Bought a Elfidelity PCI-E sound card out of curiosity

Discussion in 'DACs' started by mjw21a, May 25, 2018.

  1. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    Ok, I've been out of computer tech for a while now spending most of my time researching and perfecting my stereo systems around the house. I've been curious about the Elfidelity PCI-E cards for a while. My favourite DAC in my main system is a Gieseler Gross DAC which is by far and away the best I've heard.
    The Gross DAC is based around a AKM4497EQ chip using Jensen transformers on the outputs.

    Now the Elfidelity had potential to be quite good using an AK4396 DAC chip, 2x clocks to reduce jitter and two DIP8 OPAMPS for amplification and VIA Envy24DT for the PCI-E interface so I ordered one. It's relatively inexpensive on eBay anyway. I also at the same time ordered 2x Burson V5i-D OPAMPS.

    Now these both arrived on Thursday night so I immediately swapped out the OPAMPS for the Bursons, and popped it in my desktop computer. I'm using Litz silver plated copper RCA leads to a S.M.S.L. SA-50 amp and Western Electric 11GA tinned copper wire to Polk Tsi100 bookshelves + Wharfedale SW150 sub. After installing drivers I sat down for a bit of a listen.

    So how does it sound? Absolutely gobsmackingly good. A wide, deep and natural sound stage. Far better integrated bass than I was previously getting. Seems to be the marriage of the lovely tonality and musicality of of old school DAC's like the Philips TDA1543 and the detail of modern chips like the ESS Sabre or Cirrus Logic chips. It also brings a real immediacy and transparency, as though you're there in the studio. Just spectacular. Sounds incredible for music though equally importantly brings unmatched realism in games (DOOM, Battlefield 1, Titanfall etc).

    Now I've no idea whether most modern sound cards are at this level though at the time I started using home audio DAC's in place of Asus and Creative cards they didn't even approach this level. Colour me impressed.

    Anyway, just thought I'd share my impressions of this card as when I Googled it there was literally no information to be found on it anywhere online. This was a gamble borne out of curiosity. The cart had the right ingredients to be good and I'm glad I did so. This is right up there with the very best external DAC's I've ever heard.

    So if anyone's looking for amazing, end game audio on a budget, grab one of these + a pair of Burson V5i-D OPAMPS.

    Cheers

    Matt
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2018
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  2. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    Ok, during playback today I got a loud pop and the right channel went out. Some investigation showed that one of my Burson V5i-D OPAMPS had failed, which a quick Google seems to indicate isn't unheard of. Thankfully I have two other here I have for future projects (upgrade for my Quad 405) so I popped one of those in and it's sounding as great as ever. I've left the cover off the card as it seems the Burson OPAMPS get quite hot when in operation so the added airflow will probably be necessary when I have these in there.

    Here's some pics Google finds for the card in its stock form (was too slack to take my own)

    54377-1.jpg

    $_10.JPG
     
  3. savatage1973

    savatage1973 Addicted Member

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    I have never had an op-amp chip fail as you describe--I've had them fail (get noisy or just go dead), but never in a "blaze of glory" due to overheating. I would compare voltage requirements of the old vs the new op-amps for compatibility before burning up another chip.
     
  4. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    When replacing it I noticed a fair amount of glue had managed to melt and get into one of the socket holes and was likely stopping full current flow. With the replacement OPAMP in there after clean up I've put quite a few additional hours on it without incident
     
  5. Haico

    Haico New Member

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    Hello Mr. mjw21a,
    Your post inspired me to also purchase the Elfidelity card. Not a necessity but something fun to tinker with.
    Investigating the opamp you use I've become confused. Why did you use V5i (d) as this is a dual opamp?
    Elfidelity shows it as a 5534 type which is a single opamp.
    Not intended as critisism, just food for thought.
    I will mount the BIG V6 ones. Not sure whether it will be the vivid ones or classic :)
    Kind regards,
    Haico
     
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  6. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    Interesting, I could have used the less expensive V5i. I made a mistake there it seems. Quite a spectacular sounding card. Running mine into a JLH 1969 Hood amp. Sounds spectacular. :)
     

     

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  7. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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  8. Haico

    Haico New Member

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    Interesting those HDAM's. Marantz always speaks of HDAM in their equipment.
    I'm curious how they will sound in your setup. Perhaps a viable and more important a cheaper option than the Burson ones.
     
