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looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

hi
i have a Densen BEAT B-100 & a Marantz MM7025 amply
as headphone i own Sennheiser HD 598 and Grado Prestige Series SR225e (my favorite compared to 598)

well on my desktop  has a realtek alc887 and my laptop alc892 (without digital output) , i did search a lot about the differents between them , some users say they are the same other the 892 is a big improvement ,honestly i don' know

i would like to improve my audio card ,i'm thinking about an usb audio card, easy to plug even i have a big fractal case and there is enough room , but about internal audio card i'm worried about electric interferences

so please could you advise me a decent audio card that can improve the realtek chip on my motherboards?

is better usb ?
and can you advises a model ? i think to spend around 100€ - 150€
in short the best i can get at the lower price
my purpose -> connect to my amply and listen music with my headphones

thanks
and i'm really sorry for my poor english

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #1
Quote
i would like to improve my audio card ,i'm thinking about an usb audio card,
What's wrong with the sound you have now?

Quote
users say they are the same other the 892 is a big improvement ,honestly i don' know
People make all kinds of claims..   If your not hearing excessive noise, your probably not going to improve on the sound quality your currently getting...  Distortion and frequency response are usually not a problem with soundcards,    Except sometimes, the output impedance is not low enough and that can cause frequency response variations with headphones.

If you just need to "go louder" with headphones or if you think you've got an impedance problem, you can get a headphone amp.  

If you've got noise, a inexpensive USB soundcard might help (although sometimes noise gets-in through the USB power).   I wouldn't recommend getting the cheapest one you can find, but I have this one and it "sounds fine".   I don't hear any noise with my headphones when the audio is silent/paused and it goes louder than the headphone output on my laptop.  (I have not measured frequency response with headphones...  I haven't measured frequency response with a line connection to my stereo system either, but there's no reason for that to be an issue.)

If you want to go "higher end", you can get a USB Audio Interface, but realistically these are made for recording and a regular soundcard is often good enough for playback.

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #2
Quote
i would like to improve my audio card ,i'm thinking about an usb audio card,
What's wrong with the sound you have now?
Hi  @DVDdoug
i'm play music mostly via speaker (let's say at 90% ) and sometime via headphones
i have spent money for my amply and my speakers, i would like to improve the audio quality when i play flac with foobar
i don't hear noise , i can hear noise only if i stop music and raise the volume at 70%
i play mostly with the volume at 7-10 is really powerfull

realtek hd are cheap components ,i can hear the difference when i play a cd with my marantz special edition Ken Ishira Signature"i spent a lot for this player"  (i hear immediatly the different between my dekstop or laptop and my cd player connected to my amply) i would like only to increase experience and send a better signal to the amply when i listen music

DVDdoug  do you say an external usb audio card won't improve my music experience? maybe 150€ is too low for an external usb audio card
honestly I don't know much about audio card
thanks DVDdoug for you kindness and sorry for my poor english


Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #3
hi
i have a Densen BEAT B-100 & a Marantz MM7025 amply
as headphone i own Sennheiser HD 598 and Grado Prestige Series SR225e (my favorite compared to 598)

well on my desktop  has a realtek alc887 and my laptop alc892 (without digital output) , i did search a lot about the differents between them , some users say they are the same other the 892 is a big improvement ,honestly i don' know

First question:. What are these people basing their statements on? 

If they are basing their statements on non-time- synched, non-level-matched, sighted evaluations, then you are wise to dismiss them. These evaluations are known to tell people what they want to hear, which is usually "Spend money".

If they are based on a wise application of measured data, then they have some credibility.  Note, I said "Wise application". I'm ot saying buy better numbers because they exist, but I am saying buying numbers that guarantee blameless sound quality.

Quote
i would like to improve my audio card ,i'm thinking about an usb audio card, easy to plug even i have a big fractal case and there is enough room , but about internal audio card i'm worried about electric interferences

Do you hear any non-musical noises?

Quote
so please could you advise me a decent audio card that can improve the realtek chip on my motherboards?

These are the three most common failings of audio interfaces on computers and smart phones:

(1) Not loud enough to meet your actual needs for playing music for pleasure.

(2) Too high source impedance which in combination with low impedance headphones can create a random equalizer that probably audibly hurts sound quality.

(3) Electrical noise that you can hear.

Quote
is better usb ?

