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Astro Mixamp vs sound card for PC

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

Hi, i already have the mixamp works via optical and usb for power, but my PS3 broke so im getting a gaming PC, but dont know if i should buy a sound card like the http://www.scan.co.uk/products/creative-sound-blaster-x-fi-titanium-soundcard-pci-e(x1)-71-speaker-output

or just stick with my mixamp for PC gaming.

 

Sound card would just be for gaming so would want surround sound (have dt770 80 ohm) as i have the Fiio E9/E7 combo which i assume would be better for music and probably movies. Would the fiio's use the soundcard at all for music? i.e would the sound go through the soundcard then to the Fiio E9/E7? (hard to explain what i mean, hope you understand)

 

If selling the mixamp is the best idea, then what sound card is best for gaming surround sound?

 

Thanks in advance everyone!

post #2 of 22

If you liked the Mixamp, an ASUS card would be right for you. They both use Dolby Headphone for their surround sound emulation. The Creative cards use X-Fi CMSS-3D, which may work better for you or it may work worse. If you use headphones exclusively, look at the Xonar Essence STX. I don't know how the headphone out power compares to the E9, but it will be more than enough for your headphones and measures better overall. The DAC measures better than the E7 as well. So you'd be able to sell the three components you have right now to fund the purchase.

post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Head Injury View Post

If you liked the Mixamp, an ASUS card would be right for you. They both use Dolby Headphone for their surround sound emulation. The Creative cards use X-Fi CMSS-3D, which may work better for you or it may work worse. If you use headphones exclusively, look at the Xonar Essence STX. I don't know how the headphone out power compares to the E9, but it will be more than enough for your headphones and measures better overall. The DAC measures better than the E7 as well. So you'd be able to sell the three components you have right now to fund the purchase.


Thanks for your reply! Also i wasnt the greatest fan of the mixamp, and i heard a soundcard was better for PC, so i will be looking to be getting rid of that. The Xonar Essence STX  is a bit expensive, as i dont think i could cover the cost by selling the E7/E9 and mixamp, and cant afford to spend more!

Will i be able to use the E9 and E7 in conjunction with a Creative X-Fi (that range is more within my budget, also heard they were good for gaming) or would that defeat the point of getting a soundcard?

As the E9 doesnt support surroundsound will this mean if i used the E9 with the soundcard the surroundsound wouldnt be as clear? Should i just use the headphone out of the PC?

Also ill be using it for music BTW

Sorry just a bit confussed as to what the soundcard actually does, and if an amp would help it or not and if a DAC would bypass the soundcard?

 

I will just be using with headphones yes, both gaming and music!

 

Thanks allot for your help, sorry for all the questions lol


Edited by danny93 - 8/24/11 at 5:57pm
post #4 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by danny93 View Post

As the E9 doesnt support surroundsound will this mean if i used the E9 with the soundcard the surroundsound wouldnt be as clear? Should i just use the headphone out of the PC?

Also ill be using it for music BTW

Sorry just a bit confussed as to what the soundcard actually does, and if an amp would help it or not and if a DAC would bypass the soundcard?


I'm honestly not sure how Creative handles CMSS-3D, if it can be passed on digitally, through RCA out, or only works out of the headphone jack. The only card of theirs that I know has analog RCA outs that can feed an amp is the Titanium HD, which is a little cheaper than the Essence STX and a good competitor as far as the DAC goes. It doesn't pack an amp with the same punch as far as I know, which won't be necessary if it can actually feed CMSS-3D to your Fiio. Try to search around for how CMSS-3D works with the RCA output, and look around or ask in this thread. Depending on how loud you play your games, the card itself might be able to handle your DT770.

 

Basically what you need is a card that can output its surround sound emulation through RCA or some other unamped analog line out, or a card that can drive your headphones. If your Mixamp works as-is with the E9, you might want to just keep it and save yourself the trouble of finding something else.

post #5 of 22

I would assume if you got a "gaming PC" with an optical output, you could just plug the Astro MixAmp in to that.

