External DAC to replace Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD?
Mar 15, 2019 at 7:03 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5

Shub-Niggurath

Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 13, 2004
Posts
74
Likes
12
Hello friends,

So, I've had this internal sound card for several years, with Beyerdynamic DT990 600 ohms and Sennheiser HD 650 headphones. I got a Magni amp in 2013 to run the headphones, and have been running this setup for all those years. Nothing is wrong with it, it sounds great and meets my needs.

At this point, I'd like to remove the Sound Blaster for a few reasons:

- Downsize my PC tower (so getting rid of a PCIe card will save me space inside)
- Don't want to be at the mercy of Creative Labs support for drivers (they do have Windows 10 drivers for this card but I don't know what'll happen in the future)
- Back in the day, I felt like I needed the EAX 5.0 support, but that tech is dead and I know I won't miss it
- Try to get rid of a noise issue that I've noticed lately (low staticky noise that I can hear when nothing is playing through the headphones and I crank up the volume)

I'm thinking an external DAC will serve my needs well with the added bonus of improving the portability of the setup somewhat -- I won't mind that since I also have a laptop. So I'm thinking of getting a Schiit Modi 3 since I already have a Magni. I have a 1st-gen Modi and Vali at work and have been happy with that setup.

So I had a few questions that I wanted to bounce off you nice folks:

1. Am I overlooking something and losing the sound card would have a negative side-effect?

2. The current 1st-gen Magni works well and I'm not getting different headphones -- is there a reason to upgrade to a Magni 3? I'm thinking no, but just double checking. Not gonna use the preamp output or the gain switch in the foreseeable future, so from what I've read, the differences would be greater output power (which I don't need with the headphones I own) and no left/right balance issue at low volumes (which I've gotten around by lowering the sound card volume and increasing the Magni volume).

3. My options for connecting the DAC will be USB or TOSLINK. I'm leaning toward the latter, but what would you recommend? I'll probably buy a good quality TOSLINK cable and run comparisons anyway.

4. My primary uses are music and PC gaming. The Modi Multibit tempts me instead of the Modi 3 (yes I've read up on the objective measurements/subjective listening debate), but I've read that the multibit DAC can introduce noticeable latency in sound playback. I don't really play games competitively anymore but I still feel that could be bothersome. Any opinions on that?

Thanks for your time!
 
Mar 15, 2019 at 8:24 PM Post #2 of 5

PurpleAngel

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Sep 1, 2011
Posts
29,205
Likes
1,873
Location
California
Do you have a budget for audio upgrades.

That Ti-HD (Titanium-HD) makes a nice DAC, I would try and talk you into using it in the new PC.
Did you disable the motherboard's on-board audio, in the BIOS, when you installed the Ti-HD (hopefully you did)?
Slight chance active on-board is causing noise issue (very slight chance).
Is the Magni connected to the Ti-HD's headphone jack or line-output (RCA), really should be connected to the RCA jacks.
Your current Magni is just fine for low Ohm headphones, but maybe get a tube headphone amplifier for driving the 300-Ohm HD650.
 
Mar 15, 2019 at 8:54 PM Post #3 of 5

Zenvota

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jan 28, 2018
Posts
1,273
Likes
477
Location
Usa
A good dac is all about the power supplies(linear power supplies and high capacitance) and analog outputs(discrete, dc coupled, class a amplifiers), the conversion implementation matters(delta sigma, current signal, r2r) but only after the first are well satisfied, you're not gonna see a worthwhile upgrade until you hit a certain point, audiogd nfb11 or r2r11, schiit bifrost, etc.

The other good way to get a meaningful improvement in sound quality is conditioning and isolation. Easiest is an uptone iso regen for usb or a schiit eitr for coaxial. Id go with the iso regen due to the higher bandwidth of the usb to i2s stage, especially if you'll be doing convolution(https://fongaudio.com) for gaming and movies.

For power you can use an old Topaz https://www.ebay.com/itm/SCHNEIDER-...606396&hash=item489b5cdf2e:g:HpcAAOSwjkdZ-96I
 
Mar 15, 2019 at 9:44 PM Post #4 of 5

Shub-Niggurath

Head-Fier
Joined
Aug 13, 2004
Posts
74
Likes
12
Do you have a budget for audio upgrades.

Short answer: sure I have a budget. Less is probably best. See a little farther down for a more specific answer, in my response to the other person who commented :yum:

That Ti-HD (Titanium-HD) makes a nice DAC, I would try and talk you into using it in the new PC.

Agreed, it's nice, I have no complaints. But like I mentioned, aside from downsizing the PC, I like the idea of not worrying about drivers in the future (Creative Labs isn't the best, and their software tends to be bloated), as well as having a more portable setup.

Did you disable the motherboard's on-board audio, in the BIOS, when you installed the Ti-HD (hopefully you did)?
Is the Magni connected to the Ti-HD's headphone jack or line-output (RCA), really should be connected to the RCA jacks.

Yes, onboard is turned off, and yes, the Magni is hooked up to the Ti-HD's RCA output.
Noise issue was solved a minute ago by moving my mic to the back instead of the front panel so let's forget about that bit.

