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Why a separate dac

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I was just wondering why so many people use a separate dac for listening to music from their pc. Is it due to the sound cards just having really bad dac chips on them, or do the external dacs have other features that make them better? I am wondering if you got a real good sound card, for example a Soundblaster Titanium, wouldn't that be as good as an external dac and one less box to have sitting on your desktop.

post #2 of 5

Yes.

post #3 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by HPiper View Post

I was just wondering why so many people use a separate dac for listening to music from their pc. Is it due to the sound cards just having really bad dac chips on them, or do the external dacs have other features that make them better? I am wondering if you got a real good sound card, for example a Soundblaster Titanium, wouldn't that be as good as an external dac and one less box to have sitting on your desktop.


PC's are inherently noisy by nature. Power supplies, bus rf, and drives all give off EMR of various frequencies and can find their way into the soundstream. Depending on what cards are also installed in the PC you can get quite the array of noise.

A well shielded audio card can perform well.

The easy solution is to put the dac outside the PC and eliminate all the potential interference. PC's are generally shielded at the case so interference outside should be minimal.

post #4 of 5

What he said^.  I had an Asus Xonar Essence STX sound card and was extremely happy with it.  However, when I build my new computer it was transmitting some noise from the computer and I could hear it through the speakers.  It was really annoying.  So I decided to get another ASUS product and went with the Essence One Muses Edition which is an external DAC.  I probably would have never spent that much but I wanted another ASUS product, cause I liked the sound signature of the Essence STX and figured that the Essence One Muses has to have a similar presentation and it does.

 

But today's sound cards do a pretty good job of shielding and stuff like that.  I guess it depends on your build/computer and how it affects your internal sound card.  My Essence STX wasn't playing well with my new build so I got rid of it.

 

In the audio industry there is a lot of snake oil sold.  A lot of those DACs that sell for thousands of dollars use DAC chips that cost literally under $10.  But yet they sell the unit itself for a few thousand dollars.  It's ridiculous.

 

But hey, it's peoples ears and money.  Whatever makes them happy.  Some people are happy with sound that costs less than $100 and some have to spend several thousand dollars or hundreds of thousand dollars.

post #5 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by dynamics View Post

What he said^.  I had an Asus Xonar Essence STX sound card and was extremely happy with it.  However, when I build my new computer it was transmitting some noise from the computer and I could hear it through the speakers.  It was really annoying.  So I decided to get another ASUS product and went with the Essence One Muses Edition which is an external DAC.  I probably would have never spent that much but I wanted another ASUS product, cause I liked the sound signature of the Essence STX and figured that the Essence One Muses has to have a similar presentation and it does.

 

But today's sound cards do a pretty good job of shielding and stuff like that.  I guess it depends on your build/computer and how it affects your internal sound card.  My Essence STX wasn't playing well with my new build so I got rid of it.

 

In the audio industry there is a lot of snake oil sold.  A lot of those DACs that sell for thousands of dollars use DAC chips that cost literally under $10.  But yet they sell the unit itself for a few thousand dollars.  It's ridiculous.

 

But hey, it's peoples ears and money.  Whatever makes them happy.  Some people are happy with sound that costs less than $100 and some have to spend several thousand dollars or hundreds of thousand dollars.


Hey, I'm listening to a 3 dollar DAC I bought at a thrift store last week. They used to come bundled with Sony MD players. It uses the discontinued Phillips 20 Bit DAC and has surprising sound, but lacks volume.

There are some very good deals on external DACs out there. New the Behringer UC 222 series is about 25 bucks and sounds great. Used the M audio Transit, Or their audiophile series can be had for 50 dollars and under and they were designed for portable studio use. They are excellent but suffer from somewhat buggy drivers.

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