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Looking for a New Soundcard - PLEASE HELP

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I have Klipsch Pro 2.1 speaker setup as well as HD555's. My OS is Windows 7 64 bit.

What sound card should I be looking into? An Auzentech Prelude (these used to be popular), Xonar Essence ST/STX, Omega Claro HD, or what? I would like to keep it below $200.

Two other quick questions:

And do I need an external DAC for the soundcard with my HD555's? What is the optimal setup in foobar to listen to music?

Thanks.



Side Note: If I ever run anything to my Home Theater I will route that to my Denon receiver. Currently I just stream music to my PS3 if I ever do that which my computer is in another room anyway. Besides, from my experience it is a real pain to switch audio sources between headphone and speakers let alone a third source. .... Although, that makes me wonder.... is it better to get an inexpensive receiver rather than a sound card? Does it do the same or better job?
post #2 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoddimusPrime View Post
Two other quick questions:

And do I need an external DAC for the soundcard with my HD555's? What is the optimal setup in foobar to listen to music?

Soundcards are esentially a DAC, no need for an external. What you need to look for is something with a headphone amp, not all soundcards are capable of driving all headphones.

As far as going the route of a reciever, you would have to make sure it has a headphone output and accepts your preferred input method. This is pushing it for your budget.

What I would recommend is something like this: http://www.mav-audio.com/base/product/tube_magic_d1

DAC via any form of digital input from computer, analog input and output to receiver and headphone amp.
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceman23 View Post
Soundcards are esentially a DAC, no need for an external. What you need to look for is something with a headphone amp, not all soundcards are capable of driving all headphones.

As far as going the route of a reciever, you would have to make sure it has a headphone output and accepts your preferred input method. This is pushing it for your budget.

What I would recommend is something like this: http://www.mav-audio.com/base/product/tube_magic_d1

DAC via any form of digital input from computer, analog input and output to receiver and headphone amp.
Will that do the trick for what I need and do I even need a sound card at that point if I have my Pro 2.1 in the back and my headphones in the front?

Granted I have to have my computer audio sent to the device as well with a cable. At that point is it good to have a sound card as well or will that do anything? I assume if the source isn't good from the computer it won't be as good for the DAC. So soundcard plus this?

Finally, from the looks of it that device will act as an amp for my headhphones is that correct?

Will it limit any of my surround sound for the 2.1 speakers? If you even want to call it surround sound. More concerned about sound stage and quality of music.
post #4 of 14
I think you're misunderstanding what a DAC is. DACs take a digital signal and turn it into an analog signal that amplifiers/speakers/headphones use. A soundcard is basically an internal DAC.

With what I posted above you will NOT need a sound card. It does the same thing as a sound card, only externally (and without the electrical noise imposed on internal solutions). It is connected to the computer with usb, toslink, or digital coax. These connections are build into the motherboard. USB usually is the easiest.

From there you can use it with headphones via the built in headphone amp. I'm not sure how your 2.1 setup is connected but if its via your reciever, you simply would run an analog RCA cable from the ouput at the back of the unit to the input on your receiver and voila. This will only improve your sound.
post #5 of 14
For ProMedia 2.1s and HD555s, you'd be more than happy with a Xonar DX if music is your primary thing.
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post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceman23 View Post
I think you're misunderstanding what a DAC is. DACs take a digital signal and turn it into an analog signal that amplifiers/speakers/headphones use. A soundcard is basically an internal DAC.

With what I posted above you will NOT need a sound card. It does the same thing as a sound card, only externally (and without the electrical noise imposed on internal solutions). It is connected to the computer with usb, toslink, or digital coax. These connections are build into the motherboard. USB usually is the easiest.

From there you can use it with headphones via the built in headphone amp. I'm not sure how your 2.1 setup is connected but if its via your reciever, you simply would run an analog RCA cable from the ouput at the back of the unit to the input on your receiver and voila. This will only improve your sound.
I think this is where I get confused. If the item you posted is better than a sound card solution like a Xonar Essence ST then why is it so many people get those cards? Does it improve the sound quality better than the M-Audio DAC? Or vice versa? I know there has to be something going on with the soundcard that improves music as well as my receiver (two different setups) as I heard them before and after. Part of it is the amount of power driving them (amp) and the rest is the chip that processes the music. But, I just want to make sure the solution you posted is going to be better than the typical internal sound cards. And if so then I could splurge another $50 or so if it meant I could get something even better. Whatever I get I want it to last a couple builds. And I know audio in general lasts much longer than other tech parts (more so with speakers, etc.).

Any advice is helpful. I just want to make sure I am clear on things.

Also, would a receiver with an amp do essentially the same thing? I know that would not buy a great receiver off the shelf, but there may be some older receivers on craigslist that will simply blow it away if high enough quality.

Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Simca View Post
For ProMedia 2.1s and HD555s, you'd be more than happy with a Xonar DX if music is your primary thing.
Eventually I would like to get a different set of speakers and sub like B&W or KEF w/ a decent sub that is appropriate for my computer room. So I will have to keep that in mind as well.
post #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoddimusPrime View Post
I think this is where I get confused. If the item you posted is better than a sound card solution like a Xonar Essence ST then why is it so many people get those cards? Does it improve the sound quality better than the M-Audio DAC? Or vice versa? I know there has to be something going on with the soundcard that improves music as well as my receiver (two different setups) as I heard them before and after. Part of it is the amount of power driving them (amp) and the rest is the chip that processes the music. But, I just want to make sure the solution you posted is going to be better than the typical internal sound cards. And if so then I could splurge another $50 or so if it meant I could get something even better. Whatever I get I want it to last a couple builds. And I know audio in general lasts much longer than other tech parts (more so with speakers, etc.).