It is theoretically worse, but it can work well enough.

Quote
and can you advises a model ? i think to spend around 100€ - 150€
in short the best i can get at the lower price
my purpose -> connect to my amply and listen music with my headphones

Please tell us what is really bothering you when you listen to music. Don't bother us with what a bunch of poorly informed Placebophiles are gossiping about.

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #4
First question:. What are these people basing their statements on? 
Hi Arnold
just searching around the net , forums users mostly

Quote
Do you hear any non-musical noises?
yes as i said ,raising the volume at vey high level , my amply volume goes from 0 to 100, at around 70 i can hear noise "not too much just like a very light tape noise" ,but i play music with volume at 7-10 because it's really powerfull the volume at 7 or 10 , so i can't hear it

Quote
These are the three most common failings of audio interfaces on computers and smart phones:
i have no of the 3 most common failings

Quote
is better usb ?
It is theoretically worse, but it can work well enough.
i did not know about it ,thanks at least i know it


Quote
Please tell us what is really bothering you when you listen to music
just improve the signal that goes from my dekstop to my amply and have a better audio quality when i listen music with my amply (make my amply sounds better with a better audio card) , maybe because english is not my native language

thanks Arnold

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #5
If you don't have any noise problems and are already using an amp then upgrading your DAC will not help much or at all.

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #6
Quote
just improve the signal that goes from my dekstop to my amply and have a better audio quality when i listen music with my amply (make my amply sounds better with a better audio card) , maybe because english is not my native language
The "traditional" goal of high fidelity is to accurately reproduce the recording.    If you are not hearing anything wrong there's probably nothing to improve.  ;)    You can easily get lead-astray by reading "audiophile" websites.

Of course, if you're not after perfect accuracy and you want to change the sound to your taste, you can use an equalizer to boost the bass or the highs or you could get a receiver (or some software) with Dolby Headphone, or use some other effects such as reverb, compression, etc.     Once you've got a good setup, it's a lot more practical & more economical to adjust the EQ than to randomly look for "better sounding" equipment.

Your headphones should be "good enough", but you might want to look for a pair with a "different" sound.   (Many years ago, I was "getting bored" with the sound of my headphones and I went to the store to find something better...   After listening to the samples at the store, I decided I liked my existing headphones better.     Those headphones have since died, but I still remember being surprised that the more-expensive headphones I was trying-out weren't "better" sounding, at least to my ear.)

Or, maybe it's time to get some new-different music?

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #7
If you don't have any noise problems and are already using an amp then upgrading your DAC will not help much or at all.
hi saratoga date
i got it , i thought that a better audiocard (more expansive) should "play better " then a cheap audiocard
thank you so much to be clear

Quote
If you are not hearing anything wrong there's probably nothing to improve
hi DVDdoug
i will try the foobar EQ
may i ask you what audio card do you have?

and about
Quote
Or, maybe it's time to get some new-different music?
well I own lots of cd ,and yes some play so good ,they were recorderd so great other are recordered clipped

@DVDdoug @saratoga @Arnold thank you so much

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #8
Since you have a pair of 598, I would run some RMAA tests with the headphones connected to an splitter, those headphones are susceptible to high output impedances, which are very likely in the builtin motherboard and also in the headphone out of speaker amps.

For example, here's a pair of tasktar pro 80 with a Ga-z170-gaming k3.

No load (no headphones connected, aka performance into an external amp): 


Now with the headphones:


Now we have bass roll off due to small coupling caps, and an spike at 4.5 KHz caused by its high output impedance, which in the case of the pro80s isn't much of a problem (are pretty much a restrictive load), the zout it's actually about 100 Ohm, which in the 598 would be like this (notice the 100 Ohm graph):





Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #9
Since you have a pair of 598, I would run some RMAA tests with the headphones connected to an splitter, those headphones are susceptible to high output impedances, which are very likely in the builtin motherboard and also in the headphone out of speaker amps.

For example, here's a pair of tasktar pro 80 with a Ga-z170-gaming k3.

No load (no headphones connected, aka performance into an external amp): 


Now with the headphones:


Now we have bass roll off due to small coupling caps, and an spike at 4.5 KHz caused by its high output impedance, which in the case of the pro80s isn't much of a problem (are pretty much a restrictive load), the zout it's actually about 100 Ohm, which in the 598 would be like this (notice the 100 Ohm graph):




I interpret the OP's comments to mean that he doesn't connect the headphones directly to his sound card, but uses an amplifier.

