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Genelec 8030 powered monitors - audio interface or DAC for best sound from PC?

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#1
Hi, please help me with a pretty basic query I think.

I have ordered a pair of Genelec 8030s (powered but analogue input) just for listening to music and some TV (2.0) from my PC source.

I have read that an audio interface can be better value than a dedicated DAC or DAC+preamp for this - even though audio interfaces focus on preamp inputs and headphone amps in addition to their DACs.

I won't be using headphones or inputs besides the PC source, so for me it's purely about the monitor out/line out sound quality
(I also want to run another pair of powered speakers in a separate room simultaneously if that's relevant).

I have read conflicting things about whether a dedicated DAC/DAC+preamp would yield better sound quality than an audio interface for this.

My budget is maybe around $100-400 USD (I'm in Australia), so I've looked at

DACs like the Toppings, Project Pre Box S2, Cambridge Audio Dac Magic Plus
Audio interfaces like the MOTU M2

1. I know that something like the MOTU has a good DAC and a good flat freq response from its line-outs, but what about its line-out preamp signal in general? Would any of the dedicated DACs I mention produce better (more accurate or otherwise) sound?

2. I have read about the issues with both digital and analogue volume controls degrading the signal. Is this relevant to what type of device I choose?

Thanks.
 

gvl

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#2
Motu M2 is likely good enough, it may perform a bit worse technically than some of the DACs we've seen lately but whatever delta there is its not likely be audible. Digital volume control is fine unless you're feeding a sensitive amp and need to dial down a lot, like 30db or more for your typical listening volume level. You do want balanced outputs for the Genelecs, so if you go with a DAC /preamp pick one that has them.
 
OP
Z
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Thread Starter #3
Thank you for confirming I should get balanced outputs - that narrows it down.

Here are the sensitivity specs on these Genelecs. Would this be considered sensitive enough that I'd have to dial the volume down a lot (for such DACs or audio interfaces)?
Input level for 100 dB SPL output at 1 m: -6 dBu
_____________________________________________
Input sensitivity control range relative to max output: -12 dB (Constantly variable)
Note the Genelecs don't have their own volume controls but have a sensitivity adjust dial from -6 to +6.


Also, what if I put an external passive analogue volume knob just before the Genelecs (with either a DAC or audio interface) - could that be better than using the digital volumes?
 

q3cpma

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#4
Also, what if I put an external passive analogue volume knob just before the Genelecs (with either a DAC or audio interface) - could that be better than using the digital volumes?
Doubt it, the DAC noise will be negligible compared to the internal amps'.

About the input sensitivity knob, just leave it at its minimum unless you can't get loud enough.
 

andreasmaaan

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#5
@Zeeb you ask really good questions.

At that price point, there's no difference in quality between the best home audio DACs and the best pro audio interfaces, i.e. you will easily be able to afford something that is flat and clean beyond the limits of human hearing :)

The choice really comes down to features. An interface will have both inputs and outputs, and also a headphone amplifier (although not usually a very powerful one in the price range you're looking in). An interface will also be more likely to have balanced outputs, which is what I suggest you focus on given that your monitors take balanced inputs.

The volume control should function fine regardless whether it's analogue or digital, for the reasons @q3cpma mentioned.

Basically anything green or blue on this chart that has balanced outputs and a volume control will more than adequately do the job (but find Amir's review of the unit and also make sure he hasn't flagged anything that might be amiss):

1603013230989.png


Given you're in Australia, where everything is more expensive, this might be a sensible option. Not on the chart, but uses the same circuits as the Scarlett 2i2, which is on the chart (in green), just with fewer inputs.

Or if you decide you want stereo line level inputs too, the unit Amir reviewed is also there, for an extra $80.
 

AnalogSteph

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#7
Input sensitivity for the 8030C is -6 dBu for 100 dB SPL @ 1 m, which can be turned down by 12 dB (88 dB @ -6 dBu or 100 dB @ +6 dBu). Satisfactory operation should be achieved with any of the usual audio interfaces.

