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Newbie here with PC questions

fibbi

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Hi all, I'm a newbie here and this is my first post. I'm trying to learn more and to improve my music listening experience.

Hope you don't mind if I ask real simple question.

Goal is to improve my PC sound (mostly listen to youtube/apple music , CD rarely, considering tidal). I don't play video game.
I recently got a new sound card (Sound Blaster AE7) so I use no more on-board sound on my desktop. I was trying to get Asus Essence STX 2 (review seems good) but it's not available. And I have Harmon Kardon Sound Stick 2 (wire not bluetooth).

After installing the AE7 the sound is better but not by a lot. Would you have any other suggestion how to improve the sound quality? External DAC? Any brand? If I use an external DAC then I have to use the on board sound card right? Because AE7 already have a DAC?

Any input is appreciated, thanks a lot!
 

VMAT4

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I think you may want to tells what headphones or speakers you are using also.
 

voodooless

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I doubt another DAC will improve things unless you have noise or crackling. In that case, a USB DAC might work. Topping D10s, E30 or equivalent might be of interest. But the speakers have the biggest impact on sound. Changing them will yield much more improvement.
 

Digby

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Biggest improvement would be to change the speakers. The speakers are your limiting factor here. Speakers that are much better may well be larger than you want (bookshelf size speakers). How much money you want to spend will also be a factor.
 

BDWoody

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Hi all, I'm a newbie here and this is my first post. I'm trying to learn more and to improve my music listening experience.

Welcome!

When looking for improvement, I start with pieces that have moving parts like speakers, headphones and cartridges if you are into turntables. Those are literally the motors that generate what we hear. Solid state electronics has gotten very predictably good, so i'd leave that for last.

What speakers and amplification are you using now? Your biggest bang for buck is almost always going to be with speakers (do you have a subwoofer?) and room correction so you are getting your speakers to play nicely with your room.
 

staticV3

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If I use an external DAC then I have to use the on board sound card right? Because AE7 already have a DAC?
You can only ever use one DAC.
Either the one built into your motherboard.
Or the AE7 via PCIe.
Or some other DAC via USB.

If you use an external DAC then you cannot at the same time use the on board sound card. It's one or the other.

Generally, digital to analog conversion is a solved problem and has been for quite some time now. Even cheap DACs nowadays are audibly transparent and so it's unlikely that getting a new one will do anything to sound quality.

If you want to improve the sound, try new speakers/headphones and learn to EQ.
 

Digby

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These are the speakers.

$_86.JPG
 

staticV3

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Your biggest bang for buck is almost always going to be with speakers
I disagree. My $5 MH755 sounds amazing with EQ and the $9 Apple dongle.

You'd have to spend 10-20x that at least for somewhat competent speakers.
The only advantages I see are palpable bass and more reverb (->soundstage). The disadvantages are numerous.
 

Jimbob54

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These are the speakers.

$_86.JPG
Unless you are going to dabble with eq I would have thought you have taken them as far as you can go.

EDIT- apologies @Digby , hadnt clocked you were not the OP when you posted the pic.
 
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fibbi

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thank you @Digby for the speaker pic. I have space issue on my desk so I chose this set. I don’t use headphone (hard to fine one that sit comfortably for long time and I don’t like not able to hear outside) .
So I would like to improve other component first before I change my speaker. Or would there be another speaker that is similar size (slim) but better quality?
I know I am not going to archieve really great performance here but I am hoping to be able to hear a little bit soundstage and clearer/cleaner sound when I listen to classical .
Thanks a lot . So greatly appreciated!


This is my desktop . I don’t have much space besides my monitor .
 

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fibbi

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Biggest improvement would be to change the speakers. The speakers are your limiting factor here. Speakers that are much better may well be larger than you want (bookshelf size speakers). How much money you want to spend will also be a factor.
I'm willing to spend around 1K (I know this is not a lot in Hi-fi world), but space is really an issue.
Plus if I get better speaker I need amp? pre-amp? I have no knowledge on those (yet). Where can I learn all these? It gets complicated...

