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gaming audiophiles!

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by meatwad, Nov 4, 2009.
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  1. meatwad
    So I am faced with a dilemma. I play a lot of video games, but I want my music to sound awesome. I currently have a Creative X-Fi Xtremegamer. It does pretty well in terms of gaming, as far as positional sound and all that... i don't ask much out of it other than the EAX options in most games. to be completely frank, I don't really know how much of a difference the EAX makes, which is worth considering.

    And at the same time, this card leaves a lot to be desired, musically. It's definitely not top-shelf music material, and I feel like it is a bottleneck in my system. I have Sennheiser HD580 (thanks Koven!) and HD280s, which I haven't really used at all since getting the 580s. And, I have an ever-growing collection of flac / 320kbps / vbr music library, and I really find myself sticking to this music over the low-to-mid bitrate stuff I've acquired over the years. I do not currently have a dedicated desktop amp, but that's on my purchase list for the near future.

    I have been looking at the Little Dot amps... at first I thought the MkIII would be a good choice as the price is great, tubes could be fun to play around with and it has received a lot of positive feedback. Then I read another review praising the virtues of the MkV, which I have to say looks like a very appealing amp. I am leaning toward the MkV for its dual inputs, which brings me to my next point.

    On one hand I don't want to lose the gaming "performance" of my sound card, so I don't want to completely ditch sound cards entirely and go straight to a USB DAC. But as it stands my current sound card does not have the nicer outputs, and it isn't all that great of a DAC I guess. Some people have mentioned using two sound cards - one for games, and one for their music and junk. I guess you can assign your computer to send certain programs to either sound card. So, I could have games all run on the X-Fi, and everything else run on a sound card that's better for music, which could well be a USB DAC. The Little Dot seems like a fantastic amp for this position because with the two inputs that can be easily switched to and from on the amp, I could keep both the X-Fi and the other DAC hooked up simultaneously and switch back and forth as needed - the idea of crawling around under my desk every time I want to go from game to music and back to game is a ridiculous idea that I will not entertain [​IMG]

    But maybe I could get the best of both worlds with a great sound card that doesn't skimp on game features, yet can still be great for music. Cards that come to mind are the ASUS and the HT Omega Claro cards. The Claro Halo has the built-in headphone amp, which is appealing as I could use the built-in headphone amp for a while, until I wanted to upgrade further. And, pretty much any sound card just a bit nicer than mine will have the fancier outputs for upgrades even beyond that.


    is there a way for the sound card to do the game processing, but skip the DAC part, if that makes sense? I don't know. For any gamers out there that have faced this dilemma, I would appreciate feedback. Especially if you went from an X-Fi card to anything else, and how you think that effected (or didn't effect) gaming performance!
     
  2. iamthecheese
    I use to have an Xfi platinum before i got my current DAC and I actually ended up pretty surprised at how well it handles positional audio. I can still easily tell where people are in tf2 and zombies in l4d2. I don't regret my switch at all, but ymmv.
     
  3. forciano
    I just purchased some Sen HD 650, and a used darkvoice 336se amp, which i use with my X-FI Elite PRO.

    There is already an increase in the soundstage (just played fear and the positional sound is pretty good), and music sounds pretty darn good to me.

    Of course I plan to buy the Asus Essence ST (if it ever comes out in the US) which i think should give me the best of both worlds.

    And I always been more of a gamer, I love music but It will be for when i browse the web.
     
  4. momomo6789 Contributor
    i do forte -> rca coaxial out 3d-cmss -> re1 -> phoenix ^_^

    you can buy or make a mini -> rca cable for cheap
     
  5. ear8dmg
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by iamthecheese /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    I use to have an Xfi platinum before i got my current DAC and I actually ended up pretty surprised at how well it handles positional audio. I can still easily tell where people are in tf2 and zombies in l4d2. I don't regret my switch at all, but ymmv.



    Hardly surprising. Steam games have their own audio engine (unusually including headphone option) and don't use the proprietary X-Fi tech. Unless you were using 5.1 or 7.1 in game with CMSS-3D I would expect it to sound pretty much the same.

    To the OP - I think the Xtreme Gamer has a mini-optical out. How about a DAC / amp with optical in?
     
