Creative Soundblaster X-Fi Titanium HD + K702 Bass Distortion
Mar 9, 2013 at 4:00 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 13

nam3less

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Alright, I need some help.
 
I have a Titanium HD and I recently purchased the AKG K702. I am trying to run the following setup: Titanium HD > RCA Line Out > FiiO E09K RCA (Aux) Line In > K702. The Titanium HD sits above my video cards and i have no other free slots to plug it into without removing one card, but can certainly test that out.
 
If I try to turn computer volume (and by association soundcard volume) to 100% and control via volume knob on the FiiO, I get bass distortion. Plugging the K702 straight into the headphone jack of the card removes the distortion but if I set volume to 100% there is distortion again. Turning the computer volume to 75% and still regulating with the FiiO volume pot removes distortion, regardless of volume on the pot (I've had it past 12 o'clock and normal listening is 9-10). I bet there is still some distortion at 3 o'clock or higher, but i'm not about to find out.
 
I read something about using RCA out from the card uses extra op amps, versus the ones used from the headphone jack, but I don't recall off hand which ones and what effect they have.
 
EQ is off. Bass Boost is off. 
 
Could it be the headphones at this point?
 
Thoughts?
 
I'm more used to Planar headphones so I don't really understand distortion based on volume, ha. At work I have the T50RP with USB Modi and having the volume on the work laptop at 100% and regulating with the Magni volume pot causes no distortion. This is why I initially set it up at 100% computer volume. I guess I can test by both bringing these headphones to work and the T50RP home if that would help paint a better picture.
 
PS: I don't dare try the PC360 at those volumes as it is much more easily driven and either would blow my ears or the headphones out.
 
PPS: Just trying to find out if I should look into an exchange on the headphones, or if I need to get my soundcard looked at OR perhaps roll op amps?
 
EDIT: Tried singen and there was no distortion in the bass. I guess it could just be the track. My PC360 doesn't have this distortion when trying to listen to that same track (The Grid from Daft Punk's TRON: Legacy Soundtrack).
 
Mar 9, 2013 at 11:25 PM Post #2 of 13

Prowler

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I have a Titanium HD and use a FiiO E09k too. The only time I have noticed what sounds like very slight bass distortion (sounds like mild clipping if I listen to some DnB tracks) is if I use Foobar with ASIO... so needless to say I don't bother with ASIO.
 
I think you sorta answered your own question... You can try your K702 phones with the Modi/Magni combo, then try the K702s with the Titanium HD and Magni (or even your E17 as an amp using the aux in). I dunno if this would solve the distortion problem but worth a try (and I'll be honest, I'd be interested to know if the Magni sounds any better regardless because the E09k has an output impedance that might be higher than ideal for K702s).
 
Anyway, I'd just keep the computer volume lower... the SNR of the Titanium HD is amazing so I can't imagine you can hear any hiss. Typically I just turn on my FiiO E09k to between 11 and 12 o'clock and use the computer volume adjustment.
 
Mar 10, 2013 at 6:20 AM Post #3 of 13

roguegeek

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I run this exact same setup. A K702 plugged into a FiiO E09K with a Monoprice premium RCA cable plugged right into my X-Fi Titanium HD. I'm not hearing any bit of what you're describing which just makes me think you do have a piece of hardware that has failed. Process of elimination time. Try a different set of headphones with one configuration, no amp in another, and maybe just run off your on-board audio other than your Ti HD in your final configuration.
 
Mar 10, 2013 at 5:54 PM Post #4 of 13

nam3less

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I'm going to grab my Magni and Mad Dogs tomorrow from work and then test then update the results. Lowering windows volume to 85% fixes all issues in the interim.
 
Mar 11, 2013 at 7:00 PM Post #5 of 13

nam3less

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Replying to bump this so people can see testing methodology and the like.
 
Originally I thought that there was some bass distortion with my newly acquired K702's from Amazon Warehouse Deals. I had 30 days to check them out and return them if needbe so I wanted to put them through their paces so I didn't have to find out in 3 months that I needed a new driver or something of the sort. 
 
When I got them in, they were packaged in some shrink wrap which I'm assuming Amazon did because the headphones weren't in their cardboard holder thing (technical, I know). The looked pristine, however, and for the price I paid, I'm not complaining at all that they were most likely a return. It looked like no one had worn them.
 
So when I noticed this distortion, I was concerned that the previous return was for a similar issue and that this pair was indeed defective but that amazon had simply sent them out because they physically looked brand new.
 
