I'm working on setting up a home music server to hook up to my home theater. Something along the lines of an HTPC, but not really caring about video... mostly focusing on the highest audio fidelity possible. This will be feeding both my Marantz pre-pro > Parasound amp > 2.1 speaker output, as well as a Little Dot Mk V > Sennheiser HD-600.
For the most part, I've spec'd the system out from parts on hand, and all of the music will be stored in a lossless format (likely FLAC), probably running J River Media Center as the software interface, but need to decide on how to get the audio out.
So far, I've been debating on either using an internal sound card like the Asus Xonar Essence ST or the Creative X-Fi Titanium HD, or going with an external option like the Musical Fidelity V-Link or something along those lines.
However, this is where I need some suggestions. As mentioned, I'm looking for the highest fidelity possible (within reason). Both cards support 24-bit/192 kHz output, but from what I can tell, the V-Link is limited to 24/96. If I can swing 24/192 all the way through to output, that'd be ideal. If not for currently available source material, at least to make it somewhat future-proof for a few years.
1) Is there a recommendation on which option to go with for audio output from the music server?
2) I'm likely to use an external DAC with the setup, but that's to-be-purchased. I've been tossing a bunch of options back and forth, but have yet to come up with a good solution. I could potentially use USB output, but that seems to be universally limited to 24/96, so that puts me back to optical or coax.
One option I was considering was the Maverick D1, feeding the SS output to the Marantz, and the tube output to the 2nd input on the Little Dot. However, the D1 is only 24/96.
Some of the other options I was looking at were the Little Dot DAC II and the Audio-gd FUN, but neither have a 2nd output, which would require me to go through the Marantz for the headphone amp.
So for issue #2, say with a budget ceiling of about $500 for the DAC, what's a good option that would support 24/192? The 2nd set of outputs would be greatly preferred, but if I can't get it in that budget, I'll deal with it.