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Looking for guidance in choosing a budget but solid gaming sound setup

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone. I joined here to ask some questions, after being referred to this place for serious information about headphones.

 

It will be my birthday soon and my wife has started looking for ideas on gifts etc, that's how my quest on finding the perfect sound solution for me started. 

I will try to stay short and explain clearly what i need, what i've got, how i got here... 

 

How i got here:

 

Me and the wife are serious gamers, we play on daily basis, but not always the same games. We have our two desks with the PCs sitting next to eachother in the living room, where we also have the TV/Home Cinema set up, which is usually used by the kid during the day/evening. Needless to say the sound interference can get quite serious when everyone's playing a different game and/or watching a movie/youtube/whatever. I've also been pondering surround sound in games, but we have no space to install a real 5.1 system around my pc, it will be a mess with two pcs and everything. One thing let to another, i ended up pondering those "5.1 gaming headphones" that companies like Razer, Steelseries and Logitech offer. I was quite sceptical about it, so i started doing my research, started a few threads in a few forums and eventually was referred here. Here's the thread that got the most attention and best replies so far - http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?5660-Best-gaming-headphones-for-100-euro-bucks - it contains more information and details, if you are interested.

 

What i have:

A gaming rig with n ASUS P7P55D motherboard, i5 quad-core cpu, 500w high-quality PSU (don't remember the brand) proper video and ram. I use the on-board soundcard, mostly with my 2.1 BOSE desktop sound system and sometimes my Creative Infin1ty headset. 

 

What i need:

A budget solution that would provide a (virtual?) surround feeling to gaming, especially for FPS games like Battlefield, Planetside etc. I need headphones that are very comfortable to wear since gaming sessions can go for up to 2-3 hours straight. Ideally, i am looking for mixed headphones (gaming and music use, not movies). I am not set for headphones or headset, i'd take whatever is best at this point.

 

My budget:

I have about 200 euros in total, for headphones and/or soundcard, eventually a desktop mic.

 

What i currently have in mind:

While doing a similar research some time ago, for headphones, for my wife's digital piano, we selected Sennheiser HD518 as the best price/quality choice for our budget (~100 euros). We didn't buy them then though, so we are still interested in them, maybe get them for my b-day and share them for when she plays the piano or has other need.

So i was thinking of getting a Sennheiser HD518 + XONAR DGX, have it run on DH and be done with it. That way i can have a pair of (supposedly) very good headphones, a soundcard and about 70 euros left to get me a new HDD or something else. However, after talking with a lot of people and reading a lot of info i am kind of confused about the whole deal. T

 

First of all, the headphones selection is still a bit misty. A friend of mine is suggesting that i get the HD555 and remove some plastic bit from inside, which would technically transform them into HD595 which are supposedly better in overall. There's also the PC360 that look quite interesting, especially considering Mad Lust Envy's review from the other thread.

 

For the next part of my questions i will just copy-paste my post from the RPS forum:

 

 

 

Quote:
Ok, i've done a fair bit of reading and i am maybe even more confused than before.
I read this - http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-...surround-sound which got me wondering if having a real sound card is of any use or not. If i got it right it's still better than onboard sound thanks to the different (software?) audio engines such as the GX2.5, but i am not entirely sure. If that is the case, i am considering getting this - http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_DGX/ 

Then i read this - http://www.head-fi.org/t/534479/mad-...er-minor-edits which has a lot of info about a ton of headphones, they are all "normal, stereo" ones that the reviewer uses with the DolbyHeadphone technology to produce 5.1 sound sensation. He doesn't mention the HD518 in his review but then again most (if not all) of the headphones the guy recommends are somewhat too expensive for me. Also, the thread got me wondering about having the http://www.astrogaming.com/mixamps/mixamp-usb as a necessity, is it to use with a real soundcard or it actually replaces it?

Also, if i understand it right, "gaming headphones" such as the Steelseries, Razer or Logitech, that provide 5.1 sound are basically just normal headphones with integrated DH technology on their usb soundcard? If that is the case, then the obvious choice for me is to go for a real soundcard + real headphones.

*ponders*

 

 

 

Ok so i guess that's about it. I am sorry for the huge post, but i am really getting mixed up here and would love some clarification so that i could make up my mind and make my choices.

 

 

Cheers!

post #2 of 23
Hi. I'm 7hink on RPS. I've made a reply there, but it said something along the lines of "Your post has to be allowed by a moderator". Maybe the reply was too long or maybe it contained too many links. So not sure why it got flagged and how long that will take exactly.

Edit: Btw. Welcome to head-fi.
Edited by EnOYiN - 7/26/12 at 8:00am
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hello again mate.

