High-End Sound Card VS USB DAC/AMP
Jul 13, 2019 at 3:27 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 23

Rayz

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So, dedicated PC sound cards (non-onboard!) did a long way. nowdays PC sound cards have a very meticulous shielding, noise cancling and much more features, created for audiophiles.
Let's take me as example: I own STX II and ZxR sound cards. both are the most high-end cards on the market (well, at least until AE-9 will be available?). those are not a regular sound cards.

Now, question is... does USB DAC/AMPs are still offer a better sound experience over PC sound cards?
 
Jul 13, 2019 at 7:24 AM Post #2 of 23

lhydavid

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Teaser answer: Go listen with your headphones and find out!

"Better sound experience" as you said, is subjective. :k701smile:
I see the cards you have are already quite capable so it's probably best to decide for yourself with the cans you have and the music you listen to.
Part of the fun in this hobby, is "hunting" for the right combo of dac/amp/headphone/cables for you.
Some have a few options, as they want different "tunings" dependent on mood.

If you listen only on the desktop, your cards will probably do fine.
If you listen on the go, there are other options though.
 
Jul 15, 2019 at 1:24 PM Post #4 of 23

PurpleAngel

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So, dedicated PC sound cards (non-onboard!) did a long way. nowdays PC sound cards have a very meticulous shielding, noise canceling and much more features, created for audiophiles.
Let's take me as example: I own STX II and ZxR sound cards. both are the most high-end cards on the market (well, at least until AE-9 will be available?). those are not a regular sound cards.
Now, question is... does USB DAC/AMPs are still offer a better sound experience over PC sound cards?
No, my old $370 NFB-15.32 is only slightly better then my STX (AD797BR).
I now prefer external DAC/amps as they do not pick up any electrical noise, that might be generated inside the computer case.
 
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Jul 16, 2019 at 1:41 AM Post #5 of 23

lhydavid

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Always desktop. :)
Some have a dedicated cabinet for the dac, amp and speakers, some even have a room for listening... lol... different strokes for different folks!
 
Jul 20, 2019 at 3:39 PM Post #6 of 23

boomhaur

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Better isolation from electrical noise from inside the computer would make the external dac/amp better in my opinion.

Audio quality wise outside of that well it depends on what your comparing and what you think sounds better.
 
Jul 21, 2019 at 12:18 AM Post #8 of 23

ls13coco

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Only decent soundcard I used was the ASUS ROG Phoebus.
This was a huge upgrade from motherboard audio.
I did find improvement going to external, how much of it was in my head though, I'm not sure.
I didn't compare back-to-back but I've continued the path of external and haven't looked back.

I'd say it's not needed if you are happy with your setup, but if that part of your brain that keeps wondering about it doesn't quiet down, I'd go for it!
 
Jul 22, 2019 at 11:14 PM Post #9 of 23

Christoph

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But there are some beasts who recently have appeared on the market, like the Soundblaster
SE-9. This soundcard is driven by the new Sabre ESS 9038 chip and probably is worth a closer look.

Soundblaster AE-9 is the name, not SE-9.
One question is how much electric noise it picks up from the board/power source itself and if it has effective circuits to suppress this.
Additional, as far as i can read, the driver update politics from previous cards have space for improvements.
 
Jul 26, 2019 at 4:44 AM Post #10 of 23

wein07

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I too own a Auzentech Bravura with AD797 and 49710HA(metal-can) op-amps and love the sound a lot. Have been using them for years and wondered if switching to Audio GD's r2r R11 would make a difference in music listening or gaming.Using Sennheiser 598s and they are powered Ok.

I personally have bought and returned STX(1st version) and Creative titanium HD, couldn't stand their sound even after a burn-in. I live in SE Asia now and returns are non-existent for working products.
 
Jul 29, 2019 at 8:20 AM Post #11 of 23

wmf

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i prefer going from the dac to computer USB.
only problem is i miss out on the surround functions that the sound card provides over USB...
 
