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post #1 of 78 Old 02-27-2013, 02:09 PM - Thread Starter
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After listening to some speakers and realizing that my demo cd seemed to compress the soundstage (there was a clear difference using a regular cd), I'm reripping my CDs back into iTunes via apple lossless. I'd previously just converted the existing library by using the "Make apple lossless version" command. I realize now that this was pointless since you can't add info to what was previously ripped at a lower bit rate.
I have a few questions...
1. Is there a limitation on the bit rate an Apple Airport Express can pass? I can't find the answer anywhere.
2. Would a DAC placed btw the Airport and my receiver open up the soundstage?

Any help is appreciated!
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post #2 of 78 Old 02-27-2013, 02:23 PM
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1. Is there a limitation on the bit rate an Apple Airport Express can pass? I can't find the answer anywhere.
Yes, but it's at least good enough to pass CD-quality resolution.
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2. Would a DAC placed btw the Airport and my receiver open up the soundstage?
No. Soundstage is influenced by three things:
1. Speakers.
2. Room.
3. There is no Number 3.

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post #3 of 78 Old 02-27-2013, 06:56 PM
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I believe the Airport Express is limited to 16/44.1 CD resolution, so any high-res files will be converted to that format when played. Other airplay devices like the Apple TV upsample to 48khz to account for dolby digital tracks being played through it for TV/Movies etc. IMO cd resolution is plenty good.

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post #4 of 78 Old 02-27-2013, 07:29 PM - Thread Starter
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I should probably add more info. I was listening to kef r700s through a rega CD player and amp. Now, granted the KEFs are better speakers than the ones I own (why I was there in the first place), but there was a significant difference in the depth of the soundstage and the localization of instruments (imaging?) when just my demo cd was swapped with a nonripped cd. This makes me feel that there had to be something besides the speakers that caused it to open up. It wasn't the same music on both CDs but the difference wasn't subtle.
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post #5 of 78 Old 02-27-2013, 07:52 PM
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but there was a significant difference in the depth of the soundstage and the localization of instruments (imaging?) when just my demo cd was swapped with a nonripped cd. This makes me feel that there had to be something besides the speakers that caused it to open up. It wasn't the same music on both CDs but the difference wasn't subtle.
Wel, no, if you didn't change speakers in the store, then it wasn't the speakers. But you also didn't change DACs. But you did change program, and on top of that one program had been compressed, and the other hadn't. If I were to add a #3 to my list above, what I'd add is the quality of the recording. They can vary a lot. So what you heard isn't really a mystery. Unfortunately, for any given recording, we are usually limited to one recorded version of it, so it's not something we can control, unlike our speakers and our room.

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post #6 of 78 Old 02-27-2013, 08:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Wel, no, if you didn't change speakers in the store, then it wasn't the speakers. But you also didn't change DACs. But you did change program, and on top of that one program had been compressed, and the other hadn't. If I were to add a #3 to my list above, what I'd add is the quality of the recording. They can vary a lot. So what you heard isn't really a mystery. Unfortunately, for any given recording, we are usually limited to one recorded version of it, so it's not something we can control, unlike our speakers and our room.
True. Which brings me back to my original question. Will adding a DAC, along with reripping my CDs in apple lossless, help? So far, the few that I've reripped haven't seemed to make a difference. If so, any suggestions in the few hundred dollar range?

Edit: under Playback in iTunes I was able to change the bitrate for audio playback to 192kHz and Bits per sample for audio to 24. Should this make any difference?
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post #7 of 78 Old 02-28-2013, 05:18 AM
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Originally Posted by ambesolman View Post

True. Which brings me back to my original question. Will adding a DAC, along with reripping my CDs in apple lossless, help? So far, the few that I've reripped haven't seemed to make a difference. If so, any suggestions in the few hundred dollar range?

Edit: under Playback in iTunes I was able to change the bitrate for audio playback to 192kHz and Bits per sample for audio to 24. Should this make any difference?

how did you change the playback?

