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If I have a external DAC, will connecting it to a PC soundcard do anything?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I have purchased an high-quality external DAC which will connect to my PC via a coaxial cable.

My motherboard has an S/PDIF OUT so I can directly connect my PC to the DAC.

Will connecting the DAC to a spare cheap $50 soundcard do anything for my sound quality?
Will another layer between my PC and DAC improve anything? Or make it worse?

 

Basically:
 

PC > DAC > AMP > Headphone

vs.

PC > Cheap Soundcard > DAC > AMP > Headphone

 

Thanks!!!


Edited by sun31 - 12/12/13 at 11:10pm
post #2 of 15

Keep things simple.

 

PC > DAC > AMP > Headphone

post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by sun31 View Post

I have purchased an high-quality external DAC which will connect to my PC via a coaxial cable.
My motherboard has an S/PDIF OUT so I can directly connect my PC to the DAC.
Will connecting the DAC to a spare cheap $50 soundcard do anything for my sound quality?

Will another layer between my PC and DAC improve anything? Or make it worse?

Basically:

 
PC > DAC > AMP > Headphone
vs.
PC > Cheap Soundcard > DAC > AMP > Headphone

Thanks!!!

If you have an S/PDIF onboard there's nothing to gain from a sound card, spend the money on some music!
post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by dc-k View Post
If you have an S/PDIF onboard there's nothing to gain from a sound card, spend the money on some music!

 

Unless he's gaming and needs virtual surround + DirectSound3D/OpenAL support, for which onboard sound tends to be lacking and standalone USB DACs are even worse in their non-support.

 

Other than that, the sound card is not necessary at all.

post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post
 

 

Unless he's gaming and needs virtual surround + DirectSound3D/OpenAL support, for which onboard sound tends to be lacking and standalone USB DACs are even worse in their non-support.

 

Other than that, the sound card is not necessary at all.

 yes, of course, fair point

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
ahh thanks a lot, the exact answers I was looking for
post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by A_Man_Eating_Duck View Post
 

Keep things simple.

 

PC > DAC > AMP > Headphone

agree with this, most guys tend to sell there soundcard off and put money towards the dac !

post #8 of 15
I use two configs, which works well if you have a dac with multiple inputs.

Pc [usb] > dac > amp > headphones = music

Pc > titanium hd [optical] > dac > amp > headphones = gaming
post #9 of 15

Since not all DAC standalone units support DirectSound3D/OpenAL, couldn't support be re-enabled through Creative's X-Fi MB3, Live, and Connect software (i.e. enabling DirectSound3D/OpenAL over onboard optical)? It seems like there's no reason to go with a sound card when codec support is the only thing missing. I can see how the DirectSound3D/OpenAL might be lost if it's going over a USB connection. My configuration would allow output over HDMI, USB 2 and 3, eSATA, optical SPDIF, and DisplayPort; the audio ports support 7.1 surround. It seems like at least one connection would be able to pass through DirectSound3D/OpenAL with software emulation. 

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by joel96 View Post

Since not all DAC standalone units support DirectSound3D/OpenAL, couldn't support be re-enabled through Creative's X-Fi MB3, Live, and Connect software (i.e. enabling DirectSound3D/OpenAL over onboard optical)? It seems like there's no reason to go with a sound card when codec support is the only thing missing. I can see how the DirectSound3D/OpenAL might be lost if it's going over a USB connection. My configuration would allow output over HDMI, USB 2 and 3, eSATA, optical SPDIF, and DisplayPort; the audio ports support 7.1 surround. It seems like at least one connection would be able to pass through DirectSound3D/OpenAL with software emulation. 

 

That's what I'd like to find out...but I also don't plan on paying Creative $30 to find out without some sort of trial.

 

My only experiences with X-Fi MB are tied to specially modified Realtek driver packages; however, reading one threat out there on those driver packs suggests that X-Fi MB3 actually creates its own virtual audio device akin to Razer Surround, in which case that would work with just about anything.

