Thanks for the input guys. Much appreciated.
Thanks, that card looks really good.
The Meridian had better DACs than your receiver? That seems counter-intuitive.
I don't really understand why it sounds so much better. But I have tried every form of digital input into my Pioneer VSX-Ax4Avi (this is a decent receiver, has the Air Studios Monitor certification) and the only one that ever sounded any good was SACD over a firewire cable from a Pioneer DVD/Sacd player. That had a clock synchronization feature which reduced jitter. As I suspected that jitter over the digital inputs was the cause of the quality difference I purchased a USB spdif converter with its own (purportedly) high quality clock and that made exactly ZERO difference to the quality of the sound when processed by the receiver.
The funny thing is that even on the analogue inputs I think the receiver must be converting back into digital for MCACC processing? This is the setting that adjusts the frequency outputs and delays etc to optimise the speakers to the room. This IS counter-intuitive.
Honestly we are talking about a WORLD of difference here.
I would really look at the latest usb DAC's. With an Pre/Pro or receiver that can process 24/96 pcm, that can be sonic nirvana. I have a V Link musical fidelity running off my HTPC hooked up to my Sony TAE9000 preamp and my music collection has never sounded better. I would think in the D to A stage, it would be pretty trying to get all that quality out of a PCI card vs an actual component.
The problem is that I use the HTPC for multi-uses. Movies, music, and games. I'm sure that a USB dac would provide the best 2 channel music output but I don't want a setup where I have to constantly change settings.
OP, as a replacement you might want to look at the Asus Xonar ST with H6 board if you have a PCI slot. Great card. Has a Burr Bown PCM 1792A DAC, 127db SNR FYI.
Any idea which would be better, the CLARO halo XT or the Asus Xonar ST with H6 board?