Looking for an amp for passive speakers to be used in a PC setup (Budget $100-$200) - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 39 Old 11-06-2019, 02:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Looking for an amp for passive speakers to be used in a PC setup (Budget $100-$200)

Hello,

My old Klipsch Promedia 2.1 PC speakers died. I've been looking to replace them. At first I was looking into active speakers but it was mentioned to me to look at passives.

I happened to see the KEF Q150 are $300 right now. I'm looking for an amp that would pair well with them. I'd especially like the opportunity to use a subwoofer with them in the future when I can afford it.

The Dayton Audio HTA20BT hybrid tube amp was recommended to me. It does come with a sub out but I noticed it doesn't have a low pass filter. I figure sending the full range to a sub is a bad thing? I guess I could technically order a MiniDSP down the line to do this, but that's an added expense.

I saw Dayton also has 150 watt APA150 A/B amp and it seems to have both a sub output and some kind of LPF switch on the back. Not sure if this would be overkill.

I've never dealt with Dayton equipment so I don't know how they are or how they sound. Would you all recommend one of those two or is there another piece of equipment ya'll would recommend?
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post #2 of 39 Old 11-06-2019, 03:26 PM
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As far as I can tell, the Dayton APA150 has no sub out.

Its LPF is intend for when it would be used to drive a passive sub.

Its "line output" is a passthrough.

Finding a small desktop amp with a crossover for a subwoofer line-level output may be difficult.

I'm using a pair of Kef Eggs. They are powered, have a sub out, and have a variety of inputs. (I don't know whether they use a crossover, though.) I'm using the USB input - no additional drivers required. My sub is an 8" Sunfire. They may not be as good as the Kef Q150, but they are a more practical size for the desktop. They are available as factory refurbs at accessories4less.
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post #3 of 39 Old 11-06-2019, 03:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobknavs View Post
As far as I can tell, the Dayton APA150 has no sub out.

Its LPF is intend for when it would be used to drive a passive sub.

Its "line output" is a passthrough.

Finding a small desktop amp with a crossover for a subwoofer line-level output may be difficult.

I'm using a pair of Kef Eggs. They are powered, have a sub out, and have a variety of inputs. (I don't know whether they use a crossover, though.) I'm using the USB input - no additional drivers required. My sub is an 8" Sunfire. They may not be as good as the Kef Q150, but they are a more practical size for the desktop. They are available as factory refurbs at accessories4less.
I had looked at the Eggs but heard they have an annoying auto off function.



That's a bummer that the APA150 might not have a sub out.
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post #4 of 39 Old 11-06-2019, 07:49 PM
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What sub do you have in mind? I'm using an SVS SB12NSD that has a built in low pass filter. I'm sending a full range signal to it, and then high pass out to a pair of powered speakers

https://www.svsound.com/products/sb12-nsd

I'm actually considering switching to an amp with sub out, so that I can upgrade to better passive speakers such as the KEFs or maybe even the Klipsch RP-600M. Although the Klipsch would be overkill size wise.

Here's one that I have in mind:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...I720CP9N&psc=1
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post #5 of 39 Old 11-06-2019, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trojita View Post
I had looked at the Eggs but heard they have an annoying auto off function.



That's a bummer that the APA150 might not have a sub out.
Depending on the sub, you can feed it the full-range stereo signal. (Some subs even accept a speaker-level input.) The sub will mix the stereo signals to mono, and you can then apply a variable low-pass filter.

I'd prefer a real crossover, to keep the low frequencies out of the primary speakers, but it'd still be workable.
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post #6 of 39 Old 11-06-2019, 09:15 PM
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Onkyo TX-8140 2-Ch x 80 Watts Network Stereo Receiver

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post #7 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 10:30 AM
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@bobknavs , @nonstopdoc1

Could we get your opinions on the pros/cons of the three amps listed so far? Assuming that we're determined to go the passive speaker route?

