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Setting up Audiophile PC

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone,

New to the forum as I'm just getting into the whole audiophile thing. I have a a lot of questions and don't even know where to start so if you just post links to places I should read I'm fine with that.

 

I'm looking at building a new PC, both for my photography hobby and hopefully for some high end audio listening. However I'm totally lost on what I need.

 

This all started when I bought some Sony V6's. The difference in sound from anything else I've heard was fantastic. So I'm eager to see what else I can hear from my music.

 

So what I know so far is I need good headphones and good quality files to play. I'll probably upgrade my headphones again and use the ones I have for travel. I've started updating my music library to all FLAC or at least 320 kbps stuff. I've heard foobar is the best music player for PC to play this on?

 

However I'm not sure what else I need for quality sound. I can research individual products myself, I just want to make sure I won't be missing anything that would drastically affect sound quality.

 

So everything would start at my pc. I assume as long as I'm running foobar with good quality tracks that should be fine.

 

Next would be a good quality sound card. I assume this is a requirement? If so what in particular should I look for in a soundcard?

 

After that do I need an amp for headphones or just for speakers? And do I need anything between the soundcard and the amp? Also do I need different amp's for headphones vs speakers? (I plan to have both). Anything I should be looking for in a soundcard?

 

Next would be the headphones or speakers? I can figure those out myself, as long as there's nothing I need between the amp and the speaker/headphones that I need.

 

Finally, where are the best places to buy all this stuff? I should for all my camera at B&H. How are they for Audio stuff? Or is there a general consensus of a place for audio gear?

 

Thanks for reading and like I said, I know no one wants to type out all this stuff for me so links are great.

 

Chris

 

 

post #2 of 13

Some basic stuff:

 

- Depending on the headphones you want, will dictate what kind of amplification, if any, you will need (so say you want the Koss ESP/950 - those require a specialized amplifier, while something like the Grado SR-60i doesn't (at least I would assume most people would agree with that)). 

 

- A soundcard or external soundcard would be worthwile depending on the above, and what your computer has to begin with; it may also include a headphone amplifier and other features - again, figure out what you want and what you need it to do. 

 

- Amplification for speakers is separate, there are a few headphone/integrated combos that put out a few watts, I don't know how well they handle being speaker amps. On the other side you can get a receiver or integrated amplifier (something designed for speakers primarily); it may not be the best match for your chosen headphones though (or it may just be bad for driving headphones in general).

 

I'd get a handle on what kind of headphones you want (probably means jumping over to the other board), and then building down from there figure out what other hardware you want or need based on suggestions and reading up on the model you've picked. 

post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Okay well to answer your question about headphone's I'd probably go with some AKG k701 (or 2)'s. They seem like what I'd want. I'm not big on bass and they seem to be rated fantastically for everything else.

 

From the reading I've been doing I'm not sure if I need a soundcard (I'd be building the pc so picking all the components myself), or just an amp with dac converter.

post #4 of 13

Try to plan for what you might want in the future, too. A little planning now can be worth lot$ of money down the road.

 

For example, if you know that you'll eventually want to be able to run headphones and one (or more) set of speakers, consider getting an external DAC. It doesn't need to be spendy, but having more hookup options will make for a simpler setup if you have lots of gear.

 

If you want multichannel audio, a stereo unit won't do. You could either get a multichannel sound card (external OR internal), or an external receiver that supports multichannel audio.

 

For any external option (if you decide to go that route) make sure your PC has the correct digital output. Both optical and coaxial S/PDIF are pretty common options.

post #5 of 13

Don't get caught up in all the "disable Windows for better sound quality" or "stream to kernel" crap. If you do want to spend extra money on an "audiophile" PC, invest in a low-powered, silent model. A silent PC will be a much larger, nay, existent improvement to sound quality than some ridiculous "audiophile" music player.

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 


With this in mind right now it would probably make the most sense to skip the soundcard, get a USB DAC and than an amp for my headphones? Would that make sense? Than I could hook up the amp and DAC now, and later get a new amp for the speakers? If so than any recommendations for a DAC for under $300 and an amp for a similar price?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iniamyen View Post

Try to plan for what you might want in the future, too. A little planning now can be worth lot$ of money down the road.

 

For example, if you know that you'll eventually want to be able to run headphones and one (or more) set of speakers, consider getting an external DAC. It doesn't need to be spendy, but having more hookup options will make for a simpler setup if you have lots of gear.

