Novice Member
Feb 14, 2022
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Kampala, Uganda
I'd like some advice on a PC sound upgrade (music only. Not mutli-media or gaming). I work in a country where most components are not available and I'm popping back to UK next week and have a chance to pick up something if it will make a reasonable difference.

My current set up is:
Processor (CPU) Intel® Core™i5 Quad Core Processor i5-4590 (3.3GHz) 6MB Cache
Motherboard ASUS® Z97-A: ATX, USB3.0, SATA 6GB/S, SLi, XFIRE
Windows 10 64-bit

Current internal soundcard: M-Audio Delta Audiophile
Music library: mostly MP3 320 kbps but some WAV and FLAC. Mainly house, dance, jazz.
Played through: Foobar [or cough Apple iTunes]

The PC output is more recently via an integrated amplifier (Audiolab 6000A) to some old Music Fidelity Reference 2 speakers. I have a budget of around £300. I’m relatively happy with the sound quality at the moment but it could be improved.

With this relatively limited budget what are my options that would improve the sound?

I was looking at either an improved internal or external soundcard(any recommendations or will this not be much of an improvement on my M-Audio Delta) or something like the ifi Zen DAC signature or ifi Zen One Signature.

In considering this, I have also realised the extent of my own ignorance. So, I have a fundamental question too: given that the PC output is now through my Audiolab 6000A - which has its own onboard DAC - am I already doubling up here via the M-Audio soundcard ... and degrading the sound quality? And if so, how do I get a direct PC output into the Audiolab integrated amplifier?
Your audiolab 6000a has optical inputs which transfers uncompressed PCM stereo, the only thing your PC needs is an optical output which the Asus Z97-A motherboard has via its onboard audio.

Thats uncompressed digital audio sent directly to your DAC.
I'm no expert on this but I would have thought to get the most out of the card you already have is to output from the RCA plugs on the sound card to the RCA plugs on the AudioLab and set the set the sound card to it's max audio resolution. Not sure you're getting the most out of it if outputting via optical into the AudioLab because then you are using the DAC in the amp rather than the one in the sound card. The DAC in the AudioLab 6000 is OK but nothing special.
I would say though you'd probably get quite an improvement by just buying the standard ifi Zen Dac v2 which is a very good sounding DAC and can be had for about £140. It connects by USB from your PC then you output into a spare RCA input on your AudioLab. You could then remove the M audio soundcard (as you wont need it anymore) To get the best sound quality I think you need to use the low latency ASIO driver for windows 10 and set it to use that driver in Foobar (if it has that capability)
Maybe someone with more knowledge can elaborate on this.

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