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jaydub
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I'm building a new PC based on a Skylake 6700K CPU using an Asus Z170 Motherboard.

My current PC has the following equipment that I was going to transfer to the new setup:

  • BlueSky 2.1 Powered Speakers
  • AKG K701 Headphones w/Heed CanAmp Headphone Amp

 

I haven't finalized a decision on what to do about sound. I only need two channel. I'm considering an ASUS Essence STX II 2- channel internal PCI-e card:

https://www.asus.com/us/Essence-Hi-Fi-Audio/Essence_STX_II/

 

I'm also looking into external DAC's because I'm a concerned about electrical interference potentially degrading the sound of an internal card. But I'm unclear on two issues. A lot of DAC's simply have a USB connection, analog out, and maybe digital in. If I go with that solution:

  1. how do I get analogue sound into the computer without using the crappy on-board audio?
  2. internal cards come with software that enable you to manipulate the sound, define sampling rate, equalize, help with speaker placement, sound profiles, define DSP mode, etc. I may be wrong, but it seems that most simple DAC's don't come with any software at all, which seems quite limiting. What am I missing...do people use third party software...do people care?

 

Any insight would be most helpful. Many thanks.

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I'm building a new PC based on a Skylake 6700K CPU using an Asus Z170 Motherboard.

My current PC has the following equipment that I was going to transfer to the new setup:

  • BlueSky 2.1 Powered Speakers
  • AKG K701 Headphones w/Heed CanAmp Headphone Amp

 

I haven't finalized a decision on what to do about sound. I only need two channel. I'm considering an ASUS Essence STX II 2- channel internal PCI-e card:

https://www.asus.com/us/Essence-Hi-Fi-Audio/Essence_STX_II/

 

I'm also looking into external DAC's because I'm a concerned about electrical interference potentially degrading the sound of an internal card. But I'm unclear on two issues. A lot of DAC's simply have a USB connection, analog out, and maybe digital in. If I go with that solution:

  1. how do I get analogue sound into the computer without using the crappy on-board audio?
  2. internal cards come with software that enable you to manipulate the sound, define sampling rate, equalize, help with speaker placement, sound profiles, define DSP mode, etc. I may be wrong, but it seems that most simple DAC's don't come with any software at all, which seems quite limiting. What am I missing...do people use third party software...do people care?

 

Any insight would be most helpful. Many thanks.

 

I prefer external DACs as they don't usually let computer activity noise thru. Most internal cards will let some thru, though this ASUS card is better quality and may not. If it does't bleed internal PC noise it is probably a good solution for you.

 

As for the other issues there is software of various kinds to handle using an external DAC including EQ, or DSP or pretty much anything you can think of wanting.

 

As for analog in, you can use an external DAC and the built in sound card for analog in. Some of those aren't terrible these days. It wouldn't equal the DAC or even the ASUS card, but depends upon your needs for analog in. I once used cassette tapes fed through the PC sound card, and that was fine for that source. You can buy external ADCs as well.

 

That could be a different solution. Music recording interfaces have good DACs and good ADCs along with analog mic pre-amps and line level inputs. So unless you plan to record voice or music for the web maybe overkill and they aren't quite as simple for day to day use. Most have pretty okay headphone jacks built in as well. Something like this:

http://www.amazon.com/Focusrite-Scarlett-2i4-USB-Interface/dp/B009B15N0Q

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Jaydub

I use an Asus Xonar D2X ,and a friend uses the Essence. Due to the additional little 4 pin molex power cable input (you will need a normal 4 pin molex to mini 4pin molex connector cable as used with floppy discs too) it has improved power over many other internal cards. It will also do a pretty decent job for recording too. You will be able to use A.S.I.O. for direct output via Coax SPDIF too, but you will not be able to export DSD. You would need USB to do that.

 

Alex

 

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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I would go with an external dac. Most, if not all soundcards weren't designed for high end quality sound.

 

"how do I get analogue sound into the computer without using the crappy on-board audio?"

 

Use an external AD converter.

