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Creative Sound Blaster new series Z, Zx & ZxR - Page 22

post #316 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJINFERNO806 View Post

That was my whole point, it doesn't have a dedicated headphone amp. I'm sure it does sound good but I just wanted to correct the point that there isn't a head amp dedicated circuit. I wonder what people with hi ohm headphones think of it.

 

As far as I know, the Titanium HD uses an NJM4556 op amp (surface mount version) to drive the headphone output. The same chip is also in a number of other Creative/E-Mu products. It is actually fairly well suited for driving headphones, and is also used in the O2 (two DIP8 NJM4556's in parallel for increased current output and power handling). However, the Titanium HD does have a relatively high, ~35-36 Ω output impedance.

 

It is a common belief that only "hi ohm headphones" can be difficult to drive, while low impedance ones can be safely plugged into anything with a 1/8" jack, but it is incorrect. In fact, other than the amount of voltage required for the same power, low impedance is harder to drive in every way, and line outputs are often not designed to handle it. A line input typically has at least several kΩ impedance, compared to that, a 32 Ω headphone is like a short circuit. It may still be driven to usable volume, but possibly with increased distortion and frequency response problems.


Edited by stv014 - 3/1/13 at 4:51am
post #317 of 2605
I took a look through a few pages and didn't see an answer to my question.

Does the titanium xfi HD card provide enough power to properly drive a pair of dt990 pros or a q701?
post #318 of 2605
Quote:

Originally Posted by ROBSCIX View Post

 

True both cards are very similar for certain measurments you cannot just compare the head outs like that...also to point out a difference of say 113dB to 117dB for SNR..etc is quite alot as the scale is LOG, not linear.

So when some see a measurment that looks similar in all actuality it is not close at all.

 

-119 dB noise may be only half as much noise voltage as -113 dB, but if -113 dB is already inaudible, then the improvement is of little to no real practical value, but it looks good for marketing. Under normal listening conditions, people cannot even hear the noise floor of the 44.1 kHz/16-bit CD format, which is worse than -100 dB A-weighted. It should also be noted that when multiple uncorrelated noise sources are added, then it is the power that needs to be summed. So, for example, if there is 95 dB amplifier + ambient + source SNR (a figure that is even optimistic, a typical recording on a CD already has more noise than that), going from a DAC with -110 dB noise to another one with -120 dB only improves the overall SNR from -94.86 dB to -94.99 dB.

 

Very low DAC noise can, however, be useful for digital volume control. That is in fact used on many sound cards to reduce costs. But with an external amplifier that controls the volume after the DAC (which can therefore be at or near 100% digital volume all the time), the dynamic range of the DAC does not need to be that high to be good enough.

 

Of course, what is advertised by the manufacturer, might not always be achieved in reality. But it is not guaranteed that better advertised specs will translate to better real world performance, either. For example, the headphone output of the Xonar Essence STX is specified to have an SNR of 117 dB. That looks great on paper, and one would think that no one can hear that. However, the specs do not mention that the DAC is more noisy at 44.1 kHz (the sample rate used by well over 90% of available music), dropping the value to about 110-111 dB. Also, the card has fully digital volume and gain control, so it always outputs the maximum amount of noise, regardless of the volume or gain. Reducing the signal level from the maximum of 7 Vrms to something that is listenable with typical headphones will reduce the dynamic range accordingly, too. At 0.4 Vrms (which is plenty loud enough with efficient modern headphones), and 44.1 kHz sample rate, the headphone output has a less impressive dynamic range of 86 dB, or 14.3 bits. If the signal level is reduced further to 0.1 Vrms - for example for a sensitive IEM - then only 74 dB is left, and the hiss may actually become audible. The line output of a cheaper card combined with a low noise external amplifier, like the O2, will easily outperform those numbers.

post #319 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

-119 dB noise may be only half as much noise voltage as -113 dB, but if -113 dB is already inaudible, then the improvement is of little to no real practical value, but it looks good for marketing. Under normal listening conditions, people cannot even hear the noise floor of the 44.1 kHz/16-bit CD format, which is worse than -100 dB A-weighted. It should also be noted that when multiple uncorrelated noise sources are added, then it is the power that needs to be summed. So, for example, if there is 95 dB amplifier + ambient + source SNR (a figure that is even optimistic, a typical recording on a CD already has more noise than that), going from a DAC with -110 dB noise to another one with -120 dB only improves the overall SNR from -94.86 dB to -94.99 dB.

