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Speakers Popping and Background Noises w/Xonar STX
TomoR
post Nov 30 2012, 00:01
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Recently, I switched from a conventional component stereo to computer audio; my son set up the computer and installed the ASUS Xonar Essence STX sound card. Although it sounds good, I found a few problems and would like to have suggestions from computer audiophiles.

I am almost exclusively a classical music fan. I have nearly 200 CDs that I made by recording CBC FM broadcast in the past 10 years. I have a few commercially recorded CDs, most of which I do not like, as a quiet section is almost inaudible and a loud section makes me jump out of skin.

Also, apologies for my English; it is not my native language.


1. Popping noise, through speakers, when restart the music from pause

While playing a CD on my computer, I may interrupt the music by clicking on the start/pause button on the Windows Media Player. When restarting, a popping (explosive) sound may come out of the speakers. The sound is similar to one that happens in an old radio set with a dirty on-off switch. It could be quite loud. It does not happen all the time but does quite frequently.

Now, beside the sound card STX, I still have my old Yamaha hard-drive recorder (CDR/HD1000, a year 2002 vintage) which has a DAC mode. As a test, when I use it as an external DAC, bypassing the STXs DAC, it never pops in the same pause/restart operation.

2. Low background sound (noise) when playing a CD via STX

This occurs in a section of the CD where no music is played, such as the very start of playing the CD, in a pause between movements, or at the end of music. The sound is significantly reduced or nearly eliminated when the music starts. There is no such sound in the section of the CD in which no recording was made. If I play the same CD via the Yamaha recorder as an external DAC, it is almost absolutely quiet. This might be because the STX has a wider range of audible frequencies than the old Yamaha, or the Yamaha DAC might have a device to attenuate the noise; just guessing.

BTW, to my personal taste, the Yamaha DAC sounds more musical (very comfortable to listen to for a long period of time), as compared with STX that sounds, albeit crisper and more detailed, somewhat too bright to my taste. Of course, it may be that I am more comfortable with the Yamaha as I have used to it for the past 10 years.

3. Volume control in the Xonar Audio Center

At which level should it normally be set for playing a CD? At the moment, I set it about 40% so that the highest sound level is about 0 dB, and use the volume control of the amplifier for finer adjustments.

Thank you for any advice given.

Regards,
Tomo
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DVDdoug
post Nov 30 2012, 01:34
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QUOTE
While playing a CD on my computer, I may interrupt the music by clicking on the start/pause button on the Windows Media Player. When restarting, a popping (explosive) sound may come out of the speakers. ....

...when I use it as an external DAC, bypassing the STXs DAC, it never pops in the same pause/restart operation.
That's probably your soundcard/soundchip, or it could be a driver problem. Make sure your drivers are up to date and if they are, or updating does not help, maybe try a different soundcard.

QUOTE
2. Low background sound (noise) when playing a CD via STX
That is also probably your souncard. An external USB soundcard (or other DAC) will be isolated from the computer's internal digital clocks and related potential noise sources. External soundcards are not always better than internal soundcards or motherboard soundchips, but sometimes... I've got a fairly cheap (about $20 USD) USB soundcard that I use for "testing purposes", and it's dead silent with no sound playing... With headphones I don't hear any difference if the headphones are plugged-in or not (when no sound is playing). Of course there's always some noise in every analog output, but with that USB soundcard, I can't hear it.

QUOTE
This occurs in a section of the CD where no music is played, such as the very start of playing the CD, in a pause between movements, or at the end of music. The sound is significantly reduced or nearly eliminated when the music starts.
That could just be masking ("drowning-out" the noise).

QUOTE
3. Volume control in the Xonar Audio Center

At which level should it normally be set for playing a CD? At the moment, I set it about 40% so that the highest sound level is about 0 dB, and use the volume control of the amplifier for finer adjustments.
Usually, the idea is to max-out the signal for the best signal-to-noise ratio (as long as you can do that without going into clipping/distortion). Then, when you turn-down the signal and noise together at a later stage.

QUOTE
I am almost exclusively a classical music fan. I have nearly 200 CDs that I made by recording CBC FM broadcast in the past 10 years. I have a few commercially recorded CDs, most of which I do not like, as a quiet section is almost inaudible and a loud section makes me jump out of skin.
The dynamic contrast is supposed to be a good thing... a great thing... with classical music! biggrin.gif But, it takes an ideal listening environment and "serious listening".

But there might be something you can do about that... Radio stations often use dynamic compression to even-out the loudness. With an audio editor (Audacity is FREE!!!) you can add some compression yourself. It can be tricky to get good compressoin that sounds natural, especially if you want a lot of compression, so it will take some experimenting to see if you can get satisfactory results. Or, you may need some better (non-free) software. And of course, you'll have to make copies of the music since you can't edit a CD.

QUOTE
BTW, to my personal taste, the Yamaha DAC sounds more musical (very comfortable to listen to for a long period of time), as compared with STX that sounds, albeit crisper and more detailed, somewhat too bright...
Please be careful with descriptions like that! wink.gif I understand what you mean by "noise", but when you use words like "crisper" or "more detailed", you are going to get "reminded" of TOS #8. If you are not hearing noise, distortion, or frequency response variations, most DACs/soundcards will sound identical in proper level-matched blind listening tests.

QUOTE
Also, apologies for my English; it is not my native language.
Really? Your written English is excellent!
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