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Best Soundcard for Music?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Please don't say X-Fi Xtreme Music/Audio just because of the name. If you suggest it, then why?

That bluegears card on Newegg seems promising. Good reviews and features. Or maybe the Prelude card. I don't care about EAX in games and stuff. I care most about how good it is with music. I will probably be listening with some nice headphones (getting some new ones in the near future), and possibly a nice speaker setup later on down the road.
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post #2 of 11
If you're just looking for music quality, then a soundcard is not the best option for use with headphones. USB DAC's (digital to analog converters) offer boatloads more value and quality than even the priciest of soundcards.

Examples of these DAC's include the the budget E-MU 0404 USB and Keces DA-151 to the robust Headamp Pico and Apogee Mini-DAC, with many more in between.

As for speakers, you can always add a solid budget card later on when you actually go to buy the setup. If you're going with headphones for the time being, a DAC makes a lot more sense.
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post #3 of 11
agreed for just music using a soundcard wouldnt be your best option.
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post #4 of 11
Having both an X-Fi and a few cards with C-Media's CMI8788 APU (HT Omega Claro, Auzentech X-Meridian), I prefer the CMI8788 overall, but especially for music.

The Bluegears B-Enspirer is reference card design of the CMI8788 APU. It's not the best card with this APU, but it's a great APU, in my opinion. Hard to lose with it.
    
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post #5 of 11
If you are looking for a cheap and good sounding sound card that b-Enspirer performs very well for music/movies, but lags behind in games. The current Asus Xonar D2X is also a CMI8788 based card that offers sound quality on par with the now discontinued X-Meridian (stock X-Meridian that is), and from the X-Fi offerings the Auzen Prelude also has very good sound quality, and it has swappable OPAMPs like the X-Meridian to improve sound quality further.

But like said above, if you are just looking to listen to music through headphones, and external DAC is your best bet. For the $100 price range I would look at the E-Mu 0202 USB, a generally solid performing DAC. For the $200 price range, the E-Mu 0404 USB is the major contender, and a lot of people here have it. Also in the $200 range, the Onkyo SE-U55X is said to have superior components compared to the E-Mu 0404 USB, but availability is an issue with the Onkyo. At the $300 price range, the Headamp Pico is said to have better sound quality than most of the offerings in its price range and may even sound better than some more expensive units.
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post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
I was unaware of these DAC's. But after doing some searching, i think i am going to get the EMU 0404 USB. Know of any places with the best price? Thanks for all the help!
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post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lude View Post
I was unaware of these DAC's. But after doing some searching, i think i am going to get the EMU 0404 USB. Know of any places with the best price? Thanks for all the help!
I picked up mine used from the FS thread over at Head-Fi. $140 shipped. Much better than my XtremeMusic.

123Music.com has them for $199.99 as do most other places. I was able to find them at fullcompass.com for around $163, but their shipping is slow. Best of luck.

http://www.fullcompass.com/product/331300.html
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post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Cool, thanks.
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post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by triggerc View Post
At the $300 price range, the Headamp Pico is said to have better sound quality than most of the offerings in its price range and may even sound better than some more expensive units.
The Pico comes in 2 versions - the amp-only version for $300 and the amp/DAC combo version for $500.

But yeah, it's quite stellar from everything I've read since its release. Someone compared it to the Apogee Mini DAC ($750 used) and the Pico somehow managed to beat it in his opinion. Granted, this was just one person. The Apogee is meant to be run in a fully-balanced rig if you want its full potential .
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post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aura View Post
The Pico comes in 2 versions - the amp-only version for $300 and the amp/DAC combo version for $500.

But yeah, it's quite stellar from everything I've read since its release. Someone compared it to the Apogee Mini DAC ($750 used) and the Pico somehow managed to beat it in his opinion. Granted, this was just one person. The Apogee is meant to be run in a fully-balanced rig if you want its full potential .
Thanks for the correction.
Yeah anything with the Pico should be taken with a truckload of salt right now, since it is still so new.
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