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My motherboard vs DAC, HELP!

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

     I am currently waiting on my AKG k702 (my first ever Cans!) to come in the mail and I'm wondering if I would need a DAC. Probably or maybe not. I have a custom computer that I built just recently, and my mother board  features higher capability audio solution with 108dB Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) playback quality to deliver high-performance, multi-channel HD audio. SNR is a comparison of the amount of signal to the amount of noise such as hiss present in the signal (expressed in Decibels). A higher SNR equals a better audio experience.

 

Now the DAC that I'm am thinking about purchasing is the Aune T1, it has a 120dB SNR. My problem is that I don't know how to evaluate the difference between 108 & 120 without hearing it. 108 to 115 could be a noticeable difference but I don't know how to measure it. All I know is that it has to due with its distortion and clarity.

 

Aune T1 is has a 24bit/96000Hz compared to my motherboard which is gives you the option of switching between 24bit/96000Hz to 24bit/192000Hz (higher=better), lesser ones and Dobly digital live 5.1 surround.

 

My motherboard came with the Dobly editor software which is just an equalizer that lets me control my audio frequency's. Akg k702 are to said to be on the bright side, well if they are to bright for my liking then I could just use my equalizer and adjust it. But if I went with the dac and it bypasses my sound card would it render my software useless? Like changing the equalizer levels wouldn't make a difference. Could I use the equalizer in media monkey (my media player)?

 

If I don't need the DAC then what do I need? Since most computers only come with a 1/8 jack and my cable is 1/4 do I just use the adapter it comes with, will there be a difference in quality, volume, etc.

 

Thank you guys, I am a new inexperienced headphone owner. All I ever had before was my apple ipod earphones and these old speakers I got. The only headphones I ever tested out where at best buy (which I thought were the cream of the crop), they had soul by Ludacris and beats, I was very very very very disapointed and thought whats the point of paying for top of the line headphones. Then I listened to these sony headphones and thought that these were pretty darn good which led to me doing a whole lot of research to where I am now.

 

 

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128514

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A2QJMRY/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_4?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

One more question! can I replace the Aune t1 tube with a tube from guitar center? Does this DAC use a preamp tube such as this one..   http://www.guitarcenter.com/Mullard-12AX7-Preamp-Tube-107221301-i1388830.gc

post #2 of 13

If you went with an S/PDIF optical input external DAC and headphone amplifier,

you should still be able to use the features of your built in sound card (Realtek ALC 889).

 

Or just get a nice sound card with a built in headphone amplifier.

Or a lower costing sound card and add an external headphone amplifier.

 

You could even just get an external headphone amplifier and plug it straight into the line-out/headphone jack (lime green) on the motherboard.

and still have the option of adding an internal sound card, with a better DAC feature then your motherboard's DAC feature.

post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your input! Maybe ill go with the headphone amp and wait awhile till I can upgrade. I'm still very unsure though, still have a lot to learn.

post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by ideas View Post

    ... A higher SNR equals a better audio experience.

 

 

I would not get hung up on numbers such as these. For example, even though you have a sound card that's (most likely) capable of processing 24 bit audio, the theoretical SNR is 144 dB whereas the overall SNR is given as 108 dB. This would equate to 18 bits of resolution. Even the Aune with it's 120 dB SNR equates to 20 bit resolution. So your main limiting factor here is the quality of the analog output section. Really these numbers are just marketing speak - best to take them with a grain of salt.

 

Read reviews and perform some listening tests. Let your ears be the judge.

post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by yage View Post

the theoretical SNR is 144 dB whereas the overall SNR is given as 108 dB. This would equate to 18 bits of resolution.

 

Which by itself is still plenty good enough anyway. If you compare these files, you will find that it does not take that many bits of resolution for the noise to become inaudible with most music and at realistic listening volume. The problem is that the 108 dB SNR might not actually be delivered at the transducer because:

- the implementation of the codec chip on the motherboard could be poor

- onboard audio is often prone to interference

- much of the noise might be added after the volume control, if that is the case, then using less than 100% volume will reduce the SNR (this is only relevant in the case of not using an external amplifier)

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

Oh man all this sounds like a foreign language to me! What would you recommend? I think I'm just gonna get the Aune t1 then. 

post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by ideas View Post

Oh man all this sounds like a foreign language to me! What would you recommend? I think I'm just gonna get the Aune t1 then. 

