Sound Card

Music from PC, iPOD, MP3 etc
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Sound Card

Postby Goa Gil » Sun Sep 02, 2012 11:10 am

Currently using Toslink cable from back of Asus P5WDH motherboard built in soundcard to Quad CD99 - 2 CD Player.
So basically I am using the CD Players built in Dac.

Would I gain any improvement in sound quality if I bought a better soundcard or is Toslink Toslink and no benefits?

Many Thanks In Advance.

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Re: Sound Card

Postby Shadorne » Mon Sep 03, 2012 3:57 pm

Goa Gil wrote:Currently using Toslink cable from back of Asus P5WDH motherboard built in soundcard to Quad CD99 - 2 CD Player.
So basically I am using the CD Players built in Dac.

Would I gain any improvement in sound quality if I bought a better soundcard or is Toslink Toslink and no benefits?

Many Thanks In Advance.


You really need a DAC with asynchronous sampling - like the Benchmark DAC1. I would not trust a PC sound card to be low on jitter and I would not trust that a CD player will necessarily deal with it. The Quad 99 has around 300 ps jitter which is not bad but certainly not state of the art comparable to a DAC1. The DAC1 business model depends on being reliable (jitter immune) under all extreme circumstances and would therefore be a much safer bet than a CD player. That said - it is entirely possible that your particular soundcard + Toslink + CD player combo is working absolutely fine.

I'd suggest to get a loaner DAC1 from a Guitar or Musicians Centre and do some A/B listening tests and get a DAC1 if you find the difference significant enough.
"ATC. Always The Champion. I will not record without them. The best studio monitors. Period." ~ Lenny Kravitz

Benchmark DAC3, 2 x ATC SCM EL150ASL, 1 ATC SCM 0.1/15, 2 x Genelec 8020, Roland TD-30 Drums, Pearl Ref Acoustic Kit, Ludwig brass & Pearl Ref snares, Gibson LP Supreme, Fender Precision Bass

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Re: Sound Card

Postby Goa Gil » Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:59 pm

Many thanks for the feedback.
I will research the Dac you mentioned as would be interesting to see how much of a difference it actually makes. I don't think the Dac in my quad is that bad as I have done a lot of A B tests with original CD playing in CD player and at the same time to the exact second playing same CD after ripping lossless to Wav format through Quads Dac with Toslink cable from PC built in sound card just changing inputs on remote to make comparison. If that makes sense, I prob should have explained it better.
Some Cd's there appears to be a tiny difference but not enought not to just use the PC. I pretty much use the PC most of the time for playing music.
Originally I was curious to know if changing to a better soundcard but still using Toslink and my Quad would improve sound. If the Dac you mentioned really is that good I would definately consider selling my Quad.
Are you saying I would need to upgrade my soundcard as well?
Am I correct in assuming you think a better soundcard will improve on what I already have?
What soundcard do you suggest?

Many thanks in advance.

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Re: Sound Card

Postby Shadorne » Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:56 am

Goa Gil wrote:Many thanks for the feedback.
I will research the Dac you mentioned as would be interesting to see how much of a difference it actually makes. I don't think the Dac in my quad is that bad as I have done a lot of A B tests with original CD playing in CD player and at the same time to the exact second playing same CD after ripping lossless to Wav format through Quads Dac with Toslink cable from PC built in sound card just changing inputs on remote to make comparison. If that makes sense, I prob should have explained it better.
Some Cd's there appears to be a tiny difference but not enought not to just use the PC. I pretty much use the PC most of the time for playing music.
Originally I was curious to know if changing to a better soundcard but still using Toslink and my Quad would improve sound. If the Dac you mentioned really is that good I would definately consider selling my Quad.
Are you saying I would need to upgrade my soundcard as well?
Am I correct in assuming you think a better soundcard will improve on what I already have?
What soundcard do you suggest?

Many thanks in advance.


You are welcome. If you think you can hear a difference between a CD and the same ripped CD playing through your soundcard with Toslink through the Quad CD player then it may be worth trying a DAC.

Benchmark made their name and stake their reputation on reliable jitter free sound production independent of the source or amount of jitter. Even horrendous amounts of jitter from the soundcard should not affect the output of the Benchmark DAC1. The DAc1 achieves this by using an "asynchronous" clock. In essence the DAC1 does not try to follow the clock signal in the source - in fact the DAC1 ignores it. The majority of designs use a Phase-Lock-Loop (PLL) and this is where problems occur as none of the PLL systems are really good at avoiding ALL forms of jitter.

