Sound Blaster AE-7 vs Asus Raid Pro/DLX vs External DAC's

Hello, so since I bought a pair of Tygr 300R’s last year I thought a good DAC would go along with it. I first thought a FiiO E10K would be a good bang for the buck but then later realized there are much better alternatives featuring better surround and audio in general, with a physical knob(Raid Pro). Digging even deeper and going into forums I heard people saying that the Asus sound cards are not as good as the Sound Blaster alternatives for basically the same price. So now I’m completely mixed and don’t know what to buy… Or if I should even buy one. I’m currently running a Realtek S1200A on a Asus TUF Gaming B550M-Plus. My question right now is: How much would I even benefit from a sound card and if I should get a internal onboard sound card(SB AE-7) or an external one(FiiO). Also any recommendations are very welcome.
Am I currently satisfied with the sound? Well I don’t know… I don’t have anything to compare it to. I don’t know what I would get from an upgrade. I’m basically stuck with imagination to what it would sound like. I mean… There’s sound coming from the board and that’s all I know.
Thanks for any answers!

First off, welcome, Tex! I can definitely relate to your conundrum. When I first got started with this I was floored by the different levels of audio there were, and how much stuff was out there. There is no limit to how basic or how ridiculous you can get in this endeavor!

My brother is a Bass player and I was always looking at his setup whenever we would go over there. We would talk music and gear a lot. This is what drove me to want more. I started like many, I had a pair of Beats and a pair of Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones connected to the audio jack of my PC. And it sounded pretty good. Then I made that first jump and put a sound card in the PC. I was very impressed by the improvement. And that started the sickness! :laughing:

from there (and this was years later) I decided to see what else I could do after my trusty old Marantz receiver went out. Focusing on the desktop setup, I decided to start very small and bought a Topping MX-3. What a revalation that little guy was. I couldn’t believe that such a small device could produce such great sound. From there I went to a stack, selecting the SMSL SU-8 DAC and speaker amp. And that led to this

So it’s easy to get sucked down that rabbit hole! But I will say that in my case, I tried to make reasonable choices that didn’t break my wallet and yet delivered good price to performance. And I think I have been successful in that. My point is, each jump up has been worth it to me. And though I would like to go to the next level, I don’t really have that “need” to anymore. I think I am at that happy place. Where that happy place is for you, well, that is up to you to decide. Good luck and enjoy the ride!

1 Like

Thanks for the heads up.
That setup looks tidy as hell man, I’m not really a musician or anything, but listening to high quality music is something I just can’t imagine my setup without. I have thought of many amps, DAC’s and even DSP’s for better soundstages and more quality. The setup you have is something I would probably think about if I had a bigger room, but still, for someone who loves music, why not? Basically what you said about that happy place, that’s exactly what I’m searching for right now, I don’t need anything over the top, but sound is something you just can’t get enough of, there’s so many ways to improve it, and enjoy audio. I guess I’ll see what a sound card brings to the table I am looking very closely at the Sound Blaster AE-7 looks like it has a nice reputation and I really love the design of the knob, for the price I think it would be a pretty expensive start card. But hey as you said, breaking the budget isn’t really the most reasonable option, and this one is within mine.

1 Like

I’ll tell ya, that Sound Blaster was such a cool thing. I got it at a computer show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco back in 1998 or so. But it came with a Cambridge Audio speaker set with subwoofer designed just for that card. The first time I fired it up I was shocked. The speakers (there were 4 of them) were these little cubes and the woofer was the size of a shoe box. But it was a huge improvement over what I had. That arrangement served me well for years.

1 Like

I also started out with onboard audio and then went to a SB card to pair with my Sennheiser HD 558 at the time. The following upgrade was to a Schiit Audio Asgard 3 amp. After getting said amp I found the signal coming form my sound card to be noisy (most like due to being close to other components in the PC). That then prompted me to get an external DAC in the form of the Schiit Audio Modi which solved the issue. I have since been through several upgrades and pairs of headphones, but there was a noticeable step up in audio quality going from onboard - soundcard - external Amp + DAC. If the version of the soundcard you are looking at is the one for $220 then this is an equivalently priced external solution
There are plenty of options out there, so make sure to check multiple reviews on amps/dacs/soundcards you are looking at before buying. As long as the reviewer is being detailed in describing the sound characteristics of the product it will give you an idea of what to expect. Just remember that sound is subjective, and what sounds good to others may not be to your liking. For instance I like the sound of the HD 660s while there are those who consider it to be unpleasant. Good luck with your decision.


Going from plain onboard I do expect a noticeable boost in audio quality with about anything, really. I’m mainly going for something that can blow me away with instruments, and with the current onboard audio chips it’s doing a decent job for a stock chip. We’ll see, I never thought I would ever get a pair of open-back headphones and yet here I am 100% satisfied with them.
In my opinion, sound is something you’d always want to be the absolute best technology can offer. Comes at a wild expense though. If I was a millionaire I’d probably have a whole room dedicated to it hahahah. But as @Raptor168 said one arrangement can go trough years of service and satisfaction.
Thanks for the heads up man, cheers.

