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Is both a DAC and a dedicated audio sound card necessary?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


A quick question: is it necessary to upgrade one's USB input into some kind of audiophile USB sound card in order to fully maximum the potential of one's DAC?


I ask because this gentleman here seemed to have done just that (or I suppose, his set-up coincided when he was selected for the review of the Dragonfly v1.2 DAC): http://www.audiostream.com/content/audioquest-dragonfly-v12-usb-digital-audio-converter


He has a "SOtM tX-USBexp" that supposedly improves the quality of the DAC.


But just how much of a performance boost does it offer any DAC, and in what manner?


It confuses me a little, as I'm quite new to high-end audio, because at first I was told that I should get a DAC to improve the sound of my headphones. Now I come across this article and it appears that not only is it enough to get a proper external DAC, you must get a proper USB input for it too. It's beginning to feel like one of those Russian nesting dolls, it just gets closer and closer to something, it's like an asymptote that never touches. Like, where is the "source"?!


Hopefully someone can explain this to me.

post #2 of 7

Welcome to head-fi

Sorry about your wallet. 


A DAC is a sound card intended solely to gain good quality audio from a digital source. Not all commercial soundcards allow higher bit/khz sample rates. Once you connect your DAC to your laptop, the soundcard will stop (there's a device doing the function)

Headphones>AMP>DAC>(Digital) Source. There are a lot factors involved but the main component are headphones. In order to get the best of (a lot of them improve with an amp, to be fair) headphones you might need an amp. 


People seek for the best audio and some invest a lot do achieve it. 

Edited by squallkiercosa - 12/10/13 at 5:03pm
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks squallkiercosa.


So are you suggesting that with a good DAC I wouldn't necessarily need that other PCI-USB card device?


It would appear to me that that isn't really a sound card on its own but some kind of enhanced USB terminal that allows for less distortions or something of the like, and/or also a higher quality/speed of USB data transfer.


Would such a device be necessarily, or if not necessarily, would it be desirable?


Thanks again.

post #4 of 7
Do you hear rf interference or something wrong in your system? An external/shielded sound card will be always desirable to avoid electrical noise, speed transfer is not a problem.
Asus makes good soundcards btw
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Ah, I see. So it's always a case of choosing between an external DAC (like an Audioquest Dragonfly) and an internal sound card (like a Creative Sound Blaster sound card)? Never both?


In your opinion then, why does the reviewer in question have both an external DAC and the specialized internal USB 3.0 host card? What is its purpose?

post #6 of 7
Testing purposes.
post #7 of 7

I've only found sound cards to be useful for their DSP's if you're into gaming and such.  Right now I have a Creative Titanium HD -->  DAC --> Amp.  Turn on virtual surround sound when gaming or watching movies and off for everything else.

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