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post #8 of 78 Old 02-28-2013, 09:24 AM
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Will adding a DAC, along with reripping my CDs in apple lossless, help?
Depending on how compressed your earlier rips were, using Apple Lossless will help at least a little. Adding a DAC will not.
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Edit: under Playback in iTunes I was able to change the bitrate for audio playback to 192kHz and Bits per sample for audio to 24. Should this make any difference?
None at all.

Whatever sonic improvement you're seeking, a new DAC is not the solution.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #9 of 78 Old 02-28-2013, 09:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Brian Fineberg View Post

how did you change the playback?
Preferences- playback- down at the bottom
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post #10 of 78 Old 02-28-2013, 09:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Depending on how compressed your earlier rips were, using Apple Lossless will help at least a little. Adding a DAC will not.
None at all.

Whatever sonic improvement you're seeking, a new DAC is not the solution.
Well $hit. Thanks
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post #11 of 78 Old 02-28-2013, 03:15 PM - Thread Starter
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So what is a DAC good for?
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post #12 of 78 Old 02-28-2013, 04:00 PM
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I'm wondering if you would benefit more from adding a DAC in line to your system or just upgrading the speakers? Have you checked out the Peachtree audio gear? Integrated amplifiers with the ESS Sabre DAC in there which is supposed to be one of the best for computer audio conversion. Of course, as stated above, quality of the recording makes a huge difference as well. I have no experience with this, but have you checked out amarra or pure music software?

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post #13 of 78 Old 02-28-2013, 04:08 PM
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So what is a DAC good for?
For converting digital to analog, of course!

But I suppose your real question is, what good is a separate DAC when you've already got DAC chips in your computer sound card, your Airport Express, your AVR, your CD player, your DVD player your BR player, your TV, and lord knows what else. The answer is that DACs can vary on a technical (i.e., measurable) level, but even really cheap chips are so good your ears usually can't tell them apart. Still, people want to believe that they can get better sound just by adding another piece of kit, and the industry is happy to oblige.

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post #14 of 78 Old 02-28-2013, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Mopkins View Post

I'm wondering if you would benefit more from adding a DAC in line to your system or just upgrading the speakers? Have you checked out the Peachtree audio gear? Integrated amplifiers with the ESS Sabre DAC in there which is supposed to be one of the best for computer audio conversion. Of course, as stated above, quality of the recording makes a huge difference as well. I have no experience with this, but have you checked out amarra or pure music software?

From a technical standpoint DACs are probably going to improve in terms of measured performance for the foreseeable future. However, the dirty little secret that the DAC manufacturers don't want you to know is that the law of diminishing returns applies to DACs just like it applies to everything else.

For example, the big problem with trying to use an external DAC to try to improve the sound quality of an Airport Express is the already entirely sufficient quality of the DAC that is already in the Airport Express.

The myth is that the higher the sample rate, but better the sound. Reality is that the law diminishing returns is alive and well in that arena as well.
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post #15 of 78 Old 02-28-2013, 07:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Mopkins View Post

I'm wondering if you would benefit more from adding a DAC in line to your system or just upgrading the speakers? Have you checked out the Peachtree audio gear? Integrated amplifiers with the ESS Sabre DAC in there which is supposed to be one of the best for computer audio conversion. Of course, as stated above, quality of the recording makes a huge difference as well. I have no experience with this, but have you checked out amarra or pure music software?
I want new speakers but will probably be a year or so before I can buy any. The DAC iT looks cool and will have to find more reviews. Amarra sounds nice but is expensive, PM looks pretty good but it sounds like Decibel may be a better (and cheaper) route according to stereophile so I may give it a try. Going to play with some settings on my receiver (Sony 4400ES) and see if I can hear any differences by turning off or trying a different stting for the auto room correction. This is all great advice so please keep it coming!
Edit. Just realized that Decibel, etc are only available for Mac, I have windows. Back where I started. frown.gif
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post #16 of 78 Old 03-01-2013, 02:42 PM
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So true...the law of diminishing returns is very prevalent in the audio business. I can't tell you the number of set ups that I have heard at trade shows that were in the 100k and above range... Did they sound good? Yes, most of them really did. (strangely some really didn't) But, of those systems that were 100k, were they 95% better than all of my setup? Not a chance. To my ears that extra 5-10% of quality increase costs exponentially more expensive and isn't worth it. I think cars is another area where the law of diminishing returns is rampant, but still status and want vs need play huge roles in those decisions. Is a Lamborghini worth 150k more than a Subaru Brz performance wise? Enough people think so I guess.

