Quick DAC Question

total audio noob here.
I want to buy a dac+amp combo (Sound Blaster X7 looks great for me as a complete package)
And was just wondering how a DAC works.
I can hear static noise if no music is playing on my PC. (cheap on board audio).
Phone sound is mostly fine (a bit muffled), until i also charge my phone. Than it's a disaster. Static noise overload.

If i now connect a DAC will it filter out this static noise?
But the line from PC/phone to DAC already is not perfect. So hows that working.
How do you get the audio "cleaned" if its already ruined down the line.

Maby i don't get it and thats all bs. So i'm asking.

A better power supply/power cable will clean up static in audio.

Also, a better sound card will clean audio.

A DAC converts the digital source to analog so we can hear the sound. Because we humans hear in analogue and not digital. Pcs and any piece of electronic that you can hear audio from, contain built in DACs.

Electronics that do not contain DACs are called transporters and require an external DAC to be able to hear the music.

> disclaimer

I am no expert either, I'm just getting into audio as well. So I may be wrong., on the part where I said a better power supply would remove static. But I do hear on forums people saying a high grade power supply/power cable provides cleaner and better audio. This is why I invited zoltan to this conversation, because he knows more about audio then I do. at least I hope so.

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The two most obvious causes of static are when you are increasing the volume over 100% in software and noise after the signal has been transferred to analog. Having an external dac will help prevent the latter, especially if you make sure no electronics like your phone is close to your headphone cables. And if dac has a built in amp that is more than powerful enough for your headphones, that should prevent the former. I guess bad source would be the next most obvious cause.

Correct, a DAC can't clean a signal that is already shit. But that is not what a DAC does. This is:
It gets a data feed (preferably over USB) and converts that into analog line level audio.
The next thing in the chain is an amp to push the signal through speakers or headphones.

it looks like your pc itself is causing the static. It could come from the powersupply or motherboard. If you just want music, get some good speakers, a dedicated mp3 player and any amp (no need for the overpriced x7).

You have $300 plus to spend? Uh no sound blaster x7. Please don't do that.
Get the Aune X1s. Much better. Plus you don't need to spend that much at all.

So that static you are hearing is from the analog signal getting messed up. Not the digital. Unless you have your mic turned up 100 percent. That will giving hissing bc air pressure.

One of two things is happening. One your on board DAC sucks. Which is kind of hard to believe it's that bad. Or two the signal is being all messed up. Which is happening in your phone for sure. Again you must have some really old tech.

For pc just get an external dac no need for a sound card those are on the way out.

As for your phone you can't use your headphone jack as an output to a dac. Well you can but there is no point. You need a digital signal. Headphone jacks are analog. DAC means digital to analog converter. Besides most dacs don't have an analog in anyway. So you can't charge your phone and play Thur a dac unless you get a dongle. Fuck you apple. But it make sense sadly.

There is a whole bunch of bullshit around the web about dacs and the audio world. Basiclly more isn't always better. More can actually be worse. More generally means better quality of build and comfort. As it goes for all audio stuff if it isn't horrible it's just as good as the next thing. Do your self a favor and spend a little less on the DAC and AMP and get a nice comfortable pair of headphones. Well worth.

Buy for what you need. If you happen to have the cash floating around why not.
Schitt Aune SMSL Fiio they all make good stuff.

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If it's an external DAC the chances of PC electromagnetic interference is lowered significantly to none. If you're connecting your Sound Blaster X7 through optical cable or USB, the only thing it should be carrying is the digital signal of the sound, nothing more, but if you're connecting it with an analogue connection using 3.5mm output from your mobo to the 3.5mm input to your DAC/Amp combo, the signal of the EMI from PC will carry.


Don't listen to audiophile snobs around here. I would totally recommend the X7 as an all around sound system. It's got powerful enough amp for most power demanding headphones such as a Audeze's LCD headphones, plus, the input option is wide and varied. Also, it has a built in Dolby Digital/DTS-surround-to-Stereo-Headphones-virtualization so that eliminates the need for gimmicky gaming headphones that does subpar surround virtualization in the USB dongle.

Creative labs stuff always needs their own drivers. Most standalone USB DACs don't. I can use my V-DACII on anything from windows, mac, linux to even a PS4 because it is standard USB audio, no driver required.

Also I would not recommend any all in one solution. A good USB DAC is something to buy once. Amps can be fun to play around with.

no. If there is already noise, it can't remove it. If there is static noise when you charge your phone, it seems like it is probably because of interference. Having an external dac to distance your headphone cable from the interference will probably eliminate the static. You don't need to spend $400 on a dac either. So basically when the signal is digital, it holds up to interference really well, because everything is either a 1 or a 0 the interference would have to be super severe to make the dac have an error reading it. But after the signal is converted from digital to analog (what dacs do) it becomes vulnerable. So using the built in dac of a motherboard of your cell phone, means the analog signal goes through a noisy environment.

