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post #1 of 16 Old 08-19-2014, 06:48 PM - Thread Starter
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looking for a new amp

Currently have this setup on my desktop. This sound card

http://www.soundblaster.com/products/sound-blaster-zxr.aspx

Two Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 55s

Along with a SMSL SA 98E

Was looking to find a replacement for the SMSL which has a better DAC/optical input.

Last edited by UnNamedPerson; 08-19-2014 at 06:54 PM.
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post #2 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 12:07 AM
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That is a pretty nice amp, I have one running my mains in my computer setup. Try instead, a USB (if your sound card doesn't have a digital out) or if so, whatever DAC, and then feed the amp that signal. I believe you're looking at the wrong component in your system.
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post #3 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 03:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UnNamedPerson View Post
Currently have this setup on my desktop. This sound card

http://www.soundblaster.com/products...aster-zxr.aspx

Two Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 55s

Along with a SMSL SA 98E

Was looking to find a replacement for the SMSL which has a better DAC/optical input.
My paper analysis concurs with the favorable evaluation of the SMSL SA98E. It lloks basically comparable to a 100 wpc AVR in terms of performance. One good feature is that it does not have Tripath chip(s) in it.

Of course it has no digital input, which an AVR would have, so you are dependent on the converters in the Soubnblaster which should be very, very good.

I don't know if you are aware of this but most good solutions are based on a clear statement of the problem, which at this point mystifies me.

What don't you like about the current system?

Needs more oompf - get a good subwoofer

Don't like tone quality? - add a flexible equalizer either via software (the SB card driver has some eq in it, the music player may have some eq in it, or get a MiniDSP and do it in dedicated hardware with great flexibility.
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post #4 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 07:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 89grand View Post
That is a pretty nice amp, I have one running my mains in my computer setup. Try instead, a USB (if your sound card doesn't have a digital out) or if so, whatever DAC, and then feed the amp that signal. I believe you're looking at the wrong component in your system.
I believe you are right, is there an issue using a DAC than using RCA to output the sound to the amp?

These speakers have plenty of base but I connected them to my old Yamaha RX-v451 using optical and it sounded crystal clear. Issue is that I am using that the Yamaha in a different room and I wouldn't have space for it in my room.
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post #5 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 08:34 AM
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Just pick up a new receiver then, you can get a good deal on refurbished units at www.accessories4less.com. If you like Yamaha, this RX-V377 would be a good choice.

That SMSL amp has a 10% THD at 70 watts into 8ohms, versus the 0.09% on the Yamaha.

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post #6 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by UnNamedPerson View Post
I believe you are right, is there an issue using a DAC than using RCA to output the sound to the amp?

These speakers have plenty of base but I connected them to my old Yamaha RX-v451 using optical and it sounded crystal clear. Issue is that I am using that the Yamaha in a different room and I wouldn't have space for it in my room.
I know in my case, the sound quality from my sound card was considerably better through the Toslink output than the analog out. A very noticeable difference.

I use a h/k AVR 330 as a DAC and subwoofer controller. I could use it to power my speakers too, but I don't, I use the SMSL amp.

That's the way a DAC works, optical or coax into it, RCA out to the amplifier. I think something like this cheap Monoprice DAC would be an improvement over the sound cards analog out.

http://www.amazon.com/Monoprice-Digi...=monoprice+dac
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post #7 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 12:25 PM
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I know in my case, the sound quality from my sound card was considerably better through the Toslink output than the analog out. A very noticeable difference.
That depends on the sound card.

The OP has a very good sound card, and it is unreasonable to expect its analog outputs to have an audible quality difference from the digital output driving a good AVR.
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post #8 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
That depends on the sound card.

The OP has a very good sound card, and it is unreasonable to expect its analog outputs to have an audible quality difference from the digital output driving a good AVR.
I can't recall the sound card in mine, but it was good enough to include a digital output, something I didn't normally see on lesser sound cards 4 years ago or so when I bought my computer or even today for that matter.

I'm not a proponent of voodoo like cables and other nonsense, but it was clear as day that my computer sounded much better through the digital output than the analog out. The OP says his did too when he used the digital out to a receiver that he now uses somewhere else. So I have to disagree that it is unreasonable, because we both feel the same way. I think it's much more reasonable that the digital out sounds better than the analog out as opposed to the receiver sounding better than his SMSL amp as the two most likely sound identical. Maybe there is just a lot more noise or whatever generated by a computer that gets into the analog out as opposed to comparing the two outputs from a decent CD player.

I was using a Denon AVR at the time when I compared the two outputs.
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post #9 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 05:30 PM
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I can't recall the sound card in mine, but it was good enough to include a digital output, something I didn't normally see on lesser sound cards 4 years ago or so when I bought my computer or even today for that matter.

I'm not a proponent of voodoo like cables and other nonsense, but it was clear as day that my computer sounded much better through the digital output than the analog out. The OP says his did too when he used the digital out to a receiver that he now uses somewhere else. So I have to disagree that it is unreasonable, because we both feel the same way. I think it's much more reasonable that the digital out sounds better than the analog out as opposed to the receiver sounding better than his SMSL amp as the two most likely sound identical. Maybe there is just a lot more noise or whatever generated by a computer that gets into the analog out as opposed to comparing the two outputs from a decent CD player.

I was using a Denon AVR at the time when I compared the two outputs.
4 words or 5: non-level matched sighted evaluation. They are invariably positive for audible differences no matter what.

