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Sound Card Suggestions (Loved Prelude, Don't like Xonar)

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Hey guys! I haven't been here in a LONG TIME! Need some help. I know nothing about pro audio like you guys, and I don't want to learn either... Just help me with the basics.

 

I run a sound card, digitally to a Denon, and then to floor speakers. I like to keep it high end compared to other "PC Audio", but I'm nothing like you guys with dedicated DACs and stuff. Also keep in mind I'll never use headphones.

 

 

So I've had the Auzentech Prelude for years, love it. Sounds good. But I just upgraded my system and lost PCI slots... so I bought the Asus Xonar, whatever the best model was, cost over $200. But I don't like it. It's hard to explain, but it just sounds flatter and not as colorful. Maybe it's more precise and more true to the real sound, but I've given it a good week, and I'm just not enjoying it. I use it mostly for listening to MP3s, movies and some games. I do like to upgrade receivers and speakers, so I care about using something better than onboard (even though I'm just doing SPDIF). Do you guys understand what I mean by this? Is it common for Prelude people to say they enjoy the "color" of that card compared to the Asus? I'm hoping I'm not alone.

 

I don't think I'll keep the Asus...

 

The Auzentech Bravura, was that the PCI-E version of the Prelude? It's newer... So is it superior? I don't to downgrade.

 

What about the newer Creative cards that use the X-FI, how does those compare to my Prelude?

 

I'd like to stay with native PCI-E, but should I just look into a PCI-E to PCI adapter and stick with my trusty Prelude?

 

Am I forgetting any other options?

 

 

Thanks guys!!

post #2 of 4

Usually, components who mainly give a "color" to your sound are your DAC, you preamp, you amp and of course your HPs/Headphones. I would say, IMHO, that SPDIF interfaces, cables and others act on the sound as well but in minor proportion. 

However, I trust you when you say that you got a different sound with the digital outs from two different sound cards, and especially "gaming" sound cards like the asus Xonar, which have a lot of processing features embedded for gaming/commercial purposes. Even through the SPDIF interface, you might have your sound treated in some way with the Dolby/DTS technologies embedded.

 

According to your configuration, you are using your card mainly/only for its SPDIF out. If (and only if) you don't use your card for recording, mastering or all activities around MAO, and if you just use it's SPDIF out, why wouldn't you concentrate on what you really need : a good SPDIF interface ? You'll find tons of topics and reviews on them here, and if you just want a name, the Musical Fidelity V-LINK is worth the price (even it's now discontinued, you can find it on amazon). If you want to go a little further, check out some DAC USB, you would probably do a better deal, which would really increase your sound in the way you expect it to do.

 

However, if you mind having a complete sound card, to be able to do something else with it than streaming digital audio to your amp, you should test the professional sound cards and especially the ones from RME (the babyface is a really good one). Speaking of which, you'll find a lot of debate around PCI/PCI-E vs USB, and it happens USB is usually preferred for the better interference isolation it provides. Also, professional cards are not meant to provide a "colored sound" (if I got what you mean by colored), you'll get the sound of what you listen to, no more, no less. But I'm pretty sure, it's what you're looking for...

(and throw away these 128kbs MP3s you have been storing for decades, the better audio system you'll have, the crapier they'll sound :tongue_smile:

post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

Thank u very much for the detailed reply. I actually made a mistake. When u wrote so much detailing how I shouldn't see such a huge difference I went over things again. These Denon receivers are complicated.... I had it on a "Pure Direct" mode, but when switching to Stereo, it gives u bass/treble options.... Now it's back to the sound I remember when listening to music. I'm going to say it's even better than the Prelude was.

 

Right, I don't use it for recording.. but I'd like to still keep the sound card. I do like having that level of simplicity. I don't really want to invest the time in converting to an external DAC, whatever this standalone SPDIF interface thing is, etc...

 

So when I see people mod their sound cards with the new ultra low jitter crystal clock, that's basically doing what that Musical Fidelity V-LINK would do?

 

I see now how important my receiver is, in adding the color to the sound. This one is pretty old now, more than 10 years, only sells for like $100 on ebay now. I'm going to go pickup a new Denon that has solid front channels and call it a day I think.

 

About ditching the old 128kb MP3s... I always try to have 320kb ones if possible, or even better than MP3... But music collections are big, I don't see how u could have all ur music in those great qualities.

 

Is there a place that u guys get some test audio files? For hearing truly good quality audio?

post #4 of 4

Good you've got your sound back ! :wink_face:

 

That's funny you're talking about simplicity, sound cards are way more complicated than a simple usb-dac.

One one hand you get a very complex product with tons of different audio processing multiple I/O jacks whose the configuration can be really tidious to find the good settings. On the other and you have a little box with 1 Usb port, 2 RCA (and maybe 1 spdif output), and whose the configure doens't requiere driver, and is done in a minute ! :biggrin: 

 

But I understand easily that you prefer keeping your audio card, it can be useful, I would never sell my terratec DMX 6 fire :wink_face:

 

About the card modding, you're true, it's quite the same purpose. However, Jitter is one thing and the biggest but there are others

funny guys in the world of noise and distortion...

But actually, the V-Link, despite its "low jitter" feature, has been here for one particular reason : some of the dacs have better acceptance in sampling rate using their SPDIF connection than their USB port, and also uses their USB port in a synchronous mode (I won't get into detail but it's often a source of trouble, computer aren't that good to do synchronous external communication) So The V-Link provide a good way to solve all that trouble. 

 

I hope you'll enjoy your new Denon ;)

 

Don't worry I was kidding about MP3s, and I could act differently, I still have my 300GB of 128kbps MP3 from the good Napster old days :D

But I have to admit it, I never listen to them anymore, they are very crappy. However I don't have all of my recent files in FLAC, sometimes you just cannot it, and i'm okay with 320kbps MP3. So yes we don't have all our collection in FLAC or ALAC or whatever, but its more about the rarity of these format which used to dwell on the numeric market few years ago (and still dwells in the big sellers eg. itunes store or amazon).

It's totally not about the size, trust me ;) 

 

If you're looking a place to get samples of different audio files (sample rates, bit depth) you have http://www.audiocheck.net, http://download.wavetlan.com/SVV/Media/HTTP/http-wav.htm, http://www.testsounds.com)

 

Have a nice test session with your Denon ! :tongue_smile: 

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