 

If you want multichannel audio, a stereo unit won't do. You could either get a multichannel sound card (external OR internal), or an external receiver that supports multichannel audio.

 

For any external option (if you decide to go that route) make sure your PC has the correct digital output. Both optical and coaxial S/PDIF are pretty common options.



 

post #7 of 13

I have an Asus Xonar D2X hooked to my pc..

I also have logitech Z5500 as my main home theater speakers for gaming and movies(i connect my pc via hdmi to my 40'' tv next to it) and a pair of KRK studio monitors for listening to music..

I bought also an amp like M-Stage Matrix for my Pro 900 which i use it also as a pre amp for my KRK's....

This is my complete audiophile setup with just a simple soundcard..

My point is that if sometime in the future you like to get surround speakers go for a multichannel card...

Dacs can't do multichannel..


Edited by Optimus Praim - 11/14/11 at 1:59pm
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willakan View Post

Don't get caught up in all the "disable Windows for better sound quality" or "stream to kernel" crap. If you do want to spend extra money on an "audiophile" PC, invest in a low-powered, silent model. A silent PC will be a much larger, nay, existent improvement to sound quality than some ridiculous "audiophile" music player.


Agreed.

The best addition I made to my "audiophile" pc was moving to a case/power supply/manual fan controller that made the fan noise virtually nonexistent. The other stuff - WASAPI, Jriver, ASIO ...meh.

On the other hand, I just had some passable sashimi for dinner, for which the WASABI added nicely to the experience.

170
post #9 of 13

If it were me building a custom PC I would consider something like this:

 

Look into a motherboard with plenty of USB outputs, skip the sound card and use a USB DAC > Headphone Amp > Headphones.

 

For system cooling look into something like a Corsair H70 which will cool your system and stay super quiet (unless you start trying to push  large overclock or something) I was able to push an AMD 1090T from 3.2ghz x 6 to 4ghz x 6 on an H70 without any danger of overheating. (load tests with prime95 will give you your maximum temp/fan noise after 30-45 mins)

 

For an amp, if you just want to play with a DAC/amp combo the HifiMan EF2A is pretty awesome. I use it at work with my laptop, but it maxes out at 16/48. So if you are running 320kbps FLAC files you might look at the Schiit Bifrost or something similar. It's all about quality and price/performance, plenty of amps/DAC's out there. I also highly recommend little dot amps if you're into tubes at all.

post #10 of 13

OP, have you tried reading the CAPS v2.0 server?  It might be a good place to start, and you can tweak based upon your budget and needs:

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Computer-Audiophile-Pocket-Server-CAPS-v20

post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Optimus Praim View Post

I have an Asus Xonar D2X hooked to my pc..

I also have logitech Z5500 as my main home theater speakers for gaming and movies(i connect my pc via hdmi to my 40'' tv next to it) and a pair of KRK studio monitors for listening to music..

I bought also an amp like M-Stage Matrix for my Pro 900 which i use it also as a pre amp for my KRK's....

This is my complete audiophile setup with just a simple soundcard..

My point is that if sometime in the future you like to get surround speakers go for a multichannel card...

Dacs can't do multichannel..


This does multichannel DAC... and it has an integrated amp... and it's external. Only problem is I don't think it takes direct USB input.

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlbinoBlacMan View Post
Hey everyone,

New to the forum as I'm just getting into the whole audiophile thing. I have a a lot of questions and don't even know where to start so if you just post links to places I should read I'm fine with that.

I'm looking at building a new PC, both for my photography hobby and hopefully for some high end audio listening. However I'm totally lost on what I need.

This all started when I bought some Sony V6's. The difference in sound from anything else I've heard was fantastic. So I'm eager to see what else I can hear from my music.

So what I know so far is I need good headphones and good quality files to play. I'll probably upgrade my headphones again and use the ones I have for travel. I've started updating my music library to all FLAC or at least 320 kbps stuff. I've heard foobar is the best music player for PC to play this on?

However I'm not sure what else I need for quality sound. I can research individual products myself, I just want to make sure I won't be missing anything that would drastically affect sound quality.

So everything would start at my pc. I assume as long as I'm running foobar with good quality tracks that should be fine.

Next would be a good quality sound card. I assume this is a requirement? If so what in particular should I look for in a soundcard?