If that is true, the potentially valid concerns that you point out here are irrelevant to him.

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #10
Since you have a pair of 598, I would run some RMAA tests with the headphones connected to an splitter, those headphones are susceptible to high output impedances, which are very likely in the builtin motherboard and also in the headphone out of speaker amps.

For example, here's a pair of tasktar pro 80 with a Ga-z170-gaming k3.

No load (no headphones connected, aka performance into an external amp): 


Now with the headphones:


Now we have bass roll off due to small coupling caps, and an spike at 4.5 KHz caused by its high output impedance, which in the case of the pro80s isn't much of a problem (are pretty much a restrictive load), the zout it's actually about 100 Ohm, which in the 598 would be like this (notice the 100 Ohm graph):




I interpret the OP's comments to mean that he doesn't connect the headphones directly to his sound card, but uses an amplifier.

If that is true, the potentially valid concerns that you point out here are irrelevant to him.

"i have a Densen BEAT B-100 & a Marantz MM7025 amply"

Those are speaker amps.

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #11
"i have a Densen BEAT B-100 & a Marantz MM7025 amply"

Those are speaker amps.

It is a speaker amp, but it is probably reasonable for driving his headphones anyway. 

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #12
"i have a Densen BEAT B-100 & a Marantz MM7025 amply"

Those are speaker amps.

It is a speaker amp, but it is probably reasonable for driving his headphones anyway.

Not really. Hooking headphones directly to the outputs of such powerful amps is not the best idea.

Point well taken. 

The points that were made about the poor quality of PC line output jacks as headphone jacks are right on. They are the reasons why a Topping NX-1 powered by a dedicated USB power supply is a  key part of the sound system this very PC system that I'm typing on.   About $35 for a new one on eBay.  (I forgot about it because it is Velocroed to the underside of the computer table)

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #13
"i have a Densen BEAT B-100 & a Marantz MM7025 amply"

Those are speaker amps.

It is a speaker amp, but it is probably reasonable for driving his headphones anyway.

Not really. Hooking headphones directly to the outputs of such powerful amps is not the best idea.

Point well taken. 

The points that were made about the poor quality of PC line output jacks as headphone jacks are right on. They are the reasons why a Topping NX-1 powered by a dedicated USB power supply is a  key part of the sound system this very PC system that I'm typing on.  About $35 for a new one on eBay.  (I forgot about it because it is Velocroed to the underside of the computer table)


I (And also think him) was referring to the headphone out of the speaker amp, which likely has a high zout.

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #14
I don't think that amp even has a headphone jack, I don't see one anyway, so I suspect he is just hooking up to the speaker outputs.

I don't know if it's a good idea, but since he has the volume low enough to not damage anything, it probably works well enough to be transparent.

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #15
Phoenix1

realtek's output jacks can often be configured to either "headphone out" (i think this setting basically enables the headphone amp circuitry) or "line out", i wonder what setting did you use in your test and whether it makes a difference, i have a suspicion it might as 100ohm zout will render a lot of common headphones sound pretty wacky...


Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #16
I don't think that amp even has a headphone jack, I don't see one anyway, so I suspect he is just hooking up to the speaker outputs.

I don't know if it's a good idea, but since he has the volume low enough to not damage anything, it probably works well enough to be transparent.

Mmmm, my apologies.

francesco Could you give more info about how you connect your headphones? Do you use the speaker out of your speaker amps directly? Or just use the headphone jack of the motherboard?

Phoenix1

realtek's output jacks can often be configured to either "headphone out" (i think this setting basically enables the headphone amp circuitry) or "line out", i wonder what setting did you use in your test and whether it makes a difference, i have a suspicion it might as 100ohm zout will render a lot of common headphones sound pretty wacky...

Those tests weren't performed by me, I do have have measured other motherboards in the past, and none changed the output impedance by playing with the settings, only raised the max output voltage,, they're just a software level limiter.

