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Question regarding sound card vs. DAC

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I have recently ordered the AD700 set of cans and a zalman clip on mic after reading a slew of reviews, these were the best in my performance/price range that I wanted to delve in with to start.

Currently, I have an integrated audio and have been using a Plantronics GameCom |Pro 1 (USB) headset for gaming and music listening. As of late, its performance doesn't really impress me anymore, which initiated the step into a set of real cans.

I realize they don't need to be amped to get decent sound from them, but I want to anyways (I always buy something for the future, not just the present.) Eventually I want to step up to a set of music-only headphones and use the AD700's for gaming. But that will be later down the road.

So with, sound cards. I have read pro's and con's of a lot; Asus w/ driver issues, creative woes, and etc...

As Auzentech appears to be one of the higher end cards, I have been looking over those but haven't seen good things with the Bravura (which is in my price range). I am a little lost at this point, lol.

I have been reading on OCN and Head-Fi about my other options. A DAC would definitely be another route to take. Some of them are way beyond what I am willing to spend atm, until I get further into my pursuits into Audiophilia.

I play about 60% games with about 40% music listening on my computer while doing other work. Games are typically FPS. Music I listen to is Rock, some underground rap, little R+B, healthy amount of Techno; mainly Florida Breakbeats, house, trance, and very little Drum N' Bass.


As another thread here was asking, I kinda need it to work in Linux also. So, I shot back over to H-Fi and found some of their linux recommendations.

This post: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/...d#post_6694339

Quote:
How about a DAC? anything PCM270* based USB DACs will be able to be recognized by the Linux kernel...
Looking into it more, I saw the Fiio E7 is both an amp and USB DAC and has the PCM2706 chip. Most of the time it will be sitting on my desktop, being I have a set of buds for my ipods (not great at all, but need to find better ones soon). There appear to be a lot of good recommendations on this DAC/Amp.

How would you all recommend this as a solution to a sound card. I realize that most of the time, component systems are better, but for an all in one solution for the time being...how would it stack up? Is there another DAC w/ a cheaper amp solution anyone could recommend?


I am just now venturing into good computer audio. I previously was into car audio (not extreme) but did everything myself, rewired the whole sound system b/c of a damn GM inline amplifier that would have taken longer to bypass than to lay new wire.

Had an old alpine headunit, with a JVC 2400w amp for the MTX competition sub (somewhat like the JL W-X Series), pioneer "Comp" 6 x 9's, an old skool Xtant 2+1 amp for a component speaker mix (which I never got around to getting). So I have an idea on what music SHOULD sound like...at least from car audio endeavours, but the computer world is kinda throwing me for a loop.

Sorry for long post

TL;DR

I, noob.

EDIT: For the time being, I have an old Audigy 2 NX (USB) sound card from my old XPS laptop, I saw drivers for Win7 were up...so I am going to use that temporarily till I find something better.
Edited by Denz - 4/8/11 at 8:20am
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post #2 of 10
DAC stands for Digital Analog Converter. Every sound card has it. It basically converts digital signal from the computer or mp3 player or wtv to analog so that your audio setup can understand it.

If you play FPSs, I suggest you take a sound card because then you can utilize the Dolby Headphone (or CMSS-3D, Creative cards only) feature some sound cards have. Those simulate surround sound from stereo through your headphones.
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post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by canoners View Post
DAC stands for Digital Analog Converter. Every sound card has it. It basically converts digital signal from the computer or mp3 player or wtv to analog so that your audio setup can understand it.

If you play FPSs, I suggest you take a sound card because then you can utilize the Dolby Headphone (or CMSS-3D, Creative cards only) feature some sound cards have. Those simulate surround sound from stereo through your headphones.
Thanks for the reply,

I know all sound cards have a DAC, I was only asking about the external DAC as an option to lessen the chance of internal noise from other components; PSU, Fans, etc... while listening to music.

Didn't think of the Dolby issue though, thanks. Something to ponder.

