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Desktop and laptop sound bad while iPhone doesn't

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Excuse my lack of knowledge here, but here it goes:

I replaced my old Klipsch S4i with X10i recently. I mostly listen to music on my iPhone, which sounds perfectly fine with the new headphones. However I immediately noticed when I plugged them in my computer, or laptop for that matter, they sound terrible. Since I got them, I mostly ignored the vastly inferior sound quality from my desktop and laptop but today I tested my friend's Fiio E7 on my laptop and it makes them sound perfectly fine, even better than my phone which is what I expected my computers to sound like in the first place. The easiest way to explain the sound difference is that iPhone sounds normal, with normal levels of bass and all of that while computers sound horrible. It's like all the bass vanishes and all S's are extremely s-y and almost hurt my ears. My guess is that my desktop and laptop simply do not output strongly enough and thus they sound bad. That is the only way I can possibly explain this thing considering an amp can fix it (and it is the amp that fixes it, as there is no difference whether I used USB DAC or just an AUX in for amplifying the sound). Is there a way I can force my desktop to amplify the sound or do I need to just get an E7 myself to fix it?

 

PC specs relevant to this:

P8P67 Deluxe mobo, I think it's a Realtek ALC889 chip.

Laptop is a ASUS Zenbook Prime UX32VD, no idea what chip it uses. Both run Windows 8 Pro 64bit. I should add that this is not a volume issue, PC gets too loud at around 15-20%. Also I tried plugging it in directly to the motherboard and that does no difference.

post #2 of 6

The DAC inside your PC is not implemented in the same way the DAC on your iPhone is.  People are always surprised at how good their i-devices sound, which is strange because the device was designed for music originally.  Most i-devices have good to great DAC chips in them and a decent amp stage ( for a portable ).  With uncompressed files you would be hard pressed to hear a huge difference between say an iPod and a good home stereo system.

 

There are probably two things going on with you PC setup:

1.)  Poor DAC implementation ( noisy, low dynamic range, etc )

2.)  The impedance on your IEM is low enough that some systems flat out are not going to have what it takes in terms of current to adequately power the drivers.  Portable devices do not suffer this fate because they usually use a battery which you can pull a ton of current from, but are quite limited on voltage.

 

I have a questions regarding this statement:

"That is the only way I can possibly explain this thing considering an amp can fix it (and it is the amp that fixes it, as there is no difference whether I used USB DAC or just an AUX in for amplifying the sound). Is there a way I can force my desktop to amplify the sound or do I need to just get an E7 myself to fix it?"

 

What USB DAC did you try?  If you think it is not a DAC issue then it is probably an impedance issue coupled with low power.

post #3 of 6
Isn't a E7 basically an external sound card? It better sound better than let say the onboard audio or the product is useless.

And you have mentioned you are using 15%-20% volume range. You do have a volume problem and most people don't recognize this as a problem. If your software volume is not at 100%, you are probably not getting bit-perfect music. Most likely, the OS or audio driver will be decimating your audio data to the point you lose a ton of fidelity. The music will sound weak.

Volume should be controlled at the analog stage if possible. The only volume changing I do on my PC is normalization through replaygain. I notice a minor loss in quality, but its better than adjusting the volume knob all the time.
post #4 of 6

This should explain most of the problems:


Onboard audio often has rather high output impedance (75 Ω is not uncommon), and that can affect the frequency response (decreasing the level at frequencies where the headphone has lower impedance), especially that of some IEMs. It is even worse if you plug the headphones into an onboard line output (sometimes the same jack can function as either headphone or line output, and it can be switched in software, other times it is hardwired and e.g. the front panel has a headphone jack, while at the rear there are line output jacks), in that case the output impedance can be several hundred Ω, and there are also small 4.7 or 10 uF capacitors on the line outputs, which would explain the lack of bass.

 

Without an external amplifier or attenuator, using the volume control of the sound card is obviously not avoidable, unless you want to deafen yourself with listening to IEMs at 100% volume. However, digital volume control is only really a problem if the noise floor becomes audible - something that can easily happen with sensitive IEMs.

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

So from what I understand, there is nothing to do other than get that Fiio E7 because my PC has too high impedance. It is not a software-tweakable thing either. Well I guess that explains why all my portable devices sound fine (including my friends macbook) while my PC does not. Thank you for your responses!

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NA Blur View Post

 

What USB DAC did you try?  If you think it is not a DAC issue then it is probably an impedance issue coupled with low power.

 

Fiio E7 has a DAC in it.

post #6 of 6

in fact it is tweakable. this worked for me and i definitely noticed a difference. in the sound card settings and then double click on the audio device you are using (in your case your headphones) and go to the "advanced" panel and click on the default format dropdown menu and select the studio quality option 24bit option your pc should sound just fine! 

hope i could help

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