Among my computers, is a beloved old circa 2010 Dell Studio XPS 9100, it's ancient in terms of PC technology, and it has built-in 7.1 audio - but it DOES have a SPDIF optical output for audio. (I think, should probably check!!). I'm planning on adding a Stealth DC-1 to my system (although holding out hoping for a surprise secret new model -2 or something ha ha). So, I was looking at PCI/PCIe sound cards today (such as this Asus Essence STXII) and then I started getting confused.
If my computer outputs SPDIF optical, is there a point in buying an internal sound card to use to send out the signal to a DC-1 or is that just duplicate overkill? In other words, I guess I'm asking which is better, buying a quality PCI internal sound card and using the optical out from that, or using the existing optical out, (or using USB audio)?? Would the sample rates from one be better than the other, considering I'd want the DC-1 DAC to be the one being used anyway?
Good question. For the large majority of the time, I would say....probably no audible difference. Having said that, your SPDIF output on your motherboard is using probably a very cheap part that's slotted in there just to say they have the feature. You don't know much about its clocks or jitter or blah blah.
I use an Asus Xonar Essence ST card (PCI slot not PCI express) which has a jitter reduction circuit in it to a DC-1. You would probably be fine just going optical. A DC-1 has asynchronous inputs on all inputs which is supposed to severely reduce jitter by reclocking the signal. It can also be turned off in the menu.
Long story short, you'd probably be fine unless you are super picky. Now the DC-1 does also have a USB input which to be honest, I found to sound worse (only slightly) than the other inputs. Slightly less defined (subjective impression).
Having said that....there are some in built sound cards that will resample to 48 khz. If it does that, there may be a mild benefit to getting a card that can output a bit perfect output. But even then probably not by much.
I have considered getting this card: $70 www.shenzhenaudio.com/musiland-digital-times-24bit-192khz-pci-sound-card-spdif-toslink-bnc.html It's a digital only dedicated digital transport card that best of all outputs BNC signals. The price seems reasonable however documentation on it appears scant and it doesn't appear to be a current production card. There are some dedicated music production cards that have AES outputs as well like RME but they have hideous break out cables and cost like $700.
Anyway, your question did bring up a long quest of mine to get a high quality dedicated audiophile transport at a reasonable price for the PC. It appears there's surprisingly little in the way of dedicated transports. Most of them if they output anything balanced it will be like 32 channel digital outputs where it has a breakout cable with like six connectors stemming off it. Not exactly what a 2 channel purist is looking for. very hard to find AES and BNC. Which is surprising because there are a lot of DACs with AES and BNC connectors!
The DC-1 is a fantastic well balanced DAC. I compared it directly with the Schitt Gungnir multibit and it appeared to have slightly more detail to it in terms of room ambience. However the Schitt Gungnir did better in presenting a fuller more vertically open soundstage with slightly more natural dynamics. The Gungnir multibit retails for $1250.
Last Edit: Feb 20, 2017 16:07:52 GMT -5 by garbulky
Transport: Sony UBP-X700 UHD-Blu ray player spdif PC using Musiland Digital Times WASAPI via BNC connection - DAC: DC-1->XLR XPA-1 , RCA->Basx A-100 CD: Denon DCD 600 PCM 61 DAC. RCA Amp: XPA-1 gen 2 using XLR connections. Speakers: Axiom Audio m80 V3, Sennheisser HD700 headphones. two pairs 12 guage each bi-wire speaker cables per monoblock Headphone amp: Basx A-100 (INCREDIBLE VALUE!!)
I also use the Asus Xonar Essence ST card (PCI version). My preferred HTPC music listening is to use the Essence ST's digital coax out to my MHDT Havana tube DAC to XSP-1.
I have used and tried quite a few different coax/optical/USB and different sound card/DAC combinations and the above has really been the best and most musical combination I've had in my system, I absolutely love its sound.
Klipsch Speakers RF-5 fronts RC-7 center RS-7 side surrounds RS-7 rear surrounds RT-10d and Velodyne Digital Drive PLUS 10 subs Emotiva XMC-1 processor Emotiva XSP-1 preamp Emotiva XPA-2 & XPA-5 amps MHDT Balanced Stockholm NOS Tube DAC Panasonic TH-50PH9UK Professional plasma display Oppo UDP-203 HTPC 4-tuner DVR, Digital Music Server 2 Pure AV PF60 power conditioners 2 URC MX-990 remotes & MRF 350 RF bases