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DAC/Amp Vs Sound Card

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I have been considering purchasing a new sound card or a DAC amp combo, but I'm unsure of which one would suit my needs better for gaming? Does a DAC amp combo provide surround sound?

post #2 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielMiracle View Post
 

I have been considering purchasing a new sound card or a DAC amp combo, but I'm unsure of which one would suit my needs better for gaming? Does a DAC amp combo provide surround sound?

 

A (external) DAC/Amp itself can not create headphone surround sound (does not come with an audio processor), you can have something else create the headphone surround sound and then send that thru a (external) DAC/Amp.

The Schiit Modi (optical) DAC ($99) and Schiit Magni headphone amplifier ($99) can be connected to the optical output that might be built into your motherboard's on-board audio.

(motherboards usually come with a built in (low cost) audio processor)

The Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z ($100) can process headphone surround sound (with it's built in SoundCore3D audio processor) and use it's own built in DAC & Head amp.

post #3 of 19

I use and highly recommend the ASUS Xonar DG or DGX (only difference is PCI vs PCI-e X1). It's only about $30, has an integrated headphone amp, and a decent DAC, especially for the price. Its Dolby Headphone virtual surround is pretty convincing and sounds quite good to me.

 

If I bought a dedicated DAC and/or amp I would definitely be using it only for music listening, but that doesn't mean it can't be used only for that.

post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

 

A (external) DAC/Amp itself can not create headphone surround sound (does not come with an audio processor), you can have something else create the headphone surround sound and then send that thru a (external) DAC/Amp.

The Schiit Modi (optical) DAC ($99) and Schiit Magni headphone amplifier ($99) can be connected to the optical output that might be built into your motherboard's on-board audio.

(motherboards usually come with a built in (low cost) audio processor)

The Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z ($100) can process headphone surround sound (with it's built in SoundCore3D audio processor) and use it's own built in DAC & Head amp.

If I were to use the DAC/Amp combo, what would I use to send surround sound through it? & in doing this would I lose any audio quality? See, my issue is that I like to game but also like high quality music. So I would like to get the Dac/Amp for the music, and still run surround sound through it.

post #5 of 19

You can't "run headphone surround" through a DAC, because the DAC creates the sound to begin with from a digital signal that it itself creates from the computer, so unless the DAC has built-in Dolby Headphone, you can't get surround this way AFAIK.

post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by metal571 View Post

You can't "run headphone surround" through a DAC, because the DAC creates the sound to begin with from a digital signal that it itself creates from the computer, so unless the DAC has built-in Dolby Headphone, you can't get surround this way AFAIK.

You can send virtual surround sound if you use an external DAC with an optical or coaxial connection and connect it to the sound card. The sound card can then apply DSP to the digital signal before sending it to the external DAC for conversion.
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post


You can send virtual surround sound if you use an external DAC with an optical or coaxial connection and connect it to the sound card. The sound card can then apply DSP to the digital signal before sending it to the external DAC for conversion.

Okay, would it work if I were to use the Modi, via an optical connection through my motherboard, and used "Razer Surround" software? 

post #8 of 19
I don't know enough about Razer Surround. Could be you could use it with a USB DAC, too. You might ask here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/669696/razer-surround-7-1-virtualization-software
post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielMiracle View Post
 

If I were to use the DAC/Amp combo, what would I use to send surround sound through it? & in doing this would I lose any audio quality? See, my issue is that I like to game but also like high quality music. So I would like to get the Dac/Amp for the music, and still run surround sound through it.

The external DAC/amp is preferred by many for listening to music on a computer.

There can be electrical "noise" inside a computer case, an external DAC/Amp will not be effected by the computer's electrical noise.

Technically an external DAC/Amp will provide the best audio quality, if your willing to spend the cash.

I replaced my $180 Essence STX sound card with a $300 external DAC/Amp (Audio-GD NFB-15.32).

I use a $50 sound card (Xonar DS) to process headphone surround sound, before the (digital) audio signal is sent to the NFB-15.32 (using optical).


Edited by PurpleAngel - 4/30/14 at 10:21pm
post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielMiracle View Post
 

Okay, would it work if I were to use the Modi, via an optical connection through my motherboard, and used "Razer Surround" software? 

 

I would assume Razor Surround software would not be of much use if it could not send processed headphone surround sound, thru a PC's USB or S/PDIF (optical or coaxial) digital outputs.

post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by metal571 View Post
 

You can't "run headphone surround" through a DAC, because the DAC creates the sound to begin with from a digital signal that it itself creates from the computer, so unless the DAC has built-in Dolby Headphone, you can't get surround this way AFAIK.

 

As all modern headphone surround sound is processed in a digital form, all headphone surround sound must be send thru a DAC before the signal can be sent to a headphone amplifier (or basic headphone output).

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

 

As all modern headphone surround sound is processed in a digital form, all headphone surround sound must be send thru a DAC before the signal can be sent to a headphone amplifier (or basic headphone output).

So does that basically mean it's not possible?

post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielMiracle View Post
 

So does that basically mean it's not possible?

 

You can always get a low cost sound card like the Asus Xonar DG or DGX for your computer, the Xonar DG/DGX comes with Dolby Headphone surround sound.

Also get the Modi with optical input and the Magni head amp.

You would run an optical cable from the Xonar DG/DGX's optical output to the optical input on the Modi (connect the Modi to the Magni)

The DG/DGX can send Dolby Headphone surround sound thru it's optical output.

 

Did you have a budget for the audio hardware?


Edited by PurpleAngel - 5/1/14 at 10:37pm
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

 

You can always get a low cost sound card like the Asus Xonar DG or DGX for your computer, the Xonar DG/DGX comes with Dolby Headphone surround sound.

Also get the Modi with optical input and the Magni head amp.

You would run an optical cable from the Xonar DG/DGX's optical output to the optical input on the Modi (connect the Modi to the Magni)

The DG/DGX can send Dolby Headphone surround sound thru it's optical output.

 

Did you have a budget for the audio hardware?

My budget is around $300, and I was considering that. However, I've read that internal sound cards catch lots of noise from the PC. Would this effect the audio quality since it's connected to a DAC? Also, how well would a soundcard and a DAC work together? 

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielMiracle View Post
 

My budget is around $300, and I was considering that. However, I've read that internal sound cards catch lots of noise from the PC. Would this effect the audio quality since it's connected to a DAC? Also, how well would a sound card and a DAC work together? 

 

It's the analog audio signal that picks up the electrical noise.

Using USB or optical or coaxial, channels the audio signal outside of the computer case, while the signal is still digital.

As the DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) is outside the computer case (using the Modi DAC), the digital audio signal will be changed to an analog audio signal outside of the computer case.

Sound card work fine with external (optical or coaxial) DAC/Amp.

I'm currently using an external DAC/amp (NFB-15.32), connected optically to my computers Xonar DS sound card.

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