You can see here some of the devices I measured here (samuelsmash): https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/wiki/tech/output_impedance_database

I actually even measured higher output impedances in the front jack of a computer, and the rest I don't know if they also have that simply because they don't have front jack. xd (and likely its the front panel itself that has series resistors and not that the motherboard has a even higher zout there)

Also even if we can reduce the output impedance, we still have the problem of small coupling capacitors, the one of my example already had a considerable bass roll off with an about 65 Ohm load and a 100 Ohm Zout, with the -3 dB point at 55 Hz, doing a rough estimate that's about 18 uF for the decoupling caps! If we keep that size with a almost 0 Ohm zout now the cut off will be at at 136 Hz for the same headphones.

Here's mine (A58M-E), has a 80 something Ohm zout at 1 KHz:

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #17
francesco Could you give more info about how you connect your headphones? Do you use the speaker out of your speaker amps directly? Or just use the headphone jack of the motherboard?
Hi @Phoenix1
i connect my headphones directly to my desktop or laptop (headphone line in ) , i use "th headphone jack of the motherboard"

i connect my desktop or laptop with line out to my amply when i want to play music with my speakers
thanks man

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #18
A bit older, here are my measurements of the ALC888
I did a loopback with a y-splitter cable and AKG K530 attached.

The order is:
ALC888 + AKG K530 + headphone option in realtek software "speaker configuration"
ALC888 + AKG K530
ALC888

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #19
A bit older, here are my measurements of the ALC888
I did a loopback with a y-splitter cable and AKG K530 attached.

The order is:
ALC888 + AKG K530 + headphone option in realtek software "speaker configuration"
ALC888 + AKG K530
ALC888


Man I've just slap myself.

What motherboard is it?

Just retested my A58M-E. there's a difference:

Turns out that those output impedances that I previously mentioned (80 Ohm at 1 KHz) are actually its performance  when set on HP mode, changing it to speaker mode changed output impedance to 200 Ohm at 1 KHz.

Oh boy, seems I have to remeasure every computer.

---------------

francesco Could you give more info about how you connect your headphones? Do you use the speaker out of your speaker amps directly? Or just use the headphone jack of the motherboard?
Hi @Phoenix1
i connect my headphones directly to my desktop or laptop (headphone line in ) , i use "th headphone jack of the motherboard"

i connect my desktop or laptop with line out to my amply when i want to play music with my speakers
thanks man

Thanks man for clearing that out. Pay attention to what just happened, performance can change by changing the driver settings.

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #20
What motherboard is it?
It`s an ancient Asrock 4CoreDual-VSTA. Here is the datasheet. You can find the data for the analog performance on page 68. I guess these numbers only apply if a manufacturer sticks to realteks reference design.

I uploaded the complete RMAA results as a PDF. As you can see, besides the frequency response the other numbers improve as well, if the built in headphone amp is activated.

Realtek K530 + KHV = speaker configuration "Headphones"
Realtek K530 = speaker configuration "Stereo"
Realtek ohne Last = Realtek without load

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #21
I did a few tests of my own using ALC892 on an Asus P8P67-PRO motherboard, and the onboard doesn't perform well at all with low-ish (16 ohm) impendance loads (the earbuds i used: https://www.innerfidelity.com/images/YuinPK2.pdf , notice the lean impedance graph). All of the three tests were ran when the output jack was set to "headphones" and the recordings were done with Asus Xonar STX.


Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #22
A bit older, here are my measurements of the ALC888
I did a loopback with a y-splitter cable and AKG K530 attached.

The order is:
ALC888 + AKG K530 + headphone option in realtek software "speaker configuration"
ALC888 + AKG K530
ALC888
hi @ErnestS
i have watched the screenshot and read the pdf
are your results bad or good? just because i don't understand these tests and i don't know how interpret them
thanks

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #23
It's alright.

There are devices that measure better than my onboard sound, but it might not make an audible difference, at least with the K530.

Re: looking for a soundcard to improve the builtin realtek

Reply #24
Both of your headphones have fluctuating impedance:
https://www.innerfidelity.com/images/GradoSR325e.pdf - (not the exact same model) impedance of 30 ohms, peaking at 60 ohms (at 70Hz).
https://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SennheiserHD598.pdf - impedance of 50 ohms, peaking at 300 ohms (at 90Hz).

So going by the 1/8th rule, you want an output impedance under 4 ohms to keep the EQing to a minimum. There is a good article here with more information: http://nwavguy.blogspot.ca/2011/02/headphone-amp-impedance.html

Phoenix1 - thanks for linking that table of output impedance measurements on reddit, looks handy.

 
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