Originally Posted by TheLegend
So would I use the DAC by itself or with the X-Fi?
What type of connection works best?
Well you can get a USB DAC, but that would negate the use of your X-fi and USB DACs are few and far between... yeah there are some around, but to get a really good one you'll pay for it.
Most DACs have Digital coax and/or optical toslink inputs.
Since you have an X-fi there it makes no sense to get a USB DAC. And since the X-fi doesn't have optical out you'll want a DAC with a digital coax input.
*X-fi and digital out notes*
some people will claim that you cannot use the processing of the x-fi chip if you use digital out so no CMSS 3D or Crystalizer. This is FALSE
- Digital output will only give you surround sound if the source was formated in surround sound. So if you're watching a DVD you'll get surround sound as long as the DVD was encoded with it. If you're playing games you'll only get stereo, unless the game was coded w/ 4.1 or 5.1 for positional audio.
This doesn't bother us though because you're using headphones so stereo it is. You'll get better SQ and all the goodies as to why X-fis are so good at gaming.
The DACs that I suggested have RCA line outs (Zhaolu also has balanced output) and they both have built in headphone amps. so, the best sound will be achieved by using the output from the DAC to the input of a dedicated headphone amp. But both DACs can be used as an all-in-one solution if you would like. This is also good as a stop-gap for building a new system.