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Looking to get a nice audio setup for my gaming rig - need some guidance

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone,

 

So, I'm new to this world and was pointed towards your forums by Reddit.  I've been lurking for a month or so and learning what I can, but I fear that I still need some help.

 

My goal is to (for hopefully not a ton of money) get my computer to have some nice audio and to find a good pair of headphones to accompany it.  I do not have a sound card - I have "on-board" 7.1 audio.  Link to my motherboard in case anyone needs to see it:  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131614 

 

I didn't know that this sub-forum was a thing that I may be looking for, so until now the majority of my learning has been in the normal headphones forum.  Based on what I've heard, it sounds like I want an O2/ODAC with some form of headphones (I like bass, but don't want to lose treble)... So, below are my current thoughts.  Please leave opinions!

 

O2/ODAC: http://www.jdslabs.com/products/48/o2-odac-combo/ 

 

Headphone Ideas:

Beyer DT990 Pro -- http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0011UB9CQ/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Beyer DT990 Premium -- http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00193FT26/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_4?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x  -- http://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-ATH-M50x-Professional-Headphones/dp/B00HVLUR86/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398375452&sr=8-1&keywords=ath+m50

 

Also, I'll need to be told why I want an external DAC opposed to a sound card, and I don't even know if this O2/ODAC I linked above will get the job done.

 

I will not spend more than $600 on this setup, and honestly even that's more than I'd like to.  If I can get away with amazing headphones without worrying about an amp I'd be satisfied.

 

Oh, I also like to listen to music and watch movies on my computer.

 

Anyways, enough from me.  If you've read this far, thanks!

post #2 of 52
ODAC/O2 is excellent. Schiit Modi and Magni are in the same class, but cheaper.

Headphones vary in impedance rating and sensitivity. Computers often do OK with driving low impedance headphones but trouble with high impedance (thus you would need an amp).

Sensitivity is how loud a headphone will play given a certain amount of power. Very low sensitivity headphones may need an amp to achieve your listening levels.

Those two DAC/amp setups will likely improve a good bit on the sound quality of your computer audio regardless of headphone impedance and sensitivity.

If you do not need isolation and sound leakage is not an issue, I recommend open headphones. Much better soundstage which will give you better instrument separation and more of an enveloping experience in the music.

I think most people here would agree that the best ~$300 headphones are much better than the best $150 headphones. That doesn't mean you might not be satisfied with the $150 ones or that a particular $150 pair would suit you better than many $300 pairs.

Check out the Battle of the Flagship ratings and reviews. I recommend the HE-400 since you seem interested in bassier headphones (the DT990 and M50X): http://www.head-fi.org/t/634201/battle-of-the-flagships-58-headphones-compared-update-audeze-lcd-2-revision-2-6-4-13#user_HE400
The grades in the Battle of the Flagships are based on price/performance. I think most people here would agree that all of the A- to A+ headphones are excellent choices.

Innerfidelity has Wall of Fame lists that also lead to full reviews: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/innerfidelitys-wall-fame

See the Head-Fi Buying Guide: http://www.head-fi.org/a/headphone-buying-guide
Edited by cel4145 - 4/24/14 at 7:52pm
post #3 of 52
Thread Starter 

Hey, thanks for the detailed response!  

 

I've heard a lot of people saying that the HE-400 are good headphones, but what's concerned me is that they're 32 ohms.  I know this means I could in theory use them with my iPhone as well, but what are the benefits or drawbacks of using a 32 ohm headphone instead of a 250 or 600?  Will the O2/ODAC even be able to power a 600 ohm headphone?  Also, the need to screw in cables kind of bothers me.  There's something about twisting a cable that I don't like.  (Also - and maybe it's just me - but I think they're ugly)

 

Have you been able to wear both pairs before?  (HE-400 vs. DT 990 Premium).  It sucks that I don't have any stores around me that sell good headphones - makes it really hard to make a good buying decision.

post #4 of 52
I haven't heard the DT990s. Just the DT880s and DT770s.

The HE-400s are amazing, though. Soon as you listen to them a little, you wouldn't think that they are ugly any more smily_headphones1.gif

The cable is pretty easy to hook up. And yes. You can run them off an iPhone. They won't get super loud, but would be good for normal listening volumes.

The O2 will run 600 ohm headphones, although I'm not sure why you would want to buy 600 ohm headphones.

Many of us don't have places to listen to headphones. So we buy two different pairs from places with good return policy (Amazon, Crutchfield, B&H Photo) and return one smily_headphones1.gif
Edited by cel4145 - 4/24/14 at 8:47pm
post #5 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post
Many of us don't have places to listen to headphones. So we buy two different pairs from places with good return policy (Amazon, Crutchfield, B&H Photo) and return one smily_headphones1.gif

 

Haha, I feel like that kinda sucks to do - then the second pair can't be sold as new any more.  