 

Post your reply here then?

post #4 of 23
Yeah, I would. But it took quite a while to write it and I didn't think to copy it . I'll send Mr. Rossignol a message to ask him about it.
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 

Can't you "edit" it and copy it?

post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post

Can't you "edit" it and copy it?

I can't see my own post any more I'm afraid. If it doesn't get through today I'll rewrite it tomorrow. I've also sent a message to Rossignol asking why that happened. Maybe some other people here have some input on the matter as well.
post #7 of 23

Asus Xonar DG, cheaper then the DGX.

Samson SR850 headphones (you can always add the AKG K240/241/270 Velour ear pads).

post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

Asus Xonar DG, cheaper then the DGX.

Samson SR850 headphones (you can always add the AKG K240/241/270 Velour ear pads).

 

I picked the DGX for the PCI-E

post #9 of 23

Don't know how good the HD 518s are but yes, it's a good decision to get the HD 555, remove the foam (making it into HD 595 lolz), and using that. 

 

If you are looking into having the best sense of positions while gaming, then look into the AD 700. They're VERY good for gaming. Bass is too light for music and for enjoying explosive sound effects during movies/ games but it gives you a competitive edge. Better than the HD 555 in that regard. 

 

Can't recommend any soundcards. I play on console I use an Astro Mixamp. 

post #10 of 23
My post over at RPS sadly seems to have been lost, so here it goes again. This time it's a lot shorter than the post I wrote on RPS though.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post

Ok, i've done a fair bit of reading and i am maybe even more confused than before.
I read this - http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-...surround-sound which got me wondering if having a real sound card is of any use or not. If i got it right it's still better than onboard sound thanks to the different (software?) audio engines such as the GX2.5, but i am not entirely sure. If that is the case, i am considering getting this - http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_DGX/

So the main things the xonar has over your onboard card is the surround sound and a slightly better amp. How much difference is this going to make?

Well in my opinion Dolby Headphone makes a lot of difference for me. It depends a lot on how much your HRTF is different from the one they are using. Check out the video in mad lust envys post to give you an idea of what that difference might be. The video isn't exactly the best for showing off the difference since TF isn't the most atmospheric game but it gives you an idea nonetheless.

The amp part being better is going to make a small difference at best when using the headphones you mentioned. The HD518, HD555 and HD595 all don't gain very much benefit with a much better amp. Whether this difference is actually audible is the real question here. It is possible that your onboard soundcard suffers from EMI which can cause you to hear static/ noise with better headphones. If that is the case the xonar likely is going to be a lot better because it's likely much better shielded than your onboard card.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post

Then i read this - http://www.head-fi.org/t/534479/mad-...er-minor-edits which has a lot of info about a ton of headphones, they are all "normal, stereo" ones that the reviewer uses with the DolbyHeadphone technology to produce 5.1 sound sensation. He doesn't mention the HD518 in his review but then again most (if not all) of the headphones the guy recommends are somewhat too expensive for me. Also, the thread got me wondering about having the http://www.astrogaming.com/mixamps/mixamp-usb as a necessity, is it to use with a real soundcard or it actually replaces it?

Mad lust envy also uses a lot of headphones which really benefit from a better amp. The K701 and the DT 990 for instance. Like I said before I don't think the headphones you are looking at right now are going to improve all that much with a much better amp.

The astro mixamp is a standalone soundcard which will replace everything inside your computer. It has a DAC, some surround stuff and an amp. A DAC is a Digital to Analogue Converter which does what it says on the box. It converts digital signals to analogue ones. So it will look something like this:

sound > USB > mixamp > headphones
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post

Also, if i understand it right, "gaming headphones" such as the Steelseries, Razer or Logitech, that provide 5.1 sound are basically just normal headphones with integrated DH technology on their usb soundcard? If that is the case, then the obvious choice for me is to go for a real soundcard + real headphones.

Yeah, most of them just use 2 drivers. There are other headphones that actually use more than that though The razer tiamat is an example of that. Having more drivers doesn't necessarily mean better, because that gets you a hole new set of problems that come with it.

Hope this helps a little.
Edited by EnOYiN - 7/27/12 at 1:20am
post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply Enoyin, that clarifies things quite a bit for me now.

 

A couple of questions concerning sound cards, since my last real soundcard was a Creative Soundblaster GOLD, back in like 1995 or even earlier:

 

1. If i understood well, the whole DH thingy is software. Where is it calculated at, the CPU or the soundcard? In other words, will using it actually lower CPU charge or augment it?

 

2. Sound card quality - At which point do you start getting serious diminishing returns? I am not planing on spending 100 bucks on a soundcard yet, but i was just wondering if there will really be a noticeble, worthy difference on the higher end?

