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post #1 of 41 Old 01-04-2008, 10:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello everyone. I'm new to this forum but already like it

I'm after a good quality DAC to use in between my PC and $900 speakers and stereo amp. I've been suggested the Benchmark DAC1, but at around $900 itself, I doubt I can justify the cost.

1) Any suggestions on a cheaper DAC?

2) Advice on whether I should be looking at an external or internal solution?

3) If external, should I use usb or digital output from the PC to the DAC?

I'm also open to internal sound cards, but the more I read, the more confused I seem to become. An internal card would be great to reduce clutter but adds interference (not sure how big this effect is). So far I've looked at:
- Asus Xonar D2 (more target at gamers?)
- Auzen X-Fi Prelude (heard issues about support and bloated Creative drivers)
- E-Mu
- M-Audio (not sure what to start with here. Many of their products seems to target the audio recording market with MIDI inputs etc I don't need)

Thanks in advance for any help Note:
- I'm only really interested in stereo sound quality.
- Compatability with linux is a definite plus (is using a motherboard's intergrated audio to supply digital output to an external DAC a possible or recommended solution?)
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post #2 of 41 Old 01-04-2008, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [o_0] Bob View Post

Hello everyone. I'm new to this forum but already like it

I'm after a good quality DAC to use in between my PC and $900 speakers and stereo amp. I've been suggested the Benchmark DAC1, but at around $900 itself, I doubt I can justify the cost.

1) Any suggestions on a cheaper DAC?

2) Advice on whether I should be looking at an external or internal solution?

3) If external, should I use usb or digital output from the PC to the DAC?

I'm also open to internal sound cards, but the more I read, the more confused I seem to become. An internal card would be great to reduce clutter but adds interference (not sure how big this effect is). So far I've looked at:
- Asus Xonar D2 (more target at gamers?)
- Auzen X-Fi Prelude (heard issues about support and bloated Creative drivers)
- E-Mu
- M-Audio (not sure what to start with here. Many of their products seems to target the audio recording market with MIDI inputs etc I don't need)

Thanks in advance for any help Note:
- I'm only really interested in stereo sound quality.
- Compatability with linux is a definite plus (is using a motherboard's intergrated audio to supply digital output to an external DAC a possible or recommended solution?)

For a long time, I had an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 connected to my stereo amp and tv with long analog cables and was very happy but since I listen to most of my music off the pc I thought I'd spend a little on an external dac. A consideration was that the M-Audio card passes bit perfect data via s/pidf. I don't know if motherboard built-in sound does this (older Creative cards did not pass through the data bit perfect. I don't know about their newer cards since I am completely happy with the M-Audio). I would avoid USB if you have a coax connection available to the DAC.

I, too, did not want to spend close to a $1k on a DAC and ended up with an MSB Link II (with upgraded parts) from Ebay. It cost about $155 used and it sounds as good as my expensive (aging) Sonic Frontiers CD player. There's a lot of info on the MSB unit on the Head-Fi forums.

Ron
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post #3 of 41 Old 01-04-2008, 11:02 AM
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post #4 of 41 Old 01-04-2008, 11:20 AM
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For an internal sound card, the best I have ever heard, is a Lynx Two-B
http://www.lynxstudio.com/lynxtwo.html
You can find one for $800 or so Ebay. This is all you really need. There will be some higher noise levels associated with a PC environment, but this card is better then far more expensive stand alone DAC's. I think the noise however, really comes down to the pc your are running the card in? For instance, if you removed the hard drive, you woulds significantly reduce the RF digital noise created from with the PC. You can also go with a passively cooled rig, removing the fans in favor of air cooled heat sinks. Your other concern will be with your power supply, which undoubtedly has a fan and is a major source of electrical RF noise. You can swap this out for a passively cooled one for $150 or so, and that will also help. Pretty much anything with a motor or rotating will be a source of RF noise and digital jitter.
Further, you could really go nuts and get crazy with some ERS paper, further protecting the card from RF/EMI noise.

