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Best Sound Card, DAC/Amp, Headphone combo for Gamer

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

I'm a little confused about the relationship between the PC sound card and the DAC/Amp.  So please bare with me...

 

I currently have a Creative Labs XtremeGamer sound card in my PC.  I use AD700s.  I am happy with my sound, but I can't help but feeling there is more out there to be enjoyed!  (especially in the bass category).  

 

I've been doing alot of research, and many people recommend stepping up to the AKG Q701 from the AD700.  Is this a justifiable purchase with my current sound card?  Most people recommend buying a DAC/Amp with the Q701.  Is this also needed?

 

In short, I'm looking for the best sound card, DAC/Amp, open over-ear Headphone combination for under $1000.  I do not plan on using these headphones away from my desk.  Portability is not a main concern.

 

Any feedback is appreciated!  Thanks.

 

 

John

post #2 of 46

If you get a DAC, you will lose all gaming audio support you currently have, but get higher sound quality.

 

An excellent setup for gaming is a Creative X-Fi Titanium HD soundcard, an O2 or a Schiit Asgard amp and Ultrasone HFI-2400 or Beyerdynamic DT990 headphones.

 

The Titanium HD has a very high quality DAC and components used, so you won't be missing out on sound quality when compared to DACs costing twice its price.

 

EDIT: It should also be said that for competitive gaming, your AD700 are excellent performers, and a pair to keep around for the sole purpose of competitive gaming. Both the HFI-2400 and the DT990 handle both competitive and immersive gaming quite well, but the AD700 is still a better option for competitive gaming. Might be surprising, due to the price difference, but that's just how things are :)


Edited by Roller - 12/10/12 at 11:37am
post #3 of 46
Thread Starter 

Great response!  And fast!

 

Last question... how much of a difference will the Amp make?  Let's assume I buy the Titanium Sound Card and a new pair of headphones.

 

 

John

post #4 of 46

Regarding amps, it depends on the headphones you get, some are easy to drive and have little to no improvements from additional amplification, while others are harder to drive and sound slightly to significantly better.

 

Also, keep in mind I recommended the Titanium HD, not the Titanium which is a lower end model.

 

The setup I suggested is well within your specified budget and is quite an improvement in all regards.

 

The reason I recommended you keeping the AD700 around is because they're just that good for competitive gaming where soundstage and positional cue accuracy is very much desirable. However, they are very light on bass and the excessively airy sound doesn't favor immersive gaming, where you want to feel like you're in the middle of the action, so to speak.

post #5 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by rogersjd14 View Post

I'm a little confused about the relationship between the PC sound card and the DAC/Amp.  So please bare with me...

I currently have a Creative Labs XtremeGamer sound card in my PC.  I use AD700s.  I am happy with my sound, but I can't help but feeling there is more out there to be enjoyed!  (especially in the bass category).  

I've been doing alot of research, and many people recommend stepping up to the AKG Q701 from the AD700.  Is this a justifiable purchase with my current sound card?  Most people recommend buying a DAC/Amp with the Q701.  Is this also needed?

In short, I'm looking for the best sound card, DAC/Amp, open over-ear Headphone combination for under $1000.  I do not plan on using these headphones away from my desk.  Portability is not a main concern.

Any feedback is appreciated!  Thanks.

For a low cost improvement, get the Fiio E09K ($110) or older Fiio E9 ($89) and plug it into the XtremeGamers line-out/headphone jack and plug the Q701s into the Fiio amp.

In the future you can always buy the Titanium HD, better DAC chip then the XtremeGamer.

post #6 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

For a low cost improvement, get the Fiio E09K ($110) or older Fiio E9 ($89) and plug it into the XtremeGamers line-out/headphone jack and plug the Q701s into the Fiio amp.

In the future you can always buy the Titanium HD, better DAC chip then the XtremeGamer.

 

You do realize he has a $1K budget, right? wink.gif

post #7 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

 

You do realize he has a $1K budget, right? wink.gif

He is welcome to not listen to my advice and spend all the $1,000.

 

But for someone (RogerJD14) that is currently using about $125 worth of stuff for computer audio,

it would not take much cash for him to get something that sounds a fair bit better compared to what he is currently using.

post #8 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

He is welcome to not listen to my advice and spend all the $1,000.

 

But for someone (RogerJD14) that is currently using about $125 worth of stuff for computer audio,

it would not take much cash for him to get something that sounds a fair bit better compared to what he is currently using.

 

You're right, it doesn't take much cash to get better. It actually doesn't take much cash to get significantly better, which was what I recommended, well below his specified budget. If he had a budget of $200, then I would've considered recommending the regular Titanium, but given he has more leeway, then I stand by my recommendation, and see no reason why he should go lower.

post #9 of 46
Thread Starter 

So here is what I have narrowed it down to.  Remember, this is almost solely for immersive, and slightly competitive gaming.  I have chosen these because they have all been recommended for their quality bass:

 

  • HD650
  • Ultrasone HFI-2400
  • Ultrasone Pro 2900 (there is debate if worth the extra $$$)
  • Beyerdynamic DT990 Premiere (600 ohm model)
  • Q701

 

Any further comments on the above is appreciated...  I am going to look for a local shop to test these out myself.

 

Also I would like to buy an amp that will suit my headphone purchase well.  Should I first decide on the headphones, then find an amp to fit?  Is there a one-size-fits-all amp?  Should I future proof myself in the amp category?  

