As an audiophile who is often tossing about professional audio equipment, I recently bought a professional sound card that makes me feel super value. Let me, a Buddhist fan who is not too cold with most audio equipment, triggered a wave of waves, so I simply shared my experience of playing with professional sound cards for about ten years in this forum, hoping to help some who like professions Friends with audio equipment.
Due to their “professional tool” attributes, professional audio sound cards make many people think that they have a relatively good performance in playback. Therefore, I have seen many fans buy professional equipment and use it as a sound source, decoding, amplifying, and pre-stage functions. I believe you who opened the article now are also full of interest in how to choose professional equipment.
First of all, I must emphasize that the content of this article is purely personal experience sharing, with a strong personal subjective color. The conclusions drawn are for reference only.
I am still a newcomer, and my knowledge of digital interface is just USB digital interface. But then I started with the classic TC electronic Impact Twin FireWire sound card on the recommendation of a friend. The powerful digital signal output capability of this machine gave me a great shock as I just entered the professional equipment pit. At that time, I personally felt that the digital signal output quality of TC’s FireWire solution was comparable to that of the WEISS INT204 USB version.
It should be noted that the premise of using FireWire sound card is that your PC system supports FireWire interface. For Windows 10 system, just install FireWire expansion card directly. For macOS, the official also has a corresponding adapter kit available. If you are only interested in digital interfaces, you can buy the cheaper TC ELECTRONIC Konnekt 8. The difference between TC electronic Impact Twin and Konnekt 8 is that the former’s built-in amp and speech amplifier are very good. This machine is sufficient to meet the requirements of AKG K701 for headphone amplifiers, and its built-in microphone amplifier part also has +48V phantom power, which can also meet the needs of capacitors and dynamic microphones.
The only thing I want to complain about is the performance of the engineering plastic used in the TC electronic Impact Twin shell, which is covered with a rubber coating. This coating will become sticky and dusty as the use time increases. The good news is that the machine uses an external power supply, which means that an external linear power supply can be used to improve the sound quality, and there are indeed many improvements in actual experience. In addition, TC electronic has always insisted on providing driver updates for this device. It can be said that it is very conscientious to compare civilian line products
It prompted me to replace the TC electronic Impact Twin FireWire sound card. It was the Lynx AES16 that my friend lent me to use. This PCI sound card can be said to be famous, and it appears in many audio-visual exchange forums. In order to enjoy high-quality digital audio output when playing games, I chose Lynx AES16e that supports the PCI-E interface.
Compared to the previously used TC electronic Impact Twin, the biggest improvement of Lynx AES16e is that it has a more solid sound. To talk about the shortcomings, I don’t know if this sound card has been around for too long, but it always feels a bit suppressing the decoder quality of the back-end connection. On this point, I have communicated with many users, and they find this kind of sound more flavorful and less exciting.
In addition to the excellent quality of digital signal output, Lynx has always insisted on providing the latest driver updates for the sound card, and also comes with its own support for ASIO. Various streaming media and third-party playback software can directly start the corresponding ASIO mode . It’s just that the structure of this sound card is still too old. If you use this sound card to play a sound source exceeding 44.1kHz and 16bit, there will be a high probability of intermittent electronic noise. The official solution is to turn off all power saving options related to the processor in the BIOS.
Finally, if you want to use Lynx AES16e, you must accept the connection method of signal output such as db25. Professional audio equipment usually has the characteristics of multi-channel signal output and input, and in order to achieve this goal under the circumstance of prioritizing the size of its own equipment, only “braids” can be used. And this is not “Hi-Fi” for those audiophiles who care about the output and input signals must be independent.
One year after I started with Lynx AES16e, the idea of replacing the digital card came to mind. It is true that the sound quality of Lynx AES16e is sufficient to meet all my requirements for a digital interface, and it can even satisfy my idea of high-quality playback when playing games. Helplessly, if this sound card wants to output audio signals stably, it needs to consume part of the CPU performance. Once you encounter a game that eats more CPU performance, even if it is a sound source outputting a 44.1kHz 16bit bit rate, intermittent electronic noise will appear. So, I turned my attention to the famous RME.
RME’s DSP-based digital signal processing technology has been recognized by many musicians, and I was fortunate to have seen RME equipment in some recording studios. The HDSPeAES32 launched by RME is one of the best. This sound card can independently perform all calculations and outputs related to the audio part, without any interference from software and hardware, so as to get rid of the PC system startup, runtime noise interference and time base The problem of error. In addition, this sound card also supports clock signal input and output to ensure that the digital signal data stream can be transmitted correctly.