 

So, in theory I don't even need an amp with the HE-400's (but that'd be silly, right?)?  I'm sure the cable is easy enough to get on, I'm just worried about repetitive twisting wearing it down fast...  Also, do you have any idea how often the HE-400's go on sale for less than $300, or if there's a site that tracks that?

post #6 of 52
$300 is the sale price for the HE-400. They were $399 headphones until a couple of months ago.

I don't ever take the cables off.
post #7 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shammikaze View Post

 

Looking to get a nice audio setup for my gaming rig - need some guidance

 

Also, I'll need to be told why I want an external DAC opposed to a sound card, and I don't even know if this O2/ODAC I linked above will get the job done.

 

Oh, I also like to listen to music and watch movies on my computer.

 

Main difference: an external DAC is less likely to have noise in the computer interfering with it, but if you're using one of those motherboards (or laptops) that don't output a full 5v through the USB ports, then you'd have a problem. Also, with gaming and movies, a gaming soundcard (that includes those built into some motherboards, like the ones on Asus ROG and MSI Gaming) has a distinct advantage: Dolby headphone surround simulation. AFAIK that processed sound doesn't go through USB, which is why MSI for example equipped those motherboards with a high-power opamp for the front panel jack, so you can use a studio headphone (with a mod mic) if you preferred. Heck even some headsets that come with their own tiny USB surround sound cards can't get loud enough off that "matched" USB device, so I suppose these motherboards will do better on these.

 

For audio though and watching movies with only two channels the DAC and amp would be a safer choice to use.

post #8 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post
 

 

Main difference: an external DAC is less likely to have noise in the computer interfering with it, but if you're using one of those motherboards (or laptops) that don't output a full 5v through the USB ports, then you'd have a problem. Also, with gaming and movies, a gaming soundcard (that includes those built into some motherboards, like the ones on Asus ROG and MSI Gaming) has a distinct advantage: Dolby headphone surround simulation. AFAIK that processed sound doesn't go through USB, which is why MSI for example equipped those motherboards with a high-power opamp for the front panel jack, so you can use a studio headphone (with a mod mic) if you preferred.

 

I linked my motherboard above - how do I know if my motherboard meets these requirements?

post #9 of 52

External USB DACs = no headphone virtual surround.

 

Get a sound card if that's what you want. If you're really audiophile about it, get a cheap sound card with the DSP features you want and then pipe its S/PDIF output to an external audiophile DAC.

 

As for headphone recommendations, I suppose that depends on your tastes. I'm actually a bit hesitant to recommend the HE-400 because while it's a pretty good headphone for bass and treble, I personally cannot stand the midrange/vocal recession and the strange treble grain. Meanwhile, I don't find my MMX 300/DT770 Premium 32-ohm with a great mic to sound particularly vocal-recessed, and the DT770's said to be V-shaped anyway.

post #10 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post
 

External USB DACs = no headphone virtual surround.

 

Get a sound card if that's what you want. If you're really audiophile about it, get a cheap sound card with the DSP features you want and then pipe its S/PDIF output to an external audiophile DAC.

 

I don't know if virtual surround is a consideration.  Now that you mention it, it seems like it would certainly be beneficial to have in competitive gaming, but then again I don't play first person shooters on PC (I use my Xbox One), so maybe not that big a consideration.

 

Things I don't understand from this quote:

- DSP features (digital surround _____  ?)

- S/PDIF output 

 

Also, does this site give recommendations on sound cards?  My computer can be a bit loud at max (not liquid cooled - big video card, stock processor sink/fan), is that a consideration?

 

Finally, I don't consider myself an audiophile (yet) - I'm new to all this and would like to try it to see if I like it.  I've never had "good" sound, just cheap headphones and headsets from Best Buy or my stock iPhone buds.

post #11 of 52
Xonar STX or ST is a kickass soundcard that would work very well with midt headphones.
post #12 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shammikaze View Post
 

 

I linked my motherboard above - how do I know if my motherboard meets these requirements?

 

AFAIK, on the high-power headphone driver, only the red motherboards have them (Asus and MSI); the other manufacturers don't even have that feature. As for 5v output, I can't tell from the blurb if they have that, but yeah the red motherboards have that in their product blurb too.

post #13 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shammikaze View Post

I don't know if virtual surround is a consideration.  Now that you mention it, it seems like it would certainly be beneficial to have in competitive gaming, but then again I don't play first person shooters on PC (I use my Xbox One), so maybe not that big a consideration.

 

Things I don't understand from this quote:

- DSP features (digital surround _____  ?)

