How can this specific setup be improved?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by katieinthecoconut, Dec 6, 2018.

  1. katieinthecoconut

    katieinthecoconut Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    So, I'm thinking about improving the sound on my primary, computer connected audio setup, and wondering what its existing strengths and weaknesses might be in the forum's opinion. I'm not particularly an expert on audio hardware, and I'm aware this setup is a lot less complex than many people's.

    The chain as it stands is:

    U46 XL (a USB soundcard) > Pioneer A10 (via aux) > Wharfedale Diamond 220s

    ESI - Product Archive: U46 XL
    Pioneer A-10 Amplifier | Product overview | What Hi-Fi?
    Wharfedale Diamond 220 review | What Hi-Fi?

    I also have a Steinberg UR22 Mk II which I've not yet used, but could possibly use in the place of the U46 XL - although the UR22 Mk II having its own "output" level knob put me off doing that previously (and there's no concrete information on which setting would essentially negate this), and I'm not sure if it would be better.

    Headphones, when used, tend to get plugged into the A10, but I'm really most interested in speaker listening. All of the content going through it is lossless digital audio from the PC, which uses the soundcard.

    My gut instinct is that the soundcard is the weak link, and a better soundcard of some sort would serve the most improvement. Unfortunately, information on good options is really hard to come by, geared mostly to people looking for a DAC for headphone listening. I do want to stay external (USB) with that, so not an internal card.

    I'm thinking I'd need to spend significantly more to improve on the speakers or amplifier, both being fairly budget but considered among the best in their class.

    Any thoughts? I'm not massively unhappy with the setup or fighting any obvious issues, although I do feel I can get more from the chain.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018
  2. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    The Dragonfly DACs are a popular choice for many when it comes to upgrading computer soundcard performance.

    DragonFly Red · AudioQuest

    Never tried one myself though. But its simple and ellegant I have to say.
     
  3. katieinthecoconut

    katieinthecoconut Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    I saw that, but the layout confused me, really. It looks like it's only for headphones, and only has one output, so how would I go about connecting it properly to the amplifier and getting the appropriate stereo output? Would a solution with proper outputs not be better?
     
  4. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    No it works for speakers too. I suppose you would get RCA cables that only have 1 connector on the DAC end, the ones I bought are like that anyway.
     
  5. katieinthecoconut

    katieinthecoconut Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    Would that give me proper stereo output, then? I guess it's me coming from a different part of technology to think that using a smaller connector is bad, but if it'd be a significant upgrade on what I'm using now, to use it as my soundcard, it'd be something to consider. I'm not unhappy with my speakers or amplifier.
     
  6. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Well yes, it does for me. Like Ive said I havnt tried one myself, digital isnt my main listening. But I hear its good and I recommend at least taking one home for trial over a week or two. Nothing to lose.
     
  7. katieinthecoconut

    katieinthecoconut Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    I might go and grab one today, then. Thanks!
     
    Leonthepro likes this.
  8. fuse999

    fuse999 Forum Resident

    Location:
    usa
    You should also look into a Schiit Modi 3 for $99 , great for a computer setup.
     
  9. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Before you spend any money, what kind of improvement are you looking for?

    How are the speakers set up? Pics?
     
  10. Guitarded

    Guitarded Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montana
    Guys are doing some pretty neat audio setups using the CherryPi platform these days, too. If you are on a budget.

    Not that I understand any of these things, mind you.
     
  11. Drewan77

    Drewan77 Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK/USA
    I strongly recommend one of these: Hi-fi USB DAC Headphone Amplifier | Stereo Boosters | Coax, Optical Converter - It is a portable DAC & when I hooked my laptop up via this to various friends systems, playing lossless files they always express surprise at the quality possible (some of these were very exotic high-end setups). My own system approaches £100k and even there it comes pretty close to a much more expensive fixed DAC. It has a twin phono output adaptor for connection to any amp/preamp via interconnects.

    There is a UK ( also Europe/USA/Australia etc) loan scheme available to try at home with only postage to pay.
     
  12. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Speakers. Suggest KEF LS50.
     
  13. katieinthecoconut

    katieinthecoconut Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    I've just grabbed the Dragonfly Red. I can hear an improvement already, hearing more highs though which is going to take some getting used to, almost felt a touch siblant on one or two tracks but maybe I just wasn't hearing it before.

    Here's a photo of the setup as it stands. It's very compact and close-knit, partly because I mainly listen to music while on a computer, and partly because my flat is small and the sofa is about eight feet from the speakers.

    [​IMG]
     
    Leonthepro and patient_ot like this.
  14. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Nice to hear, but I suggest doing further analysis, see how much it really has improved and if its worth the cost, from memory those Dragonflys arnt cheap. But I suppose it all depends on how much improvement you require for the money ;^)
     
  15. katieinthecoconut

    katieinthecoconut Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    There's definitely an improvement. It's cheaper than a speaker upgrade and might be the improvement I've been looking for right now.
     
    Leonthepro likes this.
  16. Ed Hughes

    Ed Hughes Forum Resident

    Location:
    phila.pa.
    Been using the Dragonfly Red for over a year now. Couldn't be happier with it.
     
  17. heathen

    heathen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Colorado
    There are better speakers for the money.
     
  18. noway

    noway Active Member

    I would start with some IsoAcoustics stands (if you are unable to get the speakers off that vibrating desk and onto some proper speaker stands and away from the front wall) and some absorption on the sidewalls. Your current setup issues override any equipment upgrades.
     
    Robert C likes this.
  19. serendipitydawg

    serendipitydawg Dag nabit!

    Location:
    Berkshire UK
    Might I inquire what playback software you're using?
     
  20. katieinthecoconut

    katieinthecoconut Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    It's foobar2000.
     
  21. serendipitydawg

    serendipitydawg Dag nabit!

    Location:
    Berkshire UK
    Have you tried the Sox component?

    Upsampling (to my ears) enhances perceived sound quality. It's free, and if you don't like it you don't have to use it.
     
  22. Robert C

    Robert C Sound Archivist

    Location:
    London, UK
    ^ This.
     
  23. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Agree on speaker stands. As for which ones to get, figure out whether you spend more time listening from the couch or from the desk, then go with that type of stand. Conventional wisdom is you want the tweeters of the speakers at ear level. For desktops stands, if you need cheap maybe try a pair of yoga blocks.

    Re: Foobar, great program and highly customizable with tons of great features. I do use the Sox resampler but I haven't found a great benefit to upsampling 16/44 files to 24/96 or 24/192. Sometimes I will do it because I am too lazy to switch the settings after playing a hi-rez file. Apparently some folks have programmed their F2K config to play files at their native bit rate automatically . Haven't messed with that.
     

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