For the last week or so I have been researching and trying to select what would be a good audio set up for a new computer that I am building for myself in about a month. All was going smoothly until a friend lent me his HRT MusicStreamer DAC to try out with my current laptop, which is 6 years old and runs mobo sound. Suffice it to say I was smitten by the quality of the sound and don't think I can ever go back.
The listening gear I currently use is a set of aging Logitech Z-5300 (5.1 set up that uses 3x 3.5mm jacks) for general listening (youtube and such), casual gaming, and movies. I also use a set of Sennheiser HD558s that see action when I am listening to music/my own recordings more seriously, playing games where accuracy/clarity is important, and for when I just don't want to wake up my entire building. Also, I use an AntLion Mod Mic when gaming/Skyping/whatever so I do need to retain recording functionality, but I don;t really care where that comes from.
What I want to be able to do is have nice sound quality for both the Logitech and Sennheiser sets without having to go through a ton of hassle to switch between them. Also, because I do use the headphones for gaming, keeping 3D audio is something I want as well.
The way I see it currently I have 3 options...
1. Discrete sound card (Asus Xonar DX or the like with Unity drivers). With a discrete card I could run my Logitechs and either use front panel (not preferred) or just give her the reach-around and switch when I need to. Pros: Simple solution, rather cheap, 3D sound for headphones when gaming, better recording than mobo sound. Cons: SQ might be just OK, have to manually switch or use front panel. Wouldn't want to exceed $100 for the discrete card.
2. Combo method. Run Logitechs off of mobo sound which will be good enough for a system that really isn't meant for accuracy anyhow. Then use S/PDIF out on the mobo into a DAC/Amp for the headphones (Magni/Modi combo, Aune T1 DAC/Amp, etc.). Pros: easier switching, should keep 3D audio due to using S/PDIF, glorious sound on headphones. Cons: more equipment, more money, Logitechs wont sound quite as good, and microphone will be a step down too. Wouldn't want to exceed $150...maybe $200 for the DAC/AMP.
3. External receiver. Run S/PDIF out of the mobo to an external receiver. Rig up a way to convert Logitech's 3x3.5mm jacks to RCA or whatever. Plug 558s straight in. Pros: super easy switching, less equipment needed than option 2, great sound for both systems, could be cheap too. Cons: receivers aren't small, have to jury rig the Logitechs into the receiver. Wouldn't want to exceed $150 for the receiver...likely will be used.
If anyone can provide any insight as to which of these options is the best I will be extremely grateful. Also, if there are other solutions or anything that I have missed, please suggest them.
Thanks so much for your help and knowledge,
-Phillip J. Fry
Edited by PhillipJFy - 2/18/14 at 11:04am