Your current Magni is just fine for low Ohm headphones, but maybe get a tube headphone amplifier for driving the 300-Ohm HD650.

I mean, the Magni has driven my 600-ohm Beyerdynamic DT990 wonderfully, as it did my Senns HD650. I'm not really worried about its output power, not worried about anything really. Was more curious if there was a point in upgrading to a Magni 3 while I'm buying new gear. There's a bit of curiosity on my part here as well, like what can I get that would be an upgrade without breaking the bank (again, see below for more of my thoughts on that).

A good dac is all about the power supplies(linear power supplies and high capacitance) and analog outputs(discrete, dc coupled, class a amplifiers), the conversion implementation matters(delta sigma, current signal, r2r) but only after the first are well satisfied, you're not gonna see a worthwhile upgrade until you hit a certain point, audiogd nfb11 or r2r11, schiit bifrost, etc.

Agreed! Just to be clear, I'm not necessarily looking for an upgrade! Just wanna get rid of the Sound Blaster for the stated reasons, and need to replace it with something. If that something is at least as good as the SB, I'm happy. I'm half tempted to go Bifrost+Asgard or Valhalla, I have the money but don't think I can justify it since I'm not all that picky. Also space is limited and the Magni or Magni/Modi stack fits perfectly fine, something bigger would require some thinking and reorganizing. I'm already farther down the proverbial rabbit hole now than when I started looking into this a week ago -- then, I was just looking at a Modi to swap the Sound Blaster. Now, I'm thinking about a Modi Multibit and a Vali 2 to go with my HD 650. But that (~$350) is probably the most I want to spend, so I probably should stop being silly and salivating over more expensive gear I really really don't need and probably wouldn't fully appreciate.

The other good way to get a meaningful improvement in sound quality is conditioning and isolation. Easiest is an uptone iso regen for usb or a schiit eitr for coaxial. Id go with the iso regen due to the higher bandwidth of the usb to i2s stage, especially if you'll be doing convolution(https://fongaudio.com) for gaming and movies.

That is probably overkill for me. I mentioned this noise issue I have, but I can only hear it if I crank up the volume to a level that would be way too loud for comfort when listening to anything, and I haven't done all the troubleshooting I could or should do to narrow down the source of the noise. I would consider the Schiit Eitr if cornered. But on that note... I had 5 minutes, so literally just now, on a hunch, I just unplugged my Antlion ModMic from my front panel. That noise I mentioned? Gone. Plug mic back in? Noise is back. Plugged the mic directly into the sound card in the rear of the computer instead of the front panel... noise gone. So scratch that one off the list, I guess!
 
Mar 15, 2019 at 11:00 PM Post #5 of 5

PurpleAngel

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Sep 1, 2011
Posts
29,205
Likes
1,873
Location
California
Short answer: sure I have a budget. Less is probably best. See a little farther down for a more specific answer, in my response to the other person who commented :yum:

I like the idea of not worrying about drivers in the future (Creative Labs isn't the best, and their software tends to be bloated), as well as having a more portable setup.

Noise issue was solved a minute ago by moving my mic to the back instead of the front panel so let's forget about that bit.

I mean, the Magni has driven my 600-ohm Beyerdynamic DT990 wonderfully, as it did my Senns HD650. I'm not really worried about its output power, not worried about anything really. Was more curious if there was a point in upgrading to a Magni 3 while I'm buying new gear. T

Just wanna get rid of the Sound Blaster for the stated reasons, and need to replace it with something. If that something is at least as good as the SB, I'm happy. I'm half tempted to go Bifrost+Asgard or Valhalla, I have the money but don't think I can justify it since I'm not all that picky.

Now, I'm thinking about a Modi Multibit and a Vali 2 to go with my HD 650. But that (~$350) is probably the most I want to spend, so I probably should stop being silly and salivating over more expensive gear I really really don't need and probably wouldn't fully appreciate.

I just unplugged my Antlion ModMic from my front panel. That noise I mentioned? Gone. Plug mic back in? Noise is back. Plugged the mic directly into the sound card in the rear of the computer instead of the front panel... noise gone. So scratch that one off the list, I guess!
I can understand about the Ti-HD software/drivers, but using the T-HD as basically as a DAC, you not really using much if any of the Ti-HD software/features anyway.
The Ti-HD's DAC function should easily equal any $200 external DAC (audio quality wise).
I would assume you would do fine swapping out the Ti-HD for a Modi DAC.
A lot of Sennheiser HD600/HD650/HD6XX owners really seem to give positive feedback, when using a tube head amp.
(tube seem to feed the voltage the 300-ohm Sennheisers seem to like)
but if you like solid state amp, go for solid state.
The front panel jacks (mic jack) on a PC seem to pick up electrical noise that is generated inside the computer case.
When you remove the Ti-HD from the PC, you will need to re-enable the on-board audio, to get a working line-input (mic) jack.
The on-board mic jack might(?) not be as good as the mic jack on the Ti-HD.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top