Hi all, first time poster here, I've found this place very useful lately but I have a few specific questions I couldn't find answers to, so I figured I should just ask:
Firstly, my current setup:
PC with Windows 7
Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio PCI-E soundcard
Logitech X-540 5.1 speakers
Logitech G35 surround headset
Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones
So I used to have some Sennheiser HD215s that I used for music at work(I'm an animator so I usually work in offices full of guys wearing headphones); the cheap pleather on them started falling apart so I replaced them with the ATH-M50s, which I'm fairly happy with. I've started working from home now, so I mainly just use them for listening to music while I'm working.
The Logitech speakers are for general use when I don't feel like wearing headphones, so for gaming, music, and movies. I'm thinking of replacing them with Audioengine 5+ speakers eventually, but they're not cheap so that probably won't happen for a while.
The G35 headset I use for gaming and teamspeak and such. I've found them a bit of a pain to use as a headset; since they're closed and have a fairly decent seal so I can't hear myself talking and that annoys the hell out of me, so I end up using them with one side off my ear a bit, which makes them useless for actually hearing things.
My speakers are currently plugged into the soundcard at the back of the PC, taking up three 3.5mm ports there. The G35 connects via usb. The M50s are plugged via extension cord into the headphone port on the front of the PC case(which is hooked up to the soundcard internally). I currently switch between devices by setting the default playback device in windows, which isn't the most elegant solution, but it's simple enough.
I've only recently realized that I don't have to buy a crappy gaming headset to have virtual surround sound for gaming, so I want to replace both the G35 and M50(I'll shelve these and they will be my work headphones when I have to work in an office again) with a decent set of open headphones, and get something like a ModMic to make them a headset. I want something that will work well for virtual surround gaming as well as stereo music. I'm currently thinking something like the ATH-AD700, but I've heard they are a bit gutless bass-wise for music. I usually listen to alt rock plus a bit of everything else. I'm open to suggestions; I want to keep it under $200 if possible.
I've also just started learning about amps/dacs, and I like the look of the Fiio E10. I like that it uses USB, that would make switching between speakers and headphones in windows fairly simple since it would be recognized as a different device, but I have a feeling that I won't be able to have virtual surround with the USB output as it will just be a stereo device in windows. Am I correct?
So my main question is, how should I go about setting up this headphone/speaker combo? Ultimately I want some good open headphones that I can use in stereo or with CMSS-3D/Dolby Headphone/other virtual surround, plus some 5.1 speakers(which will eventually be replaced with stereo ones), in a setup that makes it easy and quick to switch between devices and modes.
More specific questions:
Should I bypass my soundcard and use an external amp/dac for the headphones, and if so, what type will work with virtual surround? If I did this I'd keep my soundcard for the 5.1 speakers, but then just use the line-out on the amp/dac for the Audioengines.
Is my soundcard decent enough to use, or should I chuck it and get another one? I've seen the X-Fi Titanium HD recommended a lot around here.
Currently when I've tested virtual surround with the M50s, I've plugged them into the main(green) stereo port on the soundcard, set the audio device in Windows to 5.1 or 7.1, set the speaker configuration to Headphones in the Creative Audio Control Panel, and turned on CMSS-3D. Is this the correct approach?
Since the main ports on the soundcard are currently taken by the speakers, how should I connect my headphones? I don't really know if I can trust the front headphone port, and it's only recognized as a stereo device in the Windows playback device list and the configure button is greyed out, so I don't know if I can make it work for surround in games. If I use a splitter, that will reduce the volume of the front left and front right speakers, and I don't want to have to play around with levels to get them even again. There's also a headphone port on the volume control for the Logitech speakers, but I don't really know what kind of signal is coming out of that... eg if I plug in there, am I getting proper stereo or just the front left and front right from the 5.1? And what would I set the creative control panel to for that?
So uh, yeah, sorry for the super long post, I just have lots of little questions. Thanks for your help! Also apologies if I've put this in the wrong area.
tl;dr: How do I set up 5.1 speakers and virtual surround heaphones and make it easy to switch between them?