I'm planning to upgrade my audio but I'm not sure if buying a soundcard is worth it. Currently i'm using a MSI 870A-G54 mobo http://www.msi.com/product/mb/870A-G54.html#/?div=Detail which has Realtek ALC892 onboard audio. According to specs it's sample rate is 192kHz/24bit and SNR is 109 dB. These specs are quite similar to the soundcards which I'm considering:
You have to remember decibel is a logarithmic scale, and a couple of dB is actually a huge difference. I'm not sure if it's meaningful to your listening experience, though. Is there currently something you find lacking about your audio reproduction?
Well, if you are going to be connecting to an Amp (SPDIF, I assume?), then there really is no reason to a soundcard. Digital is digital, and the soundcards driver layer isn't going to have that much of an impact.
Thnx. The audio seems a little.. well.. 'cold' at the moment. I'd like to add a little more definition to the high and low frequencies. I was also thinking the onboard audio apart from a lesser SNR (compared to the xonar) might have a little more distortion (THD) in it than a soundcard would have because it's integrated in the mobo. But I can't find any specs on this subject.
are you an audiophile? do you have reference speakers? or monitors? either of those cards will be an improvement over the on-board audio, but based on your answers to my questions, you migh want to search for a better card...
Ah, OK then. I would imagine the DX would be a significant upgrade.
Wouldn't bother with the other recommend cards; Club 3D isn't a major brand, and Auzentechs older cards are more or less obsolete at this stage. Under $100, the DX is king. Cheaper options are the DG(X)/DS(X) though, if you don't want to spend the ~$70 on the DX. DG has the benefit of a built in amp, so you could give that a go as a potential replacement amp (not sure on your full audio setup, but worth a mention).
I'm using the amp mentioned before with Jamo J-121 passive monitors, it's a kind of vintage set-up. I really like the character it has but with some kinds of music you can hear that the signal from the onboard isn't perfect, especially with lower frequencies. Reading the reviews Dingo07 posted and gamerk316's reply it seems the Club 3D is the worst option with bass drop-outs and a terrible SNR of 96 dB http://uk.hardware.info/productinfo/2127/club-3d-theatron-agrippa-dts#tab:testresults. So Xonar is the way to go. I wouldn't know what benefit a built in amp would have. Would it work as a pre-amp? Directly connecting speakers doesn't seem likely because of the 80 Watt RMS minimum power requirement, at least I don't think a soundcard would deliver something like that? Apart from that I'm not planning to fit 3,5 mm jacks to my speakers and I would like to keep using my current Amp, it sounds awesome.
So much thanks for narrowing down the choice to Xonar! Only question remains is what would be the benefit of a built-in amp in the soundcard?
I've been staring and drewling at that unit for quite some time but decided it was too expensive (around $500). Awesome device though and it already has an unbalanced output, would the balance buddy still be necessary?
Besides, I already ordered the DX. You'll be hearing soon if it's any better, otherwise I'll just have to spend a little more I guess
depending on how far your computer is away from your amp, you may still want to invest in a pair of balance buddy's - let's say they are 35 feet apart - that's a terribly long way for an analog signal to go and most definitely will be noisy. Use 1 BB22 connected to the the computer with a 1 foot pigtail (3.5mm to RCA) - XLR cable across the room and through walls to the other BB22 and gets connected with a short 1 foot RCA cable to the amp
again, if you want NO HUM or NOISE, the Only way is balanced - but that doesn't include noise that is part of the original signal, nothing will help that except changing hardware
Had a few hours of listening to the DX and it makes quite some difference. Sounds a lot sharper! Seems the specs of the onboard are a little higher than it's actual performance. Thanks for all the help!
PS. The amp is very near to my comp, so I don't think much can be gained from going to balanced. But thanks for the suggestion.