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post #17 of 78 Old 03-01-2013, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by ambesolman View Post

I want new speakers but will probably be a year or so before I can buy any. The DAC iT looks cool and will have to find more reviews. Amarra sounds nice but is expensive, PM looks pretty good but it sounds like Decibel may be a better (and cheaper) route according to stereophile so I may give it a try. Going to play with some settings on my receiver (Sony 4400ES) and see if I can hear any differences by turning off or trying a different sitting for the auto room correction. This is all great advice so please keep it coming!
Edit. Just realized that Decibel, etc are only available for Mac, I have windows. Back where I started. frown.gif
Have you tried just switching your music player and getting better content like Flac? Maybe just give foobar a try and see if that makes any noticeable difference? I'm assuming you already have a huge library of music, so starting over on high resolution digital audio is probably not the best route either? In my experience the two biggest factors to improving audio quality is the room quality/placement and speakers. After that it's electronics....recording quality being a given..good in-good out!

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post #18 of 78 Old 03-01-2013, 04:23 PM - Thread Starter
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I wouldn't have an issue with using another player if:
It would stream through AirPlay (most importantly)
I could actually find music I like in high rez files.

I've been to hdtracks hoping to find something to try out but there was absolutely nothing that I listen to.
The airplay has made it to where I can shuffle through my library from anywhere in the house and change songs and volume if I want to. It's just ridiculously convenient. If I can still do all this with another player and still get high rez music I like then please let me know where to find it.
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post #19 of 78 Old 03-02-2013, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by fatuglyguy View Post

I believe the Airport Express is limited to 16/44.1 CD resolution, so any high-res files will be converted to that format when played. Other airplay devices like the Apple TV upsample to 48khz to account for dolby digital tracks being played through it for TV/Movies etc. IMO cd resolution is plenty good.
If it's limited to 16/44, you are best not to make any volume adjustments via the airport express (you really want 24-bit if you are changing volume digitally) but there's no loss from the 44.1 output.
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The myth is that the higher the sample rate, but better the sound. Reality is that the law diminishing returns is alive and well in that arena as well.
It's not even diminishing returns at this point - we can't hear over 20kHz so 44.1kHz (which can represent signals up to 22.05kHz perfectly) is more than enough to cover the entire range of human hearing. 16-bit source files are plenty as well, because 96dB of dynamic range is more than enough to damage your hearing, and most music only uses about 1/3 of that dynamic range anyway.
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Originally Posted by ambesolman View Post

Amarra sounds nice but is expensive, PM looks pretty good but it sounds like Decibel may be a better (and cheaper) route according to stereophile so I may give it a try. Going to play with some settings on my receiver (Sony 4400ES) and see if I can hear any differences by turning off or trying a different stting for the auto room correction. This is all great advice so please keep it coming!
Edit. Just realized that Decibel, etc are only available for Mac, I have windows. Back where I started. frown.gif
On Windows, the best player is JRiver Media Center. But if you have your system audio output set to 24/44.1, and your player set the same way, you are pretty much guaranteed bit-perfect output these days.

JRiver and other players make this easier by using WASAPI output, which takes control over the sound card and sets it to 24/44.1 automatically, but it is not necessary. Even iTunes has sample rate options now.

