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I have hit a wall trying to make my first computer audio setup. I've outlined what I think I...

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

**DISCLAIMER**

I am extremely new to this. I apologize if I use some incorrect terminology!!

Hello, I am just now, for the first time in my life, trying to educate myself on higher end headphones. I have always used headsets such as the Plantronics GameCom 777 due to their convenience when using Skype or Ventrilo while playing games. Since my GameComs broke recently, I decided to buy the Razer Tiamat headset. BIGGEST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE! Anyway, I have spent many hours over the last week trying to learn all the details that make up a good pair of headphones and I feel like I have hit a wall. I can't figure out what I need to buy to achieve the four goals listed below. If you all would be so kind as to point me in the right direction, I would be greatly appreciative :).

 

Below is the general flow of this post (it is long and I don't want anyone reading to get lost or confused).

 

Information you may find useful -> My end goals -> Questions (there are quite a few...) -> A possible solution to my problems that I came up with.

 

Important Information: I feel like the following few points may be useful to know while reading this post.

  • I would rather not spend more than $350(USD)(although I do have some wiggle room).
  • I spend 95% of my time listening to music (all genre's included) and 5% gaming.
  • I don't have headphones yet, but I am considering buying the Beyerdynamic DT 770 pro, or something similar. Here's a link to the headphones.

http://www.amazon.com/Beyerdynamic-770-PRO-80-ohms/dp/B0016MNAAI/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1346743217&sr=1-2&keywords=dt+770+pro

  • My speakers are the Bose Companion series III. Here's a link.

http://www.amazon.com/Bose-Companion-multimedia-speaker-Graphite/dp/B000HZBR64.

  • I do not have a sound card.
  • It is extremely difficult to crawl behind my PC.

 

Goals: I feel like they are modest...

  1. Be able to easily swap between headphones and speakers.
    • I don’t want to have to crawl under my desk.
  2. Be able to control the volume of my headphones physically.
    • As of now, I cannot foresee any way to change the headphone volume besides using my volume control option in my system tray.
  3. Have virtual 7.1 audio, but I could settle for 5.1.
    • I have learned about Dolby Headphone technology. From what I understand, Dolby Headphone produces virtual surround sound, even when you’re using stereo headphones.
  4. Have high quality audio!

 

Questions: I'm sorry for having so many questions! Like I said, I am very new to this.

 

I formatted the question section of this post in the following way.

 

Statement or fact that I've learned (bold) -> Questions relating to the statement -> Explanation of question or statement relating to question

 

I'm sorry if this style of formatting is weird but I couldn't think of any other way to make this giant post more accessible.

 

   1. I don’t have a sound card in my PC. I have an EVGA X58 SLI LE motherboard. This is one of the main reasons for wanting to get an external DAC. Here's a link to my motherboard, as well as its user's guide pdf.

http://www.evga.com/Products/Product.aspx?pn=141-BL-E757-RX

http://www.evga.com/support/manuals/files/141-bl-e757.pdf

 

  Q1.1) Will I notice a difference in sound quality from a DAC compared to that of my onboard integrated audio chipset?

 

  Q1.2) When you’re buying a sound card, besides the Dolby Headphone technology, amplification, and better digital to analog conversion, where is your money going? Couldn’t I get the same improvement in sound, sans Dolby Headphone, from buying an external DAC and amplifier?

 

  Q1.3) Does having a sound card override the integrated onboard audio chipset that comes with the motherboard? If I wanted to, could I use both the motherboard audio and a sound card simultaneously (speakers in motherboard, headphones in sound card) ?

 

 

   2. The sound cards that I have looked at online have Dolby Headphone technology. Here links to two sound cards I have in mind.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829132052

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829132010

 '

  Q2.1) Is there a way to have Dolby Headphone without buying a sound card?

 

  Q2.2) Is there a way that I can toggle between virtual surround sound on/off?

 

  Q2.3) Is virtual surround sound only useful for positional audio in gaming, or does it enhance music as well? Does is reduce sound quality when activated?