http://www.tweekgeek.com/_e/Stillpoi...nditioner_.htm

As for your dilemma on the external DAC, I would suggest you only use the coax out. I have yet to hear anyone who can best the sound of a coax out, with a USB out.
As for the cost, let me introduce you to www.Audiogon.com. You can find several decent and lightly used DA converters on this site, for well under $1,000.
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post #5 of 41 Old 01-04-2008, 01:26 PM
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i am using a cambridge azur 740c -- this is a relatively new cd player using some pretty interesting technology to process/upsample digital signals -- as well as being a great cd player, it comes with two digital inputs as well as a digital and analogue set of outputs -- if you send a digital signal from your pc to this baby it will perform some fantastic digital to analogue conversion -- it will also let you output a very high quality, re-clocked, upsampled digital signal to another dac-- unit works great for me --- for a few more bucks you can move up the the 840c and get balanced outputs and slightly better dacs
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post #6 of 41 Old 01-04-2008, 01:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [o_0] Bob View Post

Thanks in advance for any help Note:
- I'm only really interested in stereo sound quality.
- Compatability with linux is a definite plus (is using a motherboard's intergrated audio to supply digital output to an external DAC a possible or recommended solution?)

Hi Bob,

What exactly is lacking in the stereo audio quality in your setup right now? Improving sound might be possible by staying with on-board motherboard stereo audio, and concentrating instead on loudspeaker placement and room acoustics. It's very easy to go overboard with PC hardware and audio gear upgrade-itis.

- Steve O.
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post #7 of 41 Old 01-04-2008, 05:27 PM
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If done properly, a USB DAC should be superior to spdif. Do a search for KECES, they sell a new USB DAC on ebay that looks promising and it won't brake the bank. Also check out Absolute Sound from last month on digital audio servers--they discuss the theoretical advantages of playback via hard drive vs. optical disc. Most of my CDs are now ripped lossless and High Rez audio is available via Music Giants. A good USB DAC is a compelling choice. I will be adding a USB DAC soon. I currently run a spdif digital cable from my mobo to my processor. A USB DAC should be superior.

Regards,
Jim
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post #8 of 41 Old 01-04-2008, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwar View Post

i am using a cambridge azur 740c -- this is a relatively new cd player using some pretty interesting technology to process/upsample digital signals -- as well as being a great cd player, it comes with two digital inputs as well as a digital and analogue set of outputs -- if you send a digital signal from your pc to this baby it will perform some fantastic digital to analogue conversion -- it will also let you output a very high quality, re-clocked, upsampled digital signal to another dac-- unit works great for me --- for a few more bucks you can move up the the 840c and get balanced outputs and slightly better dacs

Although I've never owned a Cambridge piece I've always been attracted to their feature set and electronics. This sounds wonderful (looked it up) but it is $850 so far as I can tell and not a trivial purchase for someone trying to upgrade MB sound.

Wish I had one but I've learned to love what I have

Ron
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post #9 of 41 Old 01-04-2008, 08:44 PM
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I have been using an AzunTech X-Plosion to do just what you are wanting to do for about 2 years now, and I couldn't be happier with it.

I don't know what to tell you except I haven't had any problems with it, and the sound is crystal clear.
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post #10 of 41 Old 01-07-2009, 10:16 PM
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You may want to explore the Cambridge Soundworks DacMagic. I'm considering it. Here is a review...

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/Ca...acMagic-Review

It is about $400.00 retail, but you can probably find it for less.
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post #11 of 41 Old 01-08-2009, 04:52 AM
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Relatively happy with an internal Emu card that runs about $150 (got the previous version for $100). Would I be happier with a lynx 2 or good external DAC? I'm pretty sure I would, but for under $500 (which you seem to be aiming for), take a shot...if you're not satisfied it will hold you over until you save the $ for the more expensive solution.

My $.02

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post #12 of 41 Old 01-14-2009, 02:52 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [o_0] Bob View Post

Hello everyone. I'm new to this forum but already like it

I'm after a good quality DAC to use in between my PC and $900 speakers and stereo amp. I've been suggested the Benchmark DAC1, but at around $900 itself, I doubt I can justify the cost.

1) Any suggestions on a cheaper DAC?

2) Advice on whether I should be looking at an external or internal solution?

3) If external, should I use usb or digital output from the PC to the DAC?

