Gaming options, sound car or external DAC

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by l0rdraiden, Oct 19, 2017.
  1. l0rdraiden
    I have been reading different threads in the forum, here and there and I still have a few questions that I would like to clarify.

    I own now a HD 599, I have a AT MSR7 as well but I prefer the first one for gaming.
    I mostly use the PC for gaming, for movies I have a home theater and I barely hear music or use the pc for that purpose.

    The first thing is about sound cards, Hi-Fi sound card vs "Gaming" sound card.
    The only thing that "gaming" adds that could be useful for me is the virtual surround sound, but I never like it and I think it doesn't help a lot to add realism or to locate enemies, unless there is a tech that I haven't tried and works really well. What is your opinion on this?

    And then if you have to choose between an external DAC and a Sound card, which one and why?
    If I choose an external DAC with S/PDIF can I still add surround effects that comes with the pc integrated card? or the S/PDIF signal is "pure" and bypasses everything?
    What future proof DACS would be interesting in my case?

    Any experience or though around this is welcome.

    EDIT: can someone fix the title? car->card. Thanks
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017
  2. selvakumar
  3. l0rdraiden
  4. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Your motherboard comes with the Realtek ALC S1220S audio processor (DSP chip), which provides the DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) function.
    The minimum you would have to spend to make a noticeable improvement might not be easy to answer.
    A Creative Labs Sound Blaster Z sound card (used, $60) or a FiiO Q1 MK II ($100) or Schiit Fulla 2 ($100), should easy equal, if not better(?), the audio quality of your motherboard.
    If you did spend a lot on an external DAC/amp, you would notice an improvement.
    What is your budget, for audio improvement?
  5. selvakumar
    onboard sound is not as good as external DAC new Realtek chips are good but to drive higher impedance headphone Dac Required
  6. l0rdraiden
    no more than 150€
  7. selvakumar
    then get ODAC 2
  8. PurpleAngel Contributor
    150 Euros (177 USD).
    Guess the FiiO Q1 Mark II ($100 USD) would be a good safe buy.
  9. NamelessPFG
    Personally, I feel that virtual surround is indispensable and critical for my gaming enjoyment, but that's because it works on my ears and head without needing anything too exotic. You said it doesn't work for you, so chances are the only things that might work well are hideously expensive, personalized setups like the Smyth Realiser.

    There's also a few PC games that benefit from sound card DSPs, but those are all over a decade old. Sometimes two decades. If you're not into retrogaming, you might as well get some kinda external DAC that works without any driver kerfuffles and call it a day.
  10. l0rdraiden
    Which surround tech do you use for gaming?
  11. selvakumar
    usually, surround sound are not support by games and the good pair of stereo headphone with DAC is pretty good
  12. NamelessPFG
    CMSS-3D Headphone from a proper hardware-accelerated X-Fi card in Game Mode, usually.

    The main exception is if I fire up my retrogaming box and boot into Win98SE for certain old games that don't like modern computers and versions of Windows, then it's Aureal A3D in headphone mode. Too bad Creative had to sue 'em to death.

    I'll have to sit down for a while and review Sennheiser's virtual surround implementation in the GSX 1000 for the next few weeks, though. First impressions are that it's pretty good for driverless virtual 7.1, but that's just speaker testing, not actual gameplay yet.
  13. Jiv_au
    DAC or amp?
    I always thought HP impedance was dependent on the amp.

    I use a software called Spatial Sound Card (SSC) from Steam that performs:
    - HRTF for positional audio
    - Reflection / Reverberation

    The first time I used it I thought the sound was coming from my two front desktop speakers rather than my HP.

    It presents itself as a 5.1 or 7.1 system to a games, then seems to processes the sound from those channels into binaural audio.
    The only drawback is that some sounds become slightly distorted.

    My audio is the Realtek S1220A + OpAmp on an Asus Strix Z270 mobo.
    I'm upgrading this to a O2+SDAC DAC/amp soon, to see if there is improvements to be had as most people suggest.

    I think a lot of people have voted the Sennheiser GSX 1000 as the best for positional audio, but not so good as an amp.
    If the amp was a bit better I'd purchase it instead of the O2+SDAC. Hoping Sennheiser would come out with an improved version.
  14. NamelessPFG
    I actually fed the GSX 1000 into the aux input on my X-Fi Titanium HD so I could record the 7.1 mixed output for anyone to listen to, and that's when the high noise floor suddenly struck me. It's not obvious when using a headset directly, but a sound card with decent line-in will ruthlessly expose it. Oh, and it's not the kind of noise that muting the GSX 1000 will fix, either; it's inherent to the analog audio circuitry.

    For comparison, I quickly unplugged the aux cable from my GSX 1000 and jacked it into my Galaxy Note 8, and that thing had a practically dead silent noise floor despite not being an audiophile phone the same way the LG V-series models are. Line-in level meter barely budged from the bottom.

    That definitely backs up my current impression that the GSX 1000, as it is, needs to be about $100 less before I can see it seriously taking off, because for $200+, I do expect cleaner analog output alongside the nice virtual 7.1 DSP. It's not enough of an advantage when an internal sound card provides both clean analog output and headphone virtual surround at less than half the price.

    But once they do, well, I think their implementation just dethroned everyone else (barring exotic stuff like the Smyth Realiser) for most games released in the last decade, where 7.1 speakers' worth of positioning is all you get. It's that good. I even thought I had it switched to the speaker passthrough at one point when listening to music, and I actually didn't; it was just in 7.1 virtualization mode. Best of all, it's "driverless" (in quotes because it's technically just using the OS-provided USB audio device drivers), and only needs some quick adjustment in the Windows sound settings (or macOS Audio MIDI Setup) to ensure that it's defaulting to the device's "Speakers" output and with 7.1 enabled. Set and forget.

    If you're wondering why I'd feed the GSX 1000 output into a sound card input, it's because I can't think of any other way to properly capture its virtual surround - an important part of demonstrating it via stream soon.

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