Sound Card VS DAC In Depth Analysis and Review

Sound Card VS DAC these two convert digital signals to analog signals. So, where is the difference that most people get confused about? Also how to choose;  which one will be suitable?

Sound cards are such components that stay inside the motherboard. Another hand, an external DAC is placed as a hardwire with the electrical device.

Though both do the same thing, certain things differ their work from one another. Also, the sound quality matters. 

So, here we will see all the possible ways to highlight Sound Card VS DAC difference.

What Is A Sound Card?

A sound card can be life-changing or can also destroy. It depends on the quality of the sound card you choose. The right one will give you the supreme audio ever.

A sound card converts the digital signal to an analog signal placing inside the motherboard. Staying integrated with the motherboard, it releases the high-end output to the hardwires.

This way, the audio you can hear becomes so define than before. If you are using a speaker or headphones, you can see the real difference in the sound.

This can be connected via PCI or PCI-e slot. A sound card contains a DAC, and most often, an AMP with other types of equipment. All these work together and make great audio.

But today PC, computers already have an integrated sound card, and they can work so efficiently. Which means the onboard sound is much significant.

Why You Need It?

This is a common question arose, and the answer is straightforward. If you have an old CD, DVD or pc, the computer then a sound card can be a lifesaver.

Also with a high-quality speaker and headphones can work the best with the sound card. But the problem with the low-quality headphones or with the newer version of CD or other equipment.

With low-quality headphones, the sound card won’t give impressive feedback. Also, the updated versions of pc, computers already have an excellent define audio quality.

So, now you know if you need a sound card or not. But sometimes, for making the gaming audio precise, a sound card is needed.

  • Padarsey PCIe Sound Card, 5.1 Internal Sound Card for PC Windows 7 with Low Profile Bracket, 3D Stereo PCI-e Audio Card, CMI8738 Chip 32/64 Bit Sound Card PCI Express Adapter
  • FIRE PCIe Sound Card 5.1 Internal Sound Card for Windows 7 8 10 with Low Profile Bracket, 3D Stereo PCI-e Audio Card, 32/64 Bit PCI Express PC Sound Card CMI8738 Chip

What Is A DAC? 

Everything we hear through our headphones, speaker, or other devices contains a DAC integrated. That’s why we can hear the fine-tuning of the audio.

A DAC whole meaning is Digital-Analog-Converter which means it converts the digital signal to analog, and thus the signal becomes audible to us.

Without a DAC, the signal can’t be audible and precise. As a result, the beautiful audio we can hear today won’t be possible.

Many DAC comes with an AMP for making the audio more detailed and pleasing. And external DAC’s connect outside of the device and handled by the motherboard drivers.

Why You Need One?

The question is, if our devices already have DAC with them, then why do we need an extra one? 

Those DAC integrated with microphones or headphones are much backdated, and they can’t produce high-quality signals. As your music or gaming sound, you can not get as you wanted them.

An external DAC is a solution to these problems. It stays outside like a hardwire piece but changes the whole audio system.

So for upgrading your old enough CD, DVD’s sound, or gaming sound, a DAC is a must.

  • Cyrus Audio Gaming soundly DAC & Headphone Amplifier – Each (Graphite)
  • FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier (Black)

Sound Card VS DAC: How Do They Work?

An essential thing that everyone needs to understand before buying any audio component is that whatever we hear all covert into analog signals. All the audios are stored in the devices in digital form first.

The integrated DAC in sound cards does these things. A sound card follows four steps for making the signals audible.

  1. First, the DAC here converts the digital signals to analog signals. This plays the most crucial role in sound cards. Because without a DAC, it is not possible to converts signal into analog.
  2. Next, the ADC also comes in the package in the sound card. It helps to converts analog signals into digital ones. It is done for doing the digital recordings.
  3. Next, with the bits of help of PCI, PCI-e slot, the sound card stays connected with the motherboard to do its work.
  4. Lastly, there is input or output for connecting with the headphones, microphones, or others.
  • With time everything become so modern that we are leading a life with all the advanced technologies. There was a time a few years back where some reel tape was used to store the analog signals. And by doing some process, they make the hearable audio.

But now the technology becomes faster, and the engineers bring a revolutionary change. And DAC is one of them. Here in three-step, a DAC makes the sound quality better.

  1. First of all, the artist’s original track is being picked up through a microphone. These records stay in analog form. Then some equipment turns these analog signals into digital signals and stores them.

