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Please help me choose Headphone, Soundcard & AMP

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 

Hi all. I am looking into buying a new audio setup for my pc. my budget is approx £500

 

At the moment i have an Auzentech X-Meridian (1st gen) sound card, paired with Audio Technica ATH-A900 headphones (i also have HD555s but rarely use them - the are INCREDIBLY uncomfortable for me... hurt the top of my head!!)

 

I am thinking about the next step:

 

An Asus Xonar Essence STX is almost a definate (unless someone suggest why i shouldnt go down this route)

 

Headphones:

 

The must have a big sound stage, as i play fps computer games all the time, but when im not, i listen to music... all sort of music (hardcore dance to death metal to classical to electro and house)

 

Audio Technica ATH-AD700 (according to many, the best value for money gaming headphones out there... creating a great sound stage for games, however lacking any sort of bass

Audio Technica ATH-AD900 (bigger brother, more expensive, but worth the price?)

Sennheiser HD 650 (will i get the same discomfort from these as i do the HD555s?)

Beyerdynamic DT 880 (250ohm - or 600 depending on the reasons)

 

 

Amp:

 

do i need one with these headhphones considering the STX has one? if i will benefit from one, which inexpensive one would you suggest? would i then not need an STX? (it is said to have a great noise DB ratio... would it be good to pair it up with an amp? what do i look for in one? are gold inputs a must on an amp? are there many with a few headphones inputs? id like to keep my AD900s in some use!

 

 

 

i really love my games and have a massive passion for a variety of music so i really want to get the right one!!

 

 

 

i appreciate any help i get

 

thanks a lot!

 


Edited by XenatR - 12/19/11 at 7:40pm
post #2 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by XenatR View Post
Hi all. I am looking into buying a new audio setup for my pc. my budget is approx £500

At the moment i have an Auzentech X-Meridian (1st gen) sound card, paired with Audio Technica ATH-A900 headphones (i also have HD555s but rarely use them - the are INCREDIBLY uncomfortable for me... hurt the top of my head!!)

I am thinking about the next step:

An Asus Xonar Essence STX is almost a definate (unless someone suggest why i shouldnt go down this route)

Headphones:

The must have a big sound stage, as i play fps computer games all the time, but when im not, i listen to music... all sort of music (hardcore dance to death metal to classical to electro and house)

Audio Technica ATH-AD700 (according to many, the best value for money gaming headphones out there... creating a great sound stage for games, however lacking any sort of bass

Audio Technica ATH-AD900 (bigger brother, more expensive, but worth the price?)

Sennheiser HD 650 (will i get the same discomfort from these as i do the HD555s?)

Beyerdynamic DT 880 (250ohm - or 600 depending on the reasons)

Amp:

do i need one with these headhphones considering the STX has one? if i will benefit from one, which inexpensive one would you suggest? would i then not need an STX? (it is said to have a great noise DB ratio... would it be good to pair it up with an amp? what do i look for in one? are gold inputs a must on an amp? are there many with a few headphones inputs? id like to keep my AD900s in some use!

i really love my games and have a massive passion for a variety of music so i really want to get the right one!!

i appreciate any help i get


I would guess, once you get the AD900s, you will no longer use the A900, most reviewer like the sound of the AD900s over the A900s.

Currently the AD900s are going for twice (or more) the price of the AD700s.

The bass on the AD900s will be a little lighter then the A900s, but the over all quality of the sound on the AD900 should be a little better.

 

The Sennheiser HD-558s are going for a really good price on Electronics Expo (use coupon code "BOUNTII").

Not sure if there is much comfort difference between the HD-555s and HD-558s.

 

The Essence STX (with upgraded op-amps) might improve the sound of the A900s that you may not need new headphones.

Or at least hold off buying until Feb-May, prices on headphone should be lowest then.

 

Also if and when you buy new headphones, might as well not go any higher then 250 to 300-Ohms, usually the 600-Ohm are just slightly better.

If you had a $500 or more headphone amplifier, the 600-Ohms might be worth it.

