Which DAC or Sound Card

I have a very simple computer based system and I am not at all computer savvy. Windows XP utilizing Windows Media Player hooked up to Audioengine A5's ( self powered ) It occurs to me that a decent DAC or perhaps something other than the OEM sound card could give me considerable improvement in sound quality. Problem is I don't know where to start and I wouldn't want to spend over a couple hundred dollars for either one.
Any suggestions ? Thanks much.
This might help you get started.
Sound card reviews
Thanks Todd, but after a lot of research and going back to old threads here on AG, it appears the best route may be hooking up a dac via usb. I am going to try that out.

Hi Kbamhi,

One place to begin your research for the perfect (perfect for you) USB DAC might be to talk to Larry Moore of Ultra Fi audio. I have one of his iRoc USB DACs hooked up to a MacMini and the rest of my gear and like it very much.

Happy listening,


You may want to look into a firewire to spdif converter so that you aren't limited to dacs which only have usb input. I just picked up an M Audio Firewire Solo, which I have connected to a Musical Fidelity XDAC V3 and it sounds pretty sweet.

I have a Benchmark DAC hooked upto a squeezebox in my main rig and the Benchmark sounds pretty good also.

If you have USB 2.0, a USB DAC may be okay. If your PC has USB 1.1, I'd go with firewire (if your PC doesn't have firewire, you can get a PCI firewire card (go with the texas instrument chip). USB was never designed to transfer high multimedia loads-it was designed to replace parrallel and serial ports. Also, firewire (6 pin) uses PC power and no need for an outboard power source - and doesn't bottleneck like a USB port may.
The Audioengine A5's are arriving tomorrow. I also ordered a Fubar ll USB DAC but it is probably 2 weeks out. I have no idea if my computer is equipped with USB 1.1 or 2.0 but I can inquire with my local guru. If it is 1.1 can I install a 2.0 card or something similar prior to going the whole firewire route ?

Thanks for the response guys.

Hi Kbamhi... if you're going USB, and your DACs need cabling,you might want to think about which USB cable... it makes a big difference! Plain old printer cable won't cut it and will nullify any hardware you're testing/acquiring. I recommend investigating Ridge Street Audio as well as Synergistic Research. By the way... a phone call to Larry Moore at Ultra Fi audio about the iRoc DAC might illuminate many variables for you... after all, this is about enjoying the music... right?

Happy listening,


The throughput on USB 1.1 has a 12 Mbps pass through; 2.0 is 480 Mbps. BIG difference. I believe you can install a USB 2.0 card and get the higher throughout (limited by CPU).
I picked up just such a card for 29.95 from my computer guy this afternoon. Now if I could only get my hands on that DAC I ordered.

Thanks much for your help, Cerrot.

I've read some favorable reviews of the Iroc DAC, and don't doubt that it is a very good piece of equipment. But Kmamhi didn't want to spend over a couple of hundred dollars. The only price I've seen for the Iroc DAC was around $1400. Are Irocs available for less than $1400?



iRocs come up on the 'gon every once and awhile and are worth the wait imho! One was for sale early last month and was snapped up right away...don't remember the price.

Rumor has it that Larry Moore (Creator of the iRoc) is creating a killer USB DAC (as yet unnamed... maybe it's iJazz or something like that, one that according to rumor and lust far-outperforms the iRoc (I don't see how that's possible, but, hey, let's have a go...)), so upgraders might be selling their iRocs in the months to come as his new one comes to market.

Just a thought... why spend your money on inferior stuff when you can wait a bit and get something a whole lot better... jmho...

Happy listening,



Glad to be of help. Shout out if you need anything.
Few audio components I can actually afford impress me right off the bat. One was the Music Hall 25.2 cdp. The second are Audioengine A5's. I received and hooked them up this afternoon and I can't believe how good these things sound at this price point right out of the box. The bass is actually amazing.