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qmacpoint
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Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:57 pm

I bought a eGPU that I am using to dock my laptop, however it doesn't have an onboard audio output and was looking for decently priced, but good quality, usb sound card / DAC that I can use with my eGPU. Any ideas? I was looking at the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 PRO (https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0044DEDCA) but there are a lot USB cards out there and I have no idea if I should go for those. Any suggestions?
 
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Sat Jan 26, 2019 2:48 pm

What's the purpose for it? Playing games, watching You Tube, listening to iTunes, or recording your next great song?
 
mikewinddale
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Sat Jan 26, 2019 3:34 pm

Your laptop doesn't have onboard audio? I'm just curious, what model laptop is this? I've never heard of such a laptop, so I'm curious.

And does the eGPU have HDMI? If it has HDMI, you can just use the HDMI's audio. If your monitor has a 3.5" audio out jack, then the HDMI should carry audio to the monitor, and you can connect your speakers or headphones to the monitor's 3.5".

(You can also buy an HDMI audio extractor, which has an HDMI in, and HDMI out, and a 3.5" audio out. So you'd connect your GPU to the HDMI in on the extractor, then connect the HDMI out on the extractor to your monitor, and connect your speakers or microphone to the audio out. But such an HDMI audio extractor costs almost as much as a USB sound card, so it's not worth it unless you'd find it more convenient. Also, the extractor might limit your resolution or refresh rate, depending on its HDMI spec. https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product. ... -_-Product)
 
synthtel2
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:08 pm

Behringer UCA202? Apparently some have high output impedance (mine doesn't), but they're only $30 and great at what they do in every other way. What do you plan to plug into it?
 
DrCR
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:42 pm

Perhaps AudioQuest DragonFly or Schitt e.g. Fulla. The former would get the nod if you would like to use it elsewhere as well e.g. with a 'courageous' smartphone.

Edit: This is presuming you're powering headphones.
 
qmacpoint
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Mon Jan 28, 2019 9:38 am

Thanks for the suggestions guys! This is for my eGPU enclosure/dock for general (not audiophile) use, it's just for my desk speakers (self powered) :)

Also, I know I could've used the HDMI from the monitor, but I tried them already and audio comes out cracking from it - I guess the audio on them was an after thought
 
MrJP
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Mon Jan 28, 2019 10:00 am

Might be overkill for your use, but I highly recommend the SMSL M3. I've had one for a few years now. Lots of input options as well as USB, line-level outputs for powered speakers as well as a fairly decent headphone amp.
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Mon Jan 28, 2019 12:30 pm

When you say the audio out from the monitor crackles, are you talking about the rubbish built-in speakers, or are you talking about the analogue 3.5mm headphone jack running off the monitor's internal audio DAC?
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synthtel2
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Mon Jan 28, 2019 5:09 pm

qmacpoint wrote:
Thanks for the suggestions guys! This is for my eGPU enclosure/dock for general (not audiophile) use, it's just for my desk speakers (self powered) :)

The UCA202 should do the job as well as much more expensive hardware, then, regardless of which variant you get.
 
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Mon Jan 28, 2019 6:01 pm

MrJP wrote:
Might be overkill for your use, but I highly recommend the SMSL M3. I've had one for a few years now. Lots of input options as well as USB, line-level outputs for powered speakers as well as a fairly decent headphone amp.


Speaking of SMSL, if you want to send power to passive speakers this is a handy unit SMSL AD18 with a lot of input options.
It is a USB input DAC-Amp with also optical, Bluetooth or aux input going to powered RCA output. Convenient desktop size with remote and I've used one for about a year to adequately push a couple 8" bookshelf speakers.
Last edited by G8torbyte on Mon Jan 28, 2019 11:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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jihadjoe
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Mon Jan 28, 2019 9:39 pm

Topping DACs have been measured with really good performance over at Audiosciencereview. The D10 is pretty cheap and might just do the job for you.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/foru ... -dac.2470/
 
MOSFET
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Mon Jan 28, 2019 10:16 pm

AudioScienceReview is so full of crap it makes me choke. Get a made-in-US Schiit DAC and get great build quality, great support, and even interact with the owner, engineer, and builders.
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DoomGuy64
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:17 am

Driverless DACs do nothing when it comes to providing any sort of software or virtual surround, which means you either buy one that does, or find some 3rd party software if you want that, and I find that concept worthless for gaming. Powered speakers don't need amps either. I wouldn't recommend buying something over $100 meant for headphones, to use on speakers, and I find it hard to recommend older products that might be using software incompatible with windows 10. I haven't been following usb dacs, so a schiit may be the easy way out, plug n play, but it also won't have any gaming features either.
 
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Thu Jan 31, 2019 7:31 am

DoomGuy64 wrote:
Driverless DACs do nothing when it comes to providing any sort of software or virtual surround, which means you either buy one that does, or find some 3rd party software if you want that, and I find that concept worthless for gaming. Powered speakers don't need amps either. I wouldn't recommend buying something over $100 meant for headphones, to use on speakers, and I find it hard to recommend older products that might be using software incompatible with windows 10. I haven't been following usb dacs, so a schiit may be the easy way out, plug n play, but it also won't have any gaming features either.


