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Old 6th June 2016, 2:17 PM   #1
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Default Drop ya DAC's

In another of my threads there was a brief discussion about DAC's, I've always been a premium soundcard man but after having a few more issues than i'd usually tolerate i'm starting to look into DAC's as they just seem to have less fiddling and other F words.

I've no experience with them, I'd be keen to know what DAC's others are running and what headphones they have paired to them.

@Samo recommended this one in the other thread, it looks on par with what I would spend.
http://headphones.com.au/psingle?productID=1090
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Old 6th June 2016, 3:02 PM   #2
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I have three different usb dacs

Audioengine D1

Usb dac with optical input
RCA output and headphone amplifier
I use this most often and it hooked up to the Pc permanently.
Costs a bit but it is really well put together and hasn't faulted me yet.

Stoner Acoustics

A guy in Malaysia making some really high quality and cheap Usb dacs. I bought and still have a UD100 his first iteration of dac which is a pcb with usb and heatshrunk for protection.
After using it for a couple years I checked back to get a second and he was up to his 3rd iteration the UD120 which is no longer a naked pcb covered in heatshrink but is now in a case with a fly lead for the 3.5mm out.

Both have worked without issue on my pc and more importantly my Android phone. They are super compact and allow me to bypass the dac inside my phone
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Old 6th June 2016, 3:22 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonerboy779 View Post
I have three different usb dacs

Audioengine D1

Usb dac with optical input
RCA output and headphone amplifier
I use this most often and it hooked up to the Pc permanently.
Costs a bit but it is really well put together and hasn't faulted me yet.
Do you use the optical output from your PC to this DAC? Or just USB? Excuse my ignorance.
What headphones you have hooked up to this?
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Old 6th June 2016, 4:45 PM   #4
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Currently using a SoundBlaster Zx as my DAC to an external headphone amp. I am looking at trying a Schiit Modi Uber and using optical out from the soundcard to keep the virtual surround sound. I'm just not sure I'll notice a big enough difference. May need to go up to a Schiit Bitfrost or Rega DAC to for it to be a noticeable jump in sound quality from the sound blaster's DAC.
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Old 6th June 2016, 5:07 PM   #5
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Currently using a SoundBlaster Zx as my DAC to an external headphone amp. I am looking at trying a Schiit Modi Uber and using optical out from the soundcard to keep the virtual surround sound. I'm just not sure I'll notice a big enough difference. May need to go up to a Schiit Bitfrost or Rega DAC to for it to be a noticeable jump in sound quality from the sound blaster's DAC.
Yeah well im using a SB ZXR at the moment, I think I'd probably sell it if I were to move to a DAC.
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Old 7th June 2016, 7:00 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by {V|PER} View Post
Do you use the optical output from your PC to this DAC? Or just USB? Excuse my ignorance.
What headphones you have hooked up to this?
Usb 32-96khz native playback and optical can go 32-192khz so you can get greater resolution out of optical.

I am personally using usb as I can currently quickly swap between the dac and a usb sound bar without going into setting by just turning it on and off. Convenience thing and the difference from 96-192kHz is lost on me.

Headphones are akg-q701 love these so comfortable with a wide open sound stage.

One thing though if you use chrome the hardware acceleration can interfere with usb dacs and if you don't uncheck it you can experience in video playback a small clicking sound
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Old 7th June 2016, 9:38 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Stonerboy779 View Post
Usb 32-96khz native playback and optical can go 32-192khz so you can get greater resolution out of optical.

I am personally using usb as I can currently quickly swap between the dac and a usb sound bar without going into setting by just turning it on and off. Convenience thing and the difference from 96-192kHz is lost on me.

Headphones are akg-q701 love these so comfortable with a wide open sound stage.

One thing though if you use chrome the hardware acceleration can interfere with usb dacs and if you don't uncheck it you can experience in video playback a small clicking sound
OMG! Yesterday I was using chrome looking at the gigabyte website and this clicking started... I went berserk, reinstalled drivers, played with heaps of settings and couldn't fix it. End of the day I thought i'd fixed it and went back to the gigabyte site and back it came!

So must also interfere with the ZXR DAC. I was furious i'd wasted time trying to fix it, but glad id also found it wasnt a hardware issue.
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Old 7th June 2016, 11:18 AM   #8
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In my experience a decent PC soundcard worth around $200 is significantly better than similarly priced external solutions.

