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Cost-effective way to set up DT 990 600ohm and 5.1 surround with computer?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I just splurged and bought some Beyer DT 990 (600 ohm)'s on a sale, and now I'm completely lost onwhat equipment I should buy!

Basically, these cans will be used for both audio enjoyment and gaming

Simple enough right? I just need a soundcard, and possibly an amp (should I consider a DAC? Should most soundcards have decent DACs?)

However, I also want to pick up some 5.1 surround for movies and "sharing" audio when friends are over (looking at logitech z5500)

Basically, how should I go about setting all this up, and what equipment do you guys recommend?

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I'll need some way to hook up 5.1 to a surround sound, and  a pair of cans to my computer, hopefully with only minor bottlenecks in sound

 




I was thinking of this possible setup:

Simply get a xonar ST, and use the front panel audio connector, and plug in my 990's to the front panel. (Or should I use the 6.3mm connector and plug it into the back of the soundcard)

I read online there's a way to hook up 5.1 surround through the coaxial port (SPDIF)

^^^^^^^ What do I need to buy to hook up 5.1 surround with the ST through the coaxial port, also, is the xonar ST's amp good enough to power the 600ohm 990's??

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I'm pretty lost at the moment, I'm basically looking for the best cost-effective way to hook up surround speakers and headphones to my computer for both gaming and audio enjoyment.

I can't thank you guys here on head-fi enough, you've been loads of help!


Edited by pkgk1 - 7/3/11 at 5:53am
post #2 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by pkgk1 View Post

....

 

I just need a soundcard, and possibly an amp (should I consider a DAC? Should most soundcards have decent DACs?)

However, I also want to pick up some 5.1 surround for movies and "sharing" audio when friends are over (looking at logitech z5500)
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I'll need some way to hook up 5.1 to a surround sound, and  a pair of cans to my computer, hopefully with only minor bottlenecks in sound

 




I was thinking of this possible setup:

Simply get a xonar ST, and use the front panel audio connector, and plug in my 990's to the front panel. (Or should I use the 6.3mm connector and plug it into the back of the soundcard)

I read online there's a way to hook up 5.1 surround through the coaxial port (SPDIF)

^^^^^^^ What do I need to buy to hook up 5.1 surround with the ST through the coaxial port, also, is the xonar ST's amp good enough to power the 600ohm 990's??
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 

 

pkgk1,

 

I own the DT990s and the Xonar STX (modified). You didn't mention what computer and OS you're using, so I will assume Windows XP or 7 and good power supply in your computer.

 

IMO, you will get better results with an external headphone amp and DAC, but it will cost more than a $200 Xonar ST/STX. You could consider something like a Schiit Asgard ($250) or Valhalla ($350) headphone amp and the new Schiit Bifrost DAC ($350 - $450[usb opt]). (http://www.schiit.com) reasonably priced with reported excellent sound on these forums. IMO, also cost effective. There are many many other choices.

 

That said, the Xonar's are excellent consumer grade sound cards. Many owners of Asus Xonar sound cards are of the opinion that the Xonar ST (PCI card) sounds a bit better than the  Xonar STX (PCIe). From reading reviews, it seems the difference may be due to the fact that the ST has better (lower) jitter numbers than the STX due to an additional chip to control clock jitter. Jitter is timing error/distortion which all DACs have to a greater or lesser degree. If you're interested, you can read more about such things here: http://thewelltemperedcomputer.com/KB/Bit1624.htm

 

In addition, the ST doesn't require a PCIe to PCI bridge chip. Anyway, IMO both are excellent choices and will power DT990s quite well from the front or rear headphone jack (STX). The STX was designed for headphone listening, the ST is more of an all purpose card with the option to buy an add on board for 7.1 home theater needs. The STX has no inherent 5.1 sound capabilities, it's designed to be an "audiophile" 2 channel stereo card.

 

If you go the Xonar route, after getting used to the stock sound, you may wish to consider experimenting with different chips in the I/V and buffer sockets to change (improve) the sound of the card from stock. It can be substantially improved. There is a large thread in this forum on tweaking the STX here:  http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/421890/the-xonar-essence-stx-q-a-tweaking-impressions-thread

 

A guide here: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/475872/asus-xonar-stx-st-and-headphones-a-basic-guide

 

The STX (and I believe the ST, too) requires a direct power connection from your computer power supply. This is to provide cleaner power for improved audio and to bypass motherboard power/noise issues. The better your computer power supply, the better results you will get with your Xonar card.