Jitter was only identified as a problem in the mid 1990's. Engineers using mathematics in the 80's had convinced themselves that jitter would be inaudible which is pretty much true if you assume jitter is random. Unfortunately, in the real world, there is a lot of correlated (non-random) jitter and it can be audible. Non-random stuff comes from servo motors in a CD drive that spin the disc and adjust the laser position or focus as well as from power supply oscillations as the music draws more power from the amplifier circuits. Even audio vibrations picked up by the platter on CD player can causes periodic vibrations in the disc and cause oscillations in power supply as the laser tries to track the disc. Off center holes on CD's will also cause a laser to adjust tracking in a sinusoidal manner. A PLL by its very nature will have a sinusoidal variation as the slave clock tries to stay in time with the master clock (this is done by making slow modification to the slave clock in order to keep everything overall in time with a drifting or jittery master clock). The very design of digital systems requires periodic pulsing of data. Even data storage methods such as CD's themselves can create periodic sequences of 000's and 111's in disc preamble and other parts of the non-musical elements in the data file (tags etc). All these things can translate into correlated jitter which can appear as audible distortion. Typically we are talking very low levels of distortion but because it is non-random and correlated it appears as discrete frequencies or side lobes around the real audio signal that are not harmonically related to the primary signal and can be audible if they are far enough away from the audio signal and loud enough.

One thing you need to be careful of when playing using a PC is to absolutely ensure you are are playing lossless audio. This is not easy. Software settings and bugs in many software programs can ruin audio quality simply by using a software volume control or incorrect sample frequency. (It is too technical here to go into detail but a digital volume control necessitates "dithering" in order to avoid creating "quantization" errors. So to be safe it is best to leave volume at UNITY or ONE and let the downstream analog output control the volume) Benchmark had several pages devoted to this problem which is significant. Even Stereophile has been caught by these software bugs as it is very very easy to make an incorrect setting and each new software update runs a small risk of new bugs being introduced.

What does jitter sound like? Hard to say but usually people agree that music sounds harsher and lacks clarity. The harshness can be interpreted by some inexperienced listeners as more punchy or accurate. Generally you hear it in the treble only but it can still affect the timbre of mid range instruments (i.e. the majority of sounds)

Jitter distortion and the CD loudness wars (where distortion is added deliberately to make the CD sound as loud as possible) have given digital a very bad rap. Some audiophiles go as far as resurrecting Vinyl because of this. Direct A and B's of great classic Vinyl LP's and some modern (often "hot") CD re-masters are usually won hands down by the old analog medium.
"ATC. Always The Champion. I will not record without them. The best studio monitors. Period." ~ Lenny Kravitz

Benchmark DAC3, 2 x ATC SCM EL150ASL, 1 ATC SCM 0.1/15, 2 x Genelec 8020, Roland TD-30 Drums, Pearl Ref Acoustic Kit, Ludwig brass & Pearl Ref snares, Gibson LP Supreme, Fender Precision Bass

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Re: Sound Card

Postby Goa Gil » Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:41 am

Thanks very much to taking the time to reply the way you have. That was above and beyond what I was expecting. It was very helpful. I was now wondering is one main component in a Dac that eliminates jitter or a combination of different components. If for example the Dac 1 can eliminate jitter, why are there other Dacs available that claim they can do the same or basically why is there more than one Dac available or what determines, how is it possible to judge if one Dac better than another one?
If the main objective is to eliminate jitter then all Dacs that eliminate jitter should sound the same. Or am I on the wrong track?
I will definatly try and get a demo of the Dac 1. You previously mentioned business model, what model is that?
I have searched for "Business Model" but can't find it on the net. I can see there are various variations of the Dac 1 and I assume they all sound the same but have different features which reflects in the price?
It would be handy if it could be connected to PC AND Quad and Blue Ray, Freesat etc. Is that possible?

Thanks again for your reply.

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Re: Sound Card

Postby spacey » Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:46 pm

If You're after a well implimented USB DAC you really owe to yourself to hear the INVICTA.

