PC!-e x16, Half Height Sound Card: OBVIOUSLY better?

This HP Slimline office computer


video and audio from it’s motherboard (no extra fan noise)

using headphone out to Integrated Tube Amp now, to restored AR2ax speakers. Sounds good!

streaming YouTube Music Videos and Pandora (free) Radio.

****You ought to know by now I ain’t streaming beyond these two free methods/quality. *****

Possibility of using the PCI-e x16 slot for a half-height sound card.

One with RCA out rather than using headphone out?

Is the motherboard audio codec ALC3863-CG still involved, controlling output quality to the PCI-e slot???

It’s gotta be OBVIOUSLY better sound or why bother


Teach me something?

Thanks as always for your help understanding this.




The motherboard audio will not be involved unless you select that as the audio output in Windows.


Will it sound obviously better? Maybe. The headphone out is not ideal because you're essentially amplifying the signal twice - once with the onboard headphone amplifier and then with your integrated. If you don't hear any noise at the volume you're listening to, then it's not a problem.


Is there any particular reason why you're considering a soundcard vs. an external USB DAC?


thanks for your reply.

I have no noise or volume issues now, no problem, just, I got a slot, what would be better?

I was just kind of assuming a card slot would be better than usb/another external device.

is there a card PCI-e DAC with RCA out?

OR: ethernet to motherboard, ____?____ out usb (2 or 3 available) to USB DAC with RCA out to Luxman Integrated Line In? Thru a hub ok or problematic?

what is the most limiting part of that chain, i.e. is the motherboard audio codec involved or is signal from ethernet simply passed along to the USB out to the DAC?


this would give me 2 additional rear usb 3.0 ports, no need to use the external usb hub


The audio data from your network adapter is sent to whatever audio device you select in Windows (click on the speaker in the lower right in Win10, right click on the speaker in Win11 and select Sound Settings).


For example, if you have an external USB DAC and select that device for audio output, then all the data is sent to the DAC, bypassing any other audio device that’s installed.


I’ve never used a USB DAC through a powered hub, so I can’t speak to how reliable it would be. I don’t think it would be a problem if you plugged, say, a mouse, keyboard, and DAC into the same hub. The safer option would probably be getting the expansion card.


If you still prefer a soundcard, I think you’ll have a tough time finding one with RCA line output in half-height form factor.

I doubt you'll hear much of a difference if you use the audio converter in the second link and it might very well sound worse. These kinds of cheap boxes usually have a lot of corners cut.


If you're happy with the sound you're getting, there's really no reason for a change.


If you want to test the waters, I suggest getting a Topping D10s (USB input only). It's $109 on Amazon and offers respectable performance. A JDS Labs Atom DAC+ would also be a good choice, but the return policy isn't as generous (pay for return shipping + 15% restocking fee).


I really appreciate you taking the time to help me with this.

Now: out of my headphone jack, no hum or noise even at full volume which surprises me.

To Luxman 10wpc Tubes to Ar2ax speakers I just restored. Those vintage speakers have Level Controls for the mid and tweeter, I replaced them and adjusted in place. I sit dead center and get terrific imaging for both audio and music videos.

I started this because it's the last potential improvement I could think of in my office. I don't know what limitations are imposed by the motherboard/audio codec/dac somewhere/to headphone jack. It just seems a dinky headphone jack ought to be easily beaten.


I'm gonna buy a half height usb 3.0 card, I could use more ports in any case.

Then try the Topping D10s from Amazon you recommend.


1. USB input on Topping looks like a standard usb printer cord, Correct?

2.12 ft run from PC to Luxman with some slack: Longer usb/shorter RCA or short USB/longer RCA? Really doesn't matter?

3. says 'Latest' Windows. I have 10 home, I do not want to upgrade to 11. 10 presumably works?

4. 'Thesycon Installation'? Different Player?

I'm now using Windows Media Player for the small amount of music I have downloaded (whatever comes when I buy a new LP).

YouTube and Pandora my primary sources, I see their windows, is Windows Media Player in the background playing those streams?

After Thesycon Install, still use Windows Media Player? 

Thanks, Elliott



1. Yes it's a standard printer cord. Make sure the cable is rated for USB 2.0 speed to support playback of sampling rates higher than 96 kHz.


2. I would go for a longer USB cable and shorter RCA. USB 2.0 is limited to 5 m or ~16 feet. I think the Amazon Basics cable comes in a max length of 10 ft. which would probably work well in your setup.


3. Windows 10 is fine.


4. Thesycon is the driver for the USB interface on the DAC. It's normally unnecessary to install a driver if you're using Windows 10 / 11, but if you're having trouble getting the DAC to work, then installing the driver would be a possible solution.


If you're only listening to downloads that come with an LP purchase, Windows Media Player should be fine. If you ever want to listen to hi-res downloads (e.g. from HDtracks), then I highly recommend using foobar2000 with the WASAPI component added. It's free and works well.


I am certainly glad I asked and took your advice.

Topping D10s: windows 10 found/setup/selected itself, noting to do except listen!

Sound is OBVIOUSLY improved, exactly what I asked for, and the VOLUME output is considerably higher than the motherboard's headphone jack, very helpful to my 10 wpc Luxman tube amp.

I balanced these AR-2ax speakers by ear (tweeter and midrange volume controls). Now I will get my SPL mic, tripod, and test tone cd and calibrate accurately like I do in my main system.

all these were obviously better:






OH yeah!!!!


D10s is working from external powered usb hub now.

Half height card just arrived, I'll put it in later, plug into it directly.

Installed Card, same results as the Powered USB Hub, so I got 2 additional USB 3.0 ports, better sound and more volume!!!