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I'm replacing my sound card. Any advise?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone,

 

I am in the process of upgrading my computer.  I have an Asus Xonar Essence ST sound card.  But unfortunately most new motherboards don't have standard PCI connections anymore.  Everything is PCI Express.  So I'll have to sell the ST and replace it.

 

Now I was thinking of replacing it with an STX but I am wondering if I have other good options?  My main concern is audio quality.  

 

I currently have a pair of Hifiman HE-400 headphones and a pair of bookshelf speakers that I plan to use probably equally with my computer as a source.  The speakers aren't great quality but I plan on upgrading those in the near future.

 

Is there an internal or external DAC / Amp / Sound card that you recommend which will drive the headphones well but will also serve as a great source for speakers?

 

To get an Asus Xonar Essence STX, I would have to be spending $200 to $240.  I could see myself spending more if it was worth it.  Certainly no more than $400.  

 

Basically, is there anything on the market that would serve my needs better than an Asus Xonar Essence STX within my price range?

 

Thanks for your help.

post #2 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrodefeld View Post
 

I am in the process of upgrading my computer.  I have an Asus Xonar Essence ST sound card.  But unfortunately most new motherboards don't have standard PCI connections anymore.  Everything is PCI Express.  So I'll have to sell the ST and replace it.

Now I was thinking of replacing it with an STX but I am wondering if I have other good options?  My main concern is audio quality.  

I currently have a pair of Hifiman HE-400 headphones and a pair of bookshelf speakers that I plan to use probably equally with my computer as a source.  The speakers aren't great quality but I plan on upgrading those in the near future.

Is there an internal or external DAC / Amp / Sound card that you recommend which will drive the headphones well but will also serve as a great source for speakers?

To get an Asus Xonar Essence STX, I would have to be spending $200 to $240.  I could see myself spending more if it was worth it.  Certainly no more than $400.  

Basically, is there anything on the market that would serve my needs better than an Asus Xonar Essence STX within my price range?

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

It's what I'm replacing my Essence STX with.

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

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

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

It's what I'm replacing my Essence STX with.

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

Thanks for the suggestion.  Can you power both speakers and headphones off that DAC/amp?  Have you noticed a large difference in audio quality over the STX?

 

Would I lose anything useful in moving from a sound card to an external DAC/amp?

 

Are there any other suggestions anyone could provide?  The Hifiman headphones I have are orthodynamic so they can use plenty of power.  I'd love to opt for something like a Schiit Lyr but its too expensive for me plus I don't believe it is suitable to drive speakers.

 

But I'd be willing to stretch the budget a bit higher than the $250 or so for the Audio-GD unit.

 

Any other suggestions would be very helpful.  I'm sure there are plenty hear who have graduated from internal sound cards to external Dacs and amplifiers.  

 

Thanks for the help.

post #4 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrodefeld View Post
 

Thanks for the suggestion.  Can you power both speakers and headphones off that DAC/amp?  Have you noticed a large difference in audio quality over the STX?

Would I lose anything useful in moving from a sound card to an external DAC/amp?

The NFB-15.32 only has a headphone amplifier, not a speaker amplifier.

I guess what I notice is the lack of electrical noise :) when I went external, internal sound cards (the analog part) can pick up the electrical noise that can be generated inside the computer case.

For me upgrading from the Essence STX (which I still think is a good card) was for lots of minor reasons.

The 15.32's lower output impedance (only 2-Ohms), compared to the STX's 10-Ohms

Eliminating the slight electrical noise.

Little more powerful head amp.

Liked the idea of having dual DAC chips.

To me the 15.32 just sounds nice.

The 15.32 can not process surround sound, so you still need a sound card for that, you can use the motherboard's on-board audio, but i would rather use an add-on sound card.

Currently I'm using a Sound Blaster Z (SB1500), bought it because I wanted to try first hand Creative's newer cards.

post #5 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrodefeld View Post
 

Can you power both speakers and headphones off that DAC/amp?  

 

If you meant "use it as a signal source" then yes - the 15.32 has the line out which can be used as a fixed level output (if you want to control the volume on your power amp) or variable (if your intent is to control volume through the 15.32.

But PurpleAngel rightly stated that powering speakers is not its purpose.

 

At the moment the 15.32 is listed as out of stock on the audio-gd site, but you may also consider the 11.32: at $299 it's slightly more expensive, but in my view the Sabre DAC is worth the difference.

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