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Studio monitors external sound card. [Static noise elimination]

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hey! I recently bought a pair of RCF Ayra 5 studio monitors, the sound quality is absolutely amazing. My only gripe with my current setup is the static noise coming from my computer especially when I'm playing video games or doing any compute heavy tasks.

I'm using realtek's onboard audio [Asus Maximus Hero VI motherboard] with a single 3.5mm to dual 6.35mm cable.


I'm looking for an external USB sound card that will isolate any static noise from my computer's internals. 

I don't need anything fancy with a whole lot of input connections, I'm just looking for an external sound card that can output to two different sound monitors.

ESI U24 XL is looking ideal for me but are there any other alternatives I should keep an eye on?



post #2 of 12

Any external DAC should help, ideally one with its own power supply (so your sound does not depend on noisy power from your PC). A complete electrical isolation could be achieved through optical connection rather than USB (and your MB supports that), but that's rarely necessary. 


If it was me, I'd get one with a preamp function, so that I could control the volume on the analog side of the signal path. If you are happy to do that on the PC, at least make sure that your audio is set to 24 bit - this way you won't degrade the signal as much when lowering the volume.

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hey, thanks for the explanation!

I'm a real newbie when it comes to audio equipment, I don't fully understand the difference between DAC\AMP\PRE-AMP or Audio interface.

I would to have your opinion of the U24 XL, and a few actual recommendations for a device you just described (<250$).

post #4 of 12

Congratulations on your new near fields. Brilliant aren't they?


I think you are on the right track looking at prosumer audio interfaces but I'm not sure the ESI represents your best option.


It's now quite old. There are many more up to date models on the market. Most of which will handle sample rates > 48Hz for example.

It doesn't have a volume pot. Best is to have 2. One for speakers and another for headphones.

It quotes output on TRS plugs but steadfastly refuses to mention balanced out which makes me suspicious. 

Most competing interfaces offer more than 1  stereo out. 2 stereo out is good. So you can cue, run a simple subwoofer, satellites etc etc.


it is inexpensive though so if you do what Pleasant suggests and use the TOSlink out it will isolate the power supply grounds between your PC and amplifiers.


There are two other popular methods used to achieve isolation. 


Galvanicly isolated USB implementation. Most pro or semi pro interfaces do this but not all. Domestic or audiophile grade appliances are less likely but some do. Unfortunately they rarely mention which are which. You can get USBground lift dongles quite cheap. 


Balanced cables between both the interface and the monitors.


So take a look at these alternatives for not much more cash.




There is also a cheaper model, 2i2 with less outputs and a slightly more expensive one with more I/O options, the 6i6.


Steinberg and Roland among others make comparable products.


Slightly more money but worth it if you can afford the extra are the NI Audio 6 and MOTU Microbook.

Top of the range is something like the RME Babyface or SPL Crimson.


Here is a genuine pro grade unit that promises isolation.




Incidentally if you are really on a budget you could continue to use the on-board but pass the signal through something like this unit to achieve isolation.



post #5 of 12

DAC = Digital to Analog Converter

AMP = amplifier. Around here usually it means headphone amplifier

Pre-Amp = device that pre-processes signal for the amplifier. The most important function here is volume control.

Audio Interface = combination of DAC and ADC

ADC = Analog to Digital Converter


Quite a few devices combine several of these functions, and that seems to be the most cost efficient way. 


The U24XL is an Audio Interface - means that with it you will be able to convert analog signals to digital for further processing on PC, and also convert your digitally stored music into analog signal so that you can play it on your monitors. From what I could figure out, it will draw power from the PC using the USB connection. The concern I'd have about that is PC power supplies are built with digital circuits in mind, and these ate quite immune to power fluctuations. Analog circuits are not, and you are already experiencing issues from a motherboard that claims to handle this better than most. This may suggest that your case may require a fairly robust solution, and the U24XL doesn't seem to check all the boxes.


Regarding DAC+PreAmp combos, $250 should get you what you need. I'd recommend the audio-gd nfb-15.32 which is listed for $235 (but you have to add shipping which is about $30). It will do all you need with very good sound quality plus you get a very decent headphone amp. Apart from audio-gd I don't have any direct experience with gear in this price bracket, so hopefully someone else will chime in and share their experience.


Based on the specs, Audioengine D1 ($169) or NuForce Icon uDAC-3 ($125) can handle the job too, but they are USB powered.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you both for these extremely helpful comments, you're right Ronald, the U24 does seem to lack of features and seem to be outdated.

Seems like i would go with balanced cables for isolation, do i need special 1/4" to 1/4" cables or any good quality ones will do?

I've been looking through your recommendations and the Scarlett 2i2 seems to be the ultimate device for me, if I understand correctly it is in fact a combination of a DAC, AMP and a Pre-AMP. Correct me if I'm wrong.

