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[Resolved] Recommendation for an external DAC or sound card

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

[Edit: I finally got myself a FiiO E10 DAC. I'm happy about it and would recommend it.]

 

Hi, 
 
I'd like to enjoy my CDs and FLACs and replace my internal sound card by an external device. External because I have a laptop, and I'd also like to use it at home and at work. 
I will use it with Denon AH-D1100 headphones, and later with speakers I don't have yet. The max price I can put in is 100€ (~$100). 

 

My main question is: what would be the main difference between a DAC and a sound card? 

I have noticed that most DACs don't have internal amplifiers; is it "bad" for a usage with headphones and decent speakers?

Some DACs I found: AIM Ultimate USB (looks cheap) and Audiotrak Maya U5.  
A sound card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi HD. This one looks more complete, and I'm confident about the brand. 

 

Also, I listen mainly to Metal, if that may help. 

Feel free to suggest any other device. 

 

Thank you! 


Edited by pyromilkz - 10/14/13 at 11:03am
post #2 of 8

Heya,

 

I would not get a soundcard unless you want to have it for gaming purposes (for surround sound emulation in games). It's connected to a machine with moving parts, noise will transmit from vibration, etc. It also has to go in the machine and is not very friendly when you move things. Also requires you get to the back of the machine. Also requires drivers and software, etc, all of which can be problematic at one point in time later down the road when it's discontinued.

 

I would get a USB DAC/AMP. It will work without anything extra. It bypasses the internal components of the computer's audio onboard stuff. It is universal and looks nicer and gives you control at your fingers, instead of having to click things all the time.

 

I would suggest you get a simple but powerful Fiio E10. Well under budget.

 

 

 

Very best,


Edited by MalVeauX - 9/14/13 at 9:31am
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your detailed answer. 

 

"It's connected to a machine with moving parts, noise will transmit from vibration" 

Just out of curiosity, wouldn't it be the same for an internal sound card too? Or does fixing it with screws fix that problem? 

 

I have noticed the E10 while looking for DACs, but it says it is for headphones, so I just ignored it. 

What would that implies for usage with speakers? 

post #4 of 8

Heya,

 

The internal soundcard is what will often have less silent audio due to it being attached to a noisy computer (hard drives spinning making vibration, fans on CPU, case, etc). Those vibrations are on the chassis and your soundcard is literally going to be screwed into the chassis. So all those vibrations translate onto that thing. It's not always bad, but sometimes it can be. It's better to avoid it if you can and just get something truly meant for audio. An external DAC/AMP is literally just a soundcard in a box. It's just it doesn't get bolted to the chassis of a vibrating computer. It just slides into a USB port or has an optical cable out to it.

 

The E10 is external and just attaches via USB and is not bolted to anything. No vibrations coming across. Very clean. It's a headphone amplifier and DAC. Replaces soundcard completely. It has line-out so you can output to another device for speakers. A simple 3.5mm to RCA will let you output from the E10 to another device like a receiver, or speaker amp even, to power speakers. And you can still listen to headphones on it while it outputs. Very handy device.

 

Very best,

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for you answer. 

 

Just to avoid all misunderstandings, when I talked about sound card in my first post, I was of course talking about an external one. 

 

I have another question, what's the difference between a headphone AMP/DAC (like the E10) and a "normal" AMP/DAC, which doesn't say "for headphones"? 

I'd like to know what would be the downsides when using a "headphone" AMP/DAC with a decent speaker. 

post #6 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by pyromilkz View Post
 

Thanks for you answer. 

 

Just to avoid all misunderstandings, when I talked about sound card in my first post, I was of course talking about an external one. 

 

I have another question, what's the difference between a headphone AMP/DAC (like the E10) and a "normal" AMP/DAC, which doesn't say "for headphones"? 

I'd like to know what would be the downsides when using a "headphone" AMP/DAC with a decent speaker. 

 

Heya,

 

DAC's are DAC's. No difference at all. Amplifiers are amplifiers. No difference at all other than their output ability, which scales based on device. The difference between amps for headphones and speakers, is that one has lower gain, less power output and is quieter for efficient devices like headphones. Amps for speakers have higher gain, more power output and are bigger because they require larger power supplies to achieve this (and be thermally regulated too).

 

There's no downside to using a headphone based DAC/AMP device, regarding speakers, so long as it has a line-out so that you can output the DAC's signal to another amplifier that powers speakers (thus bypassing the internal headphone amp of the device). The E10 does this. It's a headphone DAC/AMP, but has a line-out that can carry a line level signal to another amplifier which is more suitable to speakers.

 

Very best,

post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by pyromilkz View Post
 

 Just to avoid all misunderstandings, when I talked about sound card in my first post, I was of course talking about an external one. 

 

I have another question, what's the difference between a headphone AMP/DAC (like the E10) and a "normal" AMP/DAC, which doesn't say "for headphones"? 

I'd like to know what would be the downsides when using a "headphone" AMP/DAC with a decent speaker. 

On Head-fi, 99.99% of time the word amplifier or amp is used, it referring to a headphone amplifier.

(the Head-Fi website is really about headphones, plus other stuff)

On Head-fi, the term DAC usually refers to an external DAC (Digital to Analog Converter), which may or may not come with a headphone amplifier. If the DAC does not have a headphone amplifier, it will come with a line-output, using RCA or 3.5mm (1/8). The line-output can be connected to a headphone amplifier or a speaker amplifier (or other).

The DAC can also come with both a headphone amplifier and a line-output (like the E10).

DAC's (externals) usually come with one or more of the following input ports, USB, S/PDIF (optical or coaxial).

USB bypasses sound cards (built in or add-on internal), S/PDIF can still work with sound cards.
 


Edited by PurpleAngel - 9/14/13 at 11:31pm
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Makes sens PurpleAngel, thanks.

Now that's explains a lot of things MalVeauX. I'll probably will get the E10 after checking active speakers prices. Thank you.
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