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Positional audio for new guys. - Page 7

post #91 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by Music Alchemist View Post
 

 

I was just assuming 343 Grenadier would be able to walk me through a test of its abilities for gaming.

 

The HD 800 is often said to have the best imaging of any headphone. If the definition of "the sense that a voice or instrument is in a particular place in the room" is to be taken at face value, it would appear that imaging and positional ability are synonymous.

 

Yeah, I'm not interested in sound cards, but then again, I'm not a PC gamer.

 

As for amps/DACs, a flat frequency response is desirable for some people, especially if you are pursuing a neutral, accurate sound. Some go so far as recommending a neutral source, then using EQ to tweak the sound to your liking, instead of spending a lot more on a colored tube amp or whatever. Maybe you weren't referring to frequency response itself when you said "flat as pancakes."

 

Do you know how the NFB-15 and NFB-11 compare to the O2+ODAC? They're about the same price.

Imaging and positional ability are two completely different things. First of all, almost no musical albums do any time delay DSP, they rely upon stereo panning and do it until "it sounds good". Audio engineers do not spatially position audio clips in the same way that 3D DSP try to.with HRTF, volume decrease, time delay, etc. What people mean when they say there is good imaging is that after taking into consideration all of the recording quirks and reproduction quirks the end result is something which can subjective be called "good imaging". It is a psychological phenomena where the conscious mind gets the feeling that despite all of the crazy mess that happens to spatiality cues that occur in the recording studio and in the reproduction gear, sounds still sound like they have "good imaging" or coherency". It has to be understood, in the recording studio they almost never do what is necessary to maintain spatiality cues and there is almost no, if any, changes in the position of objects, so what does it have to do with spatial positioning? Hell, you could superimpose ten different instruments so that they technically are in the same spatial position and the human mind will decipher it as being ten distinct instruments if the recording and reproduction processes allow the different instruments to still sound distinct. The only time you can judge the spatial positioning of the ability of reproduction gear is by watching movies or playing video games where things can move and you can judge for yourself whether the spatial positioning of objects and the sounds of the objects are correct, not by listening to stationary object sounds that remain stationary for 1 hour straight and are actually recorded five inches away from the sound source and mixed together with ten other audio clips as is often done in recording studios.

 

I haven't read the entire thread but see you mention the smyth realiser, and you have to understand, that no matter how good the smyth realiser is, it won't repair spatiality issues that always occur in recording. What smyth can do is replicate how sounds travel if they were SPEAKERS, replicating whatever speaker presets you use and altered for your ears, and what speakers can do is present sound like a speaker and allow sounds to move in oppositional directions to your head movements. In a sentence, not even the best 3D DSP's or a DSP like the smyth realiser can restore spatiality cues that are missing, no reproduction gear can restore missing spatiality accurately (but they can definitely give a good subjective impression of it), and the only thing that can preseve spatiality cues is if somehow it's no longer just about making it "sound good" according to the subjective opinion of the audio engineer.

 

A PC gamer shouldn't be interested in sound cards, external dac/amps are much superior for gaming. Someone who wants to record stuff or use their computers to output stuff into a surround sound speaker system wants a sound card.

 

Flat as a pancake means no sound stage depth.

 

Just look at the internals of the different dac/amps, it's like asking if you can compare devices with jellybean opamps and $2 dac chips to some of the most advanced designs using the best dac chips and all discrete components. I hold audio-gd gear in very high regard, I'm of the opinion that most of their equipment, with clear exceptions being their speakers and digital reclockers,have more technically advanced and innovative designs than any other high end audio manufacturer. Their English product descriptions are just very bad :p and their prices are way below what other companies would charge.

 

Honestly, given the kinda gaming I've gotten the impression you do, I don't expect it to matter much. Positional cues are most important in shooters and have value in strategy games (Somewhat, but not important.) and stealth-action games. Now on the other hand, if you play a shooter that implements virtualization like L4D2, Call of Duty, or Battlefield, you'll benefit from it. The trick is just to turn on the virtualization and...play. Listen for gunshots, footsteps, character communication, anything that hints to the position of something or someone in your vicinity. Some games have rendered this tech useless or at least made it a chore to get working, though. Counter-Strike titles don't have it enabled by default. You have to toy around in the developer's console to get it working at all.

 

Most games with full xyz navigation implement stereo panning and volume changes based upon relative spatial positioning and the direction of the character. What 3d dsp's do is EXAGGERATE these things by making use of time delays and other hrtf means of making spatiality cues more obvious. Sure it can make it easier to spatially position things when it is in your face, but from what I experienced with dolby headphone it always has an unnatural sound to it.

 

Imaging is important but generally, gamers seem to focus on having a wide soundstage as it highlights the direction of a sound, especially in shooters. I'm not sure about this but based on what I've read, imaging is mostly useful for determining distance, which is important but secondary to soundstage in most shooters. It's also worth noting that virtualization can kill imaging: CMSS-3D is, to my ears, VERY accurate directionally, but it makes everything sound fairly close. Then again, I AM using headphones with crap imaging but a wide soundstage, so that could just be me.

 

Again, imaging is a psychological phenomena, and sure headphones might need good technical characteristics to give the feeling of big space and coherency, but as I mentioned above, most recordings don't have real spatiality, and you might as well judge the spatiality of headphones based upon a smorgasbord of random midi files.

 

Flat is good for positional audio, yes?

