I’ve been very busy later these days, almost no time even to refresh myself listening the music. Powering my tube amp, let them warm up won’t take less than 30 minutes. Well for next few weeks, I don’t think I have such time. Now, I spend most of my time in front of my Notebook, limited with poor onboard sound card and speakers.

After digging my cupboard, I found a pair of Altec Lansing MX5021 speakers and my old Terratec Aureon FireWire 7.1. Not the finest setup and my ears were irritated to hear the sound at first time, although they were better than my onboard combination. On a lazy Sunday evening, I fire up my soldering iron. Let’s see what we could do to improve the sound 😉

You can check here for my previous introduction about the sound card.

The main improvement should be the power supply. I found “el cheapo” 1000 uF  /35 Volt. OK, this was the main filter, the most important, let’s change it to Black Gate NX Series 680 uF / 65 Volt. Also note another capacitor changed to the “purple” Os-Con. This was on the digital supply section.

Enough change for initial stage. Let’s power it up and test the sound. Wow, that was the first impression on the 1st second I heard the sound. The sound was very transparent, the staging, the tonal, all were improved. Not to the level that I was expected, but for a consumer grade sound card, this was OK.

Then, I decided to bypass the final op-amp section, so the WM8770IFT DAC will run directly to RCA Out. After checking the datasheet, I believed this method should run perfectly.

The next decision was to pick a coupling capacitor. At this moment, my decision went to Mundorf Silver Gold Oil 0.47 uF / 1200 VDC. This was the finest capacitor from the Germany company, Mundorf. So far, I liked this capacitor because of its natural sounding and very wide/deep sound stage. This could improve most of the consumer card limitation, the staging.

Before plugging the capacitor, as usual, I checked the capacitor polarity. For you who wanted to learn more, you might be interested to check here.

After finished the checking session, I plugged the capacitors directly after the DAC output, then connected to the custom RCA Out. Sweet…!

Another shoot. I would create a custom chassis later.

After checking all the wiring, I tested the sound with my modded Altec Lansing MX5021 (detail in here and here).

The sound was definitely awesome. The sound was very liquid, transparent, detailed, but not bright at all. A little bit stiff at some section, but this I believed due to the Black Gate not yet broken-in. Almost all the songs now I could enjoy. If before I have problem listening Patricia Barber, Ingram, or Rebecca Pidgeon. Now almost all of them could be played nicely. Well, it’s still a multimedia speaker and consumer grade sound card anyway. But for its class, the improvement was awesome.

Later I would check some other parts, like the DAC analog power supply and some bypass capacitor. This would be fun!