Help needed to choose between DAC+amp combo and soundcard

Dhriti De

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Jul 5, 2014
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Okay, So this is a very old subject, but still it isnt clear to me. Actually I bought a M50x Matte Grey version few days ago. What I heard about M50s that its a bit over rated, its not that great. But however I found it wonderful and enough for me:). I like the Bass, the clarity. To me, excessive bass make loss of audio clarity. Since I'm using Flac files for audio and foobar as the player, I'm getting good sound. But the problem is, My pc onboard sound card is so bad that when i first plugged in and played Tiesto's Red Lights, I was almost about to Cry, that i wasted my hard saved 180 bucks. (I didnt put any headphones worth more than 80$ on my head before.). It was like 5$ china headphones. Then I plugged the jack on my logitech z506 headphone input, and it gave a cheerful feedback. it was wonderful. I tested it in Bose Companion 5 Multimedia speakers' control pod headphone input. It was terribley awesome, i tested it on my Motorola X2 cellphone which also gave a pretty good sound, a decent bass , and i heard some hidden sounds in my everyday playlists songs which i never heard all those years.

So after founding out my pc onboard card is so worst i'm thinking to buy new gear to get better audio experience. And I'm confused here if I will buy a Dac / amp combo like Fiio olympus 2 e10k as i can use it with my phone. Or I get a Portable Soundcard like Asus Xonar u7 which has a 5.1 capibility and a headphone port ( which i think definately give good sound than my Default sound card), as I can use it with M50x and my logitech z506. I believe my z506 will definately give good sound than the onboard. My budget is barely 100$, i cant go more than that.

Will a Dac give better sound than Moto x2 or z506 headphone port or I should try the Asus xonar u7 ? I have Confusions, Plz help me out. Any help will be appreciated.
 
i believe the e18 can be used with both pc and android. you may want to read up on it. you may not need a soundcard for pc if it does.

the m50 is not hard to power, my portables do it fine. the m50 even doesnt respond significantly to amps so there wont be much quality increase by using strong amps.

if your sound "quality" is good on pc but the output volume is distorted or low then just an amp might work. or a soundcard.

if your quality is bad then you definitely need a soundcard or dac + amp.

if your portables have good quality but do not get loud then just an amp might work.

if your portables have bad quality then you may benefit from a dac + amp with a battery for portable use.

if you just needed a solution for pc as you thought your portables were fine? just spend $30 for the dg/dgx for the pc and ignore the portables. this sounds most like what you need given your comments.

if you absolutely want something that works for both pc and portables then something like the e18 should work though its certainly complete overkill for the m50.

if you need just an amplifier, look at the fiio a3. it can take an analog input and has a battery so its good for home or portable use.

yes, you can use a portable amp with a soundcard as well if you wanted to do it that way but given how easy to drive the m50's are its not really required or needed (though does make a convenient volume knob for turning them up and down so you may like it).
 
agreed, the m50 headphones are not bad at all (i own a pair myself) but they are often a bit overrated by fans. the dt770 is superior for similar cost.

e10k would not be a good choice for portable use given that it doesnt have its own battery. i've heard you can get it working with phones but it would deplete your battery fast. for pc use however its a great choice.

the e18 is meant for phone use, has a battery and can be used for pc as well. it does exceed your budget but should be worth considering.

if you have a desktop computer, likely the cheapest fix would be to use something like the internal soundcard xonar dg or dgx. that is more than enough to fix bad onboard audio. as for externals, the u3, u5 or creative omni would all work.

will it sound better? likely.
 

Dhriti De

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Jul 5, 2014
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thanks, thanks a lot for replying. Yeah, I just saw e18 and it looks great, though i need to pay a bit more than olympus 2. i will get a cheap internal like dgx and a fiio e18. Btw which will give the most of Ath m50x ? soundcard or Dac ?
 
i believe the e18 can be used with both pc and android. you may want to read up on it. you may not need a soundcard for pc if it does.

the m50 is not hard to power, my portables do it fine. the m50 even doesnt respond significantly to amps so there wont be much quality increase by using strong amps.

if your sound "quality" is good on pc but the output volume is distorted or low then just an amp might work. or a soundcard.

if your quality is bad then you definitely need a soundcard or dac + amp.

if your portables have good quality but do not get loud then just an amp might work.

if your portables have bad quality then you may benefit from a dac + amp with a battery for portable use.

if you just needed a solution for pc as you thought your portables were fine? just spend $30 for the dg/dgx for the pc and ignore the portables. this sounds most like what you need given your comments.

if you absolutely want something that works for both pc and portables then something like the e18 should work though its certainly complete overkill for the m50.

if you need just an amplifier, look at the fiio a3. it can take an analog input and has a battery so its good for home or portable use.

yes, you can use a portable amp with a soundcard as well if you wanted to do it that way but given how easy to drive the m50's are its not really required or needed (though does make a convenient volume knob for turning them up and down so you may like it).
 

Dhriti De

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Jul 5, 2014
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The best satysfiying answer ever, u made it lot easier. Thanks a ton. But one more thing, my logitech z506 is 5.1. i think e18 doesnt support 5.1 channel. but surprisingly my z506 gives good quality sound on the speakers, and the headphones output is so bad. I dont know how this is possible, i dont have much idea about it. And my cell phone ouput through m50x is promising. Its good enough, i almost wont hear anything of outside in vol 15, and it gives awesome punchy bass, which i needed. This is the last time I'm bothering you. So i narrowed down the situation. just tell which one is i need. Asus sound card headphone output is comparable to fiio e18 output?
 
if you plug headphones into the z506 you will still get 2.0 stereo sound out of the headphones not 5.1. things do not work that way.

want 5.1 on headphones? you need virtual surround. razer has free software for it or soundcards like the dg/dgx have it.

given what you said it sounds like your onboard audio's dac portion isnt absolute garbage (likely just low end) but that the amplifier portion of it is either really bad, picking up noise due to not being shielded or damaged. one other thing it could be is an issue with the front jack on your case. a way to test would be to plug into the rear of the motherboard instead of the front and see if it still sounds bad. if it doesnt then its the front port maybe, if it still does then its the onboard audio. if you need a new port, they make front panel devices with headphone jacks.

e18 isnt bad but since you said your portables work fine and are loud enough i'd leave it alone.

honestly to me its sounding like a soundcard like the dg (or dx if you wanted to take a bigger step up) would better serve you. a soundcard would also help with your speakers a bit too. that would give you virtual surround as an option and its easy to connect.

ideally i'd suggest hooking up direct to the soundcard or pc jacks instead of the soundcard but thats your choice depending on your needs.
 

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