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Improving sound card digital section - beginner questions
Improving sound card digital section - beginner questions
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Old 20th November 2005, 12:57 PM   #1
halcyon is offline halcyon
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Apr 2002
Default Improving sound card digital section - beginner questions

Bought a new sound card (Creative Labs Elite Pro X-Fi, ugh). Sounds better than the card it replaced, for what it was basically meant for (non-critical computer audio use).

However, opening it up, I thought maybe it could be improved by deploying some of the tricks often mentioned here.

This is what the breakout module (being fed a digital audio signal by the sound card itself) looks like:

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I've been thinking of following possibilities:

1) replace the clock with something better (X03 maybe overkill?) Jitter has been claimed to be in order of <60psecs.

2) Maybe do something to the power filtering (don't know where to start)

3) Look for improvements in the analog stage after the dac chips (pretty lost here, I must say)

4) make a new line-level analog (stereo) unbalanced output at the back panel (this would enable me to use it as a DAC only and feed an external headphone amp)

I wonder what relatively easy changes are possible and perhaps worth trying out?

Where would you start? Except perhaps throwing it in the trashbin

All comments are welcomed.
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Old 20th November 2005, 08:21 PM   #2
fastcat95 is offline fastcat95  United States
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Indiana

Here is an easy trick that works with just about any
PC soundcard to improve sound.

When I need to do better quality recording or play
back with my SB Live!, I turn on the computer system
2-3 days before the session, and let the card warm
up, and I also "exercise" it with a continuous input
from a tuner (that can also be played back through
the card output).

I have found that this simple procedure improves
the sound I obtain when I record through the Line In;
cleaner, smoother, more relaxed sound with better
resolution, detail, and naturalness - particularly in the
high frequencies.

Just about all audio components work better when
well warmed up and "exercised" with an input
signal before listening or recording.

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Old 21st November 2005, 12:20 PM   #3
halcyon is offline halcyon
diyAudio Member
Join Date: Apr 2002
Thanks, I will try that as well.

I have trouble deciphering the propietary input of the break out box, which provides operating power and digital audio signals for the break out box's hardware.

Anybody want to offer some tips as to where/how to start measuring that?
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Old 21st November 2005, 01:39 PM   #4
Sangram is offline Sangram  India
diyAudio Moderator
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Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: India
Improving sound card digital section - beginner questions
www.pinouts.ru has the connector wiring for Live! and Audigy cards, I guess it'll take some time for the Xfi to get featured. A bit of testing can probably tell you what goes where. Multimeters may be helpful, but a 2" speaker and a small amp can be very handy in tracing analog signal routes.

Bypassing always works well because the power lines to PCI cards would be very long, decoupling the bigger electros on the board with some tantalums/ceramics may help in stability, if not SQ.

Maybe you can replace the output caps with some nicer ones. That would be easy to find and trace.

The Xfi is supposed to have good opamps and converters. those should be easy to locate. Don't want to say the same about changing them.
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