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Best PC soundcard for music?

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 

Hi guys,

 

I hesitate with an idea to upgrade my gear a bit and would like to know which kind of a PC soundcard could do the best for me if I really want to use it for music playback only.

 

My current setting is: Jriver Media Center 17 --- Auzen Xplosion 7.1 DTS Connect --- Fiio E9 --- Denon AH-D7000

 

Majority of my music is in 16/44.1 but I would like to have an option to use 24/192 (both analog/digital).

 

 

As I am not really well-educated in this area, would appreciate any kind of idea! :-)

 

 

Thanks to everyone in advance!


Edited by MHOE - 1/26/12 at 5:09am
post #2 of 47

Are you looking for an internal or external (USB) card ? Do you need an integrated headphone amplifier, or will use the card/DAC with the E9 (or upgrade it to some other external amplifier) ?

 

post #3 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

Are you looking for an internal or external (USB) card ? Do you need an integrated headphone amplifier, or will use the card/DAC with the E9 (or upgrade it to some other external amplifier) ?

 


I would prefer an internal card (exactly as Auzen Xplosion works)... I am happy with Fiio E9's neutral sound but if some card's integrated amplifier can work better, I have nothing against that.

 

post #4 of 47

Since there is limited information (other than some quite possibly unreliable RMAA tests) available on the audio quality of the Auzentech X-Plosion, I am not sure how much, if any improvement it would be, but the Asus Xonar D2 (PCI) or D2X (PCIe) supports 7.1 output, S/PDIF input and output, and has 24-bit/192 kHz DAC and ADC. It is advertised to have 118 dBA signal to noise ratio on all analog inputs and outputs (at the full scale level of 2 Vrms), and very low distortion. I have the cheaper Xonar D1 which I find fairly good other than the lack of a built-in headphone amplifier that the D2/D2X do not have either. If you do not mind basically buying the E9 again, the Xonar Essence ST (PCI) or STX (PCIe) would be even better, but these are limited to stereo (2 channels), and have no S/PDIF input; as already noted, the ST/STX have an integrated headphone amplifier that performs very similarly to the FiiO E9.

Especially for gaming, emu20k2 based cards by Creative and Auzentech might be worth considering, but due to the limited information in the specs and no reliable tests, I do not know how these compare to the Xonars in terms of audio quality. The Auzentech X-Fi Forte has a good headphone amplifier, but this card is reported to be unreliable and prone to failing.

 

post #5 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

Since there is limited information (other than some quite possibly unreliable RMAA tests) available on the audio quality of the Auzentech X-Plosion, I am not sure how much, if any improvement it would be, but the Asus Xonar D2 (PCI) or D2X (PCIe) supports 7.1 output, S/PDIF input and output, and has 24-bit/192 kHz DAC and ADC. It is advertised to have 118 dBA signal to noise ratio on all analog inputs and outputs (at the full scale level of 2 Vrms), and very low distortion. I have the cheaper Xonar D1 which I find fairly good other than the lack of a built-in headphone amplifier that the D2/D2X do not have either. If you do not mind basically buying the E9 again, the Xonar Essence ST (PCI) or STX (PCIe) would be even better, but these are limited to stereo (2 channels), and have no S/PDIF input; as already noted, the ST/STX have an integrated headphone amplifier that performs very similarly to the FiiO E9.

Especially for gaming, emu20k2 based cards by Creative and Auzentech might be worth considering, but due to the limited information in the specs and no reliable tests, I do not know how these compare to the Xonars in terms of audio quality. The Auzentech X-Fi Forte has a good headphone amplifier, but this card is reported to be unreliable and prone to failing.

 


Well, I do not need 7.1 features included so basically what I discovered so far is that Asus Xonar Essence ST should be really good for my purpose...

 

But can you or someone else compare the effectivity of the proposed setting? I mean - is it better to have an integrated soundcard with headphone amp included and just connect headphones to the 6.3 mm (TRS 1/4") output? It looks quite straightforward, no cables or anything else...

post #6 of 47

Since you have the E9, have you looked into the new E17?   It'll do 24bit/96k via USB and 24bit/192k via S/PDIF.

post #7 of 47
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mephiska View Post

Since you have the E9, have you looked into the new E17?   It'll do 24bit/96k via USB and 24bit/192k via S/PDIF.



