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.





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