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Looking for an audiophile grade USB soundcard (DAC)

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, I have a bit of a dillema and I have to fix it. I've recently assembled a new computer, i won't bother you with the specs, but it has 2 SLI video cards (780 Ti). I have an internal soundcard, a X-FI Titanium HD which served me flawlessly for some years now. In my book, this is the best audiophile computer sound card for that price range I tested (and I tested a few at the time including some external DACs). The problem now is that I get alot of static from my video cards and when playing games or doing intense renderings/computings, the static gets louder and louder and drives me crazy. I really tried to stick to this card and fix the issue with no success. Changed mb drivers, cables, outlets, PCIe slots...everything.

 

Long story short, the only solution I see right now is to buy an external USB card that has at least the same sound quality as my X-FI and doesn't cost 1000 bucks. I also own a Focusrite Saffire 6 USB card which sounds okish, but has a very low output and ..doesn't work under Windows 8.1. I own a pair of Mackie amp speakers, so the sound quality really matters to me. Do you guys have any suggestions? I haven't kept track of any cards for the past 3-4 years and even if I researched a bit, I decided to ask the good folk here on AVS. Shortly, the cards needs to sound at least as good as my X-FI (if not better) and to be compatible with WIndows 8.1. Thanks alot in advance

post #2 of 10
This isn't AVS btw.. biggrin.gif
There is a great thread here- http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-nameless-guide-to-pc-gaming-audio-with-binaural-headphone-surround-sound/2400#post_10148231 which should really help you decide what to get.

Is it mainly for music or do you also use
positional audio processing in games which would require the DAC to have an optical input for it to still work.
Edited by Ari33 - 1/12/14 at 4:54am
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply, I want to use it as a general purpose card..music, gaming and media. However, I'm not interested in positional audio in games, I have some nice USB head-phones for that :)

post #4 of 10
The Asus STU external card if you'd prefer a well known brand...
http://www.head-fi.org/t/668495/review-asus-xonar-essence-stu

or something of a similar spec but cheaper like the 15.32 from Audiogd?

http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB1532/NFB15.32EN.htm
Edited by Ari33 - 1/12/14 at 6:00am
post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by vexx View Post
 

Hey guys, I have a bit of a dillema and I have to fix it. I've recently assembled a new computer, i won't bother you with the specs, but it has 2 SLI video cards (780 Ti). I have an internal sound card, a X-FI Titanium HD which served me flawlessly for some years now. In my book, this is the best audiophile computer sound card for that price range I tested (and I tested a few at the time including some external DACs). The problem now is that I get a lot of static from my video cards and when playing games or doing intense renderings/computings, the static gets louder and louder and drives me crazy. I really tried to stick to this card and fix the issue with no success. Changed mb drivers, cables, outlets, PCIe slots...everything.

 

Long story short, the only solution I see right now is to buy an external USB card that has at least the same sound quality as my X-FI and doesn't cost 1000 bucks. I also own a Focusrite Saffire 6 USB card which sounds okish, but has a very low output and ..doesn't work under Windows 8.1. I own a pair of Mackie amp speakers, so the sound quality really matters to me. Do you guys have any suggestions? I haven't kept track of any cards for the past 3-4 years and even if I researched a bit, I decided to ask the good folk here on AVS. Shortly, the cards needs to sound at least as good as my X-FI (if not better) and to be compatible with WIndows 8.1. Thanks a lot in advance

Which model Mackie's? self-amplified studio monitors?

Did you disable the motherboard's on-board audio? in the BIOS.

Chances are the Titanium-HD's analog audio section is picking up the electrical noise being generated inside the computer case.

 

Audio-GD NFB-15.32 external DAC/amp, $255+shipping.

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

Comes with USB and S/PDIF (optical & coaxial) inputs, using S/PDIF allows you to still use the features of your motherboard built in sound card.

Or it might be if you use the Titanium-HD's S/PDIF output to the 15.32, it might remove the noise issue in the audio.


Edited by PurpleAngel - 1/12/14 at 12:36pm
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

Which model Mackie's? self-amplified studio monitors?

Did you disable the motherboard's on-board audio? in the BIOS.

Chances are the Titanium-HD's analog audio section is picking up the electrical noise being generated inside the computer case.

 

Audio-GD NFB-15.32 external DAC/amp, $255+shipping.

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

Comes with USB and S/PDIF (optical & coaxial) inputs, using S/PDIF allows you to still use the features of your motherboard built in sound card.

Or it might be if you use the Titanium-HD's S/PDIF output to the 15.32, it might remove the noise issue in the audio.

 

I have a bit of a memory leak to tell you the Mackie model atm but ya, they are the studio amped ones. I've disabled the on-board sound so that's not the issue. The X-FI is picking up static from the video cards 100%. How's the SQ on the Audio-GD? Basically I want to remove the X-Fi entirely and get an external DAC only.

 

PS. I tried looking for some kind of PCIe extension cables/docks to get the X-Fi out of the computer box...but no success on that front :)

post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by vexx View Post
 

 

I have a bit of a memory leak to tell you the Mackie model atm but ya, they are the studio amped ones. I've disabled the on-board sound so that's not the issue. The X-FI is picking up static from the video cards 100%. How's the SQ on the Audio-GD? Basically I want to remove the X-Fi entirely and get an external DAC only.

 

PS. I tried looking for some kind of PCIe extension cables/docks to get the X-Fi out of the computer box...but no success on that front :)

The NFB-15.32 can connect to optically to the Titanium-HD or the motherboard's on-board audio, so you have the option of trying both connections.

If you remove the Titanium-HD and connect the 15.32 directly to the motherboard's on-board audio, you would lose use of the Titanium-HD CMSS-3D headphone surround sound.

But if the motherboard's on-board audio is good enough, then you can sell off the Titanium-HD.

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

ya true but I'd choose an independent DAC rather than this solution :)

 

thanks for the suggestion

post #9 of 10

The NFB15.32 does has USB input for using the unit independent, I not sure if it was mentioned already. Meaning you can just use the NFB15.32 by it self thru USB.

post #10 of 10

When you say Static, is it ground loop?

 

If I connected my Yamaha Hs80m speakers directly to a Titanium Hd via Rca I heard static. Static was only heard coming from the speakers and not via headphones connected to the Soundcard.  Static noise was removed from the chain when I bought an external Dac, using Optical out port from the Titanium HD into the external Dac. This method is great for gaming as you can pass effects through to the external Dac.  

 

Although you may prefer to use the Usb connection of an external Dac for Music listening, as in some cases it can be superior to optical - subjective of course. The problem with connecting an external Dac via Usb is noise can still travel through to the speakers.  This really gave me an headache at first as I thought an external Dac was an all in one solution to eliminate noise, but connecting via Usb didn't eliminate the noise.  To overcome this issue I changed over from using Rca cables to using Xlr cables and snipped each of the ground Pins on the Xlr cables, at the speaker side.  Static noise/ground loop instantly disappeared.


Edited by fluidz - 1/15/14 at 12:02am
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