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Great sound straight from the motherboard


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OK- Nobody is going believe this- but I get GREAT, AMAZING sound directly off my motherboard. I have an ASUS A8N-E, a motherboard with an optical out for sound. This mobo can be set for "digital out" through the optical cable. This goes to an ARCAM AVR350 http://www.arcam.co.uk/prod_diva_AVR350_intro.cfm which does the D to A conversion. This then goes to a pair of Era design 5's http://www.signalpathint.com/index.php/Design-5-Series.

 

Keep in mind, I am not using the DACs (there are 4 on this mobo) on the motherboard. The chip sends S/PDif code out to the arcam. I constantly hear how bad onboard sound is, and how noisy the computer environment is....

 

So I tried an experiment. I hooked up an Edirol UA 25 usb dac/ recording device that can sample up to 24/96. It is external, encased in thick aluminum, has an optical out, and is of professional sound quality. I thought it would produce better sound than the Asus A8N-E because it is external and "pro." To my surprise, there was NO comparison, the motherboard trounced the Edirol UA-25 hands down. The motherboard had better clarity and much wider soundstage.

 

Contrary to popular opinion- this configuraton: Foobar 2000> ASUS A8N-E> optical out> Arcam> ERA design 5's. Has crystal clear sound, a wide soundstage, almost no jitter, and a nice black background.

 

It seems the motherboard is passing good clean optical data to the arcam which wrings every drop of fidelity out of the recording.

 

The point? unlike coax spdif, the optical link stops quite a bit of noise. When connected to high quality receiver with new DACs, ect. you can get true HiFi sound right off the motherboard.

 

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Hey jspar7 - That is very cool news! Thanks a lot for posting this level of detail. I am thinking about a list of internal boards that sound great and linking back to the posts. Even though you aren't using the onboard DAC, this is still good to hear.

 

In my opinion most people suggest an external DAC because of the reasons you mention. I haven't read as much negative press about onboard digital out capabilities. But, every link in the chain does matter and it is good to hear you get great sound out of your card.

 

Thanks for joining Computer Audiophile,

 

- Chris

Founder

 

ComputerAudiophile.com

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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  • 1 year later...

This has not been commented on for 18 months, but I would like to know if anyone has any further experience using the digital output directly from an ASUS motherboard (either optical of S/PDIF)? It uses an onboard 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC with 192KHz/24-bit audio output.

 

Would inputting the output from the motherboard either directly into a DAC or a re-clocker + DAC (like Empirical Audio Pace Car 2 and Overdrive) give superior results versus installing a Lynx AES-16e PCI Express card in the computer + an external DAC and saving the $700 on the Lynx?

 

The bottom line is the sound, then the sound versus the dollars spent.

 

I want to thank everyone for their knowledgeable insight and thoughts on the site! I have learned a lot.

 

Steve Barnard

Audiophile Neophyte

 

Custom Music Server, i7-3770T with Core Audio Filtered ATX Cables, Win 8, J River Media 17 with JPLAY, USB 1TB, Nuforce IA7 V2 Upgrade Co Signature modified, TimePortal Interconnects, MIT Magnum powercord, Wireworld Silver Starlight USB, Northstar DAC32, upgraded by the Upgrade Company, RSL 3600 Studio Monitors

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I'm sure that the optical output of most motherboards are going to be the same as on a MacMini ... good but likely to be quite jittery and can be improved on by specialist interfaces (i.e. Lynx AES16, FireWire interfaces such as RME FireFace, etc).

