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$300 gaming/music setup, starting from scratch

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I have a $300 budget to get a sound card, cans, a mic, and an amp if necessary. I had a couple of setups I'm starting to lean towards, but I wanted to run them by you guys first. I've read about CMSS-3D Headphone vs Dolby Headphone, and I think I'd prefer CMSS-3D. I don't really know much about THX TruStudio or SBX Studio Pro (though my understanding is that they're the same thing, just rebranded). I know that I'd love to have good positional audio when I hop onto TF2 or Planetside 2, and I hear CMSS-3D tends to edge out Dolby Headphone. For the mic I think I'm probably going to roll with the Antlion modmic, though the Samson Go mic is starting to tempt me as well. Soundstage is pretty much my biggest priority for the headphones.

 

Anyway, the options that I'm looking at are:

OPTION 1

  • Card:$60, X-Fi Xtreme Audio (linked because I honestly can't tell most of these cards apart).
  • Cans: $205, Sennheiser 598s from Amazon.
  • Mic: $40ish, modmic.

 

OPTION 2:

  • Card: $27, Asus Xonar DG
  • Cans: $205, Sennheiser 598s from Amazon
  • Mic: 40ish, modmic

 

OPTION 3: (Overkill?)

 

I had also thought about picking up the Q701s witht he Xonar DG, but if I'm not mistaken they kinda need to be amped. I don't really know where I could fit an amp into my budget. $230 seemed like a nice price, though. Musically, I listen to a few different genres of metal, electronica, and hard rock. I think the Q701s would be better for my music of choice, but the amp thing becomes an issue then. 598s are the next choice for me I think, but if gaming will benefit tremendously from the X-Fi Ti HD, then I can sacrifice a bit of bass and get the AD700s instead.

 

Anyway, I wanted to get some input from people more knowledgeable than I on this stuff. I'm very, very open to suggestions. I think right now I'm leaning most strongly towards Option 1, but I don't really know if it's reasonable. I likely won't be upgrading my sound setup for a good four years or so, if that changes things.

post #2 of 15

if you can go used and are willing to push the budget slightly..... 

 

sound card : either Asus Xonar st/stx or x-fi titanium HD. the x-fi is better for gaming with EAX support but the Xonar has better EQ options and a better overall sound for music listening. 

 

Headphones ;  if you can stand the lack of bass audio Technica ATH AD300, 500 or 700 have unreal sound staging for the price and would be a sick can for gaming. Also if you can find a good price you may want to consider the akg k702 (or 701).

 

if you get a decent sound card there really is no need for an amp 95% of the time. I never would say there is such thing as overkill at this price point. its always good to get something that's going to last far into the future and something that you wont feel the need to upgrade in the future. If you do this you'll probably just save money in the end by not continuously buying setups that are slightly better until you get to a point where you could have been before without having to pay for all those past setups. 

 

in the end my recommendation is probably: X-FI titanium HD, Either the K702's or the AD700's and with this you don't need an amp. as for a mic go to a music store IE long & maquade and get a decent mic because the Titanium is quite compatible with many Mics. this is all price permitting though wink.gif

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'm glad to hear that I'd be able to use the 701/2s without an amp - they seem like awesome headphones, and I love the look as well. 

The only downside is that I don't think I can really stretch my budget at this point. It's already been stretched to $300 as is. I could look into used parts, but that gets a bit scary. Do you have any recommendations for where to look other than ebay/amazon? I suppose here on headfi wouldn't be bad, either.

 

If I pay full price, then, your recommendation would be the X-Fi Ti HD and the AD700s with a $50ish mic, then?

I'll see what I can do as far as used stuff goes. I'd love to be able to get the 702s.

post #4 of 15
Two considerations:

(1) Just because the 701s benefit from having a good headphone amp, that doesn't mean you won't be thrilled by the sound quality without one.
(2) The biggest audio quality benefit comes from putting your money into headphones, not the electronics. For instance, I would rather have my Grado SR 225i that I use regularly with the Xonar DG than a $100 set of headphones with the Titanium HD or the Xonar ST/STX.

So get the Q701s and the sound card you can afford if you can't raise your budget. The cost of the DG is so low that it's a good starting point for getting the headphones you want. It does have a built in headphone amp. Then you could save for a separate, better headphone amp down the road, and finally an external DAC if you decide you need one. Or upgrade the sound card. But start with the good headphones as your priority. You'll know where you want to go from there after you use the Q701s for a while. For now, it's only a guess what would be best for you.
Edited by cel4145 - 1/6/13 at 2:40pm
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Two considerations:
(1) Just because the 701s benefit from having a good headphone amp, that doesn't mean you won't be thrilled by the sound quality without one.
(2) The biggest audio quality benefit comes from putting your money into headphones, not the electronics. For instance, I would rather have my Grado SR 225i that I use regularly with the Xonar DG than a $100 set of headphones with the Titanium HD or the Xonar ST/STX.
So get the Q701s and the sound card you can afford if you can't raise your budget. The cost of the DG is so low that it's a good starting point for getting the headphones you want. It does have a built in headphone amp. Then you could save for a separate, better headphone amp down the road, and finally an external DAC if you decide you need one. Or upgrade the sound card. But start with the good headphones as your priority. You'll know where you want to go from there after you use the Q701s for a while. For now, it's only a guess what would be best for you.

So you think that Q701 + Xonar DG will work out better than the alternatives for the time being? I found a pair that's priced nicely, and I think I'm about ready to take the plunge. I've kinda been leaning towards a combo like this from the beginning, so I'm glad to hear that it'll work out fine.