 

As for setup, I recommend that you don't use the Asus CD to install the software. Instead download the latest software from Asus (for the ST card running on Win7 64bit): http://support.asus.com/download.aspx?SLanguage=en&m=Xonar%20Essence%20ST&p=21&s=1&os=30&hashedid=k8OChreLuh8zgFmQ

 

Once you install your card and Asus driver software, go into the Asus software and set your card for 600 ohms to get the maximum power the card can deliver into DT990/600ohm headphones. The STX specs are:

 

Line output: 2.16V

Headphone out:   885mV (    0dB, for headphones with impedances below 64 ohms)

                             3.52 V  (+12dB for headphones with impedances of 64–300 ohms)

                             7.03 V  (+18dB for headphones with impedances of >300 ohms).

 

Getting 5.1 from the digital out connection of the card to your Logitech speakers is not difficult. If you use Foobar2000 or J.River Media Center 16 for your software player then, for bit perfect sound, make sure to select either ASIO or WASAPI as the digital output mode in either program. If you search this forum there are several additional threads that will explain how to do this in more detail if you need it.

 

Buy a decent 75 ohm coax cable and connect it from the Xonar RCA S/PDIF digital out jack to your Logitech's digital input. It worked just fine on my Logitech Z-680 5.1 surround setup when I used it in the past.

 

Finally, the STX does not permit simulanteous headphone and speaker listening. The minute you plug in your headphones, the line out or digital out will be cut.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by Rizlaw - 7/6/11 at 8:45am
post #3 of 13

Asus xonar essence ST is a good choice, to power your 5.1 speakers just buy the baby card for the ST "which support up to 7.1 and it is cheap" :D

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rizlaw View Post



 

pkgk1,

 

I own the DT990s and the Xonar STX (modified). You didn't mention what computer and OS you're using, so I will assume Windows XP or 7 and good power supply in your computer.

 

IMO, you will get better results with an external headphone amp and DAC, but it will cost more than a $200 Xonar ST/STX. You could consider something like a Schiit Asgard ($250) or Valhalla ($350) headphone amp and the new Schiit Bifrost DAC ($350 - $450[usb opt]). (http://www.schiit.com) reasonably priced with reported excellent sound on these forums. IMO, also cost effective. There are many many other choices.

 

That said, the Xonar's are excellent consumer grade sound cards. Many owners of Asus Xonar sound cards are of the opinion that the Xonar ST (PCI card) sounds a bit better than the  Xonar STX (PCIe). From reading reviews, it seems the difference may be due to the fact that the ST has better (lower) jitter numbers than the STX due to an additional chip to control clock jitter. Jitter is timing error/distortion which all DACs have to a greater or lesser degree. If you're interested, you can read more about such things here: http://thewelltemperedcomputer.com/KB/Bit1624.htm

 

In addition, the ST doesn't require a PCIe to PCI bridge chip. Anyway, IMO both are excellent choices and will power DT990s quite well from the front or rear headphone jack (STX). The STX was designed for headphone listening, the ST is more of an all purpose card with the option to buy an add on board for 7.1 home theater needs. The STX has no inherent 5.1 sound capabilities, it's designed to be an "audiophile" 2 channel stereo card.

 

If you go the Xonar route, after getting used to the stock sound, you may wish to consider experimenting with different chips in the I/V and buffer sockets to change (improve) the sound of the card from stock. It can be substantially improved. There is a large thread in this forum on tweaking the STX here:  http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/421890/the-xonar-essence-stx-q-a-tweaking-impressions-thread

 

A guide here: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/475872/asus-xonar-stx-st-and-headphones-a-basic-guide

 

The STX (and I believe the ST, too) requires a direct power connection from your computer power supply. This is to provide cleaner power for improved audio and to bypass motherboard power/noise issues. The better your computer power supply, the better results you will get with your Xonar card.