Digital signals are nothing but 1’s and 0’s. 

  1. After storing the digital signals, a DAC again converts the signals into analog. Because whatever we hear is in analog, we can not understand the digital signals.
  2. After converting DAC send it to an AMP where the signals become more defined and precise. Lastly, it is sent to the speakers or headphones to what we listen to.

Read: Fiio K3 and E10k Comparison Guide

Sound Card VS DAC: Which Give The Most Precise Sound Quality?

Sound quality nowadays is essential for all people. Everything we watch or play games and hearing the music we want sound become beautiful. If the sound hears almost like the original track, it is considered the best one.

Sound card VS DAC is two such types of equipment that are both work smoothly and efficiently. And as the sound quality is subjective, some may like the sound card others may prefer DAC’s.

Whatever it is now, I will not compare them; instead, I will describe how they sound. So, you can go with one of them.

DAC

In the beginning, talking about DAC’s. Because the sound cards also contain DAC. Without DAC making the analog signals is impossible.

DAC is responsible for giving us flawless, crisp, clear sound. For the great sound, the bass also hears rich and punchy. It just changes the whole sound system.

Music hears more likely than the artist intends us to hear. Even the movie dialogues hear detailed. Every lyrics and dialog you will understand with fine-tuning.

These things the internal DAC’s do, but they are not as powerful as the external DAC’s. The external also does one extra thing is to prevent jitters.

The internal DAC’s always can’t maintain the timing while converting the 1’s and 0’s into analog signals. And this time, losing things is called clocking errors. For this kind of error, some jitter is produced while playing the audio, which the external DAC only can prevent.

So, you can understand how incredible sound DAC’s produce.

Soundcard

Other hand sound cards also provide fantastic sound quality. In the marketplace, there are so many sound cards, expensive ones and cheap ones. Everyone focuses on making the most fantastic sound.

Even the gaming sound or movie sound they make hear excellent. Previously I have described how sound cards work. So, you know the DAC is doing the most crucial work.

So, many may ask then we don’t need to buy external DAC’s. But one thing you need to be clear that external DAC’s are much more potent than these. They are high quality and contain advanced technology.

But still, sound cards are great. Having a sound card means the dazzling sound ever.

Read: Best DAC Analysis 

Best Sound Cards

ASUS Sound Card Essence STX II

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Asus
  • Processor: Signal Processor, ASUS AV100
  • Sample Rate: 44.1 kHz (min) – 192 kHz (max)
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz
  • DAC Resolution: 24-bit
  • Connection: 4 pin MPC, RCA, phone stereo 6.3 mm6.3mm Headphone jacs
  • Item Weight: 1.56 lbs
  • Dimensions (hwd): 6.61 x 4.21 x 0 inches

Asus committed a long time ago to give versatile audio to audiophiles. They did a great job with all the sound cards, and this ASUS Sound Card Essence STX II is such a reflection.

This sound card offers some legendary sound quality that is impressive. Superfine bass and low distortion are adding a great frequency. All these a superb combination of splendid audio quality.

Asus dedicatedly giving the best products and hold the special place in the people’s heart. Still hold the same place for years. So, here no need for extra buttery words for Asus. If you really want to have one sound card, you must go with this.

Sennheiser GSX 1000

Specifications

  • Manufacturer : Senheiser
  • Technology: 7.1 Sennheiser Binaural Rendering Engine
  • Type: Built-in gaming DAC
  • Frequency response: 0-48,000 Hz
  • Connection: 3.5-mm headphone output, 3.5-mm microphone input, 3.5-mm line-out
  • Weight: 0.66 Pounds
  • Dimensions (hwd): 5.63 x 5.47 x 2.76 inches

The broader range of frequency range of Sennheiser GSX1000 will make fall for as it turns the gaming into the most defined one. A giant blast is seen in the whole sound system.

A built-in 24-bit/96 kHz DAC ensures no buying extra DAC for your sound card. This DAC is massive and performs robustly.

With the DAC, the 7.1 virtualization engine does the rest of the effort and makes the subtle audio, turning the entire atmosphere like a music surround.

For an immersive gaming experience, the amp converts the bass-rich, powerful, and creates an unmistakable sound so you can hear every detail in your game.

Lastly, the nice smooth black finish and wireless connection in the correct size make it ideal in every aspect. 

