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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2019, 11:41 AM - Thread Starter
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External Stack(or Dac/AMP) or Soundcard?

So, I can't decide which option I should go with. I bought some hi-fi headphones to use, because I was tired of the static and bad sound I had from my Corsair Void Wireless. I got 2 pairs of cans: Philipps Fidelio X2HR and Audioquest Nighthawk Carbon. They both sound better, but I'm running them from my motherboard's built-in audio solution.

I actually have better sound using the keyboard's audio pass-through, go figure..../shrug

I'm contemplating the JDS Labs Element 2 (Dac/AMP combo) and the Creative Soundblaster AE-9. I am somewhat interested in the Audioquest Cobalt as well. I know that the Element 2 is pretty much overkill for what cans I have, but I'd rather have to much than not enough in the amp/dac dept. I'm also open to other options, but the 400 that the Element 2 is is at the top of the budget. I've got a 15% upgrade coupon off of the AE-9.

These are and will be used for gaming (75-85%) and music (25-15%).

"Full frontal nerdity," that quote suits me. Thanks, Better Off Ted.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2019, 12:10 PM
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sound cards = driver woes (usually), might have the same issues as your onboard with interference since it's still in your PC

DAC/AMP = less desk space

pick your poison.

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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2019, 12:38 PM
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External so long as it uses the USB UAC interface. Check my sig if you want to know the DSP behind audio equipment and how to choose it from measurements, though the Element II is a fine pick, albeit a bit expensive for the performance it offers (haven't seen anything that's as nice in the industrial design department though).
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2019, 12:49 PM
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usb dac/amp combo probably makes more sense if you're only using headphones

Consider a sound card if you need extra i/o, namely optical.. That's the only reason I'm still running them in my machines.

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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2019, 01:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote: Originally Posted by HybridCore View Post
External so long as it uses the USB UAC interface. Check my sig if you want to know the DSP behind audio equipment and how to choose it from measurements, though the Element II is a fine pick, albeit a bit expensive for the performance it offers (haven't seen anything that's as nice in the industrial design department though).
I had some hi-fi stuff a few years back, but I sold it all and went with the wireless headset for convenience. I just got tired of bad audio so I went back. I've been out of it for maybe 1.5 years or so. I was thinking of running toslink, over USB into a DAC. Is that not a good option? It seems to be preferred over on head-fi, but they are doing mostly music vs my gaming priority. Is there something else that works better, with closeness on the design?

Quote: Originally Posted by Serious_Don View Post
usb dac/amp combo probably makes more sense if you're only using headphones

Consider a sound card if you need extra i/o, namely optical.. That's the only reason I'm still running them in my machines.
I don't think I need extra I/o, but I think I'm one of the few who has had good experiences with Creative's things. My last soundcard was the SoundBlaster Zx (the one with the control module box). I loved it!

I've got some external USB speakers as well, but they obviously can't be plugged into anything. PC Parts are easy to pick from (generally) because there's so many different places to find benchmarks. Sound is so subjective though, and yeah.

I personally prefer tube AMPs, but they're a no go due to my 3 children under 4. "Ooooh, lights....let me touch it!" Whelp there go the finger-prints.

"Full frontal nerdity," that quote suits me. Thanks, Better Off Ted.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2019, 01:31 PM
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Quote: Originally Posted by kayan View Post
I had some hi-fi stuff a few years back, but I sold it all and went with the wireless headset for convenience. I just got tired of bad audio so I went back. I've been out of it for maybe 1.5 years or so. I was thinking of running toslink, over USB into a DAC. Is that not a good option? It seems to be preferred over on head-fi, but they are doing mostly music vs my gaming priority. Is there something else that works better, with closeness on the design?
The Schiit Hel performs decently well and has a similar take on the industrial design at $189. Not as good as the Element II or Atom + Khadas Tone Board but already transparent in normal listening environments for it to not matter.

I mean that all comes down to the toslink implementation. I've seen units where the performance over USB was far better than optical and vice versa (ones with good implementations on both should get more or less identical performance). Assuming a unit which performs identical to near identical on both, I'd choose toslink just to get a USB port back.

Gaming isn't really a special workload. There is no specialized audio workload. The only thing that gaming and certain movies may do differently is use some HRTF algorithm to create positional audio. Microsoft includes one for free called Windows Sonic (right click the volume icon > spatial sound submenu > Windows Sonic for headphones) due to their mixed reality initiatives like Hololens and the Windows Mixed Reality headsets so they can all just use one standardized HRTF. Video games with a headphone mode will include one or software/hardware with stuff like Dolby's proprietary algorithms. Regardless, that's DSP done prior to feeding the digital audio to the DAC and amp and is of no concern to the DAC and amp.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2019, 01:45 PM
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I have no issue with creative cards either, but since I use linux I try to stick to older x-fi cards, which really don't sound very great. I'm not sure if any of the soundcore 3d era cards have even basic support under *nix yet.




I bet this AE-9 w/ burson v6 (vivids?) sounds great ... too bad whoever did that had to go with extension cables, looks like the chassis is in the way and the sockets packed too close together on the board. Random example of why an external box may be beneficial, heh.

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-08-2019, 02:35 PM
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I can pack bursons on my SC808 without extensions . Only would need to detach EMI shield for them to fit (or cut it in proper places).

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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-09-2019, 07:56 AM - Thread Starter
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I decided to order the Sound Blaster AE-9 for a couple of reasons:
#1 - it was nearly 100 cheaper than the Element 2, after the upgrade coupon.
#2 - Creative has no restocking fee if I decide to send it back.
#3 - they had the longest return period of all the products I had considered.

According to my order info it states that it should be delivered between 12/13-17th. Which is perfect as it's right before my Christmas break from work!

I'm really excited about the breakout control module. It looks great.

I'll resurrect this thread with my thoughts, after I've had it a few days, and if it's no good then it'll go back.

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 12-19-2019, 04:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Got the AE-9, a day later than estimated, but still it arrived - whew. I installed it last night, but didn't have much time to do anything with it since there was a new episode of The Mandalorian out yesterday. I've listened to some music, but no gaming yet, and that may have to wait until this weekend, we'll see.

When I opened it up, I was impressed by how good it looks. It's a dang sexy sound card. It needs a 6-pin power plug from my PSU, I knew that ahead of time, but it's still weird (probably for the RGB on the card itself, it's subtle and not too glaring or overbearing).

The software is really robust! It's much different than it used to be. It's got specific game profiles, and also ones for music and movies as well. Once inside the music section, I can adjust the EQ myself, or pick different ones based on the type of EQ band I want. It's pretty nice so far. The breakout control box is fantastic. It's volume dial is great, and feels great. It connects to the rear of the sound card with a single cable (mini-HDMI according to the manual), as opposed to multiple cables.

I'll test it more over the coming days, and share some more thoughts. If you have questions, please ask.

"Full frontal nerdity," that quote suits me. Thanks, Better Off Ted.
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