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Choosing a DAC for active speakers with balanced inputs
post Mar 2 2013, 19:30
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Hello all!

I want to connect a Desktop PC to a pair of active monitors (Behringer B2031A). At the moment, the output minijack of the PC is connected to stereo RCA inputs of a small mixer. The mixer only has unbalanced output so the mains out of the mixer are connected to speakers with unbalanced jack cables. This way, there is a background noise clearly audible. The noise dissapear when I connect a netbook or a portable player (Sansa Clip+) instead of the desktop PC, so I think the problem comes from the PC, not the mixer or cables.

I'm looking for a DAC. And I also will need volume control because the mixer is here temporarily. And balanced output may be fine. The PC will be the only source, through optical output. Headphone would be fine, but is not a requirement. The speakers have jack an XLR inputs.

The most inexpensive "all in one" solutions i found are:

-Matrix mini-i (240 evro)
-E-mu 0404 USB (178 evro)

There are cheaper solutions using 2 devices. Something like:

- Fostec PC100USB [cheapest DAC+volumen control, that i found] (80 evro)+ Samson S-Convert [to get a balanced output] (55 evro) = 135 evro total

Another option is to discard the balanced output and use a DAC with volume control and unbalanced output, with a RCA-JACK cable/adaptor.

I think that any well designed and builded DAC will _sound_ the same. But there is not only the dac part there is also the pre amp and volume control stage (and in the case of balanced output that part of the circuitry). The question is how to know if these devices (or others) are well enough designed to sound equal.

Do you think there would be _audible_ differences between these choices?

What do you think is the best choice?
Do you know of better alternatives?

Regards and thank you.

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