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Titanium HD vs. X-Fi Gamer + $250 DAC ?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi guys, need your advice regarding soundcard upgrade.

For now I have X-Fi Xtreme Gamer and use it primarily for headphone gaming, so CMSS Headphone is the most important for me. Music is secondary purpose, also through headphones.

Which option would be better:

1) replacing my card with X-Fi Titanium HD (worth $250 here), or

2) getting an external DAC/Amp with SPDIF input for the same price and feeding it from my X-Fi Gamer?

 

Does Titanium HD have an improved CMSS Headphone algorithm/capabilities over X-Fi Gamer?

In other words, will there be a difference between X-Fi Gamer + external DAC/Amp and X-Fi Titanium HD + external DAC/Amp?

I know Titanium HD has THX TruStudio available in Entertainment Mode, which some enjoy more than CMSS for gaming.

I'm not playing competitive FPS, so need balance between positioning accuracy and immersion, while CMSS seems to focus on the first sacrificing the second.

Also considering SoundBlaster ZxR, but Titanium HD seems to have more praise because of hardware X-Fi.

post #2 of 7
Thread Starter 

Anyone?

post #3 of 7

Option 2. A decent external DAC/Headphone amp is probably the best option seeing as your XFI Gamer can already transmit eax, cmss3d, etc over optical for 2 channel audio.

 

What headphones are you using? An external DAC/Amp in a lot of cases will also often have a lower headphone output impedance (z) (than a typical soundcard) which is a good thing if using low impedance headphones, ie; below 80 ohms.

 

It would be a very strange decision to buy a Titanium HD for its good DAC and amp sections when you intend to bypass them anyway. ;)

 

No, there shouldn't be any difference between X-Fi Gamer + external DAC/Amp and X-Fi Titanium HD + external DAC/Amp as CMSS-3d is the exact same positional audio mixer used by both cards.  (Unlike where you might have different versions of EAX with different drivers/cards for example.)

 

Depending on what headphones you have already have I'd spend my money on some open backed AKG's or similar because open back offers far better positional audio... or if you all ready have some openbacked headphones maybe invest in the versatile AudioGD 15:32 Headphone amp / DAC with dual WM8741 Wolfsons (which slightly warmer sounding than the optional ESS Sabre 9018 DAC's) 

 

See http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB1532/NFB15.32EN.htm


Edited by Ari33 - 2/11/14 at 12:33pm
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi Ari33 and thank you very much!

I have purchased AD900X a couple of weeks ago, but I find them a bit strange, voices in games and music are too pronounced compared to other sounds, so I'm not sure if I will leave them or sell them.

I must say I'm really curious about alternative HRTF technologies to CMSS Headphones, namely Dolby Headphones found on Asus cards and SBX found on latest SoundBlaster Z cards. Some people say CMSS is the most precise, but also too analytical and dull, while Dolby is more immersive, but adding plenty of reverb which might be not for everyone, and SBX is a balance between precision of CMSS on immersion of Dolby.

I've checked several DAC/Amp's under $300, and from their specs, they are equal or inferior to Xonar Essence or ZxR cards.

If I understand, WM8741 Wolfsons would be inferior to PCM1792A (Xonar) and PCM1794A (ZxR)?

So, do you still think a $250-$300 DAC/Amp would give me a better sound, then Xonar Essence or ZxR?

post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by 3stun View Post
 

Hi Ari33 and thank you very much!

I have purchased AD900X a couple of weeks ago, but I find them a bit strange, voices in games and music are too pronounced compared to other sounds, so I'm not sure if I will leave them or sell them.

I must say I'm really curious about alternative HRTF technologies to CMSS Headphones, namely Dolby Headphones found on Asus cards and SBX found on latest SoundBlaster Z cards. Some people say CMSS is the most precise, but also too analytical and dull, while Dolby is more immersive, but adding plenty of reverb which might be not for everyone, and SBX is a balance between precision of CMSS on immersion of Dolby.

I've checked several DAC/Amp's under $300, and from their specs, they are equal or inferior to Xonar Essence or ZxR cards.

If I understand, WM8741 Wolfsons would be inferior to PCM1792A (Xonar) and PCM1794A (ZxR)?

So, do you still think a $250-$300 DAC/Amp would give me a better sound, then Xonar Essence or ZxR?

 

I'm afraid I can't answer your questions Re- CMSS vz SBX vs Dolby and I'd suggest asking in this thread-  http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-nameless-guide-to-pc-gaming-audio-with-binaural-headphone-surround-sound/2610#post_10260354

 

There are a few members who regularly post there who are likely to know and also a few others who have the Audio-GD 15:32 and should be able to offer a rough comparison with the various high end cards. Some have compared it favourably with the STX so it must be up there.

 

The specs of the DAC's used isn't always a foolproof way of determining which kit should perform the best, the implementation is usually much more important.

 

1. Computer cases are very hostile environments for audio devices to reside in and can pick up noise in some instances. 

2. By connecting to an external DAC using optical you are galvanicaly isolating the DAC from the PC.

3. An external DAC usually has it's own dedicated power supply which can also easily be upgraded if not as clean as you'd like.

4. External DAC's are usually more versatile and can be used to connect lots of different kit

5. Again, I don't know of any soundcards with a z out of less than <10 Ohms which is not ideal in your case.  External DAC's often have a low impedance output which makes them better suited to low impedance headphones like your AD900X's

 

 

On a side note, I recently bought a SB Z and can't say I was very impressed. It didn't work very well at all with my TF10's (32 Ohms) due to the shifting FR and Harmonics  (1:8 output impedance rule) but as I predicted they sounded a lot better when I added to the chain and connected to my (low z out) Pioneer amp first.

The SB Z sounded quite harsh and grainy compared to my old Audigy 2 ZS, maybe if I had given it more time I might have aclimatised to the sound but because it wasn't a clear improvement over the old card it went back to the shop... I'm back to using the old ZS again but plan to get myself a new external DAC/headphone amp when funds allow.

 

 

Edit- See http://www.head-fi.org/t/648386/audio-gd-nfb-15-32-delivery-impression-thread/30

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

My Audio-GD NFB-15.32 arrived about 4 hours ago.

Ordered last Friday, shipped Sunday night (from Hong Kong), arrived Thursday (California) 12:30 PM, I'm surprised it arrived that fast.

It's at least as good sounding as my Essence STX (AD797BR), and there is zero background noise.

The 15.32's 2-Ohm impedance might have slightly improved the audio quality of my 32-Ohm AKG K550s

Anyone notice if the 15.32 improves with break in?

 

Edited by Ari33 - 2/12/14 at 11:44am
post #6 of 7

Listen to these audio tracks and pick what VSS you like best. Then pick a sound card with that VSS.

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

Listen to these audio tracks and pick what VSS you like best. Then pick a sound card with that VSS.

Thanks! Great job, man. This forum needed a thread like that. Nameless guide thread is nice, but I couldn't find some answers in it. Yours seems more focused on headphone virtual surround technologies.

I will check your audio tracks and write back ASAP! 

With tracks we can make "blind testing" which is hard to do with youtube videos comparing the techs.


Edited by 3stun - 2/13/14 at 6:59am
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