EDIT: But also leaves me wondering about the linux support. I am starting to use it more and need something that will work in it as well.
Edited by Denz - 4/8/11 at 8:41am
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post #4 of 10
Well, if you absolutely don't want any noise whatsoever, get an external DAC.

I don't know about Linux support, that, you have to Google your way around. Sorry.
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post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Denz View Post
Thanks for the reply,

I know all sound cards have a DAC, I was only asking about the external DAC as an option to lessen the chance of internal noise from other components; PSU, Fans, etc... while listening to music.

Didn't think of the Dolby issue though, thanks. Something to ponder.

EDIT: But also leaves me wondering about the linux support. I am starting to use it more and need something that will work in it as well.
http://www.mav-audio.com/base/product/tube_magic_d1

My go to recommendation as an external option to soundcards. Priced the same as higher end sound cards, includes headphone amp, dac, preamp, myriad inputs and sounds great (to me). Works on Linux, Mac, Windows.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceman23 View Post
http://www.mav-audio.com/base/product/tube_magic_d1

My go to recommendation as an external option to soundcards. Priced the same as higher end sound cards, includes headphone amp, dac, preamp, myriad inputs and sounds great (to me). Works on Linux, Mac, Windows.
That is a sweet DAC and it has a tube. OT: but where the hell are they finding all theses vintage tubes at lol.

That is definitely priced very reasonably and may be what I am looking for. I am still researching and not jumping at anything atm. But it is a definite contender.

Thank you. +Rep for the both of you.
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post #7 of 10
Check out the Creative X-Fi HD USB also as another alternative. Also know that Dolby Headphone and CMSS are just processing effects that add reverb and ultimately distort that pure sound your looking for. You need to look more into what headphones you are gonna get for sound stage, as thats more important than some surround "simulation" your gonna get from Dolby or CMSS. I use the X-Fi HD with the JVC HARX900 headphones and have been very pleased with the performance of the setup. Also the Maverick Dac that was linked is a very nice dac for the money.
post #8 of 10

Consider Essence STX. It has Burr-Brown PCM 1792 (24bit 192 kHz) DAC which is also used on

(only DAC, no amp). I don't know how STX compares to external DACs, but I know it produces very, very good audio.

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post #9 of 10
Also check out the Musiland 02 DAC
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post #10 of 10
Overall, an external digital-to-analog converter would be better. Although sound cards have digital-to-analog converters on them, they aren't as good. The problem with getting an external digital-to-analog converter is that you'll need to buy an amp and preamp. I would recommend receivers (audio/video and stereo). I hate to see that most people haven't recommended receivers yet. They really are great. Anyways, I would go for the Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 DAC if you really want to buy an external digital-to-analog converter. The Maverick audio TubeMagic D1 has a built in amp so the Maverick Audio TubeMagic A1 Amp isn't necessary. The Cambridge Audio DACMagic is a great DAC too. Anyways, you may be wondering why I brought up the receiver. The receiver is basically a DAC and amp in one. It does everything for you. There are two types, A/V and stereo. A/V receivers can receive audio and video signals. They are the more common receivers these days. A/V receivers are directed towards consumers who want things like radio, netflix, dolby digital, and some other things. It also has at least 5.0 channel support and can go usually up to 9.2 but that's expensive. Onkyo (my favorite), Marantz (very reputable), Denon, and Yamaha are good brands. Pioneer hasn't been doing well and Sherwood systems are always a hit or miss, it's either they suck or rock. Stereo receivers on the other hand can only support 2.1, hence where the word stereo comes in the play in the name. Some audiophiles argue that stereo receivers sound better. Most stereo receivers overall have a low output. It's hard to find one with above 100w (Harman Kardon has one. Great receiver). Onkyo will be releasing one with 80w but don't let that drive you away. Some things only need 50w minimum to drive them. Look at the ATH-A700 specs and see how much voltage you need to drive them. It's basically A/V, features and more channels vs stereo, sound quality and 2.1.

Edit- sorry for the big paragraph. Kind of in a rush. Being able to type this much kind of is the opposite of rushed.
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