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Need new soundcard/amp to go with my Sony MA900's?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hello all,

 

First post here however this site has given me a ton of insight when i was making my headphone decision.  I'm pretty much a complete audio noob and hadn't really ever given audio too much thought until recently.

 

After getting a new rig setup, i thought it was also time to upgrade my headphones and after a lot of research went for the Sony MA900 which i just got today.  I never initially thought I would spend so much on headphones, so I was hoping to be really blown away by them.  My first impressions are that I am really happy with the clarity but just feel a touch underwhelmed in terms of their power.  I had a cheap pair of ovann headphones (couldn't have cost more than $10 or so) and although it is obvious the Sony's are superior in terms of clarity, I actually prefer the sound of the Ovanns for Techno/House which is the main genre I listen to.  I know the Sony's are not geared towards 'Bassheads' but I still expected to be  impressed in comparison to my old ones.  

 

Something that surprised me is that I can crank the pc volume up to 100% and not have it hurt my ears, in fact I know I have definitely listened to music louder than this on occasion.  With my cheapie Ovans I could only go to 60% or so before the volume gets too loud, so I'm guessing that my premium Sony's are in need of some better equipment to 'drive' them.

 

My current pc audio is the realtek 1150 onboard sound from my new MSI g45 gaming motherboard (http://uk.msi.com/product/mb/Z87-G45-GAMING.html#overview) which I was rather excited about as it sounded like a huge upgrade from my old onboard sound.  It supposedly has an onboard headphone amp integrated and yet I can still push these the headphones to 100% and not feel it's too loud.

 

So my question is do you think I would benefit from a different soundcard and/or desktop amp?  If so what would you suggest for a budget of maximum £150 (and hopefully much less)? 

 

To clarify, my main need is for gaming where I really want to experience virtual surround sound for first person shooters, however music is also important to me.

 

Thanks.

post #2 of 9

Seem kind of weird that you can't get the volume loud on the MA900s using the current motherboard.

Those headphones are only 48-Ohms.

Might try updating to the latest audio drivers for your motherboard.

Then check every volume control on the computer.

post #3 of 9

For your gaming and such you could definitely get a sound card (virtual surround). It will probably also boost sound quality. It seems weird you can't get enough volume. Any other sources you can try like a phone?

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Actually the onboard audio (ALC 1150 codec) already has 7:1 sbx pro surround sound, which sounds pretty great in games, although again my mind isn't blown.  I did some testing with my ipod using exactly the same file. Firstly the volume goes much louder than my pc.  I would say 80% ipod volume = 100% pc volume.  Secondly, although the bass was not as deep, I felt the sound was more detailed and more enjoyable. I really got a 'WOW' factor and for the first time I could see why these headphones cost so much.

 

I also find the lack of volume part weird as on the msi product site it says:Th

e built-in headphone amplifier allows you to use studio-grade headgear and get the most amazing sound 

Reward your ears with true quality. Get ready for ear-drum shattering sound, with MSI Audio Boost! With Audio Boost we're delivering the highest audio quality so you can enjoy crystal clear sound and music in games.
 
Because the complete audio circuitry is isolated from other features, you'll enjoy less interference and more stability.
 
The built-in headphone amplifier allows you to use studio-grade headgear and get the most amazing sound quality out of your gaming PC.

• Studio level Integrated 600Ω Headphone amplifier
• Gold-flashed audio jacks for pure audio signals
• EMI shielded audio codec
• High quality audio capacitors

 

How could this onboard amp be less powerful than a puny ipod?

 

(btw I updated the audio drivers but then Sound Blaster Cinema stopped working, so I had to revert.  There was no difference in audio anyway.)

post #5 of 9
Never heard of spx, sounds like some kinda wannabe virtual surround gimmick. Not that I know. Weird why the volume is so much lower, as they claim the inboard sound should be able to handle high impedance headphones. Not that such specs tell you much..
post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jynnantonix View Post
 

Actually the on-board audio (ALC 1150 codec) already has 7:1 SBX pro surround sound, which sounds pretty great in games, although again my mind isn't blown.  I did some testing with my iPod using exactly the same file. Firstly the volume goes much louder than my PC.  I would say 80% iPod volume = 100% PC volume.  Secondly, although the bass was not as deep, I felt the sound was more detailed and more enjoyable. I really got a 'WOW' factor and for the first time I could see why these headphones cost so much.

I also find the lack of volume part weird as on the MSI product site it says:Th

 How could this onboard amp be less powerful than a puny iPod?

(btw I updated the audio drivers but then Sound Blaster Cinema stopped working, so I had to revert.  There was no difference in audio anyway.)

I have the same problem when I plug my 40-Ohm ATH-A900X into my Yamaha A/V receiver, the A900X can't get loud.

I'm guessing that as your iPod has a much lower headphone output impedance, compared to the MSI motherboard, the iPod is better able to deliver power in a better way to the 48-Ohm MA900s.

I'm guessing Sony was expecting most MA900s to be used with portable audio devices, which usually have a much lower output impedance, then motherboards (or A/V receivers).

It preferred to have the headphones to have at least 8 times (or more) impedance (Ohms), then whatever jack (amplifier) they are plugged into.

Chances are your iPod's headphone output impedance is under 5-Ohms, where as the motherboard's headphone output impedance could be somewhere between 10-Ohm and 40-ohms, I'm guessing more like 40-Ohms.

Because if the motherboard's jack was more like 10-ohms, i'm guessing you would not be having a volume problem.

 

A Schiit Magni headphone amplifier, $99, has a headphone output impedance of less then 1-Ohm.

You could plug the Magni into the motherboard's headphone jack and the MA900s into the Magni.

post #7 of 9

He says the bass is not as deep on his ipod, which suggests that the mobo has a high output impedance, so that's probably the merit.

 

Studio level Integrated 600Ω Headphone amplifier -> Sure, the output impedance is 600 ohm :p 

 

Get a dac/amp or just a sound card.


Edited by davidsh - 11/27/13 at 11:45pm
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

David, SBX Pro is creatives new implementation of 3d sound as found on new cards like the Creative Z series, and apparently compare very favourably with cmrs-3d, DH etc.

 

Guys thanks for all advice suggested thus far.  I've been doing a lot of fiddling with all the settings available on Sound Blaster cinema and the hd realtek audio manager and I have found something of a sweetspot for games which are now sounding seriously awesome and I am in full 'Detail whore' mode. :wink: (a phrase shamelessly stolen from madlusts headphone guide that I really enjoyed')  It really is quite phenomenal how you can know that grenade just landed 3 meters diagonally behind you to the right and now you need to run like hell in opposite direction. Truly mindblowing experience!  

 

Music wise, although the volume does not get to level one would expect, it still is loud enough and 80% volume is more than sufficient for general listening.  As I say, the musical detail is not as good as on an ipod, but I'm nervous about spending a whole lot of money only to find sound quality is very similar.  I think I will wait a bit and do some testing of the headphones on a decent hi fi and try find someone with a good soundcard/amp and see if there is much difference.

 

Thanks again for all suggestions.

post #9 of 9
Lol, I misread it as SPX!
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