Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › Using an External Amp with Xonar Essence ST and Volume Levels (noobie questions)
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Using an External Amp with Xonar Essence ST and Volume Levels (noobie questions)

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Hi there, I have been reading head-fi for a while now, but have just decided to make an account because after reading about this through many threads, I am still confused.

 

I use my computer as my source for all my listening. Currently I have a Asus Xonar Essence ST with my DT880/32ohm (I didn't think I was ever going to buy an amp which is why I went for the 32ohm version.. oops!) connected directly to it using the Line Out. The issue is, I am going to be ordering a Schiit Lyr Amp (and some LCD-2's, but that doesn't matter for this) soon and I'm not exactly sure what to connect it to on the soundcard's outputs. I read in another thread that if I use the RCA outputs on the soundcard that this will bypass the Amp portion of the soundcard while leaving the DAC to do it's job. Is this true? Is this the best way to go about it for optimal sound quality, or is there something else I should be doing? Also, when I eventually get an external DAC as well, how do I use my Xonar Essence as strictly a transport (not utilizing the DAC or AMP portions)?

 

The second (and somewhat related) question is, what volume controls should I use? I know already that Winamp should be at 100% volume, but what about windows volume/sound card volume? (The Xonar Audio Center that comes with the sound card moves the windows volume slider when I use it as well, why is this?). If I am using the sound card as strictly a DAC and using an external amplifier, should my windows volume be maxed and my amp's volume control be used? What about when I upgrade to an external DAC, how would the volume controls look then?

 

Sorry about the millions of questions, but I am truly excited about getting deeper into the high end audio world and would greatly appreciate any help anyone could provide!

 

PS: I realize this probably isn't the right forum for this, but I had posted in 'Computer Audio' and gotten no responses and barely any views.

post #2 of 21
Thread Starter 

Anyone? Even if you can only answer one or two questions, I don't mind.

post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 

Bump.

post #4 of 21

I don't have the sound card you have but I have the Xfi Fatality Gamer Series and I have my amp plug into there. Volume current set at 65% on my sound tool bar. I think you can leave the volume at 50% then use the amp to control the volume

post #5 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatsby View Post

Hi there, I have been reading head-fi for a while now, but have just decided to make an account because after reading about this through many threads, I am still confused.

 

I use my computer as my source for all my listening. Currently I have a Asus Xonar Essence ST with my DT880/32ohm (I didn't think I was ever going to buy an amp which is why I went for the 32ohm version.. oops!) connected directly to it using the Line Out. The issue is, I am going to be ordering a Schiit Lyr Amp (and some LCD-2's, but that doesn't matter for this) soon and I'm not exactly sure what to connect it to on the soundcard's outputs. I read in another thread that if I use the RCA outputs on the soundcard that this will bypass the Amp portion of the soundcard while leaving the DAC to do it's job. Is this true? Is this the best way to go about it for optimal sound quality, or is there something else I should be doing? Also, when I eventually get an external DAC as well, how do I use my Xonar Essence as strictly a transport (not utilizing the DAC or AMP portions)?

 


If you are going to use an external headphone amp yes just connect to the RCA to bypass the card's built in headphone amp circuitry. If you are going to use an external DAC then use the SPDIF to bypass the soundcard's DAC altogether.  

 


The second (and somewhat related) question is, what volume controls should I use? I know already that Winamp should be at 100% volume, but what about windows volume/sound card volume? (The Xonar Audio Center that comes with the sound card moves the windows volume slider when I use it as well, why is this?). If I am using the sound card as strictly a DAC and using an external amplifier, should my windows volume be maxed and my amp's volume control be used? What about when I upgrade to an external DAC, how would the volume controls look then?


