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Why a DAC

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 

So this will probably my next significant purchase for 2013 but here's my question (and let's try to keep a level head here)

 

I'm currently using my Xonar DX to connect to my Violectric amp and it's working perfectly with pitch black background as far as I can tell.

 

So the question is How would a DAC improve things from what I have currently?

As far as I can tell, the DAC on the Xonar is generally well regarded.

One limitation is the fact that it is not portable. So other than this what other advantages could a dedicated DAC bring to my setup.

 

I've narrowed down 3 possible choices and they vary wildly in prices because really I have no clue (and some skepticism as to the benefits of a DAC):

 

Schiit Modi

HRT MusicStreamer II+

Cambridge Audio DACMagic Plus

 

Thank you all


Edited by kookoo - 1/20/13 at 4:34am
post #2 of 56

It probably will so I would recommend getting a Modi for that but it does not support 24/196 recordings but if you step up to the Bifrost it will be best for that higher quality music, if you have songs in 24/196.   

post #3 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheJosablo View Post

It probably will so I would recommend getting a Modi for that but it does not support 24/196 recordings but if you step up to the Bifrost it will be best for that higher quality music, if you have songs in 24/196.   

24/96 is the max i have so it's not a problem there.

But what else does the DAC provide that the Xonar DX doesn't have?

I'm more interested in understanding that part than the actual purchase

post #4 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by kookoo View Post

24/96 is the max i have so it's not a problem there.

But what else does the DAC provide that the Xonar DX doesn't have?

I'm more interested in understanding that part than the actual purchase

Using an external DAC (USB or S/PDIF input) DAC protects the DAC function from being effected by any "electrical noise" that might be inside the computer case.

You can always plug an external (optical input) DAC to the S/PDIF optical output on the Xonar DX, so as to still be able to use audio features of the Xonar.

post #5 of 56
Thread Starter 

I understand the electrical noise issue but given that I have absolutely no problems with noise or static of any kind, is there much incentive?

The argument that a dedicated DAC would have better DAC chips is somewhat of a misnomer because it all depends on the price you are willing to shell out for the DAC as well as all the other components built around the chip: caps, opamps etc etc

post #6 of 56

Would like an answer to this as well.  I own an X-Fi Titanium HD and am having trouble justifying a DAC purchase.  I have a noisy computer and that's the only thing that is possibly pushing me towards a purchase.

post #7 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by kookoo View Post

I understand the electrical noise issue but given that I have absolutely no problems with noise or static of any kind, is there much incentive?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffxx View Post

Would like an answer to this as well.  I own an X-Fi Titanium HD and am having trouble justifying a DAC purchase.  I have a noisy computer and that's the only thing that is possibly pushing me towards a purchase.

 

 

A perfect sound card is immune to noise (EMI/RFI) in its environment (the computer's case.) A perfect computer doesn't produce EMI/RFI inside or outside its case. Real hardware is different. My 2003 PC was so bad I could hear a whirring sound in my headphones every time I moved the mouse. My new work PC is dead quiet.

 

If your existing hardware is 'good enough', you have less of an incentive to purchase an outboard DAC and/or amp. Maybe it would sound better and maybe it wouldn't but the Laws of Headphone Nature don't require it.

 

Edit: A 'noisy' computer is one that produces electrical noise, commonly known as Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio-Frequency Interference (RFI), right? Not fan noise, etc.


Edited by HamilcarBarca - 1/20/13 at 10:57pm
post #8 of 56

If the drivers are working fine for you, no usability issues, no detectable noise...

 

then no real justification to get an external unit or any other kind of replacement, unless you want a shiny new box or want to part ways with some money.  Functionally it's not like anything external has features except maybe LED indicators to look at, that you're missing now.  You may or may not get any better performance with something else, external or not—though how much of a difference there is to be made in terms of what you hear, is dubious.  Sometimes you just don't get much from throwing money at a problem that doesn't really exist in the first place.  We're not talking early 90's sound cards.

post #9 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

then no real justification to get an external unit or any other kind of replacement, unless you want a shiny new box or want to part ways with some money. 