I'm also open to internal sound cards, but the more I read, the more confused I seem to become. An internal card would be great to reduce clutter but adds interference (not sure how big this effect is). So far I've looked at:
- Asus Xonar D2 (more target at gamers?)
- Auzen X-Fi Prelude (heard issues about support and bloated Creative drivers)
- E-Mu
- M-Audio (not sure what to start with here. Many of their products seems to target the audio recording market with MIDI inputs etc I don't need)

Thanks in advance for any help Note:
- I'm only really interested in stereo sound quality.
- Compatability with linux is a definite plus (is using a motherboard's intergrated audio to supply digital output to an external DAC a possible or recommended solution?)

1. I have EMU 0404 USB for some time now. Very pleased (although my very early production model had to be replaced because of faulty volume/balance tracking).
I use Windows XP-PRO USB >EMU>HAFLER MOSFET 2 CHANNEL>BOSTON ACOUSTICS VR3s.
Crystal clear and spatious!
Here is a review/test:
http://ixbtlabs.com/articles2/proaud...-0404-usb.html

2. USB is better than SPDIF in terms of jitter, because it is a buffered and re-clocked path.

3. More Linux information here:
http://www.alsa-project.org/main/ind...e-emu10k1-fpga
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=441946&page=16

Let us know how you make out.

iq100
delete my ideas by posting some of your own.
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post #13 of 41 Old 01-14-2009, 04:22 PM
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I would go with an internal sound card. The Xonar Essence STX is made pretty much for high quality stereo, analog audio. Not too many other products using the PCM172A for DAC. This will likely be cheaper and have more versatility than a typical USB or SPDIF DAC.

Can't comment on Linux support, but the hardware on this card seems to be about as good as it can get for stereo analog (output) at the moment.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16829132010
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post #14 of 41 Old 01-14-2009, 04:45 PM
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I have a dual mono Opus DAC from www.twistedpearaudio.com it's semi DIY. There is very little soldering involved mostly you just connect them up and set the proper settings you need. The guys that run it Russ and Brian are very helpful and are online a lot to help you through it. I have the dual mono Opus kit with the SPDIF input (I actually now have the 4:1 MUX board so I can have 4 inputs) I also have the Metronom ASRC reclocking module and then the PSU with their little transformer. It works fantastic one of the best sounding DAC's I've heard period. I'd put it up against a benchmark anyday. I maybe have 500 at the most into it. Probably more like 400. You can always use a standard par-metal chassis or something like that if you don't want to get into building something elaborate.

USB does not always have lower jitter then SPDIF. I actually prefer the sound over SPDIF vs USB in my setup. They have options for both SPDIF, Toslink, and USB.
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post #15 of 41 Old 01-15-2009, 10:51 AM
 
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There's sometimes diverging opinions about it though I usually prefer USB over SPDIF even though like you said it doesn't always have lower jitter
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post #16 of 41 Old 01-15-2009, 11:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [o_0] Bob View Post

I'm after a good quality DAC to use in between my PC and $900 speakers and stereo amp. I've been suggested the Benchmark DAC1, but at around $900 itself, I doubt I can justify the cost.

Definitely. A DAC chip that costs a couple of dollars can produce fidelity well beyond human hearing, while any $900 stereo speakers (or even $1000000) will have significant distortions even in a perfect environment (which also would probably cost $1000000).
Quote:
1) Any suggestions on a cheaper DAC?

The main issues are noise filtering (that's the main problem with integrated sound) and software that works well with the OS (that's the main problem with pro-audio cards).
Quote:
2) Advice on whether I should be looking at an external or internal solution?

It doesn't matter.
Quote:
3) If external, should I use usb or digital output from the PC to the DAC?

USB (meaning it's a sound card not a DAC).
Quote:
- Asus Xonar D2 (more target at gamers?)
- Auzen X-Fi Prelude (heard issues about support and bloated Creative drivers)
- E-Mu
- M-Audio (not sure what to start with here. Many of their products seems to target the audio recording market with MIDI inputs etc I don't need)

Thanks in advance for any help Note:
- I'm only really interested in stereo sound quality.
- Compatability with linux is a definite plus (is using a motherboard's intergrated audio to supply digital output to an external DAC a possible or recommended solution?)