Well, I've had a look... But how should I connect my soundcard to the E9 by S/PDIF? Xplosion has S/PDIF, E17 also (as you say) but when docked in E9, it is not possible to do that, is it?

 

Edit: Auzen has integrated S/PDIF input/output supports 44.1kHz/48kHz/96kHz sample rate and 16/24bits resolution... so no 24/192 possible frown.gif


Edited by MHOE - 1/26/12 at 6:43am
post #8 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by MHOE View Post

But can you or someone else compare the effectivity of the proposed setting? I mean - is it better to have an integrated soundcard with headphone amp included and just connect headphones to the 6.3 mm (TRS 1/4") output? It looks quite straightforward, no cables or anything else...


Yes, the Essence ST or STX would be good without using the E9. These cards have an amplifier based on the same chip as the E9, and the maximum output voltage and impedance are the same, too.

 

post #9 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post


Yes, the Essence ST or STX would be good without using the E9. These cards have an amplifier based on the same chip as the E9, and the maximum output voltage and impedance are the same, too.

 



Are there any possible issues running the card with Win7 and listening to 16bit/44.1 Hz music?

post #10 of 47

If all your doing is music (stereo 2.0 channel), then you really do not even need a sound card.

You can hook up an external DAC, Connect the DAC with your PCs USB or S/PDIF (digital optical) port.

Then connect the DAC (with RCAs) to the E9.

I believe the Music Streamer II is around $150.

post #11 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

If all your doing is music (stereo 2.0 channel), then you really do not even need a sound card.

You can hook up an external DAC, Connect the DAC with your PCs USB or S/PDIF (digital optical) port.

Then connect the DAC (with RCAs) to the E9.

I believe the Music Streamer II is around $150.


 

Well, I don't like USB ports very much... And the only S/PDIF on my computer is located on Xplosion with 24/96 which I find insufficient.

post #12 of 47

What's wrong with USB?  It's sending bits to the sound card for the DAC to work it's magic on, and using that will completely bypass the sound card.  It essentially IS your sound card.

 

As for E17 - You would dock it with the E9 and plug the USB cable into your PC.  The E17 would act as the DAC for the E9 in windows, giving you 24bit/96k, all entirely done on the E17. 

 

If you really need the 24bit/192k, then let me ask this:  does your PC motherboard have onboard audio and have S/PDIF out?  If so it is very likely that your motherboard's onboard audio can do 24bit/192k via SPDIF  (All my Asus motherboards with Realtek audio can do this), in which case you would run an S/PDIF cable directly into the E17 while it is docked in the E9.

post #13 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mephiska View Post

What's wrong with USB?  It's sending bits to the sound card for the DAC to work it's magic on, and using that will completely bypass the sound card.  It essentially IS your sound card.

 

As for E17 - You would dock it with the E9 and plug the USB cable into your PC.  The E17 would act as the DAC for the E9 in windows, giving you 24bit/96k, all entirely done on the E17. 

 

If you really need the 24bit/192k, then let me ask this:  does your PC motherboard have onboard audio and have S/PDIF out?  If so it is very likely that your motherboard's onboard audio can do 24bit/192k via SPDIF  (All my Asus motherboards with Realtek audio can do this), in which case you would run an S/PDIF cable directly into the E17 while it is docked in the E9.



Auzen Xplosion has SPDIF with 24/96... But can you tell me why just not buy Xonar Essence ST with so many useful features and then not sell xplosion and E9 to get some money refunded?

post #14 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by MHOE View Post
Well, I don't like USB ports very much... And the only S/PDIF on my computer is located on Xplosion with 24/96 which I find insufficient.


I guess sell off your E9 and X-Plosion and get the Asus Xonar Essence STX (or ST)

The Essence comes from the same family of Audio processors as the X-Plosion (CMI8770), but the one on the Essence (CMI8788) is newer and improved.

 

 

post #15 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post


I guess sell off your E9 and X-Plosion and get the Asus Xonar Essence STX (or ST)

The Essence comes from the same family of Audio processors as the X-Plosion (CMI8770), but the one on the Essence (CMI8788) is newer and improved.

 

 



Isn't the ST better for music-only than STX? ST has the Precision clock tuning feature... And you can upgrade to 7.1 if needed (just saying, not relevant for me I guess)


Edited by MHOE - 1/26/12 at 8:55am
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