DAC or Audio Interface for Studio Monitors
Jan 13, 2017 at 5:34 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 8

chrisvdberge

New Head-Fier
Joined
Dec 26, 2016
Posts
10
Likes
0
I'm considering buying some active studio monitors and now I'm looking for a DAC and something to control them (as well as use my headphones). Somehow it seems that the 'audio interface world' and DACs are completely separate and it's really hard to find any comparison. 
The way I see it now is you get a whole lot more for the same amount of $$ if you go for an audio interface, while they seem to deliver good (enough) quality in terms of DAC. 
One other thing I can't understand is the complete lack of output control in terms of switching/controlling headphones and monitors separately. Most devices require you to physically pull the headphone out of the device to be able to use the monitors?! The Fostex HPA-3 was the only device I found with a switch. 
The audio interfaces sometimes offer separate volume control which would suffice as well I guess. 
 
As for outputs, a lot of (dedicated) dacs like Schiit seem to have only unbalanced RCA outputs, why is this the case? I hear a lot of people complaining about hiss with studio monitors and it seems this is often solved by using balanced input. 
 
So basically I'm wondering now if I'm missing something or if it really does make (much) more sense to go for a device like the Komplete Audio 6, or even cheaper interfaces instead of a dedicated DAC?
Is there anyone who could actually provide some experience in comparing an audio interface with a dac?
 
Jan 13, 2017 at 5:49 PM Post #2 of 8

Mr Rick

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jan 24, 2015
Posts
2,588
Likes
883
Location
Costa Mesa, Ca
  I'm considering buying some active studio monitors and now I'm looking for a DAC and something to control them (as well as use my headphones). Somehow it seems that the 'audio interface world' and DACs are completely separate and it's really hard to find any comparison. 
The way I see it now is you get a whole lot more for the same amount of $$ if you go for an audio interface, while they seem to deliver good (enough) quality in terms of DAC. 
One other thing I can't understand is the complete lack of output control in terms of switching/controlling headphones and monitors separately. Most devices require you to physically pull the headphone out of the device to be able to use the monitors?! The Fostex HPA-3 was the only device I found with a switch. 
The audio interfaces sometimes offer separate volume control which would suffice as well I guess. 
 
As for outputs, a lot of (dedicated) dacs like Schiit seem to have only unbalanced RCA outputs, why is this the case? I hear a lot of people complaining about hiss with studio monitors and it seems this is often solved by using balanced input. 
 
So basically I'm wondering now if I'm missing something or if it really does make (much) more sense to go for a device like the Komplete Audio 6, or even cheaper interfaces instead of a dedicated DAC?
Is there anyone who could actually provide some experience in comparing an audio interface with a dac?

 
Look into the Emotiva DC-1.
 
https://emotiva.com/products/dacs/electronics/dacs/stealth-dc-1
 
Jan 13, 2017 at 5:53 PM Post #3 of 8

PurpleAngel

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Sep 1, 2011
Posts
28,974
Likes
1,802
Location
California
It seems like the Audio Interface offers more of what your looking for.
Balanced line-outputs and separate volume controls.
 
Monoprice 5" studio monitors, $170.79 (+tax/shipping)
https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=605500
 
JBL LSR305 studio monitors, $199.98 (+tax/shipping)
https://www.massdrop.com/buy/jbl-lsr305
 
Jan 13, 2017 at 6:00 PM Post #4 of 8

chrisvdberge

New Head-Fier
Joined
Dec 26, 2016
Posts
10
Likes
0
This threat basically sums up my objections to something like the Stealth DC-1: http://www.head-fi.org/t/785717/alternatives-to-the-emotiva-stealth-dc-1
 
Not saying it isn't a good or great product, but not really what I'm looking for. 
 
Just to be complete; for the monitors I'm leaning towards the Adam A3X, while still considering Genelecs 8020 and M030. Trying to find a store somewhere where I could listen to them, but unfortunately haven't found one (located in the netherlands :wink: )
Considered/still consider the JBLs as well by the way as they are great value, but would expect the Adam or Genelec to be a step up from that. 
 
Jan 14, 2017 at 9:25 AM Post #5 of 8

Tablix

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Posts
345
Likes
48
I personally recommend audio interfaces over dac's for the reasons you mentioned, I am a huge fan of focusrite interfaces at the budget end owning a 2i4 and a couple of others.  The reason for the price difference between dac's and interfaces is due to R&D and production scale and the fact the music production software companies often subsidize some of that cost.  Products like Ableton Live and ProTools often bundle their free versions with the interface to try and promote their product, hoping you will upgrade to their full production suites later to recoup the cost.  
 
An independent DAC manufacturer does not have a similar production scale and sell far fewer units meaning margins must be higher on each unit sold.
 
