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Clarify this for me: internal sound cards, external DACs and "gaming" sound features

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

As I understand it, internal sound cards and what people commonly refer to as DACs are the same thing -- they produce an analog sound signal to pass along to headphones or speakers.

In my case, therefore, since I have a sound card, I don't see the point of having a DAC as I would have to pick between one or the other whenever I wanted to get sound.

As a gamer, I value my positional cues in shooters, but as I understand it, USB DACs don't provide that, so I'm forced to use my Sound Blaster X-Fi sound card if I want the positional cues.

 

I've been wondering: is it possible to connect a sound card to an external DAC? The idea would be to have the sound card produce a digital signal including the positional cues I want, pass that along to the external DAC using an optical cable, thereby getting higher quality analog sound than from the sound card, and then pass that along to my headphone amp? "Best of both worlds" type thing?

post #2 of 5

Certainly can, connect a digital output from the soundcard to an external DAC,  use the soundcard as a digital passthrough and you keep the positional features of the soundcard while having the quality of an external DAC.

 

I used the Xonar STX via Coax to an external DAC/AMP for a while and it worked fine with games.
 

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks! It makes sense and it's what I figured, but I couldn't really be sure.

Now, assuming one already has a good sound card as their DAC (SB X-Fi Titanium HD in my case), at which point does it become worth it to run a separate and presumably higher quality DAC? I'm talking in terms of "playback" kit, i.e. speakers or headphones. I'm happy with the quality of the sound coming out of my sound card through my amp to my DT990/600, but having never had an audiophile DAC, I don't know what -- if anything -- I'm missing out on.

post #4 of 5
Might not make make a noticeable difference to use a different DAC.

However, those 600 ohm headphones could probably benefit from a better headphone amp.
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

I do have a Schiit Magni as my amp. Currently using my sound card's line out to the amp.

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