Good $30-$40 DAC and/or DAC/amps for music listening?

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by jaynettech5, Nov 30, 2016.
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  1. JayNetTech5
    Looking for a relatively inexpensive DAC preferably w/ amp to improve the audio on my PC (Realtek ALC887). I've been dissatisfied with some of the onboard Realtek chipsets in a few of my computers. I find that the audio is not very clean and detailed in comparison to other devices I've used with onboard audio. So, I was looking for some good recommendations, if any. I've been eyeing out a few inexpensive solutions, but not sure how much of an improvement they would deliver in comparison to my onboard audio. I'm very determined to get the FiiO K1, but the device seems like it's meant for laptops, and, it looks very barebones with only a single headphone jack. I would also maybe like to see RCA outputs, if that's an option. I could live with a simplistic design, if I'm at least getting great audio. I'm also looking at the Behringer UCA202, but I'm a little iffy on its quality, performance and the Behringer brand as well. Also, despite it not being marketed to what I want to use it for, people are saying it functions like a regular sound card. My other option was the ROCCAT JUKE, which would be one of the cheaper solutions, plus, I'm interested in the virtual 7.1 feature, since I really like immersive 3D audio, especially for my music.
    Other options I'm looking at are:
    Asus Xonar DGX (rather it be external though)
    Creative Sound Blaster X‑Fi Go! Pro
    Creative Sound Blaster Omni
    as well as a few others.
    I guess the biggest question I have would be, which one would give me the most clean and detailed sound, basically a noticeable improvement over my onboard audio?
    Thank you :)
  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    To have true 7.1 (8-channel) surround sound you need to start out with a 8-channel source.
    And 99.99% of the music out there is 2-channel.
    So i'm guessing you just like "faked 7.1 audio" from a 2-channel music source, which is fine.
    I think Dolby calls that feature Expanded Stereo
    I believe the free program Foobar2000 can do something like Expanded Stereo.
    The FiiO K1 can be used with any PC or Mac, laptop (& notebook?) or desktop computer.
    Does not offer any virtual headphone surround sound, but guessing it's about the best audio quality you can get, for the price.
    RCA output are nice, but headphone jacks are 3.5mm (1/8") 
    If you wanted to have a separate line-output along with the headphone jack, there is the FiiO E10K or Q1, but there line-output is a 3.5mm jack.
  3. GearMe
    Fiio (E10) was my gateway dac/ was a significant step up from my PC audio. Had it for a long while and recently gave it to friend with some HD280's to get them started.

    Never tried the HiFiMeDIY stuff but they might be an alternative...

    FWIW, it might be worth stretching the budget to get the Good Schiit or the E10K or the SMSL M3
  4. JayNetTech5
    I ordered the K1, but in one person's review, he said that the UCA202/222 sounds a little bit better in comparison. That's just one person's opinion though. If the K1 doesn't deliver, I might buy the UCA222 next and use it as a backup/secondary option, or, I could probably use the K1 for my phone and the UCA222 for my desktop.
  5. JayNetTech5
    Received the K1 today, overall not incredibly happy with it.
    nice clear powerful sound when not too much commotion in the audio/music
    feels well built (made out of titanium)
    lacking depth, 3d audio effect can sound weird
    instrument separation could be better, music can sound muddy
    a bit on the bright side, lacking warmth and fullness
    sound is off center, feels like there's no center channel, most sounds dominant in right ear, weird stereo sound
    music can sound slow and veiled, lack of attack
    hear crackles, pops and static in VoIP calls
    My next pickup is most likely going to be the UCA222, assuming it's going to be better based on what I've read/heard. Instrument separation is very important to me. I like smooth clear audio, but not slow and backgroundish aka lacking attack in the music, especially when it's lacking separation. Don't know what I'm going to do with my K1, but since my brother doesn't have an amp of any sort, most likely going to give it to him once I receive the UCA222.
  6. fakemeta
    What about an FiiO E10K Olympus 2? It's relatively cheap and sounds good for the price.
    I've already had one.
  7. GearMe
    Fulla (the Good Schiit) is now $59 and...

    Fulla 2 (the Ugly Schiit) is $99. Based on the specs and their capability to deliver significant value, I'd be looking at this for my first desktop solution. Very possible this could be a longer term solution unless the upgrade bug bites you! :D
  8. JayNetTech5
    How would you describe the sound?
  9. fakemeta
    I used E10K with Takstar Pro 80 for gaming so I can't describe the sound accuratly.
    Once I connected my HD700's to the E10K just to see how it sounds and was not disappointed. Not so good as my big boy Concero, but we are talking about a <$100 DAC/AMP combo.
  10. JayNetTech5
    Right now, my price range is limited to around $30-$40.
  11. Music Alchemist
    I use the Creative Sound Blaster E1. You can use it as a DAC/amp or just an amp. The DAC in my laptop is pretty good and I prefer it over the E1, so I just use it as an amp.
  12. JayNetTech5
    So far, I'm liking the Sound Blaster X‑Fi Surround 5.1. I'm borrowing it, so it's not mine, but, It's the closest to the sound that I'm looking for, except that it lacks an amp.
  13. Headzone
    Recommend Xonar DG. The difference it made compared to onboard sound was so big, I could hear it through the headphones.. It also has excellent DSP&EQ if you need that.
  14. JayNetTech5
    I was thinking about getting the DGX, but, I'm using a MicroATX board, so the card will be blocking the GPU fan.
  15. Headzone
     My friend has a DG with a 0.2cm gap to his RX480 just saying.
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