  6. Anonanimal
    I've never had a single complaint about the positional audio in Crysis, etc. on my M-Audio 192. You may not like the more studio-oriented connectivity though.
     
  7. bangraman Contributor
    These days I have separate machines for this sort of thing, but assuming you're in stereo on the X-Fi, you can route the analog sound from your X-Fi through to another (pro, external) soundcard (I use/d the RME Fireface 800) and use that as the primary output.


    Foobar, j.River, etc allow you to target which soundcard you'll be using for output. You set the default soundcard as the X-Fi, and set the pro soundcard as the target in your playback app. All you have to remember to do is the mute the input for the X-Fi when cranking up your media player.


    This means that the pro soundcard will reproduce stereo gaming audio by proxy when you're in games, and reproduce music direct when you're using your media player.
     
  8. 43st
    I'd recommend trying the Forte's onboard amp and your headphones. Great for gaming, and great amp for the price.
     
  9. spacemanspliff
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by 43st /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    I'd recommend trying the Forte's onboard amp and your headphones. Great for gaming, and great amp for the price.



    X2 Just go with that.

    If not, get a really good used receiver with dolby headphone and dts.

    My Headphone amp weighs 80lbs...Seriously.
     
  10. meatwad
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ear8dmg /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    Hardly surprising. Steam games have their own audio engine (unusually including headphone option) and don't use the proprietary X-Fi tech. Unless you were using 5.1 or 7.1 in game with CMSS-3D I would expect it to sound pretty much the same.

    To the OP - I think the Xtreme Gamer has a mini-optical out. How about a DAC / amp with optical in?




    i believe it does have an optical-out but that also doubles as the mic-in. i don't know why, but apparently Creative thinks that makes sense. oh well. i guess i could plug the mic into the front panel connectors, but I had some weird issues with that and unplugged the front - maybe that's the route I'll take.

    And yeah, Steam does use their own engine for positional audio. so I guess as it is now, the only time I use the X-Fi really is when I play something else. which honestly is not that often. if I play 50 hours of games in a week, 40-45 of them will be in Left 4 Dead...
     
  11. iamthecheese
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ear8dmg /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    Hardly surprising. Steam games have their own audio engine (unusually including headphone option) and don't use the proprietary X-Fi tech. Unless you were using 5.1 or 7.1 in game with CMSS-3D I would expect it to sound pretty much the same.

    To the OP - I think the Xtreme Gamer has a mini-optical out. How about a DAC / amp with optical in?




    Well I guess that explains why I havent noticed a difference, most every game I play is source game.
     
  12. FallenAngel Contributor
    Using 3D-CMSS headphone mode on my X-Fi has greatly improved positioning in L4D and CS:S over 2-channel direct transports. Just make sure to turn all that stuff off and use "Audio Creation Mode" when listening to music.
     
  13. lxxl
    If you have the same exact Xtremegamer as I do (there is 2 different version), you can use optical out and then to an external dac/amp that'll take optical. I still have all the features of X-Fi and the awesome sounds from my external dac/amp.

    If you have the same version sound card, you can easily tell by looking at the back of the card and there's is a red light showing the back of it, however you'll need a TOSlink adapter which it doesn't come with the card.
     
  14. bangraman Contributor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by FallenAngel /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    Using 3D-CMSS headphone mode on my X-Fi has greatly improved positioning in L4D and CS:S over 2-channel direct transports. Just make sure to turn all that stuff off and use "Audio Creation Mode" when listening to music.



    Which is why I did the above. No need to double-check everything.
     
  15. meatwad
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lxxl /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    If you have the same exact Xtremegamer as I do (there is 2 different version), you can use optical out and then to an external dac/amp that'll take optical. I still have all the features of X-Fi and the awesome sounds from my external dac/amp.

    If you have the same version sound card, you can easily tell by looking at the back of the card and there's is a red light showing the back of it, however you'll need a TOSlink adapter which it doesn't come with the card.




    I have the same version of the card that you do, with the red light. Where did you get your TOSlink adapter? and since that's the same port used for the mic-in line, what did you do for your microphone? did you plug in your front panel for the mic?

    Just so I'm clear on this... if I use optical-out from my sound card to an external DAC, what is my sound card still doing, and what is it handing over to the DAC? is the card still processing all the audio within games and such, and just sending the digital to analogue conversion job out to the DAC?
     
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