m-audio firewire 410 sound quality?

The output both analog & digital from my 410 is much lower and of lesser quality than from either my cd or dvd player. I discovered this by switching inputs on my preamp between computer and player while playing cd in player and same cd ripped to hard drive from computer. I used wavelab and winamp for output with similar results. All of my equipment and software are top notch. And yes I physically switched inputs on my preamp and all inputs are fine. I want my computer to sound as good as possible. I really enjoy using the computer as a juke box. Do I need a differant I/O device, something else or am I asking too much?

Any suggestions?
Are you running the digital signal through the same DAC as the rest of your system? Does the M-audio card process that digital signal in any way? I suppose jitter could be a potential problem. Regarding alternatives: It depends on how much you are willing to spend. I'm not sure how you are running the digital, and through what processor(s). I would certainly not use the analog outputs of the M-Audio card and expect it to be the equivelant of a good DAC. You could try one of the USB dedicated DACs such as the Apogee that take the digital signal from your USB port and forget about the card altogether. I believe there are some very expensive DACs that have a Firewire option as well (Elgar). You may also want to go over to PC AudioAsylum to get more input than you could shake a stick at on this and other PC Audio related subjects. On my secondary system I've been running an AirportExpress through my Mac going digital (toslink) out to my DAC and it sounds great to my ears. I cannot hear any significant differences between the transport and the computer clicking back and forth that would make me want to give up the convenience of the hard-drive library (of course they are going through two different inputs on the DAC so not really a fair comparison). Regardless, the sound does not leave me wanting to improve upon it.


I have an M-Audio Firewire Audiophile and have been saying the exact same thing for nearly a year now. I only use the digital out, but there is a very obvious lack of dynamics and clarity. I have been quite disappointed by this thing because I essentially plunked down $300 for something that apparently can't even send a good digital out. I've heard that M-Audio's usb products are better--I have no idea why that would be--regardless, I'm done with that company. The Apogee mini-dac seems to get great reviews, but I don't need the dac and there's no way I'm paying $1000 for a digital out. I'm reluctant to just start picking up less expensive products to try because M-Audio is supposed to be right there at the top for the reasonably priced pc audio products. My other hang up is I really wanted an external with a separate headphone volume control and that severely limits my options (unless I want to throw down for the Apogee...) As it is, for convenience sake, I almost solely use my computer as a source now and at times I can almost forget how bad the M-Audio is--until I pop a cd in my player (Pioneer 47a--not even that great) and am reminded how completely the sound card sucks. Let me know if you stumble across any reasonably priced gems with the headphone out. Good luck.
The Apogee mini-dac seems to get great reviews, but I don't need the dac and there's no way I'm paying $1000 for a digital out.

Just a correction, and perhaps it is a misuse of vocabulary on your part: The Apogee unit is not a digital out. It is an actual DAC (digital to analog convertor) that happens to have a USB input option. Your computer itself is the digital out in whichever outlet you choose to use. In the case of the Apogee, the digital output is the USB connection.

The M-Audio card you are both not happy with is actually acting as the DAC if you are feeding it straight to your amp or preamp. I don't imagine the DAC circuit in those cards is that good. It sounds like the card may also have the option of feeding a digital output to an external DAC as well. The original poster never responded as to whether they were feeding the signal through a DAC, and if so through what type of connection and which DAC. Or, are they just feeding the analog signal from the M-audio card into their amp, in which case they are using the M-audio card as the DAC, and I would certainly understand that may be inferior. I'd pose the same question to you as well; if you are using the digital out, what are using for a DAC to convert it, and what is the means of connection to the DAC? I'm just trying to understand where the weak link may be.

Maybe I'm confused. While the Apogee is a DAC and so is my M-Audio, if I'm just running USB (or firewire in this case) into the DAC and then just a digital out to my processor, I'm bypassing the card's DAC, correct? As I'm a student, I don't own a house yet and switch apartments relatively frequently. Right now I have a 35 ft coax cable (Signal Cable) feeding an Anthem AVM-20. What I meant in the above statement, is that I don't want to pay $1000 for something that I would only use to basically convert USB to coax. With the distance, I think it's probably a bad idea to run analog right now (plus I suspect the M-Audio DAC's aren't very good). I'm moving yet again this Fall so maybe the distance between the stereo and computer will decrease. Is the DAC in the Apogee good enough that one could run analog out? Would it be better than the Anthem? Thanks for the help.
Try the Waveterminal U24--its an external USB to coax converter. While it has a DAC in it, its only about $250, and the coax digital PCM output does not resample to 48 kHz like the M-Audio and Edirol devices, and keeps the signal at 44.1 kHz. It will allow you to use a long run of USB cable, which does not introduce jitter, instead of a long run of coax. I found the sound from my computer went from muted (when I was using an M-Audio Sonica with a long toslink run to the DAC) to spectacular (when I switched to a long USB run to the Waveterminal).

I think the Apogee concept is USB from computer to Apogee, and letting the Apogee to D to A conversion. The Apogee has gotten excellent reviews, but--like you--I already have a DAC I wanted to use (dCS Delius w/o firewire). The Waveterminal is a cheaper solution for us folks.

UV, FYI, if you are running USB to the Apogee, you are bypassing not only the DAC in the M-Audio card, you are bypassing the card itself. The computer will be configured to route audio through the USB port, not a sound card. You don't need an audio card to use the USB option.