40 months ago
"Onboard" is a very broad term, and it depends on what you are listening to. If you listen to music with large dynamic range, then depending on what you are using, certain parts might not get loud enough.
It also depends on implementation. You can get a cheap chip and make it sound wonderful. That's the whole idea behind the odac.
Or you can go all out and spend 5 dollars on the flagship top of the line, military speced dac chips, slap it into a device, sell it for 1000 dollars and still get terrible sound, as the implementation can suck.
I'll just use the iPhone 5s as a baseline, with volume 2 to 3 notches from max volume. The reason is that it is extremely neutral, and a few clicks down gets rid of most distortion, so you shouldn't be able to hear it. All other neutral dac/amps should sound the same, only louder.
Answer to your question:
If you listen to pop music, yes, it's enough. Rock, yes. Jazz, maybe. Classical...maybe. You might want a bit more volume during quiet parts.
Sound quality concerns and things to look at:
It really depends on your onboard's implementation. If it's fully transparent and the drivers are not messing with it (that was the case with mine. If that's the case with yours and you use Realtek ALC1150, try using thisto bypass those drivers and to get Dolby Headphones for games with poor sound engines), then you will not hear any difference between that and expensive but neutral dacs. If it's not loud enough, consider an amp like the O2 that's on Massdrop right now. If there is noise due to interference, try plugging your headphones into the rear audio panel, or if you wish to use the front, run some kind of a benchmark, find the audio cable that connects the front audio panel with the mobo and move it around while listening to headphones plugged in. Find one position where there is the least noise and strap the cable there.
If you really need an outboard dac, CEntrance's DACport Slim is constantly being dropped on Massdrop. It has a high noise floor, but a decent implementation and a very neutral amp. It's a small, portable solution that I currently use. Drivers are a pain, especially with Windows 10.
There's also HiFimeDIY that has great options at a cheap price. You can get one of their dongles and control volume within windows. It outputs a constant 2v as a line out as it is meant to be paired with an amp, but it is already better than the 1v that an iPhone 5s will output (and at this level, there will be some distortion). If it's not enough, you can also get an O2 amp on Massdrop and you pretty much have as great a pro audio grade reference listening setup.
You can also get the Micca Origen+. Again, neutral, tons of features, transportable, but not portable like the CEntrance DACport Slim.
Dac/amps are for fixing issues. If you don't listen to very very quiet tracks and you don't have any distortion/noise issues, go onboard.
If you do have those issues, pick up a cheap one I mentioned above. I mainly choose neutral ones because I don't know what you like, and perhaps you don't too. I thought I liked some specific sound signature and looked for products based on that. In the end I hated what I bought. Getting a neutral setup and using EQ can get you much further to what you want.
Oh, speaking if EQ. For listening to music, this + Foobar = audio nirvana.
I don't know if the AURA in the name means the onboard audio, but I bought the ASUS B150 Pro Gamimg/WIFI/AURA Which in the NewEgg specs says this:
SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports: Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel MIC Jack-retasking
- High quality 112dB SNR stereo playback output
- SupremeFX Shielding Technology
- Headphone AMP
- Optical S/PDIF out port at back panel
- Sonic Radar II
I assume it's the Realtek ALC1150 chip. I've never owned that mobo, so I can't tell you if it's good or not.
It all comes down to the implementation. They won't release any useful specs, so I can't even try to guess.
You should be fine for the most part unless you listen to very quiet tracks. Dac/amps are there mainly to solve problems. If you are chasing for sound quality and there's no problems with your onboard, don't get a dac/amp. They will cause more headaches in terms of troubleshooting and drivers.
Just get the headphones you wish to use (I assume Beyerdynamic's 250ohm ones?), try them and see if they get loud enough. If not, a simple amp will do.
If the onboard audio from my motherboard isn't enough, then will the ASUS Xonar U3 or the Soundblasters X-fi go! Pro work?
Hmmm...I'd look more into a simple amp, which you will plug into your computer via line out.
...maybe get something like the SMSL SAP VI if it's not loud enough and you really really really just want to spend money?
Those sound cards are there for the features. They won't really give you any extra power. If you want Dolby, which is the stuff Asus uses, here is a hack for free:
If you want Creative tech, this may be a bit more of a hassle, but you can get it for free too by following this:
I just want enough power to run it to its full potential, a USB DAC/AMP does that right? those 2 are both USB DAC/Amps
Yes, they are. But remember that going outboard introduces it's own problems. Again, unless your onboard has issues, you won't need them. At that price, they should not sound any better than properly implemented onboard audio. They might make sound worse. The only reason to get those is for the features, which you can get via the links that I've posted.
If you don't listen to very quiet music, you don't need anything special to power your headphones. All a dac does is change digital information to an analogue signal, and all amp does is make it stronger. They won't magically make headphones sound better if the previous dac is transparent and if it gets loud enough. Sadly, audio equipment is like that. : (
I have never heard the onboard audio of those motherboards, so I can't lie to you and say there is right or wrong. All I can say is listen to it with whatever you have. If there are no issues with it, you are probably good.
Well the audio is SupremeFX which is ASUS's onboard audio, and I've heard It's much better than Realtek.
Would the Fiio A1 work? I really just want something sufficient and portable, spending $50 max
Again, using the iPhone 5s as a reference, the A1 should be able to increase the volume by a few decibels. About 3db more if I did the calculations correctly.
If you don't plan to spend money for the sake of spending money, I strongly recommend against buying a dac or an amp unless you really see an issue.
Your onboard should be good enough. You really won't see much improvement. Just get the headphones and enjoy the music. : )
ok, thanks for the help
I'm really looking for a ~$40 headphone USB/DAC since the DT990 Pro 250Ohms are on NewEgg for $110
most informative comment +1
From my experience with the dt 770 pro 80 ohm I'm going to say no. Ask anyone with this headphone and they'll tell you that a decent amp is needed to amp to sound their best and reach good volume. If you can't budget in an amp like a Magni or O2 I would buy a headphone that is known to be easy to drive and work with portable devices.
I don't know...
They easier to drive (with both my phone and my amp) than my headphones. The DT880 250ohm version is about just as hard, and for me...the DT880 sounds the same when I was testing them with an amp and with my iPhone. : (
Did you test it with music that has a large dynamic range? That's when the difference with amping will be most noticeable.
Not to the extreme, no. : /
I've kinda been stressing that if you don't listen to really quiet music, it doesn't really matter though. Buy hey, my ears seems to be worse tab every person on the planet. : /
Give this a try with your headphones, it will help with critical listening:
Though for me and pretty much everyone u know, I already know that an amp is not needed.
I'll continue to only recommend getting an amp as a last option instead of being an absolute necessity. : )