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USB Sound Card for Laptop - Help? - Page 2

post #16 of 49
Thread Starter 

I hooked up my RX900's to my Denon AVR-1712's headphone out, and played some FLAC from Foobar2000 via WASAPI over HDMI from my laptop to the AVR. I want to say the quality was a little bit better but it was hard to tell. As for volume, man this receiver can get loud! The headphones were vibrating on my head lol! It was louder than both the U3 and the X-Fi HD, and the U3 was actually louder than the X-Fi HD when cranked up, probably because it has a bit lower output impedance and puts out 2vrms vs the X-Fi HD's 1vrms. In either case, it was louder than anyone would need to listen to unless they're deaf lol. Of course that's with 64-ohm headphones. With the higher-end stuff I imagine an amp would be needed.

 

I'm really beginning to think it's the RX900's that are holding me back.


Edited by c00lkatz - 11/11/12 at 4:40pm
post #17 of 49

For all intents and purposes, the HA-RX900 are still considered entry level headphones, below $100-150 tier headphones like Audio Technica ATH-M50, Ultrasone HFI-580 and V-Moda M80.

post #18 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by c00lkatz View Post
<snip>

What headphones do you have? Either your other gear isn't good enough for you to hear the changes or you just don't have the ears for it.

 

Either that or the cards you got were overpriced as hell.I personally notice quite a big difference between my iPhone's Cirrus Logic chip and my E7's DAC (dont remember the name of it offhand). The E7 renders far more micro-detail and delivers some nice bass energy.

post #19 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by takato14 View Post

What headphones do you have? Either your other gear isn't good enough for you to hear the changes or you just don't have the ears for it.

 

Either that or the cards you got were overpriced as hell.I personally notice quite a big difference between my iPhone's Cirrus Logic chip and my E7's DAC (dont remember the name of it offhand). The E7 renders far more micro-detail and delivers some nice bass energy.


My headphones are JVC HA-RX900 (basic mods as per this thread). I'm running FLAC though Foobar2000 w/ wasapi/asio from my laptop. My laptop has IDT onboard audio, and I've tried the Xonar U3 and X-Fi HD along with HDMI out from the laptop through Foobar2000 w/ wasapi to a Denon AVR-1712 headphone out (not a cheapo receiver). Between all of these, the AVR-1712 has had the best amplification, the IDT onboard has been the quietest, and the quality has been about the same from all of them with the exception of the receiver seeming to give a bit more clarity at the the expense of low end output (but again you have to really listen for it).

 

I think the headphones are what is holding me back at this point, but judging from other reviews of the headphones and the different audio equipment that they have been used on, I wouldn't think that to be the case. Maybe I messed something up when modding them?

 

Now you guys keep saying I don't "have the ears for the hobby" which I understand as being plausible in general, but I have been dabbling in varying forms of audio for quite a while now, and I DO notice differences between audio equipment. Whether it be between my RX900's and my Samsung earbuds that came with a phone or some cheapy $20 Sony earbuds I picked up from Best Buy, or between my Yamaha HTR-6030 and my Denon AVR-1712, or a Denon AVR-2113ci vs a Pioneer VSX-1022K receiver, or Polk M60's vs Sony SSF-5000 towers, or going from a stock car head unit to an aftermarket head unit, or stock to Pioneer cheapies to Infinity Reference car audio speakers w/ an amp, or the difference between my PPI S420.2 vs Boston Acoustics GT2125 sub amps, or my Image Dynamics ID12v3 vs my Alpine SWR-1243D 12" subs, ETC ETC ETC, the list goes on. I was able to tell the difference between my unmodded and modded RX900's. I can tell the difference between different audio.

 

Hell, on my previous gaming rig (i7 930 @ 4.2GHz w/ GTX470 @ 900MHz on custom water running RAID-0 AAKS 640GB and a Vertex SSD) I could tell the difference between my Siig Soundwave 7.1 PCI sound card (C-Media chip) and my X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Pro using the same RX900 headphones.

 

But on this laptop with both the Asus Xonar U3 and the X-Fi HD, I could not tell much of a difference at all. The slightest smallest difference could be detected if you listen for them very carefully, but as far as just setting everything up and plugging in the headphones, the "WOW that's much better!" effect that I am normally used to was not there, aside from the obvious volume gain from amplification.

