noob DAC question - connections / sound cards [ANSWERED]

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by HeartOfSky, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. HeartOfSky

    HeartOfSky Acquaintance

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    Hey all!

    Please forgive my naiveté. I'm just now getting into the idea of DACs for my Alienware m17x r4, in order to make better use of my CA Vega IEMs. The lappy has a SoundBlaster Recon3Di card in it. From what I've read, a DAC will be quite an improvement.

    My question lies in the connection I should use. Obviously, USB is an option. But, my sound card also has an S/PDIF port. I'm completely unsure as to what would be the wiser decision for which connection to explore as I'm shopping for a DAC.

    Thanks!

    p.s. - I'm looking to start small and affordable. Geek Out has a discontinued model that I should be able to get at a great price. Will continue up from there, as things progress.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  2. Abhishek Chowdhary

    Abhishek Chowdhary Friend

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    No first hand experience but built in spdif in laptops are said to be substandard implementations.
    Geek Out via usb should be a safer choice.
     
  3. The Alchemist

    The Alchemist MOT: Schiit - Here to help!

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    I agree with USB.
     
  4. The Alchemist

    The Alchemist MOT: Schiit - Here to help!

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    @HeartOfSky - you may want to try out the Schiit Fulla. It is on closeout for only $59 at schiit.com.

    Direct link:

    http://schiit.com/products/fulla

    Quick Description from Schiit:

    Total Convenience
    Just plug Fulla into virtually any computer’s USB port and you’ll be enjoying great tunes instantly. No drivers, no fiddly software, no confusing volume buttons—on either Mac or PC. It also works (with some caveats) on Linux, iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. Plug it in, attach your headphones, and turn it up. Done!

    A Dang Good DAC
    Like Modi, Fulla uses a CM6631 USB 2.0 receiver and the AK4396 digital to analog converter—not antique 1.1 or an integrated DAC with headphone drivers built in. The AK4396 is one of the best-measuring, most capable digital to analog converters on the planet, used in systems that cost many times the Fulla’s price.

    Plenty of Power for Most Headphones
    After the DAC, a gain stage using precision thin-film resistors and film capacitors filters and boosts the output, up to 200mW into 32 ohms. This means plenty of power for most headphones, together with a vanishingly low noise floor and low output impedance that make Fulla great for IEM use.
     
  5. HeartOfSky

    HeartOfSky Acquaintance

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    Ooooh... thanks for this!

    I was almost gonna hit "buy", but then realized it doesn't do DSD. The Geek Out 1000, on clearance for $150 (down from $300) does.

    Thanks so much for the input, @The Alchemist & @Abhishek Chowdhary. I know enough now to avoid my S/PDIF connection.
     
  6. The Alchemist

    The Alchemist MOT: Schiit - Here to help!

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    no problem -do you have many DSD files? Not sure if DSD is a fad or will stick, but you gotta do what makes you happy and that is a good price for the Geek out 1000.
     
  7. HeartOfSky

    HeartOfSky Acquaintance

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    I've got a small handful of DSDs. I'm mainly obsessed with the "but it's on sale for half off!" aspect of things. :p
     
  8. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Red eyes from too much anime

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    LHLabs does USB very well, but be warned the GeekOut series gets VERY warm + no physical volume control.
     
  9. HeartOfSky

    HeartOfSky Acquaintance

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    Noted. Thanks.
     
  10. HeartOfSky

    HeartOfSky Acquaintance

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    Actually, I only have one DSD album that truly matters to me. No real need for the Geek Out's features. Also, from what I've been reading, people seem to really appreciate Schiit's demeanor as well as customer service, whereas I did read a comment somewhere that LH wasn't so hot in that arena. Think I'm gonna go for the Fulla 2. Gimme a day and I'll flip flop again, I'm sure.
     
  11. The Alchemist

    The Alchemist MOT: Schiit - Here to help!

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    I am a big fan of @schiit and their products, also can't beat the price at $59 on closeout. Keep in mind, there is also the Fulla 2 at $99.

    Direct Link:

    http://schiit.com/products/fulla-2

    DAC, Amp, Preamp, = Killer

    Description from Schiit:

    Total Flexibility For Your Desktop
    Fulla 2 is a complete DAC/Amp in a single tiny case. Plug Fulla 2 into virtually any USB port, connect your headphones and/or powered monitors, and you’re set for great music. But that’s only the start.
    • Use it as an amp. Connect your phone (or any other analog source) to the convenient front jack.
    • Use it as a preamp. Connect to powered monitors or speaker amps using the variable outputs on the back.
    • Use it as a DAC. Connect to an external preamp or processor with the fixed 2V line outs on the back, or use the variable outputs for convenient volume control as well.
    • Use it with phones, tablets, or computers with low-powered USB ports. We’ve included a second USB port for power input. Plug in your phone charger (or any other 5V DC source with micro-USB output) and Fulla 2 tells your source it doesn’t need any power.
    Top-Shelf Components
    Like DACs costing more than 10X this price, Fulla uses the latest AKM AK4490 D/A converter. Coupled with an Alps RK09 potentiometer, high-quality filter and amp stages from Texas Instruments, as well as precision thin-film resistors and film capacitors, Fulla delivers performance far beyond its modest price.

    Plenty of Headphone Power
    Fulla 2 delivers a super punch, up to 550mW into 16 ohms, together with a vanishingly low noise floor and low output impedance. Or, in English, this means it’s a great match for virtually any headphone.


    Made in USA, 2-Year Warranty, Easy Returns
    By “made in USA,” we mean made in USA. The vast majority of the total production cost of Fulla 2—chassis, boards, assembly, etc—goes to US companies manufacturing in the US. Fulla 2 is also covered by a 2-year limited warranty that covers parts and labor. And if you don’t like your Fulla 2, you can send it back for a refund, minus 15% restocking fee, within 15 days of receiving it.
     
  12. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    The Fulla 2 is a great entry-level option. It's simple to set up and use, and sounds surprisingly good for $99. Beware though, it may be a gateway drug.

    If "small" and "affordable" are important criteria, it's hard to beat.
     
  13. Changeling

    Changeling Tube Slut

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    ...and you can easily downsample your DSD album in most playback softwares, on the fly, and enjoy it with the Fulla. Or just re-encode a copy...
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
  14. HeartOfSky

    HeartOfSky Acquaintance

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    Circumstances have been fortuitous today, so I ordered the Fulla 2 and 6.5mm to 3.5mm adaptor/extender. Looking forward to this experience, though I'll heed the warning of its addictive nature. :p
     
  15. The Alchemist

    The Alchemist MOT: Schiit - Here to help!

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  16. HeartOfSky

    HeartOfSky Acquaintance

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    Fulla 2 arrived today. Not sure if I can tell any difference, but am going to assume that it's markedly better than my sound card. Eventually, I'm sure I'll do an A/B comparison. Until then, I'm just really enjoying the volume pot, rather than the stepped volume from the system. Woohoo!!!

    Thanks again for the advice.

    EDIT: I take that back... there is a noticeable difference. Now, I don't have put anything I'm keen to hear onto my NWZ-A17 just to hear it nicely.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2017
  17. The Alchemist

    The Alchemist MOT: Schiit - Here to help!

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