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Upgrade from Realtek ALC892 onboard (less than $150)

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hey, I've been looking for a good upgrade (soundcard or DAC) from my Realtek ALC892 onboard audio (desktop PC 2.0 setup with Micca MB42X speakers) for under $150.

I've been considering the following at the moment:

1) Asus Xonar DX
2) Creative Soundblaster Z
3) Fiio E7/E10/E17
4) Schiit Modi

I require the following features:

1) It must be compatible with Linux
2) It must be compatible with the Equalizer APO program (http://sourceforge.net/projects/equalizerapo/) when using Windows

I do a little gaming, but not a whole lot, so I don't really require any fancy EAX/Dolby/5.1/whatever stuff that a gaming/movie soundcard would normally offer.

Trouble is, I'm not sure what would suffice as a problem-free replacement.

I'm tempted to go with the Xonar, but I'm a little put off by the "fluctuating volume problem" pointed out on the "Known problems" site for the Xonar unified drivers. The external DAC offerings might be nice, but they seem somewhat limited on output options. I'd like to be able to have sound output to my speakers by default and then have the device switch to headphone output when phones are plugged in (just as I do with the onboard now).

The Soundblaster Z might be what I'm looking for, but I don't know how driver support is compared to the Xonar, and I don't know how the how the sound quality compares to everything else I've mentioned.

Any ideas? Thanks.
post #2 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlyw View Post

Hey, I've been looking for a good upgrade (soundcard or DAC) from my Realtek ALC892 on-board audio (desktop PC 2.0 setup with Micca MB42X speakers) for under $150.
I've been considering the following at the moment:
1) Asus Xonar DX
2) Creative Soundblaster Z
3) Fiio E7/E10/E17
4) Schiit Modi
I require the following features:
1) It must be compatible with Linux
2) It must be compatible with the Equalizer APO program (http://sourceforge.net/projects/equalizerapo/) when using Windows
I do a little gaming, but not a whole lot, so I don't really require any fancy EAX/Dolby/5.1/whatever stuff that a gaming/movie soundcard would normally offer.
Trouble is, I'm not sure what would suffice as a problem-free replacement.
I'm tempted to go with the Xonar, but I'm a little put off by the "fluctuating volume problem" pointed out on the "Known problems" site for the Xonar unified drivers. The external DAC offerings might be nice, but they seem somewhat limited on output options. I'd like to be able to have sound output to my speakers by default and then have the device switch to headphone output when phones are plugged in (just as I do with the onboard now).
The Sound Blaster Z might be what I'm looking for, but I don't know how driver support is compared to the Xonar, and I don't know how the how the sound quality compares to everything else I've mentioned.

 

You might be able to find a used Asus Xonar Essence STX sound card with in your budget, on eBay.

The C-Media audio processors used on the Asus Xonar cards have been around for years, so I would "assume" there are Linux audio drivers that work with the C-Media audio processors.

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

I've decided to go with the Xonar DX, because I'd rather deal with the volume workaround than have no Linux support with the Sound Blaster Z.

 

I hope it's good.

post #4 of 6
I never had any problems with the DX volume output.

Just curious. What amp are you using with it and your speakers?
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Got to test my newly acquired Xonar with the unified drivers.  The audio is of pleasant quality coming from my Micca MB42X speakers, once I got past the flaky installation process of the unified drivers (at least on Windows 7 64-bit).

 

However, I've encountered some problems:

 

I plugged my front audio port into the HD Audio header on the Xonar, but the card won't detect the headphones when they're inserted.  I can't get any audio to come out on headphones no matter what I do (putting headphones in front or rear output).  Speakers work just fine from rear output.  Does the Xonar require an external amp for headphones or something?

 

In addition, I can't get Equalizer APO to work at all with the unified drivers.  This is not a problem for when I use headphones, but I use Equalizer APO to flatten output on my Micca MB42X speakers.  I'd like to get it to work if possible.

 

I'd hate to have to return it and find something else, because I'm quite pleased with what sound it does output.

 

Any ideas about what I can do about these problems?  Otherwise I'm going to have to return the card while I have the window of opportunity and find something else.  Ideally, any proposed replacement should be (in the following order from highest to low priority):

 

1. Compatible with front audio output (if it's an internal soundcard) or else have the ability to output to speakers by default and easily switch to headphone-only output when I insert phones (if it's a DAC or external soundcard)

 

2. Compatible with Equalizer APO when using Windows.

 

3. Linux compatible

 

 

Another idea regarding the headphone input problem:  Does anyone know of some sort of splitter/switch/hub or maybe even just a headphone amp that will allow me to output from the soundcard to my speakers by default, and then allow me to easily switch to headphone-only output?  That sort of option, if it's doable, is one I might be able to live with.

 

As for what amp I'm using with my speakers: I'm using a Dayton APA150 with my speakers, and with headphones (NVX XPT100) I was not using any separate amp (at least not yet). My phones were plenty loud when using the onboard Realtek in my PC, and I've been unable to get any sort of headphones to work with the Xonar as I said before.

 

I may give the Xonar another shot, maybe mess around with different drivers and/or config programs.

 

Thanks for your patience.

post #6 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlyw View Post
 

Got to test my newly acquired Xonar with the unified drivers.  The audio is of pleasant quality coming from my Micca MB42X speakers, once I got past the flaky installation process of the unified drivers (at least on Windows 7 64-bit).

However, I've encountered some problems:

I plugged my front audio port into the HD Audio header on the Xonar, but the card won't detect the headphones when they're inserted.  I can't get any audio to come out on headphones no matter what I do (putting headphones in front or rear output).  Speakers work just fine from rear output.  Does the Xonar require an external amp for headphones or something?

 

In the Xonar control panel, there is options in the Analog Output,

Speaker, FP Speaker, Headphone, FP Headphone, etc

(FP is short for Front Panel).

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