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post #1 of 43 Old 08-23-2014, 10:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Cheap Non-USB DAC

I'm looking for a fairly low-cost external DAC, but seemingly every DAC that I find in my price range only has USB input.

I would strongly prefer TOSLINK input, but I could deal with a Coax S/PDIF input. USB doesn't work for my needs unfortunately.


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post #2 of 43 Old 08-23-2014, 11:39 AM
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post #3 of 43 Old 08-23-2014, 01:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, but I'm actually looking for recommendations on specific units. I'm currently using the DAC built-into my X-Fi Titanium HD soundcard which is no slouch. I'll at least need something that has a hope of being better than that.


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post #4 of 43 Old 08-23-2014, 02:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GotNoRice View Post
Thanks, but I'm actually looking for recommendations on specific units. I'm currently using the DAC built-into my X-Fi Titanium HD soundcard which is no slouch. I'll at least need something that has a hope of being better than that.
The DAC that is built into an X-Fi Titanium HD soundcard is for all practical purposes, about as good as it gets.

You can spend more money, but better sound it unlikely. Bored? Someone made fun of your audio system? Useful upgrades to your system are probably in the area of speakers and room acoustics.
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post #5 of 43 Old 08-23-2014, 03:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
The DAC that is built into an X-Fi Titanium HD soundcard is for all practical purposes, about as good as it gets.

You can spend more money, but better sound it unlikely. Bored? Someone made fun of your audio system? Useful upgrades to your system are probably in the area of speakers and room acoustics.
I agree that the DAC is very good. My issue is that I have to use the card in the bottom 4x PCIe slot for it not to get electrical interference/noise. I'd much prefer to have the card in the top 1x PCIe slot, so I can eventually use the bottom 4x slot for a PCIe SSD. Unfortunately that puts the soundcard right in the center of my motherboard, above my two videocards and below my CPU, right next to the VRMs on the motherboard, etc. Tons of interference/noise as a result. This shouldn't be an issue using TOSLINK to an external DAC.


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post #6 of 43 Old 08-23-2014, 03:36 PM
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Using a USB card and USB DAC would not work for you?
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post #7 of 43 Old 08-23-2014, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by GotNoRice View Post
I agree that the DAC is very good. My issue is that I have to use the card in the bottom 4x PCIe slot for it not to get electrical interference/noise. I'd much prefer to have the card in the top 1x PCIe slot, so I can eventually use the bottom 4x slot for a PCIe SSD. Unfortunately that puts the soundcard right in the center of my motherboard, above my two videocards and below my CPU, right next to the VRMs on the motherboard, etc. Tons of interference/noise as a result. This shouldn't be an issue using TOSLINK to an external DAC.
I suspect that the above is the most detailed contrived semi-credible justification for using an external DAC that I have ever seen. I'm wondering which part of your body is going to drop off if you use a standard SATA SSD. ;-)
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post #8 of 43 Old 08-24-2014, 12:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
I suspect that the above is the most detailed contrived semi-credible justification for using an external DAC that I have ever seen. I'm wondering which part of your body is going to drop off if you use a standard SATA SSD. ;-)
I'm already running a Samsung 840 Pro as my boot drive, and a smaller Samsung 840 (non-pro) as an Intel SRT cache drive for my mechanical storage drives. I just want to plan for the future.

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Using a USB card and USB DAC would not work for you?
Using a USB DAC replaces the functionality of any existing soundcard with what amounts to a very basic and feature limited audio solution. I like many of the features of my X-Fi Titanium HD, such as advanced microphone effects, CMSS3D, etc. I'd like to retain those features by simply using the digital output from my soundcard to an external DAC. USB can also still provide an electrical path for interference, noise, etc to follow, whereas TOSLINK is immune.


