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Heavy computer/audio user in need of AMP/Soundcard help.

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone,

 

Just wanted to give a brief introduction since I am rather new here.  I have been lurking around for a while reading a few of the posts here and there and trying to learn a little. 

 

Anyways, I was first introduced to the true audiophile world after I had been recommended the AKG K701s when asking another audiophile for recommendations on a comfortable, yet rich headphone.  I still have a set of Ultimate Ears SuperFi 5 Extended Bass in-ear headphones - which were my first set of headphones I liked - that unfortunately are broken (wires inside disconnected). 

 

With the AKG K701s, I fell in love with the sound being so much clearer and the comfort that came along with it.  Now for the downside to this introduction:

 

Before I had the AKG K701s, I used Turtle Beach HPA2s and Z2s after those broke.  With those, I recognized the need for an actual soundcard (not on-board) - but did not want to spend the money on a very high-end card.  I went to my local store to get a cheap audio card (planning on $15 for a 7.1 card) and wound up with the Turtle Beach Montego DDL card which was 7.1 sound and SPDIF In/Out.  I continued to push the envelope for myself and finally connected the audio optically to an Onkyo TX-SR603X amplifier/receiver so I could plug my K701s directly in, without a 1/4inch -> 3.5mm converter.  This gave a slightly better range to the headphones, but now I'm in real trouble. 

 

I'm pretty sure my amplifier is getting ready to die on me but I'm not exactly sure that's the issue.  I have been sitting quietly in the forums now and have been reading up on all the different components.  My song range is rather large:  I go from acapellas to dubstep to country to rock to techno.  I also use my headphones and set up for gaming.  However, here are the questions I have:

 

Since I suspect that my amplifier is going, should I be looking for something to replace that first - and should I be looking for an amplifier or a tube DAC (Maverick D1)?  The other option is to replace and upgrade my sound card to something like the Creative Soundblaster ZxR - my main worry with the ZxR is that I will lose the bass notes that I really love coming out of the K701s.  My price range is very restrictive (Sub-$300) for any replacement I'm doing right now and I would really like to start pushing for the most out of my headphones.  If anyone could recommend where to start and what to start with, it would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks

~John

post #2 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnFoe View Post

Before I had the AKG K701s, I used Turtle Beach HPA2s and Z2s after those broke.  With those, I recognized the need for an actual soundcard (not on-board) - but did not want to spend the money on a very high-end card.  I went to my local store to get a cheap audio card (planning on $15 for a 7.1 card) and wound up with the Turtle Beach Montego DDL card which was 7.1 sound and SPDIF In/Out.  I continued to push the envelope for myself and finally connected the audio optically to an Onkyo TX-SR603X amplifier/receiver so I could plug my K701s directly in, without a 1/4inch -> 3.5mm converter.  This gave a slightly better range to the headphones, but now I'm in real trouble. 

I'm pretty sure my amplifier is getting ready to die on me but I'm not exactly sure that's the issue.  I have been sitting quietly in the forums now and have been reading up on all the different components.  My song range is rather large:  I go from acapellas to dubstep to country to rock to techno.  I also use my headphones and set up for gaming.  However, here are the questions I have:

Since I suspect that my amplifier is going, should I be looking for something to replace that first - and should I be looking for an amplifier or a tube DAC (Maverick D1)?  The other option is to replace and upgrade my sound card to something like the Creative Soundblaster ZxR - my main worry with the ZxR is that I will lose the bass notes that I really love coming out of the K701s.  My price range is very restrictive (Sub-$300) for any replacement I'm doing right now and I would really like to start pushing for the most out of my headphones.  If anyone could recommend where to start and what to start with, it would be greatly appreciated.

 

Does the Onkyo TX=SR603X also drive speakers, or just the AKG K701 headphones?

Are you planning on replacing the the receiver for a newer receiver?

 

The Unified Xonar Drivers might work with your Montego DDL.

http://maxedtech.com/asus-xonar-unified-drivers/

 

Chances are the K701 would sound better connected to the SB-ZxR.

post #3 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

 

Does the Onkyo TX=SR603X also drive speakers, or just the AKG K701 headphones?

Are you planning on replacing the the receiver for a newer receiver?

 

The Unified Xonar Drivers might work with your Montego DDL.

http://maxedtech.com/asus-xonar-unified-drivers/

 

Chances are the K701 would sound better connected to the SB-ZxR.

 

The Onkyo has the option to drive speakers, but I do not actively use it for that.  I only use the receiver for my headphones right now.  While I do not plan on replacing the receiver for a newer receiver necessarily (since I am only using it for my headphones) - I would like to get something that I can just for optical out and that I can plug the 701s into.  I am also aware of USB DAC options, but with how often I use my computer most of my USB slots are taken up.  I am aware that tube receivers/DACs provide better overall sound than transistor receivers/DACs which is why I would consider one - since my music choices change almost daily.

 

I'll go check out those drivers though since I never knew you could use them for the Montego DDL (I know about Turtle Beach's scary driver and control panel).

 

When you say the 701s would sound better connected to the SB-ZxR, do you mean directly plugged into it there will be a better output than a soundcard -> receiver/DAC via optical would.  I'm really worried about losing the audio range I have right now - even if it's not THAT fantastic. 

post #4 of 34

Do you play games or do you use computer for other things?

post #5 of 34
Thread Starter 

I use the computer for games, movies, TV shows, and listening to a very wide variety of music. 