On OS X, tools like Amarra just handle sample rate switching (my understanding is that there is no equivalent of WASAPI on OS X for the player to easily take over the sound card) and adding transcoding of unsupported formats to iTunes. Amarra is ridiculously overpriced for what it does.
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Originally Posted by ambesolman View Post

I wouldn't have an issue with using another player if:
It would stream through AirPlay (most importantly)
I could actually find music I like in high rez files.

I've been to hdtracks hoping to find something to try out but there was absolutely nothing that I listen to.
The airplay has made it to where I can shuffle through my library from anywhere in the house and change songs and volume if I want to. It's just ridiculously convenient. If I can still do all this with another player and still get high rez music I like then please let me know where to find it.
"HD" files are a rip-off, taking advantage of the uninformed consumer.

Here's a "24/96" recording from a limited edition package that was not cheap:
24-96iqojt.jpg

Low-pass filtered to 24kHz, so it's clearly a 24/48 file that has been upsampled. Oops. (not that it matters to those of us with human ears)

And a 24/352.8 DXD master which is 330MB for a four minute track:
dxdiqqo9.jpg

This is actually a very good sounding, high fidelity piano recording. But all the music is basically under 15kHz, with a couple of peaks extending to 20kHz. (that are probably below the threshold of hearing) Then, as you extend upwards, you see a gradual increase of noise above 70kHz - you actually want to filter this out. If this track was a 16/44.1 file (or 24/44.1 if you like) it would sound exactly the same.


What makes a recording sound "high fidelity" is the quality of the mastering, whether the track has compressed dynamics due to the "loudness war" or not.
It may be that companies selling you 24/48 audio and beyond are paying more attention to the mastering of their files, but you don't need anything more than 16/44.
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post #20 of 78 Old 03-04-2013, 02:14 PM
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What makes a recording sound "high fidelity" is the quality of the mastering, whether the track has compressed dynamics due to the "loudness war" or not.
It may be that companies selling you 24/48 audio and beyond are paying more attention to the mastering of their files, but you don't need anything more than 16/44.

Great info, thank you! I to have use Jriver and liked the layout and flexibility of it over other players, but it doesn't support Airplay I think as a requirement for ambesolman.

Do you think audio master is a dying art?

Chronoptomis, how do you listen to music?

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post #21 of 78 Old 03-04-2013, 05:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Some great info! Yeah if I can import stuff into itunes or just stream through an airport express then I don't really care what I use to do it.
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post #22 of 78 Old 03-05-2013, 04:23 PM
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Hey, just curious, have you tried comparing your music while listening through an external DAC to see if it makes a difference to you? I even though I believe the data above, I have heard some super high resolution songs from a Mac through asynchronous DAC and it definitely sounded impressive, but I didn't do any comparison. Through that same system I did compare some standard MP3 and High Resolution of the same song and that was noticeably different. All part of the fun!

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post #23 of 78 Old 03-05-2013, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Mopkins View Post

Great info, thank you! I to have use Jriver and liked the layout and flexibility of it over other players, but it doesn't support Airplay I think as a requirement for ambesolman.
iTunes should be fine really. If you are outputting via your computer, you need to take a little care to get bit-perfect output (set the system & iTunes to 24/44.1) but if you're using AirPlay, it's just streaming the file so you don't have to worry about that.
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Do you think audio master is a dying art?
I think the engineers still know what they're doing, but the artists or the label are forcing them to do bad things to the audio. (such as compressing the dynamics to make it sound loud)
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Chronoptomis, how do you listen to music?
Right now there isn't much particularly interesting about my setup. I spend a lot more time with higher-end headphones than speakers though. (which I find can be a lot less forgiving than speakers)
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Hey, just curious, have you tried comparing your music while listening through an external DAC to see if it makes a difference to you? I even though I believe the data above, I have heard some super high resolution songs from a Mac through asynchronous DAC and it definitely sounded impressive, but I didn't do any comparison. Through that same system I did compare some standard MP3 and High Resolution of the same song and that was noticeably different. All part of the fun!
Well MP3 is less than CD quality. 320K MP3 is probably indistinguishable from CD to most people though. But once you are at CD quality, you aren't really going to get much better (audibly) than that.
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post #24 of 78 Old 03-05-2013, 04:57 PM - Thread Starter
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"iTunes should be fine really. If you are outputting via your computer, you need to take a little care to get bit-perfect output (set the system & iTunes to 24/44.1) but if you're using AirPlay, it's just streaming the file so you don't have to worry about that."