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post #9 of 43 Old 08-24-2014, 05:24 AM
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Adding an external DAC isn't going to help anything or even change anything. You don't need one. But feel free to buy whatever you like. There is no point in our recommending something to add something you already have. I wish you could hear my computer audio setup which has an analog connection to the mainboard.
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post #10 of 43 Old 08-24-2014, 09:18 AM
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My issue is that I have to use the card in the bottom 4x PCIe slot for it not to get electrical interference/noise. I'd much prefer to have the card in the top 1x PCIe slot, so I can eventually use the bottom 4x slot for a PCIe SSD. Unfortunately that puts the soundcard right in the center of my motherboard, above my two videocards and below my CPU, right next to the VRMs on the motherboard, etc. Tons of interference/noise as a result.
I presume you've tried this and experienced a problem. If not, you should before you spend any money on a new DAC you might not need.

If you do need a non-USB DAC, you are going to have to pay more, largely because the manufacturers have to charge much more to make up for the smaller volume. You might check out pro audio shops.

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post #11 of 43 Old 08-24-2014, 07:56 PM
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The X-Fi Titanium HD already has better-than-CD-quality distortion figures coming out of it, so unless you listen to nothing but Bluray studio master copies of your music you won't gain one "bit" of improvement.
If you are unhappy with the sound, look towards your speakers and room acoustics.

That said, I've tried X-Fi cards, and external DAC's, the best sound I've heard thus far is an Oppo 105 XLR-outs with USB and Foobar in ASIO-mode/WASAPI-mode.

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post #12 of 43 Old 08-24-2014, 11:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post
Adding an external DAC isn't going to help anything or even change anything. You don't need one. But feel free to buy whatever you like. There is no point in our recommending something to add something you already have. I wish you could hear my computer audio setup which has an analog connection to the mainboard.
Your post seems to have very little to do with what I'm asking. I've already explained in detail at this point that my issue is not dissatisfaction with my soundcard's DAC but rather electrical interference related to which particular slot the card is installed into. I would like to eventually use the slot it's in for other purposes, yet I would also like to preserve the non-DAC functionality of the card. Using an external DAC electrically isolated via TOSLINK allows me to use the card in the slot that is currently problematic, solving all of my needs.

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The X-Fi Titanium HD already has better-than-CD-quality distortion figures coming out of it, so unless you listen to nothing but Bluray studio master copies of your music you won't gain one "bit" of improvement.
Even if the result is essentially equal, the improvement I'm seeking would come from the DAC being electrically isolated from the rest of my computer.


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post #13 of 43 Old 08-25-2014, 01:31 AM
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Originally Posted by GotNoRice View Post
Your post seems to have very little to do with what I'm asking. I've already explained in detail at this point that my issue is not dissatisfaction with my soundcard's DAC but rather electrical interference related to which particular slot the card is installed into. I would like to eventually use the slot it's in for other purposes, yet I would also like to preserve the non-DAC functionality of the card. Using an external DAC electrically isolated via TOSLINK allows me to use the card in the slot that is currently problematic, solving all of my needs.
Curious. After 20 years in the computer business and experience building and selling literally tens of thousands of computers, I've never encountered problematic electrical interference from or to a sound card. It must be an unusual configuration. Sorry I couldn't help.
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post #14 of 43 Old 08-25-2014, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Curious. After 20 years in the computer business and experience building and selling literally tens of thousands of computers, I've never encountered problematic electrical interference from or to a sound card. It must be an unusual configuration. Sorry I couldn't help.
I do independent IT and also have built countless systems, with similar years of experience. I'm not sure what kinds of systems you were building in that time, but It's actually pretty common among gamer systems. Videocards are the typical culprit, and of course having multiple high-end and potentially overclocked videocards in SLI or Crossfire exacerbates the issue. CPU overclocking also exacerbates the issue, especially when the VRMs on the motherboard are run out of spec to push the overclock further, etc. In my case, all of these issues apply, and it's not surprising that I get interference when I use the slot that is pretty much sandwiched between every interference-generating component in my system. Unfortunately that's my only available 1x slot.