 

 

post #3 of 64
Thread Starter 

thanks for the reply! would the sound staging of the ad900 be the same as the 700? people rave about it on the 700!

 

what about the sennheiser 650?

 

would the stx drive a 250/300 ohm pair ok?

post #4 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by XenatR View Post
thanks for the reply! would the sound staging of the ad900 be the same as the 700? people rave about it on the 700!

what about the sennheiser 650?

would the stx drive a 250/300 ohm pair ok?



Not really sure on the sound stage question.

Know nothing on the HD650.

The Essence STX's headphone amplifier is rated up to 600-Ohms, works just fine with my DT770 Pro 250-Ohm.

 

post #5 of 64

Some people say that the sound stage is greater on the AD700, some argue that the AD900 has a better one. It has something to do with how your ear is shaped, but the difference between the two is negligible from what I understand. Both sound stages are huge.

 

It's really hard to pick a headphone that works for both classical and metal/trance, as they have almost opposite requirements. I'm thinking an HD600 or HD650 would be a good all-rounder. I wouldn't even consider the AD900/700 for electronic or metal personally.

 

As for the source/amp, a Yulong U100 or HUD-MX1 would be a better option. External DAC's are a better value than soundcards, and they are generally easier to use with other equipment and easier to upgrade. I also hear clicks and hisses from the computer when using a sound card, and that disappears with my FiiO E10.

post #6 of 64

I'm in a similar boat as you OP.  I have the A900s paired up with a STX and trying to figure out if I should also invest in a amp to pair up with the STX.  First off, I will say that these headphones are my first high end cans (never spent more than $40 on headphones before these).  I use them for a lot of gaming (FPS, RTS) and a lot of music (rock, metal, hardcore) and with them being paired with the STX everything sounds amazing already.  I would suggest holding off on new headphones for now and buy a STX/ST and see how the difference in sound is.  I personally think the sound stage is great with the A900s, I don't see open back being too much better.  But considering the wide range of ground they can cover (games and music) they are hard to beat on a budget I think.  From what I have read and been told too about an amp paired with an STX/ST is that it would be a minor upgrade at best, and that the sound would benefit more from upgrading the amps on the card itself (something like that at least).  One day when it is financially feasible for me I do plan on buying an amp/DAC anyways for a dedicated music setup and I will probably pair it with my STX for fun (I don't see myself changing this thing out for many years to come.  Blows my old creative titanium soundcard out of the water).  A buddy of mine invested in a creative HD sound card, and apparently it works very well, but it seems like the drivers are a little quirky and music is lacking a little.  Opposed to the STX where everything is amazing. 

post #7 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by waldoh74 View Post

I'm in a similar boat as you OP.  I have the A900s paired up with a STX and trying to figure out if I should also invest in a amp to pair up with the STX.  First off, I will say that these headphones are my first high end cans (never spent more than $40 on headphones before these).  I use them for a lot of gaming (FPS, RTS) and a lot of music (rock, metal, hardcore) and with them being paired with the STX everything sounds amazing already.  I would suggest holding off on new headphones for now and buy a STX/ST and see how the difference in sound is.  I personally think the sound stage is great with the A900s, I don't see open back being too much better.  But considering the wide range of ground they can cover (games and music) they are hard to beat on a budget I think.  From what I have read and been told too about an amp paired with an STX/ST is that it would be a minor upgrade at best, and that the sound would benefit more from upgrading the amps on the card itself (something like that at least).  One day when it is financially feasible for me I do plan on buying an amp/DAC anyways for a dedicated music setup and I will probably pair it with my STX for fun (I don't see myself changing this thing out for many years to come.  Blows my old creative titanium soundcard out of the water).  A buddy of mine invested in a creative HD sound card, and apparently it works very well, but it seems like the drivers are a little quirky and music is lacking a little.  Opposed to the STX where everything is amazing. 



hey guys thanks a lot for your replies!

 

to the suggestion of the U100 or MX1 USB DACs... are usb ones all that great? i ask this because they do not use some of the sound effects available in games.