Any advice is helpful. I just want to make sure I am clear on things.

Also, would a receiver with an amp do essentially the same thing? I know that would not buy a great receiver off the shelf, but there may be some older receivers on craigslist that will simply blow it away if high enough quality.

Thanks.



Eventually I would like to get a different set of speakers and sub like B&W or KEF w/ a decent sub that is appropriate for my computer room. So I will have to keep that in mind as well.
Most people don't know about external DAC/headamp solutions because they simply haven't been exposed to them. Computer guys who game want a sound card; music (speaker) guys think of a DAC paired with a cd player and a computer isn't even in their minds. In the headphone community however, computers are often integral parts of the system, and in the search of best possible sound, these external DAC/headamp solutions are of huge interest.

I'm not sure which M-Audio Dac you are referring to, they make several.

The only thing "wrong" with a soundcard is due to its internal nature. Power is via a PCI slot, not a standalone power supple as in quality externals. This is a key component in high quality sound. Not to mention other internal noise. In addition, externals have more room for headamp circuitry and other connections. But, compared to onboard, sound cards are miles ahead. If you really don't need the flexibility or prefer an internal setup, that's fine with your current setup and you won't be disappointed compared to onboard. But if you like the extra features and further sound quality improvement I would go external.

Recievers have amps for speakers, not all of them have a headphone jack. And if they have digital inputs, then they also include a DAC, but at this price range, probably not something better than a soundcard or external DAC. You would also have to make sure the receiver had your desired digital input (USB,optical, etc).
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceman23 View Post
Most people don't know about external DAC/headamp solutions because they simply haven't been exposed to them. Computer guys who game want a sound card; music (speaker) guys think of a DAC paired with a cd player and a computer isn't even in their minds. In the headphone community however, computers are often integral parts of the system, and in the search of best possible sound, these external DAC/headamp solutions are of huge interest.

I'm not sure which M-Audio Dac you are referring to, they make several.

The only thing "wrong" with a soundcard is due to its internal nature. Power is via a PCI slot, not a standalone power supple as in quality externals. This is a key component in high quality sound. Not to mention other internal noise. In addition, externals have more room for headamp circuitry and other connections. But, compared to onboard, sound cards are miles ahead. If you really don't need the flexibility or prefer an internal setup, that's fine with your current setup and you won't be disappointed compared to onboard. But if you like the extra features and further sound quality improvement I would go external.

Recievers have amps for speakers, not all of them have a headphone jack. And if they have digital inputs, then they also include a DAC, but at this price range, probably not something better than a soundcard or external DAC. You would also have to make sure the receiver had your desired digital input (USB,optical, etc).
Hmm.... well I might be able to save and spring for a receiver.... are there any you would recommend around $400 at Best Buy for instance? The other thing I think about with that is I have two computers. And it would be easier to switch sources I would think. Plus I would think not only is power and components better like an external DAC (if it has digital inputs), but it should have a good onboard chipset comparable or better than the internal card right? On top of that I could upgrade my speakers in the future with two B&W or KEF speakers and a sub in the future and get even better sound quality.

What would you say to those thoughts? And do you think there is a receiver around $400 at BB (I have gift cards and certificates to there) that could do that?

Thanks.

Edit: The only unfortunate problem I can think of is there is no way to get sound to both people at this point when we are both gaming for instance.
Edited by RoddimusPrime - 3/31/11 at 10:13am
post #9 of 14
Kinda confused here with your current setup. I thought you already have a reciever?
post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceman23 View Post
Kinda confused here with your current setup. I thought you already have a reciever?
Let me try to give you the full picture in hopefully a non confusing way.

In my living room I have a home theater setup. Big tv, receiver, surround sound, consoles, power filter, and the whole nine yards.

In another room simply dubbed "the computer room" I have my computer and my wife's computer. Currently she has her own set of computer speakers which are def. above average, but not as good as my Klipsch 2.1 Pro Media speakers. My sound card is currently an Xtreme Music. She has none. So we play music and such through my PC. However, I am going to sell my sig rig to my brother on the cheap and will have my new computer hopefully built by next weekend featuring Sandy Bridge (been waiting forever due to needing to exchange the motherboard). Thus I will need a new sound card or something to power my speakers. When I choose to upgrade in the future I thought about getting a nicer set of speakers and a sub from B&W, KEF, or the like. Thus in the back of my mind a receiver is not a bad idea to future proof what I may do in the future. Plus I have at least $250 in credit/gift cards to spend at Best Buy. So I could probably get something that will do the trick.

My only conundrum is the fact that I don't know how to route both computers through a receiver and have us both able to do something requiring sound like gaming at the same time. If there was a way one of us could simply plug in a headset and still get good power and quality sound while the other used the speakers it may work out. The only other thing I thought about was using two digital inputs for sound (one going to zone 1 and the other zone 2) in which I believe I would need two more speakers to make it work properly. Even still using a headset becomes a problem. I mean, it seems the receiver would only realistically work for one computer at a time. I guess any time music is being played or a movie being watched then the only thing I would need is a way to have lets say my HD555's hooked up while she uses a pair of her own headphones or the speakers. But how does one get around only having one output at a time in order to use a headset while someone else uses the speakers?
Edited by RoddimusPrime - 3/31/11 at 1:00pm
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