 

Now I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming my RX900's just aren't detailed enough to convey the differences, but as I was able to tell the difference between my X-Fi Titanium Pro PCI-E and a basic C-media based Siig Soundwave 7.1 PCI using the same headphones, I am very skeptical of that.

 

All that being said, assuming I'm not making a big enough leap, what gear would you guys suggest (headphones, amps, dacs, etc) that would give me a big audible difference coming from my current setup? Obviously I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars up front, but with a list, at least I can start building over time, headphones then DAC then amp most likely. I listen to a variety of music, but I am also a basshead and like the bass to be powerful, clear, and obvious but don't want the mids and highs to suffer too terribly much. I listen to rap/hip-hop, pop, rock, alternative rock, and a little in between. I would like the DAC to be portable but not necessarily a requirement for the amp. I believe the headphones would convey the most difference, so I don't mind spending a bit more there.

 

I've really been considering the E7/E9 combo or E17/E9 combo, but I have no idea what headphones I should be looking at based on my particular tastes. I want something that will do almost as good in movies as it does in music, music being the priority, then movies, and very rarely any gaming (not worried about gaming). As far as bass is concerned, I've ready the Sony XB500's are very good with some EQ to turn the bass down a bit but these are still only $60 headphones. I have also been considering the ATH-M50's. The HD518's can be had for $130 on Amazon, but I doubt they'll provide the bass I'm looking for. The AD700's have been compared to the RX900's with less bass, so I'm probably not looking at those either. I've already spent hours researching over the last few days along with 12+ hours of testing, so a little more guidance would be extremely helpful.

 

As always, thanks for all of your help so far!


Edited by c00lkatz - 11/12/12 at 9:43am
post #20 of 49

c00lkatz, try installing the Xonar U3 and the X-Fi UD USB on your desktop, and check whether results are similar or not.

 

Again, if you do perceive audible differences between different setups, you should be able to do the same with those USB devices as well. If you discern differences between setups when using the HA-RX900, then the culprit isn't likely to be the headphones.

 

So, you're a basshead that doesn't listen mainly to bass emphasized genres. In that case, you could look into the Ultrasone HFI-780, or the HFI-580 that's slightly less balanced but with more bass presence. Both are superior to the ATH-M50.

 

About amping, getting an O2 or Schiit Asgard would provide more than enough driving power for all the headphones mentioned on both my post and on yours. Fiio E9 is a nicely priced and powerful amp, but due to its output impedance, it's better suited for higher impedance headphones, which isn't the case on the headphones previously discussed.

 

Also, please post your laptop hardware and software specs.

post #21 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

c00lkatz, try installing the Xonar U3 and the X-Fi UD USB on your desktop, and check whether results are similar or not.

 

Again, if you do perceive audible differences between different setups, you should be able to do the same with those USB devices as well. If you discern differences between setups when using the HA-RX900, then the culprit isn't likely to be the headphones.

 

So, you're a basshead that doesn't listen mainly to bass emphasized genres. In that case, you could look into the Ultrasone HFI-780, or the HFI-580 that's slightly less balanced but with more bass presence. Both are superior to the ATH-M50.

 

About amping, getting an O2 or Schiit Asgard would provide more than enough driving power for all the headphones mentioned on both my post and on yours. Fiio E9 is a nicely priced and powerful amp, but due to its output impedance, it's better suited for higher impedance headphones, which isn't the case on the headphones previously discussed.

 

Also, please post your laptop hardware and software specs.


Unfortunately I sold the gaming rig a few months back, and the X-FI HD and U3 have both been returned to Microcenter. Probably acted a little prematurely, but I'm really considering the E7 or E17 over either of them anyway.

 

Yeah, I guess you could describe my listening tastes that way, kind of an oxymoron isn't it? Lol

 

My laptop is an Hp Probook 4530s - core i3 2350m w/ Intel HD3000 IGP, HM65 chipset I believe (or maybe H67?), 8GB Samsung DDR3, Sandisk Extreme 240GB SSD, and there is a 500GB Hitachi in the "upgrade bay" (took out the CD writer and put in the 500GB in an adapter). All I know about the onboard audio is it's made by IDT and has the typical craptacular onboard laptop speakers w/ your standard 3.5mm headphone/line out and mic in. It has 1 USB 3.0 port courtesy of Renesas, and 3 USB 2.0 ports which is what I was using (not sure the manufacturer of the controller). It also has an onboard HDMI out, which is controlled through the Intel HD3000 IGP.