 

I like flat neutrality. I don't like flat as in no soundstage depth, and it's my opinion that high end consumer sound cards sound as flat as pancakes. I got many hours of enjoyment out of my $200 soundcards, but I can assure you, sound cards with $1 dac chips and $0.25 opamps have nothing on real mid to hi-fi gear.

 

And what is "the stuff offered by soundcards?" Positional audio? Or something else? If it's the former, then, once again, that is the entire point of this thread. I apologize if you're simply here to correct something erroneous that Derbigpr said but most of this seems irrelevant to this thread's topic. If it's not, clarify, please.

 

Like all of the things I have written in this post, I have already written, but people don't seem to be reading what I write. The stuff offered by sound cards can be known by looking at the soundcards. See all those connectors? That's to cater to people who actually want to record things or use the surround sound output in order to make their computers a server. See the big square chip in the center of the card? That's a multipurpose IC to offer a lot of different functionality, and is not a two channel DAC meant solely for improving audio. See the $0.25 opamps on the board? That's the kind of design philosophy they are using. As I said before, just look at what people have said about the changes in sound by using burson or audio-gd discrete opamps, and know that real mid to hi-fi gear don't use the kinds of multipurpose and low cost components found in sound cards. It's like trying to compare a home theater A/V meant to allow you to connect a bajillion things to and from it to a dedicated two channel dac/amp that is designed only for a very small amount of digital inputs and has only output for stereo speakers, there is no comparison because they both offer completely different things.

post #92 of 135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I don't do PC gaming at all. I was just offering to share my own insights, if you were willing to walk me through what to do when the time comes. For example, downloading a free game in the style you want, showing me what to do to get samples of the type of sounds you want to test, etc. I could compare with other headphones on hand too. I believe we discussed this earlier.

 

Well, for consoles, check Mad Lust Envy's guide. You'll need something Dolby-capable that can work on something like a PS4 or X360. As for free games... I'm not sure. Perhaps Battlefield Play4Free? May or may not benefit from virtualization. I'd have to check to be sure.

 

Quote:
The HD 800 has one of the widest soundstages of any headphone. Additionally, the drivers are angled to make them sound more like speakers.

 

Imaging is the sense of knowing the exact location (therefore position) of a sound. If you know the position of two things, you know the distance between them.

 

Soundstage essentially gives you direction, and you're saying imaging shows the exact location, which sounds like it covers distance and if it's above or below you. Imaging with soundstage together is great, especially in games like L4D2 where you have to watch areas above and below you, not just side-to-side. Plus the important targets (Special Infected) usually start out farther away and get closer. Determining distance is crucial to survival since if they get close and get the drop on you, you die unless your team saves you. But soundstage is the priority, at least in typical shooters, since as long as you know the direction of a possible target, you can shoot them the second you get them in your sights. Probably why CMSS-3D tends to take a dump on imaging, and it IS a favorite among gamers.

post #93 of 135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I haven't read the entire thread but see you mention the smyth realiser, and you have to understand, that no matter how good the smyth realiser is, it won't repair spatiality issues that always occur in recording. What smyth can do is replicate how sounds travel if they were SPEAKERS, replicating whatever speaker presets you use and altered for your ears, and what speakers can do is present sound like a speaker and allow sounds to move in oppositional directions to your head movements. In a sentence, not even the best 3D DSP's or a DSP like the smyth realiser can restore spatiality cues that are missing, no reproduction gear can restore missing spatiality accurately (but they can definitely give a good subjective impression of it), and the only thing that can preseve spatiality cues is if somehow it's no longer just about making it "sound good" according to the subjective opinion of the audio engineer.

 

Okay, first things first: Read the thread carefully. All of it. Especially the first two to three pages. If I'm understanding this correctly (And if I'm not, it's because you're not making yourself clear to someone who has little to no experience with this stuff, something which this thread was specifically made to counteract.), what you define as "giving a good subjective impression" of spatiality is what's functionally most useful to gamers, yes? Nobody else here so far has stated that virtualization is useless because there are comparisons you can listen to on YT to hear for yourself the differences and it's far, far too noticeable to be a placebo. Like, off the top of my head: Dolby tends to be more laid-back and "realistic" overall, Creative's earlier solution (CMSS-3D) tends to sacrifice everything including immersion for directional precision, Razer Surround isn't really that good at all and is especially lacking in the rear channels, etc. 

 

Quote:

A PC gamer shouldn't be interested in sound cards, external dac/amps are much superior for gaming. Someone who wants to record stuff or use their computers to output stuff into a surround sound speaker system wants a sound card.

 

Much superior how? You may not have properly read the point of this thread, but it's to bottom-line things, not lay out an elaborate list of barely-understandable technical data. That's what threw me and countless others off to start with. I.E.: Explain your terms simply first, but in a way that it gets the important details across.

 

Quote:
Flat as a pancake means no sound stage depth

 

Soundstage depth meaning? It "sounds" like a 2D panoramic picture looks, right? That can still be useful for gaming as it's basically how the AD700s+CMSS-3D combo works, and a lot of people swear by that combo. My own personal testing seems to back this up, too: It's not that easy to figure out distance but you'll at least know which direction to aim your crosshairs.