 

 

   3. Sound cards have amps built in.

 

  Q3.1) If I had my speakers, which consist of a powered subwoofer and two speakers, plugged into a sound card, would the extra amplification from the sound card damage or reduce the quality of sound coming from the speakers?

                i)  I’m assuming that my speakers don’t need extra amplification like my headphones most likely will.

                ii) I’m asking this question because the only way I can imagine having an easy way of switching between speakers and headphones while using a sound card is if I bought some sort of splitter that allowed me to have both headphones and speakers both plugged into the card simultaneously. Even then, I wouldn’t be able to physically adjust the volume of my headphones unless I bought some sort of volume control box extension that would sit on my desk and be plugged into the splitter along with the speakers. I don’t even know if it is possible to buy these volume control boxes by themselves. I know amplifiers have volume control, but that would just add extra amplification on top of the amplification that the sound card was already producing.

                iii)  I'm assuming that sound cards override the motherboard audio, thus creating the necessity of having a splitter. If sound cards do not override motherboard audio, then I wouldn't need a splitter and the only problem left would be finding a volume control box for the headphones. However, if I chose to do plug my speakers into the motherboard, they wouldn't be receiving the improved DAC capabilities of the sound card.

                iv) When I say volume control box, I'm referring to something similar to the one that comes with the Xonar Phoebus. Here's a link to the image (the headphones plug into that device).

http://rog.asus.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/PR-ASUS-ROG-Xonar-Phoebus-and-Control-Box.jpg

 

 

   4. My speakers have their own volume control box. The following question assumes having my speakers plugged into a sound card wouldn't over amplify them.

 

  Q4.1) On this box, there is a headphone out. If my sound card functioned as an amplifier and DAC, and supplied Dolby Headphone technology, would my headphones receive the amplification, improved digital to analog conversion, and the virtual 7.1 or 5.1 from the sound card when plugged into the speaker’s volume control box?

                i) If the answer to this question is yes, then all of the above goals are met.

 

 

   5. Sound cards function as DACs.

 

   Q5.1) Would I notice an improved quality of sound coming from my speakers once they’ve been plugged into the sound card?

                i) I'm assuming that my speakers don’t need, and wouldn't be damaged by the extra amplification. I'm also assuming that the Dolby Headphone technology wouldn't do anything for my speakers.

 

 

   6. I have a place to plug in headphones on the front panel of my computer case. This front panel can interface with a sound card.

 

  Q6.1) Would plugging in my headphones to the front panel of my computer produce a diminished quality of sound?

 

  Q6.2) If I had my speakers plugged in the sound card on the back of the computer, and the headphones to the front of the computer, what will happen (less power delivered to both, diminished quality of sound, universe collapse, etc.)?

 

  Q6.3) This option ignores goal 2 (being able to control the volume of my headphones physically). Can you think of a solution?

                i) The only solution I can think of is purchasing a volume control box. This leads us to the last question.

 

 

   7. I want to control the volume of my headphones physically.

 

  Q7.1) Do volume control box extensions that do not noticeably reduce quality of sound, negate Dolby Headphone, or reduce amplification, exist to be purchased on their own?

 

A possible setup: Let me know if there is any error in my line of thinking here.

This is a conceptual setup to achieve the above goals.

  1. Use the S/PDIF on my motherboard and send the signal to an external DAC amp.

         a) My main reason for wanting to do this is because I’ll have speakers as well as headphones.

         b) My speakers have a sound control box on the desk with muting capability. This means that I could have them constantly plugged into the stock motherboard audio chipset while having the headphones plugged into the DAC amp, which will also be sitting on my desk.

                i) I would do this because I’m assuming that the DAC capabilities of the sound card won’t produce a noticeable improvement for my speakers.

 

   2. The headphones most likely will not have a volume control option of themselves; this is why the DAC amp will serve incredibly useful.

 

   3. Buy some external virtual 7.1 or 5.1 sound device (if they exist).

 

   4. Buy a microphone because headsets are lame.

post #2 of 8

I cant answer all of these i just dont have that level of indepth knowledge but my impressions are from personal experiance

 

  Q1.2) When you’re buying a sound card, besides the Dolby Headphone technology, amplification, and better digital to analog conversion, where is your money going? Couldn’t I get the same improvement in sound, sans Dolby Headphone, from buying an external DAC and amplifier?