Jul 29, 2019 at 4:59 PM Post #12 of 23

mindbomb

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With high end sound cards, although they have a an external shield also, they are using multilayer PCBs, and only the inner layers are used for traces, while the outer layers are connected to ground. So the pcb itself is a shield. So they don't do as terrible on the noise front as I think people are imagining. That technique is done in high end dacs also.

But there are cases where an external dac doesn't isolate noise from the usb port well, and ends up picking up noise from the computer despite being outside of it.

In general, I would treat a high end sound card like any other dac and wait for objective reviews to see how well it fares.
 
Aug 1, 2019 at 1:12 AM Post #13 of 23

Logistics

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So, dedicated PC sound cards (non-onboard!) did a long way. nowdays PC sound cards have a very meticulous shielding, noise cancling and much more features, created for audiophiles.
Let's take me as example: I own STX II and ZxR sound cards. both are the most high-end cards on the market (well, at least until AE-9 will be available?). those are not a regular sound cards.

Now, question is... does USB DAC/AMPs are still offer a better sound experience over PC sound cards?

So shielding and noise canceling plus, other features make a card high-end, and for audiophiles? I'm curious what these methods are, and what they actually, have to offer.

Ages ago, when I took my Sound Blaster Live!, an original revision with gold plated jacks, out of my system and followed the traces on the board, I found the two, decoupling capacitors between the main DSP (EMU10K1) and the output OpAmps, which were two, 10uF, general purpose electrolytic capacitors. Replacing them with basic, 0.1uF films (which were either mylar or polyester) changed the card completely. Suddenly, there was separation between instruments, details in the instruments such as string plucks, and timbre of acoustic instrument bodies. Also, despite using simple, stereo headphones, I could tell where players were coming from in Counter-Strike with ease--nobody was sneaking up on me in de_dust. Afterwards, I replaced all the capacitors on the positive voltage traces, coming from the PCI bus with low-esr electrolytics. The background became black as night. So for all intents and purposes, I didn't require any "shielding", and noise canceling was a product of superior component choices. If Creative is implementing something more complicated to allegedly, accomplish shielding and noise canceling, they are wasting all of our money, and theirs.
 
Aug 11, 2019 at 1:17 PM Post #14 of 23

iNeedCansBad

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Well the reviews on their AE-5 from 2 years ago were excellent. By all accounts it delivered excellent audio quality, and the only downside was the included software and lighting. But audio quality wise it was praised. Now with the AE-7 and AE-9 coming out in a week or so I'm really trying to figure out what to buy.
 
Aug 12, 2019 at 9:09 AM Post #15 of 23

Christoph

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Ages ago, when I took my Sound Blaster Live!, an original revision with gold plated jacks, out of my system and followed the traces on the board, I found the two, decoupling capacitors between the main DSP (EMU10K1) and the output OpAmps, which were two, 10uF, general purpose electrolytic capacitors. Replacing them with basic, 0.1uF films (which were either mylar or polyester) changed the card completely. Suddenly, there was separation between instruments, details in the instruments such as string plucks, and timbre of acoustic instrument bodies. Also, despite using simple, stereo headphones, I could tell where players were coming from in Counter-Strike with ease--nobody was sneaking up on me in de_dust. Afterwards, I replaced all the capacitors on the positive voltage traces, coming from the PCI bus with low-esr electrolytics. The background became black as night. So for all intents and purposes, I didn't require any "shielding", and noise canceling was a product of superior component choices. If Creative is implementing something more complicated to allegedly, accomplish shielding and noise canceling, they are wasting all of our money, and theirs.

@Logistics
The Soundblaster Live! modification sounds quite interesting to me, even when it's an old sound card.
I have one of this in my stock, even when its currently not used.
Do you have details about the mod which capacitors do you have replaced ? Maybe with a photo ?

I would like to try this as a DIY project and i'm curious about the audible difference.
And in case when i brick the card, almost no money would be lost... :wink:

When you are uncomfortable to post this in this thread, you also welcome to write me a PM.:mailbox_with_mail:
But you can also post it here in case somebody else would be interested...
 

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