In need of a DAC/AMP for desk setup

I recently picked up a pair of klipsch RP150m’s and they sound great through my AV receiver, but I would like to use these at my desk and not in my theater. My pc has an optical out but my motherboard audio has popping noises in it at higher volumes (MSI z170 gaming 5). It is horrible because the audio sounds great besides that. I would like to get a decent DAC/AMP to push these speakers for my desk and for my dorm room in the fall, so it needs to have decent power. I am wondering what to do/buy. I don’t want to spend tons of money. Should I buy a sound card for my PC, and then an amp? or is there another option? I like the SMSL AD18 because it also has bluetooth and other inputs so that my comrades can play music without using my PC. Will that solve my issue with the popping though? Thanks!

Personally, I would recommend that you DON’T buy a sound card for your PC. Inside a PC is the absolute worst place you want to have any audio processing done, it’s a very electrically noisy environment.

I can’t think of a reason why your average gaming/media user would even benefit from a sound card.

An external DAC should resolve the popping you are experiencing, provided it’s not actually being caused by an electrical problem such as a ground error or something. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced it (have been lucky) but it’s also possible your av receiver is just on the fritz or something.

Those Klipsch’s are pretty well regarded (and gorgeous) and if memory serves have even been reviewed by Zeos. Klipsch speakers tend to be pretty efficient, I would assume the ad18 would drive them pretty easily.

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Thanks, do you think I’ll be able to run the same optical audio cable from my motherboard the the AD18 and not have the popping? Because the AD18 is a DAC/AMP combo right?
Yes the speakers are very nice they are beautiful and bought them mostly because of the review that Zeos did. I know that my receiver is not the issue becuase other audio outs from my pc have the same popping and when using my receiver before I never had this issue

If the receiver works fine with other devices, and your PC has the same issue with other audio outputs then it points to something in your PC being at fault.

What’s weird is that you are having the issue with an optical out. In my experience audio problems at higher volumes tends to be either electrical in nature (like from an improper ground) or some other issue with the amp.

Personally I would try another device using an optical in to the receiver and see if that has the issue. If it doesn’t, try moving the PC to another outlet and do the same for the receiver, and see if you can still replicate it. (try plugged directly into the wall socket, and then try with whatever power strip you are using) If you still have the issue…then I don’t know.

So i tried plugging the pc into another outlet, and still got the same issue. I then recently uninstalled the audio driver, and the reinstalled and it was an improvement over the popping, but it does still pop. A friend told me to get a sound card and see if I still have the same issue, but I don’t want to waste money on one.

Dac/Amps Like SMSL AD18 And Topping MX3 plug in via USB and bypass your sound card or become your soundcard or something like that. So if popping is from the Soundcard a DAC/Amp ran via USB should eleminate that and produce better sound than the sound card. Don’t use optical - use USB.


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Thank you, I ordered the AD18 today and I’ll see how it does. I will be sure to use the usb input, but is it as high quality as digital optical? Will it be able to handle full quality music? Is there a big difference between the mx3 and the AD18 or is one better than the other?

AD18 has more power,wattage to speakers, I can’t remember the other differences, nothing major I don’t think. . Optical vs USB - I don’t know if one is Better Quality or Not ? in the Topping MX3 video there’s something Zeos prefers over the AD18 but I’d have to watch it Again to see.

The MX3 has a decent headphone amp and a subwwoofer output just not as much power per channel.

You could say that technically USB has the capability of being higher quality than optical. Thing is, it really doesn’t matter. Optical can’t support 32bit and the upper echelons(or any?) of dsd, but seriously…this shouldn’t concern you.

I have seen some comments that with some dacs it is preferable to use USB as USB is better about adjusting to the timing differences than it can with optical jitter. I’m surely using the terms wrong, but there’s some bro-science sense in there. My motherboard for example, has usb outputs that are supposedly (marketing!) specifically meant to be hooked up to a dac. #skepticism

Personally, I’ve always been a bit skeptical about motherboard tos-link out. Tos-link beats the hell out of using a soundcard or a lineout cable of course, (eeew!) but that’s just my personal feelings.

This is a zeos forum, and it’s worth mentioning the main reason why Zeos uses optical on his review desk is it’s far easier to daisy chain. You’ll never see a dac or dac/amp with usb audio pass through, but optical out’s are fairly common. Also, since he’s a reviewer, he’s constantly hooking up dacs…while most dacs will work perfectly fine without installing drivers, with an optical dac you don’t even have to worry about managing any of that.

And from a sound perspective…I doubt there’s a single person in the country who could hear the difference between a usb or optical connection assuming neither of them had any obvious flaws.

Personally, I prefer USB because I trust the actual connection more than I do optical. Tos-link is an absolutely terrible connector. So is micro-b, but thankfully most good dacs have a usb-a input.

It wasn’t that bad in 2004, and TOSLINK is pretty much a standard, solid connector today that is only going to make it easier to get good quality sound.

For most people 16 bit 44.1 kHz is going to be good enough anyways and besides having more numbers, most people are not going to care about 24 bit 192 kHz.

For DTS:X, Dobly Atmos, 5.1/7.1 PCM, and some other formats, you will need other connectors, which is a limit on TOSLINK’s usages.

I’m not too computer savvy - an external DAC via USB Is recognized by the computer and from what I understand - I could be wrong- becomes/bypassses the internal soundcard. Does Optical do the same - come from motherboard or what’ever or does optical come from the sound card.?

I’ve read it a cpl sources that says USB connect will be raw data and optical may still go thru audio processor in computer depending on the computer, motherboard, software etc…? And that Sound Quality will be same - atleast to Human ears- and one is reliable as the other Unless computer sound processor or software or such has issues that can attest optical.?

Usb uses the dac in your dac/amp. Optical used the motherboard/soundcard dac. I found this out if you scroll up… via optical I got (maybe) slightly better clarity, but there was a lot of popping from my motherboard. Plugged in the usb and no issues!

TOSLINK is a digital signal output type. Think of it as using light instead of electrons to convey the same digital 1’s and 0’s.

Usually gear that is 100% working, audio outputs do not make popping or any other noises unless the connection or cable is bad. The rest can also be gear / hardware related issues.
Modern audio formats and surrounds do limit TOSLINK’s usage but in simple stereo setup it is a good option still. Think i have 3m/10feet long TOSLINK cable on my second gear and no issues. Going near thick “cable snake” with powers, signals and network cables all together in messy harmony

Modern and good DACs have USB isolation features that removes internal noises the PC might produce.
Also if DAC/AMP has network features, no noise issues.

When sound is generated in your computer, it is digital information. The onboard (motherboard) DAC is in place to convert the digital signal that computers understand to analog signals which can be translated into audible sound waves by speakers, headphones, and other transducers.

An external DAC takes the digital information from your computer and makes it analog outside of your computer which bypasses the onboard DAC. To connect a digital signal to an external DAC to your computer could use either USB, TOSLINK, coax, and HDMI to name a few common standards. All of these connects are digital and are not subject to your onboard DAC’s processing in usual signal chains.

Sources like RCA, 3.5mm, and phono connections are some typical analog signals. These would be processed by an onboard DAC as they have been converted from digital to analog already.

In some special cases there may be an instance of the above digital carriers being used to transmit an analog signal, but such cases require fairly specialized, exotic equipment that are not typically found on consumer products.