Ok I have a question. What is the real difference between anexternal DAC and an external sound card

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Ed_19_

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Jan 15, 2017
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I am using a soundblaster XFI surround 5.1 pro external sound card for playback from a laptop. so what is the difference between that and a DAC ? what difference in sound quality would I get
 
You are right that they both have DAC chips in them and perform the same function when you are talking about stereo music.
An external DAC will have it's own power supply unlike a soundcard.
There are pro audio soundcards like the ESI Juli@ and Lynx that sound good but since the inside a PC case is not a great environment for analog audio getting the conversion outside is a plus. Also if by using a USB DAC you bypass the mobo or soundcard audio. There are USB boards and cables designed to isolate the DAC from the USB buss creating an even cleaner connection.
External DACs come in a vast range of prices ($30 to $100k). At the entry level end Schitt is very good. There are many to choose from and they do sound different.
Your lossless (and HiRes) flac files will benefit from a DAC. Your mp3 files not so much.
 
Depends on the context of the conversation.

When people talk about a DAC for HEADPHONE, is a dedicated box, STEREO ONLY, designed to deliver the best audiophile fidelity to a pair of headphones, from a PC but not limited to it.

When people talk about DAC in an external sound card, saying such sound card has a DAC is really superfluous, as without a DAC, an external soundcard would not have a reason to exist, one wouldn't pipe analog signal to an external soundcard. The reason at all for an external souncard is that an INTERNAL soundcard is susceptible to the inside of a noisy PC. An external soundcard can do surround.


Honestly I think you newbies are sucked in by all these fancy add-ons, to me sound built into modern Motherboard are pretty decent, specially if this is your first rig and you are listening to compressed MP3 anyways. But oh well, your money.
 

Ed_19_

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Jan 15, 2017
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Hi, and thanks but still didn't answer my question.. a DAC is digital to analog converter, wouldn't a sound card also do this as the sound would have to be analog to listen to wouldn't it.. just asking.. and I am listening to FLAC lossless files mostly and some high quality 320 mp3s.
and built in sound cards on motherboards are really poor quality from my experience.
so what is the difference between a DAC run from a usb or a sound card run from a usb.... I have searched for answers on the net and have come up with no answers.
thanks

 
You are right that they both have DAC chips in them and perform the same function when you are talking about stereo music.
An external DAC will have it's own power supply unlike a soundcard.
There are pro audio soundcards like the ESI Juli@ and Lynx that sound good but since the inside a PC case is not a great environment for analog audio getting the conversion outside is a plus. Also if by using a USB DAC you bypass the mobo or soundcard audio. There are USB boards and cables designed to isolate the DAC from the USB buss creating an even cleaner connection.
External DACs come in a vast range of prices ($30 to $100k). At the entry level end Schitt is very good. There are many to choose from and they do sound different.
Your lossless (and HiRes) flac files will benefit from a DAC. Your mp3 files not so much.
 
Sep 24, 2018
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An external DAC will have it's own power supply and the external sound card will use the power from the computer. The sound card will need your PC switched on and conversion drivers/software installed to function even if you are using digital input from any other device, however a DAC can just take a digital input and give analog output without any PC or software interface in between.The sound card also gives you the possibility to modify and play with the sound channels using a PC software unlike DAC.

Cheers!

 
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