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Interested in adding another dimension to my PC gaming/music

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hello, all!

 

I'm a long-time gamer with a fairly high-end gaming PC. I listen to a lot of music as well, and I'm interested in looking at sound equipment to bring out another dimension in my games and better appreciate my music. 

 

Currently, I'm running:

 

i5 3570k

EVGA GTX 670 FTW 4gb

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H

8gb corsair RAM

2x120gb Samsung Pro SSDs

1tb WD Cav Black HDD

650w Corsair PSU

Corsair Vengeance 2000

 

I really appreciate the graphical power that my setup brings to the games that I play, but I've lately been thinking about the potential for a good audio system. I'm hoping to be able to better appreciate an additional dimension/element in the games that I play and enhancing immersion.

 

When I do tests like this: http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2009/03/mp3-sound-quality-test-128-320/ I can't tell the difference no matter how I mess with my EQ to compensate for my bassy headphones or change the volume. They sound the exact same to me. My concern is that if unable to tell the difference now, I may just be wasting money by buying entry level sound equipment. What's more, apparently many people think they can tell the difference but can't - heck, MORE people chose the wrong clip than the right one in that example. Does that mean that sound hardware beyond a basic point doesn't make a difference?

 

I'd like to know that whatever I buy will actually bring a new layer to the games I play and music that I listen to. I can probably afford to spend about $400 and believe that I want a sound card/headset combo. I would like virtual surround support for immersion while gaming, and I hear that DACs don't offer that. 

 

I play many genres of games - racing, FPS, MMO, you name it. As far as music, I listen to a lot of industrial/neue deutsche härte. 

 

Basically, I'm wondering:

 

1. If I'm having trouble picking out differences in music quality now, should I even bother with sound hardware? Is there anything that I can do to refine and better appreciate these elements?

 

2. What would be a good-for-the-money entry level set of equipment on a $300-400 budget?

 

Thanks so much for the help - I'm really hoping to take my gaming to another level through audio :)


Edited by Jtsessions - 11/5/13 at 4:01pm
post #2 of 14

I'm assuming your currently using on-board audio (VT2021).

 

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z (SB1500) sound card, $100.

AKG K612 Pro headphones, $160.

I've never used either of them, but they seem to be good bang for buck stuff.

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

I'm assuming your currently using on-board audio (VT2021).

 

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z (SB1500) sound card, $100.

AKG K612 Pro headphones, $160.

I've never used either of them, but they seem to be good bang for buck stuff.


Sweet, thanks for the recommendations!


Would you mind explaining why you feel those fit? I'm totally new to this and would appreciate the reasoning so that I can better understand audio equipment. 

 

Any idea if I'll actually notice a difference given that I can't pick out the two .mp3s in that link?

 

Thanks so much!

post #4 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jtsessions View Post
 


Sweet, thanks for the recommendations!


Would you mind explaining why you feel those fit? I'm totally new to this and would appreciate the reasoning so that I can better understand audio equipment. 

 

Any idea if I'll actually notice a difference given that I can't pick out the two .mp3s in that link?

 

Thanks so much!


The SB-Z comes with everything in one device and decently covers all the bases.

Has a nice CS4398 DAC chip :)

Decent headphone amplifier

The SB-Z's head amp has a 22-Ohm impedance, so headphones in the 100-Ohm to 300-Ohm would seem to be the safest choice.

Seems to be just as good a gaming card as any other.

 

The AKG K612 Pro seems to get good reviews, it's over shadowed by the higher costing AKG 7XX series.

post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 


The SB-Z comes with everything in one device and decently covers all the bases.

Has a nice CS4398 DAC chip :)

Decent headphone amplifier

The SB-Z's head amp has a 22-Ohm impedance, so headphones in the 100-Ohm to 300-Ohm would seem to be the safest choice.

Seems to be just as good a gaming card as any other.

 

The AKG K612 Pro seems to get good reviews, it's over shadowed by the higher costing AKG 7XX series.

Gotcha, makes sense. Thanks again!

 

Do you think that I'll really get something noticeable out of this? I had trouble distinguishing between the two files in this link: http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2009/03/mp3-sound-quality-test-128-320/
 

I've never really had high quality audio equipment and am afraid that I might not notice a difference.

post #6 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jtsessions View Post
 

Gotcha, makes sense. Thanks again!

 

Do you think that I'll really get something noticeable out of this? I had trouble distinguishing between the two files in this link: http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2009/03/mp3-sound-quality-test-128-320/
 

I've never really had high quality audio equipment and am afraid that I might not notice a difference.


I could not tell a difference, I use a $300 DAC/Amp for driving my headphones.

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 


I could not tell a difference, I use a $300 DAC/Amp for driving my headphones.


Oh wow. Do you notice a difference anywhere else? If it's hard to tell the difference even with equipment, it seems like it'd be hard to tell a difference elsewhere, too.

 

Thanks so much!

 

I'm inclined to go all-out on the card due to its long-term viability. I've heard good things about the Asus Phoebus, but bad things about its drivers. Thoughts?


Edited by Jtsessions - 11/5/13 at 9:50pm
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jtsessions View Post
 


Oh wow. Do you notice a difference anywhere else? If it's hard to tell the difference even with equipment, it seems like it'd be hard to tell a difference elsewhere, too.

 

Thanks so much!

 

I'm inclined to go all-out on the card due to its long-term viability. I've heard good things about the Asus Phoebus, but bad things about its drivers. Thoughts?