I've owned many DAC's DAC1-HDR included, and demoed (at home for weeks) right up to the latest version of the Weiss DAC202u. The INVICTA really is quite special. My PC is a simple little Shuttle PC, an XS36V.
JRMC19/Gizmo - Resonessence Labs INVICTA MIRUS - ATC SCM25A Pro's

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Re: Sound Card

Postby Goa Gil » Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:10 pm

Well my original intention was to establish whether there would be any benefit in changing to a better soundcard instead of my motherboards built in soundcard.
At a push and if it offered a great improvement over my Quad I would consider the Dac 1.
But to go from a possible soundcard change around as a guess £100.00 - £200.00 to a £3500.00 Invicta is not really practical for me at the moment, although I am sure it should sound great. I always thought the Chord QDB 76 was meant to be the best for that sort of cash?
Have you heard the Chord and is it similar to your Invicta?
Thanks for the tip anyway..

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Re: Sound Card

Postby Shadorne » Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:56 pm

Goa Gil wrote:Thanks very much to taking the time to reply the way you have. That was above and beyond what I was expecting. It was very helpful. I was now wondering is one main component in a Dac that eliminates jitter or a combination of different components. If for example the Dac 1 can eliminate jitter, why are there other Dacs available that claim they can do the same or basically why is there more than one Dac available or what determines, how is it possible to judge if one Dac better than another one?
If the main objective is to eliminate jitter then all Dacs that eliminate jitter should sound the same. Or am I on the wrong track?
I will definatly try and get a demo of the Dac 1. You previously mentioned business model, what model is that?
I have searched for "Business Model" but can't find it on the net. I can see there are various variations of the Dac 1 and I assume they all sound the same but have different features which reflects in the price?
It would be handy if it could be connected to PC AND Quad and Blue Ray, Freesat etc. Is that possible?

Thanks again for your reply.


Asynchronous is a specific design topology developed by Benchmark to overcome the issue of jitter. They were among the first to come out with a product that completely ignores the master clock. All other topologies up until that point relied on the PLL concept. You can google PLL but essentially it locks the slave to the master clock in one form or another. A PLL is like a car suspension and shock absorber - the car and objects are locked together but some of the highest frequency vibrations are damped. Asynchronous is an approach that throws away the physical suspension altogether and would be equivalent to a flying bird precisely following the path of the car with none of the road surface vibrations affecting the bird.

All DAC's will claim to deal with jitter as it is an important issue but in the PLL case the manufacturer is using a car suspension and just making a better suspension or shock absorber and in the asynchronous case the technology is completely different (a bird following the car). The topic is further confused by misleading marketing blurb to make you think that some technology which is a good suspension is actually a bird.

DAC1 make very aggressive claims about jitter immunity and stick to solid science which is what I mean about their "business model" (go to their website and you can dig up lots of papers and articles). Many other manufacturers wave their arms, even tell porkies (statements that contradict known electrical engineering or speak in pseudo-scientific meaningless terms) and most manufacturers never really tell you want is under the hood at all.

Once you have eliminated jitter then ALL LOSSLESS DIGITAL sources will sound the SAME when played through the same D to A converter and pre-amplifier. There will still be differences in the sound from different Dto A converters because of the Analog stage (choice of components such as Op Amp, tubes or transisitors, power supply and circuit topology such as balanced, filtering etc.) So if you eliminate jitter then DIGITAL sources with the same "bits" technically become ALL identical (just like you can copy digital data a thousand times with no degradation), however, the DAC's can and will sound slightly different according to the quality of the analog circuitry and QC control during manufacture. So even if two different Benchmark DAC's are for all intents and purposes "jitter immune", a 2003 Benchmark DAC1 may sound slightly different from a 2012 DAC1 because some of the components in the design (op amps etc.) may have changed.
"ATC. Always The Champion. I will not record without them. The best studio monitors. Period." ~ Lenny Kravitz

Benchmark DAC3, 2 x ATC SCM EL150ASL, 1 ATC SCM 0.1/15, 2 x Genelec 8020, Roland TD-30 Drums, Pearl Ref Acoustic Kit, Ludwig brass & Pearl Ref snares, Gibson LP Supreme, Fender Precision Bass

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Re: Sound Card

Postby Goa Gil » Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:37 pm

Many thanks again for spending the time to explain and I will make an effort to get a home demo of the Dac 1.
I know im being bit lazy and not viewing the manufacturers website but as well as PC can I connect my Quad, freesat, blueray etc all at the same time.
I still can't find the "business model" unless that was a figure of speech rather than the model name.
Also if I do go for one of these Dacs then would I gain by changing my soundcard if using Toslink which was one of my original thoughts I was hoping to clarify? Or would the Dac make another soundcard not worthwhile.