 

Ultimately, though, certain games like Battlefield 2/2142 just don't sound their best without a real X-Fi card due to quirks in Creative's software OpenAL renderer, so the X-Fi Titanium HD stays in my system.

post #11 of 15

So far as I know, the TiHD only has software emulation; if it produces the EAX5 effects and gets them all the way to the speakers, good. SPDIF has enough bandwidth for two channel audio. 

Quote:
 the X-Fi Titanium HD stays in my system.

Are you using fluidz' method of TiHD > headphone DAC > headphone amp > headphones?

One other alternative is to use a Fata1ity Pro and run in WinXP to get hardware supported virtual surround > headphone amp > headphones. 

 

From what I've read, virtual surround is inferior to actual surround, which hasn't been entirely successful if reviews of sets with discrete drivers are any indication. It's why I'm going with 7.1 bookshelf speakers and a receiver (don't know how I'm going to drive the speakers from an output that supports EAX 5.0; optical, USB 2.0, and coaxial don't have the bandwidth for eight channels at 24-bit 192KHz; might have to go with a different AVR that has 7.1 RCA inputs, then get RCA to 3.5mm adapters). I've asked questions regarding software support on Creative's official forums, but activity on the forum is dead, even with official Creative employee users. 

post #12 of 15

double post 

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by joel96 View Post

So far as I know, the TiHD only has software emulation; if it produces the EAX5 effects and gets them all the way to the speakers, good. SPDIF has enough bandwidth for two channel audio. 

Are you using fluidz' method of TiHD > headphone DAC > headphone amp > headphones?

One other alternative is to use a Fata1ity Pro and run in WinXP to get hardware supported virtual surround > headphone amp > headphones. 

 

From what I've read, virtual surround is inferior to actual surround, which hasn't been entirely successful if reviews of sets with discrete drivers are any indication. It's why I'm going with 7.1 bookshelf speakers and a receiver (don't know how I'm going to drive the speakers from an output that supports EAX 5.0; optical, USB 2.0, and coaxial don't have the bandwidth for eight channels at 24-bit 192KHz; might have to go with a different AVR that has 7.1 RCA inputs, then get RCA to 3.5mm adapters). I've asked questions regarding software support on Creative's official forums, but activity on the forum is dead, even with official Creative employee users. 

 

No, the X-Fi Titanium HD is a real X-Fi with the EMU20K2/CA20K2.

 

It's made obvious by the fact that it has Game Mode and the ALchemy dsoundlog.ini says "Using Native OpenAL Renderer" instead of "Using Creative Software 3D Library" like it would with Creative's software OpenAL renderer (which is NOT the "Generic Software" renderer, by the way).

 

I don't use an external DAC; there's no reason for me to with the Titanium HD's own DAC being good enough, and the only external DAC I have, that being the JVC/Victor SU-DH1 Dolby Headphone processor, is a noticeable downgrade. I could use an external DAC, but that would negate the point of having the Titanium HD over the non-HD X-Fi Titanium, alongside any DAC that would be a worthy upgrade being so expensive that it's money better spent on improved headphones and amplification.

 

Everything I've read about "true surround" headsets with multiple drivers is that they generally suck, like how Mad Lust Envy scores the Tritton AX Pro far lower than all the other headphones and headsets with Dolby Headphone (though there's this one headset that cropped up on InnerFidelity once and received surprisingly positive reviews), and I have yet to hear a 5.1/7.1 speaker system that has CMSS-3D Headphone's level of "shoot that guy in the face through a wall on the floor above you" levels of pinpoint positional accuracy.

 

Part of that's because for a speaker system, you need to treat the entire room to have ideal acoustic properties, then the speakers themselves must be placed in very exact positions in that room and the listener seated in just the right spot for the positional cues to be right. Then you'd need several good speakers and amplification for each, preferably some nice Quad/Acoustat/Beveridge ESLs for all the channels besides center and LFE. I'd rather save myself a lot of money and hassle and just slip some headphones on my head.

 

Also, surround speaker systems have no height channels, for the most part; setups above 7.1 that introduce them are a relatively recent thing, and rarely supported. That means you're getting crude 2D positioning at best...not that this benefits current games any, but back when games actually had honest-to-goodness 3D audio, it would be a disadvantage.

