$150 music soundcard recommendation
Mar 28, 2006 at 3:47 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 28

dave_pass

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Hello, I’ve read a bunch of sound card reviews but I feel many of the popular cards have features I don't need. I’m not a gamer and don’t use my computer for dvd watching. I’m just a music guy (err, junkie).

Any advice on which sound card is best for just plain music (my budget is ~$150)? I’d like something that will sound decent by itself but will serve me well as I build out my system.

Which leads me to ask…below is my realistic, not perfect, upgrade path. Any thoughts on the order/items?

1. upgrade soundcard - $150
2. buy Senn HD595 or 650 - $325
3a. headphone amp (Dared mp-5 possibly) - $500
or
3b. headphone amp - $400
3c. standalone dac - $300
4. get 2nd job.

I currently listen to Sony V6’s out of the headphone out port of some old Aiwa SC-A78 speakers sourced from an ADI SoundMax motherboard integrated soundcard. I know, I know. Please be kind, I’ve just started on the path to enlightenment.
smily_headphones1.gif


cheers, Dave
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 4:24 AM Post #2 of 28

zancxia

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Well, if this question was strictly sound card related, I'd say that this would be better in the computer-as-source forum, but...

I've heard that 2 Echo Indigos (I/O and DJ) ($150) are great sound cards, if you have a PCMCIA slot in your computer. If not, you might want to check out a solution from M-Audio, which has good cards for well within your budget. Both companies tend to focus on music-only use for a number of their products.

Of course, this is what I've heard (from people on this forum), so I can't attest to these findings, but I don't think it could hurt to check them out at least.

As far as your headphone situation goes, I wouldn't think about getting a Senn 650 without first getting an amp (although I've heard of people having little problem driving 580s with their Echo Indigos--which have the same impedance as the 650, I believe).

The 595, on the other hand, could produce good results, without the amp, from almost all 'higher'-fi sound cards.
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 4:30 AM Post #3 of 28

dave_pass

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Thanks for the response. I did in fact mean to post this to the computer-as-source forum. Happy to move it, trying to figure out how.
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 4:32 AM Post #5 of 28

zancxia

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Don't worry about it. I think moving is an administrator/moderator-only privilege. I think? I'm sure you'll get a good response to your question, regardless.
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Mar 28, 2006 at 4:39 AM Post #6 of 28

Aryolkary

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I understand the Emu 1212m to be the best soundcard in the sub 200usd range (maybe even, 400, 500usd range). It costs 200usd shipped from most websites, but directly from emu.com it's 160usd plus shipping (or something like that).
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 4:43 AM Post #7 of 28

dave_pass

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Thanks, still on the path to enlightenment...
smily_headphones1.gif
Powers that be, please move my post if you see fit.

Related to the X-Fi, beyond the XtremeMusic model it seems like a product chalk full of features for gamers. On the other hand if the amp & DAC that comes with the Elite Pro model are good quality then maybe that's my solution.

Has anybody tried the X-Fi Elite Pro with Senn 595 or 650's?
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 12:37 PM Post #9 of 28

BushGuy

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I've tried and despise Creative sound cards (meaning SB-Audigy-XFi for music). Right now running modded Emu 0404 on one computer, and ESI (now aka EGO Juli@) Juli@ on another. While the Emu works very nicely w/ AKG k271, other headphones are more natural-sounding with the Juli@...................to me, any other choice would be in the seriously above $200 category eg. Lynx, or RME.
It's insane to start at the end of the soundstream. Begin with an informed plan, then continually re-examine that ideal, and modify again and again. But, the component least exchanged will tend to be the soundcard......ergo, logically making it the first choice for the building of a new headphone/computer system.
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 12:43 PM Post #10 of 28

manchau

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Quote:

Originally Posted by BushGuy
I've tried and despise Creative sound cards (meaning SB-Audigy-XFi for music). Right now running modded Emu 0404 on one computer, and ESI (now aka EGO Juli@) Juli@ on another. While the Emu works very nicely w/ AKG k271, other headphones are more natural-sounding with the Juli@...................to me, any other choice would be in the seriously above $200 category eg. Lynx, or RME.
It's insane to start at the end of the soundstream. Begin with an informed plan, then continually re-examine that ideal, and modify again and again. But, the component least exchanged will tend to be the soundcard......ergo, logically making it the first choice for the building of a new headphone/computer system.