I would recommend a Schiit Magni 2 Uber and Schiit Modi 2 which would cost $250. Schiit is one of the highest regarded brands in the audiophile community for providing great quality and a solid value.

Seriously, don't buy into HiFi DAC's or any other bullshit like that, buy a good device that is made to last and made to just work in every application.

My recommendations for platform-independent DAC's for the moment are the Steinberg UR series MkII and the Audient id series. Both of these are entirely class compliant and will work with all operating systems and all mobile devices. The Steinberg has a better DAC chip, capable of 225 kHz sampling, which means there is headroom for the 192 kHz standard in just about any environment. The Steinberg has modern high quality amplification circuits on the in- and output ends, and independent monitor and headphone output with separate volume control. The Audient sounds a bit less modern by choice, the DAC is a bit less capable, has a few less options, but it's every bit as solidly built.

Hook up active speakers of your choice or an amp and speakers if you prefer that, as long as it's powered by the grid, not by USB, because 5V USB or a 12V wallwart cannot bring what is needed for decent amplification. The overall result will bury any USB DAC/amp solution. ANd you'll probably save money, especially in the long run.

Why go with a full blown audio interface that isn't needed and has a kind of weak headphone amp?

1200 mW @ 32ohm is weak? Ok....lol.

It takes in optical, so it can work on almost anything with optical out which all consoles use, and most PC mobos have an optical out, not only that but you can use it with heaphones or speakers. This is a universal and flexible device, for most mainstream consumers this is more than what they'll ever need.

This has a wallwart for 24v.
DAC quality is subjective and mostly likely won't be noticeable to most, this external dac/amp as an op-amp interchangeability, however, which is what is going to influence the sound signature the most. So op has options here, if it's to bright he can change op-amp for a warmer sound.

btw @DarkStroker, if you're concerned about OS support the dac/amp you're looking for does have all these drivers for:

You'd only be hating it if you were a linux centric user.

Where did you get that number on the Steinberg?

Sorry, should have been more clear in the first place.

Audio interfaces like the Steinberg UR22 MkII have amps that are "good enough" for monitoring. They are not designed to take high impedance headphones. So why buy into that instead of a proper amp and a DAC?

OK, maybe the X7 isn't that bad at all. I still don't like all in one things. There is always something I want to do with those that just doesn't work. And (ignoring the software features because creative labs software sucks) it isn't even cheaper than getting separate devices.

I bought the Musical Fidelity V-DACII for 120,- Euro used. It is at least on par with the O-DAC. Behind that I can put whatever I want. active speakers, headphone amps, speaker amps....

So that would be my suggestion.

I get ya, I have a separate DAC and an AMP too, but we can't deny that it's a growing demand too. This is why most manufacturers are going now.

That number is what pops up in the official Yamaha documentation for the chip that is used.

amps that are "good enough"... preamps are more linear than most, the shielding is better than most, it's a calibrated circuit with a shit ton of headroom in comparison to Hi-Fi circuits in the MkII of the UR and the Audient. These are not quite as toylike as the Focusrite Scarletts or the Behringer whatevers lol.

An op-amp is an op-amp, you don't need to switch them out, they're all pretty much the same, there are less differences between different models than between different units of the same make basically in many instances. An op-amp is made to be as close as possible to a theoretically ideal amplifier. Yeah you could go for a j-fet model and have leakage like with a tube if you like that, but it's certainly not higher fidelity than a standard mos-fet model. Whether they are discrete or not, is also a matter of application. In a strip, wher you'll want like 70 or 80 dB of gain for dynamic mics and a really low noise floor, discrete makes sense, but isn't as much of an asset as it used to be, and that application is not what is looked for here.

The outputs of the Steinberg or Audient leave nothing to be desired. There are made for powered reference monitors, have lots more headroom and a flatter impedance curve than Hi-Fi pre-amps, and they can do balanced signal transport without modifications, which in the Hi-Fi world is an ultra high end feature.

