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Need help with new headphones and staticy/fuzzy noise coming from a USB DAC

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

 

I'm technically a new user here, but I've been reading through head-fi threads/reviews for headphones for several years now, and have made a couple of purchases based on people's recommendations that have been really useful. I originally posted this in the recommended newbie forum but I never got any replies, so I thought I'd try here. Sorry if it's the wrong place...

 

Background: My current headphones are a pair of Creative Aurvana Lives that I purchased about a year and a half ago. I've always had (and still do, to a certain extent) budgetary constraints for headphones, so these are the nicest pair of headphones I've ever had. I use them to listen to music on my laptop (which has crummy on-board audio), my desktop (which also has crummy on-board Audio), and my iPhone 4S. 

 

When I got the headphones, I started to notice that music on my laptop sounded kinda fuzzy/staticy/hissy, especially when I listened to quieter songs (it's very noticeable on Windows system sounds, for instance). At the time, I attributed the noise to either a crummy sound card or some electrical noise from the motherboard (I did a test for latency and it came up clean) so I bought a Creative X-Fi Go USB DAC (the $20 - $30 one). Though the audio quality is certainly better, the hiss is very much still there. The same situation has presented itself with my desktop (so I reallyyyy don't think it's the case that both my computers have noisy motherboards), and the USB DAC has the same hiss when I use with this system, as well. The sound out of my iPod, though, is clear and crisp. 

 

I understand that USB DACs are far from a perfect solution - they're cramped and, in my case, cheap, so it's not reasonable to expect much (though I honestly don't understand how the presumably small and cheap sound output of my iPhone sounds better...) Where do I go from here? Can I reasonably expect a better USB DAC to solve the problem? And, if so, what should I get? Do I need something that amplifies, as well? I'd also appreciate some insights into what causes the problem, as well (I've read a lot about impedance mismatching but the CALs don't seem to be low enough impedance that the argument applies...)

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 3

To me it is still an external USB DAC issue.  A good USB DAC like the Bithead, ODAC, or Grace m903 has a perfectly dead quiet background when plugged in via USB.  I think you should expect all computers to have tons of noise as reducing the noise levels for audio purposes is not the first design thought that goes into any PC.

 

I am not sure if you can access the bit depth of the device via Windows, but you can start playing around with those type of settings to try to minimize the noise.

 

I think your DAC is not suppressing the noise well enough and you can still hear it in through the amp stage.

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

That's my intuition as well, but I'm still surprised. The noise makes listening to most things almost unbearably bad, and I feel like any USB DAC should sound at least as good as an iPod. Any recommendations for a good, inexpensive DAC for me to try out next time?

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