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Gaming intro or low level-upgrade: Internal sound card not an option

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone!

 

I have some PC166s that have served me well for about 6 years, but they've developed a short in the mic boom, and I haven't had any success fixing it. I figure it's a good time for an upgrade, maybe a bit more than just new headphones. 

 

A fan of the Sennheiser brand, and after much debate, I decided to order some PC360s over the PC363D and HD598. I wanted the convenience of the built in mic, and the quality of the PC363D USB sound card seemed up for debate. It sounds like the HD598s quality is a bit better, but maybe not enough to bother me at the moment. If I made the wrong choice, I'd like to know, but please assume I've got some PC360s for the rest of this. I've been running my headphones through this sound bar, which I'm pretty sure doesn't count as an amp, but it's convenient if I want to unplug the headphones and let someone else hear something, even if it sounds terrible.

 

I've read quite a few of the gaming gear related posts here, and I've read a lot of answers, but my situation is slightly different than most posts because I'm planning to build a mini-itx gaming box soon, which provides no room for an internal off-board sound card. This leaves me with a few questions.

 

 

- Is on-board sound ("Realtek ALC898 with High Quality 110dB SNR HD audio") plus an amp even worth considering?

 

- Instead of on-board, USB?

     - X-Fi

     - X-Fi HD

     - Recon3D (This looks silly, but if it's a good option...)

     - Xonar U7

     - Anything else?

 

- What's the difference between a USB sound card and a DAC? Just drivers/software?

     - I read something that made it sound like a DAC kills your options for virtual surround sound. I can't decide if I care about this or not, can anyone clarify?

     - How does something like a Schiit Modi compare to the above USB cards (ignoring the lack of amp)?

 

 

- Would the USB cards benefit from an amp, or is it not worth it? I'm looking at something like:

     - Schiit Magni

     - JDS O2

 

 

I was thinking of spending < $300, but I'm interested in how the above compare to others, like:

 

Xonar Essence One

Xonar Essence STU

 

 

Any other suggestions are welcome, and I really appreciate any help.

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 8

Get this used Audio-GD NFB-11.32 DAC/Amp, $265

and when it comes to sound quality, no worries.

You can connect it to your motherboard using S/PDIF (optical or coaxial) and use the motherboard on-board audio features.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/686519/audio-gd-nfb-11-32-upgraded-tcxo-and-usb-chip-options-installed

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

Get this used Audio-GD NFB-11.32 DAC/Amp, $265

and when it comes to sound quality, no worries.

You can connect it to your motherboard using S/PDIF (optical or coaxial) and use the motherboard on-board audio features.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/686519/audio-gd-nfb-11-32-upgraded-tcxo-and-usb-chip-options-installed

What would that mean for virtual surround sound?

post #4 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by pdee View Post
 

What would that mean for virtual surround sound?


The 11.32 would use whatever surround sound features the on-board audio has.

Or you could also plug an Asus U3 ($40) into the motherboard's USB port and the 11.32 into the U3's optical output.

 

USB DACs do not provide any surround sound features.

But USB sound cards do come with surround sound features.

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

USB DACs do not provide any surround sound features.

But USB sound cards do come with surround sound features.

 

Great. I think that's exactly what I needed clarified. Thanks. I will definitely consider that unit, but I'd love to hear more suggestions.

 

Would the Realtek's digital out be considered no different than a higher quality card? I understand the signal is digital, so that's not an issue, but the quality of the processing, particularly regarding virtualization?

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

Great. I think that's exactly what I needed clarified. Thanks. I will definitely consider that unit, but I'd love to hear more suggestions.

Would the Realtek's digital out be considered no different than a higher quality card? I understand the signal is digital, so that's not an issue, but the quality of the processing, particularly regarding virtualization?

On-board audio improves every year.

Would the S/PDIF (optical & coaxial) output on a motherboard be as good as the S/PDIF output on a sound card, I would think so(?)

Surround sound processing, between on-board and add-on sound card, not knowledgeable enough to know for sure.

The on-board stuff my try to keep things basic, to make it more reliable.

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

Blast. I decided to buy the recommended DAC/AMP over the weekend, but when I came here to check it had been sold like 6 hours prior. I snoozed and losed.

 

I'll keep an eye out for the same unit, but any other recommendations? Maybe a Modi and Magni will be similar?

post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by pdee View Post
 

Blast. I decided to buy the recommended DAC/AMP over the weekend, but when I came here to check it had been sold like 6 hours prior. I snoozed and losed.

 

I'll keep an eye out for the same unit, but any other recommendations? Maybe a Modi and Magni will be similar?


This is the one I just bought, with TCXO upgrade, $255 plus shipping.

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB1532/NFB15.32EN.htm

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