Dayton Audio HTA 20BT tube amp


SMSL amp from Amazon

Onkyo refurb with high res DAC
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post #8 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 12:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlanetAVS View Post
@bobknavs , @nonstopdoc1

Could we get your opinions on the pros/cons of the three amps listed so far? Assuming that we're determined to go the passive speaker route?

Dayton Audio HTA 20BT tube amp


SMSL amp from Amazon

Onkyo refurb with high res DAC
I will start with the disclaimer that I haven't myself heard or used any of three amps. As OP is considering KEF Q150 as his speakers which have sensitivity of only 86 db with 8 ohm impedance, Dayton Audio HTA 20BT tube amp is just not going to work. It puts out measly 12 watts RMS x 2 into 4 ohms

SMSL puts out 80w x 2 @ 4 ohm so 8 ohm rating will likely be lower. It has fewer inputs but is more compact if that is something important to OP.

If it was me and these 3 are my choices than I will surely pick Onkyo. It has 80 W/Ch -8 Ohms, Built-in Bluetooth/Wi-Fi and lot more inputs. IMO, out of these three, the onkyo will work best with KEF Q150 YMMV

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post #9 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 12:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlanetAVS View Post
@bobknavs , @nonstopdoc1

Could we get your opinions on the pros/cons of the three amps listed so far? Assuming that we're determined to go the passive speaker route?

Dayton Audio HTA 20BT tube amp


SMSL amp from Amazon

Onkyo refurb with high res DAC
I'm flattered, but I don't feel competent to sit in judgement.

As regards the "hybrid" amp, a brief anecdote:

Back in the late 80s, I used to buy audio CDs from a specialty shop in Sudbury, MA. They sold CD players as well as the disks. The first time I saw an expensive Luxman unit with a vacuum tube output stage, I couldn't restrain my laughter. The shop owner acted a little hurt, and said that it was a way to lead traditional audiophiles into using CDs. (He didn't sell CD mass rings or green markers to suppress laser reflections from the edges of the CDs, though.) I guess that I was, and still am, biased.

The Hybrid inverts that: tube preamp, feeding a Class D (switching mode, sometimes falsely called "digital") output stage. A pretty low-power Class D output, at that: 12W into 4 Ohms? On the plus side, it has a sub output.

The SMSL amp is tiny and inexpensive. It's a class D that makes lots of power for its size. My main worry would be that it may be cheap, as well as inexpensive. I might buy it, as I'm cheap.

I might have preferred the Onkyo if I could deal with its size, but I'm not sure that it includes a crossover for its outputs. Not sure how much value I'd assign to its "high res DACs", as I'm happy with 16bit/44.1kHz stereo audio.

If I was looking to replace a Klipsch Promedia set, I might replace it with the same thing. I see that Amazon is still selling them ($124, free shipping). (I thought that the Promedia was off the market, but I was mistaken.) Better speakers are available, but the Promedia is a good value. That isn't really what the OP was asking, though.

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post #10 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 12:34 PM
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I will start with the disclaimer that I haven't myself heard or used any of three amps. As OP is considering KEF Q150 as his speakers which have sensitivity of only 86 db with 8 ohm impedance, Dayton Audio HTA 20BT tube amp is just not going to work. It puts out measly 12 watts RMS x 2 into 4 ohms

SMSL puts out 80w x 2 @ 4 ohm so 8 ohm rating will likely be lower. It has fewer inputs but is more compact if that is something important to OP.

If it was me and these 3 are my choices than I will surely pick Onkyo. It has 80 W/Ch -8 Ohms, Built-in Bluetooth/Wi-Fi and lot more inputs. IMO, out of these three, the onkyo will work best with KEF Q150 YMMV
I actually used an old Onkyo AVR to power a pair of B&W 686 for few years for my desktop setup until I upgraded. Never had any issues. Only issue was that AVR was big so I had to keep it in a small media rack on the side of my desk.