 

As a note, I will likely get LCD-2s or HD800s as my end-game one day (a few years down the line).

post #10 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by rogersjd14 View Post

So here is what I have narrowed it down to.  Remember, this is almost solely for immersive, and slightly competitive gaming.  I have chosen these because they have all been recommended for their quality bass:

 

  • HD650
  • Ultrasone HFI-2400
  • Ultrasone Pro 2900 (there is debate if worth the extra $$$)
  • Beyerdynamic DT990 Premiere (600 ohm model)
  • Q701

 

Any further comments on the above is appreciated...  I am going to look for a local shop to test these out myself.

 

Also I would like to buy an amp that will suit my headphone purchase well.  Should I first decide on the headphones, then find an amp to fit?  Is there a one-size-fits-all amp?  Should I future proof myself in the amp category?  

 

As a note, I will likely get LCD-2s or HD800s as my end-game one day (a few years down the line).

The O2 (Objective 2) portable headphone amplifier, $155, can work with any headphone from 16-Ohm to 600-Ohm.

It works fine as a desktop, as you just need to leave the AC adapter plugged in.

 

Currently the Titanium HD is selling for $109 at J&R and Amazon.

If you buy from Amazon, it will still be shipped from J&R.

http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Blaster-Titanium-Internal-SB1270/dp/B0041OUA38

 

Plug the O2 into the Titanium HD's RCA output jacks and you still get headphone surround sound from the Titanium HD.

 

The DT990s are a full bass & full treble headphone, with slightly recessed vocals, but the vocals are clear.

The DT880 600-Ohm are a little more balanced sound.

post #11 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by rogersjd14 View Post

So here is what I have narrowed it down to.  Remember, this is almost solely for immersive, and slightly competitive gaming.  I have chosen these because they have all been recommended for their quality bass:

 

  • HD650
  • Ultrasone HFI-2400
  • Ultrasone Pro 2900 (there is debate if worth the extra $$$)
  • Beyerdynamic DT990 Premiere (600 ohm model)
  • Q701

 

Any further comments on the above is appreciated...  I am going to look for a local shop to test these out myself.

 

Also I would like to buy an amp that will suit my headphone purchase well.  Should I first decide on the headphones, then find an amp to fit?  Is there a one-size-fits-all amp?  Should I future proof myself in the amp category?  

 

As a note, I will likely get LCD-2s or HD800s as my end-game one day (a few years down the line).

 

Ultrasone HFI-2400 and Beyerdynamic DT990 are likely to be your best options for mainly immersive gaming.

 

Amp wise, if you go with an O2 or a Schiit Asgard, you'll have enough driving power to drive virtually all headphones below flagship level, and even some easier to drive flagships.

 

Regarding the LCD-2 and HD800, the former will be better for immersive gaming and rather poor for competitive gaming (based on reports), while the HD800 will be quite good for competitive gaming, and reasonable for immersive gaming, depending on the gear you pair it with. You'll likely be more satisfied with an Ultrasone Signature DJ or by EQing an Ultrasone Signature Pro for a more fun sound.

 

And as mentioned previously, the soundcard to get is the Creative X-Fi Titanium HD.

post #12 of 46
Thread Starter 

Awesome feedback!  Exactly what I needed.

 

Will this O2 Amp power the DT 990 (600 ohm model)?  it says it goes as high as 250 ohm @96dB/mW.  They said they can change the gain upon request...not sure if this is needed?

 

http://www.jdslabs.com/item.php?fetchitem=o2full

post #13 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by rogersjd14 View Post

Awesome feedback!  Exactly what I needed.

 

Will this O2 Amp power the DT 990 (600 ohm model)?  it says it goes as high as 250 ohm @96dB/mW.  They said they can change the gain upon request...not sure if this is needed?

 

http://www.jdslabs.com/item.php?fetchitem=o2full

My JDS Labs O2 has no problem driving my DT880 premium 600-Ohm & DT990 Premium 600-Ohm headphones.

post #14 of 46

i game a ton with my Titanium HD > O2 > HD650's setup.  it's a great setup for immersive gaming.  the soundstage of the HD650's is somewhat congested for an open headphone but still tons better than your average closed headphone.  The HD650's have a somewhat 'tamed' treble which makes for great, non-fatiguing gaming sessions. i can geek-out for hours and be comfortable the entire time. the bass is fantastic for immersive gaming.  my vote goes to the HD650's for gaming if competitive-advantage is not your primary concern.  

 

*disclaimer: i have not heard any of the other headphones on your list above.  take my advice with that in mind. just weighing in with my personal experience with the HD650's.


Edited by Porter1 - 12/11/12 at 11:29am
post #15 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Porter1 View Post

i game a ton with my Titanium HD > O2 > HD650's setup.  it's a great setup for immersive gaming.  the soundstage of the HD650's is somewhat congested for an open headphone but still tons better than your average closed headphone.  The HD650's have a somewhat 'tamed' treble which makes for great, non-fatiguing gaming sessions. i can geek-out for hours and be comfortable the entire time. the bass is fantastic for immersive gaming.  my vote goes to the HD650's for gaming if competitive-advantage is not your primary concern.  

 

*disclaimer: i have not heard any of the other headphones on your list above.  take my advice with that in mind. just weighing in with my personal experience with the HD650's.

How are you guys connecting your sound card to your O2?  I'm a total audio newb and I'm not familiar with audio cables.  I'd like to know everything I'll need before I buy the O2.  The headphones go straight into the headphone jack on the O2?

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