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A few questions about 5.1/7.1 audio through headphones on a PC. Help the noob out wont you?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
First time poster here so let me say thanks in advance for any help you can offer. I used to think that 5.1 or 7.1 through headphones connected to a motherboard audio out or sound card was as simple as plug and play. I'm seeing now that maybe I was wrong.

Here's where I am with the whole thing. Yesterday I bought a Razer Carcharias headset. I like them, but after some digging I'm thinking I could have done a whole lot better.

What I'm learning from these great forums is that the consensus is to buy a good set of cans and use an add on mic. Pairing said headphones with a good sound card (preferably one with a dedicated headphone amp) is essential. Also, I see a lot of talk about Dolby Headphone being a key piece of software.

After reading all of these things I've devised a plan of attack and would like some feedback on it. Sennheiser seems to get a lot of love around here and I've been eyeballing the Sennheiser 558 HD cans. I like the open design (something else I learned about from these forums) and they are highly regarded on Amazon. These would be paired with an Asus Xonar XD (which i already own) sound card, while it doesn't have the dedicated headphone amp it does have Dolby Headphone.

A little about what I'm looking for. I'm mainly interested in this setup for gaming and some music listening. Good 5.1 or 7.1 performance is important to me, not for competitive edge, but for sheer awesomeness. I'm by no means an audiophile, but I do love some good rich sound coming out of a good set of headphones. These things said, will my proposed setup meet my criteria? I'm open to suggestions in terms of comparably priced headphones (~$150) and other equipment you might view as useful or essential. Thanks for your help.
post #2 of 12
The HD558 are very good headphones, and they should serve you well. You might eventually want to add on a headphone amp to your setup to get the most out of them. smily_headphones1.gif
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

The HD558 are very good headphones, and they should serve you well. You might eventually want to add on a headphone amp to your setup to get the most out of them. smily_headphones1.gif

 

I'm unfamiliar with headphone amps, how much of a performance boost do they provide?  Is it just loudness they provide or do they handle other things as well?  Right now I have the Carcharias plugged into the audio out on my motherboard (haven't installed the Xonar yet) and with everything turned up all the way (Windows settings, and the headset) it is loud.  It isn't ear splittingly loud, but it is loud enough for my tastes.

 

I know there are certain settings that need enabled/disabled within the Xonar drivers to get the most out of the 5.1 or 7.1 functionality (that seems like a whole other topic altogether), but assuming I can get that all sorted out, the 558 HD will provide good results?

post #4 of 12
The Xonar DX/D1 sound cards have 100 ohm output impedance because they are meant for hooking up powered speakers and other line level devices. The HD558 are 55 ohm. Headphones optimally do best with output impedance 1/8 their impedance, or at the very least closer to their impedance. So a headphone amp could help performance because headphone amps can provide a wide range of output impedance.

That doesn't mean that the 558 won't sound good as is. Just that many headphones will do a little better with a headphone amp than with the DX/D1 alone.
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
On a slightly different note, it looks like Asus hasn't updated their drivers in two years, I see these MaxedTech unified drivers for Xonar cards, are those the ones to use?
post #6 of 12
Yep. The Xonar Unified drivers are the way to go smily_headphones1.gif
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Yep. The Xonar Unified drivers are the way to go smily_headphones1.gif

 

A couple questions about the installation of the unified drivers.  Is there a preferred installation configuration amongst the Head-Fiers?  It seems that the normal installation would meet my needs, but are there any significant advantages to using the Low DPC or C-Media installation options (I have read the comparison chart, but most of the info is Greek to me)?

 

Speaking of the driver installation comparison chart, in my digging it seems that GX is the Asus implementation of EAX, so by installing the drivers with the Low DPC option ticked it seems as if GX compatibility goes away all together.  If that is true, does that mean all EAX implementation in games goes away also?  Furthermore, is it that big or noticeable of a performance boost by installing the Low DPC version?

post #8 of 12
Sorry. I don't know. Have only used the defaults.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Sorry. I don't know. Have only used the defaults.

But you are speaking from experience with this driver? So you used the default installation option and have been pleased with it? I ask because from what I'm reading that there are performance issues with the drivers, but it seems that this issues might be with the Asus drivers, not the unified drivers. It also seems that these issues might be raised by power users and true audiophiles, of which I am neither.
post #10 of 12
Yes. I used those drivers on two different Xonar sound cards. Many people have had success with them. smily_headphones1.gif

But your best bet is to get the card, and then see which driver setup works best for you. If you have problems, then search the web to troubleshoot. Sound card integration is too unpredictable because of different hardware/operating system setups to try to figure this out ahead of time. And because you can run either the Asus default drivers or the Uni drivers, driver support for the Xonar DX/D1 is as good as any other sound card. So no reason to worry about this now. smily_headphones1.gif
post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stinkfinger75 View Post

But you are speaking from experience with this driver? So you used the default installation option and have been pleased with it? I ask because from what I'm reading that there are performance issues with the drivers, but it seems that this issues might be with the Asus drivers, not the unified drivers. It also seems that these issues might be raised by power users and true audiophiles, of which I am neither.

Did some checking, the Xonar DX driver were last update 10 months ago. but the "Xonar Unified Drivers" were updated only 4 months ago.

I usually just install the Unified drivers (using default settings) over the Asus drivers.

I personally have really good luck and no real driver issues with Xonar cards (DG, DS, DX, STX).

 

You can sometimes find used HD558 headphones for just over $100, on eBay & Amazon.

Try removing the black rubber tape from inside the cups of the HD558s, should improve (slightly?) surround sound, mids and highs.

Getting a PAV2V (Pocket Amplifier 2 Version 2), $60-$65, sold on eBay, might improve over all sound quality of any headphone used with the Xonar DX.

 

A "true Audiophile" would be much more likely to be using an external DAC and headphone amplifier and have complaints about any internal sound card.

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

Getting a PAV2V (Pocket Amplifier 2 Version 2), $60-$65, sold on eBay, might improve over all sound quality of any headphone used with the Xonar DX.

 

I think I'm going to try the 558s without the amp first just to see how it sounds.  The Razer headphones I have now are plenty loud, but they have an inline volume dial which seems to make it louder than just my standard Windows configuration allows.

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