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Need help picking out a sound card

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone, this is my first post on Head-Fi. Thanks for stopping by and looking at my thread.

I'm in the market for a sound card for my PC. I built it during the summer and I've been using integrated audio so far. I have the Astro Mixamp and Astro A40s hooked up right now that I've had about a year. I got them back when I was gaming on consoles to get good surround sound, but now that I'm on PC I've heard there are a lot better choices out there. I game on my computer more than anything, but I also spend a good amount of time listening to music or watching movies. I've picked out a headset that I'm going to upgrade to, the Audio Technica M50. If you guys know of a better headset for around $150 feel free to recommend it to me! The sound cards I've been looking at are the ASUS Xonar Essence STX, Creative Sound Blaster Titanium HD, and the HT Omega Claro Halo. I've heard that the STX is better than the other two I listed, can anyone confirm? I use Windows 8.1 and I've heard that the STX has compatibility issues with it and that makes me shy away from it a bit. I've also been looking at the AudioEngine D1 DAC as an alternative to a sound card. Would it be any good or should I stick to internal sound? Thank you for your help in advance!

post #2 of 10

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z (SB1500) sound card, normally $100, but on sale for $65.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102048

 

Sennheiser HD558s headphones, $130

AKG K612 Pro headphones, $160

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply, how do the HD558s and K612 Pros compare to the M50? I've looked at the Sound Blaster Z and I might consider getting it but it's more of a last resort, I'm not a fan of its looks and the red LED lights it has on it. Any idea on 8.1 comiptibility for Creative cards like the Titanium HD and Z series?

post #4 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by nsaylor95 View Post
 

Thanks for the reply, how do the HD558s and K612 Pros compare to the M50? I've looked at the Sound Blaster Z and I might consider getting it but it's more of a last resort, I'm not a fan of its looks and the red LED lights it has on it. Any idea on 8.1 comiptibility for Creative cards like the Titanium HD and Z series?


The ATH-M50 are bassy music headphones, but are not considered the best choice for surround sound gaming. Where as the HD558 & K612 being open headphones should provide better headphone surround sound and I would think a little better audio quality.

Win 8.1 is so new enough it's hard to say on compatiblity.

The Sound blaster Z (SB1500, retail) for $65 is a really good value for it's price.

The Titanium HD is sould the best when used with an external headphone amplifier.

I use the Essence STX myself and have really no complaints about it, but in all fairness I should say it's being replaced buy a $300 external DAC/Amp (NFB-15.32).

post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post


The ATH-M50 are bassy music headphones, but are not considered the best choice for surround sound gaming. Where as the HD558 & K612 being open headphones should provide better headphone surround sound and I would think a little better audio quality.

Agreed. Open headphones will typically be best for gaming because of the bigger soundstage. If you check out Mad Lust Envy's ratings of headphones for gaming (scroll down for the ratings), you'll see that open headphones consistently perform better than closed headphones.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks, I'll be sure to take a look at those headphones. Do you think something like a AudioEngine D1 would be better than a Titanium HD For my uses? 

 

Edit: Also, how does the ATH-AD700X stack up to the HD558 and K612's? 


Edited by nsaylor95 - 11/14/13 at 3:12pm
post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by nsaylor95 View Post
 

Thanks, I'll be sure to take a look at those headphones. Do you think something like a AudioEngine D1 would be better than a Titanium HD For my uses? 

 

Edit: Also, how does the ATH-AD700X stack up to the HD558 and K612's? 


The Audioengine D1 could connect to your computer's optical port, allowing you to use the computer's on-board audio (sound card) features.

Creative has lots of newer sound cards then the Titanium HD, so I would assume these newer cards (like the SB-Z) would get the most attention from the guys at Creative who write the software updates.

The Titanium HD is really at it's best when used with an external headphone amplifier (Magni, $99).

 

I would assume the ATH-AD700X would be considered the best choice for FPS gaming, but the AD700X's really light bass is a turn off for music and movies. I never use my ATH-AD700s for anything, except for collecting dust.

Where as the HD558 and K612 would offer more bass, but still would be fairly good with FPS gaming.

The K612 should prove a little "warmer" audio, over the HD558s.

 

This think you should reconsider on the SB-Z sound card (only $65!), it should be a better with FPS, over the on-board audio.

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

Is the Titanium HD not very good without a headphone amplifier? If the AD700Xs have really low bass, I don't think I'd like it. I'm looking for a good all-rounder headset. The HD558 and K612s that you listed seem to be what I'm looking for! It seems that everyone recommends the M50s over almost anything for $150. I'm not a big fan of the SB-Z with it's "gaming" branding. It seems sort of gimmicky, like they may skimp in the areas that make the card sound good for music. I'm a complete noob though so correct me if I'm wrong.

 

I'm also planning to buy on Black Friday/Cyber Monday so hopefully I will be able to get a good deal no matter which sound card I choose to go with.


Edited by nsaylor95 - 11/14/13 at 5:26pm
post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by nsaylor95 View Post
 

Is the Titanium HD not very good without a headphone amplifier? If the AD700Xs have really low bass, I don't think I'd like it. I'm looking for a good all-rounder headset. The HD558 and K612s that you listed seem to be what I'm looking for! It seems that everyone recommends the M50s over almost anything for $150. I'm not a big fan of the SB-Z with it's "gaming" branding. It seems sort of gimmicky, like they may skimp in the areas that make the card sound good for music. I'm a complete noob though so correct me if I'm wrong.

 

I'm also planning to buy on Black Friday/Cyber Monday so hopefully I will be able to get a good deal no matter which sound card I choose to go with.


The T-HD (Titanium HD), on it's own, is fairly decent at driving headphones.....but.

Usually you can find a external headphone amplifier that is better at driving headphones

and when you connect the external head amp to the T-HD's RCA outputs, you taking advantage of a third op-amp (LME49710) that provides a little better audio quality, over the T-HD's headphone output.

Another way to say it is, for someone that likes to game and wants to use an external headphone amplifier with their Windows PC, the T-HD is really the number one choice for an internal sound card to combo with.

 

The SB-Z's CS4398 DAC chip is not a gimmick, it's as good as you can get for a $100 sound card.

And the SB-Z has a decent enough headphone amplifier.

I think if you ask SB-Z owners I think you will find positive feedback on it's sound quality.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/623079/creative-sound-blaster-new-s-rie-z

http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-nameless-guide-to-pc-gaming-audio-with-binaural-headphone-surround-sound

http://www.head-fi.org/t/534479/mad-lust-envys-headphone-gaming-guide-updated-9-2-2013-sony-ma900-added

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
After looking at the SB-Z, it does look like a very solid choice for me. Is it hands down better than the Titanium HD or is there a big difference at all? I think I've made up my mind on headphones, I think I'll go with the HD558s, from reading reviews they seem great.

Update: I've been looking around and saw the HD598's. Is the extra $60 worth the upgrade?
Edited by nsaylor95 - 11/15/13 at 7:20pm
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