I was a bit upset when after spending $300 on sound card, my bose headphone glasses (connect via bluetooth to my iphone, listening to apple music) still sound much better than my desktop PC set.
I was listening to this song: Adrian Berenguer - Red Dress.
 

NiagaraPete

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tonycollinet

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thank you @Digby for the speaker pic. I have space issue on my desk so I chose this set. I don’t use headphone (hard to fine one that sit comfortably for long time and I don’t like not able to hear outside) .
So I would like to improve other component first before I change my speaker. Or would there be another speaker that is similar size (slim) but better quality?
I know I am not going to archieve really great performance here but I am hoping to be able to hear a little bit soundstage and clearer/cleaner sound when I listen to classical .
Thanks a lot . So greatly appreciated!


This is my desktop . I don’t have much space besides my monitor .
Your problem is that it is the speakers that are limiting your sound quality. With the soundblaster you are already sending them a much better signal than they are able to play. It doesn't matter what you do to the electronics to improve that signal - the speakers wont allow you to hear any improvement (even if there is one).

And similar sized speakers are probably not going to sound much better.

So - if you don't want to change the speakers, that is fine - but don't waste your money trying to improve the electronics (soundcard, DAC or whatever) : you won't get any benefit.


Within your budget, those Genelecs suggested by @NiagaraPete will improve your sound beyond belief compared with the HK's. No amplifier needed, amp is built into the speakers and sub.
 

LTig

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ZolaIII

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@fibbi start using a player with comprehensive DSP chain, buy a deacent mesurument mic and learn how to use EQ and do room correction in conjunction with it, buy a better speakers. For 1K $-€ you can get rather deacent active speakers, maybe even amplifier and pasive speakers combo (possible even for less money). As a honorable mention on the active monitor's side I will mention Kali in 8 V2. I won't give proposals regarding power amp and pasive speakers as there is to much subjective factors which I don't want to try to fit them in (Aesthetics, space requirements, additional functionality and such). Let's just say that there are still relatively cheap good pasive speakers from Warfadale, Polk, Elac and such which could live place in such budget for some rather serious power amplifier (either from traditional brands or SoM based class G-H one's from less known one's). Needles to say it's really desirable that you hear the speakers and make sure that's what you want before you buy them. Mic is 75~80 $ (for UMIK 1) or little more (not that you need much better one).
 
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D

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Hi all, I'm a newbie here and this is my first post. I'm trying to learn more and to improve my music listening experience.

Hope you don't mind if I ask real simple question.

Goal is to improve my PC sound (mostly listen to youtube/apple music , CD rarely, considering tidal). I don't play video game.
I recently got a new sound card (Sound Blaster AE7) so I use no more on-board sound on my desktop. I was trying to get Asus Essence STX 2 (review seems good) but it's not available. And I have Harmon Kardon Sound Stick 2 (wire not bluetooth).

After installing the AE7 the sound is better but not by a lot. Would you have any other suggestion how to improve the sound quality? External DAC? Any brand? If I use an external DAC then I have to use the on board sound card right? Because AE7 already have a DAC?

Any input is appreciated, thanks a lot!

I take it you're running Windows?

This page might give you some help...

The biggest problem with Windows audio is it's shared mode in which everything you play has to be re-sampled to the settings in your control panel. This, obviously, results in sonic degradation since you are actually changing the content of everything you play. The work around is to use the Windows Audio Session API in Exclusive Mode, where you can play your files in bit-exact accuracy. The page shows you how to set that up.
 

BeerBear

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The biggest problem with Windows audio is it's shared mode in which everything you play has to be re-sampled to the settings in your control panel. This, obviously, results in sonic degradation since you are actually changing the content of everything you play.
Have you done any blind tests to confirm that the resampling is audible? Because from what I've seen it's probably not a significant problem. There's an audio example in this post.
 
D

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Have you done any blind tests to confirm that the resampling is audible? Because from what I've seen it's probably not a significant problem. There's an audio example in this post.

There are more and other differences in Exclusive Mode than just getting rid of the resampling.

Trust me on this one ... the difference doesn't need blind tests of AP scans ... it's freaking obvious.
 
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