 

Quote:
Just look at the internals of the different dac/amps, it's like asking if you can compare devices with jellybean opamps and $2 dac chips to some of the most advanced designs using the best dac chips and all discrete components. I hold audio-gd gear in very high regard, I'm of the opinion that most of their equipment, with clear exceptions being their speakers and digital reclockers,have more technically advanced and innovative designs than any other high end audio manufacturer. Their English product descriptions are just very bad :p and their prices are way below what other companies would charge.

 

All of this is still completely unclear as to the functional value those devices will have for a gamer.

 

Quote:

Most games with full xyz navigation implement stereo panning and volume changes based upon relative spatial positioning and the direction of the character. What 3d dsp's do is EXAGGERATE these things by making use of time delays and other hrtf means of making spatiality cues more obvious. Sure it can make it easier to spatially position things when it is in your face, but from what I experienced with dolby headphone it always has an unnatural sound to it.

 

The exaggeration is kinda the point. The fact that 3D DSPs make spatiality cues more obvious means they are in fact not useless for gamers. Once again, this is not about realism or the enjoyability of the game, it's about if the alterations to the audio make it easier to pinpoint the exact location of an object heard in a videogame.

 

Quote:
Again, imaging is a psychological phenomena, and sure headphones might need good technical characteristics to give the feeling of big space and coherency, but as I mentioned above, most recordings don't have real spatiality, and you might as well judge the spatiality of headphones based upon a smorgasbord of random midi files

 

And yet, they seem to also have functional effects on the way people play. When I started using Dolby Headphone solutions in games, for instance, I became extremely difficult to sneak up on. With those settings off, things didn't go so smooth. I feel pretty confident saying that it's not exactly the same level of useless to a competitive gamer as a bunch of old 90s era MIDIs.

 

Quote:
I like flat neutrality. I don't like flat as in no soundstage depth, and it's my opinion that high end consumer sound cards sound as flat as pancakes. I got many hours of enjoyment out of my $200 soundcards, but I can assure you, sound cards with $1 dac chips and $0.25 opamps have nothing on real mid to hi-fi gear.

 

Your opinion (Not your factual statements, but your opinion.) matters considerably less when one factors in that hearing is subjective and everyone has ears that are different. There are people I know who don't benefit from positional audio at all. Others swear by it and it's not placebo or trying to justify shelling out a lot on a new sound card, either: Oftentimes people lament moving from CMSS-3D cards to SBX Pro Studio cards because SBX is a little more like Dolby in that it sacrifices some directionality for immersion. I myself noticed this problem during a comparison, and yes, it was before I read any comments that could've colored my outlook towards the sound produced. I'm very careful to avoid the Placebo Effect whenever I do something like this. The impression I got was that unaltered audio sounded the best in terms of immersion and fun and sound quality, and everything else sounded extremely fuzzy and mangled, but it was fuzzy and mangled in such a way that the positions of, say, opposing players were far easier to pick out.

 

Quote:
Like all of the things I have written in this post, I have already written, but people don't seem to be reading what I write. The stuff offered by sound cards can be known by looking at the soundcards. See all those connectors? That's to cater to people who actually want to record things or use the surround sound output in order to make their computers a server. See the big square chip in the center of the card? That's a multipurpose IC to offer a lot of different functionality, and is not a two channel DAC meant solely for improving audio. See the $0.25 opamps on the board? That's the kind of design philosophy they are using. As I said before, just look at what people have said about the changes in sound by using burson or audio-gd discrete opamps, and know that real mid to hi-fi gear don't use the kinds of multipurpose and low cost components found in sound cards. It's like trying to compare a home theater A/V meant to allow you to connect a bajillion things to and from it to a dedicated two channel dac/amp that is designed only for a very small amount of digital inputs and has only output for stereo speakers, there is no comparison because they both offer completely different things.

 

Okay, first thing: What's the title of this thread? "Positional audio for new guys." I'm very specific with my words. "Positional audio" and "new guys." People ARE reading what you're writing, it just doesn't make any sense to them because they're not audio engineers or inveterate audiophiles. Hence "new guys." And you're still not being clear enough on how external DAC/amp combos which output unaltered audio benefit competitive gamers more than something that deliberately distorts the audio to highlight cues that indicate where, say, that opponent in CoD is.

 

I should also note that this thread doesn't exist to justify spending 200 dollars on a sound card. For instance, you can get much of the same Dolby-based featureset of an Essence STX out of a Xonar DGX or DSX for a fraction of that price, and output its DSP alterations to an external DAC/amp setup of your choosing, if that's a better choice. If you have a DAC/amp with those Dolby features already, then substitute those with their Creative analogues. (Ex.: Sound Blaster Z and Sound Blaster ZxR.)


Edited by 343 Grenadier - 8/31/14 at 10:43am
post #94 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by haloxt View Post

 

Thanks for going to the effort of explaining all that. Even if positional ability is due to designed distortions in gaming audio, imaging still relates to it. A headphone with great imaging (and a large soundstage to boot) should perform better in this situation than one with poor imaging, as far as I can tell.

 

I was thinking you meant something else by flat in that case. A few others have recommended the NFB-11, so I might get it!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 343 Grenadier View Post
 

Well, for consoles, check Mad Lust Envy's guide. You'll need something Dolby-capable that can work on something like a PS4 or X360. As for free games... I'm not sure. Perhaps Battlefield Play4Free? May or may not benefit from virtualization. I'd have to check to be sure.

 

Any tests I do would be for your sake, since I only use headphones for handheld consoles. That's why I proposed a free PC game with the features you're looking for.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 343 Grenadier View Post

Soundstage depth meaning?

