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Discussion Starter #1
So I am considering grabbing one of these: [ame="[URL=http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325&tag=overclockdotnet-20&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FHRT-Music-Streamer-II-Resolution%2Fdp%2FB0038O4UFQ]http://www.amazon.com/HRT-Music-Streamer-II-Resolution/dp/B0038O4UFQ"]http://www.amazon.com/HRT-Music-Streamer-II-Resolution/dp/B0038O4UFQ[/ame[/URL]] (HRT music streamer II).
I would use it to drive my headphones (ATH-M50s) and my speakers (Logitech Z-5500). I do not plan on upgrading the headphones (ATH-M50s) but I am considering selling the Z-5500s and grabbing some decent monitors and a nice sub. Would there be a noticeable sound quality difference in the headphones (ATH-M50s)? and or the Z-5500 speakers? and a noticeable difference in a higher quality set of monitors?
 

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An external DAC still uses the sound from the onboard audio chip. I would recommend a good sound card that can both process the sound and convert it to an analog signal. Most of the DACs I've seen are used on laptops that can't have an internal sound card installed.
 

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If you're looking for a USB dac, consider the Nuforce uDac-2. It's small, lightweight, and is great for its price/quality.


Amazon.com: NuForce Icon uDAC-2 (Black) Headphone Amp and USB DAC (24bit/96kHz): Electronics Amazon.com: NuForce Icon uDAC-2 (Black) Headphone Amp and USB DAC (24bit/96kHz): Electronics
I have the Fiio E7 myself. It has a built in battery so I can use it as a portable headphone amp, but most of the time it's plugged into my laptop. I use it with my M50(yay) and it sounds a lot better than from the laptop onboard sound card. The E7 also has a bass boost if you want more BOOM.


If you're interested in the E7, the link is here.

Amazon.com: FiiO E7 USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier (Black): Electronics Amazon.com: FiiO E7 USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier (Black): Electronics
The uDac2 and E7 is pretty similar in terms of sound quality, but the E7 can be used without being plugged into a USB port.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
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Originally Posted by chinesekiwi
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if it's for PC, I'd rather go soundcard tbh.

Okay so why do you and everyone else recommend an internal sound-card over an external DAC such as the one I listed? Is there much difference really? I don't care about portability or size as it will just stay in one spot anyways.
 

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Mainly depending on budget, a better DAC chip + specs for the price. It used to be the other way around but the Asus Xonar series did really shake things up for the better in terms of soundcards.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Quote:


Originally Posted by chinesekiwi
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Mainly depending on budget, a better DAC chip + specs for the price. It used to be the other way around but the Asus Xonar series did really shake things up for the better in terms of soundcards.

So you are saying that at about the $100 range, I will see better performance from an internal sound-card than an external USB DAC?
 

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Quote:


Originally Posted by ____
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An external DAC still uses the sound from the onboard audio chip.

Could you explain what do you mean? Why would an external DAC be dependent on the internal DAC when they're completely unrelated to each other?

An external DAC does all of the work and basically acts as an external separate "sound card" if you like that term, it doesn't matter is it USB, coaxial or optical, it carries the data in digital and converts it into analog and is in not dependent on the internal sound card except if you're looking to export high resolution 192KHz/24-bits or Dolby TrueHD/DTS HD surround streams, in which case your sound card must support either decoding it into PCM or sending it through as it originally is in the Bluray disc, and the former I believe most intergrated optical/coaxial outs do. All that is rendered pants-on-head ******ed when your GPU has a HDMI port and supports PAP, you can just plug a single HDMI cable between a receiver and GPU and be done with both sound and picture.

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Originally Posted by Smallville
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If you're looking for a USB dac, consider the Nuforce uDac-2. It's small, lightweight, and is great for its price/quality.

Amazon.com: NuForce Icon uDAC-2 (Black) Headphone Amp and USB DAC (24bit/96kHz): Electronics

I have the Fiio E7 myself. It has a built in battery so I can use it as a portable headphone amp, but most of the time it's plugged into my laptop. I use it with my M50(yay) and it sounds a lot better than from the laptop onboard sound card. The E7 also has a bass boost if you want more BOOM.


If you're interested in the E7, the link is here.
Amazon.com: FiiO E7 USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier (Black): Electronics

The uDac2 and E7 is pretty similar in terms of sound quality, but the E7 can be used without being plugged into a USB port.

Go with either of these, the only way you could get better is by decoupling your computer from the DAC completely by using optical but that is beyond your price bracket, unless you have a digital receiver laying around.
 

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Lots of false information in here.

Quote:


Originally Posted by PRloaded

it'll remove all the electrical noise from the computer

A DAC does not "remove" any noise. By it's nature, an external DAC will have an easier time providing low noise floor as it is separated from the electrical components in the computer.

Quote:


Originally Posted by ____
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An external DAC still uses the sound from the onboard audio chip. I would recommend a good sound card that can both process the sound and convert it to an analog signal. Most of the DACs I've seen are used on laptops that can't have an internal sound card installed.

Externals do not use the sound from the onboard. It is simply a means of transfer to the DAC itself. Optical from onboard is (for most intents and purposed) the exact same as connecting via USB. The DAC does all of the actual conversion.

Also I would stay away from the NuForce DAC mentioned, it does not perform very well. The fiiO E7 also recommended is a great DAC however.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
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Originally Posted by Iceman23
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Lots of false information in here.

