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budm
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   Posted 10/30/2016 2:02 PM (GMT -6)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Is there a special computer sound card for best symphonic playback?

My Dell VOSTRO 400 has a Realtec ALC888 (7.1 Channel audio) card.

I have two JHL (James B. Lansing) speakers – model C34B
with 15” C130 speakers. They are in good condition.

My goal is to upgrade all electronics between the computer files
and the speakers. Am planning to upgrade to a new computer and windows 10.

Your inputs would be most welcome.

Bud

Current System: Dell Vostro 400, Intel Core 2, 2GB SD RAM, Windows XP
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Fred G. Unn
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   Posted 10/31/2016 9:40 AM (GMT -6)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
In all honesty, internal sound cards are mostly a waste of money these days as you frankly aren't going to get much better quality than motherboard audio. It's still electric current on an electric board sitting inside a case full of spinning parts. There was a time when internal sound cards were vastly superior to mobo audio, but not really anymore.

If you really want to get better audio, look at an external DAC and get the conversion outside of the computer chassis. There are lots of options at all sorts of price ranges. Here is the inventory from a few reputable dealers I've purchased from before. Some of these are strictly DACs, and some are DACs/amps. I don't know anything about your speakers but if they are powered, you just need some sort of pre-amp out, if not you'll need an amp.
www.audioadvisor.com/products.asp?dept=90&val=1
/www.musicdirect.com/Search?category=DAC&sort=sitePrice%7CASC&page=2&c1=tab-products&c2=grid
/www.headphone.com/collections/dacs?sort_by=price-ascending

You have to register to see the deals, but Massdrop typically has quite a few DACs offered at any time too:
/www.massdrop.com/audiophile/drops

US made Schiit Audio (awesome name) is a great direct-to-consumer maker of reasonably priced high end audio equipment. A setup with their Magni 2 and Modi 2 would only be $200, or something like their Jotunheim, which is designed for desktop systems, would be $399.
schiit.com/products

Audiogon is a good source of well cared for used high end audio equipment:
/www.audiogon.com/listings

Personally, for my desktop setup I use a Yulong D200 DAC/amp that I bought off a guy on Audiogon for about half price, some Adam F5 speakers, and OPPO PM-3 headphones. For my laptop I use an AudioQuest Dragonfly and whatever headphones or earbuds I have with me (usually Etymotic or Westone).
yulongaudio.com/en/product_detail.asp?pid=37
www.adam-audio.com/en/pro-audio/products/f5/description
/www.oppodigital.com/headphones-pm-3/
www.audioquest.com/dragonfly-series/

I'm not sure whether this is a possibility with your setup, but you can always take a digital out like S/PDIF and connect it to your receiver if it is nearby and use that for audio too.

Post Edited (Fred G. Unn) : 10/31/2016 9:57:54 AM (GMT-5)

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Zoots
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   Posted 11/1/2016 10:38 AM (GMT -6)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
What Fred said!

I feel that if the computer/external amplifier setup plays a commercial DVD of the desired music adequately there is nothing to be gained by going to something else.


Finale 2012c
JABB3/Aria

Smartscore Pro X2

Windows 10

Intel i7 with more than I need

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Fred G. Unn
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   Posted 11/2/2016 8:22 AM (GMT -6)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
So budm, did you decide on anything yet? Just curious what you ended up doing.
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budm
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   Posted 11/27/2016 10:26 AM (GMT -6)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Sorry for my delayed response.

I was expecting a response like a Sound Card like ASUS XTX or Creative
Labs Sound Blaster ZXR will be considerably better than your
existing motherboard sound/card.

It took considerable web searching of external DAC units before
I had enough information to respond.

My concern after reviewing external DAC units is that most external
DACS are aimed at headphone speakers. (not stereo sound systems)

My JLB speakers are big and powerful.
They each take 35 -70 watts (8 ohm)
They were powered by my half century old preamplifier and
two power amplifiers (each with 175 watt input).
My Plan is to replace the preamp and amplifiers with new equipment.
(Possibly an integrated amplifier).

