Chaintech AV710 card, is it worth it?
Just realized I have this PCI card in the garage, it has Wofson DAC built in and several years back lot of talk about how good it was for the price. I have 3GHz P4 PC and wondering if I should try this running linux or whether a $50 Dac (HiFimeDIY Sabre USB DAC. 96khz/24bit - ES9023+TE7022 + USB to optical converter) will be better for playing flac files.
pci is superior to usb.
Which sounds better? Try it out.
ALSA was configured for bit-perfect playback, with main stereo output redirected to the rear channels (black connector) which utilised the Wolfson DAC.
This is optimal configuration ... but in a side-by-side comparison with some high end CD players, my AV710 sound output was extremely ordinary - nothing special at all.
Then we connected the AV710's Toslink output to an external DAC (respectable unit, maybe Beresford?) and this sounded significantly better than the AV710's analogue outputs.
Clearly, the AV710 is only "good" by consumer computer monitor standards of several years ago. Compared to decent hifi gear, it's a major disappointment, frankly.
If nothing else, USB DAC's get their audio circuitry away from the noisy electronic environment of the computer, itself.
And as I understand it, USB DAC's also reprocess and reclock the data. If implemented well, this can achieve great results.
I'm aiming for a high end Amanero/ES9018 combination, myself, but at the value end of the scale the HiFimeDIY unit has had positive reports.
gychang, there's a very similar unit which deserves mention - Objective DAC (ODAC)
board only -
fully boxed -
If you really want to go PCI, audiophiles seem to recommend the ESI Juli@ - approx $200.
Or for PCI-e interfaces, there's now the Juli@ XTE, or possibly ASUS Xonar Essence STX.
Having a "dedicated rig" doesn't mean much unless you are very selective about parts. I built a dedicated rig, based around a Soundblaster Live!, using the rear channel with the Wolfson DAC (or is it a BurrBrown on the Live!? I forget) thanks to the kX drivers. But I completely recapped my Antec power-supply with new, Panasonics and Nichicons to replace the garbage-brand Chinese caps. I also recapped my Asus motherboard with polymers, and changed all the power caps on my Live! with low-impedance Panasonic FM's and FC's, also replacing the electrolytics between the main DSP and output OpAmps with films.
To date, this was the best sounding rig I have had, and sounded worlds better than any modern card I have had, including my Audigy 1 & 2 cards, Delta 410, and X-Fi.
I also found an AV-710 at a surplus place for $3, and do intend to build a rig around it to put it through the rigors, but it will also receive updates, along with all other components of the system.
I see this thread has just been resurrected after more than 3 years.
Logistics, those modifications/upgrades that you described are impressive, and commendable. I don't doubt that you will achieve a better result from the AV710 with these modifications than I did.
I would point out that good/better/best is always relative to the sample selection in question, and all of the audio hardware mentioned are PCI sound cards.
Certainly there are good reasons to choose a PCI card as your audio interface; multi-track audio production, or multi-channel home theatre, for example.
gychang, back to your original question - AV710 PCI card versus ES9023+TE7022 USB DAC;
3 years ago I only hinted at what I considered the better option. Let me be more definite now: the USB DAC will win.
And on the HiFimeDIY site you will see there is now an updated version with SA9023 USB chip + ES9018k2m DAC
HiFime Sabre 9018 USB DAC
Bear in mind that these are entry-level USB DAC solutions.
One step up would be roughly equivalent USB/DAC chips, but with dedicated good quality power supplies.
Another step up would be to use one of the well regarded USB interfaces from Amanero, Lorien, or JLSounds.
Well, I recently acquired a Yamaha C-85 Preamp, and hooked it up to my PC, and the sound is great! I was running my same headphones off an X-Fi, which is admittedly not the most appropriate combo so it's not a surprise that the preamp helped A LOT with my headphones.
Then I dug out my old Delta 410, and ran that to the preamp, and the sound is significantly better than the X-Fi--this combination supersedes the sound I had with my old, modified Live! card, and I haven't even replaced any of the electrolytics with films, yet.
The Delta 410 has a superior version of the Envy24 chip, but I still think it's well worth modifying the AV-710. I'll update asap.
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