Or for a cheap sound card, an Asus Xonar DG, which comes with a decent headphone amplifier.

post #6 of 22

The thing about motherboard S/PDIF is that while it should be free from the noises that motherboard audio jacks are susceptible to, it needs to have Dolby Digital Live to encode the signal on-the-fly into 5.1 so that the Mixamp gets more spatial information to do its thing. Most probably don't.

 

And then if you like playing older games that used DirectSound3D or OpenAL along with EAX, there's no other way to get the most out of that than a proper X-Fi card. (Those older games had even better sound engines than what we're getting now, which foolishly pre-mixes everything into whatever your Windows sound control panel is currently set to. If it's 7.1, you get an emulated 7-speaker sound field. If it's stereo, you get...well, stereo. With DS3D and OAL, they just tell the sound card driver where sounds are in 3D space and lets the sound card driver do the dirty work of deciding where and how to play back those sounds. This means that CMSS-3D Headphone isn't limited to a mere 7 speakers worth of spatial information, instead being able to leverage a true 3D binaural sound field...though that won't help you much if your HRTF differs from the generic HRTF used by CMSS-3D too much.)

 

Just so we're clear on setting up CMSS-3D Headphone (not CMSS-3D Virtual or Surround):

 

-Windows speaker settings to 5.1 or 7.1, preferably the latter. This is because of the issue I mentioned above with games that use APIs like XAudio2. DirectSound3D and OpenAL games shouldn't care at all, but it might be wise to set them to "surround sound" anyway, just in case. Don't worry about not being able to hear anything; the X-Fi will downmix everything, even with CMSS-3D off.

 

-X-Fi control panel setting to Headphones. This ensures that you have CMSS-3D Headphone available and not one of the other similarly-named features. It's also the only setting that permits asynchronous speaker settings in Vista and Win7. (If running XP, make sure to uncheck the "Synchronize with Windows Control Panel" box first.)

 

As for the FiiO E7 and E9, go for the E9 if you need an amp and ignore the E7. The E7 is a USB DAC and portable amp, while the E9 is a very potent solid-state amp, and docking the E7 to the E9 really means that you use the E7's DAC with the E9 amp. There's no point to this for gaming use since it's effectively bypassing your sound card to begin with.

post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 


Quote:

Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

The thing about motherboard S/PDIF is that while it should be free from the noises that motherboard audio jacks are susceptible to, it needs to have Dolby Digital Live to encode the signal on-the-fly into 5.1 so that the Mixamp gets more spatial information to do its thing. Most probably don't.

 

And then if you like playing older games that used DirectSound3D or OpenAL along with EAX, there's no other way to get the most out of that than a proper X-Fi card. (Those older games had even better sound engines than what we're getting now, which foolishly pre-mixes everything into whatever your Windows sound control panel is currently set to. If it's 7.1, you get an emulated 7-speaker sound field. If it's stereo, you get...well, stereo. With DS3D and OAL, they just tell the sound card driver where sounds are in 3D space and lets the sound card driver do the dirty work of deciding where and how to play back those sounds. This means that CMSS-3D Headphone isn't limited to a mere 7 speakers worth of spatial information, instead being able to leverage a true 3D binaural sound field...though that won't help you much if your HRTF differs from the generic HRTF used by CMSS-3D too much.)

 

Just so we're clear on setting up CMSS-3D Headphone (not CMSS-3D Virtual or Surround):

 

-Windows speaker settings to 5.1 or 7.1, preferably the latter. This is because of the issue I mentioned above with games that use APIs like XAudio2. DirectSound3D and OpenAL games shouldn't care at all, but it might be wise to set them to "surround sound" anyway, just in case. Don't worry about not being able to hear anything; the X-Fi will downmix everything, even with CMSS-3D off.

