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Good soundcard for music only
dmarc34
post May 4 2002, 14:53
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Hi there,

I'm looking for a good sound card... It sounds like another thead here wink.gif but it's for a different purpose: the gaming, 5+1, 3D and so on are not mandatory for me. All I need is a great sound in stereo mode for a decent price.

Any suggestions ?
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RubberSoul
post May 4 2002, 15:05
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For my day to day computer I always used a consumer card rather than the pro cards in my other computers and have LONG been a supporter of the Santa Cruz for unmatched sound quality and stability. I picked up a Maya 7.1 Gold the other day and installed the drivers....a whopping 300K download and proceeded to do a LOT of listening tests and have found the Maya to sound QUITE a bit more natural and right sounding with zero stability issues under XP. Bear in mind most of my testing was done on recordings I did so I am intimately familiar with what is on them and exactly how they should sound. For me anyway there is a new champ and the difference is not subtle. I don't game so this is only based on music listening...WAV, APE and MPC mainly.
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Hanky
post May 4 2002, 15:16
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It depends on your demands, but the Terratec DMX 6fire 24/96 could be a candidate. Up to 96kHz / 24 bit, >100 dB S/N ratio, digital In/Out, front module for additional input/output options.
However it's in the 250 Euro price range rolleyes.gif
There's also a light version with less in/out connections for around 140 Euro
Terratec International homepage
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spoon
post May 4 2002, 16:28
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A Sound Blaster Live (70 USD), a hoontech digital io bracket for SB Live (20 USD) www.hoontech.com and a nice external ampliflier that can take either optical or coaxal digital in and you will have a system that is about as good as you can get...


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RubberSoul
post May 4 2002, 16:33
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The LIVE and Audigy are COMPLETELY inappropraite for any music listening. They are abysmall.
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spoon
post May 4 2002, 16:39
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How so? any sound card that could output 24bit digital will be identical to another top of the range sound card outputting an **identical** digital signal costing $10,000.

Anyone who thinks a sound card inside a PC can output a good analogue signal is seriously missing the point. Go for a top of the range Sony external 24bit optical input amplifier and you are kicking some.


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sphoid
post May 4 2002, 17:15
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QUOTE
any sound card that could output 24bit digital will be identical to another top of the range sound card outputting an **identical** digital signal costing ,000


This is not entirely true. I did a bit of research on this myself when i was looking into getting a new soundcard and i actually started off ordering an Audigy. I quickly changed my mind after discovering that its problem lies in the SNR and questions regarding whether that card is a true 24 bit card or not. In regards to the price, you can get some very high end cards with s/pdif for very reasonable money.

QUOTE
Anyone who thinks a sound card inside a PC can output a good analogue signal is seriously missing the point


I think you might be jumping the gun a bit here. There are many soundcards that ouput phenomenal analog signals. The problems do not lie in the signal itself, problems only arise when there are powerful sources of noise around it. True, outputting via digital does help this, but you can take steps to eliminate noise. I picked up the Delta Audiophile which to my understanding has some of the best analogue outputs you can get for the price range. To eliminate noise, the card has no cd audio connector but this easily remedied simply by playing cds digitally. Whats also good about this card is that it also outputs s/pdif, plus its true 24 bit 96khz.


QUOTE
Go for a top of the range Sony external 24bit optical input amplifier and you are kicking some.


Now lets think about this just for one minute. How many cds do you own that are actually 24 bit? I personally dont own any so if you are doing this strictly for music i wouldnt even worry about that, however 24 bit is becoming mainstream now in consumer soundcards.

in conclusion, if you want to talk simple economics and value, if youve got the money to throw down the toilet, you could go get the highest end 24 bit card with s/pdif and a high end amp and some high end speakers but in my opinion that is quite unnecessary for the scenario portrayed. For a fraction of the price you can get a modest soundcard with an acceptable SNR and a clean analog output plus a set of desktop speakers that are THX rated and will probably sound 100 times better than an equivalent external system purchased with the same amount of money. Hell, forget all that and get an expensive pair of headphones and a modestly priced soundcard and im willing to bet youd be much happier in the end.
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spoon
post May 4 2002, 17:39
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Sage advice

24Bit external amplifiers are plenty and cheap these days due to DVD players.

