Solved! High-end Pc hi-fi

Oct 26, 2018
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Hi all !!

First of all sorry for my English, as a native French speaker I will do my best… and also sorry for this long post and many questions… but I really need your help.

I’m totally novice regarding computer audio build, and I’m really struggling about the choice of a high-end hi-fi setup on my new PC build… Yep, I’m tired with the native mother-board sound “Supreme FX” crap… yes I will be under Asus :) (Asus ROG Hero XI)

I will not consider that I’m audiophile, but a huge music lover… I’m trying step by step train my ears over the past years, first as a nomad (Astell&Kern Kann + Sennheiser Momentum 2) Now it is time to go to the next step, my PC…

I do not create music, but listen a lot of them (really a lot) and really appreciate a good sound quality, my priority is on a headphone set and swill concentrate later to invest in some good speakers (stereo). I belief those points are important to know.

So first of all, I begin my search for an internal sound card, I found one, the “Asus Essen ATX II” after a lot of reading and reviews/comments it seems to be a good basic option, but I see also that I can have a way better alternative…. An external DAC… it refers me indeed that an external DAC will perform better and will give me better results (also for the price)…

But ok, let say I believe this, but now… as I’m totally not familiar with this, I’m a bit lost… and will need your advices…

Ok, so if you guys confirm, the choice will be then regarding a USB DAC or Jack DAC??

USB DAC seems to me the more appropriated (it will replace the DAC of the M-B if I understand it right), but does this really change/benefits regarding a CPI soundcard? The audio data would certainly have to be compressed in order to pass it over USB 2.0… no ? + drivers will interfere I suppose…

Or is a Jack DAC the better option ? (sound strange for me…if the source (mother board) is bad, how can it change this in a good way ?)

And what about this option : The “Asus Essen ATX II” follow with a Jack DAC ?? (this is the option who’s sound the most logic for me)

As a gamer/ occasional movie watcher, some features are very interesting : Dolby Headphone, Dolby Virtual Speaker, and so on…. Do I lose all those features with an external DAC/USB in comparison of a CPI sound card ?

Do I need an AMP ? Regarding the “Asus Essen ATX II” I know I will, for future speakers… (not for headphone set) , but what about if you refer me to an external DAC ? Or both DAC + AMP ?

Please do not hesitate to provide me some references, my limitation is around 800$ ! If it is more and it is worth the price différence do not hesitate either !

This will be very appreciated
Many, many thanks and looking forward to reading you guys !!
 
When you use the DAC with USB that bypasses the soundcard and mobo.
If you connect the DAC to the soundcard with SPDIF then maybe the processing will be passed to the DAC. If the DAC can handle it then it would work. If it can't then no sound at all most likely. You could connect the DAC both ways and change audio devices in the PC depending on the source or use software that will assign a program to an audio output.
An input selector like this
https://www.amazon.com/Audio-Input-Selector-3x1-Stereo/dp/B00N3MTNG4
would allow you to select either the analog output of the DAC or of the soundcard to go into the headphone amp.
Some people prefer USB. If a driver is required it will be available. You may not need one if you don't play HiRes audio files. Macs don't require them usually. You select the DAC as your audio device.
Some people prefer coax digital. I think it depends on the specific DAC which is sounds better. Optical digital is usually the last choice.
Using a combined unit isn't really easier. Just requires an additional interconnect cable and power cord when you connect it together. It's worth it imo.
 
You definitely want an outboard DAC + headphone amp or combined unit. The advantage of separating them is that you can match the amp to the headphones and be able to get a better DAC when the tech and your budget changes.
Another advantage is that you will lose the processing in the soundcard if you get a combined unit but if you get a separate amp you can add an input selector, if it doesn't have one, and choose to use the soundcard or the DAC.
Take a look at
www.schiit.com
http://audio.teac.com/product/ud-503/overview/
This one has an analog input that you can connect the soundcard
https://www.us.marantz.com/us/products/pages/productdetails.aspx?catid=hificomponents&productid=hddac1
 
Oct 26, 2018
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Thanks a lot Answeramericanaudiophile !! This more clear for me now !!

Now I definitely know that I will use an external DAC/AMP instead of an Internal sound card.
But there is, and still have some point that I do not understand...

- What do you actually mean with "I will lose the processing in the soundcard" if using a combined DAC/AMP unit?

- What if the internal soundcard "Asus Essen ATX II" gots some fun features for gamer and movie watcher (Dolby Headphone, Dolby Virtual Speaker,...) is this not worth those options ? Actually "Supreme Fx" gets also those kinds of "basic" features, do I lose them when connecting an external DAC/AMP on it ?

- You are mentioning "add an input selector" when using a separate DAC to AMP, is this a way to connect them together ? could you please show me an example ?

- Actually what is the best way to connect the motherboard to the DAC ? - Digital Cable ? - USB ? - Analog ?
If USB it is, do I receive drivers with it ? Does it not interfere with the default sound drivers from the Motherboard ? How does it actually work ?

I heart indeed about the Schiit products (2 days ago) ! And looks not bad at all !
Lets say I'm using this set up :
- Motherboard (Supreme Fx) connect with ?.....? to BIFROST
- BIFROST connect with ?......? to VALHALLA
- VALHALLA connect with analog to a headphone.

Is this a good example set ? A combined unit sounds easier... but what is easier is not always better.... right ?

Voila tout :) Thanks again, this is very helpfull !!
Merci !
 

Yodalogger

Estimable
Jan 19, 2016
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I second the amazing quality and value of schiit audio. If you are looking to just try something the Fulla DAC/amp combo is super affordable and a huge step up from the computer sound card. For my computer I have the Modi multibit DAC and Magni3 Amp connected via USB to Beyerdynamic amiron home headphones. This is a great set for me. The Bifrost multivitamin is also an excellent choice and has the added benefit of being upgradable later when technology improves. I’m not a huge fan of
tubes so for an amp for the Bifrost I might do the Asgard.
 
When you use the DAC with USB that bypasses the soundcard and mobo.
If you connect the DAC to the soundcard with SPDIF then maybe the processing will be passed to the DAC. If the DAC can handle it then it would work. If it can't then no sound at all most likely. You could connect the DAC both ways and change audio devices in the PC depending on the source or use software that will assign a program to an audio output.
An input selector like this
https://www.amazon.com/Audio-Input-Selector-3x1-Stereo/dp/B00N3MTNG4
would allow you to select either the analog output of the DAC or of the soundcard to go into the headphone amp.
Some people prefer USB. If a driver is required it will be available. You may not need one if you don't play HiRes audio files. Macs don't require them usually. You select the DAC as your audio device.
Some people prefer coax digital. I think it depends on the specific DAC which is sounds better. Optical digital is usually the last choice.
Using a combined unit isn't really easier. Just requires an additional interconnect cable and power cord when you connect it together. It's worth it imo.
 

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