 

Quote:
Soundstage - The area between two speakers that appears to the listener to be occupied by sonic images. Like a real stage, a soundstage should have width, depth, and height.
Quote:
Depth - A sense of distance (near to far) of different instruments.
post #95 of 135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
 Any tests I do would be for your sake, since I only use headphones for handheld consoles. That's why I proposed a free PC game with the features you're looking for.

 

Well, off the top of my head, I know that Dolby and CMSS-3D have very noticeable effects on CryEngine titles. Try Warface, it's an F2P game based on the game engine which I think is aimed at the Korean market in particular, but anyone can download it. That said, CryEngine titles have a fairly steep set of system requirements. You'll want a midrange GPU and a fairly modern CPU to get it running properly, so if this is too much trouble, it's not a problem. You don't have to worry about it. 

 

Quote:
 Quote:
Soundstage - The area between two speakers that appears to the listener to be occupied by sonic images. Like a real stage, a soundstage should have width, depth, and height.
Quote:
Depth - A sense of distance (near to far) of different instruments.

 

Thanks for clarifying. Based on this, I'd say most people who play games emphasize width above all else. Height and depth are secondary to this, but very important nonetheless as they deliver additional data. The ideal gaming headphone would handle all three better than the competing solutions.

post #96 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by 343 Grenadier View Post
 

Well, off the top of my head, I know that Dolby and CMSS-3D have very noticeable effects on CryEngine titles. Try Warface, it's an F2P game based on the game engine which I think is aimed at the Korean market in particular, but anyone can download it. That said, CryEngine titles have a fairly steep set of system requirements. You'll want a midrange GPU and a fairly modern CPU to get it running properly, so if this is too much trouble, it's not a problem. You don't have to worry about it. 

 

Thanks for clarifying. Based on this, I'd say most people who play games emphasize width above all else. Height and depth are secondary to this, but very important nonetheless as they deliver additional data. The ideal gaming headphone would handle all three better than the competing solutions.

 

I have an Alienware M11x. Although its specs are well above average (8 GB RAM, quad-core processor, etc.), it is small and easily overheats...sometimes so badly it instantly shuts off to prevent the circuits from frying. Nevertheless, for testing purposes, I can manage.

 

I'm actually trying to figure out what to use as my source once I get the desktop audio system. Ideally, it would be a dedicated music server, but most of those cost thousands of dollars. I'd rather not use this laptop, due to the aforementioned unpleasant temperature issue. A 12 TB external hard drive array stores my music library, but I may just end up getting a cheap computer to use solely for audio...

 

The funny thing is, many people who talk about soundstage don't even realize there's more to it than width.

post #97 of 135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I have an Alienware M11x. Although its specs are well above average (8 GB RAM, quad-core processor, etc.), it is small and easily overheats...sometimes so badly it instantly shuts off to prevent the circuits from frying. Nevertheless, for testing purposes, I can manage.

 

I've never heard of an M11x that has four CPU cores. You sure it's not a Hyperthreaded dualcore instead? At any rate, I don't know about the GPU but it usually takes a respectably powerful desktop to handle something on CryEngine at least at high settings. You're welcome to try but if there's a severe overheating issue like that just for what I'm assuming regular (Non-gaming/professional) usage, I'm not exactly eager to find out if it'll handle Warface. Like I said, if it's too much trouble, you don't have to do it. It's okay, honestly.

 

Quote:
I'm actually trying to figure out what to use as my source once I get the desktop audio system. Ideally, it would be a dedicated music server, but most of those cost thousands of dollars. I'd rather not use this laptop, due to the aforementioned unpleasant temperature issue. A 12 TB external hard drive array stores my music library, but I may just end up getting a cheap computer to use solely for audio...

 

Dedicated music server? I build PCs but I'm not sure what this means. Something wired up with the proper audio equipment that outputs audio to anything it's plugged into, or does it deliver music over wifi, or...? Why would it cost thousands of bucks? Unless you need E5-series Xeons and their like, I'm not sure what could drive prices that high if it was built by hand, which is extremely easy to do.

 

Quote:
The funny thing is, many people who talk about soundstage don't even realize there's more to it than width.

 

Well, I can see that now, but I couldn't before despite a ton of research. Y'see now why this thread is here, right? It's so that people won't electrocute and burn themselves on Stax headphones trying to learn the important information.


Edited by 343 Grenadier - 9/1/14 at 2:31am
post #98 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by 343 Grenadier View Post
 

I've never heard of an M11x that has four CPU cores. You sure it's not a Hyperthreaded dualcore instead? At any rate, I don't know about the GPU but it usually takes a respectably powerful desktop to handle something on CryEngine at least at high settings. You're welcome to try but if there's a severe overheating issue like that just for what I'm assuming regular (Non-gaming/professional) usage, I'm not exactly eager to find out if it'll handle Warface. Like I said, if it's too much trouble, you don't have to do it. It's okay, honestly.

 

Dedicated music server? I build PCs but I'm not sure what this means. Something wired up with the proper audio equipment that outputs audio to anything it's plugged into, or does it deliver music over wifi, or...? Why would it cost thousands of bucks? Unless you need E5-series Xeons and their like, I'm not sure what could drive prices that high if it was built by hand, which is extremely easy to do.

 

Well I can see that now, but I couldn't despite a ton of research. Y'see now why this thread is here, right? It's so that people won't electrocute and burn themselves on Stax headphones trying to learn the important information.