You are right not much music is 24 bit these days (it will come), but I would rather throw a 16bit signal at a 24bit dac rather than a 16 bit dac.


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Trelane
post May 4 2002, 17:59
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Stereo-Link SL1200...

Native sampling rate support for 5-55 khz. It does not resample, which can cause aliasing if not done properly. The Live/Audigy series of cards do not resample properly (and they resample everything to 48 khz).

It also features a 20 bit DAC and it's an external device (USB) with an external power supply. The only gripe I've heard about the SL1200 is its lack of recording/input features and the tacky blue color. It's an excellent sounding device that's worth looking into.

You can read more about it on Stereo-Link's website at http://www.stereo-link.com.

Good luck smile.gif
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KikeG
post May 5 2002, 22:05
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QUOTE
How so? any sound card that could output 24bit digital will be identical to another top of the range sound card outputting an **identical** digital signal costing ,000.


Yes, but all Creative cards resample internally to 48 KHz before "playing" the sound, even if you use the digital outputs. The Live's do this quite badly. A top of the range soundcard won't resample or do anything to the signal.

QUOTE
Anyone who thinks a sound card inside a PC can output a good analogue signal is seriously missing the point. Go for a top of the range Sony external 24bit optical input amplifier and you are kicking some.


Not true. The fact that a DAC is external is not a reason for being better or worse on audio quality. One of the best sound cards, if not the best of all, is internal, the LynxTwo: measured dynamic range of 130 dB (see www.pcavtech.com). I guess it's better than any consumer DAC any of us can afford.
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spoon
post May 5 2002, 23:18
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Creative only do that because the SPDIF standard is 48KHz.

>Not true. The fact that a DAC is external is not a reason for being better or worse on audio quality.

For my real day job I design and create scientific measurement instruments, these systems have seriously expensive DACs and ADCs. These systems connect to standard PCs, they are so sensitive they can detect someone walking near by in the room! Anyway because the PC is way so noisy, we even have to use opto-isolators to totally isolate the measurement system from the noise of communication grounds of the PCs. We wouldn't dream of putting the instrument inside of a PC - you have plenty of magnetic and electromagnetic fields not to mention rough ground signals.


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KikeG
post May 6 2002, 00:17
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QUOTE
Creative only do that because the SPDIF standard is 48KHz. 


Who says that? Any CD player with a digital output will put out a standard 44.1 KHz SPDIF data signal.

QUOTE
communication grounds of the PCs. We wouldn't dream of putting the instrument inside of a PC - you have plenty of magnetic and electromagnetic fields not to mention rough ground signals.


But a good design can overcome those problems. I get a measured SNR of more than 97 dB with my internal Audiophile 2496. Again, see measured specs of the LynxTwo at www.pcavtech.com.
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markusk
post May 6 2002, 09:36
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I'd be very careful with Terratec DMX 6fire 24/96. I have this card and there are driver issues when using win2k. Don't know if it's the same thing with other Windows versions. The sound is good though, better than what my old Live! Platinum could produce.

Markus
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PoisonDan
post May 6 2002, 09:51
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QUOTE
Originally posted by dmarc34
All I need is a great sound in stereo mode for a decent price.


Then I would get the Stereo-Link if I were you.

Trelane already mentioned the URL (http://www.stereo-link.com/), and you could also check out this review:

http://cd-rw.org/articles/archive/stereolink.cfm
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Sachankara
post May 6 2002, 13:18
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QUOTE
Originally posted by spoon
A Sound Blaster Live (70 USD), a hoontech digital io bracket for SB Live (20 USD) www.hoontech.com  and a nice external ampliflier that can take either optical or coaxal digital in and you will have a system that is about as good as you can get...
Suggesting Creative cards on this forum as hi-fi is like saying that Xing is really good... Dream on...

The best consumer cards you can find are VideoLogic SonicFury/Turtle Beach Santa Cruz and Hercules Game Theater XP...
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macdaddy
post May 6 2002, 14:02
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Don't forget the maudio ap 24/96. I own one, and find it to be as good (and probably better) than any of the other soundcards listed in this thread...
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spoon
post May 6 2002, 14:29
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QUOTE
Originally posted by Sachankara
Suggesting Creative cards on this forum as hi-fi is like saying that Xing is really good... Dream on...

