS3+ and the Ruark MR1 MK2 connected to the TS3+ via Toslink cable. I have frequent dips in audio before it "settles" somewhat and the dips become less frequent. I've tested two cables and it is the same problem.

I did reach out to Caldigit and one of the notes they suggested: "Lastly for my thoughts, the optical audio port of the TS3 Plus shares a controller with the audio in/out ports on the front, as well as the USB 5Gbps USB-C and USB-A port; removing devices on those ports and allowing the controller to focus on the optical audio may help. "

Anyway, I was considering picking up a Schitt Modi but it seems a bit overkill considering the M1's DAC is already quite reasonable. Having said that, I do like the aesthetics of the unit.. it looks like it will sit nicely alongside the dock.. but form over function hey..

Perhaps a cheap solution like the U-Control is the way to go in the short term to bypass the Caldigit. Between the loose cable tolerance and the Caldigit's less than ideal optimisation for the Digital Optical port, I'm thinking it's wise to avoid it altogether.

I reached out to Ruark but haven't heard anything back yet.
 
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coolajami

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 6, 2009
245
163
Hi folks,
Late to this party and yes similar problem to OP. I'm running a M1 MBP connected to the Caldigit TS3+ and the Ruark MR1 MK2 connected to the TS3+ via Toslink cable. I have frequent dips in audio before it "settles" somewhat and the dips become less frequent. I've tested two cables and it is the same problem.

I did reach out to Caldigit and one of the notes they suggested: "Lastly for my thoughts, the optical audio port of the TS3 Plus shares a controller with the audio in/out ports on the front, as well as the USB 5Gbps USB-C and USB-A port; removing devices on those ports and allowing the controller to focus on the optical audio may help. "

Anyway, I was considering picking up a Schitt Modi but it seems a bit overkill considering the M1's DAC is already quite reasonable. Having said that, I do like the aesthetics of the unit.. it looks like it will sit nicely alongside the dock.. but form over function hey..

Perhaps a cheap solution like the U-Control is the way to go in the short term to bypass the Caldigit. Between the loose cable tolerance and the Caldigit's less than ideal optimisation for the Digital Optical port, I'm thinking it's wise to avoid it altogether.

I reached out to Ruark but haven't heard anything back yet.
Hi, sorry for the late response, I just saw your post. There is a chance that both Caldigit and Ruark are using low-quality audio circuits that when paired together are causing problems. Surprisingly the TS3+ works fine with other speakers, whereas the Ruarks work fine with other optical audio sources. I ended up strapping the Audioengine D1 DAC over the TS3+ connected over optical and now everything works fine. Schiit Modi sounds like a good solution as well, it would neatly be paired cosmetically with the TS3+ :)
 

feiticeira

macrumors newbie
Sep 13, 2021
11
1
Hi, sorry for the late response, I just saw your post. There is a chance that both Caldigit and Ruark are using low-quality audio circuits that when paired together are causing problems. Surprisingly the TS3+ works fine with other speakers, whereas the Ruarks work fine with other optical audio sources. I ended up strapping the Audioengine D1 DAC over the TS3+ connected over optical and now everything works fine. Schiit Modi sounds like a good solution as well, it would neatly be paired cosmetically with the TS3+ :)
Hi there, and no worries!
Funnily enough I was going to go with an Audioengine D1 but finally ended up with a Zen DAC v2 as I got it at a good price, is one unit (over the two Schiit ones) and cheaper, plus headphone amp and so far all good! I bypass the Caldigit completely now so all is well. Live and learn hey!
 
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