  9. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    Yes, It should make for an interesting experiment. I've also ordered some Burson V6 Classics. The singles this time :)
     
  10. Haico

    Haico New Member

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    Just received the Elfedelity soudcard. Going to install it asap.
    Curious how it sounds bog standard via Jriver > Wasapi > RCA connected to integrated amp.
    My reference is a Chromecast audio ;-)
     
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  11. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    Should prove interesting :)
     

     

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  12. Haico

    Haico New Member

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    Right of the bat I can tell the SQ is vastly superior to the Chromecast audio using the Spotify connect feature (clean W10 install).
    Things can only improve more when I will install Jriver and use the WDM driver to route the (Spotify connect) music through the WASAPI engine and bypass the Windows mixer.
    Eventually I will setup my NAS and stream some high res and CD quality in stead of the psycho acoustically modified Spotify streams ;-)
    I will leave the card playing a few nights as I am a firm believer of burn in.
    My last amp was a brand new NAD C368 with a bluesound module and the first sounds were absolutely horrible. Thin, hard and edgy comes to mind.
    After a few days the sound mellowed and became very nice.

    Can't wait to hear your opinion on the op amps you ordered....
     
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  13. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    Yes, I'm looking forward to it. This sound card seems to be one of the great undiscovered bargains. Absolutely zero information out there on it and performance is excellent.

    I'm hoping the HDAM OPAMPS are a good match :)
     
  14. restorer-john

    restorer-john Addicted Member

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    I can't see any 'promise', I only see performance degradation, and ultimately complete waste of time and money.

    This is a NE-5534:

    NE5534_Schematic.JPG

    The items you are considering buying are not even close to what Marantz coined the HDAM, which is this:

    hdam01.JPG

    What you are buying appears to be a simple bipolar diamond buffer stage:

    diamond.JPG

    How about running some THD/SN/DNR etc tests (rightmark maybe) on your card before and after?
     
  15. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    I'll simply trust my ears with this as always. If it sounds good to me they'll stay in. Otherwise it'll be the V6 Classics. How it sounds to my ears is the only measurement really matters to me ;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
  16. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    How did you go with using JRIVER? I've always found that a massive improvement all on its own. Ditto Wasapi or ASIO. That should be possible with ASIO4ALL. I haven't tried that yet.
     

     

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  17. Haico

    Haico New Member

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    Funny you ask. Last evening I started my endeavour in getting the card play nice with WASAPI or kernel streaming in Jriver 23
    The VIA controll panel shows WDM driver version 5.7 and uses a prehistoric hardcore bypass all setting concerning 44, 48 96 and 192 Khz "bitrate"
    I wanted to play the high res James Bay album which is mastered at 24-bit/88.2kHz.
    A complete no go using WASAPI or kernel streaming unless I use Jriver to sample to one of the above mentioned VIA bitrates.
    The direct sound setting in Jriver works but that's not what I'm after.

    I've tinkered with a lot of soundcards, usb DACS but if the driver is prehistoric (2012) you have a beautiful piece of hardware which is marred by old software.
    It's a clean Win 10 install with the driver offered on the Audiophonics website

    My last resort was running Daphile on a USB stick. As it's LINUX based one might think everything would work. Also a no go.
    It detected "something" but no sound came out of it. Daphile is something special by the way. It brings out the best of your hardware sound-wise. Ultra clean and optimised for only audio.

    What's your VIA driver version?
     
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  18. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    I've not checked actually. I just used the one off the driver CD. I found I have to use the ancient VIA drivers to select 192k. Using AIMP I have Wasapi selected also....

    Still waiting for replacement single OPAMPS so I'm currently using a S.M.S.L Sanskrit Gen 2. Massive drop in SQ in comparison :(
     
  19. Haico

    Haico New Member

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    I do have to admit, the card sounds really great and I'm willing to put my "audiophilia perfectionata" aside. I's a kind of weakness of me to demand absolute perfect driver support. Things like down- and upsampling the music in order to be played with the Elfidelity would normally result in me pulling out the card and throwing it in the thrash can......
     
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  20. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    Lol. I guess I'm lucky. My only consideration is how it sounds. Set to 192k it's right up there :)
     

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