 

External DAC is about sound quality - bigger soundstage, better transparency, better 3D imaging, more details ... it will bring you closer to the music. With a good DAC you will have a feeling the music you are listening to is playing almost live. You just need to hear it to believe it and I am sure you won't praise your soundcard's DAC anymore wink_face.gif    

post #10 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by PiNa.cz View Post

 

External DAC is about sound quality - bigger soundstage, better transparency, better 3D imaging, more details ... it will bring you closer to the music. With a good DAC you will have a feeling the music you are listening to is playing almost live. You just need to hear it to believe it and I am sure you won't praise your soundcard's DAC anymore wink_face.gif    

 

What sound card did you compare your external DAC to? Can anyone else confirm this? I currently have an ASUS Xonar DX like kookoo, and I don't hear any EMI noises or anything like that. I was wondering if an external DAC will make those noticeable differences in sound quality?

post #11 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

If the drivers are working fine for you, no usability issues, no detectable noise...

 

then no real justification to get an external unit or any other kind of replacement, unless you want a shiny new box or want to part ways with some money.  Functionally it's not like anything external has features except maybe LED indicators to look at, that you're missing now.  You may or may not get any better performance with something else, external or not—though how much of a difference there is to be made in terms of what you hear, is dubious.  Sometimes you just don't get much from throwing money at a problem that doesn't really exist in the first place.  We're not talking early 90's sound cards.


Thanks, I think I will save my money and buy a proper DAP to make the most out of my IEMs instead


Edited by kookoo - 1/21/13 at 3:58am
post #12 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by PiNa.cz View Post

External DAC is about sound quality - bigger soundstage, better transparency, better 3D imaging, more details ... it will bring you closer to the music. With a good DAC you will have a feeling the music you are listening to is playing almost live. You just need to hear it to believe it and I am sure you won't praise your soundcard's DAC anymore   

 

The quality of the DAC on the Xonar D1/DX is fine, if the card is performing optimally (no EMI/ground loops/etc. - already confirmed by the OP that there is no such issue), and all software is configured correctly for high sound quality (i.e. no poor sample rate converters, digital volume control with 16-bit resolution, unwanted DSP effects, etc. are applied to the sound). If I recorded some music of your choice from my Xonar D1, and level matched and synchronized it with the original, I am fairly sure you would not be able to tell the two files apart without peeking. Of course, believing that something sounds better, especially after spending a lot of money on it, quite often equals to actually hearing it. tongue_smile.gif

post #13 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by kookoo View Post


Thanks, I think I will save my money and buy a proper DAP to make the most out of my IEMs instead

What IEMs are you using? In my experience the Sansa Clip+ rockboxed is great with IEMs

post #14 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kskwerl View Post

What IEMs are you using? In my experience the Sansa Clip+ rockboxed is great with IEMs


I use the W4R mostly and the UM3X everynow and then for when I want a change in my music. The issue with sansa clip+ is that i don't think it's in production anymore so anything I buy will be second hand and I can't be guaranteed of the battery on them. Also, don't most people use a portable amp with the sansa clip+? im trying to avoid carrying too many things with too many cables.

I'm sorta looking at the Sony F805 or the Cowon Z2 to use as my DAP but...i'm open to other suggestions

post #15 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

The quality of the DAC on the Xonar D1/DX is fine, if the card is performing optimally (no EMI/ground loops/etc. - already confirmed by the OP that there is no such issue), and all software is configured correctly for high sound quality (i.e. no poor sample rate converters, digital volume control with 16-bit resolution, unwanted DSP effects, etc. are applied to the sound). If I recorded some music of your choice from my Xonar D1, and level matched and synchronized it with the original, I am fairly sure you would not be able to tell the two files apart without peeking. Of course, believing that something sounds better, especially after spending a lot of money on it, quite often equals to actually hearing it. tongue_smile.gif

 

If you are fine with your Xonar D1/DX DAC then OK, but OP meant external DAC for playback only and in this case you can't compare 100USD sound cards with 1000+USD DACs. I started with DAC19MK3 (500USD) and it was mind blowing experience (as I wrote: bigger soundstage, better transparency, better 3D imaging, more details, better separation, analog sounding, and so on ) then after three years of happy listening I've moved to Reference 10.32 (1850USD) lately and it is thrilling to listen to it - it blown DAC19MK3 out of the water - I have never had a feeling being so close to the music before. This is not to say that ridiculously overpriced Hi-End audio gear doesn't exist, but you can still buy reasonably priced DACs and hear the difference. 


Edited by PiNa.cz - 1/21/13 at 6:30am
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