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Best sub $50 computer sound card? or DAC

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

So i have had my AKG MK 271 II headphones for about 3months now and i absolutely love these things. They are absolutely amazing and just pure awesome. But i know i am not using them to their full potential using my computers on board sound....So i decided i would budget out about $50,.....maybe willing to spend more... on a new sound card or DAC, whichever seems to be the best for the price. I would also like the DAC or sound card to have a built in headphone amp because i dont want to have to go back out and spend more money on one of those.


Now as far as to what i am going to use it for, well that would be mostly music with some audio editing and mixing on my computer, along with some light gaming, but in reality I dont care about how games will sound but i REALLY care about how my music stuff will sound.

So i have been looking at the xonar sound cards....but i have heard they are not the best for music. But right now newegg.com is having a sale on the xonar DSX 7.1 sound card its $40!!! http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829132053 I am 100% open to ANY ideas, so your feedback is greatly apreciated!!!! 

Edited by mixoman - 11/6/12 at 7:50am
post #2 of 6

Your post was a little difficult to read because of the centered text (centering can be good for headings, not for main text).


The Xonar DG is a popular options for upgrading over motherboard sound. I own the D1 and the STX. Good sound cards, although the D1/DX series does not have a headphone amp. The DG does.  Not sure about the DSX.

post #3 of 6

For the $70 or so, you can get the FiiO E10, which is an amazing DAC and Headphone Amplifier combo. However, you want to do audio editing and mixing. While I do not recommend mixing with headphones solely, if you decide to venture that route, you'll benefit more from an audio interface. One reason being is that the built-in headphone amplifiers in most audio interfaces are neutral in sound, which benefits an audio engineer when mixing. A hi-fi headphone amplifier is not recommended due to their color in sound. May I ask what audio editing software you intend on using?



Edited by Destroysall - 11/4/12 at 12:52am
post #4 of 6

The E10 actually does not have a colored frequency response:

Some people claim to have a version with audible treble roll-off, though, but this is not reliably confirmed. Also, the E10 has very low output impedance, while for most pro audio interfaces it is in the range of tens of Ω, which does color the sound of many headphones. Nevertheless, an audio interface might be recommended because it has features and bundled software specifically for recording and studio work. The E10 cannot even record at all. So, the combination of audio interface + external headphone amplifier (e.g. O2) may work best, but is above your budget.


The Xonar D1 (or DX) + amplifier combination also makes sense if only a basic (but good quality, see my technical review here) ADC and DAC is needed without any "professional" features (that is, no balanced I/O, no microphone pre-amplifier, fixed analog input and output gain, low input impedance, and no hardware effect processing and mixing) at a relatively low, although still more than $50 price - more than $100 in fact after adding the cost of an amplifier.


But if you want a DAC with amplified headphone output, and cannot spend much more than $50 total, it is not easy to get something better than the FiiO E10. The Xonar DG is even cheaper, has a reasonably good DAC, and can record as well, but its headphone amplifier is not as good as that of the E10.

Edited by stv014 - 11/4/12 at 3:44am
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the ideas, I think i am going to go for the FiiO E10 thats on ebay it sounds like a good choice. If i dont get it for the price i am hoping for i will just go get the cheapest xonar card! 

post #6 of 6
Originally Posted by mixoman View Post

Thanks for the ideas, I think i am going to go for the FiiO E10 that's on eBay it sounds like a good choice. If i don't get it for the price I am hoping for i will just go get the cheapest Xonar card! 

The Asus Xonar DG & DGX come with a half-way decent headphone amplifier.

The Xonar DS, DSX, DX, D1 do not come with a headphone amplifier.

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