Soundcard vs DAC OR Soundcard + DAC

So I’ve had a PCIe soundcard in my computer for the longest of years (Sound Blaster Recon3D PCIe) which doesn’t get the best reviews but for me it sounds a lot better than most integrated audio.

Now I’ve been thinking about getting my first DAC like the Schiit MAGNI 3 Heresy. In Pauls video about External DACs vs. soundcards ( he mentions not to use soundcards. But wouldn’t a PCIe soundcard be better than using integrated?

I thought using a PCIe soundcard in conjunction with a DAC would produce a better result than to use the integrated audio processor?

Please let me know on your thoughts!

A sound card, by definition, is a DAC (plus other bits). I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “integrated audio processor” but, to get an analog sound out of the machine, a sound card (DAC) must be in place. Usually the onboard DACs on motherboards are bare minimum to get things working. PCIe sound cards are better as they have additional filtering and upgraded components do nothing to provide clean power and sticking them inside a noisy PC with fans and a bunch of switching supplies does not help.

The only advantage you’ll gain of using a “sound card in conjunction with a DAC” is if that sound card has SPDIF (digital) out and the components used to achieve that provides less jitter and appropriate filtering to give you a better signal than just USB into the DAC. One advantage may be optical SPDIF as then there is no conductive cable between the PC and the DAC at that point. Will this hold true to your ear? Can only test and hear for yourself.

But when Paul says “external DAC” he means a digital signal from the PC to the DAC. The easy way to do that on any modern PC is to just use a USB port.

1 Like

Thanks for the reply :slight_smile:

And sorry what I meant by “integrated audio processor” was integrated motherboard onboard audio processors

My PCIe soundcard does have an Optical S/PDIF Out
jack! I know it would be advisable to get a DAC which takes Optical S/PDIF In but I want to assume that comes to a bigger cost.

So I guess the Schiit MAGNI 3 Heresy wouldn’t be suitable if I want the best result with my current setup

All Schiit DACs have Coax and Optical in. The Magni is a headphone amplifier. The “Schiit Stack” is a Modi + Magni combination. PC -> Modi -> Magni. Pretty good value for $199. There are cheaper headphone/DAC combos though.

Of course the PSAudio Sprout gives you DAC+Headphone+Speaker amp. Neat bit of kit for not a lot of money and let’s you put some speakers into the set-up. This is a PSAudio forum after all :wink:

1 Like