Moving the volume control in the Audio Center also moves the Windows volume in the tray is natural - since it is the same master volume control for the entire OS - when you install the Audio Center driver and software the two gets link. If you are going to be using an external headphone amp then you should let the headphone amp do the heavy lifting and not have the soundcard do too much of the brute work, afterall boosting the signal is why you would want to get the headphone amp in the first place. So 50% of the volume is about right (the Audio Center is also kind enough to mark the 50% mark on the adjustment level, so use it). If you are connecting to an external DAC using SPDIF then the volume bar on the soundcard won'tdo anything.

post #6 of 21

Gatsby, which Windows version are you using? Earlier versions have zero attenuation values at a different volume point than newer ones.

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thank you guys very much for your responses, it helps a lot. One thing I am curious about however, I read somewhere that if you don't leave your windows sound at 100%, you are not getting true 16 bit sound, If I remember correctly, this was an email someone received from Jan Meier himself. What do you guys think about this? You are saying to leave it at 50%.

 

 

Roller, I am using Windows 7 32bit.

post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatsby View Post

Thank you guys very much for your responses, it helps a lot. One thing I am curious about however, I read somewhere that if you don't leave your windows sound at 100%, you are not getting true 16 bit sound, If I remember correctly, this was an email someone received from Jan Meier himself. What do you guys think about this? You are saying to leave it at 50%.

 

 

Roller, I am using Windows 7 32bit.



Then you have to set Windows volume to 100% and control volume through the amp's pot. The volume is set to 100% in order to have 0dB attenuation, therefore having the full dynamic range of your DAC available. Basically, don't use any software volumes, only hardware ones.

 

I'll say it again, volume HAS to be set at 100% or degradation of different magnitude will occur. Do note that those settings are for your specific OS.

 

If you do that, you'll get the best output your hardware can do.

post #9 of 21

You can set the soundcard output to 100% as long as there is no distortion. The problem is most souncards will distort at 100%. Setting it too low is also not optimal because like you said, you may be losing bits. 

 

I use a VU meter plugin to see if the output signal is clipping during peaks, then adjust mixer from there.    

 

Also, if your using any EQ or sound effects to boost freqs, you want the volume to be lower to provide headroom.


Edited by EYEdROP - 3/3/11 at 10:11am
post #10 of 21

Like above, I'm not able to use 100%, especially not if I want to EQ as well then there's no headroom whatsoever. If you can use 100% and there's no distortion fine but I doubt you can quite use that on that soundcard. It's just a matter of experimenting what appears to give the cleanest output unless you're able to measure the clipping, just use as high windows volume as possible that doesn't distort/clip and even leave slight headroom from the point it doesn't clip, like ~10% lower from the point you start hearing it starts distorting, out of the blue I'd say 60~75% or so is probably good and you shouldn't be able to hear any audible sound quality loss at least.


Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 3/3/11 at 11:37am
post #11 of 21

Usually, high quality enough DACs can easily have digital volume set to 100% to avoid sound degradation and not have clipping of any kind. For instance, the Titanium HD doesn't clip at 100% volume, as well as many other DACs. Only as a very, very, VERY last resort, should you consider lowering the digital volume, Gatsby.

post #12 of 21

With Windows XP yea but I found Windows 7 to start distort a lot sooner with the vol slider set to 100% there was very audible distortion for me but it didn't in XP. Not to mention even the Gary's amp got too loud for me if I didn't lower the vol a bit and even used the lowest gain on the amp and with the potentiometer on the amp at a very low setting it would produce static and the optimal for the amp was to have the potentiometer like between 50~75% so for me it was a requirement to lower the windows vol.


Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 3/3/11 at 11:43am
post #13 of 21

That's because you're using XP hardware. I assume you're talking about your Audigy 2 ZS, right?

post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

That's because you're using XP hardware. I assume you're talking about your Audigy 2 ZS, right?


Yes but I've experienced the same at some friend's using X-Fi card.

 

post #15 of 21

What model of X-Fi? XtremeAudio?

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphones (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › Using an External Amp with Xonar Essence ST and Volume Levels (noobie questions)