I've had quite a few customers "upgrade" from something like an Essence ST or STX to ~$500 external setups only to notice absolutely no improvements, and for those going to ~$800+ setups to notice some, not especially significant, improvements (more refinements).

The bottom line with DACs is that the biggest jump is from bad to not bad. Once you've got a decent DAC in your setup the diminishing returns are extremely strong.

24/192 is a waste of time and space IMO.

I'm totally over testing DACs. As far as I'm concerned there only really needs to be one and all it has to do is pass through a nice clean, flat signal which most decent ones do
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Old 7th June 2016, 12:46 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by {V|PER} View Post
OMG! Yesterday I was using chrome looking at the gigabyte website and this clicking started... I went berserk, reinstalled drivers, played with heaps of settings and couldn't fix it. End of the day I thought i'd fixed it and went back to the gigabyte site and back it came!

So must also interfere with the ZXR DAC. I was furious i'd wasted time trying to fix it, but glad id also found it wasnt a hardware issue.
Yeah it freaked me the shit out thought my dac had broken but thankfully it is a really easy fix
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Old 7th June 2016, 1:45 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stonerboy779 View Post
Yeah it freaked me the shit out thought my dac had broken but thankfully it is a really easy fix
There is a fix? Mine might be slightly different but i'd be interested to know.
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Old 7th June 2016, 1:47 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Snufkin View Post
In my experience a decent PC soundcard worth around $200 is significantly better than similarly priced external solutions.
Interesting, I think I need to listen to a couple of DAC's with my headphones to determine if this journey will be worth it then.
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Old 7th June 2016, 2:25 PM   #12
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Well keep in mind any external DAC you listen to with headphones will also require an external headphone amp, so you're going to be comparing more than one component

Consider this : a manufacturer like Asus makes thousands of sound cards in an automated factory which is crazy cheap. There's no external chassis or power supply required either.
Something like a Mayflower O2ODAC may give you a better, more powerful headphone stage but the DAC stage isn't likely to sound better than what's in the ST/STX or even the cheaper DG/DX cards.
Instead of being automatically manufactured in the thousands they're hand assembled in the dozens.
Economy of scale and all that.

edit: if I were to use my PC for games, movies and music I would definitely go with an internal soundcard if possible.
If the PC is only ever going to be used for music I'd probably go external, but that also depends on how I want to use the setup.
At home I have a PC with a decent soundcard (STX) and a laptop with an external DAC (Audiolab M-DAC). The PC is used for games/movies/music whereas the laptop is just used for music playback (it runs foobar and that's all). I wouldn't say the MDAC setup sounds better enough to justify the cost difference (far from it) however my entire 2ch audio setup (speakers and headphones) runs from it so it makes sense to have something decent as the cornerstone.

I've also noticed that other than higher numbers in the specs DACs aren't really improving significantly. There's literally only so good you can make them sound and we reached that point a while ago, now there's higher numbers to try and convince people they need to upgrade but real world improvements don't match up to the hype IMO.

Last edited by Snufkin; 7th June 2016 at 2:30 PM.
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Old 7th June 2016, 3:04 PM   #13
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For me the best bit about having the D1 is the ability to use it on any pc, desktop or laptop without anymore hassle than plugging a usb in.
It also frees up space inside a case so I can run a cooler system with my Quad sli gtx690.

My primary use is for games and music and for both I'll primarily use my headphones and therefore the portable dac with inbuilt headphone amp is perfect for me.

As Snufkin has said a lot of things are dependant and fundamental a lot of features differ between internal and external sound solutions. For my HTPC I have an auzentech 7.1 forte, fit another list of needs for me low profile full surround channels etc
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Old 7th June 2016, 3:08 PM   #14
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Yeah being able to plug it in easily to multiple devices can be a plus, especially HTPC setups.

Buying a cheap external DAC and amp to run on your desktop PC when there's space inside your case for a decent soundcard isn't a good way to spend money
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Old 7th June 2016, 3:19 PM   #15
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Something like the QDAC would still be good if it's a gaming/music mix wouldn't it? assuming taking advantage of the various outputs it has and also multiple inputs (sorry to hijack).

Last edited by jpw007; 7th June 2016 at 3:24 PM.
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