do i need a sound card?
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badben25

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Hello all
 
I have an Intel DX79TO motherboard (link) in a Cooler Master HAF-X case and I have noticed that when I connect my headphones to the front ports the sound is slightly crisper and louder than when I connect directly into the motherboard audio jacks on the back of my PC. I know this is a phenomenon I have experienced in the past with other PCs, and being a slowly learning audiophile I have tried internal and USB sound cards and some good headphones and I can tell that I can have better sound, but I am not sure what my exact problem is.
 
With the current setup I have it's not preferable to be using the front audio ports, but if I use the rear ones I have to live with subpar sound. Hence I am interested in getting a separate sound card. Internal using PCI-E x1 would be preferred over an external USB device, usage is split between music and gaming. I would like a no frills card and I don't mind if it's an older proven model. I don't require front panel bays or other special included accessories. I'd like as few surround and virtual features in the software as possible, and the least bloated software that works everytime I need it to.
 
For anyone curious, I have to switch between a modded Sennheiser HD555, SteelSeries Siberia v2 and Razer Ferox depending on what I am doing at the time.
 
Thanks in advance.
 
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PurpleAngel

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Asus Xonar DGX (PCI-E) sound card, $37.98.
Amazon sell it with a $10 mail in rebate.
http://www.amazon.com/Xonar-DGX-PCI-E-GX2-5-Engine/dp/B007TMZ1BK/ref=cm_wl_huc_item
 
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badben25

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Interesting. I've been told that I should make sure there's a headphone amp and that Creative has better positioning performance in games, but this card seems to cover both factors. Any idea what the software is like?
 
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PurpleAngel

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  Interesting. I've been told that I should make sure there's a headphone amp and that Creative has better positioning performance in games, but this card seems to cover both factors. Any idea what the software is like?
I prefer Xonar sound cards over Creative because I like the Xonar control panel better.
I'm not a FPS gamer, so I have no interest in "positioning performance".
The Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z is $80-$100.
 
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genclaymore

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IF you look around on amazon it the Sound blaster Z's can be found for 60ish.
 
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badben25

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I've been asked to also look at the Titanium HD by Creative. What's your thoughts about it? I've seen it recommended a lot by lurking on different forums over time, what is it that makes it special?
 
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genclaymore

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The main reason why people keep suggestion X-FI Titanium HD is because of the X-FI chip being hardware accelerated which people still think matter in today cpus. Which it doesn't because today cpus are much faster then what they used to be in the past, so the cpu doing the work on non Hardware acceleration cards wont hurt it like it would have many many years ago plus. I owned X-FI Xtreme gamer, which I have switch to and from the DGX, The DGX being software accelerated doesn't cause me any issues at all. I think its a habit which why people keep suggestion the Titanium HD which was a great card as I had just not at the price it being sold now which is $300 since it is EOL(End Of Life) and hard to fine. The second reason is because of the card having op-amp sockets, so you can change the op-amps to change the sound signature of the sound card. The problem is that not every one will do that let alone know how as it take time and the right tools. ZXR which would be the better choice then the Titanium HD and cheaper too , As the ZXR can be found around $200,while having the same op-amp socket function and also having a good headphone amp.  Budget wise you be better off with a sound blaster Z, it has a decent headphone amp that will handle the DT990 pro-250 and cost 60-69 dollars on amazon and ebay which will be a great choice for you. If you want a X-FI card that badly then a PCI-E titanium non HD is $49 on ebay but you will need to pair it with a headphone amp like a schiit magi or a vali.
 
I have a friend which has a Z and a DT990 pro-250 and he enjoy it very much and is glad that I suggested the Z to him.  If you don't want a creative card, then a Used Xonar STX for $130 on ebay would be a alt choice and you can use Dolby headphone config correctly to get the virtual headphone for gaming.I seem to recall that CMSS3D headphone only work very well in OpenAL based games and in older games when you are using the alchemy software to convert Direct sound hall calls to OpenAL, any other games that are Xaudio2 or some other Sound Api it doesn't.. The Sound blaster Z has the same alchemy software option for older games but it has SBX surround headphone instead of CMSS3D headphone.   I don't suggest using the DG/X because it wont be a good match with the DT990 pro-250, That friend I mentioned had a DG, he didn't like the headphone at first til he moved to the Z.  When I tried my DGX with my Beyer-dynamic T90  while waiting for my Bi-frost, the DGX didn't pair that well with the T90.
 
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PurpleAngel

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  I've been asked to also look at the Titanium HD by Creative. What's your thoughts about it? I've seen it recommended a lot by lurking on different forums over time, what is it that makes it special?
 
The Titanium-HD will offer sound quality as good as any other sound card and comes with a lot of features processed by it's own audio processor.
But it's the last of it's series (X-Fi), so Creative Labs may not offer much in the way of driver updates in the future.
I would assume Creative Labs is putting more driver support towards the newer Z series.
 
Also with the Titanium-HD, for getting the best sound quality with headphones, you going to want to get an external headphone amplifier ($100 or more).
So your getting into the same price range as the Sound Blaster ZxR, which offers audio quality just as good (same DAC chip) as the Titanium-HD and comes with a fairly good built in headphone amplifier.
And the cheaper Sound blaster Z does provide a good value (CS4398 DAC chip) for it's low price (uses the same audio processor and drivers as the ZxR).
 
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