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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
With the trouble I have been having with my computer audio system, I am looking to upgrade to an external dac to completely isolate my audio system (electrically) from my desktop.


My current setup that is producing an annoying buzzing that I cant seem to get rid of even with a USB DAC is:


Desktop->Asus Xonar Essense STX->RCA->Adam A7x


I have confirmed the source of the buzzing being something in the computer, as the speakers work perfectly fine with any other source I have. The only way I have been able to eliminate the problem is with optical or hdmi connections to my HT receiver. I have minimized the problem by maximizing the volume on my desktop and minimizing the the volume on the powered monitors, but it i severely annoying to change volume and as such I am going to start looking for a deal on a DAC/PrePro/AVR to solve the problem once and for all.


Requirements:

-headphone amplifier capable of driving 300 Ohm headphones (HD600)

-volume knob

-optical in

-dedicated power supply (not powered by USB)

-stereo out (RCA/XLR)

-sub $500


Optional, but preferred

bass management crossover


Naturally, since this is stemming from a noise problem, balanced connections would be preferred.



Some solutions that I have been considering:

Emotiva DC-1 DAC

Emotiva XDA-2 DAC (have read many complaints about low powered headphone amp)

Outlaw Audio Model 975

AVR w/ 7.1 preout and airplay



If anyone has any other suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it. This is not an area I am particularly well versed in.


I will definitely be looking for a deal and will be scouring the classifieds and ebay, etc as this wasnt really a planned purchase, but it is driving me nuts.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by smoth  /t/1522117/dac-recommendation-with-xlr-and-headphone-amp#post_24470109


With the trouble I have been having with my computer audio system, I am looking to upgrade to an external dac to completely isolate my audio system (electrically) from my desktop.


My current setup that is producing an annoying buzzing that I cant seem to get rid of even with a USB DAC is:


Desktop->Asus Xonar Essense STX->RCA->Adam A7x


I have confirmed the source of the buzzing being something in the computer, as the speakers work perfectly fine with any other source I have. The only way I have been able to eliminate the problem is with optical or hdmi connections to my HT receiver. I have minimized the problem by maximizing the volume on my desktop and minimizing the the volume on the powered monitors, but it i severely annoying to change volume and as such I am going to start looking for a deal on a DAC/PrePro/AVR to solve the problem once and for all.


Requirements:

-headphone amplifier capable of driving 300 Ohm headphones (HD600)

-volume knob

-optical in

-dedicated power supply (not powered by USB)

-stereo out (RCA/XLR)

-sub $500


Optional, but preferred

bass management crossover


Naturally, since this is stemming from a noise problem, balanced connections would be preferred.



Some solutions that I have been considering:

Emotiva DC-1 DAC

Emotiva XDA-2 DAC (have read many complaints about low powered headphone amp)

Outlaw Audio Model 975

AVR w/ 7.1 preout and airplay



If anyone has any other suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it. This is not an area I am particularly well versed in.


I will definitely be looking for a deal and will be scouring the classifieds and ebay, etc as this wasnt really a planned purchase, but it is driving me nuts.

A DAC that is optically connected to your PC is the only way to accomplish true electrical isolation.


Your STX card has a combo jack and is supposed to come with an adaptor for hooking a converter up via an optical Toslink cable.

http://www.asus.com/Sound_Cards_and_DigitaltoAnalog_Converters/Xonar_Essence_STX/#specifications .


Your hum problem is probably due to a ground loop, not any noise generated inside the computer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I figure if I go optical, I will just use the optical connector on my motherboard since I wont need the RCA jacks or headphone amp in the STX anymore. At least I can sell it to help offset the cost of a DAC.


Do you have any suggestions on how to fix a ground loop? I have everything running though the same surge protector, which from what I understand about electronics should give everything the same ground. I do notice the pitch and frequency of the blips change if I hold in a key on my keyboard and the noise only starts when Windows starts, not when the computer starts.


That being said, if anyone has a thought on how to fix this without buying new hardware, I am willing to give it a try. I have already tried booting to Knoppix to see if it was a Windows power saving setting, removing all nonessential hardware, updating all drivers/Windows, turning off Windows/BIOS power saving settings, and using a USB DAC, soundcard, and onboard connections. I have also tried different cables, plugging things into different outlets, and a different surge protector. So far the only solutions that have worked are going HDMI to my receiver (albeit that was in a different room so something with the power may have changed), and optical to a Fiio E17 DAC running on its own battery power.
 

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I have the Emotiva DC-1. The only thing missing from your requirements is bass management. I don't miss it though as I use the crossover and volume adjustment on the sub itself to sort-of manage it. Not a problem if you already own a SPL meter and can set it to a test tone.


It has TWO high-quality headphone pre-amps, a set of analog inputs for a tape deck or phono with line-level RCA, an ANALOG volume control that steps .25 dB, and all outputs active at the same time. This allows me to run RCA out to a sub and XLR to the main speakers at the same time. All this fits into a half-rack profile that fits nicely on top of a standard ATX, Flex ATX, or ITX case. Mine is actually a short stack of a Shuttle SX48P2, a pair of AMS DS3R Pro2 enclosures, and the DAC. The Silverstone SG-05 is on the other side of the desk but has vents on top that prevents anything deep sitting on top of it.

 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yeah, a subwoofer connection is not critical. There are many inexpensive crossover options if I ever decide to add one to the system down the road.


I cant really find any receiver options with balanced or even unbalanced pre-outs for under about $500, so I may give up on that front unless I happen across a great deal on a used AVR.
 

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Could it be your power supply going bad? I have the same sound card and it has no noise with my two year old computer. I am planning to get the http://www.jdslabs.com/products/48/o2-odac-combo/ for my bedroom laptop that I use in the summer because the bedroom is the only room with a/c. But your situation is different. The Emo certainly is better looking but at almost twice the price....
 

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I did a side-by-side level-matched comparison test of several mid-priced DACs in December 2013, including the Emo DC-1. It is a great DAC, not such a great headphone amp (first clue: 2.5mm jacks). If the headphone amp section is really important to you, look elsewhere.


While I haven't personally heard it, the Beresford Bushmaster has gotten some nice reviews on various forums, particularly with the Senn HD650s, and it is cheap (~$250 USD delivered).

http://www.beresford.me/products/TC-7533.html


The only problem is that if you don't like it, you're going to have to sell it yourself, since there's no trial/return policy.


Audio-Gd also makes a lot of DAC-amp combos that folks on various forums like. Again, I did not compare their products in my big test because there is no trial/return policy: you buy it, it's yours.

http://audio-gd.com/Products-EN.htm


Good luck in your hunt!
 
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