Audiophile quality out of a pc - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 08-15-2008, 11:01 PM - Thread Starter
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I am posting here since the HTPC forums primarily deal with surround sound and that is not what I am into. Does anyone know of an Audiophile quality 2ch sound card for a pc.

Any help is welcomed and appreciated.
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post #2 of 26 Old 08-15-2008, 11:11 PM
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You can have a look at this one from M-Audio
http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_u...e192-main.html or http://www.echoaudio.com/Products/PCI/MiaMIDI/index.php from Echo

There are other manufacturers you just need to run a search on digital audio cards.
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post #3 of 26 Old 08-16-2008, 05:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by westcoastman View Post

You can have a look at this one from M-Audio
http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_u...e192-main.html or http://www.echoaudio.com/Products/PCI/MiaMIDI/index.php from Echo

There are other manufacturers you just need to run a search on digital audio cards.

Those can't possibly be Audiophile grade... they don't have any vacuum tubes.

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post #4 of 26 Old 08-16-2008, 05:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rutgar View Post

Those can't possibly be Audiophile grade... they don't have any vacuum tubes.

Too late the audiophiles had their fingers in computer as well

http://www.retrothing.com/2007/07/vacuum-tube-pc-.html

Warning to prevent risk of injuries, you should always be smarter than the equipment you are about to use.
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post #5 of 26 Old 08-16-2008, 06:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kouack View Post

Too late the audiophiles had their fingers in computer as well

http://www.retrothing.com/2007/07/vacuum-tube-pc-.html

That's funny. Especially since the author mentions the desire for a vacuum tube sound card.

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post #6 of 26 Old 08-16-2008, 04:12 PM
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I'd suggest putting your soundcard outside the computer. If you can afford it the Benchmark DAC1 is a nice unit. Google it. There are lots of other options. Basically it boils down to what you want and how much you have to spend.

I don't know how the discussion got sidetracked by tubes. Nothing wrong with tubes. At least when they distort they do it with nice even order harmonics,

Everything I say here is my opinion. It is not my employers opinion, it is not my wife's opinion, it is not my neighbors opinion, it is My Opinion.
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post #7 of 26 Old 08-16-2008, 04:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dknightd View Post

I don't know how the discussion got sidetracked by tubes.

it was a joke.(didn't see the big smilely face, eh?)

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post #8 of 26 Old 08-16-2008, 05:59 PM
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just get a sound card that can do "bit perfect" digital out and feed it to your dac of choice
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post #9 of 26 Old 08-16-2008, 09:37 PM
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Use a Lynx AES16e card to output digital to a nice DAC via AES and you'll be extremely happy.

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Computer Audiophile
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post #10 of 26 Old 08-17-2008, 09:28 PM
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I have an RME Digi 96/8 PAD, and it sounds great.

Make sure your sound card's drivers are supported by your OS.

USB DACs can sound very good, too. What is your budget?

- Steve O.
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post #11 of 26 Old 08-28-2008, 01:23 AM
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A regular el-cheapo Sound Blaster that has digital 96/24 out would suffice. Just use it to stream PCM to a DAC or receiver of your choice which in my case is an Onkyo TX-L55 with PSB Alpha B1's.
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post #12 of 26 Old 08-28-2008, 02:08 PM
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A regular el-cheapo Sound Blaster that has digital 96/24 out would suffice. Just use it to stream PCM to a DAC or receiver of your choice which in my case is an Onkyo TX-L55 with PSB Alpha B1's.

I think the thing that the truly hard core will look down there nose about with this solution as it is not the optimal solution for dealing with the inherrent PC clock jitter and thus suggestions for using things like AES or asynchronous USB etc.

