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Newb looking for advice/opinions.

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I built a new PC last summer, and have been somewhat underwhelmed by the audio for some time. I haven't used a discrete sound card for a long time, because frankly until this latest build I hadn't felt the need to own one. My last PC used an ASUS ROG board, which came with it's own discrete sound card. The new board is a Gigabyte with a Realtek chip, and I've been less than impressed, despite it supposedly having a 600ohm front panel headphone amp. Generally I consider myself a fairly smart guy but digging around the past few days, I've managed to thoroughly confuse myself. So here I am, hat in hand to ask some questions/opinions of the forums. 

 

My system currently consists of (if this at all matters):

 

Intel Core i7-4770k

Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD4H Motherboard (Realtek ALC898)

MSI GTX-660 2GB Twin Frozr 

8Gb Corsair Vengeance Pro RAM

Corsair H100i Cooler

Sennheiser HD595 Headphones

 

 

Uses: Anymore I mostly just use my PC for work, YouTube videos and gaming. I don't do a ton of gaming, but more as of late. As far as music, I don't find myself doing nearly as much critical listening as I used to, but still appreciate good audio. Any critical listening I would do would likely be on my home theater downstairs. I am in the need for a new microphone for gaming as well, and haven't been impressed with really any headsets so I've been considering ModMic for my cans, Blue Snowball or Soundblaster ZX and using the beam-forming mic it comes with.

 

Budget: Would prefer to keep things around $200 or less. The cheaper the better. If I can get a mic included or have leftover in said budget for a mic, even better but not a requirement.

 

Goals: I simply want my headphones to sound the way I know they can. Maybe it's time for some new cans as well, not sure. When I do listen to music, I want to be able to appreciate it and when I game I want to be able to pinpoint sounds. I don't think this requires any super special software to achieve as I've done fine with stereo for years. It's only as of late I've been less that impressed. That said, I've heard good things about Razer Surround.

 

Initially I started out leaning towards an O2-ODAC Combo because of all the positive feedback I've seen, and possibly doing a DIY kit version to save myself a few bucks. Then I found a local store has an older NuForce uDAC-2 on clearance for $50. I've seen only mixed reviews on this model, but I figured for $50 it may not be a bad option. Then I started learning back towards discrete sound cards. Specifically I've been looking at the Sound Blaster ZX. (I don't see the huge benefit of the ZXR for myself, at least not at the price). I've also looked at a few of the ASUS cards as well, but liked the idea of having a nice mic and control pod included with the SB. I've also seen some good things on Schiit (is this pronounced like I think it is? :) ) on the forums, and they seem to have great prices as well.

 

Will a USB DAC/Amp combo work fine for gaming as well as music listening and general PC use? Are there any major disadvantages here?

What benefits, if any, would a discrete Sound Card bring for me?

Any suggestions for either option for my budget, and why? 

Would I benefit more from keeping my on-board audio and upgrading my headphones? Should I keep what I have and upgrade the source as I'm originally thinking? If new cans, any suggestions at or maybe a bit above my previously listed budget?

 

Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 8

the only advantage soundcards offer over external dac/amp is simulating dsp algorithms like Dolby headphone, but I'm not sure you ll like the reverb effects on these dsp algorithms. but if you are not so serious about competitive gaming you can ignore the surround algorithms and stick with a amp/dac.

 

so you want to keep it under $200 for both amp/dac and headphone or just headphone ? honestly I wouldn't recommend onboard realtek unless you have a really mediocre headphone, 

 

 I haven't heard hd595, , so I can't give you a recommendation comparing to it atm. may be someone will.  but I'm sure 595 should be good according to reviews. but I'm not sure how well it stacked against $200 giants like 612pro, q701, dt880pro.

post #3 of 8

Best advice i can give you is to separate the two problems, i.e. buy a gaming headset for gaming using the internal sound card, or buy a better internal like an X-Fi or one of the Asus boards. Then buy something like the O2/ODAC combo for music and video use with your HD595's.

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by appsmarsterx View Post
 

the only advantage soundcards offer over external dac/amp is simulating dsp algorithms like Dolby headphone, but I'm not sure you ll like the reverb effects on these dsp algorithms. but if you are not so serious about competitive gaming you can ignore the surround algorithms and stick with a amp/dac.

 

so you want to keep it under $200 for both amp/dac and headphone or just headphone ? honestly I wouldn't recommend onboard realtek unless you have a really mediocre headphone, 

 

 I haven't heard hd595, , so I can't give you a recommendation comparing to it atm. may be someone will.  but I'm sure 595 should be good according to reviews. but I'm not sure how well it stacked against $200 giants like 612pro, q701, dt880pro.

 

Under $200 for jump Amp/DAC or Sound Card alone. Headphone were a different one-off there.

 

- So I've looked at the O2-ODAC combo, which for the DIY kit will run me just over the $200 mark. I'm terrible at soldering, but luckily my good friend is pretty solid and will work for pizza or beer. 

 

- A local retailer has a NuForce uDAC-2 for about $50 clearance. I've seen mixed reviews here, but the price seems pretty tempting to me. Not sure if anyone had thoughts there. This would leave me plenty of room to pic up a new mic as well. 

 

- Looks like Schiit offers some nice gear for about the $200 mark for an Amp and DAC as well, and seem to be pretty well received on the user forums. 

 

If I did get new set of headphones, I would likely step up to something a bit nicer though I'm not sure what at this point. Maybe Hifiman HE-400s, Sennheiser 650s or some Grado's. But I gather my HD595s are probably fine for now. 

post #5 of 8

imho, 712pro offers more value for money than hd650, he400.

 

if you can add another $100,  you can get Hifiman EF-2A and HRT Music Streamer II which will work brilliant with 712pro. (if you only planning on buying 712pro)

 

 

may be others will give you more alternative options. 


Edited by appsmarsterx - 4/30/14 at 12:34pm
post #6 of 8
The NuForce uDAC-2 measurements have shown it to be a very poor performer at it's MSRP. That's why it's available cheap. Might be worth $50. I don't know.

The Schiit Magni/Modi stack is generally considered comparable to the ODAC/O2. Either will be an improvement over your onboard audio. Whether it's worthwhile or not, only you can say.

An inexpensive Xonar DG or DGX could give you Dolby Headphone virtual surround for gaming and movies. If you buy the optical version of the Modi, you can still take advantage of the DSP in a soundcard (USB DACs completely bypass the soundcard all together).
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

I found a deal on a Sound Blaster ZX, and figured I would give that a try as it also solves my microphone problem. I can always return it if I don't like it. With the deal I found, I should still be able to swing a Schiit amp if needed and use the ZX as a DAC. I know I already jumped the gun here, but anyone have any thoughts on that? :)

post #8 of 8
Sounds like a good plan to me smily_headphones1.gif
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