 

As for setup, I recommend that you don't use the Asus CD to install the software. Instead download the latest software from Asus (for the ST card running on Win7 64bit): http://support.asus.com/download.aspx?SLanguage=en&m=Xonar%20Essence%20ST&p=21&s=1&os=30&hashedid=k8OChreLuh8zgFmQ

 

Once you install your card and Asus driver software, go into the Asus software and set your card for 600 ohms to get the maximum power the card can deliver into DT990/600ohm headphones. The STX specs are:

 

Line output: 2.16V

Headphone out:   885mV (    0dB, for headphones with impedances below 64 ohms)

                             3.52 V  (+12dB for headphones with impedances of 64–300 ohms)

                             7.03 V  (+18dB for headphones with impedances of >300 ohms).

 

Getting 5.1 from the digital out connection of the card to your Logitech speakers is not difficult. If you use Foobar2000 or J.River Media Center 16 for your software player then, for bit perfect sound, make sure to select either ASIO or WASAPI as the digital output mode in either program. If you search this forum there are several additional threads that will explain how to do this in more detail if you need it.

 

Buy a decent 75 ohm coax cable and connect it from the Xonar RCA S/PDIF digital out jack to your Logitech's digital input. It worked just fine on my Logitech Z-680 5.1 surround setup when I used it in the past.

 

Finally, the STX does not permit simulanteous headphone and speaker listening. The minute you plug in your headphones, the line out or digital out will be cut.

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

I have a 1000w 80+ Gold PSU by CoolerMaster, so hopefully I wont have  any bottlenecks there

Now as for the ST vs STX, I can fit either in my mobo, but I'm probably going to get the ST



How do you recommend I hook up my z5500s, with the digital out, or should I buy this 7.1 expansion board?? Which will produce better results?



I've heard that the creative titanium HD is better than the ST as far as SQ is concerned, is it even worth considering it if I want to run my 990's without buying any external amp?



Also, thank you so much for the information you've provided! 
 

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by eaglerock View Post

Asus xonar essence ST is a good choice, to power your 5.1 speakers just buy the baby card for the ST "which support up to 7.1 and it is cheap" :D



Do you know where I  can buy this card for "cheap"? I've looked online and couldn't find anything. 

post #6 of 13

 

Quote:
pkgk1:
Do you know where I  can buy this card for "cheap"? I've looked online and couldn't find anything.

I assume you looked here: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829132014 and here http://www.amazon.com/Xonar-Essence-24-bit-192KHz-Interface/dp/B002UVME88 and here http://www.overstock.com/Electronics/ASUS-Xonar-Essence-ST-7.1-channel-Sound-Card/4381659/product.html?cid=123620 and here http://www.buy.com/prod/asus-xonar-essence-st-sound-board-av100-pci-24-bit-internal/q/sellerid/31064376/loc/101/212820317.html  to select just 4, and you weren't happy with the price?

If these general price ranges aren't "cheap" enough, then you'll have to find someone selling the card you want "used" here: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/list/6552/source-components-for-sale-trade#page=0&FilterType1=true&FilterType2=true&FilterType4=true&FilterType5=true&FilterTypeOpen=true&FilterTypeSold=false&FilterOrderByBy=Creation+Date&FilterByTag=0

or on http://www.Ebay.com or http://www.Audiogon.com

 

 

Quote:
pkgk1:
I've heard that the creative titanium HD is better than the ST as far as SQ is concerned, is it even worth considering it if I want to run my 990's without buying any external amp?

Apart from my previous comments, I can't answer this one other than to advise you to read some online reviews and posts on this forum about both cards. We all have our opinions about what is good, better, best. Like everyone else, you will have to come to your own conclusion about which card is best for you.

 

http://www.stereophile.com/computeraudio/asus_xonar_essence_ststx_soundcards/index.html

http://www.overclockerstech.com/asus-xonar-essence-st-soundcard-review/

http://www.techradar.com/reviews/pc-mac/pc-components/sound-cards/creative-x-fi-titanium-hd-712750/review

http://www.guru3d.com/article/sound-blaster-xfi-titanium-hd-review/

 

For your "cost-effective" requirements, I don't think you can go wrong with an ST or STX / DT990 setup.

 

Quote:
pkgk1:
How do you recommend I hook up my z5500s, with the digital out, or should I buy this 7.1 expansion board?? Which will produce better results?

