Just added Firewire/SPDIF DAC to PC
I was previously using the spdif/out on my Gateway 5500 FX PC (SigmaTel DH soundcard on motherboard) into a Monarchy DIP into a Musical Fideltiy XDACV3/w/PSU into Cayin A50T and B&W 685 Desktop speakers and thought it sounded pretty good, but just nothing like sitting in front of the big rig. I'm not saying that I expect an $8,000 or so PC Sytem to sound as good as $60,000+ of audio gear, but compared to the two, you could sense a lack of demension, resolution, actual feeling of a performance, and its venue.
I just bypassed the soundcard with an M-Audio Firewire Solo and the change is spectacular. I've been up most of the night ripping and listening and it's just a whole new ballgame. There's a development of soundstage width and depth which actually has an ambiance, a texture. I could reach in through the monitor and grab a drummer. The increased transpareny is stunning, dynamics greatly increased and there's a better, more acturate sense of pace..of comfort, while listening. Absolutely non-fatiguing. The headphone out for me was BIG, as I can now listen with my Sennheiser 650's (sounds nice--I could use louder, but I guess that's what the speakers are for).
I strongly recommend to everyone dabbling with PC Audio to look into a firewire to dac option. I'm running Vista (32) and had no issues (need to upload current driver from M-Audio website). I know my prior soundcard was nothing to brag about, but using the coax out still bypassed alot of stuff on the card; to me, for PC audio, it sounded pretty good. The firewire out just blows it away-not a hiccup yet.