i ran a Vista system through a Bel Canto Dac 3... lossless sound files (ALAC) EAC ripped cd's
througha Krell 400xi and Wilson Sophias
Sound was very nice.. i can't imagine you could even get closs to that with a sound card...
So actually, you are asking which DAC is best for PC? As both an outboard DAC and sound card convert the digital into analog signals.
Not having heard the Links card, but owning the BC D3 as does the above poster, though with differeing electronics, I'd say the Bel is better just on GP. Not even counting the anciliary benefits the BC D3 affords one.
However.... would you go get the Links card if someone says it is better, not having tried it yourself?
Personally, I'm curious too about this facet of digital PC dbased audio. Primarily because USB DACs usually only allow for 16/44.1K input signals... and I've noted diffs in upsampling that signal to higher values. 24/96, 24/192.
Then also, the use of different media playuers will demonstrate better or lesser sound as well. Trust me on that bit.
Shortly, I'm going to add a 192 card and find out for myself.... which is ALWAYS our best path in determinging the answwer to a "What's best?" question. And because I'm hard to convince.
Firewire, guys. Firewire. I have an M-Audio Firewire Solo going from my PC firewire out to a Monarchy Audio DIP/Musical Fidelity XDAC V3. USB was never intended to pass audio, just connect peripherials. USB transmits packets, while firewire streams-you also bypass USB bus congestion.
coming from someone who actually owns a lynx.... you will be hard pressed to find a better dac than the lynx. expect to spend at least $5k USED to even compete. you will most likely have to go in the $10k range to get something, and the lynx might still be better. but don't use vista, the driver support for lynx isn't quite there yet.
I auditioned the Lynx and it was on my short list, until I decided that I didn't want my processing done in my PC. The inside of a PC is just way too noisey. The Power Supply in a PC just doesn't have the juice. Even my 1,200 watt Turbo Cool wasn't enough of a power supply to give me what I was looking for. (Power supplies are still the key to great sound, even in a PC). The Lynx is an awesone card. In my opinion, probably the best soundcard you can get. It didn't give me the soundstage, depth, resolution, retrieval of low level detail and air that I was looking for-in my system.
I own a Lynx 2B sound card, a couple of outboard DACs, as well as Avalon Opus speakers. Regarding the Lynx with the Eidolons, unless you are running some tubes somewhere in the chain to fill out the sound, I would be worried that the Lynx would not be a good fit. While the Lynx is a good performer as a sound card, the Eidolon's are so transparent that all of the problems inherent in the PC (noise, power supply, environment), combined with the fact that the Lynx is designed with the accuracy needed for mastering in mind, will most likely result in some glare and thinness. The Lynx fits in very well on some systems and sounds very similar to the Benchmark DAC 1, but in my opinion neither of these are an enjoyable combo with Avalon speakers.
My favorite affordable DAC is currently the MHDT Labs Havana, but it is not ideal when driven via USB. If you really want to go USB, you might consider looking into some of the Wavelength products, but they can be quite expensive.
Following the install of the M audio AP192, using 16/44 via analog outs, I'd have to say for the entry fee, anyone seeking a DAC less PC addition to their stereo sys ought to take a peek... Do ensure the driver is the latest version. however.
I swapped it out of my main pc into a secondary one by myself. 15 - 20 min tops including driver install.
It sure doesn't sound like digital. The ICs will have a lot to do with that too.
just a thought here... you know lynx also makes a lesser input/output card with I believe the same didgital features for $700... it's the "L22". 2 ins and outs vs. 4. U Save $300... if you're determined to go that way.
if you will not record music/sound, go for the DAC.
the lynx its an amazing soundcard, best drivers, verry nice AD/DA, nice wordclock, i own the AES16, and RME hdsp too, nice DSP mixer, but the DAC its a DAC.
if the DAC usb drivers are not working ok,
most low quality soundcards can output s/pdif from the 1/8" trs, any hi quality DAC with s/pdif in and jitter removal will work, Great! no need for USB. just good cables.
While USB is not the ideal form of transmission neither is S/PDIF. Having an internal soundcard (PCI, etc.) is also inherently a bad idea as you will output the noise, of which there is plenty, and interference from inside the computer.
An external connection whether it is called a DAC or soundcard is preferable. Firewire beats USB, but is far from a holy grail. An external power source (not computer powered) is also highly desirable. It then becomes product specific once you limit the basic disadvantages.
I fully agree with the above poster about the noise output with a detailed system. I have one. I'm still experimenting with output options, and my Paradisea+ DAC (non-USB) which enjoys a good synergy with my system. I also have Windows Vista and prefer to avoid soundcard driver issues. ;)
A well designed USB or Firewire DAC seems to be the best solution. There are assorted choices in these categories, and as usual one needs to try and hear for themselves in his/her system. USB chipset, DAC chipset, jitter reduction, capacitors, etc. all assembled leaves lots of variables. Welcome to the never ending hobby, lol.
What was your decision ultimately, or for the time being, and how do you find it performancewise?