The above is just the official introduction of RME. According to my own actual use, RME HDSPe AES32 does independent calculation and output all audio signals. When I use PC to play games and use PS+LR to process photos, the audio output signal is not only stable and interference-free, but also has a very high playback quality. In addition, coupled with RME’s very timely update of driver support, support for multi-channel output and low latency performance, I can say that I am one of the most satisfactory PCI-E digital sound cards.
If you want to talk about the shortcomings, you can only complain about the setting of RME HDSPe AES32, which is slightly more complicated and has a certain threshold to get started. If you are not familiar with this digital card to help, it will be very maddening to use.
The more famous Lynx HILO and Prism Sound Lyra2/ADA 8XR in professional sound cards have been fortunate to have heard, but the ones that impressed me most are Apogee PSX-100SE and RME ADI-2 DAC FS. Let’s talk about these two models. The performance of professional sound cards.
The brand Apogee is familiar to friends who often use macOS devices for music creation. The PSX-100 and Rosetta 200 launched by the brand earlier are two devices that are more popular among fans. The sound of the former is full of charm, but the analytical power and extension at both ends are not as good as the latter. The resolution of Rosetta 200 can still be put to the present, but the sound of PSX-100 is much worse.
And Apogee PSX-100SE is the best solution for those who want to balance the taste of PSX-100 and the resolution of Rosetta 200. Apogee PSX-100SE is based on PSX-100, and its internal DA version has been redesigned and replaced with better materials. The biggest difference between this machine and PSX-100SE in appearance is the addition of a Special Edition metal nameplate. What is even more surprising is that, as a model released in early 2000, the A/D and D/A parts of this sound card also support a high bit rate of 96kHz and 24bit. It’s a pity that Apogee’s overly conservative sales attitude led to limited inventory of the machine. I also introduced it through a friend, taking advantage of the closure of the recording studio before having the opportunity to buy the machine.
It must be admitted that the Apogee PSX-100SE indicator is now an outdated product. It only supports audio sources up to 96KHz 24bit bit rate, which is not as good as those portable Hi-Fi players that can achieve hard decoding of DSD. But now that the flagships of major brands have emphasized the resolution and the sense of lines, how difficult it is to buy a nice device. On the basis of ensuring sufficient resolution, PSX-100SE still retains the taste of 90s recording, which is enough for me.
Although the taste of Apogee PSX-100SE is very satisfying to me, this decoder has the problem of insufficient density when coping with high bitrate audio sources. In order to solve this problem, I turned my attention to RME ADI-2 DAC FS.
The reason why I would like the RME ADI-2 DAC FS is mainly because the machine comes with a five-segment parameter EQ based on the hardware DSP processor. When professional acoustic decoration is not possible for the room, I can only use EQ to solve the low-frequency reverberation problem of desktop speakers. In addition, I also purchased SonarworksReference 4 acoustic calibration software, and got the EQ settings suitable for my sound system through the included microphone. After copying these settings to RME ADI-2 DAC FS, you can get system-wide hardware-level EQ.
The reason for using the built-in EQ of RME ADI-2 DAC FS instead of Sonarworks Reference 4 acoustic calibration software. It is because the Sonarworks Reference 4 acoustic calibration software is a real-time EQ applied to the system, which consumes a lot of processor performance without the support of a dedicated DSP device. The EQ of RME ADI-2 DAC FS comes with a hardware DSP chip, which not only reduces the system burden, but also has better EQ accuracy.
As for the sound style of the RME ADI-2 DAC FS, it can only be said to be very plain, and the resolution is very powerful. If you are not satisfied with the sound style, the built-in five-parameter EQ still has enough room for adjustment. Of course, if you don’t understand EQ, don’t adjust it, otherwise it will only bring more degradation.
When I first bought the Zenith 8010, I considered buying a pre-level one. Due to the insufficient budget, I started Dangerous Music Source under the recommendation of a friend, and I was very impressed. For the introduction of this monitor controller, you can go to the barbecue website to see the detailed evaluation. I will answer a few questions that everyone is more concerned about.
First of all, the two headphone jacks of this monitor controller are more hip, which is more difficult to deal with headphones such as HD600, and it is OK to drive headphones such as AKG K701. Its built-in decoded sound is more American style, which is slightly enthusiastic and suitable for long listening. If you only use the front-end functions of the machine, it is a very monitoring style. When used as the pre-stage of Zenith 8010, the sound is very delicate and has strong control.
On the whole, Dangerous Music Source has comprehensive functions and outstanding front-end quality. At the same time, this sound card uses an external power supply. After replacing the linear power supply, the resolution and amplification will be improved.