Next possible source of audible differences is problems in the analog domain due to interfacing an output and an input on two separate chassis. This is not an audible problem with the analog output as such, but rather an interfacing problem that can generally be managed but not necessarily by an inexperienced audiophile.
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post #10 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
4 words or 5: non-level matched sighted evaluation. They are invariably positive for audible differences no matter what.

Next possible source of audible differences is problems in the analog domain due to interfacing an output and an input on two separate chassis. This is not an audible problem with the analog output as such, but rather an interfacing problem that can generally be managed but not necessarily by an inexperienced audiophile.
I understand this place is science based, and I'm one of those types too. I don't believe in much difference between amps, cables of any kind etc, but I maintain without a doubt that my sound cards analog out is much worse sounding than the digital out regardless of which of the two receivers I used as DAC's, a Denon before and now a Harman Kardon which both sound identical as expected.

In fact, what drove me to buy a Toslink cable and try the digital out was that I was really disappointed in the sound quality I was getting from the analog out, as I assumed there would be no real difference, but once I connected the Toslink cable it was quite obvious. I even kept the analog and digital inputs connected for a bit and switched back and forth between them through the computer and it was not even close.

I would compare the difference to that of a 96k mp3 vs a 320k mp3 and probably even more extreme than that. I cannot speak for the OP, but he seems to be saying he experienced the same thing, or it sounds similar anyway.

I'll entertain theory's as to why that is because I'm not entirely sure why, but I won't entertain the idea that they sound the same because they simply do not. The Toslink cable was $5 or so, so it's not like I have a lot of money involved and wanted to hear a difference. Like I said, I only purchased a Toslink cable to see if the analog out was the problem and in my case it clearly was.

I seriously doubt the 3.5mm to RCA jack was the problem as I tried several, so it was either both of those cables, or the digital out sounds a lot better. I vote the latter.

When I had crappy "computer" speakers, I didn't really notice a problem, because the speakers sucked, but once I put together a real audio system, it sounded bad before I went to the digital out. It's already connected that way, and has been for several years and I have no intention of switching it back regardless of who says they sound the same. It's my setup, of course I've heard it, and they sound different. Maybe in theory they shouldn't, but they do, and that's a fact.
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post #11 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 07:27 PM
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I understand this place is science based, and I'm one of those types too. I don't believe in much difference between amps, cables of any kind etc, but I maintain without a doubt that my sound cards analog out is much worse sounding than the digital out regardless of which of the two receivers I used as DAC's, a Denon before and now a Harman Kardon which both sound identical as expected.
Since the identity of the sound card seems to be lost and gone forever, this is not really a very sensible discussion because even if we could agree what outputs sounded the same or different we still wouldn't know what we are talking about. ;-)
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post #12 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 08:08 PM
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It's no secret and it's not gone forever, I was at work when I posted #8 . I'd tell you if I knew then.

Going into device manager all I see is:

ATI High definition audio

Realtek High definition audio.

I don't see model numbers or the like. My computer is nearing 4 years old, so they probably don't even make the exact sound cards I have. I pulled the side cover, but the sound card is on the other side and hidden by the mother board on my Dell. So I still don't know exactly what it is, but I know the digital out sounds a lot better.
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post #13 of 16 Old 08-20-2014, 09:54 PM - Thread Starter
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What do you guys think of something like this?


http://www.crutchfield.com/p_063AH01...H01-Black.html


The thing that would bug me though is that it also has a Burr-Brown dac which is the same as in my ZxR sound card. I would feel like I am paying for the same item.
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post #14 of 16 Old 08-21-2014, 12:37 AM
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What do you guys think of something like this?


http://www.crutchfield.com/p_063AH01...H01-Black.html


The thing that would bug me though is that it also has a Burr-Brown dac which is the same as in my ZxR sound card. I would feel like I am paying for the same item.
Your amplifier isn't the problem. Some may say (not me) you don't even have one at all, you just think you do, but I say you should try a DAC, even a cheap one like I posted earlier from Monoprice.

Keep your current amp, it's a nice one as I run one too. No reason at all to swap amplifiers,.
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post #15 of 16 Old 08-21-2014, 04:26 AM
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Originally Posted by UnNamedPerson View Post
What do you guys think of something like this?


http://www.crutchfield.com/p_063AH01...H01-Black.html


The thing that would bug me though is that it also has a Burr-Brown dac which is the same as in my ZxR sound card. I would feel like I am paying for the same item.
Are you aware of the fact that Burr Brown has produced a zilliion different models of DACs at all sorts of performance levels, so the phrase "Burr Brown DAC" is meaningless as related to sound quality?

If you are having analog domain problems interfacing your sound card's DAC with your amplifier, then migrating to an amp with a DAC built into it can solve that problem.

Of course, if you want to spend like $300 for some DACs and good amps in a box then you might as well graduate to an AVR.
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post #16 of 16 Old 08-21-2014, 07:02 AM
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This HiFiMeDIY Sabre DAC is a great affordable choice: http://us.hifimediy.com/Digital_to_a...ronous_USB_DAC

If you want to keep your current amp and just upgrade the DAC, I would go this route. The best value however is in a receiver, you get things like room correction, bass management, multiple inputs, sound processing, and it's all wrapped up into a single package, at an affordable price (due to volume of sales).

Btw, Sabre DACs are what is used in the Oppo 105, and IIRC the HiFiMe DAC uses the same version that is in the Objective DAC, which is very highly regarded.

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