 

@PurpleAngel, just waiting on mod approval for my response to your post.  :)

post #6 of 34
Get a good sound card and be happy
post #7 of 34
Schiit Magni/Modi is a good option for you. You can order the Modi with an optical input so you can still use the surround processing on your soundcard. smily_headphones1.gif
post #8 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidsh View Post

Get a good sound card and be happy

 

The other post was finally approved.  I'm just going to requote it in hopes that you help me relax on the same issue:

 

Quote:
"When you say the 701s would sound better connected to the SB-ZxR, do you mean directly plugged into it there will be a better output than a soundcard -> receiver/DAC via optical would?  I'm really worried about losing the audio range I have right now - even if it's not THAT fantastic."
post #9 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Schiit Magni/Modi is a good option for you. You can order the Modi with an optical input so you can still use the surround processing on your soundcard. smily_headphones1.gif

+1 if the sound card you have now has proper surround processing and optical output.

 

Besides, most headphone amps in receivers range from rubbish to mediocre.

post #10 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidsh View Post

+1 if the sound card you have now has proper surround processing and optical output.

Besides, most headphone amps in receivers range from rubbish to mediocre.

And if your card doesn't have good surround sound processing, get the Xonar DG or DGX. That has Dolby Headphone that you would then be able to use with the Modi.
post #11 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnFoe View Post
 

 

The Onkyo has the option to drive speakers, but I do not actively use it for that.  I only use the receiver for my headphones right now.  While I do not plan on replacing the receiver for a newer receiver necessarily (since I am only using it for my headphones) - I would like to get something that I can just for optical out and that I can plug the 701s into.  I am also aware of USB DAC options, but with how often I use my computer most of my USB slots are taken up.  I am aware that tube receivers/DACs provide better overall sound than transistor receivers/DACs which is why I would consider one - since my music choices change almost daily.

 

I'll go check out those drivers though since I never knew you could use them for the Montego DDL (I know about Turtle Beach's scary driver and control panel).

 

When you say the 701s would sound better connected to the SB-ZxR, do you mean directly plugged into it there will be a better output than a sound card -> receiver/DAC via optical would.  I'm really worried about losing the audio range I have right now - even if it's not THAT fantastic. 

 

Yes, plugging the AKG K701s directly into the SB-ZxR's headphone jack, the SB-ZxR comes with a nice PCM1794 DAC chip :)

The Onkyo uses the same amplifier that it uses to drive speaker to also drive the headphones (which is usually fine for headphones in the 250, 300 & 600-Ohm range).

Where as the SB-ZxR uses a dedicated headphone amplifier chip.

So you should not lose any sound quality going for a sound card like the SB-ZxR, but I would assume the ZxR might even improve on the K701s sound quality.

 

The Asus Xonar Essence STX uses a lot of the same hardware as the SB-ZxR, might find a good deal on used on eBay.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ASUS-Xonar-Essence-STX-Virtual-7-1-Channels-PCIE-Sound-Card-/321435030008?pt=US_Sound_Cards_Internal_&hash=item4ad70551f8

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Asus-Xonar-Essence-STX-Sound-Card-/141321286796?pt=US_Sound_Cards_Internal_&hash=item20e767b48c

post #12 of 34
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone for responding!!

 

The card I have is a very painfully pathetic Turtle Beach card in comparison to the other options on the market right now. 

 

Some of the very basic stuff on it: The card is 8 (possibly more) years old now, and the S/PDIF input and output provides 24 bit/96kHz and output SNR is 101dB/input 86dB.  For a starter card that cost me $15 (it was originally listed for $75), it has done well to get me rolling.  Top10reviews audio section gave it a 5.9/10.  From the over simplified version it sounds like most on-board soundcards will be equivalent to it now.

 

My most likely solution is going to be the ZxR since it's in the same price range as purchasing the Schiit solution and will give me the option of one less thing on my desk.  It still gives me the possibility of optical out as well which I would like to keep.  On top of that, I just picked up Rocksmith and would most certainly like a way to plug the guitar jack straight into the board as opposed to through a 1/4" -> 3.5mm converter.   More than likely, I will look at the Schiits or other possible AMPs/DACs as well later this year. 

 

I will also keep an eye on that Xonar Essence STX that you listed for me PurpleAngel, as it might be excellent for a secondary build as well as to test for which one I prefer more. 

post #13 of 34
The optical output on your card would be fine for connecting to an external DAC. The only advantage of a newer card in that regard would be better DSP features.

I thought Rocksmith connected to the computer using their USB cable?? confused.gif
post #14 of 34
Thread Starter 

You are correct that Rocksmith connects through a USB cable, but someone found a workaround (No-Cable) for that in which you can port in to the mic or line-in with a minimal white-noise level.  Since I am new to guitar - and this is a learning method for me... It's "okay".  Certainly not a good means for the long-run but it is better than paying the extra $30 up-front for the USB cable that I hear many people have issues with.  I know that I could connect to an external DAC, but Angel made a very good point that the internal card upgrade would have a dedicated chip for the headphones and possibly even increase the performance of my headphones.  On top of that, it is a more "direct" method of plugging my headphones in - instead of going through optical to DAC to headphones.  Finally the control panel/drivers for the soundcard I am currently using is painfully annoying as well as dated.

 

Also, for purchasing an external DAC, the main reason I considered it was for a more in-depth and more dynamic audio field because of the amount (and variety) of music I listen to - I thought it might provide a better range and higher quality.  Since I am also severely limited to optical out with this card - and DDL 5.1 Encoding only, I believe it might be time to upgrade it.  If I can get a better quality of sound from upgrading my sound card and it frees up an outlet or two on the multiple power strips I have running around, it's a better solution.  I will more than likely get an external DAC or amplifier somewhere down the road as I begin to build up my collection of audio equipment.  :)


Edited by JohnFoe - 6/22/14 at 3:11pm
post #15 of 34

You'll likely get more for your money with the schiit stack sound quality wise, but I guess you know that. Anyway, the ZxR will function fine as a DAC for future applications.

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