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Hi-Fi sound in PC

You only need to follow four things

My components are given as an example, buy your preferred brand.

Quality source

A quality power supply that cleans the input current and then guarantees the same clean voltages on each separate branch. You then plug the separate branch only into the sound card, which requires an external power supply. This ensures a quality power supply not just for the sound card. This solution is very inexpensive compared to an expensive external sound card that has to run on asynchronous communication via USB like the Xonar Essence One.

Chieftec SFX-500GD

High quality sound card

The current more expensive motherboards sound good and can handle even headphones with high resistance. But what will always be different from an add-on sound card will be the sound presentation. Buy what you can afford. The Xonar meets the use of an auxiliary power supply, has a 100 ohm output and a real ASIO with own driver. Plus, for movies and games, you can choose 5.1 input and stereo output, letting you process audio audibly on a whole other level. The resistance in your headphones should match the amplifier of the sound card: for example, don’t connect 2 ohm earbuds to the 100 ohm output of the sound card, where 32 ohms will be the minimum. The Xonar Essence II, for its price, offers a headphone amplifier with up to 600 ohm output, interchangeable MUSES op-amps and all the best quality regulators and capacitors including crystal oscillators for precise timing, but most importantly headphone and monitor output directly on the card. Easily connect and switch between high quality headphones and monitors. The sound of this card is different, softer and if you get used to it, you won’t like the sound from the motherboard very much.

Asus Xonar Essence II

ASIO-enabled player

The difference in sound between WDM (Windows Driver Model) and ASIO sound is noticeable. The sound sent through the ASIO driver gives maximum gain and liveliness at the output, while the sound coming through the WDM is so underpowered, affected by the speaker and volume settings in Windows. If you are playing through real ASIO, you cannot affect the volume of the sound in Windows. Xonar ASIO driver bypasses the Windows sound system entirely and sends the audio straight to the sound card output, which is why it’s a good idea to buy a sound card where the manufacturer has taken care to support real ASIO. Some people drive the signal from the sound card through some external amplifier to correct the sound at the sound card output. ASIO is a cheaper and more correct solution.

An alternative is to use WASAPI (Windows Audio Session API), which attempts to control the flow between the application and the sound card and provide BitPerfect communication by selecting WASAPI Exclusive (Event). There are people who claim that there is no audible difference between WASAPI and ASIO, but this is due to the fact that their ASIO does not bypass the Windows sound system. Me, on the other hand, don’t hear a difference between WASAPI and WDM, I choose ASIO.

In the case of the Xonar, the manufacturer’s ASIO driver has the annoying feature of interrupting the stream when the CPU is under heavy load, causing crackling. If you use Michael Tippach’s universal ASIO driver ASIO4ALL, you resolve the stream interruptions, but the sound will already go through the Windows sound system, so you lose the real benefit of Xonar ASIO sound.

You can see the settings in the pictures below. Select ASIO and note that if you are playing music tracks that are mostly 44kHz quality, you are also playing them at that quality. Don’t set the quality higher, as oversampling will lose the original quality of the recording and won’t produce a better sound.

AIMP3: Playback settings

Windows Media Player: download and install the plug-in ASIOWmpPlg.

In the ASIO control panel, leave again the 16-bit in which you have the recording, increase the latency to 50 ms, because you need to cover fluctuations in the communication between the processor and the sound card when the computer is busy.

Quality headphones

Don’t buy headphones under 80 EUR, and remember that the resistance in your headphones should match the capabilities of the sound card amplifier. The Sennheiser HD 650s have a resistance of 300 ohms. A regular motherboard won’t handle the headphones, but today’s better motherboards do. However, if you want to rock headphones with 600ohm resistance, you will need a better headphone amplifier on the sound card. Years ago I did some research on what different brands of quality headphones can do. In the Choosing Headphones project, I help you clarify what you’re looking for, and what ideal headphones you can buy.

Sennheiser HD 650

Quality monitors

If you want a famous European brand, prepare a substantial budget starting from 600 EUR per monitor. But sound is about physical properties, not the manufacturer’s brand. Where else can they design monitors cheaply than where they can also make them cheaply. Back then, a fledgling Chinese audio brand called Edifier was selling quality monitors for 240 EUR. But that’s in the past, now it’s as expensive as other Hi-Fi brands. When you make your own choice, remember that the monitor needs to be big, bulky and will be heavy. The manufacturer’s written frequency range doesn’t carry much weight, you need to find a review where they measured the frequencies and the monitors were able to play 50Hz to 15kHz properly. You ideally need stands for the monitors, as the monitor does not belong on the floor or on a desk or cabinet.

Edifier Studio 6 Plus
AQ S19/80