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post #11 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 01:11 PM - Thread Starter
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What sub do you have in mind? I'm using an SVS SB12NSD that has a built in low pass filter. I'm sending a full range signal to it, and then high pass out to a pair of powered speakers

https://www.svsound.com/products/sb12-nsd

I'm actually considering switching to an amp with sub out, so that I can upgrade to better passive speakers such as the KEFs or maybe even the Klipsch RP-600M. Although the Klipsch would be overkill size wise.

Here's one that I have in mind:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...I720CP9N&psc=1
Hey sorry I didn't reply sooner!


I don't have a specific sub in mind. That's a future thing, since the budget pretty much went into the speakers for right now.


I did end up ordering the KEF speakers and the Dayton amp. I hope the latter turns out good. I was kind of regretting not getting a stereo receiver.
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post #12 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 01:23 PM - Thread Starter
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I will start with the disclaimer that I haven't myself heard or used any of three amps. As OP is considering KEF Q150 as his speakers which have sensitivity of only 86 db with 8 ohm impedance, Dayton Audio HTA 20BT tube amp is just not going to work. It puts out measly 12 watts RMS x 2 into 4 ohms

SMSL puts out 80w x 2 @ 4 ohm so 8 ohm rating will likely be lower. It has fewer inputs but is more compact if that is something important to OP.

If it was me and these 3 are my choices than I will surely pick Onkyo. It has 80 W/Ch -8 Ohms, Built-in Bluetooth/Wi-Fi and lot more inputs. IMO, out of these three, the onkyo will work best with KEF Q150 YMMV

Oh no. So it wouldn't be good enough to run the KEF Q150's? They are 8 ohm speakers.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bobknavs View Post
If I was looking to replace a Klipsch Promedia set, I might replace it with the same thing. I see that Amazon is still selling them ($124, free shipping). (I thought that the Promedia was off the market, but I was mistaken.) Better speakers are available, but the Promedia is a good value. That isn't really what the OP was asking, though.
They recently remodeled the 2.1 Klipsch Promedia's. Some people are saying that they changed something in the internals that some people feel makes the current ones inferior. You can tell they are different models, even if they look identical, because they changed the speaker with the volume knob to now be the speaker on the right.


I just hate the notion of rebuying something I already had. Also I was looking for an upgrade.
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post #13 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 02:18 PM
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If you have the space for it, out of the three amps mentioned above, my choice would be the Onkyo.

Also, if money is an issue, I'd look at this Pioneer alternative:
https://www.accessories4less.com/mak...eceiver/1.html

In addition, for a PC setup, in my experience you don't need a ton of power because you sit pretty close to the speakers. My PC setup currently consists of a pair of PSB Alpha B bookshelf speakers powered by a little Onkyo executive system receiver that puts out maybe 15 Watts per channel, if that.

Lastly, I'm not worried about using the sub pre-out from the receiver, even though my receiver does have one. My sub has speaker level in/out connections, and I prefer how the system sounds when using these connections instead of sub pre-out. Personal preference, I suppose.

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post #14 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 02:24 PM
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Oh no. So it wouldn't be good enough to run the KEF Q150's? They are 8 ohm speakers.



They recently remodeled the 2.1 Klipsch Promedia's. Some people are saying that they changed something in the internals that some people feel makes the current ones inferior. You can tell they are different models, even if they look identical, because they changed the speaker with the volume knob to now be the speaker on the right.


I just hate the notion of rebuying something I already had. Also I was looking for an upgrade.
I noticed the low power rating of the Dayton as well. It sounds like it is designed for low level listening, and targeted towards the vinyl market.
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post #15 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 02:52 PM
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Sorry to hijack the OP's thread but I'm interested in a desktop amp as well, although my use case might be a bit different. Currently I'm listening to Tidal and Amazon High Res (might switch to Qobuz Hi Fi) via Windows 10 laptop > SVS SB12NSD low pass filter) > high pass out to Swan powered speakers. It actually sounds quite good and I've started using it more than my main home theater system, as I like the quick navigation capabilities of the Windows app on a 28" external monitor. My thinking is to possibly upgrade to a higher quality passive speaker like the KEF Q150 or the Polk LSiM703s which are deeply discounted at the moment.

