how do DACs work? ...and should i bother on a small budget?
Dec 3, 2008 at 10:03 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 8

plonk420

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so my AV-710 seems to have given up the ghost. (i'm kicking myself for not buying a 5pack or them or something)

i'm fully aware of the placebo effect but i could SWEAR my Realtek ALC883 "doesn't sound as good" .. but of course without another AV-710, i can't verify that claim, sadly.

i guess my main question is: my HTPC will be using Vista (32-bit .. but i don't want to rule out 64-bit). is there some magic to DACs that you can just plug them in and they will work? i didn't see any drivers for the Silverstone EB01 or the Hotaudio HotUSB1. the E-MU 0404 (non USB) and 0202s have vista drivers .. (on my second draft of this post, i'm also looking at the Xmod and looking again at the X-Fi USB)

and a secondary question would be if gaming would be impossible with a DAC. i think i've read of double digit CPU usage when using a DAC. i'm eventually going to be putting a quadcore in the box so CPU usage shouldn't be an issue. the gaming would not be very complex... and would be minimal (and lowest priority of all). pretty much just World of Warcraft. (edit: i could always just switch inputs to game if necessary)

Also trying to stay around $50, but i could go up to $80-90 (i think i saw the e-mu and silverstone around there).

the main use would be music playback (mainly MP3s/FLACs through Winamp) and DVD/blu-ray playback (via MPC HC).

my output is (for the forseeable future) just 2.0. infinity primuses on an AMP ONE/A (tho i may later get a cheap (onkyo/sony/yammy) a/v amp mainly for the capability of multi HDMI-in, single HDMI out).

so what are my options? (or is onboard as good as i can do at my price point?) here's what i'm looking at:

$35 Xmod (shipped) (pros: cheap. uses some of the X-Fi's tech?)
$50 X-Fi PCI (pros: a lot of people like it; cons: a lot of people hate it or its drivers)
$60 X-Fi USB (pros: external, so further away from mobo; also see X-Fi PCI)
$70 HotUSB1 (pros: burr brown DACs; cons: unsure of USB compatibility with Vista)
$90 E-Mu 0404 PCI (pros: good DAC. vista support; cons: bit out of my budget)
$90 Silverstone EB01 (pros: good DAC. op-amp; cons: unsure as to compatibility)
added: $90 M-Audio Audiophile 2496 (vista 32bit support?)
$100 E-Mu 0202 USB (pros: good DAC. vista support. 1/4" jacks. external; cons: bit out of my budget)

ideas? other suggestions? experiences?
 
Dec 3, 2008 at 10:22 AM Post #2 of 8

FallenAngel

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You don't need placebo, AV-710 is an awesome card.

1) What do you think is on that sound card of yours? A DAC.
wink.gif


2) Why would gaming be impossible, unless you have a card like an X-FI which has some serious sound processor on it, you'll be getting EXACTLY the same results with any audio card (including that AV-710 of yours) as a USB DAC. The whole performance thing might have mattered 10 years ago, don't worry about it one bit now. Unless of course you run a ****ty OS like Vista which hogs memory
wink.gif


3) That EMU0404 looks like it's the best one in that list. It also happens to have awesome S/PDIF output.
 
Dec 3, 2008 at 7:57 PM Post #3 of 8

plonk420

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for a "simple" game like WoW, would DirectX take care of the audio mixing, regardless of the audio hardware? (as long as it can put out a sound) OTOH, i'm perfectly fine using the onboard for that...
 
Dec 3, 2008 at 9:14 PM Post #4 of 8

whaleyboy

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For WoW I personally just used my USB Logitech "Commander Space" headset with microphone. It played the game sounds adequately, allowed me to talk to my guildies and didn't require any hardware aside from a USB port.

That said, I almost never listened to WoW outside of raiding when I absolutely had to have voice access. I prefer to listen to my music system (although I don't like to run games through it).
 
Dec 3, 2008 at 11:03 PM Post #6 of 8

FallenAngel

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Quote:

Originally Posted by hotaudio40 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
So far the Burr Brown DACS are compatible with Vista, as far as I know a few people are running the BB DACs no problems with Vista.

hotaudio40



Uhm... what?

Compatibility with Vista has nothing to do with DAC, everything to do with your transport (if you're using S/PDIF output from your computer through a soundcard to a DAC, it's the soundcard that needs to have Vista drivers).

If you're talking purely about "USB DACs" - DACs that accept USB input (which means they have a USB receiver which are acts as a USB transports), then they have to either be compatible with USB Audio 1.1 standard (such as PCM270x/PCM290x lines) or must have drivers with them.
 
Dec 4, 2008 at 4:05 AM Post #7 of 8

plonk420

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Quote:

Originally Posted by FallenAngel /img/forum/go_quote.gif
If you're talking purely about "USB DACs" - DACs that accept USB input (which means they have a USB receiver which are acts as a USB transports), then they have to either be compatible with USB Audio 1.1 standard (such as PCM270x/PCM290x lines) or must have drivers with them.


ah, this was some information i was looking for... thanks!

is there a "master list" of USB DACs and what OSes they're compatible with?
 

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