I've used a several pro audio sound cards from E-MU and as hardware they are top notch at excellent prices. The 1212m (internal) or 0202usb or 0404usb will be good for you. The main problem I have is that the drivers don't work with sleep and hibernate. If you find a sound card from one of the pro-audio makers that does work with sleep mode please tell me.
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post #17 of 41 Old 01-05-2011, 12:48 PM
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Much of the conversation going on in this thread is over my head. But, I just wanted to ask a few related questions, hoping no one feels I'm hijacking the thread...I want very good stereo, not audiophile, quality sound capability for music listening and playing PC online games with my son on my computer.

Currently, I have a Creative X-Fi sound card, and just an inexpensive Logitech USB headset for music/gaming/and TeamSpeak use. My Cambridge Soundworks 2.1 setup was blown up by my son with heavy dosages of Dream Theater rock.

So, I only want 2.0 speaker setup, active, because I don't have the room for my stereo receiver in this computer room. I'm looking at JohnBlue JB3's or AudioEngine5 speakers. I would like to be able to use my Grado headphones for music listening, and then, with a separate mic to use in gaming in TeamSpeak when the wife is home and complaining about the volume,

Questions:
* If I hook up these speakers to the Creative X-Fi, will everything work?
* Would the sound be better if I also get a Xonar Essence STX sound card to replace the X-Fi?
*Do I need an external separate DAC to get even better quality?
*Do you have knowledge of these 2 speakers, and are they good? (both between $350-400)
*Will it be easy to go back and forth between the speakers and my Grado and mic?

Sorry for my beginner questions... Thanks for any help/ideas...

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post #18 of 41 Old 01-05-2011, 03:01 PM
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Missed it by a day, almost exactly a 2 year old bump!

Yes, connecting active speakers to the x-fi will work.
Better components = better quality but will you be able to hear the difference is the real question.
Most audiophiles recommend/use an external DAC.
Most sound cards usually have the headphone output with the line out. You would need a switch or y-splitter. I think its best to go with a switch instead of a splitter.
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post #19 of 41 Old 01-05-2011, 05:02 PM
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Would you get the Xonar Essence STX sound card?

If the speakers are 'active', then what is the DAC doing?

DAC connects to the sound card, speakers to the DAC? If needed, which DAC do you suggest?

'Y-splitter'... with which type of connectors at each end?

What 'active' speakers would you be looking at in this range...@ $250>$400?

Thx for any ideas/suggestions...

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post #20 of 41 Old 01-05-2011, 07:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scorch123 View Post

hi bob,

what exactly is lacking in the stereo audio quality in your setup right now? Improving sound might be possible by staying with on-board motherboard stereo audio, and concentrating instead on loudspeaker placement and room acoustics. It's very easy to go overboard with pc hardware and audio gear upgrade-itis.

- steve o.

+1
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post #21 of 41 Old 01-05-2011, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beowulf1 View Post

Would you get the Xonar Essence STX sound card?

If the speakers are 'active', then what is the DAC doing?

DAC connects to the sound card, speakers to the DAC? If needed, which DAC do you suggest?

'Y-splitter'... with which type of connectors at each end?

What 'active' speakers would you be looking at in this range...@ $250>$400?

Thx for any ideas/suggestions...

For strictly 2ch music I would get an external DAC. If you plan to do some gaming, watch movies, record some things I would get the sound card. The essence is a high quality sound card so its not bad, actually pretty good according to head-fi.org people. Another thing to remember is an external dac might not come with a headphone amplifier, you would need to buy one separately!

The digital analog converter will convert the digital signal from the pc and convert it to an analog signal, usually red/white rca output. Some active monitors have a built-in dac and optical input. There are tons of DAC's out there, probabaly the most popular DIY dac is the ALIEN DAC. http://www.glassjaraudio.com/product...6&categoryId=4
I suggest searching head-fi.org for a dac in your price range.

There are many different types of dac's but the ones made for the PC will use USB then output to rca, xlr, or 3.5mm.