 

-X-Fi control panel setting to Headphones. This ensures that you have CMSS-3D Headphone available and not one of the other similarly-named features. It's also the only setting that permits asynchronous speaker settings in Vista and Win7. (If running XP, make sure to uncheck the "Synchronize with Windows Control Panel" box first.)

 

As for the FiiO E7 and E9, go for the E9 if you need an amp and ignore the E7. The E7 is a USB DAC and portable amp, while the E9 is a very potent solid-state amp, and docking the E7 to the E9 really means that you use the E7's DAC with the E9 amp. There's no point to this for gaming use since it's effectively bypassing your sound card to begin with.



Thanks for the post, allot of great information there!

Still a little unsure on "The thing about motherboard S/PDIF is that while it should be free from the noises that motherboard audio jacks are susceptible to, it needs to have Dolby Digital Live to encode the signal on-the-fly into 5.1 so that the Mixamp gets more spatial information to do its thing. Most probably don't."

 

Just to clear up, what should i sell? Fiio E7 and the Mixamp, and keep the E9?

 

If i should keep the E9 how would i connect it to say a x-fi titanium (or titanium HD if i can afford it) when gaming? Or would these cards power my dt770 80 ohms fine?

Also what X-Fi sound card do you suggest I buy, does this seem good CREATIVE Auzentech X-FI Forte or would titanium be better? Could you reccomend a budget card, and also a higher quality card please :)

What would be the best way to listen to music, i listen mainly to bass heavy music so detail isnt that important, but would like decent quality!

Thanks allot really appreciate the time you have given me here!

 

Motherboard will probably be MSI P67A-GD53, havent bought it yet though!

 

 


Edited by danny93 - 8/25/11 at 11:27am
post #8 of 22

If you don't need a portable DAC/amp (possibly for a notebook), sell the FiiO E7. If you don't need Dolby Headphone for use with game consoles and such, sell the Astro Mixamp (though I am tempted to hear someone's impressions on having an X-Fi that feeds a Mixamp with Dolby Digital Live to compare Dolby Headphone to CMSS-3D Headphone).

 

In terms of X-Fi sound card recommendations, I own the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude and X-Fi Forte. Good cards, as long as the Forte isn't one of the lemons that have noises that shouldn't be there. The X-Fi Titanium HD is well-reviewed, supposedly having even better sound quality (if only slightly), but if you have any possible intention of using surround speakers in addition to headphones, you'll be disappointed by the Titanium HD only having stereo analog outputs (5.1 can be accomplished with Dolby Digital Live and S/PDIF).

 

They're more on the expensive side, but try scouring eBay and the Source Components For Sale subforum here for used ones that should cut down on the cost.

 

For a more affordable card, the two lowest-end cards you should even consider are the XtremeMusic and XtremeGamer (both PCI). Anything labeled "XtremeAudio" is to be avoided, since those cards don't have the EMU20k1 or EMU20K2 that makes an X-Fi an X-Fi. (Oddly enough, higher-end cards like the Auzentech X-Fi Bravura and Audiotrak Prodigy have the same problem.)

post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

 

In terms of X-Fi sound card recommendations, I own the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude and X-Fi Forte. Good cards, as long as the Forte isn't one of the lemons that have noises that shouldn't be there. The X-Fi Titanium HD is well-reviewed, supposedly having even better sound quality (if only slightly), but if you have any possible intention of using surround speakers in addition to headphones, you'll be disappointed by the Titanium HD only having stereo analog outputs (5.1 can be accomplished with Dolby Digital Live and S/PDIF).

 

 

Thanks allot!

Does this mean the titanium HD doesnt have as good surround sound as the Forte?

 

Also would i need the E9? Or could my fairly easy to drive beyers be powered sufficently from the cards alone do you think?

 

post #10 of 22

Yes, do not wast money on an Xtreme Audio, older chip design that uses extra software to compensate for it's older design.

