Jump to content

DAC vs soundcard advice

Recommended Posts

Hello forum!


I have been using a PC source with a (16 bit) HAG USB Diy dac, and I'm very happy with the results, but I want to try out some 24 bit material. I'm running an upgraded Quad 303 with some recently serviced ESL-57s, and this set up benefits from as much dynamic range in the source as you can muster, as it compresses a bit compared to modern systems.


I have previously used a Cambridge IsoMagic/Discmagic with some HDCD recordings, and you can really hear the improved dynamics. I now want to exclusively use my computer.


I have been weighing up a budget option of buying an M-Audio Audiophile 192, as it seems to have quite good dynamic range specs, which I read has been measured as 110 dBA.


The other option which attracts me is saving for the Cambridge DacMagic, which has rave reviews for its upsampling. However, it will cost me roughly 4 times as much as the Audiophile card. I use Foobar and have read that that has an upsampling plugin.


I am not worried about small differences, more thick end of the wedge bang for buck.


Also, any general comments about sound cards vs external DACs in this context welcome.






Link to comment

Generally, with sound cards you need to be a bit prepared to pay attention to computer components - mostly power supply and component placement. But on the other hand, you can get much more performance for the same money (like ASUS Xonar STX).


Separate DACs are a bit more flexible since you can connect other equipment too, like for example to DacMagic (which is really good when used with S/PDIF (optical when connected to PC)).


I personally prefer PCIe/ExpressCard cards on computers that have either slots. Possibly with external converter box.


Already something like over ten years ago I was really happy with M-Audio Delta1010. I guess it's still in production. Separate PCI interface card and converters in a separate breakout box.



Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

Link to comment

To re echo the sentiments below, external dacs are probably the better and upgradeable route but a little more pricey.


The Hag is a old device that has been totally superceeded by better devices.


To keep a lid on costs I would look at a M2Tech Hiface or MF Vlink as a USB to SPIDF interface. This will both handle high res of 192 & 96 khz 24 Bit respectively and look to marry this to a SPDIF dac.


There are a multitude of options here I use a POP Pulse Super Pro (less than £100) on my second system and it does a surprisingly fine job.








Trying to make sense of all the bits...MacMini/Amarra -> WavIO USB to I2S -> DDDAC 1794 NOS DAC -> Active XO ->Bass Amp Avondale NCC200s, Mid/Treble Amp Sugden Masterclass -> My Own Speakers

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...