So if I have apple lossless will it stream higher than 24/44.1 through the airport express? Will it matter if I set the playback to 24/192 or 24/96?
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post #25 of 78 Old 03-05-2013, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by ambesolman View Post

So if I have apple lossless will it stream higher than 24/44.1 through the airport express? Will it matter if I set the playback to 24/192 or 24/96?
I think the Airport Express only supports 16/44, so it probably just sends that out to it.

Changing the local playback settings won't make a difference to streaming audio, only playing music directly on the computer.
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post #26 of 78 Old 03-05-2013, 07:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Isn't there a newer airport? I have a first gen. Wonder if there's a difference...I'll see if I can find anything. Would a DAC downstream of it make a difference with those settings if it supported them?
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post #27 of 78 Old 03-06-2013, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post

Well MP3 is less than CD quality. 320K MP3 is probably indistinguishable from CD to most people though. But once you are at CD quality, you aren't really going to get much better (audibly) than that.

Absolutely, but my question is if you listened to the same track, one straight from your PC soundcard to your system and the other run through a DAC. Any noticeable difference?

As for headphones, what do you recommend? Do you use a headphone amp or...DAC? Probably best for another thread? Thanks again!

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post #28 of 78 Old 03-06-2013, 05:17 PM
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Absolutely, but my question is if you listened to the same track, one straight from your PC soundcard to your system and the other run through a DAC. Any noticeable difference?
Possibly, but it won't be because you need a better DAC. It will probably be because of noise/interference n the analog side. An inexpensive USB DAC will solve that problem, if you have it.

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post #29 of 78 Old 03-06-2013, 05:18 PM
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Isn't there a newer airport? I have a first gen. Wonder if there's a difference.
Yes, but even the 1st generation was pretty darn good. It's gotten better, if anything.
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Would a DAC downstream of it make a difference with those settings if it supported them?
No.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #30 of 78 Old 03-06-2013, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Mopkins View Post

Absolutely, but my question is if you listened to the same track, one straight from your PC soundcard to your system and the other run through a DAC. Any noticeable difference?
Well a soundcard basically is a DAC. But on-board sound cards tend not to have great signal-to-noise ratios so there can be some background noise/hiss with playback, and they often don't have a completely flat frequency response.

So an external DAC, or even just a better soundcard can help.
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Originally Posted by Mopkins View Post

As for headphones, what do you recommend? Do you use a headphone amp or...DAC? Probably best for another thread? Thanks again!
Right now I have the top-end Sony monitor headphones, which I'm pretty happy with after going through a number of lower and higher-end headphones. (Grado, AKG, Sennheiser, B&W etc.)

Low impedance headphones usually don't have a problem going loud enough, but they often need an amplifier because the headphone jack on a lot of devices has a high output impedance, and you ideally want the output impedance to be 1/8th or less the headphone impedance. So if your headphones were only 24 ohms, then the output should be 3 ohms or less. A lot of devices such as AV amplifiers have an output well above 30 ohms, if they even specify what it is. So in that case, a headphone amplifier would make sense.

If you have high impedance headphones, the issue is more about whether or not they can go loud enough, than them sounding bad. A pair of 600 ohm headphones only needs the headphone jack to have an output of less than 75 ohms, which is fairly common.
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