 

A jitter reduction device (such as Empirical PaceCar) could improve the quality, but another interface (i.e. Lynx AES16) might improve it as much as the jitter will not be introduced in the first place and it's always better to avoid jitter than try to eliminate it later. Also different people notice the effects of (low level of) jitter more than others. You're asked about using "a re-clocker + DAC (like Empirical Audio Pace Car 2 and Overdrive) [to] give superior results versus installing a Lynx AES-16e PCI Express card in the computer + an external DAC and saving the $700 on the Lynx?" well a Pace Car and Overdrive is going to cost you similar amounts (or more) than a superior USB DAC such the Ayre or Wavelength or getting an AES16 card and a Bryston BDA-1 DAC (for examples). Thats not tot say that the Empirical Audio equipment isn't going to sound good, but skipping ont he AES16 is only one part of the equation. An AES16 isn't going to make a Cambridge Audio DACMagic sound like a £3000 DAC, but then neither is a Pace Car.

 

Just my thoughts based on common sense.

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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Andrew - are you using a DAC with the computer or are you listening to the music directly out of the computer? I would think at a minimum you need a DAC to get really good music.

 

Thanks,

 

Steve

 

Custom Music Server, i7-3770T with Core Audio Filtered ATX Cables, Win 8, J River Media 17 with JPLAY, USB 1TB, Nuforce IA7 V2 Upgrade Co Signature modified, TimePortal Interconnects, MIT Magnum powercord, Wireworld Silver Starlight USB, Northstar DAC32, upgraded by the Upgrade Company, RSL 3600 Studio Monitors

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Thanks Eloise.

 

So all things beings equal, an audio output through a Lynx AES16 (with a DAC) will be better sounding than just using the output directly into a DAC? The only variable being more or less jitter?

 

Steve

 

Custom Music Server, i7-3770T with Core Audio Filtered ATX Cables, Win 8, J River Media 17 with JPLAY, USB 1TB, Nuforce IA7 V2 Upgrade Co Signature modified, TimePortal Interconnects, MIT Magnum powercord, Wireworld Silver Starlight USB, Northstar DAC32, upgraded by the Upgrade Company, RSL 3600 Studio Monitors

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I am using the SPDIF output from my Asus motherboard. The problem is that the soundcard driver only allows outputs at 44.1, 48, 96, and 192, so 88.2 files are resampled to 96 and 176.4 files are resampled to 192. Resampling is a non-starter for me, so I am looking at other options like the Lynx AES16. I also am anxiously awaiting Chris's evaluation of the new Asus PCIe soundcards.

 

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I had the Asus P5Q in a tower. I ran a dual boot Vista and a stripped down version of Linux Debian on it. On the Vista side for Audio it was Foobar and Wasapi and on the linux side for audio I was running MPD plus Minion.

Believe it or not (and I shake my head in wonderment at this myself) I was running:

1) on board sound direct from the headphone out to my Senn HD650's; or

2) from the rca spdif to an external dac.

 

Re the HD650's. I never expected the op amps to a) drive the Senn HD's or b) for them to sound any good if they did make a noise. In the event they a) did make a noise (albiet not especially loud whic is fine with me) and b) that noise was very very good. At lower levels almost equivalent to running balanced out of a Lavry DA10.

 

I was very surprised because a previous mobo I had in the tower (a much cheaper Gigabyte 775 something or other) sounded terrible. However I used it. This led me to research diff mobo's and the quality of their components and layouts. It is a very interesting area. Certainly apples ain't apples with mobo's.

 

Without getting into it (it's a complex topic to say the least) I have determined a really good quality mobo (ie expensive) without integrated graphics (this is important), with a distinct and discrete quality power regulation system, running good quality op amps can give you good on board sound provided you have a very good psu, decent HDD's AND a great OS optimised for playback. From which you may gather, given my well known proclivities, that the sonic superiority of Linux + MPD was plainly evident cf Vista + Foobar. Which should come as no surprise when you consider the relative cpu/RAM load and assc power draw. A "quiet" pc is a good sounding pc.

 

Re: the spdif/dac: same result - linux performed better into the same dac via the same spdif connection. Again sounded much better than cheaper mobo - presumably a better clock and obviously less EMI from radiated power draw.

 

I have consistently found that Linux + MPD provides a superior platform for low cpu use audio playback. Now if only there were firewire drivers available......