 

"internal cards come with software that enable you to manipulate the sound, define sampling rate, equalize, help with speaker placement, sound profiles, define DSP mode, etc. I may be wrong, but it seems that most simple DAC's don't come with any software at all, which seems quite limiting. What am I missing...do people use third party software...do people care?"

 

People use 3rd party software. Processing should be done before the dac. Also, most people don't want to run the signal through any type of processing unless its absolutely necessary.

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Most, if not all soundcards weren't designed for high end quality sound.

 

That simply isn't correct. Some internal soundcards also have only high quality Digital Outputs.

 

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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That simply isn't correct. Some internal soundcards also have only high quality Digital Outputs.

 

He was asking about using the sound card by itself. I think you can do much better with an external dac as opposed to using the one on a sound card.

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He was asking about using the sound card by itself. I think you can do much better with an external dac as opposed to using the one on a sound card.

 

With internal cards like the Asus Xonar series you can have an analogue output that can rival that of many affordable CD players, as well as plug into a good headphone amplifier, and also with some cards, the ability to replace opamps, AND a decent Coax SPDIF output that in conjunction with a good DAC can put the vast majority of USB input DACs to shame, even when using a USB Regen with a Linear PSU.

 

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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Thanks for all the input. Very helpful.

- Is the Asus Essence STX II a worthwhile upgrade to the ALC1150 found on the Asus Z170 Premium M/B ($400 M/B)?

- Any examples of third party software to be used with an outboard DAC?

- I have a Parasound Digital Link III, which at this point is pretty long in the tooth. What would I have to spend on a new DAC to make a meaningful upgrade in audio quality? Any recommendations in the $300-500 range?

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"Any examples of third party software to be used with an outboard DAC?"

 

If you're looking for software to edit or process your music files, the dac doesn't have anything to do with that.

 

"internal cards come with software that enable you to manipulate the sound, define sampling rate, equalize, help with speaker placement, sound profiles, define DSP mode, etc. I may be wrong, but it seems that most simple DAC's don't come with any software at all, which seems quite limiting. What am I missing...do people use third party software...do people care?"

 

Most, if not all of that gets done with your music player software. If you haven't tried it yet, download a trial copy of jRiver Music Player. It should do everything you're asking. The thing to remember is that its not part of your dac. It runs on your computer and can be used with any dac. For example, if you want to play a file at a certain sampling rate, you set it in jRiver. jRiver then sends the file to your dac, and as long as the dac itself supports the sampling rate you set in jRiver, then that's what you get.

 

"I have a Parasound Digital Link III, which at this point is pretty long in the tooth. What would I have to spend on a new DAC to make a meaningful upgrade in audio quality? Any recommendations in the $300-500 range?"

 

That's a subjective question. Only you can answer it because we all have different tastes and opinions as to what sounds good. My personal view on this is that just because your dac isn't the most current model doesn't automatically make it an inferior sounding dac. Even if it doesn't support the newest ultra high rez files, it can still sound better. A good example of this is CD and SACD. All things being equal, SACD is superior to regular CD. When SACD first came out, many of us ran out and bought a mass market player to try it. We all found out quickly that a really good CD player can easily outperform a cheap SACD player listening to the same album.

 

I have to put some disclaimers in today because I don't have time to argue back and forth on the typical talking points that always come up. Disclaimer: Not all SACD's and CD's come from the same master. --I know.

 

Looking at the ASUS sound card you are considering to replace your PS Audio dac, all I can say is that there's no way in hell that sound card is going to outperform it. Forget the digital portion of the dac for a moment. No sound card that I know of has an analog section that good.

 

Disclaimer: You can't know that for sure. You haven't tried every possible combination and compared them all.-- Don't care. I stand by that statement anyway.

 

As for what $300 - $500 dac will be an upgrade, I can't say. I don't like assigning price to performance. There's no possible way to do it accurately. That said, you have a $1000 dac now (I'm going by memory on price so I may be off a little). I wouldn't expect a $500 dac to be better just because its newer. Regardless of what anyone tells you, the only way to know for sure is to put a new dac next to your PS Audio, listen and decide for yourself. If you have no local dealers and live in the US, cal The Cable Company. They specialize in lending out demo components and accessories. That way you can make a decision without becoming locked into a purchase. They sell a lot of PS Audio products, so they should be able to help you narrow down your search as to what will sound better.

