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Where Do I Even Start?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

So I want to first apologize if this is the wrong place for this thread, but I think this is where it goes since all of my listening is done on a comp, and so my questions are in that context.

 

I listen to a lot of music, watch a lot of vids, and game a fair bit too. It's easy to say I consume a large amount of media of all types. I've always loved music but never really thought about it much.

 

So of course with Christmas coming I'd been thinking of what I wanted to get and thought that I'd try to improve my media/gaming/music experience. I thought this would be initially easy to do, similar to upgrading other computer hardware. In all thought it seems I was rather wrong. Simply googling for tutorials/guides left me frustrated as they either seemed incomplete, old/outdated, or too technical for me to understand.

 

What's more is the range of equipment involved changed a lot. Instead of speakers/headphones and an audio card, there are now amps/equalizers and lord knows what else. All of these components have their own stats too, and understanding their purpose/quality requires knowledge of the nature of sound/science surrounding sound as well.

 

It's all rather overwhelming at first, leaving me with no clear starting point on figuring out what I want and need. I could ask I suppose for someone to simply tell me what to get, but that's unsatisfying.

 

So to get to the point, I was wondering if I could get some help finding entry level tutorials that would help me understand audio/audio equipment in general, and enable me to make informed opinions and decisions on equipment, with the intent of improving my overall listening experience (music/media/games) and possibly support some basic creation of my own ( I've always wanted to make music of some kind but can't afford instruments/lessons so I figured I'd DIY on a comp for some satisfaction. ).

 

As said at the top, if this is the wrong forum for this, I apologize and if I could be pointed in the right direction that'd be nice. This is the first Audio-oriented community I've stumbled onto so far.

 

Lots of Love,

Hashed Browns ♥

post #2 of 7

Hi Hashed Browns, welcome and all that :) 

 

 

 

 

to cut a long story short, Get a Decent DAC (Fiio e7?), get some headphones you like the sound of after trying them all out, get bored of your choices later, spend more money in pursuit of sonic perfection. 

Research EVERYTHING on head-fi, check the classifieds...

Learn to love ebay for high-end audio goodness for cheaps! 

post #3 of 7

I think you are overcomplicating things, hashed. Audio equipment hasn't changed that much since the days of "speakers/headphones and an audio card." These are still the basic ingredients of computer audio. What's changing is an increase in awareness of what an audio card does, and expanding its implementation into dedicated hardware components. i.e. Dac, amp, pre-amp, mixer, etc. Usually an internal sound card is all of these things in one, and there are sound cards that do a pretty good job of it.

 

But many find they can find more value and enjoyment with dedicated components, or just like tinkering with their hardware more than an all-in-one internal sound card can allow. Don't be so overwhelmed right away, digital audio really is quite simple, head-fi just likes to overcomplicate things sometimes. frown.gif A lot of people could be satisfied with a simple setup, like the Fiio ru57y recommends. 

 

Here is where you start:

 

-What is your goal? Is it to show off a system to your friends? Is it to simply have better sound quality than average motherboard "HD audio?" Is it to have the best-reference audio studio-grade system this side of the Mississippi?

-What is your budget? Self-explanatory.

-What is your usage? Do you need to drive headphones and/or speakers? Do your headphones need to be closed (for isolation and low leakage), or can you have open headphones? What sized room and listening distance are your speakers going to be used for? Are your speakers powered or do they need an amp? 

 

Unfortunately - for speakers - movies and music are slightly at odds because movies are optimized for 5.1/7.1, but music is usually mastered for 2.1. So you'll have to make a choice about which one gets compromised. Personally, I vote stereo even though I watch movies on my office/bedroom computer. Save the surround-sound setup for the living room.

 

So start by answering these questions, and then head-fi will be able to really help out. In other words, I think you are attacking the situation from the wrong angle, you tell us what you need, then we tell you what we recommend for those needs.

