Advice On Soundcard Or DAC Decision.

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by Franksta, Feb 5, 2019.

  1. Franksta

    Franksta AK Subscriber Subscriber

    I am finally seeking advice on some digital matters. I currently have 2 vintage systems set up in my house. One is all vintage 2 channel component system with a Marantz 2270 as the hub for sound. The other is the same type setup just in another room and it's hub is a Sansui 8080DB.

    There is a computer in both these systems the Marantz system has a Dell desktop and the Sansui system has a modest SFF Lenovo. I use the computers in both these systems in much the same way. Streaming music from Tidal and other digital streaming sources. In an effort to improve on the sound of both systems I added an external sound card to them. I already had a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro Sound card that at one time was connected to a surround channel receiver that was in the system (prior to the Marantz's arrival). The Sound Blaster's sound was really good and much better than the built in sound card so I was impressed. I was impressed enough that I ended up with the same card in the other (Sansui) system too. Of course they are both running in 2 channel mode now no 5.1 going on.

    Now my question....Is this sound card doing as good a job as a good DAC would be? The sound card has an optical out and an analog out as well as an analog input. I listen to Tidal a lot and their MASTER tracks that are Hi Res do sound good with the cards. The Sound Blasters claim that they handle up to 24bit 96khz. so I have just been wondering. Am I getting a fair benefit from these sound cards or would a DAC be better? Being unfamiliar with the differences between a sound card and a DAC maybe someone could explain those differences and an opinion on any improvements I could make. I know that a Sound card has a DAC also but what if anything does it do that a DAC doesn't or vice versus? Thanks for the help!


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  2. b1lk1

    b1lk1 New Member

    Lindsay, Ontario, Canada
    Well, in my opinion, the X-FI is a very old card and did sound good when it was new, but you have missed out on a wealth of improvements, namely the ASUS Xonar series as well as a few others. Right now I am running a Elfidelity PCI-E soundcard and it is a Chinese "noname" card with really good specs. I wanted a card with RCA outputs and got it for a smoking good deal. You could also be running an ASUS Xonar Essence STX and again would see a major improvement over the X-FI.

    USB DAC's are also a good solution, but I have little experience with them. They are pricey.

    Mostly, with PC audio, in my opinion, it is more about knowing how to setup what you have than spending tons of money hoping for the best. I strongly suggest a better soundcard at the least, on Ebay you could pick up a great card for $100-150 and sometimes even less.
  3. JoeESP9

    JoeESP9 ESL's & tubes since 83

    Philadelphia PA
    Most USB DAC's are hardly pricey. One can be had for as little as $20. There are at least 25 available for between $50 and $150.

    FWIW: I have 4 USB DAC's ranging in price from $30 to $230. The $230 model has a wireless remote w/volume control six inputs and goes to 24/192. My Topping D-10 does up to 32/384 and 4x DSD. It was ~$90.

    The Audioquest Dragonfly Red does up to 24/96 and MQA. it costs $199. The $99 Dragonfly Black does up to 24/96 but doesn't do MQA.

    When I purchased the Emotiva XDA-2 I retired a Creative X-Fi Pro. Unlike the Creative installing it doesn't result in a bunch of unneeded and unnecessary "bloatware".
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019 at 7:38 AM

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