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Need a crash course in being a Computer Audiophile


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This is the exact place that I have been looking for. Anyway, on to the problem/situation.

 

I got into audio about a year or two ago and have slowly put together 2 great systems and now, the time for my Klipsch Promedia's to be retired has come and it is time for my computer to finally get a proper sound system. I've done my research but I still have quite a few questions and wanted to confirm a few things. My computer is based on an Asus P5K Deluxe which has SPDIF out on it but I also have a Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic card. I also have a pair of Sennheiser HD555's to throw into the mix. So I've come up with this rough diagram:

 

PC >(?)> Benchmark DAC1 >(RCA)> Integrated Amp (Music Hall, Creek, Primare) >(speaker wire)> Speakers (B&W CM1)

 

I don't really want to use a USB based DAC because of problems I've heard and read about so I would like to stick with SPDIF or Optical unless I really have to. My first question is, is this a correct setup or am I missing something? My second question is, should I go SPDIF out from the motherboard to the DAC and bypass the soundcard completely or should I find a way to use it? Second, would I even need an integrated as the PC should function as the PreAmp section right? Finally, would the headphone amp in the DAC1 be able to mute the output to the amp/integrated when headphone's are used? Thanks to anyone that can help and I hope to hear back.

 

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Hey gchanjam - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. You've come to the right place. I'm not guaranteeing you'll find the answers, but you've got a good chance around here.

 

On to your concerns of the moment.

 

I really think you should think twice about ruling out a USB connection. USB can sound superior to SPDIF when implemented well. I'm willing to bet the DAC1 you have will sound much better via USB than your other two options. Your setup is correct no matter what connection you chose. The SPDIF question can only be answered by you and your preference for sound. I will reiterate the fact that the DAC1 has a very solid USB implementation that can do 24/96 natively. I wouldn't recommend using a PC as the preamp section even if it works. You don't want to move the PC volume from 100% or you'll muck with the sound even more. The DAC1 will make a really nice preamp by itself. Or you can just use the DAC1 as the DAC and an integrated for the rest. You choice. The DAC1 has to headphone ports on it. One will mute the analog output and the other will leave it alone. So when you want to "mute" the output to the amp with your headphones on just use the correct headphone port.

 

Thanks for the post. I'm sure you're not the only guy with these questions. Let us know if this only raises more questions or you want to discuss this stuff further.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Thanks for the quick and informed response Chris. So I've decided to look more in depth at various DAC's including USB enabled ones. Call me old fashioned but I prefer to support local dealers and business even though it may cost a bit more so I've decided to take a look at the Bel Canto DAC3 as well as the Musical Fidelity XDACv8. However, it will be while till either dealer gets the pieces in. So now I have a Music Hall A25.2 and a pair of B&W CM1's sitting around doing nothing and it got me wondering, would I be able to bypass using a DAC for now and just use a mini-stereo to dual RCA straight from the soundcard to the analog inputs of the integrated until I get a DAC or is a DAC an absolute necessity?

 

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Hey gchanjam - I also like to support local dealers when it makes sense. I've heard great things about the DAC3 from Bel Canto. In fact BC is located a few miles from Computer Audiophile.

 

For now you can probably use the mini to RCA, but the sound will be equivalent to a shortwave radio. Maybe not that bad, but you get my point.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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I love it that you appreciate what a local dealer can offer you. I am one, although maybe not local to you, so I am prejudiced. The beauty of it, at least in our store, is that you can borrow a setup for the weekend and make this kind of judgment for yourself. There is a lot of good advice on this site but some of this stuff is subjective and there is no getting around it. Listening to it at home, in the context of your system, perhaps assisted by a good glass of wine, is the way to go.

 

For the record, I strongly encourage you to keep an open mind on the USB issue, per Chris' recommendation. I was surprised at how good it can be when executed well.

 

Good listening

 

Rick

 

 

 

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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I hooked up the integrated and speakers without a DAC and just like has been said, it doesnt sound very good. It's not absolutely terrible but I'm definitely doing my gear a disservice by using it like this but only a few more days until my dealer gets the DAC3 in.

 

I am definitely going to think about USB after doing some more reading up about it. I guess perhaps, I did a little light reading a while ago and got a bad impression of USB DAC's but it appears that they have made significant gains recently so I'm definitely doing my research.

 

Rom661, so where exactly are you located? It's a slim chance we're anywhere near each other but I'm always up for finding new dealers. I will always support my good local dealers and I stress good dealers. I still remember when I first got into audio and was spending significantly less on gear. I went to a local dealer and once he found out how much I was looking to spend, he didn't even bother to stop reading his copy of Stereophile to answer my questions. It's a shame because now I am willing to spend much more and they are the only local dealers for a few brands like Totem, Epos, and Revel.

 

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We are in the Kansas City area. I hate hearing stories like your experience with the dealer. We love music and the stuff that helps reproduce it well. There is no relationship between disposable income and the love of music, although there are times when I feel like there may be a slight inverse relationship. In terms of personal enjoyment, I would rather work on putting together a modestly priced system for a music lover than a higher priced system for someone who really doesn't care that much. Obviously there are bills to pay but, as you point out, nurturing the relationship can pay off in the long haul both in terms of a nice relationship and the potential for a bigger budget down the road.

 

Take care.

 

Rick

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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