 

For software, I'm running Windows 8 Pro 64-bit and Mac OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2. I tried listening through iTunes in OS X and Foobar2000 in Win8. I also tried Google Music (music.google.com) which is linked to my Google Play account (have a LG G2x running Android 2.3.4 but didn't try anything on it) both in Windows and Mac. I was running the latest drivers for both DACs as downloaded from the manufacturer's websites, both listing Windows 8 64-bit support.

 

As for headphones, I've been looking at the DT770 pro-80, DT990 Pro, ATH-M50s, XB500/XB700, and M-Audio Q40. Any of these sound like what I'm after?

 

EDIT: Oh yeah, forgot the HFI-580's you mentioned earlier. How do these others stack up, other than the already mentioned M50?


Edited by c00lkatz - 11/12/12 at 12:10pm
post #22 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by c00lkatz View Post


Unfortunately I sold the gaming rig a few months back, and the X-FI HD and U3 have both been returned to Microcenter. Probably acted a little prematurely, but I'm really considering the E7 or E17 over either of them anyway.

 

Yeah, I guess you could describe my listening tastes that way, kind of an oxymoron isn't it? Lol

 

My laptop is an Hp Probook 4530s - core i3 2350m w/ Intel HD3000 IGP, HM65 chipset I believe (or maybe H67?), 8GB Samsung DDR3, Sandisk Extreme 240GB SSD, and there is a 500GB Hitachi in the "upgrade bay" (took out the CD writer and put in the 500GB in an adapter). All I know about the onboard audio is it's made by IDT and has the typical craptacular onboard laptop speakers w/ your standard 3.5mm headphone/line out and mic in. It has 1 USB 3.0 port courtesy of Renesas, and 3 USB 2.0 ports which is what I was using (not sure the manufacturer of the controller). It also has an onboard HDMI out, which is controlled through the Intel HD3000 IGP.

 

For software, I'm running Windows 8 Pro 64-bit and Mac OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2. I tried listening through iTunes in OS X and Foobar2000 in Win8. I also tried Google Music (music.google.com) which is linked to my Google Play account (have a LG G2x running Android 2.3.4 but didn't try anything on it) both in Windows and Mac. I was running the latest drivers for both DACs as downloaded from the manufacturer's websites, both listing Windows 8 64-bit support.

 

As for headphones, I've been looking at the DT770 pro-80, DT990 Pro, ATH-M50s, XB500/XB700, and M-Audio Q40. Any of these sound like what I'm after?

 

Ah, that's a shame. It would be relevant to test them both on a different system.

 

Nothing wrong with enjoying bass, regardless of genre :)

 

You're likely to have a HM65 chipset, but I'm a bit surprised HP packed a Renesas USB 3.0 host controller. About drivers, I hope you didn't just install the latest Creative drivers on a fresh system, as that goes against Creative's driver installation procedures, and do affect features and output formats.

 

DT990 (open), HFI-2400 (open), HFI-780 (closed), HFI-580 (closed), Q40 (closed) and XB700 (closed) are options you should look into. If you don't require isolation, then either DT990 or HFI-2400 provide quite high quality audio that fits your criteria. I find the Sony XB series sacrifices too much clarity in order to have bass and bass alone (do note their bass has mostly quantity, not so much quality).

post #23 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

 

Ah, that's a shame. It would be relevant to test them both on a different system.

 

Nothing wrong with enjoying bass, regardless of genre :)

 

You're likely to have a HM65 chipset, but I'm a bit surprised HP packed a Renesas USB 3.0 host controller. About drivers, I hope you didn't just install the latest Creative drivers on a fresh system, as that goes against Creative's driver installation procedures, and do affect features and output formats.

 

DT990 (open), HFI-2400 (open), HFI-780 (closed), HFI-580 (closed), Q40 (closed) and XB700 (closed) are options you should look into. If you don't require isolation, then either DT990 or HFI-2400 provide quite high quality audio that fits your criteria. I find the Sony XB series sacrifices too much clarity in order to have bass and bass alone (do note their bass has mostly quantity, not so much quality).


Off topic and out of curiosity, why is the USB 3.0 controller surprising?

