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USB Souncard? DAC? Amp? WTF!!

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi,

 

So I am looking to upgrade from on board sound in my PC to something better. At the same time I'm also looking for a new set of speakers. My total budget is about $250. I am in India so a lot of products might not be available here or would be priced quite higher than the US price.

 

What I can do is delay buying the speakers and just focus my budget on upgrading from on board sound.

 

Now the big problem is what the hell do I buy?! Some people say a USB soundcard but some swear by DAC's and some suggest adding an AMP to the mix. Now let me tell you beforehand I don't know squat about DACs and AMPs or how to operate them. But I am not a noob, I'm quite good at all things computers, so the learning curve won't be much for me.

 

So if somebody would explain me the purpose and usage of DACs and AMPs and how they are better than USB soundcards or add to them, I would really appreciate it.

 

In case of USB soundcards I had looked at:

 

Creative SB X-Fi HD USB

M-Audio Fast Track USB

 

and for speakers M-Audio AV 40. Both combined come under my budget in Indian Rupee terms.

 

So please suggest a USB soundcard/DAC/AMP or a combination of, with explanation. My budget is either about $100 or $200-250.

 

I am currently using Shure SRH440 headphones and will definitely buy speakers now or later.

 

Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 12

If you're on a desktop PC, look at the Xonar Essence ST.  It's got a built-in headphone amp and a really, really superb DAC section

post #3 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by juventino View Post

So I am looking to upgrade from on board sound in my PC to something better. At the same time I'm also looking for a new set of speakers. My total budget is about $250. I am in India so a lot of products might not be available here or would be priced quite higher than the US price.

What I can do is delay buying the speakers and just focus my budget on upgrading from on board sound.

Now the big problem is what the hell do I buy?! Some people say a USB sound card but some swear by DAC's and some suggest adding an AMP to the mix. Now let me tell you beforehand I don't know squat about DACs and AMPs or how to operate them. But I am not a noob, I'm quite good at all things computers, so the learning curve won't be much for me.

So if somebody would explain me the purpose and usage of DACs and AMPs and how they are better than USB sound cards or add to them, I would really appreciate it.

In case of USB soundcards I had looked at:

Creative SB X-Fi HD USB

M-Audio Fast Track USB

and for speakers M-Audio AV 40. Both combined come under my budget in Indian Rupee terms.

So please suggest a USB soundcard/DAC/AMP or a combination of, with explanation. My budget is either about $100 or $200-250.

I am currently using Shure SRH440 headphones and will definitely buy speakers now or later.

Why external USB sound cards?

The Asus Xonar DG (PCI) sound card is low cost and a good value.

post #4 of 12

Your computer stores music, and plays it in digital. A DAC then takes that Digital stream of 0s and 1s, and converts it to an Analog signal used by most audio gear. An Amplifier will strengthen this signal until it is enough to power a headphone's (or speaker's) driver.

Soundcards typically have a DAC and an amplifier built in. One of the best you can buy is the Xonar Essence STX. If you decide to get a USB DAC and an external amp, there will be many options that open up.

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PelPix View Post

If you're on a desktop PC, look at the Xonar Essence ST.  It's got a built-in headphone amp and a really, really superb DAC section

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

Why external USB sound cards?

The Asus Xonar DG (PCI) sound card is low cost and a good value.

 

Sorry but the PCI-E slot available on my motherboard is just too close to my graphics card's cooling fans. If I put in an internal sound card it will cause the graphics card to heat up and in turn heat up itself. That's why I'm looking at an external soundcard.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tzjin View Post

Your computer stores music, and plays it in digital. A DAC then takes that Digital stream of 0s and 1s, and converts it to an Analog signal used by most audio gear. An Amplifier will strengthen this signal until it is enough to power a headphone's (or speaker's) driver.

Soundcards typically have a DAC and an amplifier built in. One of the best you can buy is the Xonar Essence STX. If you decide to get a USB DAC and an external amp, there will be many options that open up.

 

If I get a USB DAC and an external amp I won't hav ethe option of input.

post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by juventino View Post

Sorry but the PCI-E slot available on my motherboard is just too close to my graphics card's cooling fans. If I put in an internal sound card it will cause the graphics card to heat up and in turn heat up itself. That's why I'm looking at an external sound card.

What about just getting a PCI sound card?

post #7 of 12

Have you considered an external PCI-Express enclosure?

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

What about just getting a PCI sound card?

 

Not sure about the availability of the slot. Will have to check. Any suggestions on PCI sound cards?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tzjin View Post

Have you considered an external PCI-Express enclosure?

 

Never even heard of it! Do you know any companies or models that are in the market?

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

1000

 

This is my motherboard. The slot above the graphics card is PCIEx1 and the one below is PCI. I had confused between the two. Will the Asus Xonar Essence STX fit in the space above the graphics card?

post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by juventino View Post

1000

 

This is my motherboard. The slot above the graphics card is PCIEx1 and the one below is PCI. I had confused between the two. Will the Asus Xonar Essence STX fit in the space above the graphics card?

Looks like the memory sticks might be in the way of the Essence STX

An Asus Xonar DGX might fit.

Maybe you should buy a bigger motherboard first, then you would have more options for an internal sound card.

Or just get the Creative external USB Creative HD sound card, that would be easiest.

post #11 of 12

The ASUS Xonar ST is PCI, and you can buy an attachment bridge for 7.1 :3

post #12 of 12

Hey, I think the E10 has a standard headphone out in addition to SPDIF and coaxial outputs. You may need to do some more research, but I believe it fits your purposes quite well. Still no input though,

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