 

Yes, I'm sure. I was only going to quickly test specific things for you, so it's no problem at all.

 

A music server can refer to anything that stores and plays audio files; a dedicated music server is a device specialized for this task. Here is a link to a review for one of the more expensive ones, to give you an idea of what they do and why most of them are so costly. Here is another link going into detail about music servers in general. The only reason I would spend thousands on such a device is if it actually delivered superior sound quality, which hasn't yet been proven to me despite glowing subjective reviews.

 

A handful of them only cost a few hundred dollars, but the one I want (LH Labs Geek Source) won't even be released until next year. In the meantime, I'm thinking about getting something like a fit-PC for a relatively cheap, minimalist solution that won't present any temperature issues.

post #99 of 135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
 Yes, I'm sure. I was only going to quickly test specific things for you, so it's no problem at all.

 

You'd have to do some playing, with a focus on finding them before they find you...with your ears. You don't really play shooters anyway, so it's probably better that someone with some experience tries it instead anyway.

 

Quote:
A music server can refer to anything that stores and plays audio files; a dedicated music server is a device specialized for this task. Here is a link to a review for one of the more expensive ones, to give you an idea of what they do and why most of them are so costly. Here is another link going into detail about music servers in general. The only reason I would spend thousands on such a device is if it actually delivered superior sound quality, which hasn't yet been proven to me despite glowing subjective reviews.

 

So these are basically just computers with sound cards, if I'm reading this stuff right. Aside from form factor, is there a reason not to just build a PC yourself, and then use a quality external DAC with it? Some motherboards even come with low-interference USB ports that deliver clean power for the express purpose of working with DACs. They're advertised that way. If that's not enough, there are probably expansion cards over PCIe that are designed for it. That's just a hunch. There's definitely a market for it, so it probably exists.

 

Quote:
 A handful of them only cost a few hundred dollars, but the one I want (LH Labs Geek Source) won't even be released until next year. In the meantime, I'm thinking about getting something like a fit-PC for a relatively cheap, minimalist solution that won't present any temperature issues.

 

I'm wincing. I can't help it: Those specs relative to those pricetags HURT. I hope whatever DACs/amps they put in those things is worth it because the rest of the hardware sure isn't.

post #100 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by 343 Grenadier View Post

 

Quote:
You'd have to do some playing, with a focus on finding them before they find you...with your ears. You don't really play shooters anyway, so it's probably better that someone with some experience tries it instead anyway.

 

How hard can it be? XD

 

I'm not trying to beat the game; I'm just gathering positional data for you with headphones that most people would never buy.

 

Quote:
So these are basically just computers with sound cards, if I'm reading this stuff right. Aside from form factor, is there a reason not to just build a PC yourself, and then use a quality external DAC with it? Some motherboards even come with low-interference USB ports that deliver clean power for the express purpose of working with DACs. They're advertised that way. If that's not enough, there are probably expansion cards over PCIe that are designed for it. That's just a hunch. There's definitely a market for it, so it probably exists.

 

I think of it more like a fancy hard drive with its own screen and interface that doesn't need another computer to store and play the audio. You are technically right...but DACs are "just computers with sound cards" too. I would rather have a dedicated device for audio than use a normal computer. Supposedly, dedicated music servers can make the music sound better too (on top of whatever external amp/DAC you use), but this may merely be people's imaginations.

 

Quote:
I'm wincing. I can't help it: Those specs relative to those pricetags HURT. I hope whatever DACs/amps they put in those things is worth it because the rest of the hardware sure isn't.

 

What are you talking about? I already said I am going to use an external amp/DAC. The computer would just be for storing and playing the files. I don't need good specs for that. For now, I just want to get the cheapest, most convenient thing I can that can get the job done.

 

Anyway, I am also considering a custom desktop PC. That seems to be your area of expertise.

 

...Or I could just make do with what I have. If I don't multitask too much with the laptop, the fan doesn't act up as much.

 

Edit: Just came back here and realized that you were probably referring to the music servers being overpriced, not the fit-PC (which seems convenient). As far as I know, music servers do not have built-in amps. Some of them have DACs, though. With audio equipment, the tech specs only tell some of the story.


Edited by Music Alchemist - 9/1/14 at 2:23pm
post #101 of 135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
How hard can it be? XD

 

I'm not trying to beat the game; I'm just gathering positional data for you with headphones that most people would never buy.

 

As is the case with all kinds of audio, it's pretty subjective stuff. There's a bit quantifiable but it'll work differently for each person. And it helps a lot if there are comparisons to other audio solutions. Ex.: Let's say someone was deciding between the 200 dollar go-to headphones (*701s/702s and the DT 880s) and the Teslas and HD800s. They'd probably want a thorough comparison between them all.

 

Quote:
I think of it more like a fancy hard drive with its own screen and interface that doesn't need another computer to store and play the audio. You are technically right...but DACs are "just computers with sound cards" too. I would rather have a dedicated device for audio than use a normal computer. Supposedly, dedicated music servers can make the music sound better too (on top of whatever external amp/DAC you use), but this may merely be people's imaginations.

 

Yeah, but unless it has like, special shielding against electrical interference, you're still dealing with at least an embedded CPU, RAM, a power supply unit, etc. Thought that was a big issue with sound cards.

