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Sound Card upgrade or adding an external DAC

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 

Hey there,

I´m actually happy with my rig, witch is Xonar D2 - Heed Canamp - K271 and K701 but I want to know what would it be a common sense upgrade.

Was thinking about changing the D2 for a Xonar Essence ST or connecting the D2 via coax to an external DAC and then to the Heed.

The main purpose of my system is music listening and a bit of gaming.

I´d really like to know your impressions.

Cheers

post #2 of 40

Just about any DAC would be an upgrade for a computer soundcard.  There's simply to much noise in a computer system, especially a PC for on-board, or internal soundcards to reach higher levels of fidelity.  A good option would be the uDAC, or HRT streamer.  I would recommend the streamer as it not only is powered from the USB port, making power cable upgrades a thing of the past, it also reconstructs power from the USB bus to power the circuit, making computer noise non existent. 

post #3 of 40

I don't see how a sound card is bad and there is noise in a computer.  Anything that gets its power from USB is going to have just as much supposed noise as an internal sound card.

post #4 of 40

With a computer there are so many things going on thats not related to audio.  All of this ends of as noise in the system which is amplified with the signal to give you dirty sounding audio. 

 

This I pulled off the 6moons review of the HRT Pro.

 

 

 

"Kevin Halverson commented on the presumption that the problem with a host computer as power source is somehow related to having to clean up the 5V supply: "That's incorrect. Cleaning up nasty raw power supplies is a fairly trivial task. It can be accomplished by methods known to anyone skilled in the art of power supply design. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. Clean power is neither the only problem associated with a computer as audio source nor even the most important. Even if one had a completely independent power supply (battery or mains supplied), computer contamination remains. The power isn't the problem. The common ground is. Here all the noise gets conducted. The D+ and D- data pair of USB must be accompanied by a ground connection. It is this ground connection which conducts all the computer-generated nasties right into the analog audio ground. Unless some extraordinary efforts are made to isolate the computer and audio sides, all power supply clean-up efforts are wasted. The ground of the USB link maintains a constant connection of the computer with the rest of the audio system. 


'In the case of the Streamers, we provide complete isolation between the computer and analog sides. Not only do we regenerate the power (thereby breaking the common ground), we do the same with all the data moving between the two halves. This allows us to draw power from the host computer. Because we are completely isolated, the fact that we're connected to the computer has no impact on the performance of our product.' "

post #5 of 40
Thread Starter 

Thx for the input

Basically I´m trying to choose from these options with a $300 budget :

 

1) Xonar ST

2) Keeping my Xonar D2 -coax- used DACMAGIC, LITTLE DOT DAC 1, MATRIX  ,V-DAC, ETC-  worth the hassle ???

post #6 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by moonshake View Post

Thx for the input

Basically I´m trying to choose from these options with a $300 budget :

 

1) Xonar ST

2) Keeping my Xonar D2 -coax- used DACMAGIC, LITTLE DOT DAC 1, MATRIX  ,V-DAC, ETC-  worth the hassle ???


I'd take the 2nd option any day

post #7 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apocalypsee View Post


I'd take the 2nd option any day


What external DAC would you recommend for a significant improvement? 
 

post #8 of 40

I would go for the used DAC magic,  It should outperform the others, if you can find one used.

post #9 of 40
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice. I´ll try to look for an used Dacmagic, although I can´t stop thinking I can get a Xonar ST for practically half of the price. Will I really notice a step up in SQ or should I look for other dacs like Gamma2 or better? 


Edited by moonshake - 11/17/10 at 3:18pm
post #10 of 40

You should really do what you want to do.  You'll only gain a better understanding through your own experiences and choices.  We can guide, but if your gut and or wallet says to go another way, forget us and do it.  It would seem that no matter what choice you make, it'll only improve things.  The Gamma2 I have no experience with, but the HRT streamers are fantastic as are the uDACs.

post #11 of 40
Thread Starter 

Of course, and appreciate your words... but let me try to have some impressions from people that experienced by themselves Xonar sound cards and external DACs first. And, believe me, even reading lots of posts, it´s really hard to find a solid fundamented opinion comparing the ST/STX and budget DACs. Luckily, there are lots of options to choose nowadays, especially for about 200-300€ (Little dac1, Matrix, Gamma2, Dacmagic, Yulong, AudioGD, etc, etc)   

post #12 of 40
Thread Starter 

So finally, the best noticeable improvement for my rig with a 300€ budget is a Dacmagic leaving the Xonar D2 as transport? More ideas?

post #13 of 40

I recommend finding a good used DAC from the 90's for the same money and keeping your soundcard for its coax out.

post #14 of 40

External DAC's can be great and so are many soundcards.  Assuming one is always better then the other indicates misinformation as there are good and bad units in both groups.

Look at the measuremeants of modern soundcards, in many cases they easily surpass many external DAC's for SNR, dynamic range and noise.  If the inside of the PC is so noisy and it is getting into the soundcard then where is the noise?

It is not shown on the output measurments or quality.  If you want to use an external DAC that is fine but using one based on misunderstandings and bad information regarding internals is not too good.

 

I would check the specs, I am pretty sure the unit in the D2 is of higher quality then the unit in the DACMagic.


Edited by ROBSCIX - 11/18/10 at 8:10am
post #15 of 40
Thread Starter 

What about a Xonar ST with upgraded opamps? Bursons?

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