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Best option for Sound Card/DAC upgrade

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
A friend of mine is currently in the market for a sound card or DAC option to improve the sound quality on his PC. He has a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones and is currently just using onboard sound on his Asus Maximus IV Formula board. He studies music at university, so a decent quality setup is somewhat of a necessity for him. He also games a reasonable amount, but music is probably more important.

Meanwhile I currently have a Creative X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty (Audio Creation mode, Bit-matched Playback) and a pair of Audio Technica ATH-WS70 headphones, which I use for both music and gaming.

My question is, which of the following would be the better option for the both of us:
1) He buys an external DAC and I keep the setup I have
2) I buy and external DAC and sell him my sound card
3) He buys an internal sound card and I keep my setup
4) We both buy external DACs and I sell my current card

The external DAC we would be buying is the Audioengine D1 Premium 24-Bit DAC (Unless a better unit could be recommended at a comparable price)
Edited by brodieboy143 - 9/10/13 at 11:23pm
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post #2 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by brodieboy143 View Post

A friend of mine is currently in the market for a sound card or DAC option to improve the sound quality on his PC. He has a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones and is currently just using onboard sound on his Asus Maximus IV Formula board. He studies music at university, so a decent quality setup is somewhat of a necessity for him. He also games a reasonable amount, but music is probably more important.

Meanwhile I currently have a Creative X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty (Audio Creation mode, Bit-matched Playback) and a pair of Audio Technica ATH-WS70 headphones, which I use for both music and gaming.

My question is, which of the following would be the better option for the both of us:
1) He buys an external DAC and I keep the setup I have
2) I buy and external DAC and sell him my sound card
3) He buys an external sound card and I keep my setup
4) We both buy external DACs and I sell my current card

The external DAC we would be buying is the Audioengine D1 Premium 24-Bit DAC (Unless a better unit could be recommended at a comparable price)

I know it isn't an external card, but I'd highly recommend the Asus Xonar Essence STX. It's a fantastic sound card, I've had it for 2 years now and couldn't be more happier with the quality.
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jonny900 View Post

I know it isn't an external card, but I'd highly recommend the Asus Xonar Essence STX. It's a fantastic sound card, I've had it for 2 years now and couldn't be more happier with the quality.

Thanks, that was actually the card I recommended to him should he choose the internal sound card route, I was just wondering if better results could be had with an external DAC in comparison.

On another note, does that card have a connection for a standard front panel header?
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post #4 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by brodieboy143 View Post

Thanks, that was actually the card I recommended to him should he choose the internal sound card route, I was just wondering if better results could be had with an external DAC in comparison.

On another note, does that card have a connection for a standard front panel header?

There isn't a better bang for the buck in my opinion. I'm sure some $500 external DACs sound slightly better but they aren't worth $300 more unless he has that kind of money to spend.

And yes, it has a connection for the front panel header, but if you're using high quality headphones then I'd use the high quality port on the card itself.
post #5 of 6
The Audioengine D1 is a nice quality unit, and the price is reasonable too. There are some better DAC out there, but you can easily start getting into big bucks when you begin to add recording features and pre-amps into the mix. For a playback only device, it's hard to beat the D1.

The Xonar STX is a great choice for an internal sound card. The Creative Labs SoundBlaster Z/ZX/ZXr series aren't bad either, with decent enough headphone amps for most people. Added benefit of the SoundBlaster Z is PCie x1 interface and NO supplemental power connections are required. The Xonar PCie boards require a 4-pin floppy power connector to work.

I recently bought a recording DAC / ADC box from Focusrite called the Forte. I have been somewhat skeptical that an external DAC could sound better than on-board 108 dB SNR sound solutions, but I proved myself wrong after doing some comparison testing. You really CAN hear the difference, if you have a critical ear. FWIW my Forte is still set at 16-bit 44.1 KHz, since most of my source material is CD or 320 kbps MP3. I have up-sampled a few things to 24/96 and 192 KHz, but frankly I couldn't hear a difference.

Greg
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hammong View Post

The Audioengine D1 is a nice quality unit, and the price is reasonable too. There are some better DAC out there, but you can easily start getting into big bucks when you begin to add recording features and pre-amps into the mix. For a playback only device, it's hard to beat the D1.

The Xonar STX is a great choice for an internal sound card. The Creative Labs SoundBlaster Z/ZX/ZXr series aren't bad either, with decent enough headphone amps for most people. Added benefit of the SoundBlaster Z is PCie x1 interface and NO supplemental power connections are required. The Xonar PCie boards require a 4-pin floppy power connector to work.

I recently bought a recording DAC / ADC box from Focusrite called the Forte. I have been somewhat skeptical that an external DAC could sound better than on-board 108 dB SNR sound solutions, but I proved myself wrong after doing some comparison testing. You really CAN hear the difference, if you have a critical ear. FWIW my Forte is still set at 16-bit 44.1 KHz, since most of my source material is CD or 320 kbps MP3. I have up-sampled a few things to 24/96 and 192 KHz, but frankly I couldn't hear a difference.

Greg

Obviously either solution is better than any onboard option, but what would you recommend between the D1 (>100dB SNR) and Xonar (124dB SNR)?

I'm leaning towards recommending him the internal sound card for the sake of convenience and the fact he does do a bit of gaming, does this sound in line with what you would choose?
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