 

Very low DAC noise can, however, be useful for digital volume control. That is in fact used on many sound cards to reduce costs. But with an external amplifier that controls the volume after the DAC (which can therefore be at or near 100% digital volume all the time), the dynamic range of the DAC does not need to be that high to be good enough.

 

Of course, what is advertised by the manufacturer, might not always be achieved in reality. But it is not guaranteed that better advertised specs will translate to better real world performance, either. For example, the headphone output of the Xonar Essence STX is specified to have an SNR of 117 dB. That looks great on paper, and one would think that no one can hear that. However, the specs do not mention that the DAC is more noisy at 44.1 kHz (the sample rate used by well over 90% of available music), dropping the value to about 110-111 dB. Also, the card has fully digital volume and gain control, so it always outputs the maximum amount of noise, regardless of the volume or gain. Reducing the signal level from the maximum of 7 Vrms to something that is listenable with typical headphones will reduce the dynamic range accordingly, too. At 0.4 Vrms (which is plenty loud enough with efficient modern headphones), and 44.1 kHz sample rate, the headphone output has a less impressive dynamic range of 86 dB, or 14.3 bits. If the signal level is reduced further to 0.1 Vrms - for example for a sensitive IEM - then only 74 dB is left, and the hiss may actually become audible. The line output of a cheaper card combined with a low noise external amplifier, like the O2, will easily outperform those numbers.

 

Great post, I fully agree that an external amp is a superior choice, the most cost effective solution if one wants a "real" soundcard for it's features over an external DAC is ie the cheaper Xonar D1/DX or the Soundblaster Z AND an external amp. It will sound better than the top of the line cards using only their headphone out.

 

Onboard sound is not quite there yet, even if it's getting closer with every iteration, there IS easily audible noice and colored sound with most onboard audio so a soundcard of some sort is still to a benefit for an audiophile. Many people use optical/spdif out to a receiver or a digital amp, or network streaming, and really don't need a soundcard at all.


Edited by xeizo - 3/1/13 at 5:36am
post #320 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by xeizo View Post

Great post, I fully agree that an external amp is a superior choice, the most cost effective solution if one wants a "real" soundcard for it's features over an external DAC is ie the cheaper Xonar D1/DX or the Soundblaster Z AND an external amp. It will sound better than the top of the line cards using only their headphone out.

Onboard sound is not quite there yet, even if it's getting closer with every iteration, there IS easily audible noice and colored sound with most onboard audio so a soundcard of some sort is still to a benefit for an audiophile. Many people use optical/spdif out to a receiver or a digital amp, or network streaming, and really don't need a soundcard at all.

Hmm... So should I go with an external DAC and amp over a high end sound blaster card and amp?
post #321 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by xeizo View Post

 

Great post, I fully agree that an external amp is a superior choice, the most cost effective solution if one wants a "real" soundcard for it's features over an external DAC is ie the cheaper Xonar D1/DX or the Soundblaster Z AND an external amp. It will sound better than the top of the line cards using only their headphone out.

 

Onboard sound is not quite there yet, even if it's getting closer with every iteration, there IS easily audible noice and colored sound with most onboard audio so a soundcard of some sort is still to a benefit for an audiophile. Many people use optical/spdif out to a receiver or a digital amp, or network streaming, and really don't need a soundcard at all.

 

Well price here is the point, if you look at the overall quality and components on a ST(X) it is a very goodpackage.

I don't think anybody suggested the head amp could not be surpassed by an external unit...Issue here is you pay more money.

Any product can be surpassed if you want to dig into your pocket.

 

If you want to go that route, take an ST(X) oraTitanHD and use the line outputs to an external high quality amplifier and you will have a better package over a cheaper card withlower and DAC connected to an external amp.

 

To note, Digital can be a downgrade in many situtations depending on the source quality.

post #322 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sierra419 View Post


Hmm... So should I go with an external DAC and amp over a high end sound blaster card and amp?

Depends on your budget, what you want for features and what you need the system to do...

post #323 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

As far as I know, the Titanium HD uses an NJM4556 op amp (surface mount version) to drive the headphone output. The same chip is also in a number of other Creative/E-Mu products. It is actually fairly well suited for driving headphones, and is also used in the O2 (two DIP8 NJM4556's in parallel for increased current output and power handling). However, the Titanium HD does have a relatively high, ~35-36 Ω output impedance.