Here are some quick examples from others experiencing the same or similar issues. First link includes a youtube video that demonstrates the issue perfectly. My interference, when the card is in the 1x slot, is not nearly that bad but very similar in how it changes pitch and tone as whats on the screen changes, and is also affected by mouse movement, etc.

http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1789077
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1737130
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1430215
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1739800
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1463115
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1564317
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1570226
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1169546

But really, all I'm looking for are recommendations for a TOSLINK DAC. That is what this thread is about.


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post #15 of 43 Old 08-25-2014, 12:09 PM
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Then google "toslink dac". Problem solved.

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post #16 of 43 Old 08-25-2014, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by GotNoRice View Post
I do independent IT and also have built countless systems, with similar years of experience. I'm not sure what kinds of systems you were building in that time, but It's actually pretty common among gamer systems. Videocards are the typical culprit, and of course having multiple high-end and potentially overclocked videocards in SLI or Crossfire exacerbates the issue. CPU overclocking also exacerbates the issue, especially when the VRMs on the motherboard are run out of spec to push the overclock further, etc. In my case, all of these issues apply, and it's not surprising that I get interference when I use the slot that is pretty much sandwiched between every interference-generating component in my system. Unfortunately that's my only available 1x slot.

Here are some quick examples from others experiencing the same or similar issues. First link includes a youtube video that demonstrates the issue perfectly. My interference, when the card is in the 1x slot, is not nearly that bad but very similar in how it changes pitch and tone as whats on the screen changes, and is also affected by mouse movement, etc.

http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1789077
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7cJqEtq4a0
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1737130
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1430215
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1739800
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1463115
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1564317
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1570226
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1169546

But really, all I'm looking for are recommendations for a TOSLINK DAC. That is what this thread is about.
I understand. I built business computers. Hope you get it sorted out.
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post #17 of 43 Old 08-25-2014, 12:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Then google "toslink dac". Problem solved.
Does asking for recommendations violate a forum rule or something?


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post #18 of 43 Old 08-25-2014, 12:27 PM
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Does asking for recommendations violate a forum rule or something?
No. Neither does it usually yield better information than a google search. Hence my recommendation.

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post #19 of 43 Old 08-25-2014, 12:29 PM
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Does asking for recommendations violate a forum rule or something?
It activates the trolls.

Have you looked at the fiio d3? Costs around $30.
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post #20 of 43 Old 08-25-2014, 03:38 PM
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I'm not sure what your price range is. I'm very happy with an Arcam rDac. There are a number of similar products, but I have one for $250 with a single input (both toslink and cable supported). I'm very happy with it. I'm not sure whether exactly that configuration is still made, but it was a couple of months ago so it's probably still around.
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post #21 of 43 Old 08-26-2014, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by GotNoRice View Post
I've never encountered a computer that sounded like that, that's crazy, but I don't OC or SLI so that's probably why.
I wonder if multiple power supplies would solve that problem? One for the GC's, one for the MB, one for everything else. Probably more effort, cost, and complexity then it is worth.

I can see why you'd want to optically decouple it with it sounding that bad, I'd just hope the noise isn't severe enough to flip bits regardless of isolation.

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post #22 of 43 Old 09-01-2014, 08:41 AM
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I'm looking for a fairly low-cost external DAC, but seemingly every DAC that I find in my price range only has USB input.

I would strongly prefer TOSLINK input, but I could deal with a Coax S/PDIF input. USB doesn't work for my needs unfortunately.
What is your budget?
How are you going to use it? Speakers? Headphones? Both? If headphones, what models, for some headphones are difficult to drive.

Note: these are the questions people should have asked you, instead of harassing you--LOL

Your questions are answered:
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post #23 of 43 Old 09-01-2014, 11:44 AM - Thread Starter
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What is your budget?
How are you going to use it? Speakers? Headphones? Both? If headphones, what models, for some headphones are difficult to drive.
I'm generally looking at stuff in the $100-300 range but it's flexible. I'm not looking to power my headphones directly. I use my Yamaha C-80 Preamp as both a preamp for my stereo and a headphone amplifier.