However I am getting by quite nicely with a similar solution that uses a PLL reclocker on the PCM strereclocks it to a much lower jitter clock source than what comes out of my PC. Not that I claim to be an expert in identifying audible jitter artifacts but that this was necessary in order to get my preamp to lock on to the 96k/24bit stream from my PC consistently and reliably.
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post #13 of 26 Old 08-28-2008, 03:32 PM
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I use the Emu 0404 USB.

http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/...-0404-usb.html

I've heard the 0404 compared favorably with DAC's costing thousands more. It may not the be the absolute best solution, but it's a fantastic value. USB is usually very jittery, but that's because of the way Windows handles it. The 0404 has it's own USB drivers that fixes that problem, and it's a reclocking DAC. Plus it has phantom power for a microphone if you want to use your PC to do room measurements, speaker calibrations, things like that.
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post #14 of 26 Old 08-28-2008, 03:37 PM
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If you output digital from the computer you should be in business. The analog signal from the computer is usually the weak link. So if you output digital, and use a good DAC (digital to analog converter), you'll get very near perfect sound out of your pc. Soundcard wise, any with digital out should be good, the improvement in quality usually affect the analog signal, but since you're outputting digital, any card can easily output the 0-1 perfectly.

You don't need a crazy DAC like the DAC1 either, even a Behringer DEQ2496 does the job perfectly, and it's like 300 bucks I think. From there, you just output to your pre or integrated amp, or even directly through a power amp... Woila, audiophile grade sound from the computer.

http://209.85.171.104/translate_c?hl...Pf2xulC9mfmglw

Now making the computer 100% silent is another matter!
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post #15 of 26 Old 08-29-2008, 10:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WallyWest View Post

I use the Emu 0404 USB.

http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/...-0404-usb.html
USB is usually very jittery, but that's because of the way Windows handles it.

I have demo'd USB dacs in my PC-based system and have not heard major audible differences between them and my PCI-based RME card. "Very jittery" needs to be backed up with jitter/Thd measurements, IMHO.

- Steve O.
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post #16 of 26 Old 08-29-2008, 06:22 PM
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What kind of budget are we talking about, and do you want 'good' quality, or 'audiophile' quality?

Peter M

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post #17 of 26 Old 08-29-2008, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scorch123 View Post

"Very jittery" needs to be backed up with jitter/Thd measurements, IMHO.- Steve O.

I was about to say that as FLAC depends on the quality of the CD used to rip as well. So jitter issue is the least on my mind especially when their audible effect are arguable as well.
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post #18 of 26 Old 08-30-2008, 08:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scorch123 View Post

I have demo'd USB dacs in my PC-based system and have not heard major audible differences between them and my PCI-based RME card. "Very jittery" needs to be backed up with jitter/Thd measurements, IMHO.

- Steve O.

If you want to get technical there are several different modes USB can run in, based on the Windows drivers. The really horrible one is synchronous mode. Which many cheap USB devices use. There is zero error correction of any kind used in this mode. And it uses a fixed clock which makes it virtually impossible to generate 44.1Khz. It's essentially fixed at 48Khz. Jitter in this mode is off the charts, and that has been backed up many times. I agree that in general jitter is an overblown issue, but this is extreme jitter. If you care at all about audio quality stay far far away from devices using synchronous mode. Which can usually be identified by running only at 48Khz.

Asynchronous mode, which is very flexible and allows any clock speed you want, would be great. Too bad nobody uses it.

Adaptive mode is what most decent devices use. It's better than synchronous, but still not great.

Or you can do what Emu does and throw all that out the window. They wrote their own standard which runs in what is essentially asynchronous mode with some fancy error correction, and they reclock the data at the other end. This is probably overkill, and I wouldn't pay a premium for it. But the 0404 is pretty cheap.

As for proof I've heard it many times myself. The 0404 supports ASIO, but only through it's own drivers since the timing is totally different. Using the standard ASIO drivers in Winamp produces all sorts of clicks and pops and dropouts. That's an extreme case where the source is completely out of sync with the card, but I've heard many people complaining of the same thing with cheaper synchronous USB sound cards.
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post #19 of 26 Old 08-30-2008, 01:47 PM
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Asynchronous mode, which is very flexible and allows any clock speed you want, would be great. Too bad nobody uses it.