The y splitter will need to be 3.5mm if you plan to use a sound card with headphones and speakers. Something like this
http://www.monoprice.com/products/pr...seq=1&format=2

I never really looked into active monitors so I can't tell you what to look for.
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post #22 of 41 Old 01-05-2011, 08:47 PM
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If I'm having a Denon 2310 AVR, does the Asus Xonar Essence give a better sound instead of having the in-built Denon 2310 DAC to do the job?
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post #23 of 41 Old 01-06-2011, 03:19 AM
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MrKazador...
Quote "The digital analog converter will convert the digital signal from the pc and convert it to an analog signal"... I thought that's what the sound card already does...

And, BTW, I'm now pretty close to getting the 'active' Swan M200 MkIII speakers. And if they are active, then I need the DAC too? Yikes, 'Who's on first...' ....

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post #24 of 41 Old 01-06-2011, 08:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beowulf1 View Post

MrKazador...
Quote "The digital analog converter will convert the digital signal from the pc and convert it to an analog signal"... I thought that's what the sound card already does...

You are right, the sound card does do that. Audiophiles claim the pc can be a noisy environment so they go with an external dac.
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post #25 of 41 Old 01-06-2011, 09:10 AM
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Yes, but that Xonar Essence STX soundcard is supposed to deal with that...

I don't know whether to get that new Xonar with my new speakers, or get a DAC, or all of the above...

Please, someone tell me what to do...

signed...
DAZED AND CONFUSED IN RHODE ISLAND....

"Like most weak men, he prided himself on never changing one's mind." W. Somerset Maugham

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post #26 of 41 Old 01-06-2011, 02:22 PM
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I have a Yamaha RX-V1800 and have crappy audio with my onboard and ended ordering the Asus Xonar Xense, It's basically the Essence STX with a sennheiser pc350 and analog 7.1, http://www.overclockersclub.com/revi...ar_xense/2.htm I'm planing on sending the gaming audio via spdif using DDL and the senn's for multiplayer/late nigth and for music CD's and pandora ONE I'll use the 7.1Ch analog output with a couple of 3.5mm"male" to RCA "Y" to my AVR. The card is suposse to arrive friday, I'll update when Hopefully everything is working as expected.

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post #27 of 41 Old 01-06-2011, 09:56 PM
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I'm using a Xonar D2X sound card (internal) which drives my Bryston 4BSST amplifiers directly, which in turn drive my Martin Logan speakers (Prodigy fronts, Aeon i surrounds, Descent subwoofer, no center speaker). No processor or receiver.

The sound is amazing. Way, way better than the Pioneer Elite receiver I was using before. The Xonar D2X uses Burr-Brown PCM1796 DACs on all 8 channels.

If you only need 2.0, look at the Essence series of cards.
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post #28 of 41 Old 01-07-2011, 10:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryan_chow View Post

I'm using a Xonar D2X sound card (internal) which drives my Bryston 4BSST amplifiers directly, which in turn drive my Martin Logan speakers (Prodigy fronts, Aeon i surrounds, Descent subwoofer, no center speaker). No processor or receiver.

The sound is amazing. Way, way better than the Pioneer Elite receiver I was using before. The Xonar D2X uses Burr-Brown PCM1796 DACs on all 8 channels.

If you only need 2.0, look at the Essence series of cards.

Do we need to use those high end expensive RCA interconnects to connect to the analog input of our receiver/amp to enjoy the sound?
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post #29 of 41 Old 01-07-2011, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by echoesian View Post

Do we need to use those high end expensive RCA interconnects to connect to the analog input of our receiver/amp to enjoy the sound?

Who knows?!
I would buy quality rca cables from monoprice and call it a day. If you like DIY and don't mind spending a little more money, get some canare quad cable, quality rca jacks and a soldering iron.
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post #30 of 41 Old 01-08-2011, 12:54 AM
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Originally Posted by echoesian View Post

Do we need to use those high end expensive RCA interconnects to connect to the analog input of our receiver/amp to enjoy the sound?

The D2X only has 3.5mm audio outputs, and they are very close together. So you may not be able to use expensive cables even if you want to. I would just get well-built 3.5mm to RCA cables, not extremely expensive ones. FWIW I'm using mediocre cables and they still sound great.
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