Get the Asus Xonar Essence STX, same TI 6120 headphone amplifier.

 

You can also check on how well the Phoebus drivers are doing.

http://rog.asus.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?136-Xonar-Phoebus-Series-Sound-Cards

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

Got it; Thanks for the link!

 

With respect to the Phoebus/Essence STX, I had heard that only the Phoebus had dolby home theater and had heard that it had an interesting array of features. Since current line of asus cards seems to be so similar otherwise, is this something that should be considered? Does the Essence have the same driver problems?

 

Thanks again! If anyone else has an opinion to throw out there, don't hesitate. I totally want to have discussion on this, as I'd like to make sure I'm getting the best that I can for my circumstances.

post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jtsessions View Post
 

Got it; Thanks for the link!

 

With respect to the Phoebus/Essence STX, I had heard that only the Phoebus had Dolby Home Theater and had heard that it had an interesting array of features. Since current line of Asus cards seems to be so similar otherwise, is this something that should be considered? Does the Essence have the same driver problems?

 

Thanks again! If anyone else has an opinion to throw out there, don't hesitate. I totally want to have discussion on this, as I'd like to make sure I'm getting the best that I can for my circumstances.

Dolby Home Theater could be some much improved software, over the Essence STX's Dolby Headphone.

Or Dolby added some minor tweaks to Dolby Headphone and named it Dolby Home Theater.

Just have no idea.

I use the third party "Unified Xonar drivers" with my STX, works fine for me.

post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

Dolby Home Theater could be some much improved software, over the Essence STX's Dolby Headphone.

Or Dolby added some minor tweaks to Dolby Headphone and named it Dolby Home Theater.

Just have no idea.

I use the third party "Unified Xonar drivers" with my STX, works fine for me.

Got it! I'll take a look at the setup you've suggested. I really appreciate your advice :) 

 

If anyone else has something to add in addition, I'd appreciate the additional feedback!

 

Thanks again!

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Does anyone else have anything to add? I'd appreciate more input before I bite the bullet and make a purchase.

 

Thanks!

post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jtsessions View Post
 


Oh wow. Do you notice a difference anywhere else? If it's hard to tell the difference even with equipment, it seems like it'd be hard to tell a difference elsewhere, too.

 

Thanks so much!

 

I'm inclined to go all-out on the card due to its long-term viability. I've heard good things about the Asus Phoebus, but bad things about its drivers. Thoughts?


My Audio-GD NFB-15.32 DAC/amp is $255+shipping

Comes with a USB and S/PDIF (optical & coaxial) inputs, so it can be used with just about any sound card (even on-board audio).

Everything sounds nice, drives all my headphones, not really something for improving FPS in gaming, but your games and music will sound very nice. The 15.32 is more of a luxuary, then a necessity.

A Sound Blaster Z (OEM) will go on sale sometimes for $60, can be used for Headphone Surround sound, while the 15.32 handles audio quality.

 

Another option is to get a Xonar DX or D1 sound card, used $60, nice CS4398 DAC chip and get a Schiit Magni headphone amplifier, $99.

Total around $160, plus a little shipping and tax charge ($20), so for $180 you would have some fairly good sound and amplifier, you could spend the rest of your cash for headphones.

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 


My Audio-GD NFB-15.32 DAC/amp is $255+shipping

Comes with a USB and S/PDIF (optical & coaxial) inputs, so it can be used with just about any sound card (even on-board audio).

Everything sounds nice, drives all my headphones, not really something for improving FPS in gaming, but your games and music will sound very nice. The 15.32 is more of a luxuary, then a necessity.

A Sound Blaster Z (OEM) will go on sale sometimes for $60, can be used for Headphone Surround sound, while the 15.32 handles audio quality.

 

Another option is to get a Xonar DX or D1 sound card, used $60, nice CS4398 DAC chip and get a Schiit Magni headphone amplifier, $99.

Total around $160, plus a little shipping and tax charge ($20), so for $180 you would have some fairly good sound and amplifier, you could spend the rest of your cash for headphones.

I see; Thanks for the detailed info!

 

It's good to hear that I should notice the sound improvement in game and with music - that's my prime focus. FPS isn't an issue with my hardware and I was aware of the lack of improvement with modern sound cards anyways.

 

I've actually really been thinking about how sound cards really don't need to be upgraded very often and have been considering trying out the phoebus and simply returning it if I had driver issues. Dolby home theater seems to be an interesting set of features (a friend got it with his new laptop). Any idea what sort of a difference I'd notice between the Sound Blaster and one of the Asus cards? If the difference isn't substantial, I'm with you on buying a cheaper card and dropping the rest on a good set of headphones. 

 

The headphones are where I'm not so sure - I've got the option you recommended and that's about it right now. I've never tried open headphones and am trying to find a place I could test them at, but it sounds like their superior sound stage might be really cool/immersive for gaming. I've heard that opens tend to have a crappy low end, though. I prefer just enough base that I can feel a bit of vibration, but not so much that it obscures the rest of the track/clips. Are most opens capable of that?

 

Thanks so much - I appreciate your guidance :)

 

As a quick aside, I'd really like to explore card-driven virtual surround for gaming and what it can do for immersion. I'm hoping that by picking up a card with strong surround support and some open headphones, I'll be able to get really quality positional audio. This isn't "to hear the footsteps of blah blah," it's just to bring the game to life further. Any suggestions with this in mind?


Edited by Jtsessions - 11/7/13 at 5:38pm
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