 

Quote:
What are you talking about? I already said I am going to use an external amp/DAC. The computer would just be for storing and playing the files. I don't need good specs for that. For now, I just want to get the cheapest, most convenient thing I can that can get the job done.

 

I'm still unclear on what features these things have over conventional PCs. Like, you can slap together a barebones tower with a Celeron or Pentium CPU on an H81 chipset mainboard and throw in 4 gigs of RAM or so, a low-level but stable PSU, cheap case, maybe an optical drive for playing music CDs, and then toss on the peripherals needed to run it (Mouse, keyboard, monitor) and the DAC/amp combo. Discounting the DAC/amp combo, it can be done for like, 400 bucks. The varying distros of Linux provide a free, versatile OS.

 

Example build I threw together: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/4b2grH

 

That said, I wouldn't call this "convenient" the way a fit-PC is. You have to assemble it yourself and set everything up. Not hard, but not nearly as easy as buying a prebuilt. Arguably more cost-effective, though. To bottom-line it, the fit-PCs use mobile parts with low power consumption and they generate less heat so they can be kept in a tiny little case like that and still work. The custom build I rigged up is bigger and consumes more power, but it uses full-fledged desktop components, so it has the edge in price-to-performance. Any experienced PC builder will tell you that when you get a computer, you have to make a choice between portability, and power. It's not unlike with DACs and amps. You can only put so much into a smaller, lighter form factor with a battery on it. Something bigger, better-cooled, stationary, and fed by power from a wall socket is gonna stomp it flat for actual processing power. This is why you'll hear people say that the phrase "gaming laptop" is an oxymoron, because it kinda is, unless you spend an insane amount of dosh on it. Even then, you could assemble something better for far less. Law of diminishing returns.

 

Quote:
Anyway, I am also considering a custom desktop PC. That seems to be your area of expertise.

 

...Or I could just make do with what I have. If I don't multitask too much with the laptop, the fan doesn't act up as much.

 

I wrote up a guide to assembling a desktop PC, but this is the kinda thing I usually discuss with someone over an IM client because I need to know a lot of the specifics of what else they'll be using the PC for. But honestly? Assuming you can deal with the M11x's heating issues, I'm not seeing much reason to get a music server unless there's something I'm missing about their featuresets, which is possible. If anyone else here knows what sets them apart from custom-built computers, I'll gladly retract my statements here.

 

Quote:
Edit: Just came back here and realized that you were probably referring to the music servers being overpriced, not the fit-PC (which seems convenient). As far as I know, music servers do not have built-in amps. Some of them have DACs, though. With audio equipment, the tech specs only tell some of the story.

 

I was actually referring to the fit-PC, which seems to use embedded AMD CPUs in the low-level models. The problem with just about any new prebuilt computer is you're not just paying for the parts, you're paying for the price of assembling the computer and paying the workers who do it, and any custom design work the system builder does (Ex.: Alienware's unique cases, CyberpowerPC's professional wiring, etc.), so you have an oftentimes fairly steep cost overhead. Chances are, if the PC costs the same as a custom-built computer, the specs are inferior. Oftentimes drastically.

 

That said, I'm unclear as to what's needed to play music files and run complimentary software, and what's just gravy. (Understand: Us PC gamers have a tendency to err on the side of "more is better" when upgrading or replacing an older computer since keeping up with system requirements for future releases is a never-ending nightmare race if you're on a budget. I always focus on getting the most performance/features for the available budget when I configure something, with the minimum requirements as a minimum goal. :cool:) Like, my FiiO X5 lags when running DSDs. So either a weak smartphone ARM dualcore like the Ingenics CPU inside the X5 isn't enough for processing THAT level of data, or my Samsung Pro 64 GB micro SDXC chip (70+ MB/s read) isn't fast enough. Maybe both. But it's smooth as butter while rolling FLACs or anything below that level of data density. Someone should like, rig up a SATA to micro-SD adapter and plug an SSD into the X5 to figure out which one it is. If that fixes the problem, then it's just that mid-low range micro-SD chips are too slow for DSD. If it doesn't, it means the CPU is too slow...WHICH MEANS THERE'S NO FIXING THE PROBLEM, MUAHAHAHAHA- Erm. Maybe the X7 will have a fast enough CPU. TIME VILL TELL. 

post #102 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by 343 Grenadier View Post

 

Quote:
As is the case with all kinds of audio, it's pretty subjective stuff. There's a bit quantifiable but it'll work differently for each person. And it helps a lot if there are comparisons to other audio solutions. Ex.: Let's say someone was deciding between the 200 dollar go-to headphones (*701s/702s and the DT 880s) and the Teslas and HD800s. They'd probably want a thorough comparison between them all.

 

All I can offer are my impressions of headphones I have on hand. If you need comparisons between models I don't have, I'm not your guy.

 

Quote:
Yeah, but unless it has like, special shielding against electrical interference, you're still dealing with at least an embedded CPU, RAM, a power supply unit, etc. Thought that was a big issue with sound cards.

 

What are you implying? Like I said, DACs have sound cards as well, although they are specialized DAC chips and so on.

 

Quote:
I'm still unclear on what features these things have over conventional PCs. Like, you can slap together a barebones tower with a Celeron or Pentium CPU on an H81 chipset mainboard and throw in 4 gigs of RAM or so, a low-level but stable PSU, cheap case, maybe an optical drive for playing music CDs, and then toss on the peripherals needed to run it (Mouse, keyboard, monitor) and the DAC/amp combo. Discounting the DAC/amp combo, it can be done for like, 400 bucks. The varying distros of Linux provide a free, versatile OS.

