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Asus Xonar D2/pm / U7 as DAC for Little Dot Mk III

  1. echoblack4
    Hi all,

    I am new into HiFi and I would like some advice before making some purchases. But, first, some background:

    I am a proud owner of a pair of DT-990 Pro 250 Ω cans for two years, which I use to listen to music and watch movies on a laptop (Asus ROG G750JX) connected to a crappy SoundBlaster Xfi Surround 5.1 Pro USB as DAC, with RCA leads to an old 1995 Kenwood RX-29 stereo amplifier to feed the cans, since the SoundBlaster is no near powerful enough to drive them at a working level. So far, the combination has worked acceptably, running at 75% total volume, and it was an outstanding improvement over the cheap headsets I used in the past, but I notice that the relatively cheap and old amplifier is not making any justice to the cans as it is very noticeable that there are some frequencies missing, and there is not enough clarity.

    After researching I decided that I should be buying a dedicated headphone amp, in this case the Little Dot Mk III. The problem is that I know that using the SoundBlaster Xfi a DAC is a no go and a waste since it is not even capable of outputting 192 khz/24bit.

    So, I have an old Asus D2/PM PCI (32-bit PCI) sitting on an old PC that barely qualifies for full HD playback and sometimes struggles with frame loss but is otherwise OK for music playback. The sound is amazingly clear and bright, but even with the integrated headphone amp, it doesn't have enough power to drive the DT-990. Also, I feel it is lacking in the bass. I know I can replace the op-amps for a more warm, bassy sound, but still the integrated headphone amp won't be enough to drive the DT-990 to full, or at least decent, potential. Thus, I have the following questions:

    1) Would the Asus Xonar D2/PM be decent as DAC for the Little Dot Mk III, at least until I gain more experence with audiophile rigs, or should instead move to a dedicated DAC all the way through, such as a Fiio E10k (other suggestions in the range are welcome)? The goal is to, at first, try to use as much hardware as I have so as to offset costs.

    2) Since I use the laptop to watch movies as it the most powerful computer I have, the soundtrack being perhaps most important hat the movie itself, and since this old computer where the D2/PM is hooked up is in another room, I was also thinking in getting a second hand Xonar U7 I can get really cheap around here to serve also as DAC for the Little Dot, and thus save the hassle to run 10 meter hdmi and RCA cables through the hallway. Would the U7 be an acceptable DAC for the time being until I can recover from the expenditure on the Little Dot and acquire a serious DAC (that would be two years at least)?

    3) Although I know the U7 is inferior in terms of SNR, THD and output voltage to the D2/PM, how much inferior would it be? That is, how does the C-Media 6632A of the U7 stands against the Asus AV200 of the D2 and the Cirrus Logic CS4362/4398 DAC chips against the Burr-Brown PCM1796 and the Cirrus-Logic CS5381 of the D2?

    4) Should I drop all of these and instead go for an Asus Essence One integrated DAC/headphone amp to keep costs down (even though I would be stuck with that and will not enter into the real audiophile realm)?

    Thank you
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    The Asus D2 makes a great DAC, so no need to replace it.
    Try the Unified Xonar Drivers
    A Hifimedy DAC ($42-$70) would make a good budget DAC for use with the laptop.
  3. echoblack4
    Thank you PurpleAngel. I will certainly look at the Hifimedy DAC for the laptop and replace the SoundBlaster as I do not do gaming anymore.

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