or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Confused on Sound Card/DAC/AMP stuff
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Confused on Sound Card/DAC/AMP stuff

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

I've read about it a million times, I still don't get it. I've read all the guides here and on OCN on audio, you name it, I've read it. Most of it is a bit dated, so it's hard to know if it's still relevant.

 

I have a Z87X-UD3H motherboard (new haswell system), which uses an ALC898 realtek codec and has a DRV632 600ohm headphone amp. As I understand, impedance really means nothing, it's about sensitivity, who knows what you need, but high impedance means you might not get enough volume, while amps aim to help this and improve audio quality somehow (i dont know how you take something and make it better, doesnt that mean it's just taking it and distorting it? You can't polish a turd, you can't turn bad audio source into good audio, right?).

 

So in some cases, some headphones, you need an amp, or may want an amp. But you could also use a DAC to improve sound quality instead of an amp. A sound card is just an internal DAC. DACs may have an amp. Or might not. But a DAC, which may or may not have an amp, may or may not have the right plug-ins for your headphones (seriously?), so even if it has an amp, you need a way to plug into the DAC (can you not just mod the inputs? seriously, a headphone line is just 2 wires right?). 


So you might want to get a sound card... but for higher impedance phones, you might need an amp too for more volume. But I have a 600 ohm headphone amp on my system. Does that mean that amp is cancelled out if I use a sound card? If I use an external DAC, is it cancelled out? 

 

So instead of going sound card, if I go DAC route.... I gotta get an amp too? Maybe, depending on the phones and DAC of choice? What exactly is the DAC of choice, I dont see any guides on DACs, sound cards, and amps...

 

Anyways... I'm just unsure how much better it'd make audio, is my solution good enough, would I notice a difference if I went with a sound card or even a nice dac or whatever?

 

:confused:

post #2 of 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Belial88 View Post
 

may or may not have the right plug-ins for your headphones (seriously?), so even if it has an amp, you need a way to plug into the DAC (can you not just mod the inputs? seriously, a headphone line is just 2 wires right?). 

Most DACs for desktop/headphone use have a 3.5mm line out so you won't have to worry about that.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Belial88 View Post
 

while amps aim to help this and improve audio quality somehow (i dont know how you take something and make it better, doesnt that mean it's just taking it and distorting it? You can't polish a turd, you can't turn bad audio source into good audio, right?).

A bad amp will add distortion, while a good one has little distortion.

 

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Belial88 View Post
 

Anyways... I'm just unsure how much better it'd make audio, is my solution good enough, would I notice a difference if I went with a sound card or even a nice dac or whatever?

A DAC? It will improve it by a small amount, far less than if you'd spent the same money on headphones instead.

You generally spend on headphones first, then amp, then DAC if you really want to.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Belial88 View Post
 

So instead of going sound card, if I go DAC route.... I gotta get an amp too?

Yes.  Unless it has one built in.

 

The problem with onboard sound is

1. noise especially from nearby components and

2. poor performance at high impedance

An amp will solve #2. 

post #3 of 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Belial88 View Post
 

I've read about it a million times, I still don't get it. I've read all the guides here and on OCN on audio, you name it, I've read it. Most of it is a bit dated, so it's hard to know if it's still relevant.

I have a Z87X-UD3H motherboard (new haswell system), which uses an ALC898 realtek codec and has a DRV632 600ohm headphone amp. As I understand, impedance really means nothing, it's about sensitivity, who knows what you need, but high impedance means you might not get enough volume, while amps aim to help this and improve audio quality somehow (i dont know how you take something and make it better, doesnt that mean it's just taking it and distorting it? You can't polish a turd, you can't turn bad audio source into good audio, right?).

So in some cases, some headphones, you need an amp, or may want an amp. But you could also use a DAC to improve sound quality instead of an amp. A sound card is just an internal DAC. DACs may have an amp. Or might not. But a DAC, which may or may not have an amp, may or may not have the right plug-ins for your headphones (seriously?), so even if it has an amp, you need a way to plug into the DAC (can you not just mod the inputs? seriously, a headphone line is just 2 wires right?). 

So you might want to get a sound card... but for higher impedance phones, you might need an amp too for more volume. But I have a 600 ohm headphone amp on my system. Does that mean that amp is cancelled out if I use a sound card? If I use an external DAC, is it cancelled out? 

So instead of going sound card, if I go DAC route.... I gotta get an amp too? Maybe, depending on the phones and DAC of choice? What exactly is the DAC of choice, I dont see any guides on DACs, sound cards, and amps...

Anyways... I'm just unsure how much better it'd make audio, is my solution good enough, would I notice a difference if I went with a sound card or even a nice dac or whatever?:confused:

It would be helpful if you had a budget for what you would be willing to spend for headphones, DAC & amp.

I would say for now just to buy headphones and plug them into the motherboard, you can always add a DAC/Amp in the future.

post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

Well I just bought sennheiser 558s, en route right now (i'm going to buy some dt990 250pro later this month and see which I like better), for $130. I'd like to spend less than $100, really ideally under $50, for a dac or soundcard or whatever it is. 

 

Quote:
 you can always add a DAC/Amp in the future.

 

Do I add the DAC, or the amp? Can I add an amp to the sound card?

 

I see the asus xonar dgx for $28 right now. 

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Confused on Sound Card/DAC/AMP stuff