I'm Manel and I write from Portugal.
So, I decided to join the forum because I'm building a gaming rig and need your opinion on the audio sector, which I very much care about. With that in mind, I'm willing to put aside a total of approximately 700€ (euros) just for this part (comprising a pair of headphones, a soundcard or external Amp+DAC and a set of speakers). I really appreciate listening to music, but never had decent quality sound equipment, thus I'd like to step into the next level.
I will be doing some gaming, listening to music, watching movies (35% gaming, 50% music, 15% movies). I play singleplayer mainly, but I also take some excursions into MP games like Battlefield or CS, in which being able to tell where footsteps and gunshots come from is crucial. But what immerses me the most in a game is the soundtrack, thus my special focus on the sound area.
I listen to a lot of music, a little bit of everything, from rock to pop, from blues to metal, from alternative to folk. Oh, and classical and choral music when I'm working or relaxing.
Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cranberries, Coldplay, Beatles, Queen, Eddie Vedder, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, SOAD, Iron Maiden, Mumford and Sons, (Noiserv, Silence 4, Paulo Gonzo, Rui Veloso, Áurea) + classical music + recent hits.
It's important to have some wide sounstage, warm, not boring, capable of involving cans with a natural, clear sound. The bass is not as important, but really has to be present in some music genres and movies. So, great sound quality for the price and good comfort and construction quality, if possible.
At this moment, I'm tempted to pull the trigger on a pair of Senns HD598+Zalman Zm-Mic1, a Creative SB ZxR and an Edifier S530D speaker set, but I'm not 100% sure. I can't make up my mind about whether I should buy Creative's flagship ZxR or Asus Xonar Essence STX or even stick to an external solution, like FiiO E10 or Schiit Modi+Schiit Magni.
ZxR sells for ~168£ (202€) on Amazon UK, Xonar STX for 134£ (161€), and the difference grows even bigger when we take into account prices on portuguese stores. I suppose they should pretty much have the same sound quality, because the amp and opamps are the same on both and the DACs, despite different, should be really close to one another in performance, I think.
What I heard is that STX is tuned mostly for audiophiles, while ZxR has an edge on the gaming side. The first is poor on installation, drivers and support, while the latter has good SW and is full of good features for gamers, that allow tuning the sound to a decent degree. I certainly praise the features present in the ZxR, however, some time ago, I read here on the forum that this one has a ~40ohm output impedance, on the contrary STX has only 10ohm output impedance. Thus, I question if Creative's card is any good to drive the 598s or if it will distort the sound, as the Senns have only 50ohm nominal impedance.
Then, there's also the external solutions. I was told by a friend that a FiiO E10 is sufficient to drive the HD598, and it's got some good reviews outside the forum SQ wise and is relatively cheap. However, as much as I like to have things outside the case, I'd still be in the need of a surround sound emulation capable device for gaming and movies. There's always programs like Razer Surround, I think, but that doesn't even come close to the emulation done through Sound Core3D, as far as I know.
The Schiit combo was also recommended to me and I know it enjoys great status here at Head-Fi.org. Though, I should point out that the Schiit combo seems to be very difficult to get here in Portugal. I can't even find it on Amazon UK, so it's better to forget about this one.
As to the headphones issue, I'm pretty confident about buying the HD598, I've seen a lot of good reviews here and there, all over the web. People seem to only say the best about these. However, I would like to know what your opinion is, I even considered the HD558s, AKG K550s, Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros, but was told to go for the open HD598s by people on a portuguese forum. HD650s were also recommended to me, but I decided I won't be dropping more than 200€ on a pair of cans for now. I have to buy the speakers too, and the Edifier's are awesome quality!
So, what do you guys recommend? Should I stick to the combo HD598+Zalman Zm-Mic1/Edifier S530D/Creative SB ZxR or go for another solution? Any other suggestions?
How do the HD598s behave on multiplayer games, in terms of directionality of sounds like footsteps or gunshots and immersion?
Feel free to ask anything you need to know.
Pardon the very, very long speech. I hope you stayed with me until the last word. :)
Edited by Manel - 2/18/14 at 7:40pm