amp upgrade or surround headphones?
May 29, 2015 at 5:50 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 3

Roughstack

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I've had my M50s and same sound card (Creative Labs X-Fi Fatal1ty Titanium) for years now and while its quite good, I'm getting a little bored with it. 
Headphoness are connected to my sound card via analog input. Will a good amp improve the sound quality dramatically? Also, an amp that connects via optical is ideal, right? Would upgrading my sound card be good also? It's an old soundcard, released in 2008 or 2007, but it still holds up and I haven't really felt that I needed a reason to upgrade it until now, which is me wanting surround sound and or Dolby. I'm a PC gamer and I value bass a lot. Listening to footsteps comes second nature for me so I don't some ridiculously good sound stage. 
 
Lastly, What are some good surround headphones (non wireless) for the PC? I am using stereo input connect to analog, I would like to upgrade this to surround (Dolby) and optical input. I have some surround headphones for a console and they sound very good, to be honest, better than my PC setup except when listening to high bit rate music, which is to be expected. But I'm not really an audiophile to an extreme degree, I am a casual audiophile if that makes sense. Basically I don't want the $20 beats by Dre sounding junk and I don't want the very expensive artisan headphones and other elaborate sound setups which can cost over a thousand dollars either. I do not know much about amps and all the minute things involved with audiophile equipment, hence the newbie questions above. Price is not really an issue but I obviously do not want to be spending a thousand bucks.
 
May 29, 2015 at 11:46 PM Post #2 of 3

cel4145

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Does the X-Fi Fatal1ty Titanium have a headphone amp? If not, a Soundblaster Z could be a good improvement for most headphones.

If open headphones are not a problem, then you might want to consider them as they typically have a better soundstage than closed headphones. Look into the AKG K7XX currently at Massdrop for $199. You can learn more about them here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/743280/the-akg-k7xx-massdrop-first-edition-thread. I haven't compared them directly (I own both), but the K7XX won't have quite the bass emphasis of the M50s, but it's better in every other way. Even comfort is better to me. They do definitely need some kind of headphone amp.
 
May 30, 2015 at 1:23 AM Post #3 of 3

ProtegeManiac

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  I've had my M50s and same sound card (Creative Labs X-Fi Fatal1ty Titanium) for years now and while its quite good, I'm getting a little bored with it. 
Headphoness are connected to my sound card via analog input. Will a good amp improve the sound quality dramatically? Also, an amp that connects via optical is ideal, right? Would upgrading my sound card be good also? It's an old soundcard, released in 2008 or 2007, but it still holds up and I haven't really felt that I needed a reason to upgrade it until now, which is me wanting surround sound and or Dolby. I'm a PC gamer and I value bass a lot. Listening to footsteps comes second nature for me so I don't some ridiculously good sound stage. 

 
Let's clear up the technical stuff first. The amp takes an analog signal and amplifies it; a DAC is what takes a digital signal (via SPDIF, or USB) then passes it on to whatever other amp. It's just that sometimes they're both built into the same chassis together (and in many cases there is no analog input that feeds directly to the amplifier section).
 
Now...there are literally tons of options out there, it really depends on how much you're willing to spend and then a few other factors. Are you using a relatively new red motherboard newer than your soundcard? It might already have an onboard audio section better than the soundcard. If not, what form factor mobo and what chassis, and what are the possibilities for upgrading and physically downsizing? If for example you're using mATX already, or even with ATX now, but later plan on using an mATX or mITX case, then you could consider external soundcards like the SoundBlaster X7. It's got a decent amplifier circuit, good DAC chips, and a DSP chip (which is what makes a soundcard a soundcard). This way you won't need to worry about a mobo with a lot of expansion slots (especially on mITX as well as when using multiple GPUs). It should give you some flexibility if you plan on upgrading the M50 later, and even has a built-in speaker amplifier so you can even get a decent set of speakers and use them nearfield (or maybe drive orthodynamic headphones, but I haven't come across any review for that).
 
Newer gaming motherboards have good audio specs but there have been some threads about some of them not sounding right, even with the DSP function disabled, while some are fantastic (the only thing they lack vs a separate amp driving most headphones, if at least for gaming when your mind is divided among a host of stimuli and objectives, is a convenient volume knob).
 
   
Lastly, What are some good surround headphones (non wireless) for the PC? I am using stereo input connect to analog, I would like to upgrade this to surround (Dolby) and optical input. I have some surround headphones for a console and they sound very good, to be honest, better than my PC setup except when listening to high bit rate music, which is to be expected. But I'm not really an audiophile to an extreme degree, I am a casual audiophile if that makes sense. Basically I don't want the $20 beats by Dre sounding junk and I don't want the very expensive artisan headphones and other elaborate sound setups which can cost over a thousand dollars either. I do not know much about amps and all the minute things involved with audiophile equipment, hence the newbie questions above. Price is not really an issue but I obviously do not want to be spending a thousand bucks.
 

 
The Sound Blaster X7 does all that with a good amplifier circuit to boot (plus a speaker amp), all for $400. Maybe add a $250 AKG Q701, not necessarily at the same time.
 

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