 

On the drivers, I did download the latest drivers for both DACs and loaded them up. All 3 drivers were running at the same time and both DACs were plugged in at the same time, and I was switching between them through the OS (or if applicable through Foobar/Wasapi/Asio) and plugging in the headphones one at a time. However, after my initial conclusions and wanting to give the X-Fi the benefit of the doubt, I decided to uninstall all drivers except the onboard, but I disabled the onboard audio via the BIOS. I then plugged in the X-Fi solo and let windows do its thing, then loaded up the Creative drivers from the included disk. I took a listen and no difference. I then installed the latest drivers, and the only thing different I noticed was the addition of the equalizer. I unplugged the Creative, rebooted to BIOS, re-enabled the onboard audio, and listened. Sounded about the same just at a lower volume. If you mean fresh install from an OS point of view, the OS has been running on Windows 8 with appropriate system drivers installed since Win8's release. The same with OS X.

 

I do not need much isolation and don't care so much about leakage. I imagine open would be better suited for the movie and game aspect anyway. Your thoughts on the DT990 intrigue me, and I might drop the cash for them. They are at my local GuitarCenter and I have a 12% off coupon which would cover the tax and then some. I wonder if they let you demo them before buying? I haven't been to a GuitarCenter in years and have never gone for the headphones (only to get strings when I THOUGHT I wanted to learn how to play guitar lol).

 

EDIT: And those are the conclusions I came to on the Sony XB series as well. From what I've been reading, the bass seems to be over-exagerated (which may be a good thing in my case, not sure) and sacrifices too much of everything else. I want bass, but I don't want them to be dedicated rap and electronic headphones either. I want a good all-around set, as I don't plan on switching between 2 or 3 different sets depending on what I want to listen to. Obviously sacrifices will need to be made at one point or another, but I'm sure there is something out there.

 

EDIT2: All hell, they don't have the DT990, they have the DT770 Pro-80 and ATH-M50s. Guess I will have to order online.


Edited by c00lkatz - 11/12/12 at 12:51pm
post #24 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by c00lkatz View Post


Off topic and out of curiosity, why is the USB 3.0 controller surprising?

 

On the drivers, I did download the latest drivers for both DACs and loaded them up. All 3 drivers were running at the same time and both DACs were plugged in at the same time, and I was switching between them through the OS (or if applicable through Foobar/Wasapi/Asio) and plugging in the headphones one at a time. However, after my initial conclusions and wanting to give the X-Fi the benefit of the doubt, I decided to uninstall all drivers except the onboard, but I disabled the onboard audio via the BIOS. I then plugged in the X-Fi solo and let windows do its thing, then loaded up the Creative drivers from the included disk. I took a listen and no difference. I then installed the latest drivers, and the only thing different I noticed was the addition of the equalizer. I unplugged the Creative, rebooted to BIOS, re-enabled the onboard audio, and listened. Sounded about the same just at a lower volume. If you mean fresh install from an OS point of view, the OS has been running on Windows 8 with appropriate system drivers installed since Win8's release. The same with OS X.

 

I do not need much isolation and don't care so much about leakage. I imagine open would be better suited for the movie and game aspect anyway. Your thoughts on the DT990 intrigue me, and I might drop the cash for them. They are at my local GuitarCenter and I have a 12% off coupon which would cover the tax and then some. I wonder if they let you demo them before buying? I haven't been to a GuitarCenter in years and have never gone for the headphones (only to get strings when I THOUGHT I wanted to learn how to play guitar lol).

 

Renesas controllers aren't well reputed, and while their issues are minimized/eliminated on Windows 8, they're terrible on Windows 7. My point is, use USB 2.0 ports for USB DACs whenever possible.

 

Let me rephrase it. By fresh install, I meant directly installing the latest drivers as opposed to doing step by step driver updating.

 

From the headphones I mentioned, both the DT990 and the HFI-2400 are the higher quality sets, no doubt there, and if your budget allows for either of them, then they're definitely worth getting over the alternatives. Do note that I'm not suggesting those two sets just because they're open, but from those headphones, they're simply superior.

 

I seem to recall reading about people being able to demo headphones on GuitarCenter, though.

post #25 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

 

Renesas controllers aren't well reputed, and while their issues are minimized/eliminated on Windows 8, they're terrible on Windows 7. My point is, use USB 2.0 ports for USB DACs whenever possible.

 

Let me rephrase it. By fresh install, I meant directly installing the latest drivers as opposed to doing step by step driver updating.

 

From the headphones I mentioned, both the DT990 and the HFI-2400 are the higher quality sets, no doubt there, and if your budget allows for either of them, then they're definitely worth getting over the alternatives. Do note that I'm not suggesting those two sets just because they're open, but from those headphones, they're simply superior.

