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New to "Serious" Audio. DACS+AMPS / Sound Cards + Amps + I Don't Know what I'm Looking For...

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hello :),

 

I recently purchased a pair of Sony MDR-7506 Headphones, after using $10-$20 dollar headphones, and onboard (motherboard) audio for years and years.

 

I'm looking to make the jump into delicious audio, as the headphones alone have made a noticeable difference.

 

I begin to become confused, however, when it goes beyond just buying new headphones, and i don't currently know what i'm looking for in computer audio hardware.

 

If i am using headphones exclusively, and i like trebles and highs, but by no means dislike bass, what is a preferable configuration?

 

Do i use a DAC + AMP? Sound card? Sound card + amp? Can someone please break down the differences and potential advantages / disadvantages of this stuff?

 

It should also be noted, that after much consideration, i may prefer to focus on overall audio quality, rather than, say, video game-focused audio quality. These days, i listen to more music than play video games, so music currently has preference.

 

Sorry if this is a vague or frequent request. Researching audio can feel like researching camera equipment. There's just so much to chew, and i would like to "get it right" the first time, if i can.

 

If anyone has any specific hardware, please feel free to post it, and it would be a favor if you can break down why you're posting it.

 

This is all a tall order to ask strangers to do, but i won't be unappreciative, for what it's worth!

 

Cheers :)...

 

TL;DR Version : Looking for computer hardware to go with MDR 7506. Don't know if should use Sound Card, DAC+AMP combo, Sound Card + AMP, etc. Looking for music centric hardware suggestions. Please explain as if talking to 7 year old.

post #2 of 16

Firstly a few things you need to do before spending more money and its pretty much going to save you in the long run.

1:- Are you using sound device already on the motherboard, or do you have a dedicated sound card.  How new is your mobo etc etc

2:- What format of music are you listening too? eg FLAC MP3 WMAL 

3:- Do you plan to ever use speakers so are you likely to need multiple connections

4:- Will your phones benefit from a headphone amp

 

If you are seriously considering expanding your headphone collection or adding speakers at a later date I would look into investing in a USB dac/amp.  You can spend hundreds or thousands at the end of the day and whether its worth it only you can say.  I would do some research on your current equipment and discuss your particular phones with other users and then think about the future.

 

If you think you may be able to get some better quality out or your current equipment take your phones to a local audio supplier and ask to demo one of their latest amp/receivers so that you can get an idea of what they are really capable of.  If the quality is significantly better than what you are getting through your computer then you can decide on where to go next.  

 

The key point is dont throw your money away on things unless you need them, a simple budget usb dac/amp may be all you need to get the most out of your headphones.

 

HTH

post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

1. I am currently using the onboard sound, which isn't saying much, since the computer is a new build, and i haven't really begun using it.

The motherboard is a ASUS Sabertooth 990fx R2.0 with :

 

Realtek® ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- Absolute Pitch 192kHz/ 24-bit True BD Lossless Sound
- Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection 
- ASUS Noise Filter
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel

 

2. I do a lot of streaming, but am looking forward to building a FLAC library, so let's just say FLAC. Haven't even HEARD of WMAL blink.gif...

 

3. I have no current plans to ever use speakers on the computer this thread involves. I have a laptop, and for ambient music (which i am less concerned with the quality of), i just play music from that. I am unlikely to be using multiple connections, as i don't know what i would be using them for.

 

4. From what i've read about these headphones (SONY MDR 7506), they don't need to be amped(?) unless mistaken. I don't know if they would benefit or not, though. That's why i'm hear pestering you :)...

 

Again, i plan to be using those headphones exclusively with that computer.

 

Are there any reputable audio supplier chains i should look for, if i'm going to go test things?

 

Thank you :)...
 


Edited by testface - 5/20/13 at 11:40am
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 

An acquaintance just recently suggested this sound card (ASUS Xonar Essence ST 24-bit 192KHz PCI Interface Audio Card) :

 

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829132014

 

Any recommendations?

post #5 of 16
The Xonar ST or STX are both very good sound cards, and are an upgrade over the electronics in onboard sound. Whether or not the difference in audio quality will be worthwhile to you is more of a personal listening preference thing. For $200, you could get better headphones.