 

I suppose reading more music server reviews can give you a better idea of what is involved.

 

Quote:
Example build I threw together: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/4b2grH

 

Cool, thanks. A few others have linked me to their builds on this site.

 

After you decide on all those parts, what's next? Do you have to buy them individually and put it all together yourself, or is there a service available that enables you to select what you want and have someone else put it all together and ship it to you? If so, what is the added cost like?

 

Quote:
That said, I wouldn't call this "convenient" the way a fit-PC is. You have to assemble it yourself and set everything up. Not hard, but not nearly as easy as buying a prebuilt. Arguably more cost-effective, though. To bottom-line it, the fit-PCs use mobile parts with low power consumption and they generate less heat so they can be kept in a tiny little case like that and still work. The custom build I rigged up is bigger and consumes more power, but it uses full-fledged desktop components, so it has the edge in price-to-performance. Any experienced PC builder will tell you that when you get a computer, you have to make a choice between portability, and power. It's not unlike with DACs and amps. You can only put so much into a smaller, lighter form factor with a battery on it. Something bigger, better-cooled, stationary, and fed by power from a wall socket is gonna stomp it flat for actual processing power. This is why you'll hear people say that the phrase "gaming laptop" is an oxymoron, because it kinda is, unless you spend an insane amount of dosh on it. Even then, you could assemble something better for far less. Law of diminishing returns.

 

I was interested in the fit-PC because it's small and fanless. I don't know of any desktop computers that are fanless.

 

I don't need a powerful computer for this. Whether it's a music server or a desktop PC, it would be used solely for music playback.

 

Quote:
I wrote up a guide to assembling a desktop PC, but this is the kinda thing I usually discuss with someone over an IM client because I need to know a lot of the specifics of what else they'll be using the PC for. But honestly? Assuming you can deal with the M11x's heating issues, I'm not seeing much reason to get a music server unless there's something I'm missing about their featuresets, which is possible. If anyone else here knows what sets them apart from custom-built computers, I'll gladly retract my statements here.

 

Check out the link I provided above, I guess.

 

I would rather have a device just for audio that is shielded from many of the problems and annoyances associated with using a normal computer. Even now, I use my iPod Classic to listen to music instead of my laptop. (But that's before the desktop audio system comes in.)

 

Quote:

I was actually referring to the fit-PC, which seems to use embedded AMD CPUs in the low-level models. The problem with just about any new prebuilt computer is you're not just paying for the parts, you're paying for the price of assembling the computer and paying the workers who do it, and any custom design work the system builder does (Ex.: Alienware's unique cases, CyberpowerPC's professional wiring, etc.), so you have an oftentimes fairly steep cost overhead. Chances are, if the PC costs the same as a custom-built computer, the specs are inferior. Oftentimes drastically.

 

That said, I'm unclear as to what's needed to play music files and run complimentary software, and what's just gravy. (Understand: Us PC gamers have a tendency to err on the side of "more is better" when upgrading or replacing an older computer since keeping up with system requirements for future releases is a never-ending nightmare race if you're on a budget. I always focus on getting the most performance/features for the available budget when I configure something, with the minimum requirements as a minimum goal. :cool:)

 

Since you build computers, maybe I could pay you to do it! :D

 

Quote:
Like, my FiiO X5 lags when running DSDs. So either a weak smartphone ARM dualcore like the Ingenics CPU inside the X5 isn't enough for processing THAT level of data, or my Samsung Pro 64 GB micro SDXC chip (70+ MB/s read) isn't fast enough. Maybe both. But it's smooth as butter while rolling FLACs or anything below that level of data density. Someone should like, rig up a SATA to micro-SD adapter and plug an SSD into the X5 to figure out which one it is. If that fixes the problem, then it's just that mid-low range micro-SD chips are too slow for DSD. If it doesn't, it means the CPU is too slow...WHICH MEANS THERE'S NO FIXING THE PROBLEM, MUAHAHAHAHA- Erm. Maybe the X7 will have a fast enough CPU. TIME VILL TELL. 

 

I didn't know you had the X5. I was going to get the iBasso DX90 (because it's more neutral), but am investing everything into a respectable full-size audio system now.

post #103 of 135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
All I can offer are my impressions of headphones I have on hand. If you need comparisons between models I don't have, I'm not your guy.

 

Which is why I said if it's too much trouble, there's no need to bother.

 

Quote:
What are you implying? Like I said, DACs have sound cards as well, although they are specialized DAC chips and so on.

 

Uh.... Don't you mean sound cards have DAC chips? I mean, they all have PCBs, yeah, but most quality DACs are external and well-shielded. Not so sure about the ones in these computers.

 

Quote:
I suppose reading more music server reviews can give you a better idea of what is involved.

 

Of the results I saw, these seem to be more dedicated devices than computers all around. Unfortunately, most of the reviews are sorely lacking on just what sort of hardware is inside them.

 

Quote:
Cool, thanks. A few others have linked me to their builds on this site.

 

After you decide on all those parts, what's next? Do you have to buy them individually and put it all together yourself, or is there a service available that enables you to select what you want and have someone else put it all together and ship it to you? If so, what is the added cost like?