Sound BlasterX G6

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Creative
  • Technology: Industry-leading audio processing technology
  • Native refresh rate: 32-bit 384kHz
  • Frequency response: N/A
  • Connection: 3.5mm headphone output, 3.5mm microphone input, line/Optical in, line/Optical Out (analog or digital speakers), USB (power adaptor/PC/Switch/MAC)
  • Weight: 7.1 ounces
  • Dimensions (hwd): 4.37 x 0.94 x 2.76 inches

With a refined design and grey metallic finish, Sound BlasterX G6 looks so amazing. Even the ports besides looks funky and have a small icon on them for easy controlling.

The Industry-Leading Audio Processing Technology makes every cue accurate and pure bass for the best gaming sound and music. Full enjoyment and realistic sound are for sure.

Moreover, the 7.1 surround sound and Dolby Digital make the dedicated and perfect audio for everything. Cirrus Logic DAC chips primarily work to make the audio more precise. Another exciting feature is the hi-res PCM and DoP audio formats. 

A massive capability is the handling of Direct Stream Digital or DSD at 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz. 

All these considerable abilities of this DAC are highly praised.

Best DAC Review

iFi Micro iDSD Diablo Purist Portable DAC/Headphone Amplifier

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Abbingdon Music Research
  • Chip: Dual-Core Burr-Brown True Native chipset
  • Native sample rate support: 32 bit / 768kHz
  • AMP Power: Up to 4,100 mW
  • Connection: USB/SPDIF Input, 4.4mm Balanced Output, 4.4mm & 6.3mm Headphone jacs
  • Battery: 6-12 hour
  • Weight: 11.6 ounces
  • Dimensions (hwd): 6.54 x 2.83 x 0.98 inches

For getting an incredible sound quality, low noise, and distortion with devilish bass, this iFi Micro iDSD Diablo Purist Portable DAC is absolutely a perfect choice.

It has three-mode normal, ECO, Turbo, which is quite different from others. Perfectly suit all kind of headphones easily.

The next thing is the highly dedicated chip. Burr-Brown True Native chipset helps PCM and DSD to work separately where DSD can produce every bit perfect for the analog signal.

This DAC allows Bluetooth connectivity along 6.3mm and 4.4mm headphone outputs, USB A, S/PDIF digital, and optical audio inputs.

This comes with a matte red look that gives a cool look all over the sound quality. A perfect choice for day-to-day life.

AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt USB Digital-to-Analog Converter

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: AudioQuest 
  • Chip: ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip 
  • Native sample rate support: 24bit/96kHz PCM 
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Inputs: USB Type A 
  • Outputs: 3.5mm 
  • Weight: 4.2 ounces 
  • Dimensions (hwd): 1.2 x 1.9 x 5.7cm 

This AudioQuest Dragonfly DAC comes in a cute size like a thumb, including some fantastic features. Such a compact size is so easy to handle and just plugin ready to use.

After connecting it to a phone or laptop, the real fantastic sound you will feel. And anything your favorite music, MP3, MQA, etc. it can work smoothly.

The ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip has advanced technology for providing dynamic, natural sound. A live-like sound from this DAC can fill the entire room.

Chord Mojo Black DAC/Headphone Amplifier

Specifications

  • Item model number: MOJO-BLK 
  • Type: Portable 
  • Headphone Amp: Yes 
  • MQA: No 
  • Chip: Xilinx Artix 7 
  • Max. Sample Rate Support: 32bit/768kHz, DSD 256 
  • Inputs: Micro-USB, coaxial, optical
  • Outputs: 2x 3.5mm 
  • Item Weight: 6.3 ounces 
  • Dimensions: 3.2 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches

Chord Mojo DAC offers a massive performance with stunning sound quality. Phone, tab, or laptop anything can work with it in a balance figure and get the most delicate sound ever.

For making any of your day magical, this DAC is enough, and mostly the high-quality FPGA Chip work behind this. The low distortion and crisp, clear sound it produces feels so peaceful.

With the 8 hour battery, it is substantially capable of giving a long time usage. Your earbuds, the speaker, can have a long time with Chord Mojo. 

Next, the built-in headphone gives extra with ultimate sound experience.

Schiit Modi 3+ D/A Converter – Delta-Sigma DAC (Black)

For a budget-friendly DAC, this Schiit Modi 3+ is suitable. This is the updated version of Schiit Modi 3 works almost identical.