- S/PDIF output 

 

Also, does this site give recommendations on sound cards?  My computer can be a bit loud at max (not liquid cooled - big video card, stock processor sink/fan), is that a consideration?

 

Finally, I don't consider myself an audiophile (yet) - I'm new to all this and would like to try it to see if I like it.  I've never had "good" sound, just cheap headphones and headsets from Best Buy or my stock iPhone buds.

 

The main DSP feature is headphone virtual surround, but if you're into older PC games, proper DirectSound3D (via ALchemy) and OpenAL support becomes a big concern, because they sound like crap without it.

 

S/PDIF = coaxial or optical/Toslink digital output. Your Xbox One has an optical-out on the back.

 

Your computer's loudness is only a consideration if the fan noise gets to the point where you want the added isolation of closed headphones over open ones. It's more of a concern for you than it is for a sound card installation, provided that you have an available PCI or PCIe slot to install it in.

 

That said, tangential question: why would you play FPSs on any console, especially an Xbox One, over a PC? That's just such an odd choice to me, considering that the PC's always been regarded as the go-to platform for FPSs for people who can afford decent hardware, and you've already got a gaming PC. What do you play on PC that warranted paying up for a powerhouse, anyway?

post #14 of 52

The DT 990's are fantastic for gaming at that price, open is almost always better than a similar closed can. The HE-400's are certainly unique in their sound, but the quality is very high, the details are there, and they have a cult-like following. I hope to hear a pair myself one day to hear what all the hype is about. Only go with M-50's if you need the isolation... they have almost no soundstage and the detail isn't as up to spec as these other two options.

 

To take advantage of any soundcard/motherboard virtual 7.1 DSP, you'll need to output via S/PDIF coaxial or optical. Schiit just released an optical version of their ever popular Modi, which you could then run to the amp.

As far as amping goes... you might want to consider one for the DT990's or HE-400's, though many are happy with them unamped.

 

Upgrading your soundcard could be enough to make an external DAC/amp not worth the extra cost, many perform quite well. They also could offer different DSP, like Dolby or THX, which some prefer. The STX would probably be more than enough for any of these headphones (until the upgrade bug starts to strike :D). It has a pretty clean DAC secton, more power than most onboard audio, and great DSP. You can even run RCA out of it to any amp.

 

The most versatile set-up would be to get the optical dac and an amp with your headphones of choice, which could be used with your PC and Xbox.

 

Good luck, and feel free to ask anymore questions.


Edited by jodgey4 - 4/26/14 at 12:26am
post #15 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

 

S/PDIF = coaxial or optical/Toslink digital output. Your Xbox One has an optical-out on the back.

 

That said, tangential question: why would you play FPSs on any console, especially an Xbox One, over a PC? That's just such an odd choice to me, considering that the PC's always been regarded as the go-to platform for FPSs for people who can afford decent hardware, and you've already got a gaming PC. What do you play on PC that warranted paying up for a powerhouse, anyway?

 

Gotcha.  And I play some of everything on PC.  I go back and forth between lots of things.  I have FPS games on my PC, but play them on console instead because all my peasant friends play Xbox.  Right now I'm big into Wildstar, DOTA2, League of Legends, Diablo 3, and Path of Exile but I go between Titanfall and Battlefield too.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jodgey4 View Post

 

To take advantage of any soundcard/motherboard virtual 7.1 DSP, you'll need to output via S/PDIF coaxial or optical. Schiit just released an optical version of their ever popular Modi, which you could then run to the amp.

As far as amping goes... you might want to consider one for the DT990's or HE-400's, though many are happy with them unamped.

 

Upgrading your soundcard could be enough to make an external DAC/amp not worth the extra cost, many perform quite well. They also could offer different DSP, like Dolby or THX, which some prefer. The STX would probably be more than enough for any of these headphones (until the upgrade bug starts to strike :D). It has a pretty clean DAC secton, more power than most onboard audio, and great DSP. You can even run RCA out of it to any amp.

 

The most versatile set-up would be to get the optical dac and an amp with your headphones of choice, which could be used with your PC and Xbox.

 

Thanks, I'm really headed towards to 990's.  Would I want 250 ohm or 32 ohm?  Do I care?  Obviously since they're open I'm not going to be traveling with them...

 

Regarding a sound card, now I'm confused.  Make it stupid-proof for me -- what are my options?  It sounds like...

1) Sound card + headphones

2) O2/DAC + headphones

3) sound card + __?__ + headphones

4) optical DAC + amp + headphones

 

My motherboard has on-board audio and has an optical out for sound and dolby 7.1 surround.  Does this mean I don't actually NEED a sound card?  Or is it bad to rely on that?  It's beginning to sound like I would want a sound card to utilize digital surround - what would my optimum sound card setup be?  Can headphones like the DT 990 just plug right into the sound card?

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