In other words: my existing speakers will be the sound output for
my records turntable and my computer output. The computer will
input the following music: Finale, DAW, Digitized tape,
and YouTube music.

Have been looking for the best signal I can get out of my computer.
If an external DAC is used:
* Does the DAC come with special software to bypass the board chip
or, do you use a special card to bypass the motherboard chip,
and get the output to the computer ports?
* Is the external DAC a replacement for the typical preamp used
before the power amplifiers in a hi-fi system?

Look forward to your response.
THABKS
BUD
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Credo
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   Posted 11/27/2016 5:49 PM (GMT -6)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
It's not an easy thing to 'recommend' a sound card on its face. What is perfect for me might be dead wrong for you. With that in mind consider:

The huge advantages to getting a more professional external audio device (or an internal one with a break-out box or spider cables) are:

1. Choices in how it will be connected. I.E. USB, Firewire, PCIe, etc.

2. Choice in how many inputs and outputs, and the connector types.

3. If it will have mic preamps (and the type and quality of said preamps) and phantom mic power or not. I.E. To connect XLR type mics.

4. Options on over all DAC chip price and quality.

5. Options on possible dynamic bit and sampling rate. I.E. 128khz at 24bits per sample.

6. Choices in audio drivers. I.E. ASIO for pro audio, and a wide range of others to support as much software as possible.

7. Options on 'monitoring' support. I.E. Using the device to directly monitor connected mics, or as somewhat stand alone 'Audio Mixer' w/zero latency.

8. Possible support for digital connections. I.E. SPDIF

9. Possible support for 'syncing' multiple audio cards to the same clock. I.E. word-clock, SPDIF, or a built in driver feature.

10. Possible effect processors. I.E. Some external kits offer onboard EQ, Limiter/Compression, and Reverb for the inputs in 'monitor mode'.

11. Options for other goodies on the box. I.E. MIDI ports, LAN support, and USB hubs.

12. Options for supporting the device on different OSes/platforms and versions. I.E. Windows XP-10 at 32 and 64bit, Different Mac OSes, Linux, etc.

13. Package size and shape. I.E. Pocket sized, desktop unit, rack mounted, etc.

14. Overall build quality. I.E. If you're going to drag it around and constantly plug/unplug stuff...it's worth it to spend more and get stuff designed to be road worthy. All connectors are not equal...so if you anticipate yanking and inserting cables often...go for units that have high quality connectors with reinforced mounting systems.

So, work out what you think you'll want/need in terms of connectivity and general sound quality first.

What all do you plan to connect to the interface? (How many audio inputs and outputs are needed, and what connector types are preferred)

Will you use the interface for 'recording' using mics or directly connected guitars/keyboards? If so, you'll definitely want a device that can do both 44.1khz (CD standard) and 48khz (DVD and streaming video standard) sample rates at a minimum. If you ever plan to use it to record live performances in unpredictable rooms then you'll also most likely want the headroom of something that can at least do 24bit sampling (provides more dynamics resolution when you go to clean things up in post mixes). If you are going for really high quality and super detailed recordings with top end microphones, you'll either want the best DAC chips/network you can afford in the unit, or the ability to set really high sample rates (68khz, 128khz) if the DAC network is of moderate or poor quality.

How important is latency? (If you do a lot of live playing with soft-synths/samplers, or do very precise real time mixing edits in a DAW you'll want something with really good ASIO drivers).

What's your budget? You can find stuff from well under $100 to thousands of dollars...so shop hard. For low end and mid-range stuff it's not a bad idea to buy from places with good return/trade policies in case your particular computer just doesn't want to support a given device.

Post Edited (Credo) : 11/27/2016 5:08:38 PM (GMT-6)

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SysExJohn
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   Posted 11/28/2016 5:01 AM (GMT -6)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Some while back one of the PC components review sites (Tom's Hardware) did a review of DACs from the simple ones found on a motherboard to those costing (as I recall) a thousand dollars or more. They did proper double blind tests where the reviewers couldn't tell what was being used when, and also carefully matching the output audio levels to be identical. As I recall there were one or two reviewers with supposed "Golden Ears".