 

I look for what the external DAC is doing my E17 FiiO DAC can be taken with me, has built in rechargeable batteries, is light and will fit in most pockets as a phone amp even if the phone is not an iphone, so it has far more uses than a internal sound card has just for that reason. USB cables are inexpensive if they break too so replacement isnt a big deal.

 

Q1.3) Does having a sound card override the integrated onboard audio chipset that comes with the motherboard? If I wanted to, could I use both the motherboard audio and a sound card simultaneously (speakers in motherboard, headphones in sound card) ?

 

Yes.

um tricky question.

windows operating system: no, you default one sound card, but your recording device can be different.

 

other software packages: they might let you choose your sound output.

games running through two different sound cards: I have heard of choosing sound output in some games but i have not heard of multiple outputs.

 

if that answers your question?

post #3 of 8

Q1.1 Absolutely, provided you purchase a good DAC, a good amp, and have nice headphones. Cheapo headphones likely won't show a difference. When I say cheapo, I mean the stuff you used before. If you buy quality headphones like the Beyerdynamics you mentioned, you will hear a difference.

Q1.2 There isn't a huge difference between a sound card and a DAC+amp. You don't need a box sitting outside your computer with the sound card, though. However, internal cards can be vulnerable to RF interference leading to white noise.

Q1.3 You can switch between them fairly easily, but you cannot use both without some serious work. It may or may not be possible, but would likely involve work in the registry to accomplish, so unless you are a coding guru, the answer is probably no.

Q2.1 I don't believe so.

Q2.2 Yes, should be in your sound output settings.

Q2.3 It could theoretically improve your soundstage, but I generally find that software edits on my music creates a sound I don't care for. Same reason I don't use software EQ.

Q3.1 Speakers usually run off of a speaker jack on the back of a computer, but they run just fine off of a headphone jack, which are amped by the computer. Internal amps usually aren't very good, but they are there all the same.

Q4.1 Yes, it should.

Q5 Yes, that DAC would improve quality.

Q6.1 I assume you mean cabling that headphone jack to the sound card internally, you should get the same sound as if you plugged into the back.

Q6.2 No idea, I don't know what happens to a sound card when both outputs are used.

Q6.3 I'd say your best bet is to get a keyboard with volume controls as hotkeys. I have a wireless Logitech that cost me around $30 that has these. I assume you want physical controls so you can change volume while in a fullscreen game, which a keyboard would accomplish. This negates any possibilities of SQ loss, as you are simply changing the software volume via a hardware control. Any Logitech keyboard or mouse with programmable buttons could do this.

Q7.1 My experience is that inline volume controls simply try to limit voltage for the most part, which decreases SQ.

Possible Setup-

Sounds good. USB would be just as good as S/PDIF though.Definitely get a seperate mic-I've even heard of mics being added (externally) to a pair of headphones, giving the convinience of a headset.

Your headphones would give you ~$120 left in your budget. That would get you a FiiO E17, which while the popular choice is not necessarily the best. I like the Schiit Modi & Magni stack, but it costs $200 plus cables, putting it out of your range. Great volume control though-fairly small but stable box that stays in place with a large knob to control volume.

post #4 of 8

First off, I would sacrifice those Bose speakers to the Audio Gods :-D (sorry I can't stand Bose products).  I would also look at the Beyerdynamic Custom One (http://www.amazon.com/Beyerdynamic-Custom-One-Pro-Black/dp/B008XEYT48, $173) for a set of headphones.  You can even get a mic attachment for them to turn them into a headset.  I think the Magni/Modi combo is great if you are willing to spend $200 total on them otherwise there is also the AudioEngine D1 (DAC and Headphone Amp, $169).  Good luck in your decision though.

post #5 of 8

Too long, didn't read...

post #6 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by squallkiercosa View Post

Too long, didn't read...

How useful. Better than not telling us anything about his setup and asking generic questions that can be googled.

post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by ender323 View Post

How useful. Better than not telling us anything about his setup and asking generic questions that can be googled.

It was meant to be a joke. I thought the starter could google some of the questions before, not to mention it also takes time to answer them. My set up is written on my profile. A Fiio E10 and Soundsticks III. Simple and straightforward 

post #8 of 8

If you buy quality headphones like the Beyerdynamics you mentioned, you will hear a difference.

 

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