DAC or Soundcard?

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by Astralogic, May 10, 2017.

  1. Astralogic

    Astralogic Gawd

    Apr 24, 2012
    Hi, I would like to know if a DAC is completely to superior to a soundcard (for gaming/movies/music).

    I currently have a Soundblaster Z and would like to know what is a good upgrade.


    Edit: I may get a Xonar Essense STX II, since it seems to be top dog.
    Last edited: May 10, 2017
  2. Sojoe

    Sojoe n00bie

    Nov 24, 2014
    All Soundcards (capable of analogue output) act as a DAC (digital to analogue converter). DACs can deviate in precision levels and analogue output quality.

    Soundcards have varying levels of amplification build-in. the amplification determines how well they 'drive' (the amount of power they can provide) a speaker (headphones etc). Some have more powerful amplifiers, while others have the bare mininum. You can of course buy external amplifiers to augment a weak internal amplifier.

    So whether you need to upgrade or not is a question of personal preferences as well as your sound peripherals.

    Depending on your setup, and whether your Soundblaster provides clean low noise output. I think you would gain far more worth by getting a good (headphone) amplifier.

    tl:dr If you are happy with your current solution just stick with it.

    **Wait this is a duplicate thread and the other guys in that one already told you so**
    Last edited: May 10, 2017
  3. pippenainteasy

    pippenainteasy Limp Gawd

    May 20, 2016
    Depends if you need stereo or surround. If you are good with stereo, you can get away from all the EMI and electrical noise of the PC by running optical out (if your motherboard supports it, or buy an optical pci/usb device) and run a optical cable out of your PC to an external DAC. I've done this for quite a few years as I've had a few noise issues running HDMI audio out of the PC.
  4. amenx

    amenx Limp Gawd

    Dec 17, 2005
    No sound card has an amp that can drive speakers. Headphones, yes, passive speakers, no. Only speakers you can connect to a sound card have to be powered speakers (via outboard amps or their in-built amps).
  5. GotNoRice

    GotNoRice [H]ardForum Junkie

    Jul 11, 2001
    Asking if a "DAC" is superior to a "Soundcard" is like asking if a "vehicle" is superior to a "car".

    I assume that the OP found the responses he got in the other identical thread he made too confusing?
    Last edited: May 13, 2017
    rive22 and noclevername like this.
  6. noclevername

    noclevername Limp Gawd

    Feb 22, 2016
    If you stick with a sound card and go toward the Essence STX, I would highly recommended getting a set of Burson V5 OPamps to pair with it.

    I personally switched to a dedicated amp and dac, but the stx was a great card. It just boils down to if you want to have it internal or external. When you push into dedicated you do get different sound stages and better quality, but it also depends on what's plugged into them. If you're using basic headphones that are low impedance there is no need, but if you want to push more I to hifi then I would switch.

    I did a review of the V5's for Burson and was astounded how good they sound. Review below.