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Old 22nd October 2004, 06:53 PM   #1
sambou is offline sambou  Canada
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Default "audiophile soundcard"

So, I was wondering since i am building the Totem arro clones and have a decent amplifier, that the weakest link in my system in my system right now is my soundcard.

It is just onbaord ac97 audio, using the SPDIF out.

I am looking to pay betweeen 200 - 350 canadian (~150 - 300 US$) for a good qualiy soundcard.

I don't do much gaming therfore Creative's EAX is not anything special for me. The main application is movies and music ( MP3, DVD-A, CD).

Any thought / suggestions?
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Old 22nd October 2004, 07:20 PM   #2
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Old 22nd October 2004, 07:26 PM   #3
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The best sounding card i have found is the M-audio Revolution card. too bad there software and drivers dont work!

There customer service sucks! they flat out told me that knew of the problems but that they werent going to fix them! and to return my card!

I will never buy another M-Audio product ever. there tech support rep was very rude. I told them i was willing to help in any way i can, and they were very un responsive....

I currently have a Creative Audigy 2 ZS card i bought on ebay for about $50.00 us. Very good quality and as i studio guy i am not impressed with most computer soundcards. But the Audigy 2 isnt bad. Definitly not audiophile grade, but very very good for a computer.

Zero
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Old 22nd October 2004, 07:50 PM   #4
Dave is offline Dave  New Zealand
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If you want to use SPDIF out go for the Ego Systems (ESI) Juli@ card. This has both SPDIF input and output both featuring support for sample rates up to 192kHz.

The driver software, control panel and the direct wire feature all work very well.

They are US$140 from www.floridamusicco.com
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Old 22nd October 2004, 08:09 PM   #5
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The best sounding sound card I have ever used is an old Sound Blaster 16. It was originally in an old 486 PC (not 486mhz, a 486 chip running at 66mhz...) I've had experience with that SoundBlaster, an Audigy 2, and a turtle beach mongo that came with an old P3 450mhz.
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Old 22nd October 2004, 08:19 PM   #6
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For the budget you've outlined, you can do far better than what has been presented so far.

If you're interested in music-only, the EMU cards are the current leaders in the under-$300 category. The 0404 (under $100 US) or the 1212 (125-150US) have very good analog out performance, and also have very good digital outs. They are limited in the 'normal Windows sound' areas, but when used with Foobar via ASIO, they are great. No Linux or Mac OSX drivers, though - Windows only.

Also, the A/D converters on the EMU cards are very good, so if you have any need to record via your PC, they are a good choice.

IMHO the only serious competitors to the EMU cards are RME and Lynx, both of which are far more expensive, although a used RME might be in your budget if you can find one.

FWIW, my points of comparison are an EMU 1820M, M-Audio Delta 1010 and Delta 66, all of which I own. The EMU is clearly the best sounding.

BTW - note that none of these will play protected DVD-A at high-res - only the Audigy2 cards will do that with the appropriate player. Unfortunately, the Audigy2 analog output performance isn't up to par with these cards, so it's not of much value.
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Old 22nd October 2004, 08:27 PM   #7
Puggie is offline Puggie  United Kingdom
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thought of buying a second hand D/A convertor and using the SPDIf out on your current card?

I've just bought a second hand Cambridge Audio DACMagic2 for this very purpose, 30 and the output quailty is mindblowing for the money, blows the Audigy ZS clean out of the water
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Old 22nd October 2004, 08:49 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Puggie
thought of buying a second hand D/A convertor and using the SPDIf out on your current card?

I've just bought a second hand Cambridge Audio DACMagic2 for this very purpose, 30 and the output quailty is mindblowing for the money, blows the Audigy ZS clean out of the water
I am using the stock S/PDIF out on my Asus P4C800E_Deluxe card which is a "soundmax" variant from Analog devices. It is capable of putting out 44.1KHz directly which is an advantage but misses external clocking. If you are able to get an externally clockable card, you will likely get better results with the S/PDIF out, but you need to generate the master somewhere and that likely involves modification of your DAC.

Nevertheless, the results are excellent with an external DAC.

I am of course also using lossless coding (Windows Media Lossless in my case since it is convenient, not that it matters given it is lossless).

Petter
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Old 22nd October 2004, 08:51 PM   #9
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One more thing - if you are looking for Toslink out, you can get that from MAudio for $29 (USB based) ....

Petter
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Old 22nd October 2004, 09:53 PM   #10
Pan is offline Pan  Sweden
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Im suprised no one mention Echoaudio, do yourself a favour and check them out.

/Peter
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