Good headphones, good computer, terrible sound quality!

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  1. Teapott
    Hullo. I am having some terrible sound quality issues (extreme muffling across whole range, differing based on whats being listened to), here is the need to know. So I have recently experienced using Beyer DT 990 250 Ohm Pro, V Moda Crossfade LP2, and now currently Senn HD6 Mix (and an old pair of $30 Philips just for good sample size). I have used them all off my new computer which has a Z370 AORUS Gaming 7 mobo, and this is listed as using the following "121dB SNR AMP-UP Audio with RealTek ALC1220 & High-End ESS SABRE 9018 DAC with WIMA audio capacitors" and advertised as providing "a pure yet powerful sound".

    The problem in quality is that certain music/genres/songs sound extremely bad (IE: muffled) relative to others, and I have played with the on board windows equalizer presets on everything I find issue with (basically everything). Some tracks and video games sound less muffled typically around the soft and powerful presets. I have to replay every troubled song over and over just to find an exact preset that makes it sound less muffled and not like I'm hearing it on cheap garbage, but even then? It still doesn't sound good, and even leaves an audio impression that there is a band aid over a deeper issue.

    When it comes to video games it becomes the worst. Every game I try sounds worse than the worst sounding music with this issue. Muffle evolves from one room away to two away and under a few blankets. If games present a source option I have already ensured that it is not on surround. Attempting to equalize the games is fool hardy, the equalizer accomplishes even less with them and the cover up sound becomes even more apparent when fiddled with (messy, distorted, and while sounding less worse, it also still sounds far away from natural). Basically, it sounds like something is very wrong with a software setting or hardware itself that I can't determine, and no amount of equalizer can cover it up (my best way of defining "band-aided" sound).

    Only solution so far, when I plug into my tiny cheap old logitech speakers, I don't even need the equalizer as much. While I can hear the hiss in silence and the reduction in overall quality, the over all muffle almost disappears, the lows, the mids, the highs, all of it brightens and sounds like the sound is in my room and not the room over. I'm hoping you can educate me on why cheap speakers would unmuffle HD6s much less any of the headphones I've used. Is it some impedance interaction thing I don't understand? Does plugging into my speakers possibly bypass either an incorrect audio setting or something else in the hardware?

    And let me clarify, after extensive googling I have already verified that all audio enhancements, aside from the equalizer setting I use, are off on every audio device, and that I made sure that all devices were configured for stereo and not in surround which I know is a culprit for many people. The strange thing? This is exactly what the muffle issue sounds like, the muffle sounds like surround sound is on screwing with everything but extra bad than it normally does.

    I cannot find much detailed and accurate talk about audio experiences with different mobos to even come up with an answer on my own. I couldn't find anything resembling my issue at all particularly about all video game sound being even more muffled than other audio. My biggest fear is that this is a bad mobo for audiophile sound quality even though it's advertised as such.
     
  2. cossix
    I can't think of an excuse as to why everything is muffled but for the record, mobo manufacturers let their marketing department write the descriptions of the product so buying one because it says it has good sound quality is somewhat pointless because they all say that. I've never come across a motherboard that's worthy of being in the same sentence as the word "audiophile" but unfortunately many people believe the claims on the box.

    That being said, many motherboard dac chips are actually decent. Your board definitely shouldn't be putting out a muffled sound. Have you tried turning off the EQ as well just for the sake of testing? I see you turned off enhancements which is good but the best way to test is to go all out and disable every extra audio setting.

    When you say you've disabled enhancements, do you mean through windows settings or through your motherboard program settings? It's worth checking both, as many motherboards have their own program to control settings and may have weird audio things enabled by default. Worst case, open up the BIOS at launch and see if there is an audio menu in there that may be messing with things.

    Dumb question but somebody has to ask. How are you plugging everything in? Just list the signal chain (similar to this):

    PC motherboard "headphone out" > 3.5mm cable > headphone

    ^^Just to see what things you are using that could be messing with things
     
  3. MindsMirror
    It's possible that when with all of the motherboard's effects turned off, they are still messing with the sound. There are some devices which have "bypass" modes that intentionally make the sound worse, so that the difference is more dramatic when you enable the device. I haven't heard of a motherboard doing this, but it might be possible. I'd make sure all enhancements are truly disabled using the setting in the Windows control panel.
     
  4. atarione
    hello,

    you are not using the front panel audio jacks on your case are you? these are very frequently basically TERRIBLE.. poorly shielded prone to hiss / rf interference etc..

    since you say the speakers are hissing they are picking up noise from something .. ground loop. are the outlets the pc is hooked up to properly grounded? my old laptop's charger would make my speakers hiss when it was plugged in for example.. solution was to move laptop's power supply to a different outlet from amps / speakers ..

    how is the wiring in your pc case? I'd take a look and see if any wires running near the audio components can be moved away if possible..