 

Virtual surround done right, on the other hand...it's not simulating a room full of speakers, but the game environment itself, approximating how our brains interpret positional information in real life using just two ears. Aureal understood this back in the late 1990s; it took everyone else, including Creative, a few years to catch up and realize why that was a worthy alternative to the quadraphonic speakers, and that's why A3D was so ahead of its time.

 

There's a chance that virtual surround won't work for certain listeners if their own HRTFs deviate from the human population's average HRTF too much, but for most of us, it works excellently. There wouldn't be so many advocates of virtual surround over headphones if we didn't think it was the better way to go.


Edited by NamelessPFG - 12/21/13 at 9:28pm
post #14 of 15

@NamelessPFG are you running a version of Windows prior to the audio structure changes? I will be using Win8.1. The OP did not mention which OS will host the system; it is a good guess to say Win7. I was thinking of running XP Pro in a bootable partition to enable hardware EAX5.0, so I'd like to know if the Titanium HD is still applicable. The Fatal1ty Pro uses the EMU20K2, the Titanium HD uses CA20K2. The TiHD has superior sound quality, but removed 7.1 support via exclusion of surround ports, which was my motive for getting an internal DAC (hardware ports available, legacy OS support, and EAX5 software and hardware support). Audio quality and native AL support are the reasons why the OP might want to stay with the OP's internal DAC. 7.1 EAX is really the only reason why I want to go with an older card. Flaky software support with MB3, or really lack of customer support whatsoever (in my experience with at least four Creative products), is a good enough reason by itself to with the TiHD hardware, in addition to the audio quality. 

post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by joel96 View Post

@NamelessPFG are you running a version of Windows prior to the audio structure changes? I will be using Win8.1. The OP did not mention which OS will host the system; it is a good guess to say Win7. I was thinking of running XP Pro in a bootable partition to enable hardware EAX5.0, so I'd like to know if the Titanium HD is still applicable. The Fatal1ty Pro uses the EMU20K2, the Titanium HD uses CA20K2. The TiHD has superior sound quality, but removed 7.1 support via exclusion of surround ports, which was my motive for getting an internal DAC (hardware ports available, legacy OS support, and EAX5 software and hardware support). Audio quality and native AL support are the reasons why the OP might want to stay with the OP's internal DAC. 7.1 EAX is really the only reason why I want to go with an older card. Flaky software support with MB3, or really lack of customer support whatsoever (in my experience with at least four Creative products), is a good enough reason by itself to with the TiHD hardware, in addition to the audio quality. 

 

Let me put it this way: the X-Fi Titanium HD, unlike all other X-Fi cards, does NOT have Windows XP drivers. Using it on a pre-Vista version of Windows would be next to impossible because of that. Creative justifies it by saying they rearchitected the drivers to function better under Vista onward with that new sound stack. If XP support is important to you, go with the X-Fi Titanium (non-HD) or some other model that has a real EMU20K2/CA20K2 on it. (The EMU20K2 and CA20K2 seem to be the same exact thing, just rebranded slightly. Creative's crazy like that.)

 

Besides, I prefer Windows 7 anyway. I only run XP (alongside 98SE) on a desktop I specifically built to run older games. So far, ALchemy's served me well to the point where I rarely need to run back to said classic gaming desktop for that, in part because it's working with the X-Fi's hardware renderer.

 

I have yet to test it in Windows 8.1, but I can set aside one of my hard drives in my primary system to experiment with it a little. I don't expect much issue with anything that already has Win7 drivers, but I wouldn't put it past Microsoft to arbitrarily break stuff, given how some things are apparently already broken between Win8 and Win8.1.

 

"7.1" and "EAX" really shouldn't belong in the same sentence, simply because EAX is handled through DirectSound3D or OpenAL as a rule, and with one of those two APIs in place, you're getting something far, far better than mere virtualized 7.1 in the first place. Full 3D sound, baby! (But even for software-mixed games, I honestly don't hear much of a difference between 5.1 and 7.1 modes, since the major directions are all accounted for.)

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