The result? A DAC is a DAC whatever the price! So don't waste money on overpriced hardware.

The differences lay in the audio components, e.g. the amplification circuitry, etc.
So it's really down to what you can afford, the latency you require (whether you need ASIO drivers), the analogue interfaces and controls needed.
If you need very low latency, below 10ms, and no jitter then an internal card is favourite, USB tends (not always) to jitter.
The important thing is signal to noise ratio, which ideally should be around 120dB, A weighted. Then the sound emerges from silence.

Just my 2d.


John Garside.

at MIDI-tutor.proboards.com

Finale 2012c, Sonar 7 PE, XGworks.
Garritan GPO4, JABB, COMB, IO, Organs, Steinway, Harps + GPO5.
E-MU 1616m PCI and Cardbus x 2.
Yamaha AN1x.

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Fred G. Unn
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   Posted 11/29/2016 9:21 AM (GMT -6)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
budm said...

My concern after reviewing external DAC units is that most external
DACS are aimed at headphone speakers. (not stereo sound systems)


Many are, especially DAC/headphone amp combos obviously, but even those often have a analog out which can run to your amp. It sort of goes without saying that a potential benefit of a combo with a headphone amp is that you can simply use it with headphones if there's ever a time (like late at night, or if you need isolation) when it's not appropriate to use your speaker setup. That's how I have my system setup. I have the volume knob of my DAC/headphone amp within reach, as well as my headphones, and I turn my speakers off and just use the headphones when I need to.

budm said...

Have been looking for the best signal I can get out of my computer.
If an external DAC is used:
* Does the DAC come with special software to bypass the board chip
or, do you use a special card to bypass the motherboard chip,
and get the output to the computer ports?
* Is the external DAC a replacement for the typical preamp used
before the power amplifiers in a hi-fi system?


1) Simply select the audio device you want to use under Control Panel/Manage Audio Devices. That's it. I went a step further, disabled the mobo audio, and hid it so it doesn't even appear as an option, but you can choose to do this or not.
2) If you already have an analog out from the DAC, you can just run it to an amp, no preamp required. You generally won't have source switching options though. Your system is a bit more complicated since you are using a turntable which likely will require its own phono preamp. (Many modern preamps will not have a phono stage, although some still do.) If the DAC of your preamp or integrated is good enough, you can run an optical digital TOSLINK cable from your PC to it, if USB isn't an option. You can then run a cable from your turntable (or phono amp) to it as well, which will give you the ability to switch sources. If you can have the preamp or integrated within reach of your PC, you'll have the headphone option too.
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winknotes
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   Posted 12/1/2016 10:14 AM (GMT -6)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
I've always been under the impression that the drivers were actually the bigger deal when it came to sound cards. This affects the latency you could set for playback/recording as well as buffers, etc.

I haven't checked with Finale 25 but with my M-Audio 2496 card I have to use DirectSound rather than ASIO to get stereo outputs in Finale. Not sure if it's a Finale or M-Audio problem but that's an example of something to look for in a sound card.


Steve Winkler

Finale 2009c, 2011b, 2012c
GPO, GPO4, JABB3, VSL SE/SE+
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

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budm
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   Posted 12/4/2016 9:58 AM (GMT -6)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
DECISION:
After considerable review of the above and many web searches,
I have decided not to use a Sound Card or a separate DAC in my new Hi-FI music system.

If I experience less than satisfactory results after completing my music system,
I would reconsider both these alternatives again.

Other forum viewers might be interested in KEY web searches that influenced my decision:

FOR SOUND CARD:
Using Google – type in
“Do I still need a sound card in my computer?-the tech report”
Try it and on the first entry you should get a video with four participants
There are also several other good entries on the subject in the search.
You can also search by typing in “YouTube sound card videos”

FOR SEPARATE DAC
Using Google – type in
“DACS: do you need an external digital to analog converter for your Hi Fi system?”
Just read the last paragraph, or the whole article.

Thanks to ALL
BUD
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