 

Xtreme Gamer, about as old (and cheapest price) as you can get and still have decent support for EAX 5.0.

The Xtreme Gamer is a little bit newer design over the Xtreme Music and the Gamer is smaller.


Edited by Tacoboy - 8/25/11 at 9:02pm
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by danny93 View Post

 

Thanks allot!

Does this mean the titanium HD doesnt have as good surround sound as the Forte?

 

Also would i need the E9? Or could my fairly easy to drive beyers be powered sufficently from the cards alone do you think?

 



It's a matter of analog I/O, not surround quality by itself.

 

A Fiio E9 seems to be a bit overkill for the DT770 80Ohm, but while they're relatively easy to drive, an amp shouldn't be out of the equation.

 

About gaming ready soundcards, I'd recommend a Creative X-Fi Titanium (PCIe, can be had for 50-80$), an Auzentech X-Fi Forte (PCIe, can be had for 110-120$) or a Creative X-Fi Titanium HD (PCIe, can be had for 125-140$). The cards are ordered by price and quality.

 

If your budget could be stretched, I'd recommend the Titanium HD, and running your DT770 straight from the card, but if you felt like they weren't sounding as expected, adding a budget amp above Fiio E5 would be enough. Amps like PA2V2, Fiio E11, cMoy amps would work, but keep in mind that the DT770 has a warm signature by itself, which would make E9 a better match.

post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 

As i already have the E9 and E7, it seems a waste of money selling them! So i will use the Fiio's for music and movies and i will buy a soundcard that i will only use for gaming only, just want decent surround sound, dont need anything amazing, just decent so can spend around £50-70, dont mind buying used at all, i actually prefer it :)

 

So is the titanium x-fi the best option? Will this have a better DAC than the E7?

 

Thanks

post #13 of 22

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by danny93 View Post

Thanks allot!

Does this mean the titanium HD doesnt have as good surround sound as the Forte?

 

Also would i need the E9? Or could my fairly easy to drive beyers be powered sufficently from the cards alone do you think?


As Roller said, it's a matter of the extra analog outputs just not being present. Binaural surround (CMSS-3D Headphone) might be even better as a result of its sound quality, but note that Roller's not a fan of binaural HRTF filters in general due to the sound quality impact. (I personally turn it on in games for the imaging improvement, but turn it off for music; since I'm running Audio Creation Mode bit-matched with ASIO for music playback, I can't even turn it on anyway. No, I don't use Entertainment Mode at all.)

 

It's probably a safe bet to keep the E9 if you think you might get something like the AKG K 701/702 in the future, or other notoriously insensitive dynamic/ortho headphones. At the very least, don't sell it before you get a new sound card; if the DT770 runs fine to your ears without it, then you can feel confident in selling it.

post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 

Ok after speaking to someone who has heard the mixamp and the auzentech auzen x-fi forte, he apparently prefered the mixamp so i think ill stick with what i have, as i also need a portable amp and so the E7 can pair with my iMod, even though it is MASSIVE!!

I can then use the E7 and E9 for music, and then the mixamp for gaming!

 

However one question that im not sure on is that i would need to connect the mixamp to computer via optical, so would i use any part of the onboard sound?

 

thanks

post #15 of 22

You'd be using the optical output of the onboard audio codec, at the very least, but obviously none of the analog outputs. I still don't know if you can actually send a real-time-encoded Dolby Digital signal that way, though (which is what Dolby Digital Live does). On the other hand, the Mixamp has a USB port IIRC, so maybe you could use it like a USB DAC.

 

Does that someone you asked own BOTH the Mixamp and the X-Fi Forte? Ask him to set up the X-Fi Forte to output Dolby Digital Live through S/PDIF (it has a Toslink adapter for the RCA jack bundled with it) and into the Mixamp. There's just too many variables here, and I want to find out if it's more of a preference for Dolby Headphone over CMSS-3D Headphone in that person's case.

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