Jump to content
IGNORED

Expensive sound card or USB DAC?


sim871

Recommended Posts

Greetings,

 

I am contemplating a NAS based music server. I have read through the CAPS article and many posts on the site. Does the output from a sound card digital line out to a DAC produce better quality sound than an asynchronous USB DAC? Why would you go through the additional expense and work of using a sound card when you can output via USB to a DAC?

 

If I got a Mac Mini and ran VMware to get a Win7 JRiver MC would I negate the hardware advantages of buying a MAC?

 

Thanks for your input

 

Darrin

 

Link to comment

Some of the folks here have a non-USB DAC that they like already, and get the sound card (Lynx) to get the best digital connection to that DAC. Not cheap DACs either.

 

I went the USB DAC route with the Wyred4Sound DAC2. I also wanted the additional inputs that are not on a USB only device like the Ayre. You can step up the $$$ ladder as high as you want of course.

 

There are experts here that state that any performance hit on your music server will show up in the music. That's one of the downsides to VMWare, the other is if you want to use Amarra or PureMusic, or AyreWave, which all are Mac OS software only.

 

I am not sure I can appreciate faster or slower computing, I can appreciate PureMusic and AyreWave on my system. I am currently using my main computer as music source atm. Considering a music server though, that's why I am reading the forums here.

 

[Home Digital] Bricasti M12 > DIY M2x Monoblocks > Daedalus Audio Muse Studio Speakers

[Home Analog] Technics SL-1200G > Boulder 508 (Zu DL-103/Hana ML/Denon DL-301 II)

[Office] Laptop > Kitsune R2R lvl3 > Violectric V281 > Focal Utopia Headphones (balanced)

[beach/Travel] Laptop > DragonFly Red > Ether Headphones

Link to comment

The results you get from an on-board soundcard will depend much on how you power it. Similarly with an off-board converter! However, it's much easier to create a controlled environment, and install larger, higher quality parts in a dedicated DAC. This usually far outweighs any negative impact longer cabling has. On average, you're much better off with a standalone DAC than a soundcard.

 

Link to comment

Can get results that at least equal (if not better) the best souncard set ups. But, as with soundcards, it is important to realize that not all USB interfaces are equal. First, I would not even bother with USB interfaces which are not asynchronous in operation. Secondly, it is starting to become somewhat apparent, that not all asynchronous implementations are equal in performance-just being async is not enough to garantee excellent performance.

If one is starting from scratch, I Would definitely recommend going the USB (Wavelength, Ayre, dCS, Aesthetix), Firewire (Weiss, Metric Halo, Sonic Studio), or network (PS Audio, Linn) approach. Each of these interfaces can offer near perfect delivery of the digital data stream to the DAC portion of the converter when properly set up. Having the interface in the DAC is a simpler approach, and keeps the masterclock close to the DAC chip (where it belongs) without having to worry about complex configurations like clock linking.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

Link to comment

.....all possible connection types, with the exception of firewire - I have yet to hear a firewire dac.

 

By quite some considerable margin my preference is for my soundcard. I disagree with the view that there are superior connection methods. As with all things, implementation is everything.

 

Link to comment

are you speaking specifically about your Tact? If so, that means you are required to use SPDIF for input. As SPDIF is an inherently flawed interface when compared to async Firewire and USB DACs which do not rely on SPDIF whatsoever, you cannot take advantage of the technical superiority of an interface which avoids SPDIF entirely.

A DAC with a built in async (whether USB, Firewire, or Ethernet connected) interface has a distinct technical advantage over anything that uses SPDIF, as SPDIF requires the presence of an SPDIF receiver (which increases jitter) and a PLL (which also increases jitter, as it "moves" to adjust to the incoming clock). Assuming proper implementation, avoiding SPDIF will result in the lowest possible jitter.

Bob: I would be curious to know if you have tried the Wavelength Audio Wavelink, USB-SPDIF converter and compared it to your soundcard for input into your Tact?