I believe I already answered this one. If you read the manuals it's not difficult to hook this stuff up. That said:

 

According to the ST specs, as I read them on NewEgg, the card passes all Dolby Digital formats. It's not clear whether it passes a DTS digital signal since it's not mentioned. However, I'm guessing that the ST will pass an unaltered DTS digital signal to your Z5500s and the Z5500 will be able to process all the digital signals, including DTS. I would hold off on the 7.1 expansion board for now, it may be an unnecessary expense. You may find the quality of the Z5500s 5.1 output to your speakers is sufficient for your needs; and, if not, you can buy the expansion card.

 

     1.  You hookup the RCA S/PDIF digital out of the ST to the S/PDIF digital input of the z5500s with a suitable 75 ohm coax or Toslink (optical) cable. This will pass the digital signal to the z5500s. The z5500s will decode the digital signal and depending on how you have the z5500 control unit set, will play stereo or Dolby Digital or DTS digital.

 

     2. You can also hook up the L/R analog outs from the ST to the L/R front channel analog inputs of the z5000s. This will result in all the digital decoding being done by the ST (probably better than what the z5500 can do on their own. BUT, this will only give you stereo sound.

 

 


Edited by Rizlaw - 7/7/11 at 9:02am
post #7 of 13

Actually he can get analog muiti channel if he get the H6 board for the Xonar ST, the STX doesnt have the pins for the H6. But the Xonar ST does.

post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

I was talking about the H5 (expansion card for analog surround), as I couldn't find it from non 3rd party vendors. But I agree with you, if the Xonar ST can truly power my Dt 990's its a great deal for the price. 



Are there any significant advantages in buying this expansion card and using the analog connections instead of just running a coaxial cable out the SPDIF port? 
 

 

post #9 of 13

 

Quote:
pkgk1:
Are there any significant advantages in buying this expansion card and using the analog connections instead of just running a coaxial cable out the SPDIF port?

 

I'm not familiar with the expansion card, but my uneducated guess is that it "might" sound better given the overall quality of the ST card vs. what's inside the Logitech Z5500s. But, it could also be the other way round. As for hook up, which you asked about before, you might want to look at this post:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/513895/asus-xonar-essence-st-with-asus-xonar-h6-extension-card-logitech-z-5500-digital-5-1-speaker-system

 

As I said before, I would wait on purchasing the expansion card and just let the coax digital output of the ST get decoded by your Z5500 into 5.1 surround sound for movies. If you don't like what you hear, then you can spring for the expansion card and hope that it sounds better.


Edited by Rizlaw - 7/9/11 at 9:35am
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rizlaw View Post

 

 

I'm not familiar with the expansion card, but my uneducated guess is that it "might" sound better given the overall quality of the ST card vs. what's inside the Logitech Z5500s. But, it could also be the other way round. As for hook up, which you asked about before, you might want to look at this post:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/513895/asus-xonar-essence-st-with-asus-xonar-h6-extension-card-logitech-z-5500-digital-5-1-speaker-system

 

As I said before, I would wait on purchasing the expansion card and just let the coax digital output of the ST get decoded by your Z5500 into 5.1 surround sound for movies. If you don't like what you hear, then you can spring for the expansion card and hope that it sounds better.

Thanks for the help! I'll most definitely take your advice and try the coaxial output before I go through the headache of rigging it up to the expansion board.

post #11 of 13

That's a great write-up Rizlaw!

 

Personally, I'm not a great fan of Logitech speakers, having owned the Z-5300.  The Z-5500 does have digital input, so it does the DAC as well as the usual integrated amplification for the speakers.

 

For music, I generally lean towards headphones or 2 speakers; music is recorded in 2 channels so 5.1 provides nothing but distortion to "normal" music.

For gaming, I would recommend headphones - why would you want speakers that can't do proper positioning, no matter how well are tuned to your room, headphones can do 64 virtual speaker positions with a decent gaming card, no comparison.

For movies, 5.1 can certainly be nice, and to that end, I think that going with an older 5.1 receiver that has 5.1 optical S/PDIF input (fairly standard) and driving a set of speakers is well worth it (think HTIB but building your own - much easier than it sounds, 30 minutes on Google).

post #12 of 13

FallenAngel,

 

Your compliment is appreciated. I, too, generally prefer listening to music in stereo via speakers or headphones.

post #13 of 13
Get a multichannel soundcard for the 5.1 and a tube amp (otl) for the beyer.
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