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Do I need a sound card?

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by onebaseking, Nov 5, 2012.
  1. onebaseking
    Hi, I've got a DAC/AMP and HD650 and I just connect the DAC/AMP through the usb in the computer. I'm just wondering, i don't have a sound card in my computer, will adding a sound card make a difference?
  2. PleasantSounds
    It will make a difference to your wallet, but I doubt you will get any improvement in sound quality. 
    Already having an external DAC/amp, all I can think of that a soundcard may potentially add or improve is:
    - surround sound capabilities for gaming
    - ability to connect at higher speeds using S/PDIF (depending on your DAC)
    - sound recording capabilities
    - slight alteration in sound signature if you use the soundcard's DAC
    It's up to you to decide if this is worth pursuing. If all you are after is improving quality of music, then there may be more effective ways of spending your money. For more specific advice on how to improve your setup, i'd recommend moving this thread to the Computer Audio forum.
  3. mojorific
    For sound quality, keep using the external DAC.  I found that using a sound card produced same (or sometimes worse) sound via S/PDIF than using USB directly to the external DAC.
    If you want something for gaming, then yes, get a sound card.  You will get better surround sound awareness, whereas an external DAC would simply produce a 2 channel sound.  You can use them independently if you want.
  4. PurpleAngel Contributor
    What DAC and headphone amplifier are you using?
    If all you doing is music, then the external DAC & amp should be fine.
    If your DAC connects with just USB, then adding a sound card would not work with your DAC anyways.
    If you like watching movies with full surround sound, then getting a sound card would be helpfully.
  5. onebaseking
    I'm using Nuforce Icon HDP
  6. juhua
    If you want to connect Dac/amp with computer, sound card is not important.
  7. KCxSmacker
    I feel if you have a good amp/dac a soundcard is not needed. I am actually saving for a bifrost and am going to sell off my soundcard to help pay for it. ^_^
  8. MalVeauX
    You will not get any improvement by adding a sound card. The USB connectivity of your Icon HD bypasses any sound card you would have added. It would do nothing. Also note, a sound card is a DAC and AMP, it's the same thing you would find in a boxed item marketed as a "DAC/AMP", it simply has connectivity built for a PC and some extra hardware/software options. So getting a DAC/AMP to output to your DAC/AMP again isn't going to do anything. And once again, USB bypasses this.
    A sound card is a DAC and AMP. It's an internal caseless DAC/AMP for PC's specifically.
    Very best,
  9. PurpleAngel Contributor
    For music you do not need to add any more hardware.
    Have you tried using the audio player program Foobar2000?
    If you plug the Icon HPT into the motherboard's S/PDIF (optical or coaxial) port, you should be able to use more of the features of the on-board audio.
    What's the make and model of your motherboard?
    S/PDIF output on a sound card or motherboard allows you to use the sound cards features, but your still using the Icon HPT's DAC and amplifier.
    (bypassing the sound card's or motherboard's DAC and amp).
    If you want to do Dolby Headphone 5.1 surround sound for movies
    Get the Asus xonar DG ($26, PCI) or DGX, ($40, PCI-E) sound card.
    Just plug the Icon HDP into the Xonar's S/PDIF optical output.
    If you want Dolby Headphone 7.1, get the Xonar DX or D1
    Plug Icon HDP into Xonar's S/PDIF optical output
    If you like DTS Headphone surround sound
    Which seems to be the audio used on a lot on Blu-ray disks
    Get the Xonar DS or DSX
    If you like FPS gaming, get a refurb Creative X-Fi Titanium sound card, PCI-E, $49.99 at Newegg.
    It also comes with optical output.
  10. dolor
  11. mojorific
    No.  Exactly.  An external DAC will most likely always be better than an internal sound card, if you are using it specifically for music.
    If you want to play games that take advantage of virtual surround sound features, a sound card might improve the experience though.  If not though, avoid a sound card and always use an external DAC.  Also, I found no difference in sound quality using S/PDIF vs. USB with an external DAC.  I'm using an Asus Xonar Essence One.
  12. EvenR
    I want to add a sound card for surround effects when gaming with my external amp/dac. What would the setup look like?
    I currently have a Sound Blaster ZxR sound card and i want to hook it up to a Sennheiser HDVD 800 which would then connect to my pc.
    (... And yes i know it's an old thread),
    If anyone knows what cables to use and/or how to configure it, please respond.

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