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Topic: Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio? (Read 4423 times) previous topic - next topic

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  • partogi
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Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio?
I'm using VIA VT2021 onboard and when compared to my previously owned Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD, there is no difference in quality. It's just the titanium HD sounds a bit louder than my onboard. What about you?

There is this "DAC" thing like this:


How is this compared to today's onboard audio?

Thank you.

  • stv014
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Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio?
Reply #1
If used as a line output, onboard audio on recently made motherboards can work well if the implementation is good enough. If not, then noise (interference from other parts of the computer) is the most common problem. If you did not hear a difference compared to the Titanium HD, then buying a more expensive external DAC is probably not worth it either.

  • db1989
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  • Global Moderator
Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio?
Reply #2
We have a lot of previous threads that you could search for about DACs and the (un)likelihood that paying appreciable sums of money for them is worthwhile.

  • partogi
  • [*]
Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio?
Reply #3
If used as a line output, onboard audio on recently made motherboards can work well if the implementation is good enough. If not, then noise (interference from other parts of the computer) is the most common problem. If you did not hear a difference compared to the Titanium HD, then buying a more expensive external DAC is probably not worth it either.

What is line output?

What about this? Is this line output? I used this setting when connecting the card to my speaker.
  . I'm just curious about how people on Newegg "worshipping" this card.
  • Last Edit: 14 September, 2013, 09:53:27 AM by partogi

  • uart
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Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio?
Reply #4
What is line output? What about this? Is this line output?

Line out means using the analog output of the card to drive an amplifier or powered speakers, as opposed to using it to drive headphones directly. If you were using headphones directly from your onboard sound, then it still might sound ok but there's more potential for audible differences compared to a dedicated sound card in this case.

There are two main reasons why you're less likely to have any issues when using it as a simple line-out.

1. Volume control and sensitivity. If your phones are high sensitivity and you are listening at low volume levels then you're much more likely to hear the noise floor. When connected to an amp or powered speakers however, you can always leave the mixer sliders at a high setting on the computer and just turn down the volume on the amp/speakers. This greatly improves the noise floor.

2. The other problem is that onboard implementations often skimp a bit on coupling capacitors and as a result the low frequency performance can suffer when directly driving low impedance phones.

I've also found the analog out on recent mainboards to often be quite good, particularly as a simple line-out. My Gigabyte mainboard has a realtek ALC 889 implementation that I've found to be fairly good.
  • Last Edit: 14 September, 2013, 11:03:15 AM by uart

  • Audible!
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Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio?
Reply #5
If you'd like to test your onboard solution you can use a M-M stereo headphone plug cable to do loopback testing with RMMA.
Results can vary depending on sampling rate & word length; here you'd be limited by the ADC.

24bit/192KHz recording and 10 analog output channels makes the VT2021 a "high end" CODEC. Via claims SNRs to 110dB on the 5 DACs and 100dB on the ADCs. 
Recording at 24/192 with a stated device SNR of 100dB is kind of funny, but for many folks 'more bytes is more better'.
With a halfway decent implementation it's easy to believe your motherboard provides completely transparent playback

Gigabyte makes some Haswell Core "Sniper" branded motherboards with modular op-amps and Nichicon capacitors. I would assume they also sound just fine; one wonders how easily an ABX test of the available opamps could be successfully accomplished.

Recall that Aopen once slapped an analog Tube Amp onto a PC133 powered Pentium IV (ugh!) motherboard with an old AC97 CODEC.

  • stv014
  • [*]
Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio?
Reply #6
one wonders how easily an ABX test of the available opamps could be successfully accomplished.


On a line output, chances are that they would sound the same. Some may not work very well driving a low impedance headphone load, however.

Some possible approaches:
- two motherboards using different op amps playing the test track at matched levels and as accurately synchronized as possible (the latter part is the relatively difficult one), connected to a hardware ABX switch box
- if op amps can be swapped separately on pairs of channels for a multichannel output, where all channels have otherwise the same specs, then it is possible to perform the test with a single motherboard and stereo upmixing; this also makes accurate synchronization easy
- software based method: record the output (with a headphone load attached if necessary) with both op amps, and compare it with ABX software like foo_abx after editing the recorded samples for any necessary level matching (should not be needed if the only change is swapping an op amp) and synchronization
- alternative software method: compare the recorded audio to the original sample. This is mostly useful for testing transparency, there is an example here

The software methods are easier to implement correctly, and provide all the convenience of the ABX comparator software, but the recording process introduces more variables to the test. With recorded audio, it is also possible to extract a difference signal like this one - it is much easier if the playback DAC and recording ADC share the same clock.

However, as noted above, I would not expect audible differences between op amps that have reasonable specifications and are used in suitable applications (so not something like driving headphones with a TL072). Most often when an audible or even significant difference is reported, it is because of subjective bias, or inappropriate usage of the chips.

  • uart
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Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio?
Reply #7
If you'd like to test your onboard solution you can use a M-M stereo headphone plug cable to do loopback testing with RMMA.
Results can vary depending on sampling rate & word length; here you'd be limited by the ADC.


The loopback tests on my old GA780G motherobard showed pretty decent performance as a line-out, but unfortunately the bass roll off was really poor with 32 ohm phones connected (and of course even worse with even lower impedance phones). I knew I either had to either get a dedicated sound card or a headphones amp to get acceptable bass performance. In the end I built a cheap little phones amp for inside my computer case and that solved the problem. Below is a link to the RMMA loop back performance I measured for the onboard audio (ALC 889), with the phones amp in the loop.

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....ost&id=5289

  • rewe3
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Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio?
Reply #8
I have recently bought the X-Fi HD mentioned in this thread and the Fiio E10, because i was curious if i'd really get to hear a sound improvement.
Before that I've been using my Beyerdynamics T90 by directly connecting it to the PC chasis. As for the motherboard it's a ASRock B75.
And to be honest i can't seem to hear any improvement at all.

When I use the headphones without any external DAC, i can hear a really quite noise floor, which is only audible (to me) without any music playing.
But when I use any of these two DACs mentioned above (they both sound the same to me), the only difference I seem to notice
is that i can turn the music louder then before. AND it somehow amplifys the noise floor, meaning when I turn up the volume the noise gets louder. 
The noise that I hear without the USB DAC atleast doesn't get louder when I turn up the volume.
  • Last Edit: 30 September, 2013, 02:53:55 PM by rewe3

Anyone with Essence STX or Titanium HD vs Z77 or Z87 onboard audio?
Reply #9
I'm using VIA VT2021 onboard and when compared to my previously owned Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD, there is no difference in quality. It's just the titanium HD sounds a bit louder than my onboard. What about you?

There is this "DAC" thing like this:


How is this compared to today's onboard audio?


Rule number one in modern is that once an audio component achieves sonically transparent performance, then its sound quality cannot be further improved upon.

In general modern on-board audio interfaces have reached this level.