If you are mainly into music (not gaming), I would recommend looking into the Schiit Modi and Magni separate DAC and headphone amp over the ST/STX.
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

The Xonar ST or STX are both very good sound cards, and are an upgrade over the electronics in onboard sound. Whether or not the difference in audio quality will be worthwhile to you is more of a personal listening preference thing. For $200, you could get better headphones.

If you are mainly into music (not gaming), I would recommend looking into the Schiit Modi and Magni separate DAC and headphone amp over the ST/STX.

 

Does the modi/magni have any equalizer capability?

post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by testface View Post

Does the modi/magni have any equalizer capability?

No. But you can use a music player that has EQ which adjusts the sound digitally before sending it to the DAC.
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

Alright, i've narrowed the selection to the Xonar Essence STX (Not ST, PCI port is inaccessible from crossfire)( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829132010 ), and the Creative Titanium HD ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102033 ).

 

I have slowly been moving away from gaming, and listening to more music, but do SOME gaming that utilizes OpenAL (Unreal Tournament / 2k4 / 3).

 

The gaming aspect alone makes the Creative card a consideration. Or is the Creative card also excellent with music?

 

I would potentially appreciate recommendations / suggestions...

 

I've been researching audio for days, and this is a lot of stuff to chew...

 

 

Cheers : )...

post #9 of 16
All the Unreal T games, huh? Even though I haven't played those lately, LOVE those games. Introduced my son to FPS with UT 2003 when he was 6 years old, followed by UT2K and UT3 over the years. Now he feels like he's an old hand at FPS. LOL biggrin.gif

The Titanium HD definitely has the reputation of better positional audio for games. I used to own the STX. Supposedly slightly better for music than the Titanium HD, but the Titanium HD is supposedly very good, too. Then again, the STX will be superior for everything, too, in comparison to your motherboard audio. The STX has a lower minimum impedance rating of 10 ohms compared to the Creative card's 35 ohms. Optimum is about 1/8 the rating of your phone's impedance, so the STX is a little better in that regard.
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 

Really appreciate your help, cel4145, thank you :)...

Could you elaborate on the "optimum impedance" stuff a little? I was guessing that both cards would be fine in that regard, since the phones seem to be pretty low power...

 

Would be willing to hear from others as well, if anyone else cared to offer any suggestions!

 

The general impression i've been hearing is that they would be roughly of equal quality, with slight edge in music's favor from the STX, and a substantial edge in gaming with the Titanium HD. I would like to hear from those using the Titanium HD and listening to music, though.

 

Cheers! :D...

post #11 of 16
This page indicates that the tested impedance of the 7506 is more like 80ohms with some peaking at 113: http://kenrockwell.com/audio/sony/mdr-7506.htm

So a headphone amp/sound card with 10ohm low impedance output would be optimum. However, if the impedance is not quite low enough, the way it affects the sound is to change the frequency response a little because that impedance of 113 at 64hz will make them a little easier to drive at that frequency. You might not be able to hear the difference.

Unless you plan on eventually buying even lower impedance headphones, I probably wouldn't worry about it.
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 

THanks again, cel4145 :),

 

If i fetched the Titanium, would an AMP be recommendable?

 

Either card seems fine as a DAC, or am i mistaken?

post #13 of 16
I wouldn't worry about it. Should sound much better than your motherboard audio. If you end up buying $200+ low impedance headphones at some point--in other words, you are putting much more money into the hobby--then you might think about it smily_headphones1.gif
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 

Would it be complete and utter ignorance to game with a magni/modi combo? Or would it just be more like using onboard for games?

 

I'm still deliberating and considering options.

 

Between Essence STX, Titanium HD, and Magni/Modi, currently...

 

Trying to do more work on the computer this build, so i don't know how much gaming i'm gonna be doing.

 

Are sound cards generally used over dac/amp combos simply because of their effects, such as dolby headphone, CMSS3D, Crystalizer, etc?

post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by testface View Post

Would it be complete and utter ignorance to game with a magni/modi combo? Or would it just be more like using onboard for games?

If you are a SERIOUS gamer looking for every edge in FPS and other games where positional audio is important, or just someone that wants whatever DSP surround effects can be offered by the likes of Dolby Headphone, then yes.

If you are like me, I use an ODAC and my O2 or my Little Dot I+ because I'm not THAT serious about gaming. I had a Xonar STX and never liked the Dolby Headphone mucking with the audio signal. And somehow I got by fine without it for years. Been playing computer games for over 20 years. Why worry about it now? I just want the best SQ smily_headphones1.gif
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