What are you other headphones sound better with Juli ? please let us know.
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 12:51 PM Post #11 of 28

tomb

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This is too easy.
As quick as you can, purchase an M-Audio Transit. $79 at most places.


Fixup (Xin Feng) has stated that it is the single best upgrade in sound - at the price - that can be done.

Line out, TOSlink out, line-in, SPDIF digital in, or even mic in - all outside the PC box for no interference and a simple USB connection. The driver is simple, no-fuss, minimum option, for a squeeky-clean software intrusion. The little thing even has a built-in headamp with decent caps!

The only disadvantage is that it doesn't do games, or anything more than 2-channel extremely high quality stereo. You said, "I’m just a music guy (err, junkie)," though, so this shouldn't be a problem.

Xin and others use this thing for all of their instrumentation tests on amplifiers with the RMAA program. You can't get any better than that. I would say HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but that doesn't come close.

P.S. Don't worry, the only way you can get better sound than the V6's is with the source, or with a change in style of phones (open back, portable, etc.). The upgrade to Beyer velour cushions is highly recommended. With that, the V6's are as good as any phone on the market. They are lower in impedence than many phones, though - so higher current with a good source or an amplifier can make noticeable improvements. The bass is so good, it can falter with a lack of current. Just a plain CMoy will noticeably improve the sound, but mine sounds fantastic just with the Transit, though!

Later on, you might try the Koss KSC75's for a simlar sound with an unparalleled improvement in comfort - $20 at Circuit City, $12.99 (plus shipping) at Amazon.

You can have both the Transit and the Koss KSC75's from Amazon for less than any of the other suggestions.
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 1:14 PM Post #12 of 28

sgrossklass

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As I understand it, he has an ordinary deathktop PC, thus it would be a better idea to go with an internal card - more bang, less bucks.

Concerning point 1: The usual suspects in the $100..200 range are: EMU 0404, ESI Juli@, M-Audio Audiophile 192, EMU 1212m. Not being overly fond of phat driver packages but wanting to achieve bit-perfect playback, I'd probably go with one of the middle two, possibly the Juli@ with its very flat frequency response up to 80 kHz (I would want to use it for measurement/signal generation purposes as well), though M-Audio appears to have the better driver support.
Point 2: The '650 is generally regarded as the better headphone of the two by no small margin, though of course you might still like the '595 better. Here in Germany, the '595 costs about 60% as much.
Point 3a/b: I'd go for a pre-built M^3 or PPA, Headroom Micro Amp or somesuch.
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 2:19 PM Post #13 of 28

Chri5peed

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I have a sexy white Juli@
julia.jpg


Its unamped btw, I'm running an HD580 & A900 with FLAC off it, it sounds awesome.
smily_headphones1.gif


Its got an optical-out too if I ever consider getting a DAC.
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 2:55 PM Post #14 of 28

BushGuy

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Manchu.......in answer to your question above - right now using AKG 240s (lt mod.-Senn.foam+Beyer Velours), AKG k340 - yet to be modded (only added Velour pads), and Darth Beyers................
 
Mar 28, 2006 at 2:58 PM Post #15 of 28

manchau

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Quote:

Originally Posted by BushGuy
Manchu.......in answer to your question above - right now using AKG 240s (lt mod.-Senn.foam+Beyer Velours), AKG k340 - yet to be modded (only added Velour pads), and Darth Beyers................


I found my sound card
smily_headphones1.gif
Thanks.
 

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