Many thanks for all the info and time you have taken to reply.

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Re: Sound Card

Postby Shadorne » Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:59 am

Goa Gil wrote:Many thanks again for spending the time to explain and I will make an effort to get a home demo of the Dac 1.
I know im being bit lazy and not viewing the manufacturers website but as well as PC can I connect my Quad, freesat, blueray etc all at the same time.
I still can't find the "business model" unless that was a figure of speech rather than the model name.
Also if I do go for one of these Dacs then would I gain by changing my soundcard if using Toslink which was one of my original thoughts I was hoping to clarify? Or would the Dac make another soundcard not worthwhile.

Many thanks for all the info and time you have taken to reply.


Business model is a figure of speech. If you get a good jitter immune DAC like the DAC1 then upgrading your sound card would be a waste of time as ALL lossless digital sources sound the same when played through jitter immune devices. If your DAC is not so great at rejecting jitter than a new soundcard might help or might be worse as it is the combination/compatibility between the two that may determine ultimate fidelity.

I think Toslink is limited to two channel 196 KHz 24 bits and for multi-channel then some channels necessarily must be compressed (not enough bandwidth).

The DAC1 only handles two channels.

The format for Blu-ray is HDMI. So you need a Digital Sound Processor which accepts HDMI if you want something to handle Blu-ray hi-resolution lossless (uncompressed) multi-channel audio data. A few movies now have this kind of audio quality - many do not.
"ATC. Always The Champion. I will not record without them. The best studio monitors. Period." ~ Lenny Kravitz

Benchmark DAC3, 2 x ATC SCM EL150ASL, 1 ATC SCM 0.1/15, 2 x Genelec 8020, Roland TD-30 Drums, Pearl Ref Acoustic Kit, Ludwig brass & Pearl Ref snares, Gibson LP Supreme, Fender Precision Bass

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Best CD Ripping Software And Media Player.

Postby Goa Gil » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:25 pm

Going to start from the bottom and work my way up.
Basically had to do fresh install on PC so thought it would be an ideal time to buy new hard drive for music only.
I have read that Windows Media player is not the best software to rip, burn and play music so my question is..

What is the best software to rip, burn and play music. I am currently using XP 32Bit. I had Win 7 installed but didn't like it. Is there a good piece off software available that will do all three things well, or better than media player which is part of XP. I plan to rip around 300 CD's as a start and add as time goes on so would be sensible to get some good software to do it with, I will rip in the highest quality format which I assume is Wav and want to burn a few on to discs from time to time.
Something straightforward to use and I realise it won't be freeware but don't mind if it's good.

Would like the sound to be as close to the original CD as possible.

Any help would be appreciated as the hard drive should be here this week. Many Thanks in advance.

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Re: Sound Card

Postby spacey » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:34 pm

JRiver MC17. Use FLAC and install/use 'Wasapi Event Style' output mode.

I'd highly recommend using windows Vista or 7. Anything older and it messes with the digital output.
JRMC19/Gizmo - Resonessence Labs INVICTA MIRUS - ATC SCM25A Pro's

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Re: Sound Card

Postby spacey » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:37 pm

I've built this: viewtopic.php?f=31&t=3679
JRMC19/Gizmo - Resonessence Labs INVICTA MIRUS - ATC SCM25A Pro's

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Re: Sound Card

Postby Goa Gil » Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:38 pm

Thanks for the info, looks great.
Personally couldn't get on with Win 7 for various reasons, Inc no Outlook Express. Files automatically presented in alphabetical order and lots of other annoying things about it. Had it on for around 6 months but didn't like it. Maybe if the PC was music only.
What I am doing first is ripping to a new hard drive, was thinking of Dbpoweramp.
Will then see what it sounds like compared to original disc playing in CD player then possibly research the Dac scenerio to try and improve further.
Anyway thanks for feedback.

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A

Postby Goa Gil » Sun Sep 16, 2012 10:40 am

a

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