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Do I need a top quality internal USB sound card if I have an external DAC?


CleverName

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Depends. USB is a particularly noisey interface and offers no galvanic isolation from the noisey PC environment to the DAC. Most DACs( even the cheap ones) handle noise with aplomb so unless your PC is a noisey mess, I wouldn't sweat a USB card.

 

On the other hand, I prefer the isolation Optical offers so that's the interface of choice for me. Yes, there's no 24/192 with optical...........fortunately I pass on the HiRes cool aid at family functions.

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...........fortunately I pass on the HiRes cool aid at family functions.

 

In other words your system is incapable of revealing the differences between comparison tracks such as " Maria" in 24/192 and 16/44.1 from Soundkeeper Format comparisons page ?

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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Newer optical interfaces can handle 24/192, rather than being limited to 24/96 - though I agree that it shouldn't make much if any audible difference.

 

If your DAC has noticeable problems with a USB connection, optical would solve them since it's completely electrically isolated from the PC.

 

If everything sounds good without a noticeable ground-loop hum or other problems, there's no need for special USB cards, isolators, cables which split the power and data connections etc.

 

In other words your system is incapable of revealing the differences between comparison tracks such as " Maria" in 24/192 and 16/44.1 from Soundkeeper Format comparisons page ?
Properly mastered content should sound the same in 24/192 as 16/44.1.

I doubt anyone on CA can even hear 20kHz, let alone signals beyond it.

 

Improperly mastered content, or poorly designed hardware may sound better at higher sample rates though, and at very loud volumes, 24-bit may be superior to 16-bit.

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Properly mastered content should sound the same in 24/192 as 16/44.1.

I doubt anyone on CA can even hear 20kHz, let alone signals beyond it.

So you are saying that someone with B.D's experience is wasting his time recording at 24/192 ? If so, that's a pile of B.S. This afternoon 2 visitors at a listening session at a friend's place, one a C.A. member, who started one of the longest and most well received threads in C.A. were both able to hear clear differences between 16/44.1 of "Maria" from Barry's Format Comparison page and the same track in 24/192 as extracted from my copy of Barry's "Americas" DVD in .wav file format.Yes, they both preferred the 24/192 version.

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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SSIA. Does an external DAC (separate or inside an integrated Amp) replace the need to install a special high quality internal USB sound card?

As with everything the answer is "it depends".

 

First off what is your budget? If you are considering spending $1000 on a DAC and computer then (to my mind) a specialist USB card makes no sense.

 

Now look at your DAC, how well isolated is the USB input?

 

Finally are there better ways you can achieve isolation - perhaps (as Mayhem suggests) using optical connection will provide a better isolation (though there are issues with that too).

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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No, you can't make that assumption. Again, the answer is "it depends." You might get one answer with one PC and another answer with another PC.

 

Have you tried them both and do you think one sounds better?

 

If you have one of the newer Peachtree's, it has a very good USB implementation (XMOS).

 

That doesn't mean sound quality couldn't be improved if you tried a specialist USB card.

 

I'd suggest you ask other Peachtree owners here on the forum and on other forums if they've used one of those cards with a Peachtree, and if they found (a) it made a positive difference; b)how did it sound compared to the other inputs?

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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If everything sounds good without a noticeable ground-loop hum or other problems, there's no need for special USB cards, isolators, cables which split the power and data connections etc.

 

 

Often the noise issue is more subtle than that. The human brain is quite good at separating noise from music, so even if the source is noisy you'll hear the music alright. But as volume goes down, the music is lost in the noise—which typically is still not heard separately, but makes the music be perceived as less detailed.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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Often the noise issue is more subtle than that. The human brain is quite good at separating noise from music, so even if the source is noisy you'll hear the music alright. But as volume goes down, the music is lost in the noise—which typically is still not heard separately, but makes the music be perceived as less detailed.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

 

Spot on !

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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On the other hand, I prefer the isolation Optical offers so that's the interface of choice for me.

 

Yes, but every Toslink optical circuit generates noise at the receiver, roughly in proportion to the jitter in the signal. It's not an issue for bidirectional single-mode optical connections, but that's a rare and expensive thing in today's equipment. (Bel Canto has it.)

 

The big issue no one has yet mentioned is timing. Unless you have a master clock output from your DAC that controls the timing of the server, again a rare setup except in studios, your optical-input DAC will have to make subsonic adjustments to its output signal to manage the FIFO data storage of the server's optical output. Some do this very well, but it is a big SQ consideration and the whole reason for the asynchronous USB connections that are nearly ubiquitous.