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Thanks for the info. I haven't been in the audio world for some time. When you are referring to hi-rez files, do you mean SACD and DVD-Audio. I thought that those formats were practically defunct, esp. DVD-Audio. How are they a meaningful factor in decision making? Or is there some successor to those that is the latest and greatest, and if so, what medium is it produced on?

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Looking at the ASUS sound card you are considering to replace your PS Audio dac, all I can say is that there's no way in hell that sound card is going to outperform it. Forget the digital portion of the dac for a moment. No sound card that I know of has an analog section that good.

 

 

You might wish to reconsider this idea. Here are measurements on the original STX versions.

 

ASUS Xonar Essence ST/STX soundcards Page 3 | Stereophile.com

 

While not quite matching claimed specs everything looks very good (JA uses the word superb). Many very expensive DACs do no better or even as well.

 

As for other possibilities, I have heard the Emotiva DACs and can recommend them. I haven't heard the Teac 301 series, but it gets good reports, and does most any format out there right now. Both have headphone outputs as well as being DAC/Pre-amps.

 

https://emotiva.com/products/dacs/electronics/dacs/stealth-dc-1

 

http://www.amazon.com/Teac-UD-301-BK-Monaural-Digital-Converter/dp/B00L9HZ5QW

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Thanks for the info. I haven't been in the audio world for some time. When you are referring to hi-rez files, do you mean SACD and DVD-Audio. I thought that those formats were practically defunct, esp. DVD-Audio. How are they a meaningful factor in decision making? Or is there some successor to those that is the latest and greatest, and if so, what medium is it produced on?

 

Its true that both formats pretty much failed, but its still a legit comparison. SACD is DSD and DVD-A is hi rez pcm. I know you may be able to make some adjustments on how things are handled with a file based system, but the example applies to either.

 

One thing that very few people want to address here is the sound of the analog section of the dac. Its of equal importance. The same exact digital side of a dac paired with 2 different analog sections can sound completely different from each other. That's why you need to listen.

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You might wish to reconsider this idea. Here are measurements on the original STX versions.

 

ASUS Xonar Essence ST/STX soundcards Page 3 | Stereophile.com

 

While not quite matching claimed specs everything looks very good (JA uses the word superb). Many very expensive DACs do no better or even as well.

 

As for other possibilities, I have heard the Emotiva DACs and can recommend them. I haven't heard the Teac 301 series, but it gets good reports, and does most any format out there right now. Both have headphone outputs as well as being DAC/Pre-amps.

 

https://emotiva.com/products/dacs/electronics/dacs/stealth-dc-1

 

http://www.amazon.com/Teac-UD-301-BK-Monaural-Digital-Converter/dp/B00L9HZ5QW

 

Measurements can in no way tell you how a component is going to sound. I know some people claim otherwise, but I've never seen anyone back it up with some real examples. As for Stereophile and the other magazines, I don't trust them. Its been well over 10 years since I was reading reviews and my system's never sounded better.

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Measurements can in no way tell you how a component is going to sound. I know some people claim otherwise, but I've never seen anyone back it up with some real examples. As for Stereophile and the other magazines, I don't trust them. Its been well over 10 years since I was reading reviews and my system's never sounded better.

 

A bunch of drivel. Of course measurements can tell you much about the sound. I linked to the measurement portion of the review which I do believe you can trust Stereophile on. It is the best part of the magazine. At one time nearly all 'stereo' magazines did measurements. But with the influence of we need only trust our ears philosophy there are only a couple left that do basic measurements.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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how do I get analogue sound into the computer without using the crappy on-board audio?

