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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Interesting... Those with surgeon hands have been doing it for years! Finally the audiophile industry is succumbing to the inevitable future when PC replaces CD / SACD / LP players as the dominant play back source >: )

A few hot-rod audio companies are selling fully beefed up soundcards and this one is visually impressive.





You can find it in a few of their top-tier hot-rod houses.

In Holland: http://www.gooipcs.nl/systemen/source-pc
In Canada: http://www.partsconnexion.com/bur_prodigy.html
In France: http://www.audiophonics.fr/burson-au...it-p-5024.html

Interestingly the German made Audiotrak prodigy HD2 seems to be the weapon of choice. According to these audiophile hot-rod houses, the design of the HD2 is more consistent with the output stage of audiophile CD players and far more superior to most other soundcards. It’s 2 channel stereo (plus a headphone out) and it also has a noise filtering network that deals with noises inside a PC case.

Those 3 green things on top replaced 3 regular audio opamps. They are Australian made Burson audio opamps. (www.bursonaudio.com). These opamps are widely used in recording studios and highly regarded among audiophiles. Among other mods, the power supply of this HD2 is also upgraded to better synergize with amplifiers.

The most beefed up ones costs 470Euro!!! But the Canadian Partsconnexion is selling them at $300 a piece. Cheap I guess compared to any hi-end CD players.

So, is this the one that will finally do our lossless files justice??? Has anyone tried it?
 

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Lol i still think this frankenSTX is >



Lol, sorry.. just had to do it
 

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While I think it is a good thing because of precisely the reason you mentioned -- the high end audio industry is finally devoting some time to sound cards -- it is really irrelevent, as a niche has already evolved due to the gap between the digital audio in CD players and the analog pre/amp.

In the world of computer audio, there are several general markets, we can define them as:
Gamers
Musicians
Music Enthusiasts
Basic Users

Basic users are irrelevant for the purpose of our look. In the gaming sphere, the advent of Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect are slowly making their way into all computer sound processors, which means that most users are going to be using toslink or coax to send signals to an external processor, in which case (aside from basic filters) the sound processor in the computer is worthless, needed only for active encoding and passing to an external decoder.

Because CD players use this same data flow, high end audio (which has embraced CDs/SACDs/DVDAs more or less fully) uses a bridge to connect digital components to analog sources: a DAC (Digital Audio Converter). Sound cards have these built in when they have analog out, however let us consider that the DAC on a sound card is perhaps a small single chip, even on an enhanced unit like the one you showed. When you compare that to the Cambridge Audio DAC-Magic, which weighs almost 3 lbs by itself and takes up a space 5 times the size of that soundcard, you will find that because of space limitations, soundcards will never have a good enough quality DAC to add to a high end system.

That is where the 4 categories of markets come in. A musician will benefit from a high quality soundcard with lots of features, but for the regular enthusiast, spending 500$ on a sound card simply isn't worth it if you are going to connect your PC to a sound system that costs considerably more.

There are ongoing debates as to what all is involved in the encoding of sound into formats to stream over optical cables, but in general, aside from minor variations in SNR, any soundcard that supports digital out is going to sound the same when passed through an analog converter, it is the power of the converter that will determine the quality of the sound.

In short: spending that much money on a sound card is worthless. You are best off just using your motherboard sound to pass to a much more expensive and higher quality DAC and then sending it to your sound system. The only application I can see this heavily benefiting is those with high quality headphones but without the budget for a standalone DAC, as the quality of the on-bus DAC will make all the difference if you are passing it through a headphone tube/ss amp.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I actually really like this idea of beefing up soundcards.

Many soundcards including Audiotrak and Asus are very nice designs with their focus on audio quality. Talking about less is more. Without the additional connections the soundcard idea is the purest approach.

It has the shortest signal path (just MB to sound card no extra cable, extra power supply or extra connection). Centrialised control (no hard ware volume control all done via software) which is great for HT system with remote control.

I have heard the stock version of the HD2 and it already sounds better than some of the cheapo USB toys. For $300 I don't think you can buy a decent external DAC, + cables + external headphone amp + more cables etc. A beefed up soundcard on the other hand is convenient and neat. In addition, this Audiotrak has a fairly impressive jitter clock section and noise filtering network that addressed some of the traditional shortfalls of choosing a soundcard over a USB dac.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Beefing up soundcards by individuals is nothing new. But it's the first time that hot-rod audio companies are promoting the concept and selling already cooked soundcards along side their hot-rod CD players and amplifiers.

I think it's a sign that more and more audiophiles are switching from CD / LP players to PCs.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by musicPC View Post
Interesting... Those with surgeon hands have been doing it for years! Finally the audiophile industry is succumbing to the inevitable future when PC replaces CD / SACD / LP players as the dominant play back source >: )

A few hot-rod audio companies are selling fully beefed up soundcards and this one is visually impressive.





You can find it in a few of their top-tier hot-rod houses.