Mac Mini 2012 with 2.3 GHz i5 CPU and 16GB RAM running newest OS10.9x and Signalyst HQ Player software (occasionally JRMC), ethernet to Cisco SG100-08 GigE switch, ethernet to SOtM SMS100 Miniserver in audio room, sending via short 1/2 meter AQ Cinnamon USB to Oppo 105D, feeding balanced outputs to 2x Bel Canto S300 amps which vertically biamp ATC SCM20SL speakers, 2x Velodyne DD12+ subs. Each side is mounted vertically on 3-tiered Sound Anchor ADJ2 stands: ATC (top), amp (middle), sub (bottom), Mogami, Koala, Nordost, Mosaic cables, split at the preamp outputs with splitters. All transducers are thoroughly and lovingly time aligned for the listening position.

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Spending money on a USB card doesn't fix the root cause of blah sound vs in your face musical detail... jitter due to CPU cycle stealing in an off the shelf PC. Focus on this first before you spend money on a fancy USB card. If you are stuck on asynch USB, Windows server 2012 and Audiophils script work. Coax/ optical direct from PC will limit you to blah sound.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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Spending money on a USB card doesn't fix the root cause of blah sound vs in your face musical detail... jitter due to CPU cycle stealing in an off the shelf PC. Focus on this first before you spend money on a fancy USB card. If you are stuck on asynch USB, Windows server 2012 and Audiophils script work. Coax/ optical direct from PC will limit you to blah sound.
Nonsense.

 

1. Windows Server 2012 is running on the same Kernel as Windows 8.1

2. Lots of applications are not designed to run on a server OS, and do not work correctly. Including many media players.

3. Audio playback is about the simplest task a modern CPU is asked to do. Anything but real-time DSD conversions uses a fraction of a percent of my CPU.

4. Proper DACs are asynchronous so jitter is effectively bypassed since the signal is buffered.

 

The only time you have to do any kind of optimization - and that is not what you would be doing - is if you work in audio production and need the absolute lowest latency possible.

For music playback, latency is irrelevant.

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I enjoy all of the back and forth, but I thought (mistakenly?) that the OP was asking if there was a benefit to the SoTM or Paul Pang's type of USB cards.

Roon Server: Core i7-3770S, WS2012 + AO => HQP Server: Core, i7-9700K, HQPlayer OS => NAA: Celeron NUC, HQP NAA => ISO Regen with UltraCap LPS 1.2 => Mapleshade USB Cable => Lampizator L4 DSD-Only Balanced DAC Preamp => Blue Jeans Belden Balanced Cables => Mivera PurePower SE Amp => Magnepan 3.7i

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I enjoy all of the back and forth, but I thought (mistakenly?) that the OP was asking if there was a benefit to the SoTM or Paul Pang's type of USB cards.

 

Exactly. The original point -- I am curious about whether when a standard USB out is sent to the DAC, this makes "pre-conditioning" (so to speak) the signal through a high-end USB card irrelevant.

 

I might as well throw in the question of whether a wifi signal sent from a PC in another part of the room and/or house to Apple TV feeding into the DAC also presents a relatively good/clean source for the DAC. And, yep, I am aware that Apple TV is not an HD source. Let's set that aside for the moment.

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Well, the most sensible answer the OP got was that it depends on his setup.

 

Some DACs (very few of them) have such a good USB implementation that it doesn't seem to matter. As far as I can tell, for many users - even with "audiophile" server setups and "audiophile" DACs, - find that the specialist USB card improves the sound. Note that Chris built his highest end CAPS server with the SOtM USB card. My experience is that most servers add enough noise/junk over the USB output that one of the addon cards helps.

 

Exactly. The original point -- I am curious about whether when a standard USB out is sent to the DAC, this makes "pre-conditioning" (so to speak) the signal through a high-end USB card irrelevant.

 

I might as well throw in the question of whether a wifi signal sent from a PC in another part of the room and/or house to Apple TV feeding into the DAC also presents a relatively good/clean source for the DAC. And, yep, I am aware that Apple TV is not an HD source. Let's set that aside for the moment.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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I thought even with my tin ears and a fairly mediocre system that the USB clocks made a big difference at least in my case. I feed optical through a USB to SPDIF convertor, powered by a LiFEPO4 battery with Crystek clocks and Deca low noise power regulator. The USB cable carries no voltage from the PC to the convertor only using data lines D+ D-. Mainly it was an exercise to tinker and learn something about digital; trying to isolate the PC as much as possible. I thought I had made some gains.

I would imagine on a high end DAC would get you there too though.

 

https://wyred4sound.com/products/digital-converters/remedy-reclocker

 

Thought this was interesting too.

Dahlquist DQ-10 Speakers DQ-LP1 crossover 2 DW-1 Subs

Dynaco Mk III Mains - Rotel 991 Subs

Wyred W4S Pre Gustard X10 DAC

SOtM dx-USB-HD reclocked SOtMmBPS-d2s

Intel Thin-mini ITX

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