I have my pc and sound device specs in the OP so i won't repeat them here. I will say I in no way shape or form disabled the on board audio nor deleted drivers. I have the latest creative non beta software and bios has been updated to the latest version when I got my motherboard (Asus P8Z77-V LK [and yes I know I cheaped out but it was an emergency purchase])
 
My sound settings were as follows: 100% Windows Volume, 100% Foobar Volume, Game Mode, CMSS-3D on, Windows Sound set to 5.1, crystallizer 85%. Trying to listen to two arguably horribly mastered songs (revealed by testing outlined below) in order to replicate this issue was aggravating but I got through it...for science!
 
I brought my Mad Dog's home and my Magni/Modi as well. Testing was done with FLAC files via foobar WASAPI (Event when amp + dac was used and Push when Titanium HD + Amp was used).
 
Song 1: The Requiem by Linkin Park from A Thousand Suns. Crystallizer on/off
 
  1. At 1:16 when the child's voice (assuming auto tune) starts there is a fairly heavy bass beat behind it that clips.  
  2. With crystallizer on at 85%, there was horrible clipping throughout most of the song. The clipping could be reduced, predictably, by lowing the volume in windows.
  3. With crystallizer off, there was still clipping (damn you loudness war!) but there was much less of it.
  4. Both headphones revealed the same clipping spots so i'm going to attribute it to the track and not either headphone.
  5. Running through either the FiiO or Schiit stacks via USB, bypassing the soundcard entirely, revealed the same clipping as with crystallizer off.
 
Song 2: The Grid from Daft Punk's TRON: Legacy soundtrack. Crystallizer off because I wanted to hear one part in particular for clipping.
 
  1. Right around 0:53 there is a heavy bass drop (for lack of a better term) that I originally thought distorted and as a result started this thread; in fact, it clips.
  2. Right when the bass drops (I've listened to 2 different FLAC and 1 MP3 versions of this song) there is a large clip which, coupled with the bass, sounded like some pretty bad distortion. The Mad Dogs don't reveal this until a louder volume but it is there. This was replicated with both the FiiO and Schiit stacks via USB. Clipping is a part of the recording itself.
 
This brings me to the conclusion. After some research, I realized that some of these issues could be attributed to the X-Fi crystallizer (google search terms included titanium HD clipping and titanium HD crystallizer so feel free to look on your own). It's basically marketing for "hearing it like in the studio" or "remastering your mp3's and making them sound better than the CD version." The crystallizer is a dynamic EQ that is supposed to fill in the gaps lost by compression, in short, and is useful for almost nothing. I say almost because games that use bad audio do see their quality improve but it's nothing to write home about and you really have to try to hear it. You'd be hard pressed to hear it from a marketed gaming headset, that's for sure. It was nearly inaudible with the K702. I don't have golden ears by any standard.
 
I digress.
 
The crystallizer, plainly, sucks. At least for music listening that is. I recommend running it at no more than 50% (50% is pushing it) if you are going to use it but to try avoiding it altogether, especially when listening to modern MP3 files (>128k) and FLAC. If you need to EQ, grab a graphic or parametric EQ and EQ away. Don't use crystallizer. I used to use it all the time because it did help round out the sound (it boosts low and high frequencies as well), which was a welcome addition to booming explosions in games and my crappy MP3's of my high school days.
 
After having numerous X-Fi cards over the years, I have never ran into this issue with crystallizer. Until I got the K702 and actually listened. Disabling the crystallizer completely resulted in a considerably improved sound in terms of the amount of clipping and distortion present. I still plan on running my windows audio at 90% or so just because games do have very sudden sounds (rifle firing, explosions, etc) and they don't have the best sound quality so i'm trying to remove clipping from these cases. I'd say that it could be the card itself at this point, but this isn't exactly uncommon (spent like 2 hours looking for it and others have experienced clipping with crystallizer on/at a high level versus turning it off. I will follow up with creative about this, now that i have actually tested, and see what they have to say about it.
 
Headphones are fine. Card seems fine. Amps are fine. Phew.
 
Mar 12, 2013 at 1:56 PM Post #6 of 13

derdelush

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I get the same issue on a integrated Recon3D on my Gigabyte G1 Sniper M3. With only my old pair of Koss Porta Pros connected to the dark green headphone jack (that is, from what I read, the output of an internal amp). After posting a thread here I realized that I have no clipping (or in my case some loud pops that happened only on bass) with the Crystalizer off. And for me it is the other way around. Music doesn't seem to have many problems but games felt like I would rupture my membrane. From what I managed to discern, both the Crystalizer and Surround settings seem to up the gain.
 
