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Is external soundcard a good sound source?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
For computer users, is external sound card better than headphone amp?
Creative Extigy: sampling rate 24bit/96kHz, SNR>100dB, THD<0.006%
Onkyo U55: 1bit DAC, SNR>100dB, THD<0.003%

Numbers looks not bad, and they do the DAC and amp job inside one box. Do they sound good? Are they powerful enough to give headphone enough juice?
post #2 of 5
The amplifiers in the external sound card will not match a good dedicated amplifier (never has and never will). However, a headphone amplifier is not a DAC so you need a DAC in your audio chain if you are not using vinyl. Most likely they will be powerful enough to drive your headphones, but probably not "well". Numbers do not denote a better DAC/headphone amp, your ears do.

A good soundcard/good DAC/good amplifier combo would look much like what I use:
Audiophile 24/96 -> ART DI/O -> MG Head
It is essentailly an "external soundcard", where the DAC is moved outside the computer.
post #3 of 5
Quote:
Originally posted by chych
Audiophile 24/96 -> ART DI/O -> MG Head
It is essentailly an "external soundcard", where the DAC is moved outside the computer.
is a high quality audio card required in that chain?
i.e. would any low-end consumer soundcard with a digital out provide the same performance?
post #4 of 5
Well, you could go down to the Audiophile 24/48 - I think it is the cheapest one that does not resample the digital output, though I am not sure with that. Lower end sound cards with digi outs may work with an external DAC but I do not know how they would sound compared to an unresampled output. There is also a Terratec and Xitel card that I have heard of but am not sure about (search the forums).
post #5 of 5

SE-U55 not so good

I have an Onkyo SE-U55 external soundcard connected to my Mac G4. It doesn't really have enough power to drive either my HD590 or my W11R headphones. It works, and is fine for short periods if I don't really want to turn up the volume, but is by no means a real alternative to a headphone amp. Apart from that, it's not a bad unit, with both analog and digital (coax and optical) in and out. I know the USB connection might not be suitable for demanding musical applications, but it works fine for me.

Jim
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