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Sound Card/General Electronics Question

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

I was reading around a computer forum in a topic about sound cards and happened upon a (bitter) user who posted this:

 

Quote:

 

For 174.99 (irrelevent) one can buy AVR, plug in SPDIF, HDMI or whatever common digital connection you can find on both boxes, and be done with it. Bonus: you can even connect bookshelf speakers to AVR. If you connect to analog output of your onboard sound, or discrete cart you may experience all kind of interference in either case.

The bottom line: commodity electronics achieved flat 20-20000 Hz, <0.1% THD long time ago, and there is no audiophile nirvana beyond those trivial digits.

 

Once again, sound amplification is so well understood, and so well implemented today that even commodity electronics surpasses listeners ability to find objective flaws. However, somehow the reality of $20 amplifier (http://www.amazon.com/electronics/dp/B003P534SW) reproducing sound to perfection escapes audiophile ears. They mumble some gibberish about "quality components" and take refuge into their beloved "warm" turntable and tube amplifier sound.

 

Whether his argument is correct or not, it made me realize I don't understand well enough how this stuff works and I have him to thank for intriguing me. So what would be your all's response to this? Is a sound card essentially an amplifier that takes a digital signal (the file) and outputs to analog (the sound waves leaving the headphones). In your opinion why is there value to be found past a simple flat $20 amplifier? I'm sorry that this topic is so broad, it's just another level of understanding that I'd like to hear more about. Feel free to weigh in on any parts you understand or ask more questions. Thanks!

post #2 of 3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zaber123 View Post

I was reading around a computer forum in a topic about sound cards and happened upon a (bitter) user who posted this:

 

 

Whether his argument is correct or not, it made me realize I don't understand well enough how this stuff works and I have him to thank for intriguing me. So what would be your all's response to this? Is a sound card essentially an amplifier that takes a digital signal (the file) and outputs to analog (the sound waves leaving the headphones). In your opinion why is there value to be found past a simple flat $20 amplifier? I'm sorry that this topic is so broad, it's just another level of understanding that I'd like to hear more about. Feel free to weigh in on any parts you understand or ask more questions. Thanks!

Simple.  There's a huge difference between a testing environment and real-world loads that may vary significantly in impedance, capacitance, damping factor, transient response, etc., etc.

 

Years ago (I was living and breathing then) the holy grail was a flat frequency response.  It was actually hard to obtain without big $$$.  The poster is correct in that these days, a flat 20-20KHz frequency response is easy to obtain ... in a testing environment.  I mean, heck - think about it: a digital source is designed to be converted with complete frequency response integrity in the conversion to analog.  Why would it be anything else?  The problem - as it has ever been - is in translating that analog signal into something the ears really perceive as excellent music reproduction (with the end device - headphone, speakers, etc.).

 

The problem is that frequency response is simply only one, very limited testing regime.  The full reproduction of music contains much, much more.  When CD's first came out, audiophiles balked - too sterile, too harsh, etc., etc.   At first they blamed it on the production techniques, then the mikes, etc., etc.  That was partially true, but it still took years to reveal the truth that there were many other parameters in measuring music that had just as significant an effect as frequency response.

 

Bottom line, NO - a $20 amplifier is going to sound like a cr*ppy $20 amplifier.

 

 

P.S. Love the Pirate Chihuahua!!


Edited by tomb - 6/26/13 at 5:06pm
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Good, how else would head-fi financially drain me with purchases steadily increasing in size. What are some of those other factors besides frequency response?
 

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