In Holland: http://www.gooipcs.nl/systemen/source-pc
In Canada: http://www.partsconnexion.com/bur_prodigy.html
In France: http://www.audiophonics.fr/burson-au...it-p-5024.html

Interestingly the German made Audiotrak prodigy HD2 seems to be the weapon of choice. According to these audiophile hot-rod houses, the design of the HD2 is more consistent with the output stage of audiophile CD players and far more superior to most other soundcards. It’s 2 channel stereo (plus a headphone out) and it also has a noise filtering network that deals with noises inside a PC case.

Those 3 green things on top replaced 3 regular audio opamps. They are Australian made Burson audio opamps. (www.bursonaudio.com). These opamps are widely used in recording studios and highly regarded among audiophiles. Among other mods, the power supply of this HD2 is also upgraded to better synergize with amplifiers.

The most beefed up ones costs 470Euro!!! But the Canadian Partsconnexion is selling them at $300 a piece. Cheap I guess compared to any hi-end CD players.

So, is this the one that will finally do our lossless files justice??? Has anyone tried it?

I just don't see how that would be practical inside a computer. The Burson units are nice though, I've got them in one of my CDP
It's for sale now though as I have too many.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Good point about the size of this thing. I will try to find out its dimensions from Partsconnexion.

I've been talking to Partsconnexion about it and they said that those Burson opamps are far more superior to even opa627. They are using these opamps to upgrade recording studios nowadays.

I think I am taking the plunge on it since I can use a decent second source, my PC tower is fairly roomy and I am all thumbs when it comes to DIYing.
 

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Here's a couple pics of an XtremeMusic I modded





Much more sensible IMO.

Back to the Burson's. They are nice and yes, I do find them better than say a pair of OPA627. But factor in the size and cost and they aren't really a direct comparison. A pair of OPA627 run about $60 where a pair of Burson dual Discrete OPamps run almost $200.
You can spend the money and put them in as many devices and audio outputs as you want, but they still are not a substitute for a REAL discrete output stage. Instead of purchasing a sound card like that I think I'd spend my money on a GOOD USB DAC.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Wo. more beefed up soundcards!

Partsconnexion hasn't come back to me regarding the dimensions of their modified Audiotrak... dam it... I was hoping to get one before this weekend.

As for the Bursons, I am reading more and more good things about these Aussies. Correct me if I am wrong but OPA627 is a single opamp... so comparing apples with apples the Burson an't that expensive ($90 for a pair of singles Burson opamps)

As for the USB over soundcard argument... I think with this Burson opamps added, this Audiotrak is far more complex in design compared to most USB dacs out there. And for $300 I don't think you can get any decent USB Dac + cables + headphone amp + more cables...

To me a soundcard is more convenient and integrated. I think you would agree too since you are hot-roding your soundcards. : )
 

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I admire the initiative, but I'd be seriously worried about EMI and RFI having that much discrete gear shoved into a case with all the other things that go in there. Seems like you'd just be begging for interference.
Quote:


Originally Posted by ChielScape
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great... sound cards beat graphics cards to triple slot.

 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Jeff78 View Post
While I think it is a good thing because of precisely the reason you mentioned -- the high end audio industry is finally devoting some time to sound cards -- it is really irrelevent, as a niche has already evolved ..........
Nice little overall view but I still like the mod pics.


My uber Audio Research, Acoustat, and "preamp of the month", days are over but this stuff is still interesting.
 

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Quote:


Originally Posted by musicPC
View Post

Wo. more beefed up soundcards!

Partsconnexion hasn't come back to me regarding the dimensions of their modified Audiotrak... dam it... I was hoping to get one before this weekend.

As for the Bursons, I am reading more and more good things about these Aussies. Correct me if I am wrong but OPA627 is a single opamp... so comparing apples with apples the Burson an't that expensive ($90 for a pair of singles Burson opamps)

As for the USB over soundcard argument... I think with this Burson opamps added, this Audiotrak is far more complex in design compared to most USB dacs out there. And for $300 I don't think you can get any decent USB Dac + cables + headphone amp + more cables...

To me a soundcard is more convenient and integrated. I think you would agree too since you are hot-roding your soundcards. : )

Yes, opa627 is one channel, it depends on he configuration, when I mentioned the price difference I was referring to the balanced topology in my CDP that uses a two channel op-amp (or two opa627) per channel.

You'll still need some nice cables and that headphone amp with this sound card.

Quote:


Originally Posted by Chipp
View Post

I admire the initiative, but I'd be seriously worried about EMI and RFI having that much discrete gear shoved into a case with all the other things that go in there. Seems like you'd just be begging for interference.



Another thing that stuck out at me when I first looked at the card, but figured size was more of a deterrent.

Quote:


Originally Posted by musicPC
View Post

I think that's why those hot rod companies selected the Audiotrak HD2 in the first place. It has a noise filtering network in there that deals with the issues.

that, to me, reads: just another unnecessary component/circuit in the audio path...
 

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to me, a USB dac is just an external soundcard. it's not a magic black box that somehow corrects error, noise etc.

As long as it's a good soundcard, internal, external, same.
 
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