    If it was my computer and you haven't already I'd download the newest realtek drivers for the audio from realtek's website (rather than ASUS's drivers which may or may not be out of date).

    http://www.realtek.com.tw/downloads...=24&Level=4&Conn=3&DownTypeID=3&GetDown=false


    part of the problem is the RF interference .. I'd try to track that down by unplugging anything else plugged into the same power outlets / same circuit as the pc one at a time and see if the hiss goes away / try the speakers with you phone and see if they still hiss.. because it might just be those speakers being somewhat noisy also (so try that first.. move them to another outlet and try them with your phone or whatever and see if they still hiss).
     
  5. Teapott
    Your simple question of what jack I'm using has proved the biggest help. Its a massive heavy case and I never bothered to plug my phones into the back since its difficult to move without help. I figured I may as well try that. Well, turns out the back jack has twice the power/volume as the front and using the back sounded closer to natural quality, though now I cannot determine if the sound still has a muffle in the back and would need another source to compare sound quality to make sure its not just a bad mobo amp over all. And yes I had also tested without EQ and ensuring all possible modifiers were disabled to determine how my headphones naturally sound. I checked my BIOS for any options, there was no audio options anywhere, and I cannot find where I can access any program or settings for the mobo itself.

    I installed RealTek audio manager as people who commonly had zero sound or noise from a front jack advised disabling "front jack detection" on it which fixed that for people, but did nothing for my issue.
     
  6. Teapott
    I've double checked within control panel settings, they bring you to the exact same options of playback device properties. If there are other options somewhere else I couldn't find any or find on google where I might look.

    I will do the test with different outlets, thank you Atarione. I also had already installed the latest and even other versions of realtek drivers to no avail, rolled them back, and just in case, fully reset my computer before I send it back to the shop, to no avail.

    I spoke with one of the techs and they said that the first thing he thought of was a loose or damaged wire. If its not that then it must be the mobo, poor shielding, or damage to the jack or something between the two.

    So next big question. If I buy an amp/dac etc will that help me get a better quality sound with my current computer? Will that bypass my mobo amp or will it still be affected by the source (this is new territory for me)? Do I need anything else to achieve that? Yeah I'm mad I bought an expensive computer that so far doesn't sound great, but if it takes getting a separate setup for my toons I'm about ready to invest in that. It cracks me up I tried a mac hooked up with a scarlet at Guitar Center with the same HD6 and they sounded far better on it, I know that set up sounded different, cleaner and more powerful, and they told me there wasn't even an amp involved. *shrug*
     
  7. Teapott
    I need to repost this gem that I found hidden in amazon reviews on my mobo. I usually take bad reviews with a shaker of salt but after my experience I believe them and I'd definitely recommend that audio loving people stay away from this board.

    "Bad audio implementation: It works just fine, but ESS Sabre DAC does not sound like that bass cannon you've just implemented.
    Muffled and bass overwhelming sound.
    Dre Beats owners will appreciate that, but you could not be more misleading with your description.
    Also that so called "creative 720" is nothing compared to real creative software, when using optical to external DAC/amp this is just useless crap."

    Am I to take it that they mean a DAC/amp can not help this mobo?

    Also can someone explain why when I plug my headphones into the back of the pc I can only get so much volume, but when I plug headphones into (although cheap and not powerful) speakers going into the back, I can get ten times the volume and the quality is still fantastic? I thought bad speakers would also make headphones sound bad but boy they can thump these phones without sounding bad or muddy to me to an extremely unsafe range.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2017
  8. cossix
    So the reason plugging into the back helps a bit is because that headphone jack goes straight into the motherboard. The front panel has wires that snake their way through the case before going into the motherboard and they can pick up electrical interference and make everything sound hissy or buzzy.

    An external dac/amp will fix that completely. A Schiit Fulla 2 is a good buy at $100 and will solve all your problems. It's a nice small unit and easy to fit wherever.

    The reason the Mac sounded better was probably just because it wasn't picking up interference. It also sounds like your mobo just doesn't have a good dac and amp built in. That's why building your own desktop is better than buying a pre-built one (and cheaper) :p

    When the reviewers say all that stuff, they mean the mobo sucks for audio and the only way to save it it buying an external dac and amp. See section above.

    You have a few options. Buy an external dac and amp, buy a new mobo (more expensive and waste of time compared to your other options) or continue using headphones out of your speakers.

