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DAC + crappy Active 2.1 vs input to Mobo

Kix1991

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Nov 12, 2022
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Hello!

I'm just getting started on this journey from the Logitech Z623's (2 speakers and 1 subwoofer+amp) no less and while waiting for my amp (SMSL A300) and speakers (Triangle BR02) to arrive decided to plug my DAC (SMSL D300) into my pc via USB to compare against what I was using (Motherboard Realtek ALC887/897 7.1 Surround Sound High Definition Audio CODEC) since I've heard the Realtek ALC887 chips weren't very good.

While I noticed volume range has increased significantly allowing for much louder volume settings playing Lossless/Hires Lossless files on Apple Music there seem to be only very slight differences - and it might definitely be placebo.

Since I'm still an uneducated peasant in this scene wanted to ask if the test I'm doing is, essentially, a stupid test?
Am I supposed to expect any noticeable differences between connecting my subwoofer to a a DAC with stereo RCA cables vs connecting my subwoofer to the PC with the standard green 3.5mm headphone jack cables?
Might it be that there's a bottleneck somewhere on my cheap active system's amp that doesn't utilize the DAC properly?
Are my ears too uncultured and unable to appreciate the difference I'm supposed to get?
Or did I just spend ~350 USD on a paperweight? (Technically - I know it's required to feed input to my amp, but I got sold this over the cheaper SMSL SU-6 at 150 USD because the "Balanced" features and Rohm chip were supposed to provide a noticeable difference)
 
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somebodyelse

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Given how good inexpensive DACs have become, they're probably the least likely part of the chain to make an audible difference, unless there is a specific problem you need to fix. Motherboard audio is quite variable and audible problems (hiss, ground related issues like hearing noise with mouse movement or GPU activity) aren't unusual, but if you don't have a problem to fix it may be hard to tell the difference.

Balanced interconnects are one way to sidestep ground related issues (so long as they're implemented correctly) and the amp and speakers are much more likely to be audibly different.
 

asorle

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It is very unlikely that anyone could tell the difference in your case if there are no obvious issues with onboard audio like high noise floor. Mostly where differences are heard when comparing onboard audio is when using headphones because the onboard amp is lacking clean power. When you get your speakers do a comparison then and see if you can tell a difference.
 
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Kix1991

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Thank you both for your replies, seems I may have just wasted 200 USD that could have been put toward a better amp / speakers then. Thanks though, always good to learn something everyday.
 
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