The latest Wavelength Audio DAC's all run in asynchronous USB mode. They are supposed to be pretty good sounding too from what I've been told. The biggest hurdle is the price of entry is a bit steep for my blood.
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post #20 of 26 Old 09-02-2008, 08:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WallyWest View Post

If you want to get technical there are several different modes USB can run in, based on the Windows drivers. The really horrible one is synchronous mode. Which many cheap USB devices use. There is zero error correction of any kind used in this mode. And it uses a fixed clock which makes it virtually impossible to generate 44.1Khz. It's essentially fixed at 48Khz. Jitter in this mode is off the charts, and that has been backed up many times. I agree that in general jitter is an overblown issue, but this is extreme jitter. If you care at all about audio quality stay far far away from devices using synchronous mode. Which can usually be identified by running only at 48Khz.

Asynchronous mode, which is very flexible and allows any clock speed you want, would be great. Too bad nobody uses it.

Adaptive mode is what most decent devices use. It's better than synchronous, but still not great.

Hi WallyWest,

I read another post on a different forum about USB jitter. It's just as technical sounding as your post, again with no examples of actual USB Dac products w/ measurements to back it up. I am still skeptical, especially since your post is a condensed version of this:

http://www.audioasylum.com/forums/pc...ages/7719.html

I am not saying you or that other poster is wrong, however. I am going to do more digging and see if I can get someone to provide real-world examples of synchronous, adaptive, and asynchronous mode USB dacs.

- Steve O.
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post #21 of 26 Old 09-02-2008, 01:25 PM
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I am going to do more digging and see if I can get someone to provide real-world examples of synchronous, adaptive, and asynchronous mode USB dacs.

For an example of adaptive look at DAC1.

For examples of Asynchronous look at Wavelength stuff.

Both seem to be pretty well regarded.
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post #22 of 26 Old 09-02-2008, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by /dev/null View Post

What kind of budget are we talking about, and do you want 'good' quality, or 'audiophile' quality?

OK so how about "Good Quality" for 150.00 or less, for us beginners? I just want good music around the house with my "music computer" as the source.

Thanks, rockboy2001
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post #23 of 26 Old 09-02-2008, 08:24 PM
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OK so how about "Good Quality" for 150.00 or less, for us beginners? I just want good music around the house with my "music computer" as the source.

m-audio sound cards are fine your purpose...actually USB cards or Motherboards with digital audio out is actually find for you. Several post here will try to give you info on something that you are remotely interested in and the "Just want good music" is an extremely subjective topic that will go downhill fast because some of these guys spend thousands on just cable and wiring alone. Obviously you are not interested in opinion from those types.



I use a m-audio 1010 card to send music from on PC to 8 zones around my house and I can play many song simultaneously in different zone I a choose too using my home audio distribution software (charmedquark).

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post #24 of 26 Old 09-02-2008, 08:45 PM
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BTW, do you guys know Onkyo makes some fine PCI soundcards?
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post #25 of 26 Old 09-02-2008, 08:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WallyWest View Post

I use the Emu 0404 USB.

http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/...-0404-usb.html

I've heard the 0404 compared favorably with DAC's costing thousands more. It may not the be the absolute best solution, but it's a fantastic value. USB is usually very jittery, but that's because of the way Windows handles it. The 0404 has it's own USB drivers that fixes that problem, and it's a reclocking DAC. Plus it has phantom power for a microphone if you want to use your PC to do room measurements, speaker calibrations, things like that.

No kidding but it would be more cheaper to get a soundcard that can output 192 and have it routed to a standard HT receiver that has 192/24 DAC.
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post #26 of 26 Old 09-07-2008, 08:07 PM
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I just use an Audiophile 192 with studio monitors.

FLAC played back through Foobar, using ASIO.
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