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ru57y View Post

Hi Hashed Browns, welcome and all that :) 

 

 

 

 

to cut a long story short, Get a Decent DAC (Fiio e7?), get some headphones you like the sound of after trying them all out

 

Thanks for the welcome ♥

 

I don't understand the use of a DAC exactly. I understand the need to convert digital to analogue but as I understand this is all done on board and is a very basic task. What makes a separate module better than on board for that? Further what makes one DAC stand out from another?

 

As for headphones, for the past 4 years I've ben using a pair of Audio Technica ATH 700s or some such that I bought from a garage sale for like 15$. They've been amazing to me and I'm not sure I want to replace them until I know what I'm doing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by seekadds View Post

I think you are overcomplicating things, hashed. Audio equipment hasn't changed that much since the days of "speakers/headphones and an audio card." These are still the basic ingredients of computer audio. What's changing is an increase in awareness of what an audio card does, and expanding its implementation into dedicated hardware components. i.e. Dac, amp, pre-amp, mixer, etc. Usually an internal sound card is all of these things in one, and there are sound cards that do a pretty good job of it.

 

But many find they can find more value and enjoyment with dedicated components, or just like tinkering with their hardware more than an all-in-one internal sound card can allow. Don't be so overwhelmed right away, digital audio really is quite simple, head-fi just likes to overcomplicate things sometimes. frown.gif A lot of people could be satisfied with a simple setup, like the Fiio ru57y recommends. 

 

Here is where you start:

 

-What is your goal? Is it to show off a system to your friends? Is it to simply have better sound quality than average motherboard "HD audio?" Is it to have the best-reference audio studio-grade system this side of the Mississippi?

-What is your budget? Self-explanatory.

-What is your usage? Do you need to drive headphones and/or speakers? Do your headphones need to be closed (for isolation and low leakage), or can you have open headphones? What sized room and listening distance are your speakers going to be used for? Are your speakers powered or do they need an amp? 

 

Unfortunately - for speakers - movies and music are slightly at odds because movies are optimized for 5.1/7.1, but music is usually mastered for 2.1. So you'll have to make a choice about which one gets compromised. Personally, I vote stereo even though I watch movies on my office/bedroom computer. Save the surround-sound setup for the living room.

 

So start by answering these questions, and then head-fi will be able to really help out. In other words, I think you are attacking the situation from the wrong angle, you tell us what you need, then we tell you what we recommend for those needs.

 

Sorry, when I said it changed, I meant in relation to my understanding. Previously I knew there were headphones/speakers and I was aware that audio cards existed. The moment I bothered to read/look however things changed fast and it became a lot larger of a subject than I had previously thought.

 

As for my goal, I want to have an audio system that gives me better quality sound for my games/videos/music, and a hobby. Something I can learn about, have fun with, and apply it to things I enjoy like music.

 

My budget immediately is 0$. Right now I'm doing research/learning about this so I know what I'm shopping for. Earliest time I'd be able to buy is late December, latest is mid February, because things are weird right now irl. I'm ok with having a large buffer zone between learning and buying. My budget when I am ready to buy will likely be between 150$ and 500$ if I manage to lose control of myself >.>

 

As it stands usage-wise I listen to everything on my headphones, and live in a small house with a family of 8. So speakers are unlikely to work out for me, but open air headphones have been fine for some time. As for other usage, I am looking into some DAWs/ect for making music on my comp/ect, in a search for another music related hobby. I'm not sure how far I'll take that, but I'd still like to find the line where on board no longer supports the hobby and I need something better.

 

So as it stands, of this moment, I am more asking/looking for a "what hardware makes a good audio setup, what makes good hardware, all in relation to computer audio, and where are entry level guides/tutorials/literature for this. " as opposed to a " Please tell me what to buy" type deal . 

 

I'm basically wanting to get into a hobby that makes something I love (especially music) even more enjoyable, and actually gives me an understanding of how it works.