Even though its a desktop system, I like to listen fairly loud. It sounds like the Dayton would not be a good fit due to the low power output, plus the tube amp might not be the best fit for high res streaming music?

The build quality of the SMSL also concerns me.

The footprint of the Onkyo is larger than ideal but I might be able to make it work. Are the dedicated PC input jacks meaningful or are they the same as any generic analog input, given that my Windows laptop will be the source? I assume that the high res DAC will support Amazon/Qobuz high res, but probably not Tidal MQA?
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post #16 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by PlanetAVS View Post

The footprint of the Onkyo is larger than ideal but I might be able to make it work. Are the dedicated PC input jacks meaningful or are they the same as any generic analog input, given that my Windows laptop will be the source? I assume that the high res DAC will support Amazon/Qobuz high res, but probably not Tidal MQA?
I think all the analog inputs are same. They are just labeled to make it easier for beginners. You can always rename then in the settings.

I started with optical out from my PC to AVR which powered bookshelf and a separate powered sub. This allowed me to not use the PC DAC which in most cases are terrible. Later I added a separate USB DAC and fed analog out from DAC to the AVR.

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post #17 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 04:01 PM
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The footprint of the Onkyo is larger than ideal but I might be able to make it work.
Here is another option, if the Onkyo is too wide:
https://emotiva.com/collections/amps/products/a-100

It is fairly deep though.

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post #18 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 04:16 PM - Thread Starter
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If you have the space for it, out of the three amps mentioned above, my choice would be the Onkyo.

Also, if money is an issue, I'd look at this Pioneer alternative:
https://www.accessories4less.com/mak...eceiver/1.html

In addition, for a PC setup, in my experience you don't need a ton of power because you sit pretty close to the speakers. My PC setup currently consists of a pair of PSB Alpha B bookshelf speakers powered by a little Onkyo executive system receiver that puts out maybe 15 Watts per channel, if that.

Lastly, I'm not worried about using the sub pre-out from the receiver, even though my receiver does have one. My sub has speaker level in/out connections, and I prefer how the system sounds when using these connections instead of sub pre-out. Personal preference, I suppose.
Question: Is there any difference in using a home theater av receiver instead of a stereo receiver?
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Question: Is there any difference in using a home theater av receiver instead of a stereo receiver?
Stereo receivers don't have HDMI inputs etc and only 2 channels otherwise I don't think one is inherently better than other. It just depends on the specific models you are comparing.

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post #20 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 06:57 PM
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Here is another option, if the Onkyo is too wide:
https://emotiva.com/collections/amps/products/a-100

It is fairly deep though.
If the Emotiva had a subwoofer out, I'd go with it.

Regarding the footprint, it's more about the overall size compared to a compact DAC type amp like the SMSL. Not so much the width or height specifically. But like I said, I could make it work. I'd probably have to mount the speakers on stands and move them off my desktop.
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post #21 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 07:01 PM
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I think all the analog inputs are same. They are just labeled to make it easier for beginners. You can always rename then in the settings.

I started with optical out from my PC to AVR which powered bookshelf and a separate powered sub. This allowed me to not use the PC DAC which in most cases are terrible. Later I added a separate USB DAC and fed analog out from DAC to the AVR.
I don't have optical out on my laptop/docking station. Is there another connection method to bypass the laptop DAC? I have an Audioquest Dragonfly USB DAC that I'd like to take advantage of.
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post #22 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 07:11 PM
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I don't have optical out on my laptop/docking station. Is there another connection method to bypass the laptop DAC? I have an Audioquest Dragonfly USB DAC that I'd like to take advantage of.
When you use your Dragonfly DAC, you will be bypassing the laptop's built-in DAC.