    A quick question about that though, are the speakers the kind that plug into the wall for power or are they powered by the USB port
     
  9. Teapott
    My largest info break though so far is that in researching the actual components of the board, I've found a very large amount of people bashing on the RealTek drivers as garbage and pretty much in every case, people would buy sound cards to bypass it and claimed to get improvements. Would a DAC/amp still be using these drivers, or does a DAC have its own?

    This was no pre-built, this is my custom built dream gaming rig with almost $3,000 in parts and service by the end of it. You can see why I would be furious. I would have even had a different motherboard if it were not one of the techs on the floor helping me that said "Hey look this mobo is even higher end with a better amp on it and its on sale you should get this" lol. And the speakers appear to be an older model of wall powered Logitech S120, but I would not continue to use them over better options since their noise is so detracting.

    Is the Fulla 2 appropriate for all headphones in the 50-250 Ohm range? I'm looking at all my options with Schitt. What would a Magni 3 and Modi 2 together offer over the Fulla? I'm pretty overwhelmed in info atm learning new things and trying to figure out what would be the difference in features and what I want and need with the future in mind. Also the stack of them together just looks more sexy, specially with that Loki. I couldn't afford all 3 right now so it'd have to be either a Fulla and Loki, or Magni 3/Modi 2(still unclear if its my amp or DAC that needs replaced) and Loki. Will I have to add a line out to my computer for them? I'm also looking at your gaming setup, I just got my HD 579 in yesterday to compare with the HD6, do you have a good computer dac then and what is it? Or is that going through the Jotunheim? And what would the Scarlett be for?

    Here is something else. On the page for the mobo it shows a "Smart Headphone AMP - Automatically detects impedance of your head-worn audio device, whether earbuds or high-end headphones to provide optimal audio dynamics—preventing issues such as low volume and distortion". I'm wondering if this device could be the cause of the very issues it's advertised to avoid. Under the tab "Learn more about Aorus Audio" https://www.gigabyte.com/Motherboard/Z370-AORUS-Gaming-7-rev-10#kf
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2017
  10. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Check and see if there is any virtual surround simulation running and disable it. If that helps with music then go and make sure all your games are on 2ch mode on the game menu. Normally that would be an advantage in games (surround simulation enabled, game set to 5.1 output for the DSP to reprocess into 2ch with space simulating reverb and crossfeed effects), but in your case hearing sound effects like they're coming from several rooms going through walls like in what it might sound like in real life if you're having a shoot out in a building is distracting to you, then you might as well not use that feature.
     
  11. Teapott
    I've checked every game for audio settings, not all of them even have options for stereo/headphone/surround, but I still have my issue on ones that do, so I think it is safe to say that this is a motherboard component quality issue (or hopefully a very stupid hidden software/mobo/bio option I can't find). I've heard surround in games on my older computer, this is definitely not that, this is tinny, cheap, and muffled (firing my OWN guns in Desinty 2 sounds like I'm hearing it's source over in my kitchen on cheap cans, also strangely I have found that using using loudness equalization DOES help my video game sound a slight bit, but not the over all sound quality, and obviously that setting comes with its own issues of often being inaccurate and destroying the stage).

    Finally, have been able to hear what my HD6/HD 579s relatively actually sound like on my parents mac. No I don't mean its the best thing I've heard, but I do mean it sounds better then my $2.7k computer and didn't require an equalizer just to not be awful. lol It comparatively sounded so much cleaner, powerful, and BALANCED. Something is definitely screwy with my hardware!
     
  12. cossix
    Definitely your mobo audio section. An external dac like the Modi 2 will fix that and bypass your motherboard audio hardware. But you also need an amp with the Modi 2 because a DAC is too weak to power headphones. The Schiit Stack will bypass whatever is causing the issue and everything will sound tighter, cleaner, and more balanced, with extra detail. Can't go wrong with it.

    For my stuff since you asked, the Scarlett Solo is to power my AT2035 condenser mic because it needs phantom power 48V to work. The Solo also powers my 598 and let's me hear what my mic sounds like while I'm using it which is helpful
     
  13. Teapott
    Thanks you've been a real help! Will the Fulla/Magni be adequate for headphones 50 to over 250 Ohms (what would be its limit)?
     
  14. cossix
    It's not as simple as saying "the Magni will power headphones up to xxx ohms" but the Magni 3 is a damn powerful amp and will be perfect for whatever you throw at it, minus a select few headphones that are notoriously hard to drive (but even then it'll still sound OK). The Fulla 2 is less powerful but one of the best combo units at 100 bucks. It'll power most headphones just fine.
     
  15. Teapott
    I think I'm about to buy the Modi and Magni, I can't find any specs on it if it includes any cables, will I need to buy my own RCA and USB connections?
     
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