 

Hope that helps

Best

Andrew

 

Best Wishes

Andrew

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yes, thank you Andrew.

 

Based on what you said, and other comments here and there, I am looking at building a dedicated "silent" audio PC: Silverstone SG-01 Evolution SFF PC Case w/430W Nexus PS, ASUS P5Q-EM MB, Intel Core2 Duo E8400 3.00Ghz LGA 775 65W, Corsair (2x2Gb) DDR2 SDRAM 800 PC26400, Nexus Low-3000 CPU Cooler, Plextor, 22xDVD/CD, XP Pro, 32gb SSD, and an external Glyph GT 050Q 1TB FW400/800 for $1453. This would either be outputted to my Sennheiser 570 headphones, or into the Wavelength Proton DAC. Since I have limited space, I am looking at getting the AVI ADM9.1 digitally amplified active speakers as well. Any thoughts or suggestions would be very welcome!

 

Peace,

Steve

 

 

 

Custom Music Server, i7-3770T with Core Audio Filtered ATX Cables, Win 8, J River Media 17 with JPLAY, USB 1TB, Nuforce IA7 V2 Upgrade Co Signature modified, TimePortal Interconnects, MIT Magnum powercord, Wireworld Silver Starlight USB, Northstar DAC32, upgraded by the Upgrade Company, RSL 3600 Studio Monitors

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Steve, make sure you don't skimp on the quality of the power supply because most people do. Take a look at the PS reviews on hardocp.com. They have many power supplies they have reviewed and pay close attention to the DC Output Quality section of each review, very good information there.

 

david is hear[br]http://www.tuniverse.tv

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Thank you David!

It is all an adventure dialing everything in ....

the test is at the end of the day, what it all

sounds like!

 

Peace,

Steve

 

Custom Music Server, i7-3770T with Core Audio Filtered ATX Cables, Win 8, J River Media 17 with JPLAY, USB 1TB, Nuforce IA7 V2 Upgrade Co Signature modified, TimePortal Interconnects, MIT Magnum powercord, Wireworld Silver Starlight USB, Northstar DAC32, upgraded by the Upgrade Company, RSL 3600 Studio Monitors

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi just to mention that I also experienced surprising superior sound quality out of a motherboard.

This was a Gigabyte GA-X48T-DQ6 plugged in coax S/PDIF to a Musical Fidelity XDAC V8. The software was foobar 2000 with Wasapi drivers on Vista32, playing 16/44 FLAC files.

 

A few friends and I made a formal comparison between this option and the digital output of a Transporter connected to the same DAC and we were all surprised when we unanimously concluded that the motherboard sounded better! The difference wasn't huge but the motherboard sounded richer and slightly more detailed...

I suppose a Lynx or equivalent would sound even better, but motherboards sometimes provide a sound quality which may be high enough for most people/systems, worth a try before buying bigger anyway.

 

 

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  • 1 year later...

Hi guys

has anyone been looking at using direct-off-the-motherboard Toslink or Coax SPDIF to feed a DAC? I have found it very difficult to find any pertinent information on the motherboard vendors' websites on the capabilities of their outputs. Is anyone aware of any motherboards with good audio quality (thru toslink and spdif) that output 24bit/48-192khz and 24bit/44.1-176.4khz? This should be enough to get my feet wet, before moving to a Lynx or a USB-SPDIF converter.

Chris, futher up in this thread you had suggested a list of mobos with good audio qualities?

 

 

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Has anyone confirmed that the asus AI Audio card has a 'true clock'? If it does not can anyone suggest why I shoudn't run S/PDIF optical out of my mobo card (Realtek ACL889a decoding through HD Audio) to a V-DAC or somesuch? Fyper, your motherboard has the same soundcard as mine, so I'm thinking that if there REALLY is no difference then why should I go the new soundcard route? What's your jitter like?

 

 

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