After that do I need an amp for headphones or just for speakers? And do I need anything between the soundcard and the amp? Also do I need different amp's for headphones vs speakers? (I plan to have both). Anything I should be looking for in a soundcard?

Next would be the headphones or speakers? I can figure those out myself, as long as there's nothing I need between the amp and the speaker/headphones that I need.

Finally, where are the best places to buy all this stuff? I should for all my camera at B&H. How are they for Audio stuff? Or is there a general consensus of a place for audio gear?

Thanks for reading and like I said, I know no one wants to type out all this stuff for me so links are great.

Chris

Wow, what a long question.

Anyway, motherboards now a days come with all the basics built in for headphones and Analog 7.1 speakers. But only half way decent sound quality and features.

Motherboard's built in sound is good for 25 to 60 (or 80)-Ohm headphones.

External headphone amplifiers (and DACs) can be great stuff to improve the sound of your headphones over what comes built in to the motherboard.

I found it is so much easier just to get a good sound card with a built in headphone amplifier.

 

The Asus Xonar DG (PCI) is a $20 sound card that comes with a built in headphone amplifier, good for up to around 150-Ohms.

Also has Dolby Headphone 5.1, great for DVD movies and 5.1 PC gaming.

Can work with Analog 5.1 or 2.1 speakers

 

The Asus Xonar Essence STX (PCI-Express) is a $175 sound card with a headphone amplifier, good for up to 600-Ohms

The Essence STX comes 3 with fairly good replaceable op-amps (Operating Amplifiers) that you can upgrade for $15 to $40.

Also has Dolby Headphone 5.1

Can only work with Analog 2.1 speakers, or 5.1 speakers with a digital input.

 

If all you really card about is stereo 2.0 sound for the headphones, you can get an external (AC powered) headphone amplifier starting at $60 and just plug it into the speaker output of your motherboards built in sound.

The AKG 702 ($300) headphones you like are only 62-Ohms, so they will work with a motherboard's built in sound, but a headphone amplifier would be recommend.

 

Most computer speakers come with a built in power amplifier
 

 

 

post #13 of 13

Impedance is not the only consideration, and does not tell the entire picture (nor is it a constant value). The K701/2 are only 62 ohms, but they are fairly notorious as "harder to drive" among similarly priced competitors. This is partly function of their relatively low sensitivity, and partly (what I assume to be) a function of impedance fluctuations over frequency created by the drivers themselves (and yes I know the Headroom chart shows them perfectly flat, it also shows the Denon D2000's as perfectly flat as well, and InnerFidelity's graphs disagree and show those having variation).

 

I find the suggestion of a receiver somewhat curious - assuming the headphone output on that unit is up to the task, it would be a very suitable companion, especially if the computer in question can output audio via HDMI.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

Wow, what a long question.

Anyway, motherboards now a days come with all the basics built in for headphones and Analog 7.1 speakers. But only half way decent sound quality and features.

Motherboard's built in sound is good for 25 to 60 (or 80)-Ohm headphones.

External headphone amplifiers (and DACs) can be great stuff to improve the sound of your headphones over what comes built in to the motherboard.

I found it is so much easier just to get a good sound card with a built in headphone amplifier.

 

The Asus Xonar DG (PCI) is a $20 sound card that comes with a built in headphone amplifier, good for up to around 150-Ohms.

Also has Dolby Headphone 5.1, great for DVD movies and 5.1 PC gaming.

Can work with Analog 5.1 or 2.1 speakers

 

The Asus Xonar Essence STX (PCI-Express) is a $175 sound card with a headphone amplifier, good for up to 600-Ohms

The Essence STX comes 3 with fairly good replaceable op-amps (Operating Amplifiers) that you can upgrade for $15 to $40.

Also has Dolby Headphone 5.1

Can only work with Analog 2.1 speakers, or 5.1 speakers with a digital input.

 

If all you really card about is stereo 2.0 sound for the headphones, you can get an external (AC powered) headphone amplifier starting at $60 and just plug it into the speaker output of your motherboards built in sound.

The AKG 702 ($300) headphones you like are only 62-Ohms, so they will work with a motherboard's built in sound, but a headphone amplifier would be recommend.

 

Most computer speakers come with a built in power amplifier
 

 

 



 


Edited by obobskivich - 11/17/11 at 4:45am
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