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Confused: Do I need a DAC or external sound card?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

So I am not an audiophile and I know very little about audio products, so I was hoping to get some help from you guys.

 

I am selling my desktop and my Titanium HD is in there. I will be using a laptop from now on, which has onboard audio. In a few months my father will be purchasing me a Macbook Pro, so I need something that will work with a mac along with a PC. Basically, I want to continue to use my speakers (B652's with a TA2020 amp) and my headphones (Ultrasone Pro 550's) without having to hear horrible onboard sound, because the sound quality is really bad when compared to my Titanium HD.

 

So what exactly would I need for this? Do DAC's like the Fiio E7 (I like the fact that it is an amp as well, which I would need to run my Ultrasone's) improve sound quality, or literally just convert digital to analog? So if I get a 3.5mm male to male, put one end in my Macbook and one in the DAC, and plug my speakers into the other end of the DAC, would the sound quality be improved over onboard audio, or would I need an external sound card? Are there any external sound cards that work with Mac's?

 

Also, how would I change equilizer settings if I do not have a sound card? Is there any Windows/Mac software that you can do this with?

 

I appreciate the help guys. I'll be checking back very often to read your responses.

 

Also, my budget is $100 but I will go over slightly if absolutely necessary.

 

post #2 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ComradeNF View Post
So I am not an audiophile and I know very little about audio products, so I was hoping to get some help from you guys.

I am selling my desktop and my Titanium HD is in there. I will be using a laptop from now on, which has onboard audio. In a few months my father will be purchasing me a Macbook Pro, so I need something that will work with a mac along with a PC. Basically, I want to continue to use my speakers (B652's with a TA2020 amp) and my headphones (Ultrasone Pro 550's) without having to hear horrible onboard sound, because the sound quality is really bad when compared to my Titanium HD.

So what exactly would I need for this? Do DAC's like the Fiio E7 (I like the fact that it is an amp as well, which I would need to run my Ultrasone's) improve sound quality, or literally just convert digital to analog? So if I get a 3.5mm male to male, put one end in my Macbook and one in the DAC, and plug my speakers into the other end of the DAC, would the sound quality be improved over on-board audio, or would I need an external sound card? Are there any external sound cards that work with Mac's?

Also, how would I change equilizer settings if I do not have a sound card? Is there any Windows/Mac software that you can do this with?

I appreciate the help guys. I'll be checking back very often to read your responses.

Also, my budget is $100 but I will go over slightly if absolutely necessary.

Fiio E10 USB/DAC/Headphone amplifier, even comes with a line-out for the TA2020 amp.

I'm assuming the Mac can output a digital audio signal to it's USB ports.
 

 

 

post #3 of 28

A DAC is a kind of sound card, that's why it will definitely improve the SQ.

For SQ most of the time: DAC > Sound card @ same price

But it does not support volume control and doesn't have a headphone output. That's why it needs an additional headphone amp to feed headphones.

 

There also are a lot of DACs with a headphone output (headphone amp integrated) and volume control too, they're more 'all-in-one' solutions.

The Fiio E10 is the last kind of DACs I talked about and would be an excellent choice!

post #4 of 28

Those guys have basically hit the spot :)

 

My E17 works well on both PC and Mac OSX and have been tested with all inputs except Coaxil on both.

post #5 of 28
Quote:

Originally Posted by louis12345 View Post

 

For SQ most of the time: DAC > Sound card @ same price


Not really, if anything, external is more likely to be overpriced. Although with sound cards, there is some risk of interference problems (depending on the machine they are used in), and the headphone outputs could often be better. But newer sound cards tend to have good DACs for the price.

 

post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 

So basically a DAC and a sound card perform the same functions?

 

What about equilizer settings? Is there any software for decreasing midrange, increasing bass, etc.

post #7 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ComradeNF View Post

So basically a DAC and a sound card perform the same functions?

 

What about equilizer settings? Is there any software for decreasing midrange, increasing bass, etc.



they both perform the same functions but one may have extra features and one may perform those functions better. the amp section on sound cards are generally not "audiophile" or good enough as opposed to a DAC's and a DAC can be portable(if you buy a portable one)

 

Most audiophile DAC's don't have one. The E17 does. Software? haha everywhere. i dont use them but if i do want to play around, itunes has one built in.

post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bowei006 View Post



they both perform the same functions but one may have extra features and one may perform those functions better. the amp section on sound cards are generally not "audiophile" or good enough as opposed to a DAC's and a DAC can be portable(if you buy a portable one)

 

Most audiophile DAC's don't have one. The E17 does. Software? haha everywhere. i dont use them but if i do want to play around, itunes has one built in.