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post #23 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 08:09 PM
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When you use your Dragonfly DAC, you will be bypassing the laptop's built-in DAC.
From what I understand, this is only true when using an app with Wasabi Exclusive correct? If I'm using something like the Amazon app, I believe I am limited to the laptop's DAC? Which is why I'm interested in nonstop1doc's method of bypassing the laptop doc regardless of the source app being used.

Am I missing something?

EDIT: *Wasapi. I must have had sushi on the brain

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post #24 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by nonstopdoc1 View Post
Stereo receivers don't have HDMI inputs etc and only 2 channels otherwise I don't think one is inherently better than other. It just depends on the specific models you are comparing.
Not universally true. Here are a few stereo receivers with HDMI inputs. They are also HDCP 2.2, which means that they are 4k compatible. https://www.accessories4less.com/make-a-store/category/stereoreceivers/home-audio/receivers-amps/stereo-receivers/1.html?home_audio_key[]=hdcp22

I used accessories4less just for their search function.
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post #25 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 08:29 PM
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How about this Marantz. Smaller and has a sub out.

https://www.accessories4less.com/mak...specifications
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post #26 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by cocrh View Post
How about this Marantz. Smaller and has a sub out.

https://www.accessories4less.com/mak...specifications
I like the size and that its a Marantz. Price is a bit high for a refurb though. I'll keep this one in mind.
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post #27 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by PlanetAVS View Post
From what I understand, this is only true when using an app with Wasabi Exclusive correct? If I'm using something like the Amazon app, I believe I am limited to the laptop's DAC? Which is why I'm interested in nonstop1doc's method of bypassing the laptop doc regardless of the source app being used.

Am I missing something?
Not sure what you mean.

If you are playing sound through a USB device, the DAC in the laptop isn't used at all.

I use a USB interface to my Kef Eggs. The onboard sound in my PC can be turned off in the BIOS settings, and no drivers for the onboard sound need be installed. (There are also no drivers for the USB sound device.)

Amazon music is supposed to be 256 kbps MP3, variable bit rate. Is that good enough that you'd get an audible difference between onboard sound in a laptop and an external USB device with a superior DAC? (Not a rhetorical question.)
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post #28 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by bobknavs View Post
Not sure what you mean.

If you are playing sound through a USB device, the DAC in the laptop isn't used at all.

I use a USB interface to my Kef Eggs. The onboard sound in my PC can be turned off in the BIOS settings, and no drivers for the onboard sound need be installed. (There are also no drivers for the USB sound device.)

Amazon music is supposed to be 256 kbps MP3, variable bit rate. Is that good enough that you'd get an audible difference between onboard sound in a laptop and an external USB device with a superior DAC? (Not a rhetorical question.)
I should have mentioned that I'm using Amazon High Res streaming. The Amazon app doesn't have the Wasapi Exclusive feature, which I thought meant the laptop DAC overrides the USB DAC. For example, I'll switch from high res (24/192) to CD quality content and my USB DAC sampling rate indicator doesn't change. I thought that meant that my laptop DAC was overriding?

Wasn't aware of the BIOS settings idea, I'll give it a try.
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post #29 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by bobknavs View Post
Amazon music is supposed to be 256 kbps MP3, variable bit rate. Is that good enough that you'd get an audible difference between onboard sound in a laptop and an external USB device with a superior DAC? (Not a rhetorical question.)
In my experience, there is noticeable difference even at half that bitrate. Bass definition/clarity is much better with external DAC, and it doesn't take a high bitrate to reproduce bass frequencies. Granted, this may be subjective - what is noticeable to one person may not be noticeable to another.

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post #30 of 39 Old 11-08-2019, 09:44 PM
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From what I understand, this is only true when using an app with Wasabi Exclusive correct?
No.

DAC stands for digital to analog converter. So your computer's built-in DAC is only used if you output audio from the computer's analog port. If, on the other hand, you use USB, it means you are staying in digital domain, which means your built-in DAC isn't doing any converting from digital to analog. Your external USB DAC would be doing it instead.
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