@Tex2083 Welcome to HiFiGuides!

go external always if you have a choice. computers have a ton of interference. that reduces sound quality by entering noise. it doesnt matter how good it is, if its using dirty power. and pc power is dirty power.

do you have a budget in mind you want to spend?

Here that would be 250€ (266$). That’s my entire budget, so going below would be recommended. But why would PC power be dirty? It’s getting powered straight from the PSU anyways. And PCIExpress slots aren’t really known for being total garbage… Like using onboard right now, there’s absolutely no interference or humm when there’s no sound and there’s basically no shielding on the capacitors or the chip itself.
I ain’t saying you ain’t right, but is it really THAT bad?
Because going external you gotta connect it with a wire, doesn’t the signal get compromised outputting from that wire in the process anyways?

Depending on the USB implementation on the DAC it will filter it out, or the board with the USB controller is isolated from the rest of the DAC to prevent unwanted signals from carrying over to the amplification section within the DAC. If your board has optical out then that would prevent unwanted electrical signals from reaching the DAC since it is not conductive. I have had DACs that are best connected with Optical while others have better USB implementations. So it is a case by case basis as to which you should use.

Also, keep in mind that you may not notice it with every AMP/DAC and/or headphone. It depends on what combination of computer components you have, and what audio equipment you have hooked up to it through what type connection. In my case I also did not notice anything until I hooked my first headphone amplifier to my soundcard. Like the name implies an amplifier amplifies all signals given to it. The unwanted signals were most likely too recessed to hear when I had my headphone hooked up directly to the soundcard. You might not notice anything depending on how sensitive your headphones are, and how much interference your computer components are causing. It is just good to be aware that it may cause an issue.

Right. I mean there will always be that little bit of EMI you just can’t do anything about, although that’s basically non existent at that point.
Onboard chips are pretty well isolated from the rest of the board from what I can see…

Being all the way down here they are way below the CPU, even GPU, and the only thing that it’s close to would be the M.2 SSD, but even that has a heatsink…
Looking at the Sound card location, it’s right in the middle of the board, and squished between various chips and the GPU, so yes, a soundcard with no shielding here would probably suffer from EMI.

You would be right here about issues, good to point this out. I was looking at the space I got here, and I could potentially get an external amp into my desk cabinet, or just drill some holes for a shelf. Don’t know about this now…
I was looking at some more forums and someone recommended a Schitt stack (Modi+ and Magni+) those would probably remove all EMI, being far away from the case, and I can even plug the Optical Out you were talking about too.
But now I’m concerned about audio quality, the Schitt DAC(Modi+) looks kind of… Simple so to say, from the inside. Comparing it to the SB AE-7 of course.

Right now I have a GTX 1650 SUPER, which probably wouldn’t cause that much problems, running at 100W maximum. I do plan upgrading to a stronger card, so I don’t know if that would cause more
problems either.

Alright, just to sum up the overall thing here, don’t wanna leave it empty for folks who are looking at reviews and still can’t find an answer, although this prolly wont help them much, hahahah.

Okay, so in the end I went in further digging for finding a DAC/Amp and saw IFI, looked like a cool company and what really got me their attention was their XBass, Truebass and 3D sound claims. I am using Truebass right as we speak listening to heavy metal. I’m not amazingly impressed, but yes, the bass doesn’t interfere with the mids from what I can hear. Kinda sounds like rocks rumbling in the background. (My budget was too low to test out the XBass and 3D features, maybe next time.)
Anyway, I ended up getting their IFI Zen Dac V2, completely different from what we’ve talked about here, but it was a great option overall in my opinion, since I could buy it in my local shop. And I can say that the difference in high quality sound(listening to what Groove music says is 1860 kbps bitrate) is noticeably higher. The sound doesn’t sound as “jagged” as it did before.
For those wondering if a lower quality file(Groove said it was 134 kbps bitrate) file is noticeably better, the answer is yes.



love my zen dac(v1). glad you found something that works for you!

1 Like

I tried the zen dac v1 for a week before shipping it back: I found the bass was too much with my he400i.

What I know now is that my soundcard (sound blaster xfi titanium HD, marketed as an audiophile soundcard and sold for more than 200€ at the time) was so weak that the headphone lacked bass in the first place and I was used to it. Now that I have a decent rig (topping dx3pro V2 as dac, smsl ho100 as amp), I know how the he400i is supposed to sound like, and the scratch for that Ifi sound itches again.

Aaaanyway, you got yourself a good gear, @Tex2083 . You did good avoiding the soundcard: they are overmarketed and overpriced sh*t. Have fun with your zen dac :slightly_smiling_face:

I personally am in love with the knob: good looking and very good feeling

1 Like