Both versions have an AK4490 chip that makes the performance stunning than the other DAC’s. This delta-sigma DAC is made for giving an authentic life sound that you may ever wish for.

This version can work with all virtual computers, laptops but can not work with Windows 7 and its previous IO. 

Connections are good enough of Coaxial SPDIF, Toslink SPDIF, USB inputs, single-ended RCA output.

The sample rates and bit depths are 16/44.1 to 24/192 via USB, Coax, and Optical.

It has a black finish at a reasonable price can be the best choice.

Sound Card VS DAC: What Is The Difference Between Gaming 

Thinking technically, there is no difference between a gaming Sound Card VS gaming DAC. Both of them make the frequencies and signals better. Thus we have the defined audio.

DAC prevents the jitters. In contrast, sound cards also turn the audio great and reduce all the distortion and other things. The only typical difference is in the placement of them.

Sound cards remain with the motherboard, and DAC are integrated outside. 

Creative Sound Blaster Z

Creative Sound Blaster Z is an incredible gaming sound card. This has become very popular among gamers as it makes the gaming audio so detailed.

It provides a decent frequency range of 100Hz-20KHz. This kind of range works amazingly with high-quality headphones and microphones. For making the audio more astounding, there is a Maxim MAX97220A driver.

Anything you connect headphone or speaker the music, movie dialogue or playing video games, everything would turn as you always intend to listen.

16-600 ohm headphone amp is another surprising thing about this sound card. You will feel a 3D subtle and louder sound around your ear. This is really a worthy sound card.

Creative Sound Blaster Zx PCIe Gaming Sound Card with High-Performance Headphone Amp and Desktop Audio Control Module

This is such a kind of gaming sound card that you will never be able to replace it if you go with it. It features some excellent features that can blow your mind.

The Sound Core 3D Audio Processor is there to provide advanced audio and the most precise voice technology. Also, there are CD-ROM, DVD ROM is available as an extra benefit.

Also, for giving 3D surround sound with realism, it has SBX Pro Studio sound technology. The Scout Mode makes it most perfect for gaming as you can hear your enemies and kill them.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 DTS connection makes the movies or music sound beautiful perfect for everything.

DROP + Grace Design Standard DAC Balanced 

This Grace Design Standard DAC comes in a compact size but offers more extensive features to enhance sound quality. An accurate, clear, transparent sound you will get right after you connect it with your device.

Here used the ak4452 digital-to-analog conversion chip, which is the most advanced chip. This was also used in the m9xx DAC, and there it also did fantastic work.

There are balance output, three-pin xlr output, coaxial spdif digital input for connecting with the amplifiers and speakers. In a word, this DAC offers much more significance than we ever expected. 

And as the question is about gaming, then stay assured that you won’t believe how breathtaking it is until you use it.

Fosi Audio Q4 – Mini Stereo Gaming DAC & Headphone Amplifier

The FosiAudio Q4 is another impressive DAC. Directly talking about the features is the stream bit-perfect 24bit/192KHz HD with low jitter. Reduce the jitter as much as it can, which makes it robust than any other DAC.

With 32 ohms and 20 Hz – 20 KHz, 160mW RMS, it can be used as a preamp for most pc and computers. Because here the audio provides it fantastic with the tighter bass.

There are USB, optical, and coaxial S/PDIF inputs and RCA output for connecting with any kind of home audio system.

It is so easy to set up. You just plug in and ready to get the fantastic gaming sound. 

Final Verdict: Sound Card VS DAC

Sound Card VS DAC two most essential pieces of equipment of today’s time for getting outstanding audio. With the help of them, we are getting the precise audio in movie dialogues, music, and video games. 

Never before anything may not though of upgrading their sound system. But today, the best sound card and DAC’s do these excellent tasks and become a part of our daily lives.

And here I have described all parts of them to know to the deep and then choose with what you want to go. You can choose from the list I have added and then enjoy your sound life as per your wish.

FAQs

 

Do I need a sound card when I already have a DAC?

Not really. Today DAC offers much more than we ever thought of getting. I think they are perfect for making the audios beautiful and powerful. Even they are good in games. So, if you have one, you should not go with another sound card.

Why I need an external DAC?

This is a common question asked by people. I have already told you about it. But in short integrated DAC are not so powerful as external DAC’s. They can not cope with the jitters that the external DAC can do. So, yes, you need an external DAC still.