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post #24 of 43 Old 09-01-2014, 11:50 AM
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Does asking for recommendations violate a forum rule or something?
Not at all, but once you ask about DAC, the troll trio always popped out their ugly heads claiming all DAcs sound the same and all that. Which is not true as the analog stage of every DAc is different and those are the main difference you will hear.

I'm sure my post will be attacked immediately by those trolls and/or my post will be deemed as "inciting others" by the moderators.

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post #25 of 43 Old 09-01-2014, 12:20 PM
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I'm generally looking at stuff in the $100-300 range but it's flexible. I'm not looking to power my headphones directly. I use my Yamaha C-80 Preamp as both a preamp for my stereo and a headphone amplifier.
The Schitt Modi is an excellent DAC for $100. When you order it, you choose between optical or usb input for it.
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post #26 of 43 Old 09-01-2014, 12:29 PM
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claiming all DAcs sound the same
Which is not true.
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post #27 of 43 Old 09-01-2014, 09:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GotNoRice View Post

Here are some quick examples from others experiencing the same or similar issues. First link includes a youtube video that demonstrates the issue perfectly. My interference, when the card is in the 1x slot, is not nearly that bad but very similar in how it changes pitch and tone as whats on the screen changes, and is also affected by mouse movement, etc.

http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1789077
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7cJqEtq4a0
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1737130
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1430215
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1739800
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1463115
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1564317
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1570226
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1169546

But really, all I'm looking for are recommendations for a TOSLINK DAC. That is what this thread is about.
What I see is good engineering being sacrificed. If you need to have good sound, and you tip the construction of the computer so thoroughly towards video that sound suffers, then the obvious answer is to tip it back.

A lot of the audible problems I hear in that video about seem to be due to bus contention. A TOSLINK DAC is going to do absolutely nothing to help that. IME most allegations of EMI in computers turn out to be bus contention problems.

An audiophile forum is arguably absolutely the wrong place to go for advice about TOSLINK DACs. First off a lot of audiophiles have been miseducated by golden ear publications to to believe that TOSLINK is itself an abomination out of the pit of hell. Secondly, such TOSLINK DACs that audiophiles may use are overbuilt and hyperexpensive, partically for the reason just given. Ever hear of Google? ;-)
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post #28 of 43 Old 09-01-2014, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by David Susilo View Post
Not at all, but once you ask about DAC, the troll trio always popped out their ugly heads claiming all DAcs sound the same and all that.
And then out pop the counter-trolls who claim that people who would actually be so brave as to disgree with their anti-scientific beliefs need to be lied about by saying they "Claim all DACs sound the same".

Quote:
Which is not true as the analog stage of every DAc is different and those are the main difference you will hear.
Which is yet another anti-scientific claim. The analog stages of DACs are generally technically trivial and have excellent performance. Yet people seem to have this need to deify them, and the power supplies that serve the whole product.
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post #29 of 43 Old 09-02-2014, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
What I see is good engineering being sacrificed. If you need to have good sound, and you tip the construction of the computer so thoroughly towards video that sound suffers, then the obvious answer is to tip it back.
I already experience no inference when the card is in the 4x slot (which is away from most other components). The card only uses a 1x slot though, and i'd like to use the 4x slot for other purposes.

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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
A lot of the audible problems I hear in that video about seem to be due to bus contention. A TOSLINK DAC is going to do absolutely nothing to help that. IME most allegations of EMI in computers turn out to be bus contention problems.
I already tested it using a cheap ~10 year old HT receiver, ran the optical digital output into it and all interference was instantly eliminated.

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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
Ever hear of Google? ;-)
What's the point of even making a comment like that?

