I recommend that you avoid outputting the sound directly through the native sound card in your notebook, because even "high definition" audio devices coming with modern notebooks tend to pickup a lot of noise from the surrounding components and the quality of the D/A conversion itself might also not be the best.
The difference is that the music turns quieter/cleaner/more balanced/smoother, so the listening experience turns even more pleasant. I'm outputting the audio on my laptop through a firewire 400 connection to my RME Fireface 800
sound card and from there to a warm sounding analog mixer that allows me to fine adjust the frequencies with the room (I have a really great back end section bringing out those low end frequencies exactly like I want), and from there out to a high quality hifi sound system which has some really nice amplification components in it. If I use an SPDIF coaxial connection from RME Fireface 800
directly to my hifi sound system without any analog mixer in between, then some of the warmth is gone, I lose control over the frequencies.
Also, I have set my hifi sound system in Dolby Pro Logic mode, I really like that mode, which seems to bring out stereo elements a bit more isolated, with my 5 speaker front end system I'm able to pull out more background vocals on the sides by increasing the volume on the speakers that play those frequencies, while the vocals turn extremely well defined in the center. The final result is warm, wide, clear and pleasant. When I'm turning up the volume it's like going into space, you feel lighter and lighter as the sound waves encapsulate your being more and more. A very awesome feeling!
One thing that needs to be mentioned in tuning my playback sound to awesome quality even in a very small "woody" room is my work on speaker positioning. Lots of hours have gone into tweaking the position of every speaker. This is extremely important. When I now look at the final positioning of the speakers it seems odd that it would sound awesome the way they are positioned, because they are not perfectly symmetrically positioned. They are a little off in different ways, looks really funny. But oh my when I start playing... One recommendation regarding the low end is to use two perfectly positioned subwoofers in stereo, preferrably with soft clipping properties because these must make the kick drum (or low end transients) extremely soft, I know a lot of subwoofers that can't do that... But when you have such subwoofers and an analog mixer in between, then just boost the low end on the mixer until the whole mix sits in pillows... The nice thing about this is that you can raise the low mids as well and as soon as it turns noisy you just turn down the volume on the subwoofers... Left you have a huge low end section which is very soft and contributes to the stereo image as well. My configuration now sounds really good an all volumes and across all songs, I don't have too much or too little bass, always exactly as much bass as I want...
In order to improve my playback sound from here I would have to replace everything about my setup, the room, the treatment of the room, the amplification, everything, plus I would have to put a 0 at the end of the final setup price. Even if my current playback quality is awesome this would improve my sound to a completely different level because I've tested it, which is why I'm considering it...