Not an answer here but another question.Wonder often if the wiring inbetween thse higher performing elements justifies cost.
8 responses Add your response
For soundcards I would recommend the RME 96 Series ($650) or the Lynx Two ($1,000). Each is a high quality, pro oriented card with high quality converters. If you seek even higher quality then consider adding an outboard A/D/A converter, the Apogee PSX100 ($3,000), to either of the above soundcards. The Apogee's are excellent units, but be sure not to use their "soft limiter".
The best sound from a pc is not had via a soundcard at all. All the emi from within a computer is hardly the place for d/a conversion to occur. The best sound will be had from using any of a number of pro audio equipment via a usb or firewire (iee1394) connection. I currently use a roland usb device which allows me to d/a convert at my equipment rack via decent, but hardly top of the line dac's. The absolute best way that I know of is using the motu equipment via the firewire bus, this gives you all the inputs and outputs that you could ever need, balanced and unbalanced, digital and analog and gain controls as well. Its like a preamp and dac combined with the bonus of interfacing with your computer. It goes without saying that you should not compress files into mp3 but rather wave which neccessitates a large hard drive. I currently convert all my cd's to wave files using exact audio copy, and use apples itunes as a player. My setup is as follows, apple g4 cube, monster 12' usb cable to roland ua 30 dac/preamp, unbalanced analog to mcintosh mc 2102, to living voice avatar obx speakers, all cables nordost blue heaven. I love this setup namely because I love my computer and I like the convience of having a gui to all my cd's. The roland ua 30 can be had on ebay for about 150 bucks. The motu devices can be quite high, around 1000 bucks.
Rather than a soundcard per say, which seem to introduce a fair amount of jitter by their nature, you may wish to consider a Sutherland dax7. In its stock format, it is digital in - analog out and a volume control. It uses 12ax tubes in the output stage and is great for going form digital broadcasts on line into a main system. It was a huge upgrade in quality and opened all the digital radio stations into listenability. My version was highly modified, so the are flexible as to your nsystems needs and impedances. stock unit is $1600.00. Don't know if it is on the used market yet.
I use a Mark Of The Unicorn 828 hooked up to the computer through FireWire. It has 8 channels of balanced / unbalanced I/O and built-in D/A and A/D converters and works nicely. It also supports LightPipe I/O which allows you to use an External A/D/A box, and has SP/DIF I/O. The 828 is a separate chassis sitting outside of the PC, so no noise from within the computer to deal with. It works very well. Reasonably priced under $1K.
I use the Stereolink 1200 (www.stereolink.com) which connects to the USB port on my laptop. It costs $150. The DAC's are pretty decent. I don't have much to compare to, but it sure beats the stock soundcards that come in PC's these days.
I actually learned about this on audiogon a couple of years ago.