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USB Audio Interface ?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi

I've been digging the forums and I didn't really see any reviews or X vs Y on USB audio interfaces. A few people own those and them some, but how does it compare to a DAC+Headphone amp ?

My guess is that the middle priced interfaces, like the Motu Microbook II or the Native Instrument Komplete Audio 6, have pretty good components. Those companies are well known for making high quality products for audio professionals.

Why should I pay $200 for just a headphone DAC+Amp solution when for a tad bit more, I could get 2 outputs and 2 inputs via an interface that have 24 bits / 96Khz DACs and all those shenanigans ?

Dear Head-fiers, please enlighten me.

post #2 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by melka View Post

Hi

I've been digging the forums and I didn't really see any reviews or X vs Y on USB audio interfaces. A few people own those and them some, but how does it compare to a DAC+Headphone amp ?

My guess is that the middle priced interfaces, like the Motu Microbook II or the Native Instrument Komplete Audio 6, have pretty good components. Those companies are well known for making high quality products for audio professionals.

Why should I pay $200 for just a headphone DAC+Amp solution when for a tad bit more, I could get 2 outputs and 2 inputs via an interface that have 24 bits / 96Khz DACs and all those shenanigans ?

Dear Head-fiers, please enlighten me.

Do you mean to say how does a USB audio interface compares to a DAC (and/or + amp) with S/PDIF (optical or coaxial) input?

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Yeah, that's exactly what I meant, although the DAC/amp can be USB, like the Fiio E09+E17 combo.

Sorry, my question wasn't clear, I shouldn't post at 4AM...

post #4 of 7

I think the fundamental difference comes down to circuit and power supply noise.  It may not be the case if designed properly but in general a computer power supply and other internal signals contain quite a bit of noise.  This noise is caused by the variety of high frequency clocks and oscillators as well as the digital switching and unpredictable peripheral power demands.  By isolating that circuitry from a quieter external component dedicated to the task at hand it is assumed you will be able to hear the difference.  Having said that it is not unheard of for a well implemented design to reduce or even eliminate those disturbances through power supply filtering and isolation techniques.

 

I guess one advantage of the separate DAC/Amp is that it is then modular for your purpose.  You can connect it to anything delivering a USB, S/PDIF, etc signal and enjoy your music.  You can continue to use it well after any computer you have today is gone.

 

 

edited - my bad, i didn't realize you were comparing to an external component already.  i would say in that case there may very well be no fundamental differences other then the level of attention to detail they used in designing the audio path circuitry.  Since those products are aimed at 'studio quality' recording I would assume they sound very good.  The only concern I see is in taking USB bus power it will require considerable filtering to provide a noise free reference to the analog circuitry inside.


Edited by groovyd - 6/28/13 at 5:57am
post #5 of 7

Because one is marketed toward professional market while the other specifically toward audiophile market? I can't comment on the sound quality since I haven't heard both.

 

Quote:
Why should I pay $200 for just a headphone DAC+Amp solution when for a tad bit more, I could get 2 outputs and 2 inputs via an interface that have 24 bits / 96Khz DACs and all those shenanigans ?


Why should we pay $250+ for all the extra component that we will never ever use? We don't even know if they sound better than the product which was designed ground up with our needs in mind.

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

I guess I'll have to test both solutions to get a firm idea, but why would the audiophile market be different than the professional audio market ? Those 2 consumers have the same need : the best possible sound with the least amount of degradation between the source and the eardrums. Maybe the pros are gonna be geared toward a flatter response when some audio lovers will want a warmer sound, small stuff like that, but then it's a matter of personal preference.

Maybe we don't need inputs and multiple outputs (actually I do, but that's another subject), but I don't see why the dac+amp part of an audio interface would be worst than the circuitry in a similarly priced audiophile dac+amp solution, granted both products have to perform the same task. Plus they certainly all use the same kind of DAC chips and opamps, I'd love to verify that but it's pretty hard to find teardown pictures of this kind of gear.

I agree that some hi-Z headphones and stuff like that will need dedicated products.

 

Well, I'll try to go test as much interfaces, sound cards and such that I can find and I'll let you guys know if I can hear a difference...

post #7 of 7

personally would love to hear how it sounds.  i am sure it will be very good.  please report back.

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