I own and use adam a7x and krk rp6 monitors, having an interface means I can connect either or both to the same interface, and allow me to quickly switch from monitors to headphones without unplugging anything.
 
You may find consumer dac's with higher quality components or indeed better spec, but I like the build quality and versatility of an interface.  Depending on budget you can really get high quality sound from products from RME or Benchmark, but most likely they will offer many things you wont want or need.
 
One last thing to mention an interface allows you to plug in a mic at the same time for whatever reason, recording or just for skype.  
 
I have no experience with the quality of the Komplete Audio 6, but in my experience you get a pretty similar level of quality at each price point.  The sub $100 market is pretty much basic and I wouldnt bother, from $1-200 you get something on a par with a high end internal soundcard or a DAC costing maybe 25-50% more, if you stretch your budget to around the $500 mark you will never want to buy another upgrade until you are spending thousands on monitors.
 
HTH
 
Jan 14, 2017 at 1:03 PM Post #6 of 8

chrisvdberge

New Head-Fier
Joined
Dec 26, 2016
Posts
10
Likes
0
  I personally recommend audio interfaces over dac's for the reasons you mentioned, I am a huge fan of focusrite interfaces at the budget end owning a 2i4 and a couple of others.  The reason for the price difference between dac's and interfaces is due to R&D and production scale and the fact the music production software companies often subsidize some of that cost.  Products like Ableton Live and ProTools often bundle their free versions with the interface to try and promote their product, hoping you will upgrade to their full production suites later to recoup the cost.  
 
An independent DAC manufacturer does not have a similar production scale and sell far fewer units meaning margins must be higher on each unit sold.
 
I own and use adam a7x and krk rp6 monitors, having an interface means I can connect either or both to the same interface, and allow me to quickly switch from monitors to headphones without unplugging anything.
 
You may find consumer dac's with higher quality components or indeed better spec, but I like the build quality and versatility of an interface.  Depending on budget you can really get high quality sound from products from RME or Benchmark, but most likely they will offer many things you wont want or need.
 
One last thing to mention an interface allows you to plug in a mic at the same time for whatever reason, recording or just for skype.  
 
I have no experience with the quality of the Komplete Audio 6, but in my experience you get a pretty similar level of quality at each price point.  The sub $100 market is pretty much basic and I wouldnt bother, from $1-200 you get something on a par with a high end internal soundcard or a DAC costing maybe 25-50% more, if you stretch your budget to around the $500 mark you will never want to buy another upgrade until you are spending thousands on monitors.
 
HTH

Excellent, thanks for sharing your experience and view!
I just learned the A3X supports Stereolink so you can control volume on 1 monitor and it's on the front. So I might first just go for this and save a bit more for quality audio interface :) 
 
Jan 14, 2017 at 1:32 PM Post #7 of 8

theveterans

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Sep 2, 2014
Posts
2,317
Likes
966
Location
Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines
  I'm considering buying some active studio monitors and now I'm looking for a DAC and something to control them (as well as use my headphones). Somehow it seems that the 'audio interface world' and DACs are completely separate and it's really hard to find any comparison. 
The way I see it now is you get a whole lot more for the same amount of $$ if you go for an audio interface, while they seem to deliver good (enough) quality in terms of DAC. 
One other thing I can't understand is the complete lack of output control in terms of switching/controlling headphones and monitors separately. Most devices require you to physically pull the headphone out of the device to be able to use the monitors?! The Fostex HPA-3 was the only device I found with a switch. 
The audio interfaces sometimes offer separate volume control which would suffice as well I guess. 
 
As for outputs, a lot of (dedicated) dacs like Schiit seem to have only unbalanced RCA outputs, why is this the case? I hear a lot of people complaining about hiss with studio monitors and it seems this is often solved by using balanced input. 
 
So basically I'm wondering now if I'm missing something or if it really does make (much) more sense to go for a device like the Komplete Audio 6, or even cheaper interfaces instead of a dedicated DAC?
Is there anyone who could actually provide some experience in comparing an audio interface with a dac?

 
I went to the dedicated DAC route myself rather than using audio interfaces to my Yamaha HS7 speakers using SE RCA to TR cable. Zero noise / hum issues even with a tube buffer stage preamp as my volume control box. Audio interfaces, of course, offer better performance / price, but I like Schiit's house sound which doesn't lean towards accuracy, musicality rather. Back then, I thought of using an interface for music listening will sound too flat and boring and they're only good for recording and mixing.
 
Jul 10, 2017 at 10:55 AM Post #8 of 8

Immanuel Sundar

New Head-Fier
Joined
Jul 9, 2017
Posts
2
Likes
0
Location
Chennai, India

Users who are viewing this thread

Top