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

Link to comment

No, specifically I was talking about the soundcard. No, haven't tried any of the Wavelength stuff. I was simply passing on my own personal experience, which is that I much prefer my soundcard. We disagree that Spdif is technically flawed. We probably also disagree about the audibility and importance of interface jitter.

 

Just offering an alternative viewpoint, otherwise the whole thing just becomes a 'this is the best way' shouting match. I happen to think that there is no such thing as 'the best way' in any aspect of audio replay hardware design. If there was we'd all be using it, not bickering about it! :)

 

Link to comment

I am curious to know how you can prefer your soundcard to products which you have not tried (like the Wavelink, as just one example)?

 

"We disagree that Spdif is technically flawed."

 

We do not just disagree on this, you are incorrect. When properly implemented, an async interface internal to a DAC has substantially lower jitter (and this will include the type of jitter that is most audibly degrading: data correlated jitter) than any SPDIF interface (with the possible exception of an SPDIF interface using and internal, asynchronous re-clocker, not ASRC, and fixed frequency output clocks-these are exceptionally rare).

If you really believe jitter levels do not matter, I am very confident in just calling belief technically incorrect.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

Link to comment

I use a soundcard (lynx aes16e) with an onboard DAC (Bryston BDA-1). I use a good quality AES/EBU cable to output digital audio from music server to DAC. connecting the soundcard a usb cable produced significantly inferior results.

I also tried to connect my music server via spdif to my DAC and the quality of reproduction varied widely depending on the quality of the SPDIF cable. A good apdif cable produced nearly as good results as my AES/EBU connection.

I am pretty pleased with it but I would be most grateful for people's comments and suggestion regarding ways to improve my setup!

 

 

Custom built silent Media PC, Synology DS415+ NAS -> SoTM sms200Ultra/sps500  -> TAD DA1000 DAC/preamp and Bryston 4BSST2 power amp -> Harbeth SHL5 speakers and Velodyne DD10+ subwoofers. PowerQuest Carbon USB cable, Chord Company Chorus interconnects, Chord Company Signature speaker leads, Clearer Audio Silver-Line power leads

Link to comment

I did a direct comparison A/B comparison between my Lynx card and one the "best" usb to spdif converters, the Wavelink, and it was clear the Lynx card was better. I traded in the Wavelink. :)

 

More importantly, however, don't forget about the Merging Tech Mykerinos setup. I have heard two such systems at RMAF and it's totally in another league. Although a Mykerinos sound card is not for everyone, it is important to note how much room for improvement there is with sound cards in general.

 

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

Link to comment

is not the kind of comparison I am referring to:

 

"I use a soundcard (lynx aes16e) with an onboard DAC (Bryston BDA-1). I use a good quality AES/EBU cable to output digital audio from music server to DAC. connecting the soundcard a usb cable produced significantly inferior results.

I also tried to connect my music server via spdif to my DAC and the quality of reproduction varied widely depending on the quality of the SPDIF cable. A good apdif cable produced nearly as good results as my AES/EBU connection.

I am pretty pleased with it but I would be most grateful for people's comments and suggestion regarding ways to improve my setup!"

 

The Bryston DAC has an inferior USB interface, and pretty much everyone here who has tried it reports that it performs far better through its SPDIF input than through USB, so I am not surprised that you prefer it this way as well-this is not an asynchronous USB interface.

Dallas: the OP is looking for comparisons between USB DACs and soundcards, as he is looking to purchase a DAC, not between different computer to SPDIF interfaces. My point is that he will be better off using a properly implemented async USB DAC (or Firewire, or ethernet) and avoiding the SPDIF connection altogether, as SPDIF will add unnecessary jitter (in his case, as he can choose to purchase a DAC with a built in interface). This is off topic-but I would like to hear more details re your comparison: Lynx/Wavelink, perhaps you could write a short post for the Wavelink thread?

 

 

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...