Under Windows, as of Windows 7's launch a decade ago, DACs no longer require their own software or virtual surround. The device is presented to any application by the OS and the addition of any third party processing is usually* detrimental to the desired result of the original content creators.

I inject DSP equalisation into my driverless DAC chain to compensate for the room my studio monitors are in. I use Equaliser APO but I think miniDSP is more popular these days. I specifically avoid any pseudo-surround software or effects processing since all the games I play have their own version of HRTF positional emulation and doubling up on HRTF is horrendous! The application is expecting to do the HRTF positioning and expects to output to headphones/speakers that don't have additional positional processing.

* - Potentially you'd want a 2.0-to-surround emulator for movies that lack 2.0 mastered audio; I haven't used it but I assume this is what the $14.99 Dolby Access bundled with Windows 10 lets you do? Certainly any DAC with 'drivers' that inject HRTF positional audio aren't doing anything that driverless DACs with 3rd-party software don't also do. They're just branded by the DAC vendor and likely still have to pay royalty/licensing fees to Dolby and DTS.
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DoomGuy64
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Re: Decently priced USB Sound Card / DAC

Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:26 am

Chrispy_ wrote:
Under Windows, as of Windows 7's launch a decade ago, DACs no longer require their own software or virtual surround. The device is presented to any application by the OS and the addition of any third party processing is usually* detrimental to the desired result of the original content creators.

No, you mean Vista for the software mode, unless DACs are specifically driverless under 7, and even XP had plugnplay with software HRTF that was more prevalent since it was standardized.

Chrispy_ wrote:
I inject DSP equalisation into my driverless DAC chain to compensate for the room my studio monitors are in. I use Equaliser APO but I think miniDSP is more popular these days. I specifically avoid any pseudo-surround software or effects processing since all the games I play have their own version of HRTF positional emulation and doubling up on HRTF is horrendous! The application is expecting to do the HRTF positioning and expects to output to headphones/speakers that don't have additional positional processing.

Yeah, if you're lucky enough to be playing a game that does that. Regardless, virtual surround is an option that can be disabled when it isn't needed. The problem stems from when it is needed, and which option actually works at an acceptable level. The default audio is also terrible 90% of the time, with most games not having any sort of decent HRTF, or are configured improperly. Old games that used things like Miles are way better, although there are a *few* games that do have decent audio. Keyword *few*. One of the biggest problems with windows audio is that HRTF is optional, there are multiple versions of xaudio, and it has been portrayed by developers as complicated to implement and not worth the effort and budget. Therefore, a lot of developers choose not to do it right. You then have problems like HRTF not working very well vertically, which works tolerably for basic fps, but not for anything complex. This is one of the reasons Valve made their own audio API that mimics A3d's wavetracing, but there aren't many games that use it. Last I heard it was just CS:GO. Other problems with HRTF involve headsize, which outside of OpenAL and a few others cannot be easily adjusted by the user.

Also if anyone here wants some proof developers are not properly implementing HRTF, I would implore you to look at this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJPpqssMPl0
https://github.com/kosumosu/x3daudio1_7_hrtf
Works great for what games are supported, but not everything is. All this software really does is better configure xaudio, which just shows developers aren't doing their job, and people who are saying that it works fine OOTB are lying. Unlike XP which was pretty standard across the board, xaudio games are all different, and every game that isn't done right needs some sort of manual fix.

Chrispy_ wrote:
* - Potentially you'd want a 2.0-to-surround emulator for movies that lack 2.0 mastered audio; I haven't used it but I assume this is what the $14.99 Dolby Access bundled with Windows 10 lets you do? Certainly any DAC with 'drivers' that inject HRTF positional audio aren't doing anything that driverless DACs with 3rd-party software don't also do. They're just branded by the DAC vendor and likely still have to pay royalty/licensing fees to Dolby and DTS.

Windows sonic has been reviewed more favorably than the Dolby option in games, and everyone else has been reviewed more favorably than windows sonic. I've heard some good things about razer, but if my soundcard does it better, I don't need to use it. The software only crowd likes to point out that such software exists, but if you are going to pay money for a device, getting a better implementation free with your hardware is a pro, and not getting it is a con. Creative in particular offers real backwards compatibility with older games that can't be found anywhere else, and even if you buy their xfi-mb, that is money spent only on software, and software that is older than what they include in their drivers. I've done it for my laptop, and it works better with less cpu load than the laptop implementation, but I wouldn't buy it for a PC. Either way, using a driverless DAC specifically for gaming is nothing but a hassle, considering how poor windows games actually work. The only way to fix this is to have software that databases every pc game and fixes them on an individual level, or for developers to use a different API like OpenAL. Soundcard drivers are a kludgy workaround, but it still works better than nothing or manually fixing every game yourself.

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