Ethernet works great, and to my ears sounds better than an external HDD connected by USB or FireWire. This can be something as sophisticated as NAS, or if you have more than one computer at home, as simple as having an external HDD connected to another computer on the network and having a router in bridge/access point mode connected to your audio computer with an Ethernet cable. Your music library is on the NAS or remote HDD. You then access the NAS or remote external HDD from the audio computer via network.

 

internal cards come with software that enable you to manipulate the sound, define sampling rate, equalize, help with speaker placement, sound profiles, define DSP mode, etc. I may be wrong, but it seems that most simple DAC's don't come with any software at all, which seems quite limiting. What am I missing...do people use third party software...do people care?

 

 

For Windows my two favorites are HQPlayer and XXHighEnd. Neither is a ball of fire in the user interface department. Many people graft a really nice easy cutting edge interface onto HQPlayer using Roon, though that runs into money.

 

I haven't linked to these three, but Google is your friend; they're very easy to find. More information about them is available at the XXHighEnd forum, the Roon website, and here at the CA forums.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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A bunch of drivel. Of course measurements can tell you much about the sound. I linked to the measurement portion of the review which I do believe you can trust Stereophile on. It is the best part of the magazine. At one time nearly all 'stereo' magazines did measurements. But with the influence of we need only trust our ears philosophy there are only a couple left that do basic measurements.

 

Saying you can do something, and actually doing it, are 2 completely different things. Can you give me one specific example where looking at a spec sheet tells you how a component sounds? Also, it sounds like you don't have that much experience with high end audio. Instead of getting upset with people over things you don't understand, or have no experience with, maybe you should go out and demo some gear. If you're willing to keep an open mind, you'll change your mind on this issue.

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Saying you can do something, and actually doing it, are 2 completely different things. Can you give me one specific example where looking at a spec sheet tells you how a component sounds? Also, it sounds like you don't have that much experience with high end audio. Instead of getting upset with people over things you don't understand, or have no experience with, maybe you should go out and demo some gear. If you're willing to keep an open mind, you'll change your mind on this issue.

 

I'd be willing to bet good money that Dennis (who I disagree with reasonably often) has longer experience with high end audio than you do. Have you bothered to look at his system?

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Saying you can do something, and actually doing it, are 2 completely different things. Can you give me one specific example where looking at a spec sheet tells you how a component sounds?

 

Impedance in amp specs with regard to both which speakers and which headphones they'll work well with. Amp power specs and speaker sensitivity. Jitter specs for DACs (Dennis might disagree as to where that spec becomes important).

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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BTW: Apologies to the OP for sliding into one of our regularly scheduled arguments. Please let us know if we're helping and what other questions you have.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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I'd be willing to bet good money that Dennis (who I disagree with reasonably often) has longer experience with high end audio than you do. Have you bothered to look at his system?

 

To be honest, I really don't care what his system is composed of or how long he's been into audio. When I read his posts, the first thing that comes to mind is that he's an amateur. He makes claims that he can't back up. And before you disagree, lets see if he can answer my question.

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And before you disagree, lets see if he can answer my question.

 

How about we see if we can help the noobie who created this thread to get assistance?

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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To be honest, I really don't care what his system is composed of or how long he's been into audio. When I read his posts, the first thing that comes to mind is that he's an amateur. He makes claims that he can't back up. And before you disagree, lets see if he can answer my question.

 

I'll pm you later so we don't pollute this thread.

 

Edited to add:. Why yes I'm an amateur as I have never made my living with audio. If I need to be a pro to have cred with you then I can just stop right now.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I really appreciate all the insight you've provided on this website. I'd like to have a simple solution, which would be the Xonar...line in, line out, digital out, headphone amp, and all internal. So, I'll probably get that for starters, then build out separates as need and knowledge dictate.

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I'll pm you later so we don't pollute this thread.

 

Edited to add:. Why yes I'm an amateur as I have never made my living with audio. If I need to be a pro to have cred with you then I can just stop right now.

 

I could care less about any of that stuff. You're recommendations and comments, for the most part, are ridiculous. Line it up in your head any way you want, but that's what it comes down to.

 

Still working on the question I asked?

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