May 20, 2013 at 10:41 AM Post #7 of 13

benbenkr

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Sorry for resurrecting a thread over a month old.
I too need to confirm that Crystalizer is indeed the culprit of bass distortion on headphones when connected through an amp — by that, I mean ANY type of amp in fact.
 
I just got a FiiO E09k as well 2 days ago  and immediately, my headphones (Sennheiser HD558, Beyerdynamics DT770 Pro) both had quite a significant amount of distortion on the sub and mid-bass range. I was listening to Nightwish's Storytime and the instruments just literally sounded like crap.
 
When the headphones are connected to my soundcard directly (X-Fi XtremeMusic), they did not distort. Despite Crystalizer being enabled at about 29%. Bass boost was turned off and no EQ. So yeah, turning off Crystalizer when connected through an amp is pretty much a must, which I think most people already know in the first place.
 
May 20, 2013 at 3:52 PM Post #8 of 13

watsaname

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I forget where I read it, but I have read that the headphone jack has a REALLY high output impedance, something like 38 ohms. Could that potentially also further the problem along? Have you tried using the RCA out on the card instead of the headphone jack?
 
May 20, 2013 at 9:31 PM Post #9 of 13

Honkytime

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Quote:
Sorry for resurrecting a thread over a month old.
I too need to confirm that Crystalizer is indeed the culprit of bass distortion on headphones when connected through an amp — by that, I mean ANY type of amp in fact.
 
I just got a FiiO E09k as well 2 days ago  and immediately, my headphones (Sennheiser HD558, Beyerdynamics DT770 Pro) both had quite a significant amount of distortion on the sub and mid-bass range. I was listening to Nightwish's Storytime and the instruments just literally sounded like crap.
 
When the headphones are connected to my soundcard directly (X-Fi XtremeMusic), they did not distort. Despite Crystalizer being enabled at about 29%. Bass boost was turned off and no EQ. So yeah, turning off Crystalizer when connected through an amp is pretty much a must, which I think most people already know in the first place.

What setting are you using?.I get bad distortion if i leave my Ti HD in game mode to listen to music. i used audio creation mode with the asio foobar plugin for my music its fine then.
 
May 21, 2013 at 1:42 AM Post #10 of 13

benbenkr

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Quote:
What setting are you using?.I get bad distortion if i leave my Ti HD in game mode to listen to music. i used audio creation mode with the asio foobar plugin for my music its fine then.

 
For music, I usually just use audio creation mode.
Otherwise most of the time I'll just use Entertainment Mode (even on music too), as said with Crystalizer to 29%, no EQ, no EAX, no Bass Boost, no CMSS-3D.
 
I kind of like Crystalizer with the sparkle it brings to the high-range, as when my headphones are connected directly to the soundcard there is no distortion. So if I'm listening on Entertainment Mode with the E09k, I'd have to disable Crystalizer, which I don't quite... prefer.
 
May 21, 2013 at 9:44 AM Post #11 of 13

nam3less

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^ EQ the same frequencies as crystallizer. You'll find that the sound is comparable (if not the same) but with no distortion. Make sure you EQ down instead of up (decreasing all frequencies except for those you want to boost vs boosting frequencies). Judging by the graphs of the crystallizer, the crystallizer EQs up which, when coupled with power, can easily cause distortion and clipping.
 
May 21, 2013 at 11:04 AM Post #12 of 13

benbenkr

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Quote:
^ EQ the same frequencies as crystallizer. You'll find that the sound is comparable (if not the same) but with no distortion. Make sure you EQ down instead of up (decreasing all frequencies except for those you want to boost vs boosting frequencies). Judging by the graphs of the crystallizer, the crystallizer EQs up which, when coupled with power, can easily cause distortion and clipping.

 
May I know which freq Crystalizer normally boosts? I know it's the high and low ranges, but which exactly?
 
How's your EQ settings?
 
May 21, 2013 at 11:27 AM Post #13 of 13

nam3less

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This article should help (the first graph on that page):
 
http://techreport.com/review/8884/creative-sound-blaster-x-fi-audio-processor/3
 
I don't use EQ any more since I've just started buying headphones whose sound signature I like. In the past when I would EQ, I would EQ down and it was quite a bit better (read: no clipping/distortion) than EQing up.
 
Entertainment vs Gaming vs Audio Creation offered no noticeable improvements/detraction in sound quality nor distortion to me. I tend to just leave my card in game mode as a result, using WASAPI when I have foobar running. At first when I encountered these problems, I thought it could have been attributed to game mode but the same issues were present in the others. CMSS-3D can exacerbate the problem, according to various forum posts on computer forums about the same problem ([H], overclock.net, guru3d, etc.).
 

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