The best consumer cards you can find are VideoLogic SonicFury/Turtle Beach Santa Cruz and Hercules Game Theater XP...


I would wager that in a blind listening test you wouldn't know the difference between any of these (SB Live included) playing an audio CD digitally out to the same amp.


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Gecko
post May 6 2002, 14:53
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Does anyone have any info about lag behaviour of the stereo-link or usb sound cards in general? This would be interesting for musicians / digital DJs.
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Trelane
post May 6 2002, 15:14
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Regarding lag:
I created a tool that plays silence constantly to eliminate the greatest delay (of about 500 ms), which occurs when the device goes into standby when no sound is being played. This seems to have eliminated all lag on my limited tests. I wasn't too concerned with getting it as low as possible, but the half second delay was getting quite annoying... smile.gif

If anyone has an interest in this tool, I will release it. Let me know.
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dmarc34
post May 6 2002, 16:20
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Many thanks for all your answers !

One little question about the M-Audio : is it possible to plug phones (I own a Sennheiser HD 535) directly on the card, or do I need to use my stereo amplifier ?

And another one about the SL 1200 : it has 20 bits converters, but it is regarded as a 16 bit card ? the specs I found on the web are not so clear...

Best regards,

Marc
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Trelane
post May 6 2002, 19:38
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The SL1200 would play back 20 bit material, but this is a limitation of Windows and not the device itself. At any rate, the 20 bit DAC will produce better results than a 16 bit DAC.
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macdaddy
post May 7 2002, 01:41
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QUOTE
One little question about the M-Audio : is it possible to plug phones (I own a Sennheiser HD 535) directly on the card, or do I need to use my stereo amplifier ?
no headphone jack on the card:

2 rca out jacks, 2 rca in jacks, spdif in coaxial jack, spdif out coaxial jack
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Dibrom
post May 8 2002, 22:17
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OT:

Rubbersoul (Beatles/ffc/pchore/HAZ-MAT/randar/darkhorse/taz/etc/etc/etc.. or should I just call you Mr. Fox?):

It's been made exceedingly apparent that you are no longer welcome on this board. Changing your nick and your ip and reregistering is not going to change anything.

Your account has been disabled. Goodbye.
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JonPike
post May 9 2002, 09:20
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QUOTE
Originally posted by spoon
I would wager that in a blind listening test you wouldn't know the difference between any of these (SB Live included) playing an audio CD digitally out to the same amp.


Hehe sure! Of course doing that removes the card's DAQ from the picture, so there really shouldn't be any difference.. if that's what you want to do primarily, dosen't matter what card you're using. You've moved things to the amp's DAQ... Well we HOPE the amp DAQ is the better of the two!

Recording, that's another story.

But, for those on a budget.. I can say that my Audigy has about 15db lower noise floor (measured with Cool Edit) for assumibly that much more signal to noise ratio, than the Live I replaced it with. And, you can get it for that quoted Live price, cheaper for the OEM. I believe the connector is the same, so the Hoontech bracket would work to give you optical S/PDIF? You already get the coaxial digital right out the back..

It's not a great card... there are little annoyances, but it's quieter, and for $60USD, hard to beat that bang for the buck.

Well, there goes my forum cred... wink.gif
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KikeG
post May 9 2002, 10:20
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QUOTE
Hehe sure! Of course doing that removes the card's DAQ from the picture, so there really shouldn't be any difference.. if that's what you want to do primarily, dosen't matter what card you're using. You've moved things to the amp's DAQ... Well we HOPE the amp DAQ is the better of the two! 


Aghh... Again ;-) , the Live! cards resample quite badly all 44.1 KHz data sent at them, even if you use the digital outputs!!! No matter what external DAC you use, the data feeding it is altered by the Live! card.

Same happens with all AC'97 (synonym of gaming oriented) cards: Audigy, Santa Cruz, Hercules cards, Terratec XFire, but in this cases the resampling process is made in a quite better manner.

At http://www.pcabx.com/product/ct4830/index.htm you can do ABX tests of digital and analog outputs of a Live! card.
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