 

3. A super-silly question for sure, but i had to ask - Proper soundcards do have connectors to plug the front-case plugs? You don't have to actually plug your headphones at the back of the case?

 

 

 

The only other problem now is the choice of headphones, i have more or less narrowed down to four choices:

 

  •  Sennheiser HD 518 (perfect pricing, great reviews from back the time when i researched it)
  •  Sennheiser PC 360 (a tad more expensive, includes a mic... perhaps a slightly worse sound and won't be super useful for my wife's piano. Envy claims they are teh **** though)
  •  Sennheiser HD 555 (even more expensive, but apparently can transform into HD 595 which is supposedly a level higher in the quality ladder)
  •  Audio Technica ATH-AD700 (great reviews, a tad expensive for me... fugly colours!)

Edited by Hunchback - 7/27/12 at 2:59am
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post

Thanks for the reply Enoyin, that clarifies things quite a bit for me now.

A couple of questions concerning sound cards, since my last real soundcard was a Creative Soundblaster GOLD, back in like 1995 or even earlier:

1. If i understood well, the whole DH thingy is software. Where is it calculated at, the CPU or the soundcard? In other words, will using it actually lower CPU charge or augment it?

2. Sound card quality - At which point do you start getting serious diminishing returns? I am not planing on spending 100 bucks on a soundcard yet, but i was just wondering if there will really be a noticeble, worthy difference on the higher end?

3. A super-silly question for sure, but i had to ask - Proper soundcards do have connectors to plug the front-case plugs? You don't have to actually plug your headphones at the back of the case?

1. The card has an audio processor. I don't actually know how much CPU it's going to steal though. Maybe someone else can tell you.

2. Try it! If at all possible try it and get to hear it for yourself. The most gain in sound quality is the headphones in my opinion. Amps and DACs/ soundcards will chance the sound quality a lot less. The diminishing returns are kicking in really quickly in my opinion. My setup is way more expensive than a HD595 and a relatively inexpensive soundcard and while I think it's better and worth it it's not an enormous difference. So where does that kick in?

Headphones I'd say it's about the $300 - $400 pricepoint. The problem here is that most of the more expensive headphones require better DACs and amps to drive them properly so you have to take that into account.

Amps. Well, amps can be build really cheaply to be honest. A lot of the cost is going to go to things like workmanship and quality parts etc. Then there is the DIY route you could take. So $500 as a rough number. Anything above that isn't going to give you any huge improvements in SQ in my experience.

DACs. I'm tempted to say ~$200 here. It really depends. My EMU0404 does a really good job for instance. Then again my Stello DA100 sounds better. The difference is small though.

The above is going to be different for everyone so take it with a grain of salt.

3. It has something called 'front panel' on the card so yeah. It has that. I've never used it to be honest. I'm only using the S/PDIF. Maybe someone else here uses this?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post

The only other problem now is the choice of headphones, i have more or less narrowed down to four choices:
  •  Sennheiser HD 518 (perfect pricing, great reviews from back the time when i researched it)
  •  Sennheiser PC 360 (a tad more expensive, includes a mic... perhaps a slightly worse sound and won't be super useful for my wife's piano. Envy claims they are teh **** though)
  •  Sennheiser HD 555 (even more expensive, but apparently can transform into HD 595 which is supposedly a level higher in the quality ladder)
  •  Audio Technica ATH-AD700 (great reviews, a tad expensive for me... fugly colours!)

Once again. The only thing I can recommend here is to try them before deciding what to get. Figure out whether you think it's worth it or not.
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 

I will make a tour in local shops to try some headphones on, hope they allow people to try (and then not buy lol)...

 

BTW, how do you connect your phones over s/pdif? Isn't that the optical connection?

post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post

I will make a tour in local shops to try some headphones on, hope they allow people to try (and then not buy lol)...

BTW, how do you connect your phones over s/pdif? Isn't that the optical connection?

Most shops I've been to that sell higher quality headphones don't mind you trying them as long as you're careful.

In my case it goes like this:

sound > soundcard > S/PDIF (the optical connection indeed) > Stello DA100 - RCA out > RCA in - WooAudio 6 > HD650
post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by EnOYiN View Post

The astro mixamp is a standalone soundcard which will replace everything inside your computer. It has a DAC, some surround stuff and an amp. A DAC is a Digital to Analogue Converter which does what it says on the box. It converts digital signals to analogue ones. So it will look something like this:
sound > USB > mixamp > headphones

 

Just wanted to add a little about the mixamp. It's stereo only using USB. The only way to get surround sound is from the digital inputs from a dolby 5.1 or 7.1 source (movies) or a dolby live source (xbox, xbox360, some PC soundcards, PS3)

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