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Headphone DAC (USB or Optical) but keep my 2.1 system working

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I am looking for a Headphone DAC solution for my computer. I have a Creative X-fi xtreme sound card with Optical out. I am using one of the line outs from the sound card to go to a separate amp and 2.1 system. I am now looking to setup a separate Headphone system. I want to use the headphones or 2.1 speaker system without having to change devices or any settings like that on the pc whether I am listening to spotify, fubar or whatever else I want as a software source. Sound I use the optical out of the sound card (will this be jitter free and untouched digital by the sound card) or is it better to use a USB output on the pc (my fear with USB is that I will have to change devices, sound card to USB, in order to switch between the 2.1 of the sound card to the USB for the headphones). Many thanks.
post #2 of 11
Thread Starter 

Putting a Bump here but in doing more testing thinking I am leaning toward a USB setup as the X-Fi seems to have a volume (attenuation) problem (less noticeable on the 2.1 but more so with Headphones directly out of sound card). Is this a power fluctuation issue or is this sound card just that bad. I am thinking it is either the DAC or the actual sound output of the sound card itself.

post #3 of 11

You are spoiled for choice really. have a look at these 3 for starters.

 

http://www.creative.com/emu/products/product.aspx?pid=20347

 

http://us.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-2i4/specifications

 

http://www.native-instruments.com/#/en/products/dj/traktor-audio-2/?page=1962

 

All the above offer at least 2 stereo programs out. That means not only can you connect all your gear you can listen to different sources on each if you want.

 

You can save some money by buying the model down the range and it will still do what you want. i.e Separate connection and gain control for line out and headphones out.

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for those, 2 separate sources is really not an issue as I either be listening to the 2.1 system or the headphones never both and I will always only have one source playing at a time. Would a single source out component work and then split the signal is that not the way to go?
post #5 of 11

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z sound card,

plug your external amplifier to the sound card's line out

and plug your headphones into the Z's headphone jack.

post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z sound card,

plug your external amplifier to the sound card's line out

and plug your headphones into the Z's headphone jack.


Thanks that looks like a nice card - I will check the specs. Would you say that would yield better SQ than an External USB DAC where it could feed my external AMP and also a separate headphone amp (I like having a headphone amp with its own volume knob)? Thanks

post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocoolhifi View Post


Thanks that looks like a nice card - I will check the specs. Would you say that would yield better SQ than an External USB DAC where it could feed my external AMP and also a separate headphone amp (I like having a headphone amp with its own volume knob)? Thanks

Are there external USB DACs that sound better then the SBZ (Sound blaster Z) DAC chip, yes.

At what price point does an external DAC sound better then the SBZ, not sure.

I would think for $175-$200 you could find a nice sounding external (optical input) DAC/Head amp. (with a line out for the speaker amp).

You could connect it to that older (not well though of) Xtreme sound card (Creative Labs Xtreme Audio?).

 

The SBZ is $109

The $120 SBZx (Sound Blaster Zx) model comes with an external headphone headphone jack box with a volume knob.

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by zerocoolhifi View Post

Thanks for those, 2 separate sources is really not an issue as I either be listening to the 2.1 system or the headphones never both and I will always only have one source playing at a time. Would a single source out component work and then split the signal is that not the way to go?

Careful, if you're going to use S/PDIF out and the LIne out of the X-Fi then you WILL need to go into Windows and switch default output devices. X-Fi S/PDIF out shows up as a separate output device in Windows 7/8.
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uberbob102000 View Post

Careful, if you're going to use S/PDIF out and the LIne out of the X-Fi then you WILL need to go into Windows and switch default output devices. X-Fi S/PDIF out shows up as a separate output device in Windows 7/8.

I would like to one use one output, either the optical on the sound card or USB output, to an external DAC. Then from the external DAC feed my external amp for my 2.1 system and an external headphone amp (which could be built into the DAC if needed)
post #10 of 11
Ahh okay, I somehow misread that. My bad!

You could look at the Audinst HUD MX1, Audioengine D1 or the Audio-gd NFB-15.32
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uberbob102000 View Post

Ahh okay, I somehow misread that. My bad!

You could look at the Audinst HUD MX1, Audioengine D1 or the Audio-gd NFB-15.32


I have looked at those (HUD MX1 is a bit too pricey) but the other 2 you listed I am comparing along with the Maverick Audio Tube Magic D1. Do you have any experience with any of those 3?

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