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Budget audio question: DAC or sound card upgrade?


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I will be moving into a small apartment in Chicago in a few months where I am certain that enjoying my music will be limited to headphones or at moderate volumes in front of my computer.

 

After doing my research I have settled on the Audioengine A2 for speakers, and Sennheiser HD555 for headphones (I will be listening to a lot of classical).

 

I have a budget of about $250 to complete my computer audio upgrade. Am I better off buying a DAC/headphone amp combo (such as a Fubar III) or simply purchasing a sound card that claims a 24-bit/192KHz sample rate?

 

Additional info:

* The computer is windows-based

* The computer will also be used for graphic design, gaming, and the occasional DVD movie.

* I haven't purchased the Sennheiser HD555 yet, so if you can suggest a good headphone for classical music in the $100 range, I welcome your input.

 

All advice and product suggestions greatly welcomed!

 

Cheers,

 

Patrick

 

 

 

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Hi Patrick - I'd go with the external solution if I was in your situation. I'm not a fan of internal DACs / Soundcards. I am a fan of internal digital I/O cards like the Lynx but that's not what you're looking for here. I'm guessing you would connect your headphones directly to an internal card's analog output. Again, I'm not a fan of this, but whatever you like is totally cool with me.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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I don't have much to base this on, but an external dac will likely have a 1/4 inch headphone jack, verses an 1/8 inch jack from an internal sound card. Personally, when something has a 1/4 inch jack, it seems to be saying "I'm meant for good headphones" verses the 1/8 inch jack that says "I don't care what you plug into me". Internal sound cards also seem built for being multi-purpose computer audio like hooking up 5.1 computer speakers or accepting whatever mic will fit in its 1/8 inch in, and other lower end applications, verses an external dac which only outputs to two places: the headphone jack, and the line outs.

 

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misunderstanding, at that!

 

Chris - you seem to drawer a distinction between an I/O and a soundcard...? Have i misunderstood?

 

I'm not disagreeing, you understand, i just need to learn.

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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Hi Al - You are correct. I make the distinction but not everyone else does. To me a sound card is capable of producing analog sound that's audible. This it has a DAC on board. A Digital I/O is just a way to get digital audio in and out of a computer. I guess you could also call USB, FireWire, and Ethernet Digital I/O devices.

 

Who knows, maybe it's a distinction without a difference :-)

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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"capable of producing analog sound that's audible", otherwise how could you hear anything? Or does it need to be used with some external device, before the amp?

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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So I'd have to spend £600 on the lynx then get a DAC before I could hear anything lol! I think I'll wait 'til my budget rises a little.

 

Anyway, thanks for the explanation chris, and apologies all for the detour!

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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