Thanks very much for the information. I think I will be purchasing the Fiio E10 then, since I don't need an E7 for on the go (it will stay on my desk).

 

One more question: If I plug headphones into the Fiio E10 headphone port can I still have my speakers connected on the back? I don't want to pass audio through both at the same time, but it would save time if I wouldn't have to unplug the speaker line out every time I want to use headphones.

post #9 of 28

I don't think it's possible, you'll need to unplug your headphone every time.


Edited by louis12345 - 3/18/12 at 1:59pm
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ComradeNF View Post


Thanks very much for the information. I think I will be purchasing the Fiio E10 then, since I don't need an E7 for on the go (it will stay on my desk).

 

One more question: If I plug headphones into the Fiio E10 headphone port can I still have my speakers connected on the back? I don't want to pass audio through both at the same time, but it would save time if I wouldn't have to unplug the speaker line out every time I want to use headphones.

yes :) when you get the E10 and plug it in, you will need to set the default playback device to the E10, and from there after you are done playing music through the E10, you then go to the playback devices menu again and set "speakers" or whatever your speakers are connected to to default. this is finicky but hey it only takes 5 seconds. i just find it annoying personally but keeping in mind how short it takes to do it, it's not worth getting another piece of software to do it.
 

 

post #11 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by bowei006 View Post

yes :) when you get the E10 and plug it in, you will need to set the default playback device to the E10, and from there after you are done playing music through the E10, you then go to the playback devices menu again and set "speakers" or whatever your speakers are connected to to default. this is finicky but hey it only takes 5 seconds. i just find it annoying personally but keeping in mind how short it takes to do it, it's not worth getting another piece of software to do it.
 

 


I think he wants to connect his speakers to the E10 too, not to the computer directly.

Or maybe I misunderstood everything :P

post #12 of 28

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by louis12345 View Post


I think he wants to connect his speakers to the E10 too, not to the computer directly.

Or maybe I misunderstood everything :P

 

haha it took me a while too but from the quote below

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ComradeNF View Post

 If I plug headphones into the Fiio E10 headphone port can I still have my speakers connected on the back? I don't want to pass audio through both at the same time, but it would save time if I wouldn't have to unplug the speaker line out every time I want to use headphones.



 

i think he meant can he still have it plugged into the computer. as what he meant by on back..because there's no where on the back of the E10 that you would plug a speaker.
 

 

 

post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 

So there would be no way to hook both my speakers and my headphones to the Fiio E10 at the same time? I want to listen to my speakers through USB as well, that is why I am asking.

post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ComradeNF View Post

So there would be no way to hook both my speakers and my headphones to the Fiio E10 at the same time? I want to listen to my speakers through USB as well, that is why I am asking.



ok..well you could, get a splitter that's cheapo and just turn off the speakers when you want touse the headphones and unplug the headphones from the splitter when you want to use the other. not sure how or if that will degrade it by how much

 

you could also get one of those actual hub splitters that can activley switch with the flick of a switch but that's more expensive

 

or..you could just have the speaker wires up on your desk with your E10 and just unplug and plug in whatever one you want to use.

 

awesome stuff to know:

#1when using the E10 always make sure that windows volume is at 100% and any program you are using be it VLC or whatever also has it set to max. control volume with E10, doing otherwise will degrade the audio quality

 

#2for best results with speakers, set e10 to 0dB gain(low mode) and have it on max and control volume with your speakers. however this is for best results. i might and probably won't recommend this to you as this is mainly audible and works with good audiophile speakers(i dont think you have any) and if done iimproperly could blow your speakers if you forget to redial or reset the volume on your speakers to something low. up to you.

 

 

BTW....there's.....a ........upvote hand in the bottom right corner of the screen beneath each post. it doesn't mean much on head fi and isn't counted towards anything...but it does feel good you know. this isn't just for me but for others. people should start doing it more often :(

 

post #15 of 28

2011920162759.jpg

1 Headphone output:

2 Bass Boost Switch
3 Volume Control
4 connector:
5 coaxial output:

6 LINE OUT connector

 

You can connect your speakers on the line-out, if they're amplified, which I suppose they are since they're computer speakers.

You'll have to ask to the customer service of Fiio to know if you can use both head-out & line-out @ the same time, I'm really not sure.


Edited by louis12345 - 3/18/12 at 2:34pm
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