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Soundcard or DAC for headphones?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

A friend of mine getting new headphones for music on his computer, he only has onboard sound at the moment though...

No super high end stuff, just something for HD558-ish range headphones.

 

I'm no expert myself but I enjoy music, I got the Xonar ST back when I bought my audio gear, but I hear people suggesting DACs and whatnot instead of a soundcard.

Can someone explain the options he has?

 

I don't really understand how a DAC can be a cheaper/better option than a genuine soundcard, wouldn't the input to the DAC from the onboard sound be crappy?

Also nothing super expensive, around 100€ maybe a little more if it's really worth it.

post #2 of 11
Your ST is an internal DAC/headphone amp. DAC stands for digital audio converter. An external one essentially does the same thing as your ST, taking the digital audio signal from the computer and converting it to analog, only receiving the digital signal via a USB or optical connection instead of having a direct connection inside the computer. The external is not affected by a crappy DAC and analog output from the onboard sound card.

So it depends. Some external DACs/amps are better than some internal sound cards at the same price. But be sure your friend knows he needs an external DAC that has a headphone amp, and vice versa. Not all internal sound cards have headphone amps built in like yours does. For an external and portable DAC/headphone amp, your friend might look at the FiiO E17 (Amazon UK sells it).
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Oh, so digital audio out is always the same, no matter what card/output?

There are so many options out there, what should I look for if I want the most bang for the buck in sound quality. (For headphones)

post #4 of 11

whats wrong with your ST? Seems like its doing the job just fine

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

Did you actually read my post?

It's for a friend not me. Can you suggest some dacs or soundcards for heaphones so I can read reviews etc. on them?


Edited by naike - 6/6/13 at 9:02am
post #6 of 11

If you lucky you can find the Titanium HD PCi-E around 80-100ish, which is a good choice for your friend. Granted if he has any free PCi-E slots. You might be able to find a Asus Xonar DX or similar cheap on ebay, if you trust the site.  Another option is a external dac, There a couple of ones under 100 dollars that would work, Like the audiotrek Prodigy Cube which is 99 dollars and is a External dac and have a decent hp amp as well.

post #7 of 11

I'd go for a sound card.  It will benefit you more in the long run (games) and a higher end sound card also serves as a DAC as well.  If you can pick up a Titanium HD (they are quite cheap nowadays) its an amazing sound card.  I really love mine.

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

You might be able to find a Asus Xonar DX or similar cheap on ebay, if you trust the site. 

Xonar DX has good sound, but it does not have a built-in headphone amp. So not a great choice for many headphones.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgtrance View Post

I'd go for a sound card.  It will benefit you more in the long run (games) and a higher end sound card also serves as a DAC as well.  

Actually, in the long run, an external DAC could be a better choice. An internal sound card cannot be used with a laptop or other digital audio devices that have usb audio out.
post #9 of 11

Actual a sound card can be used with a external dac amp, as long the device has a optical or Coaxial input. But there no point to even use a sound card with a external dac amp, unless you want the features of the sound card routed to your external dac amp. I don't own a HD 598 so i didn't know if it needed a amp or not.

post #10 of 11

DAC ... all day long!

post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post
Actually, in the long run, an external DAC could be a better choice. An internal sound card cannot be used with a laptop or other digital audio devices that have usb audio out.

 

And external USB DACs lack gaming audio features, which could be a deal-killer for gaming laptop users. (Doesn't matter for smartphones or media slates, though.)

 

In the end, it all depends on what you want to do. For a gaming desktop, I recommend sound cards without hesitation, and if an external DAC really has to be present, make it one that has an S/PDIF input (to be fed by a cheap sound card acting as DSP). For non-gaming computers, plug-and-play USB DACs are much more convenient, and possibly future-proof in the sense that you don't have to worry about driver support nearly as much.

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