DJ Audio Interfaces vs. audiophile DACs
Feb 12, 2011 at 11:15 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 40


New Head-Fier
Jan 31, 2011
Hi folks,
I was wondering why people spend so much money on their DAC for a headphone while DJs fill clubs with sound using audio interfaces. Generally, they seem to cost more, but there are audio interfaces for 600 bucks that give you 10 channels. So on the price, the DJ audio interfaces win.
So anyone knows if a DJ interface like the super tiny Native Instruments Audio 2 DJ ( would work for audiophiles? Would it give you more SQ compared to your built in soundcard? Remember, clubs spend lots of money on their stuff and there are really DJs using this thing. Or are they useless for enjoying music as you are almost all using DACs concepted for headphones?
Anyway, an amp is needed anyway for bigger headphones, am I right? DACs are nothing else than soundcards?
Thanks for help and please excuse my bad Englisch.
Feb 12, 2011 at 11:26 AM Post #2 of 40
DJ audio interfaces are leagues ahead of any onboard chipsets. Things like Audio 2 DJ, Indigo IO, Echo Audiofire 2, etc, have a quite good SQ, and usually gobs of volume. I run a PA2V2 through an Audio 2 DJ, and it does pack a punch
Though I assume that due to the purpose of said interfaces, it does explain why THD is higher than audiophile DACs, for instance.
Feb 12, 2011 at 11:55 AM Post #3 of 40
Yes mate. Well spotted.
At the moment semi pro audio interfaces offer extraordinary quality and value when compared to competing 'audiophile' equivalents. Not to mention added features and flexibility.
Most of these devices will operate with bog standard class compliant drivers from Microsoft but the added quality and functionality usually comes as a result of being supplied complete with bespoke drivers. So you do have to be prepared to pay a bit more for a product from a long lived company with a commitment to ongoing customer service and a reputation to protect.
RME have an arrangement with Microsoft whereby their install software is so highly trusted by the OS it will automatically configure your PC for optimal performance. As far as I know so far only RME have gone to the trouble and expense of doing this but I may be wrong on that. 
As to why it has taken audiophiles in ganeral so long to realise what an opportunity they have been missing I think it's down to 4 issues.
1. Designing DACs using chips that don't need software support is cheaper. Maintaining a team of driver experts is expensive unless writing audio software is a core part of your business.
2. Most audiophiles don't feel that comfortable around software drivers. Not yet anyway.
3. Semi Pro gear doesn't match people's furniture as well as a dedicated domestic  units.
4. Until you have experienced it for yourself it is hard to grasp  just how useful access to multiple channels and software plug ins really is.
Feb 12, 2011 at 1:44 PM Post #4 of 40
Your right, for some people who just want to enjoy music installing drivers can be annoying, but people spend lots of time on finding the right flac player e.g. But the fact that you can easily add effects or equalizers if you don't like the players EQ is a big advantage, not to mention all the extras like sec channel etc.
I was just wondering why people spend hundreds of bucks buying a DAC and big DJs acutally play gigs on expensive speakers with such little devices.
So do you recommend a 100 buck DJ audio interface or audiophile DAC regarding to the soundquality?
@ Roller: Is the PA2V2 a DIY amplifier? Like a cmoy?
Feb 12, 2011 at 3:26 PM Post #5 of 40
The average DJ setup does not need the resolution, dynamic range and imaging that most audiophiles want from their rig. The most important requirement is: stable drivers under all circumstances.
The average dynamic range of music played in a club is about 20dB!
I use a TC-Electronic interface in my studio-setup. Its a very capable performer. But not miles ahead of consumer 'consumer' DACs (see my review on the Maverick D1). It does have a much better SPDIF quality than most USB based DACs, comparable to that of an RME Fireface. I attribute that to the custom implementation of the FW interface that both companies have developed. Which they need to because of the multi-channel (16+) environment the usually operate their equipment in. Which is a real specialists job (like DR already noted!)
Feb 13, 2011 at 12:03 AM Post #6 of 40
@middachten: I wrote that it's miles ahead of onboard chipsets, never said of DACs, which is not bad at all by the way.
@burtontrail: PA2V2 is a very popular entry headphone amp, above Fiio E5 and cmoy amps.
With all the time and effort that head-fiers spend with audio gear, and computers being more and more a part of the everyday life, it is strange that more don't use such devices. The dynamic range of those DJ audio interfaces can be better but it's far from bad, not to mention that they have components that are at least par with levels of quality.
Feb 13, 2011 at 6:00 AM Post #8 of 40
It's not a problem, just that it's not so high as on other DACs. Though it is high enough to put out a lot of sound.
Feb 13, 2011 at 6:18 AM Post #9 of 40
I own a Native Instruments Audio 4 DJ. The headphone out of that had nothing on the Audio-GD Fun vA I had in my possession for a few months before my NFB10ES. Yes pro audio interfaces are miles ahread of onboard sound cards (which are absolute rubbish), but from my experience even basic consumer DAC's are significantly ahead of "pro audio interfaces".
Run into PA gear, the NFB10ES absolutely dominates the Audio 4 DJ, when run from a laptop. Thats expected though, the DAC in the NFB10ES is worth $700+
Just my 2c...
Feb 13, 2011 at 6:22 AM Post #10 of 40
Apples to oranges? Something that costs little more than 100$ is bound to be inferior to something that cost almost 1000$.
For the price, DJ audio interfaces (not Pro Audio) are quite capable and with a great price/performance ratio.
Feb 13, 2011 at 6:23 AM Post #11 of 40
On a side note, onboard chipsets should never be considered soundcards

Feb 13, 2011 at 9:43 AM Post #13 of 40
Also, Fiio E7 only outputs 16bit/48KHz while Audio 2 DJ outputs 24bit/96KHz.
Though I'm also curious about someone to share some thoughts about the components of each one.
Feb 13, 2011 at 1:32 PM Post #15 of 40

So dynamic range is a problem with those interfaces? 

No its not a problem with those interfaces. Its just that in a DJ environment those qualities are less of a concern. You only need 20-30dB dynamic range. But if an interface messes up during a live set. Thats a disaster! So your first concern will be a stable software/driver environment

Apples to oranges? Something that costs little more than 100$ is bound to be inferior to something that cost almost 1000$.
For the price, DJ audio interfaces (not Pro Audio) are quite capable and with a great price/performance ratio.


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