The only gripe I have with that device would be the lack of optical input but I'm pretty confident that even with USB input the static noise will be diminished since it transfers digital signal only. the 2i2 would be helpful for my ATH-M50 as well as any future headphones.

I did notice your preference toward the 2i4 but for me the additional benefits of 4 more unbalanced outputs wouldn't help me nor the inputs.

Do you guys think that the Scarlett 2i2 with two balanced 1/4" cables would be enough to eliminate noise from my computer?

also, what can i expect from that device regarding audio quality? Are 96 KHz, 24-bit would actually improve anything or is it just a general marketing terms?


I can't stress how helpful have you guys been to me. Thanks!

post #7 of 12

I currently own and use BOTH the Roland quad capture and the Focusrite 2i4 for both recording and playback.  You cant go wrong for this money IMO and both are very good value, I prefer the Focusrite for recording but they are both very good bag for buck as a USB DAC.

post #8 of 12

If you already own active monitors it makes a lot of sense to buy an interface that was specifically designed to pair with them.


You don't need special cables. Any 1/4" TRS > 1/4" TRS (three wire) cable will do the job. You also have the option of TRS > XLR.


I buy all mine from this site.




They stock everything in at least 3 qualities. Cheap moulded, Overpriced boutique and what you want.  Branded cable and plugs.


Here are some specific examples.




Almost. The 2i2 is a 2 channel ADC, 2 channel DAC, headphone amp and monitor controller (what pleasant describes as a pre-amp). It's not an amp though. You already have 4 of them in your speakers.It is also a mixer and EQ & Effects package.


I think so to. The balanced cabling will isolate the power supplies of the PC and monitors from one another. btw Next time you buy or build a PC try and spend a little more on the power supply. It shouldn't cause noise in the first place.


There is currently a debate as to whether  24/96 is better for playback than 16/44 but having the option for free cannot hurt. All the interfaces I mention will be transparent to the human ear. i.e. you will not know you are using it. Unless you are the sort of audiophile who hears differences in different brands of cable or the like. I'm assuming you are a sensible bloke.


I'm disappointed you are disinclined to heed my advice as regards spending very little extra on a more capable interface. I do understand saving money though. I  wish more people understood the advantages of multiple output channels and using your interface as the control section of an entire system. Once you have it you won't ever go back.


Isn't near field listening fantastic? You are always in the sweet spot. More air and space than ever the best open headphones and you don't need the power and depth, with all the problems that can cause in an untreated room, because you are so close. I've had mine for nearly 5 years now and I'm still gobsmacked on a daily basis. 


Care to share your impressions on the Ayras? RCF make excellent PA gear but I've never heard their monitors. On paper they look to be an excellent combination of power, size and value. 

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

Is there any apparent advantage to [1/4" TRS to XLR] over [1/4" TRS to 1/4" TRS]? My monitors support both.

Thanks for the recommendation, but I don't live in the UK/US so store-specific recommendations aren't valid for me, everything is so ****ty over here that you just have to go and check it in person.

Thanks for the explanation I finally got to understand what everything means!

I'm not even sure the problem is regarding the PSU. Corsair AX860i is my current PSU which is by no means low-end :/ it seems to relate to the amount of cpu/gpu usage [4770k/780ti]. Even a friend of mine who owns RCF Ayra 8 suffer from the same.

I guess you're right and after spending some time thinking I will in fact go for the Scarlett 2i4, maybe in the future I will have use for the additional output options.


I was using headphones and IEMs since forever [ATH-M50, Shure SE215], I bought a pair 2 months ago and since then i didn't use my headphones a single time, I'm still shivering every time I get home and turn them on, I compared them in person to different monitors [M-Audio BX5, Av40 and a few more] and when i heard them I immediately fell in love, i guess the flatness got me, the very accurate yet not overwhelming base and the higher mids are pretty much the best i have ever heard. I think for the very little price difference the RCF Ayra 5 are mind-bogglingly better than the BX5. Too bad that there are almost no reviews of them anywhere on the internet and you have to check them in person to really feel what they are all about.


I really appreciate your help Ronald, will stay around and update once my setup is complete!

post #10 of 12

Not really. Not from a purely SQ perspective.


XLR is more 'pro' because they are more robust, easier to fix if they do break, have a more reliable connection and do less damage if your monitors fall over. Small interfaces tend to use TRS jacks instead because they take up less space on the backplate.


I think you are right and I was wrong about the power supply. Looks like minus points for RCF then?


Good luck.

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

Yeah, most definitely a minus for RCF. 1/8" to dual 1/4" doesn't provide enough isolation from a simple computer unless the gain is turned down to minimum and even then it's audible. Will look at what some shops around here has to offer regarding cables.

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

All of my problems are now gone, this proves to be the best solution for noise coming out of your PC to your monitors, even at maximum gain there is literally no noise.

I acquired two "klotz my206" TRS to XLR balanced cables as well.

Thanks for your time, your forum is amazing.

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