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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
And then out pop the counter-trolls who claim that people who would actually be so brave as to disgree with their anti-scientific beliefs need to be lied about by saying they "Claim all DACs sound the same".

Which is yet another anti-scientific claim. The analog stages of DACs are generally technically trivial and have excellent performance. Yet people seem to have this need to deify them, and the power supplies that serve the whole product.
You're dragging my threat into an annoying tangent that it has nothing to do with. I've already explained, in detail, several times, that this thread is more about isolating the DAC from the rest of my computer than getting into a pissing contest over which one is better. There are many DACs like the Aune T1, that even integrate a tube into the output stage. That's fine with me, because I'm not looking for a DAC that I can win a math contest with, I'm looking for a DAC that I will enjoy. Unfortunately the Aune T1 is USB only.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post
The Schitt Modi is an excellent DAC for $100. When you order it, you choose between optical or usb input for it.
Looks very nice, thank you for the recommendation!
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post #30 of 43 Old 09-02-2014, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by GotNoRice View Post
I do independent IT and also have built countless systems, with similar years of experience. I'm not sure what kinds of systems you were building in that time, but It's actually pretty common among gamer systems. Videocards are the typical culprit, and of course having multiple high-end and potentially overclocked videocards in SLI or Crossfire exacerbates the issue. CPU overclocking also exacerbates the issue, especially when the VRMs on the motherboard are run out of spec to push the overclock further, etc. In my case, all of these issues apply, and it's not surprising that I get interference when I use the slot that is pretty much sandwiched between every interference-generating component in my system. Unfortunately that's my only available 1x slot.

Here are some quick examples from others experiencing the same or similar issues. First link includes a youtube video that demonstrates the issue perfectly. My interference, when the card is in the 1x slot, is not nearly that bad but very similar in how it changes pitch and tone as whats on the screen changes, and is also affected by mouse movement, etc.

http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1789077
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7cJqEtq4a0
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1737130
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1430215
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1739800
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1463115
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1564317
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1570226
http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1169546

But really, all I'm looking for are recommendations for a TOSLINK DAC. That is what this thread is about.
I agree I have an Asus STX amplified PCIe sound card by necessity next to a PCIe video card in this PC you would have to be deaf not to hear the noise when the loudness is turned up fairly loud on the amplified headphone output or line/ speaker output during a quiet passage .

Before I installed discrete Video card (PSU noise I suspect )was present but to a lesser degree. I have an external USB pro interface on the other PC ,no noise at all at any level .
I agree to tell the OP he doesn't need another solution to mediate internal noise within his PC being amplified by his sound card is just wrong !.
I've also built,upgraded and repaired lot's of PC's starting with 386sx AT clones back in the day .

I agree his sound card DAC is adequate ,probably easily more than adequate but the noise thing if present and audible at whatever levels OP uses is another thing altogether.

http://schiit.com/products/modi $99.00 USB and Optical models availoiable note: the folks at head-Fi prefer USB DAC to optical DAC
You can always try USB DAC or self powered USB DAC also most web stores should allow returns .

more options ,

24-bit / 96 KHz Optical /coax DAC that should be plenty decent http://www.parts-express.com/fiio-d0...erter--230-134

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...SK1C2YC4WV8ABN
92kHz/24bit Optical and Coaxial DAC (PCM only, no support for Dolby Digital or DTS formats)

EDIT : I see cel4145 and GotNoRice already mentioned the MODI . Again you coild always try the USB ans see how it sounds or just get the optical either way .

I Wouldn't worry about it until you get a PCIe SSD unless it is noisy to the point of being annoying now although I can't imagine why anyone would need PCIe SSD with 2 channel DDR3 but then I'm not a hard core PC gamer either .

Hires Music formats ..............."Why does it sound like a CD ?" ............. can we make it louder "?
"The wireless music box has no commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
- David Sarnoff's associates at RCA the 1920's -

Last edited by tubetwister; 09-02-2014 at 10:54 AM.
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