 

I'm afraid this is a DIY world we PC builders live in. Fortunately, putting a computer together is easy. Screwdriver, anti-static wristband, and the parts. That's about all you really need. The old days of scary soldering and putting fragile pin-studded devices into place are over. Only things that still use pins are CPUs, and they're pretty easy to put into place without breaking something thanks to modern socket designs.

 

Quote:
Check out the link I provided above, I guess.

 

I would rather have a device just for audio that is shielded from many of the problems and annoyances associated with using a normal computer. Even now, I use my iPod Classic to listen to music instead of my laptop. (But that's before the desktop audio system comes in.)

 

Like I said, still unclear on what sets a music server apart from a regular computer. I heard some talk about specific hardware here and there but I still have no idea if they use like, special proprietary interfaces and hardware or if they're using off-the-shelf components and like, PCI/PCIe slots which you can use to put one together yourself.

 

Quote:
Since you build computers, maybe I could pay you to do it! :D

 

I'm afraid not. Where I live prevents me from being much use to you beyond helping to select parts.

 

Quote:
I didn't know you had the X5. I was going to get the iBasso DX90 (because it's more neutral), but am investing everything into a respectable full-size audio system now.

 

All I care about is this thing sounds great and has all the features I ever wanted out of an MP3 player and then some, although I'm well aware calling it that is practically an insult.

post #104 of 135
Quote:
Originally Posted by 343 Grenadier View Post

 

Quote:
Uh.... Don't you mean sound cards have DAC chips? I mean, they all have PCBs, yeah, but most quality DACs are external and well-shielded. Not so sure about the ones in these computers.

 

Any device that outputs audio has some sort of DAC, because a DAC is simply a digital to analog converter. It converts the digital signal to an analog sound wave. The problem is that most of them aren't very good. Audiophile DACs are designed with better specifications in order to deliver high fidelity sound. Most DACs have DAC chips in them, although some have more specialized technology.

 

Quote:
Of the results I saw, these seem to be more dedicated devices than computers all around. Unfortunately, most of the reviews are sorely lacking on just what sort of hardware is inside them.
Quote:

Like I said, still unclear on what sets a music server apart from a regular computer. I heard some talk about specific hardware here and there but I still have no idea if they use like, special proprietary interfaces and hardware or if they're using off-the-shelf components and like, PCI/PCIe slots which you can use to put one together yourself.

 

They're just computers specialized for storing and playing audio. Some have standard hardware while others are more proprietary. Most of them have unique interfaces. Some of them let you stream audio wirelessly to other devices, but I'm not interested in that.

 

Quote:
I'm afraid this is a DIY world we PC builders live in. Fortunately, putting a computer together is easy. Screwdriver, anti-static wristband, and the parts. That's about all you really need. The old days of scary soldering and putting fragile pin-studded devices into place are over. Only things that still use pins are CPUs, and they're pretty easy to put into place without breaking something thanks to modern socket designs.

 

Well, I know some of those computer sites have staff who put together everything for you after you've selected the parts. I just didn't research how much it would cost.

post #105 of 135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Any device that outputs audio has some sort of DAC, because a DAC is simply a digital to analog converter. It converts the digital signal to an analog sound wave. The problem is that most of them aren't very good. Audiophile DACs are designed with better specifications in order to deliver high fidelity sound. Most DACs have DAC chips in them, although some have more specialized technology.

 

Yes, I know. A lot of the stuff we've discussed in this thread (High-end sound cards, the FiiO X5) are using flagship-tier DACs like the PCM1972A. But that's only a part of determining sound quality.

 

Quote:
They're just computers specialized for storing and playing audio. Some have standard hardware while others are more proprietary. Most of them have unique interfaces. Some of them let you stream audio wirelessly to other devices, but I'm not interested in that.

 

Well, I guess the real question comes down to if you'd prefer the sound and features offered by the proprietary hardware, or if a regular computer with an off-the-shelf DAC/amp combo is preferable for you. I'm afraid I can't answer that question, only you can. If you prefer the latter, THEN I can be useful to you.

 

Quote:
 Well, I know some of those computer sites have staff who put together everything for you after you've selected the parts. I just didn't research how much it would cost.

 

Yeah, but it WILL cost more to do it that way, and you have to limit yourself to one site to do that. The advantage of PCPartpicker is it lets you buy from a variety of e-tailers to get the best value on each product in the configuration. It factors in shipping and rebates, too. But to take advantage of this feature, you need to buy from a patchwork cluster of stores, and that means assembling it yourself. You COULD limit yourself to one store, but expect both a fee for assembly and a price hike over if you take the DIY route instead. Preference. Value, or convenience?

 

P.S.: As an all-around PC builder, I feel inclined to point out that sound quality and features to one side, a regular computer can be used for other things, too, in a pinch. (Ex.: The laptop's heating issue finally does it in.) Web browsing, PC gaming if you ever get into it, graphic design, editing your audio, etc. I know that's not what you're getting this for, but it's something you might want to factor into your decision. Whatever the device is, you're gonna be throwing at least a fair amount of cash into it. A well-rounded purchase might just prove a better investment, long-term. Like, what sold me on the FiiO X5 wasn't just its amazingly good sound quality, it was its rich featureset. Tons of potential storage, a durable, tactile mechanical clickwheel which I REALLY liked, flexibility with regards to file formats, high durability, and it came bundled with a ton of extra stuff. If it was about a hundred bucks cheaper and had standard-quality audio, I'd probably have still been happy with it.

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