 

waldoh74 :) the A900s are also my first serious headphones (apart from the hd555 but i dont consider them serious)... i am happy with them for sure, i just feel that a quality open headphone will give me better sound stage (as the hd555s do slightly, although bass is horrible and 'muddy'? on them)

 

i think i will take your advice and go with the STX anyway, then see how the sound improves... id be hoping it to be noticeable lol

post #8 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by XenatR View Post

 

waldoh74 :) the A900s are also my first serious headphones (apart from the hd555 but i dont consider them serious)... i am happy with them for sure, i just feel that a quality open headphone will give me better sound stage (as the hd555s do slightly, although bass is horrible and 'muddy'? on them)

 

i think i will take your advice and go with the STX anyway, then see how the sound improves... id be hoping it to be noticeable lol


I would suggest that is your sound card.  I've plugged them into my receiver for fun and they sounded like crap compaired to being hooked up to the STX.  Because mine sound amazing.  The bass isn't muddy at all.  Even dubstep and rap sounds good...and I despise both of those genres of music lol.  When you do get the STX though, be prepaired to spend the better part of a week to tweak the EQ for games/music.  Took me a solid week to find the sweet spot for me.  Well worth the effort though.

 

post #9 of 64


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by XenatR View Post


to the suggestion of the U100 or MX1 USB DACs... are usb ones all that great? i ask this because they do not use some of the sound effects available in games.



Yep, they're great. The sound is still unchanged in its digital form, so if you plug it in through USB the DAC will be doing all the work, and you won't lose anything.

post #10 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by waldoh74 View Post


I would suggest that is your sound card.  I've plugged them into my receiver for fun and they sounded like crap compaired to being hooked up to the STX.  Because mine sound amazing.  The bass isn't muddy at all.  Even dubstep and rap sounds good...and I despise both of those genres of music lol.  When you do get the STX though, be prepaired to spend the better part of a week to tweak the EQ for games/music.  Took me a solid week to find the sweet spot for me.  Well worth the effort though.

 



thanks a lot!

 

btw, i have a harman kardon 330c which my mum gave me... how can i include this in a pc setup with headphones, and will it be any good?

post #11 of 64

Just get Burson HA-160DS, then you don;t need a sound card.

It's like an amp/sound card/dac all in one. :)

post #12 of 64

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by macrocheesium View Post

Yep, they're great. The sound is still unchanged in its digital form, so if you plug it in through USB the DAC will be doing all the work, and you won't lose anything.


Depends on the game in this case, though.

 

If it uses a software audio engine (XAudio2, FMOD) like so many games these days, he won't be missing any sound effects.

 

If it uses hardware acceleration (DirectSound3D, OpenAL) and EAX extensions, the latter won't be supported by any DAC I know of, and thus the intended sound is lost.

 

Then there's the matter of not having CMSS-3D Headphone or Dolby Headphone or similar binaural filters for better imaging while gaming in both cases.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Canadian411 View Post

Just get Burson HA-160DS, then you don;t need a sound card.

It's like an amp/sound card/dac all in one. :)


Except for all those points I just mentioned above...it lacks the gaming DSP features.

 

Fortunately, there is an easy way around this if it's a proper DAC with S/PDIF input, in which case any cheap sound card with a capable enough DSP will do, since all the cheap analog circuitry is being bypassed anyway.

 

post #13 of 64

If you need a cheap, capable DAC to go with an amp which would have Dolby Headphone, the Asus Xonar U3 should do the job.

post #14 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by XenatR View Post



thanks a lot!

 

btw, i have a harman kardon 330c which my mum gave me... how can i include this in a pc setup with headphones, and will it be any good?

 


From what I understand, you can't.  If you run RCA connectors from the STX to the receiver and plug your cans into the receiver, it will sound like ass (at least it did for me).  Your best bet would be to just hang onto that puppy and get yourself some speakers to pair it up with.  Great success!

post #15 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by XenatR View Post
thanks a lot!

btw, i have a harman kardon 330c which my mum gave me... how can i include this in a pc setup with headphones, and will it be any good?


That is one old receiver, only good for basic stereo 2.0 channel sound.

Personally, I would not use it, but it is free.

 

 

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