Edited by Hashed Browns - 12/3/12 at 12:06pm
post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hashed Browns View Post

 

Thanks for the welcome ♥

 

I don't understand the use of a DAC exactly. I understand the need to convert digital to analogue but as I understand this is all done on board and is a very basic task. What makes a separate module better than on board for that? Further what makes one DAC stand out from another?

 

As for headphones, for the past 4 years I've ben using a pair of Audio Technica ATH 700s or some such that I bought from a garage sale for like 15$. They've been amazing to me and I'm not sure I want to replace them until I know what I'm doing.

 

Sorry, when I said it changed, I meant in relation to my understanding. Previously I knew there were headphones/speakers and I was aware that audio cards existed. The moment I bothered to read/look however things changed fast and it became a lot larger of a subject than I had previously thought.

 

As for my goal, I want to have an audio system that gives me better quality sound for my games/videos/music, and a hobby. Something I can learn about, have fun with, and apply it to things I enjoy like music.

 

My budget immediately is 0$. Right now I'm doing research/learning about this so I know what I'm shopping for. Earliest time I'd be able to buy is late December, latest is mid February, because things are weird right now irl. I'm ok with having a large buffer zone between learning and buying. My budget when I am ready to buy will likely be between 150$ and 500$ if I manage to lose control of myself >.>

 

As it stands usage-wise I listen to everything on my headphones, and live in a small house with a family of 8. So speakers are unlikely to work out for me, but open air headphones have been fine for some time. As for other usage, I am looking into some DAWs/ect for making music on my comp/ect, in a search for another music related hobby. I'm not sure how far I'll take that, but I'd still like to find the line where on board no longer supports the hobby and I need something better.

 

So as it stands, of this moment, I am more asking/looking for a "what hardware makes a good audio setup, what makes good hardware, all in relation to computer audio, and where are entry level guides/tutorials/literature for this. " as opposed to a " Please tell me what to buy" type deal . 

 

I'm basically wanting to get into a hobby that makes something I love (especially music) even more enjoyable, and actually gives me an understanding of how it works.

 

Yea I understand. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a definitive, simple, well-written "tutorials" from a basic websearch. Tyll's Innerfidelity and Guttenberg's Audiophiliac blogs usually have good information and reviews. There is of course a ton of information here on these threads as well, but sometimes filtering through it can be tough. 

 

Here are some related threads:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/201322/what-is-a-dac

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/576629/does-which-dac-you-have-really-matter

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/446876/difference-in-chips-what-makes-a-good-dac-a-good-dac

 

You have to be careful though, because "What makes a DAC/amp good?" is a highly controversial and often-debated topic. Some will say "whatever sounds good to your ears," some will say "whatever can be objectively measured to be good." It's probably a mixture of both in reality, but it's not a simple question to answer. 


Edited by seekadds - 12/3/12 at 12:37pm
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks, I'll read those ♥

 

The issue over "what is objectively good" and "what sounds good" for me is that I cannot test or try out equipment before I buy it (which I have seen a lot of people around here suggest). I live in a very rural area and so there are no stores that sell this type of equipment around me. This means all my purchases will be online, so I can only really judge by objective stats, which is why I'm so hung up on understanding/having guides/tutorials/working in theory before considering a purchase, if you get where I'm coming from.

post #7 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hashed Browns View Post

Thanks, I'll read those ♥

 

The issue over "what is objectively good" and "what sounds good" for me is that I cannot test or try out equipment before I buy it (which I have seen a lot of people around here suggest). I live in a very rural area and so there are no stores that sell this type of equipment around me. This means all my purchases will be online, so I can only really judge by objective stats, which is why I'm so hung up on understanding/having guides/tutorials/working in theory before considering a purchase, if you get where I'm coming from.

 

I hear ya. Don't worry though, you can still try a lot of different gears, then sell them if you don't like them. This community and hobby maintains pretty good retail value in used gear as long as you take care of it. Good luck on your journeys. 

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