 


If it fits in your budget, by all means buy it. I don't have any experience with it personally, but I'm pretty sure it'll be a step up from the integrated audio on your motherboard.

post #8 of 13

^ Actually, before you do, I should mention I had a motherboard with the exact same onboard audio as yours (another Gigabyte motherboard, of course), and it was actually a very decent onboard audio chip, compared to most other onboard audio chips. I'm currently running an Asus motherboard, with a different onboard audio chip, that has a significantly lesser SnR rated at about 96 db, and there is definitely a big difference. So, yes, the DAC you have on the motherboard is better than average.


That said, the Aune T1 seems to have an entry level DAC. So given the higher-than-average DAC on your motherboard, and the entry-level DAC on the T1, it seems the mobo DAC, and the T1 DAC would even out to be around the same (I know the T1 DAC is specced higher, but I mean practically).

 

I personally would wait on the DAC, and purchase a standalone amp. And later on down the road, purchase a standalone DAC that is a little more expensive, so that you know for sure it will be an upgrade over your motherboard DAC.

 

I'm thinking this is the best way, since there are unknowns with the T1, and it would be extra hassle to purchase it, only to realize the DAC portion doesn't offer a significant upgrade over the motherboard DAC.

 

At the same time, it very well could. It's just a bit of a gamble. That's why I think waiting to save up a little more, to buy a better standalone DAC, would be a safer bet.


Edited by fuzzybaffy - 2/5/13 at 8:07am
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all your input!! Think I'm going to purchase the little dot mkIII headphone amp then buy a dedicated DAC of which I don't know. For right now I am very content with just my akg k702 that I just received! A little uncomfortable with the headband, but I fixed that with a cover I made! 

post #10 of 13

Suggestion: do you have a reference device - ie something you know drives the AKGs reasonably well? If so, why not compare the performance of the computer with said reference when it arrives? It is quite possible that you'll be happy with the sound quality of the built-in hardware. If not, you'll at least have a more informed starting point.

 

In the mean time you might want to do some research - it's usually better to start by reading articles before canvassing forum opinion, because that way you can filter the trash from the diamonds. I'd suggest starting with

 

http://thewelltemperedcomputer.com/Intro/SQ/SoundCard.htm


Edited by scuttle - 2/5/13 at 3:20pm
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Now the DAC that I'm am thinking about purchasing is the Aune T1, it has a 120dB SNR. My problem is that I don't know how to evaluate the difference between 108 & 120 without hearing it. 108 to 115 could be a noticeable difference but I don't know how to measure it. All I know is that it has to due with its distortion and clarity.

 

If the motherboard really delivers that 108dB signal to noise ratio,  that's very acceptable - you can get better, but I don't think the human ear has been shown able to detect the difference. What's more of a reason to use an external DAC is jitter, while frequency response (and sheer need for volume with less efficient headphones) are the main reasons to use an external amp. If you start with the link I gave, you should be able to get a decent understanding.

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by scuttle View Post

 

That is hardly a fair comparison, onboard audio (and not even a good one) vs. a Benchmark DAC1 that could cost more than the entire computer. It should be noted, however, that jitter does not need to be nearly as low as that of the DAC1 to become inaudible.

post #13 of 13
Quote:

Originally Posted by ideas View Post

 

Now the DAC that I'm am thinking about purchasing is the Aune T1, it has a 120dB SNR. My problem is that I don't know how to evaluate the difference between 108 & 120 without hearing it. 108 to 115 could be a noticeable difference but I don't know how to measure it. All I know is that it has to due with its distortion and clarity.

 

As low as 90 dB real (i.e. measured at the amplifier output while it is driving headphones at a realistic listening level) SNR can be good enough, unless you listen to music with unusually wide dynamic range (such that it has virtually silent sections) at dangerously loud volume. However, the real SNR can be considerably lower than the marketed "best case" one, for the reasons I listed above. A simple test, using an external amplifier, is to turn the volume on the amp higher than normal, and listen to any noise while no music is playing (if the sound card or DAC has an auto-mute feature, then play something like a 24-bit WAV file containing inaudibly low level white noise); also check if there are odd noises during system activity (moving the mouse, dragging windows, hard disk access, etc.). If you do not hear anything, then the noise is low enough.

However, the output of low quality DACs can also suffer from noise modulation, that is, the noise floor increases (sometimes even by tens of dB) depending on the signal played.


Edited by stv014 - 2/6/13 at 4:56am
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