 

I seem to recall reading about people being able to demo headphones on GuitarCenter, though.


Assuming I want to decrease my budget to the $100-150 price range rather than $200, what would you recommend then from the above?

post #26 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by c00lkatz View Post


Assuming I want to decrease my budget to the $100-150 price range rather than $200, what would you recommend then from the above?

 

Ultrasone HFI-780 (more balanced) for $157 or HFI-580 (bassier while retaining clarity) for less than $120.

post #27 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

 

Ultrasone HFI-780 (more balanced) for $157 or HFI-580 (bassier while retaining clarity) for less than $120.

 

+1

 

I tried both and went with the 780s because of the more balanced response, but both are good phones smile.gif

post #28 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by c00lkatz View Post


 

I then fired up a DVD of Transformers for a better quality video/movie file, and again I noticed just some subtle differences in background sounds on the U3 and X-Fi, but nothing to write home about and I had to REALLY listen for it.


 

 

Did you test the Dolby Headphone option on the U3 ?

post #29 of 49

The Dolby headphone on the U3 is great- it's not 7 speakers driven by 100 watts each good but a definite improvement over my Dell laptop stereo sound---with movies. It also reduces noise which was my main gripe with the Dell soundcard. The U3 is not silent but significantly less so than the noisy laptop sound. An easy "yes" at this price point for me.

post #30 of 49
Thread Starter 

Well, I stopped by Guitar Center last night to see what I could demo. There were only two pair that he could let me try out since the boxes weren't sealed, the DT 770 Pro/80 and the HD280pro. I tried the DT 770 Pro/80 first and...omg I had no idea what I was missing. They are SOOOOO much better than the RX900's, in bass extension, quality, and quantity, as well as instrument and vocal separation and general sound quality overall. Everything didn't seem so harsh, cluttered and congested (and the RX900's are semi-open while these are fully closed!). And this was on my lowly G2X with no amplification or equalization playing from Google Music. The volume was low, but the clarity and bass response was still there. I knew I had to have them 30 seconds in and couldn't wait to hear them from my Denon. I decided to try the HD280pro as well to see what saving $130 gets me...I listened to half a song and gave them back lol.

 

So as you can probably guess I came home with the DT 770 Pro/80. Yes, I overpaid ($229 - 12% coupon + Tax = $219) and it's way more than I had originally started this little project wanting to spend, but this is exactly the difference in sound I was looking for in the first place. I plugged them into my AVR-1712 and played some FLAC via Foobar2000/wasapi and they get decently loud and the bass fills in nicely, though I find myself at the end of the volume range with clearly audible distortion and bottoming drivers, clearly from sending them a clipped signal but there's no way that's all these puppies got in them. I need a good amp and DAC. I also still find myself upping the lower frequencies a wee bit. Which leads me to...

 

From what I've been reading the DT 990's have even more bass and sound better overall with a much wider sound stage since they're open. As for which headphones are right for me, it would seem you hit the nail on the head, Roller. If the DT990's are even better than the DT770's, then I have no problems ordering online and saving a bit of money since I know I will like them (and aside from a DOA product don't have to worry about waiting 2-4 weeks to get my refund after sending them back). I found the DT 990 Pro/250 from a dealer on eBay for $174 "new, factory resealed" which probably just means it doesn't come with the box (they have 99.5% positive feedback with a 30-day return policy, so I'm not too worried). They had a make offer, so I offered $159. We'll see what they come back with. They also had them for $199 brand new factory sealed. I can get them new from Amazon for about $175 shipped as well, which is what I might do if the $159 is rejected. My only concern now is only having my Denon to play these on. My phone could barely drive the 80-ohm 770's, and the onboard out is better than the phone in the power department but not by much. Which leads me right back to a new DAC and amp if I want any kind of portability...and more money lol. Thanks for yet another hobby, Roller, I needed another one. /playful sarcasm

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by musicreo View Post

 

Did you test the Dolby Headphone option on the U3 ?


Yeah I tried it out for a little bit but wasn't too impressed. Of course this is coming from someone who uses an actual 7.1 setup, so anything "virtual" is going to be lacking in comparison. I was only interested in trying out Dolby Headphone since I hadn't heard it before, but after playing with it some, I much preferred stereo. But that's just my personal opinion. They wouldn't be including it if everyone hated it lol.

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