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Should I Purchase a DAC?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

I listen to most of my music through my computer. I have a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD soundcard. Not sure if buying a DAC is needed or would improve the sound of the music much more. I like the sound now. Any opinions?

post #2 of 18

The Ti-HD comes with a PCM1794 DAC chip and some decent op-amps, you might have to spend more then you would like on an external DAC, to make a noticeable improvement in audio quality

 

A Schiit Magni or O2 headphone amplifier connected to the Ti-HD's RCA output, should improve the audio quality of your headphones.

 

Hopefully you have disabled the motherboard's on-board audio? in the BIOS.

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

The Ti-HD comes with a PCM1794 DAC chip and some decent op-amps, you might have to spend more then you would like on an external DAC, to make a noticeable improvement in audio quality

 

A Schiit Magni or O2 headphone amplifier connected to the Ti-HD's RCA output, should improve the audio quality of your headphones.

 

Hopefully you have disabled the motherboard's on-board audio? in the BIOS.

Yes, the on-board audio is disabled. That's what I was thinking too. Not sure if I could hear the difference.

post #4 of 18
I vote for getting a Modi but if you're doing any serious gaming you will lose your positional audio by switching to a dedicated DAC but your music will sound better.
post #5 of 18

Unless you're getting ANY background electical noise/hissing from your soundcard that prevents you from getting a clean black background, there is really little point in getting a DAC.

post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GREQ View Post
 

Unless you're getting ANY background electical noise/hissing from your soundcard that prevents you from getting a clean black background, there is really little point in getting a DAC.

That is the conclusion I think I am coming to. The sound of the card isn't bad. I think the E09K amp that I have does enhance the sound a bit. I just ordered the HD650. We will see what that sounds like.

post #7 of 18

Remember the purpose of a DAC: it's a sound card replacement. It's not an inherent improvement, it's something you stick on if what comes with your source is less than ideal. It's not like an amp that chains along by adding oomph or power to the sound, it provides a wholly separate output. So it might not be necessary at all.

post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by chuck8403 View Post
 

That is the conclusion I think I am coming to. The sound of the card isn't bad. I think the E09K amp that I have does enhance the sound a bit. I just ordered the HD650. We will see what that sounds like.

Hopefully your plugging the E09K into the Ti-HD's RCA outputs, not the Ti-HD's headphone jack.

The RCA jacks offer better audio quality and can output CMSS3D headphone surround sound.

post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

Hopefully your plugging the E09K into the Ti-HD's RCA outputs, not the Ti-HD's headphone jack.

The RCA jacks offer better audio quality and can output CMSS3D headphone surround sound.

Yup, that's how it's hooked up. Work well in my opinion. We shall see once the HD650s get in.

post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by GREQ View Post
 

Unless you're getting ANY background electical noise/hissing from your soundcard that prevents you from getting a clean black background, there is really little point in getting a DAC.

That's really not true.  A better DAC can improve the details in your songs and even the soundstage.  From my experience if you're getting electrical noise/hissing and you don't have an on-board soundcard, it's usually a cable that's the culprit.

post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Byrnie View Post
 

That's really not true.  A better DAC can improve the details in your songs and even the soundstage.  From my experience if you're getting electrical noise/hissing and you don't have an on-board soundcard, it's usually a cable that's the culprit.

Yes, a better DAC may improve the music, but with the sound card I have, what is better and how much difference will there be. Not sure if my ears could tell the difference. I have the FIIO E17 and even though I have only listened through the HD598 and really have not spent the time to try and determine the difference, not sure if it is worth the upgrade price. Once I get the new headphones, I will take some time to see if I can detect a difference and maybe invest in a separate DAC. I know some can tell the difference, but I am not sure if the cost is worth the upgrade. I will find out soon though. Maybe with the new headphones I will be able to hear the difference.

post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by chuck8403 View Post
 

Yes, a better DAC may improve the music, but with the sound card I have, what is better and how much difference will there be. Not sure if my ears could tell the difference. I have the FIIO E17 and even though I have only listened through the HD598 and really have not spent the time to try and determine the difference, not sure if it is worth the upgrade price. Once I get the new headphones, I will take some time to see if I can detect a difference and maybe invest in a separate DAC. I know some can tell the difference, but I am not sure if the cost is worth the upgrade. I will find out soon though. Maybe with the new headphones I will be able to hear the difference.

Well that would depend on how much you want to spend for a DAC.  Typically you will see the greatest increase in SQ with different headphones over an amp or a DAC (unless you can't properly amp a headphone).  I would only get a DAC after you have found headphones that you are a big fan of and after you get an amp for that headphone.  Just my .02.

post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by chuck8403 View Post
 

Yes, a better DAC may improve the music, but with the sound card I have, what is better and how much difference will there be. Not sure if my ears could tell the difference. I have the FIIO E17 and even though I have only listened through the HD598 and really have not spent the time to try and determine the difference, not sure if it is worth the upgrade price. Once I get the new headphones, I will take some time to see if I can detect a difference and maybe invest in a separate DAC. I know some can tell the difference, but I am not sure if the cost is worth the upgrade. I will find out soon though. Maybe with the new headphones I will be able to hear the difference.

I would say when your willing to spend $300 or more for an external DAC or DAC/Amp, it would start to be worth it.

I just replaced my Essence STX sound card with an Audio-GD NFB-15.32 external DAC/amp, $298 (shipped).

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Byrnie View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GREQ View Post
 

Unless you're getting ANY background electical noise/hissing from your soundcard that prevents you from getting a clean black background, there is really little point in getting a DAC.

That's really not true.  A better DAC can improve the details in your songs and even the soundstage.  From my experience if you're getting electrical noise/hissing and you don't have an on-board soundcard, it's usually a cable that's the culprit.

Please understand that this is all in context.

There won't be any audible difference between the soundcard and any DAC twice the price of it.

 

Of course an expensive DAC will improve details and possibly soundstage, but that's not what we're talking about here.

I'm not saying that good expensive DACs are not worth it, but simply for the purposes of the HD598 (which is the OP's top headphone), there just ins't any point in getting a shiny new DAC. 

 

Also, in my experience, it's not cables that are the culprit of noise, but the power supply (from the mains) and the power supply in the computer tower.

post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by GREQ View Post

Please understand that this is all in context.
There won't be any audible difference between the soundcard and any DAC twice the price of it.

Of course an expensive DAC will improve details and possibly soundstage, but that's not what we're talking about here.
I'm not saying that good expensive DACs are not worth it, but simply for the purposes of the HD598 (which is the OP's top headphone), there just ins't any point in getting a shiny new DAC. 

Also, in my experience, it's not cables that are the culprit of noise, but the power supply (from the mains) and the power supply in the computer tower.

Ok I see your point if you're just referring to the hd598s. I haven't had any noise problems because of a power supply unless it was with an onboard soundcard.
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