Alternatively, 598s are priced about the same right now. Everything I read kind of makes it sound like Q/K701s are a hair better than HD 598s, so I lean towards the AKGs... but it'd be good to get a bit of validation that I'm making a good decision before I hit the order button, haha.

post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by SupplePossum View Post

So you think that Q701 + Xonar DG will work out better than the alternatives for the time being? I found a pair that's priced nicely, and I think I'm about ready to take the plunge. I've kinda been leaning towards a combo like this from the beginning, so I'm glad to hear that it'll work out fine.

Alternatively, 598s are priced about the same right now. Everything I read kind of makes it sound like Q/K701s are a hair better than HD 598s, so I lean towards the AKGs... but it'd be good to get a bit of validation that I'm making a good decision before I hit the order button, haha.


From a technical point of view, Q701 have a flat impedance, meaning they'll work better with the sound card. The 598s have a high impedance bump (~280 Ohms) at 100Hz, so bass may feel underpowered without an amp. Again, thats my theoretical perspective.

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by SupplePossum View Post

So you think that Q701 + Xonar DG will work out better than the alternatives for the time being? I found a pair that's priced nicely, and I think I'm about ready to take the plunge. I've kinda been leaning towards a combo like this from the beginning, so I'm glad to hear that it'll work out fine.

Yes. Definitely the direction I would go.

I think there is a big difference between the around $100 phones that often get recommended on head-fi and the best of the around $200-$250 class. I have a pair of ATH-M50s (keep them at my office), the Sony MDR-V6 (old beat up pair for traveling), and some JVC HA-S500 (which I'm selling). I would rather use my ATH-A900Xs or Grado SR 225i with crappy electronics then use one of those others with my better electronics. It's just like in home audio: the speakers/headphones are where you get the most sonic benefit for your money. And you see people all the time on here make the mistake of going with cheaper phones, and then they end up selling them and buying something better within six months.

And this also gives you the better upgrade path. If you buy the Titanium HD and the A700s, you are still going to want the Q701s and wonder what you missed. And so that would probably end up being your next upgrade. Then you might not even use the A700s anymore (why would you? lol). Start with the headphones you want; you picked some darn good ones, and they are within your budget. The Xonar DG will get you by. Then figure out where to go from there later on. smile.gif
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand purchased. Got Q701s in lime green for $220 of eBay. Also picked up a Xonar DG and a modmic (I just loved the whole headphone-mounted boom mic aspect).

I... I feel really good right now.

post #9 of 15

I would suggest the new Creative Sound Blaster Z, they seem like a really nice sound card for gaming. It has a 116 dB signal-to-noise ratio, a quad-core audio processor to offload your CPU, supports 5.1 audio and headphone amplification at 24-Bit 96 KHz, supports line-out at 192 KHz, has full EAX support and SBX Pro Studio (enhancement for soundstage similar to Dolby Headphone), and it supports optical in and out if you use digital. It's dissapointing that the headphone amplifier decreases the signal-to-noise ratio to 105 dB, but for an amplifier that seems really reasonable. They are priced at around $110. It isn't as good as the Xonar line for audio, but I prefer Creative's sound cards when it comes to gaming.

 

Edit: I should've read closer, you already made your purchases.


Edited by ToddTheMetalGod - 1/6/13 at 10:25pm
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by SupplePossum View Post

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand purchased. Got Q701s in lime green for $220 of eBay. Also picked up a Xonar DG and a modmic (I just loved the whole headphone-mounted boom mic aspect).


I... I feel really good right now.

I like the look of the lime green smily_headphones1.gif

Come back and lets us know how the phones sound once you get them.
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by SupplePossum View Post

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand purchased. Got Q701s in lime green for $220 of eBay. Also picked up a Xonar DG and a modmic (I just loved the whole headphone-mounted boom mic aspect).

I... I feel really good right now.

Down the line, you might look into replacing the Xonar DG.

Maybe find a good price on a used Essence STX (better DAC chip) and the Essence STX's more powerful headphone amplifier might improve the audio quality of the Q701s, over the DG.

Try using Foobar2000 for music audio.

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

Try using Foobar2000 for music audio.

+1

 

With WASAPI too!

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

I've been using foobar for years, and I absolutely love it. I don't know anything about WASAPI, but I'll definitely be looking into it.

 

Down the line, I'll definitely end up replacing the Xonar DG. For now, it's a very inexpensive chip that seems like it will do what I need it to. Maybe in a year or two when I have a bit more cash saved up I'll look into the X-Fi Titanium Hd or the Essence STX.

 

Thanks for your help, everyone.

 

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by SupplePossum View Post

Down the line, I'll definitely end up replacing the Xonar DG. For now, it's a very inexpensive chip that seems like it will do what I need it to. Maybe in a year or two when I have a bit more cash saved up I'll look into the X-Fi Titanium Hd or the Essence STX.

Your other option is to keep the DG and get an external optical DAC. I might be wrong (PurpleAngel probably knows), but I think you can still use the Dolby Headphone, EQ, and other features in the Xonar control panel when outputting via SPDIF out.
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post


Your other option is to keep the DG and get an external optical DAC. I might be wrong (PurpleAngel probably knows), but I think you can still use the Dolby Headphone, EQ, and other features in the Xonar control panel when outputting via SPDIF out.

The Xonar DG can output Dolby Headphone surround sound thru it's optical output.

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