 

It is a common belief that only "hi ohm headphones" can be difficult to drive, while low impedance ones can be safely plugged into anything with a 1/8" jack, but it is incorrect. In fact, other than the amount of voltage required for the same power, low impedance is harder to drive in every way, and line outputs are often not designed to handle it. A line input typically has at least several kΩ impedance, compared to that, a 32 Ω headphone is like a short circuit. It may still be driven to usable volume, but possibly with increased distortion and frequency response problems.

No, the Titanium HD does NOT have a headphone amplifier.  I verified this information with the actual designers of the card.  It has been awhile since Iooked at that PCB,

IIRC, you may be mistaken the opamp for buffering the mic input for a head amplifier.

post #324 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX View Post

Depends on your budget, what you want for features and what you need the system to do...
Well it's for surround sound gaming with a pair of dt990's or q701's. That's really it. Maybe blu rays every now and then or netflix but daily gaming. I'm just confused on what would be better, a nice sound blaster and fiio e9 amp, or a fiio e9 amp and fiio e17 dac? Is it any different? Would they sound the same?If I went with an external amp/ dac would I still get simulated surround sound audio like Dolby Headphone? How would that effect the soundstage of the phones? Or will it? I don't want to get these nice phones and an amp and a dac just to get plain old stereo sound while gaming.
Edited by Sierra419 - 3/1/13 at 10:59am
post #325 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sierra419 View Post

Well it's for surround sound gaming with a pair of dt990's or q701's. That's really it. Maybe blu rays every now and then or netflix but daily gaming. I'm just confused on what would be better, a nice sound blaster and fiio e9 amp, or a fiio e9 amp and fiio e17 dac? Is it any different? Would they sound the same?

Well you are going to need a sound card then. No other way to get surround sound from your games to your headphones. Might as well get the zxr/z since they already have the head amps built in.
post #326 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJINFERNO806 View Post

Well you are going to need a sound card then. No other way to get surround sound from your games to your headphones. Might as well get the zxr/z since they already have the head amps built in.

Ok awesome! You've been immensely helpful. Is the zxr the top of the line? I want something that's not going to get too old too fast and I want something with all the bells and whistles for awesome sound. Is the built in amp enough to power a q701 or dt990 pro 250ohm? Also, how do I check that?
post #327 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sierra419 View Post
Hmm... So should I go with an external DAC and amp over a high end sound blaster card and amp?

 

The first question is whether or not you're gaming.

 

If you are, then audiophile DACs won't cut it due to their total lack of gaming features, simple as that. Sound cards are the way to go.

 

If you aren't, then you can get something like the ODAC that's just plug-and-play convenience at its finest.

post #328 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX View Post

No, the Titanium HD does NOT have a headphone amplifier.  I verified this information with the actual designers of the card.  It has been awhile since Iooked at that PCB,

IIRC, you may be mistaken the opamp for buffering the mic input for a head amplifier.

 

Maybe it is really on the microphone input, I assumed that it is used as a headphone driver, as that is what makes the most sense. The main advantage of the NJM4556 is that it can output high current, and can drive low impedance loads with low distortion. Those parameters are important for a headphone amplifier, but irrelevant for a microphone amplifier. For the latter purpose, there are better (less noisy etc.) chips at equal or lower price.

It is pointless to debate whether the headphone output of the card is "amplified" or not, but if it has a separate buffer from the line output that is optimized for driving lower impedance loads, then it can be called a headphone amplifier, even if not necessarily a great one.

post #329 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

The first question is whether or not you're gaming.

If you are, then audiophile DACs won't cut it due to their total lack of gaming features, simple as that. Sound cards are the way to go.

If you aren't, then you can get something like the ODAC that's just plug-and-play convenience at its finest.

Thank you SO much!!! What sound blaster card would you prefer? The titanium xfi HD or the zxr? Not sure of the difference nor which is best.
post #330 of 2605
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

Maybe it is really on the microphone input, I assumed that it is used as a headphone driver, as that is what makes the most sense. The main advantage of the NJM4556 is that it can output high current, and can drive low impedance loads with low distortion. Those parameters are important for a headphone amplifier, but irrelevant for a microphone amplifier. For the latter purpose, there are better (less noisy etc.) chips at equal or lower price.

It is pointless to debate whether the headphone output of the card is "amplified" or not, but if it has a separate buffer from the line output that is optimized for driving lower impedance loads, then it can be called a headphone amplifier, even if not necessarily a great one.

Yes that is exactly what I thought at first!

I don't think it is pointless to have the correct information around on if a headphone output is amplified or not, especially when the output is what is being discussed.

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