A grid powered amp with a real transformer will colour the sound like those things do, with lots of energy to spare for a much better power stage amplification than any PWM-powered or TriPath amp design could ever do, mind you, those chip-based PWM power supplies inside get high frequency switching low potential and low current power themselves from a wall wart, there is only so much they can do. The colouring of PWM-powered power amps (so-called Class D amps) and TriPath amps (so-called Class T amps) is digital, it's audible, it's more linear than an iron transformer coloured amp, but it's generally perceived as less pleasing. That is all of course a matter of taste, basically a matter of preference in the direction and the amount of colouring. Some might not want that, but might want a linear auditioning or monitoring setup. A grid-powered set of active speakers or amp can give anyone the exact custom experience he/she wants. I find it impossible to give recommendations on that level, but there are quite a lot of good options for very little money these days, from linear monitors (e.g. Fluid F5) for less than 200 bucks to an Onkyo intergrated amp with a pair of PolkAudio bookshelf speakers for a high-end Hi-Fi listening experience that lasts a lifetime. Those solutions are barely more expensive than some of the DAC/amp frivolities being sold, yet those frivolities are buspowered with 5V 500 mA or have a switching wallwart with very little to offer in terms of reliability, longevity and enough power to provide a lasting custom listening experience.

Any grid-powered integrated or power amp will have enough power to make for a far superior listening experience on any type of headphones in comparison to something that's powered by a wallwart. On most integrated amps, the headphone bus is directly powered by the end stage, just like the speakers. That also means that there is consistency in the listening experience. People who don't want that, can buy a studio grade headphone amp for very little money, and still have a headphone amplifier with real transformers in it.

Going for studio/reference is always a pretty good idea, because of multiple factors:
1. there are plugins now that you can run realtime with a perfect simulation of some of the best and most unattainable gear on the planet. You can't buy the gear that delivers this kind of colouring to the sound, but you can get exactly the same with plugins, either high resolution usual plugins or convolution ones, of which the difference with the real thing is super minimal.
2. you can always EQ to your preference. It beat having a setup that will colour to a fixed setting, because that takes away EQ-ing range, which is not the case with reference stuff.
3. if you go for reference stuff, you'll have a clean linear output wherever you use it, something that you can work with, that gives you all the options. Whether from an iPad or from a desktop PC, it'll always make it possible to get that same favorite listening experience.

Back in the day, it was the linear high quality stuff that cost a lot of money, and the non-linear crappy stuff that was cheap, but now it seems the other way around lol, because then there are the tolerances with which these DAC/amp products are often made in Shenzhen or is a garage somewhere. That is another big problem.


Before thinking of buying a DAC you should isolate that it is your motherboards audio solution that is crap. Look to see if you have any wires running past or by the audio cable and the audio solution itself. Try plugging it in the rear ports to see if you still get static. It may just be EMI messing with the signal.

The only MkII Steinberg I can find is USB powered.

Could you condense your wall of text down to the point you are trying to make?
Because I don't see it.

jesus. So much replys and text.

Ok thanks. DAC = Digital to analog = USB to 3,5 mm audio. Got it.
I thoughtits something you can hook up between 2 3,5mm audio lines that makes that then somehow makes the audio more smooth. My bad.

So my headphones are the Beyerdynamic Custom Studio (80 Ohm). I would say, there are solid. Not a problem.
I tested them on a HiFi System (Cambridge Audio). It was perfect. I guess its my mainboard. Its 3 years old and only costed 120 €
I thought the Sound Blaster X7 is a good idea, because i want to get
- better more crisp headphone audio quality without interference.
- connect some speakers
- switch between speakers and headphones without minimizing the game/program/music/browser and go to the system control panel.
- want to connect my phone (via Bluetooth [i know. audiophiles are screaming ])
- PC + Phone audio mixing
- It does surround sound emulation that could be cool for gaming (I know its not a big thing, mostly marketing and only software. (audiophiles wanting to kill me right now)
- Mic input, filtering and stuff. Better than pluging it to the onboard.

I don't "only" want a DAC. I just wondered about the DACs function.

But thanks for pointing out that it is not Linux compatible. Thats a problem.
Are there any alternatives?

Or do i need the driver that bad? Is it necessary to passthru sound or is it only needed to config the device?
Could i configure it with my android phone linked to the device that is connected to the Linux PC and control the settings that way?

Or do you guys have any other suggestions what i should buy. I know there are audio solutions out there that do all this stuff, but split into multiple devices. And it costs much more. Most of that stuff is also hifi stuff. I don't really have the money for that.
So is this that bad?


What headphones are you using and/or are planning to use? I can help with specific DACs and amps if I know the headphones. Nevermind, you replied while I was typing.

Have you ever used one of those cheap USB audio adapters? They should clear up static if it's caused by EMI coming from your power devices. Computers and chargers are wicked noisy in terms of EMI, so it's pretty normal to hear static when headphone/audio cables are near them.

Sorry if some of this has been covered in this thread already, but I kinda don't want to bother with the walls of text above.

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Why this?

And what mic are you using?