For Behringer UMC202/204HD, set input sensitivity to 3-6 dB down from maximum and adjust monitor control as needed.
For Focusrite Scarlett Solo/2i2 or MOTU M2/M4, set input sensitivity to minimum and adjust monitor control as needed.

Set like this, the MOTUs would achieve a maximum nominal output level of 110.5 dB SPL @1 m and a noise level of -7.5 dB SPL, for not only satisfactory but 100% transparent operation. In the lower-end (CS4272 based) interfaces, turning up the monitor level may still reveal a bit of extra hiss towards the top end.

Since the budget will stretch to an M2, I would suggest one of those. You could cobble something together using a CS43130 based USB dongle (or an Asus Xonar SE), a Behringer HD400 and misc. cabling on a tight budget if really needed.
 
OP
Z
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Thread Starter #8
Thank you everyone for the info and suggestions, this is exactly what I need to know to continue researching. I'll explore the reviews and tests here and reread your replies.
 

3125b

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#9
Just get a transparent (<99dB SINAD) balanced DAC with USB input.
You don't necessarily need a volume control, you could use the stock Windows control. It's a question of perference.
The Schiit Modius is a good balanced DAC at a budget, as is the Soncoz LA-QDX1, both have been reviewed by Amir. The Grace Balanced DAC from drop.com is also an option that would fullfill the criterium of being audibly transparent, however just so, don't know if it's really worth it for the price, also reviewed here.
The Motu M2 is an option as well, it offers quite a few features, and as a DAC it isn't much worse (no audible difference for sure) than the best in class. You might not need the headphone output or mic input now, however having those might come in handy in the future. You should seriously consider it. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any connectivity other than USB, wich is something some dedicated DACs offer (especially Toslink for home cinema stuff).
The Reviews:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/schiit-modius-balanced-dac-review.13769/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/soncoz-la-qxd1-balanced-dac-review.13459/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...asurements-of-grace-design-balanced-dac.8201/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/motu-m4-audio-interface-review.15757/ (that's the M4, should be similar to M2 in performance)
Well, you could also go for one of the balanced dongles if you really want to save some money, the cheapes good option woukld be the TempoTec Sonata HD Pro for about 40$.
 

Cbdb2

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#10
Not sure if anyones mentioned, but Genelecs are usualy pro level inputs on xlrs, ie ballanced and +4dbu nominal level. This is 10db hotter than consumer levels so you might have to boost the signal out of a cosumer DAC by 10db.
 

ElNino

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#11
Not sure if anyones mentioned, but Genelecs are usualy pro level inputs on xlrs, ie ballanced and +4dbu nominal level. This is 10db hotter than consumer levels so you might have to boost the signal out of a cosumer DAC by 10db.
The 8030 is actually a -6 dBu input (ref 100dB/1m), although there's a knob to make it less sensitive. So it's really designed to accommodate consumer balanced DACs.
 
OP
Z
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Thread Starter #12
I just ordered the Soncoz SGD1 DAC for the Genelecs.

I decided to go balanced, and got down to the Topping D70, DX7s and DX7 Pro, the MOTU M4
- and the Soncoz LA-QDX1

I ruled out the MOTU because I understand it disables Windows 10 volume completely and doesn't have a remote control.

I ruled out the Toppings because of reports that the balanced (and more expensive) ones have serious screen burn in and some have faulty volume controls - which other Toppings like the DX3 Pro and E30 don't.

This review convinced me to go for the Soncoz LA-QDX1:
(hard to hear - open the transcript)

I then saw there were teething problems with the LA-QDX1 in the review thread here - but also saw that Soncoz offers a partial lifetime warranty (you pay for parts and shipping) and is active on this forum.

Here is the warranty (you have to buy it directly from them I think):
https://www.soncozaudio.com/warranty-service/

I didn't want to spend over about $250US without reliability or a good warranty. So when I saw that the 'big brother' Soncoz SGD1 had this warranty and a remote control - and that it was more mature than the LA-QDX1 I took the plunge.

(The SMSL SU-9 also looked good but I felt more confident about the Soncoz for the above reasons.)

Thanks for your help everyone - I'm looking forward to trying it out.
 
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