A DAC does not "remove" any noise. By it's nature, an external DAC will have an easier time providing low noise floor as it is separated from the electrical components in the computer.

Externals do not use the sound from the onboard. It is simply a means of transfer to the DAC itself. Optical from onboard is (for most intents and purposed) the exact same as connecting via USB. The DAC does all of the actual conversion.

Also I would stay away from the NuForce DAC mentioned, it does not perform very well. The fiiO E7 also recommended is a great DAC however.

Okay thanks. So Internal Sound-Card or external DAC, it doesn't matter to much? I will be using the DAC in whatever form (Internal or external) for music 80% of the time and games the other 20%, maybe a movie or two a month. To get the most out of the DAC I will be needing to upgrade my speakers correct? Cause as far as I am aware, The logitech Z-5500 uses its own built-in DAC so it won't matter to much if I use an aftermarket DAC to try to improve the sound.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
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Originally Posted by frankth3frizz
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i think an external and internal would do exactly the same except the external you can plug in a laptop or you can plug in your auxillary liek an ipod or something


Okay that is what I am looking for. With the External DAC I would have the flexibility of taking it somewhere else and using it.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by buddyboy;13085431
Okay that is what I am looking for. With the External DAC I would have the flexibility of taking it somewhere else and using it.
yup thats why im getting a DAC. i cant decide between the e7 or the headroom total bithead.
 

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Quote:


Originally Posted by buddyboy
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Cause as far as I am aware, The logitech Z-5500 uses its own built-in DAC so it won't matter to much if I use an aftermarket DAC to try to improve the sound.

If you use the analog inputs in Z-5500, it will use the signal from the external DAC instead of the one built in. In order to use the Z-5500 internal DAC you'd need to plug them into your computer with a digital interface like AES/EBU, S/PDIF optical or coaxial, USB, or whichever of these it supports.
The reason why people want you to upgrade from Z-5500 is because they're very "low-end" in comparison to any real speakers out there. You can get decent well performing active speakers for $200-400, like the M-Audio BX5a or Fostex PM.04 that will be much much better. Since you're not more than 20% into gaming, you don't need an explosive subwoofer and a speaker of that size should be very sufficient, for starters atleast.

I too have heard bad things about the Nuforce uDAC-2, it measures poorly, has channel imbalance at low volumes and over 1% total harmonic distortion at max volume (that is easily audible although doesn't sound like much). I have the FiiO E7 DAC myself and it has a good lot of functionality and power, but mine has a horrible amount of noise. This is most likely because my unit is faulty though, because nobody else is reporting any noise issues.

So yeah, the FiiO E7 should save you a big buck and end up being way better than any integrated sound card below $150. Also you gain lots more mobility, functionality and sound quality, and you can use it as a mobile amplifier when not using it as a DAC too!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiobock;13094105
If you use the analog inputs in Z-5500, it will use the signal from the external DAC instead of the one built in. In order to use the Z-5500 internal DAC you'd need to plug them into your computer with a digital interface like AES/EBU, S/PDIF optical or coaxial, USB, or whichever of these it supports.
The reason why people want you to upgrade from Z-5500 is because they're very "low-end" in comparison to any real speakers out there. You can get decent well performing active speakers for $200-400, like the M-Audio BX5a or Fostex PM.04 that will be much much better. Since you're not more than 20% into gaming, you don't need an explosive subwoofer and a speaker of that size should be very sufficient, for starters atleast.

I too have heard bad things about the Nuforce uDAC-2, it measures poorly, has channel imbalance at low volumes and over 1% total harmonic distortion at max volume (that is easily audible although doesn't sound like much). I have the FiiO E7 DAC myself and it has a good lot of functionality and power, but mine has a horrible amount of noise. This is most likely because my unit is faulty though, because nobody else is reporting any noise issues.

So yeah, the FiiO E7 should save you a big buck and end up being way better than any integrated sound card below $150. Also you gain lots more mobility, functionality and sound quality, and you can use it as a mobile amplifier when not using it as a DAC too!
Thank you, there was a lot of useful information in that one post.
smile.gif
But one question about the FiiO 7, How can I use this as a regular DAC (like running speakers through it) if it only has 2 3.5mm outputs? I mean, lets say I grab the BX5A's, I of course it would be better to run them using an external DAC over onboard, so I want to use my FiiO E7. Do I just ran .25'' cables to each with .25'' to 3.5mm adapters? Then what about the addition of a sub? will that be possible?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by buddyboy;13096620
Thank you, there was a lot of useful information in that one post.
smile.gif
But one question about the FiiO 7, How can I use this as a regular DAC (like running speakers through it) if it only has 2 3.5mm outputs? I mean, lets say I grab the BX5A's, I of course it would be better to run them using an external DAC over onboard, so I want to use my FiiO E7. Do I just ran .25'' cables to each with .25'' to 3.5mm adapters? Then what about the addition of a sub? will that be possible?
You would be going for a powered sub in this case I would assume; basically you would plug in your RCA output from the DAC into the sub. From there lower frequencies will be filtered and played by the sub, higher freq. will be sent to the speakers from the RCA output on the sub.
 

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If you want a DAC that's really good, I would say the Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 or the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic. Both are above $100 though.
 
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