Originally Posted by Evshrug
Ouch. OOOH Ouch! Ok, I haven't had much experience with PC audio beyond the PowerBook & MacBook Pro on board sound before this, and I was pleased with the Recon3D beyond what seems like random days where it decides to produce harsh treble. But Nameless basically said "Eh...", Mad Lust Envy heard it (same unit) and paraphrased is saying "better than nothing, but only 75% of Dolby Headphone," and you... I don't think you've actually listened to it, but you say "Like a fake, below even an average performer." The only thing keeping me wondering if the enthusiast bias is overplaying the difference is that I'm the only one who I know of who is willing to play with the driver software, and that I'd rather have a "good enough" system to live with rather than suffering from perpetual upgradeitis while on a new-career income.
That's not to invalidate your opinions and the facts you have found through research, in fact I greatly respect that everyone not only makes that effort but also shares the fruits of that labor (this hobby ain't cheap!). I'm just trying to find the mid-fi balance, not the best kit but the best kit to price ratio. For example, I wouldn't buy a $300 GPU for gaming (right now at least), I know that a $200 card will get more than decent performance while performing at what $300 would have got you last year, just like I can't honestly say I can make full use of a Quadro 2000 right now.
So, I'm not married to the Recon3D, in fact I almost got a Mixamp or DSS for the Xbox, or just fixed my Mac audio and stuck with the receiver I already have. I could just give up on Mac gaming and headphones, but that would hurt. So, I don't know.
Right now I need to find cheap speakers or something to replace the cheap wal-mart CD boombox my girlfriend uses to teach Zumba (birthday present), more than anything.
First of all, Dolby Headphone isn't superior to CMSS-3D at all and IMHO Dolby Headphone is far more fatigating than CMSS-3D. Now, the main audible differences between DH and CMSS-3D is that DH enhances bass while CMSS-3D enhances treble, and while there are other differences, those are the most noticeable.
Basically, I find that non codec based hardware performs far better, and I did have the chance of listening to a unit at a store, therefore experience was limited, but it certainly didn't wow me at all.
Now, what you have to keep in mind is that when getting a card like the X-Fi Titanium HD, you simply won't have any need to upgrade anytime soon (read, as in before a decade goes by), given that card is the pinnacle of gaming audio, with everything released afterwards performing poorly in comparison to it and even previous PCI and PCIe X-Fi generation cards, as well as being one of the best consumer soundcards, making it perfectly suitable for music and movies as well.
If you're thinking about pricing, you should think that DACs can cost up to several thousand dollars, and while $150 would get you a reasonable above entry external DAC, those same $150 can get you a far better performing internal unit that also has more features (should you choose to use them).
So basically, Recon3D/Mixamp/DSS are all bottom of the electronics barrel, and even a base X-Fi Titanium (non-HD model) that costs around $50 would outperform all those toys that happen to cost far more with less sonic performance.
Well, going the Quadro route means one already knows exactly what he needs, not so much for a beginner's path, otherwise it's wasted money along with untapped potential.