After replacing the main speakers from the combination of Zenith 8010+7040 to KH120A, the idea of upgrading the previous stage was reached. At this time, a friend who worked as a mixer recommended me to try DangerousMusic D-Box, also known as Summing Box. In order to trust the Dangerous Music brand, I specifically found a friend to buy D-Box from the closed recording studio. The main reason for overseas shopping is that Dangerous Music has launched a new D-Box+ to replace the old D-Box. For me, the new features added by the new model are useless to me, so I prefer to buy the old model.
Regarding this Summing Box, there is a very high-quality professional evaluation on the Internet. Friends who are interested can search for keywords by themselves. For me, Dangerous Music D-Box’s front-end features are very powerful. The control and fineness of the sound are rare in the same price range. Personally, I think it is much more powerful than SPL Phonitor X. And the quality of the two headphone jacks of this preamp is very good, which is very suitable for high impedance headphones like Senhai HD600 and Audio-Technica R70X. Finally, I also customized a linear power supply for it in accordance with the previous practice, and there is still a lot of improvement in sound control.
Compared to the digital interface, decoder, and preamps that were highlighted above, considering that there are more related evaluations of headphones and speakers, there will be less introduction to the playback device I am using. For personal use of headphones, that is, AKG K701, Sennheiser HD600, FOSTEX TH900 and Focal Utopia. For personal use earplugs, Ning Fan NM2 has been used more recently.
AKG K701 and Senhai HD600 have been evaluated a lot, so I won’t go into details here. I will briefly introduce the sounds of other products. The sound of FOSTEX TH900 is quite distinctive. It comes with a layer of enchanting filter when listening to everything, especially string music and female voices. With Focal Utopia, it sounds like the sound density is extremely high, and then the sound field under the original line is more awkward. It is recommended that friends holding the headset consider replacing the cable. As for Ning Fan NM2, it is an in-ear headset that I recently started. The NM2 wears well, the sound is quite line-like, and the resolution is excellent at the same price. The most important thing is that this headset has a more balanced tri-band ratio and is suitable for all kinds of music styles.
As for the speakers, I don’t mention a lot of professional speakers from brands that I have heard. I bought two sets of Zenith 8010+7040 and KH120A. Here to talk about the difference in sound style between Zhenli and KH. I have basically heard the 8000 series of Zhenli’s words. It gives people the feeling that they use dynamics to change the frequency response, and then the sound belongs to the style that easily highlights the defects of the recording. Considering the tool properties of the monitor speakers, there is nothing wrong with this style.
The sound style of the KH home is relatively “split”. The KH120A being used is also a very typical monitor speaker sound, but the thickness of the sound will be more normal than that of Zenith, and the mid-frequency has a slight coloration. However, KH310 is completely different. It comes with a “mantou” midrange unit, and its vocal moistness is not as good as KH120A. But if you are looking for desktop speakers with a sound field and positioning close to that of a floor-standing box, then KH310 is definitely the best among desktop speakers.
Features and disadvantages of professional sound cards
- The tool attributes of the professional sound card itself determine that its playback is very accurate.
- The price is low, much more reasonable than the price of Hi-Fi equipment.
- It is highly expandable and has many functions. Whether it is listening to songs or singing K, it can be done.
- The interface is more complicated. In addition to braid cables such as db15 and db25, there are also large three-core interfaces such as TRS and TR.
- Many functions have a certain learning cost. If you don’t have a certain mixing foundation or have friends who are familiar with the equipment to help, then it is not recommended to consider a professional sound card. Friends who haven’t been in contact don’t even know how to specify multi-channel input and output.
- Compared with Hi-Fi devices like stacking materials, professional sound cards pay more attention to circuit design and chip extreme performance, and flagship products use old DACs everywhere.
- The sound style of most professional equipment is to satisfy the mixer to better pick out audio errors. So don’t expect how good they sound, professional equipment that sounds good is rare.
- The professional circle chooses equipment to look at the brand, the function, and the parameters. This is completely different from the thinking of enthusiasts in choosing equipment.
Finally, put some pictures to commemorate the equipment I have heard and used. Here I hope everyone can jump into the thinking of a fan to look at professional equipment. The multi-channel output and input capabilities emphasized by professional equipment, as well as the emphasis on DSP chips and algorithms, can bring great help to audio playback. Of course, in the eyes of musicians and enthusiasts, this combination of mine is regarded as an evil way of playing. In this regard, I can only say that sound is something that cannot be evaluated objectively. For this, I can only learn and listen to various devices to enrich my audio knowledge, so that I can find out what sound I am after. .