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Looking for PC audio help

  1. shoyu
    Looking for advice, suggestions, or recommendations please - I've always been quite passionate but have only recently splurged just a little bit on improving my gear for PC audio; so focussing 100% on PC only here.

    Previously I had integrated onboard motherboard audio (Realtek ALC887), Logitech Z-5500 speakers, and various Sony IEMs that aren't worth mentioning. I used to have dedicated Sound Blaster PCI 7.1 audio cards but didn't bother to upgrade when motherboards went PCI Express only. As far as I know the Logitech speakers were pretty good back in the day compared to other PC speakers.

    Recently after reading a number of user reviews and written guides I purchased a Sound Blaster X7 (non-limited) DAC/Amp, E-MU XM7 passive speakers, and a Sennheiser HD 660 S. This is one of my bigger spends in a long time when it comes to audio so was wondering if I've made a good first step or a bad one? Any comments would be appreciated!

    I'm mostly into pop music and some wannabe-professional gaming and movies on the side. What gear should I look at next if I was to take this even further (in improving audio quality)?
  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    We can assume you like the sound of the Sound blaster X7, with EMU XM7 speakers, better then the Z5500?
    I would assume the Sennheiser HD660S sounds great plugged into the X7?
  3. shoyu
    I feel the Sennheiser HD 660 S has taken me to new heights - when listening to music I _think_ I'm hearing additional instruments that I didn't hear before. I'm hearing a singer's breathing (into the microphone) a lot more than before. The HD660S sounds very balanced to me and I'm fairly pleased overall. It's a little difficult to compare as my previous go-to device were the Sony XBA-1 IEMs and they closed up my ears (sound isolation wise) whereas these headphones are open back. The other problem is most of my listening are from poor / average recordings or YouTube - I'm now in the process of going back to my CDs and ripping them to .FLAC files.

    Do any of my findings above make sense? Is the Sound blaster X7 a good enough match for the Sennheiser HD 660 S headphones?

    As for the X7 + E-MU XM7 speakers I need more time to come back and comment as I don't have them properly set up (my desk is too small for proper placement). My expectations at the moment are a lower noise floor, no hissing/background hum as I have with the Z-5500, perhaps crisper sounding but a lot less bass and loudness compared to the Z-5500...?
  4. Whazzzup
    Lots of folks start like this. Eventually you leave the computer out of it completely and go to stand alone components. Enjoy till then.
  5. tomb
    No offense, but you never leave the computer out of it these days. Even if you decided to purchase a sterling CD player (fast becoming dinosaurs), you're out of luck with high-res files. Or, if you bought a music server or DAC with internal hard drive, you're displacing the computer in name, only.

    A computer + DAC + Amplifier is the end game for headphones, even stats.
  6. Whazzzup
    Dude, there is a thing called music servers, dacs, pre amplifiers and upscalers. The iMac, iPad, iPhone are a remote. Take it slow, baby steps, lots of reading to be done. Saving then spending too if you want. Enjoy the sound blaster...this poster comes from a country with one of the best server makers in the world.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
  7. tomb
    No offense "dude," but you need to read more carefully. :)
  8. shoyu
    May I assume stand alone components are the only way to improve the X7 + HD660S combo further?

    Or to re-phrase my question, what should I have purchased or perhaps look into next, if I was to improve my PC audio further than this combination?
  9. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Unless you can say what your currently lacking in the audio, or looking for a change (details) in audio, it might be difficult to advice you.
    Guess one thing you could try is a tube headphone amplifier, connected to the line-output on the X7.
    Or list a budget for audio improvements?
    shoyu likes this.
  10. theveterans
    Computer uses so many handles and threads that those will affect the audio performance even if you're streaming "bit-perfect", ASIO etc. If you remove those unnecessary processes buy using a stand-alone component e.g. dedicated music server, you'll improve your audio quality.

    Another way is to strip the OS with Fidelizer program in purist mode
    shoyu likes this.
  11. shoyu
    With the X7 --> XM7 I seem to be severely lacking bass. Reading online it seems a good option for me might be the Polk PSW10 but it's no longer available in New Zealand.

    With the X7 --> HD660S I don't seem to be lacking anything - it seems rather well rounded to my untrained ears. But philosophically... should I know what I'm lacking if I have not heard of anything better? :p One thing I can't seem to reach is the "in your head" female vocal sound signature that one could get with the UE Super Fi 3 Studio IEMs -- my brother has a pair of these and I'm jealous everytime I listen to them.

    I have spent close to $1000 so far; while I don't have a budget I wouldn't really want to spend another $1000 just to improve the setup ever so slightly (hope that makes sense!).
  12. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I'm guessing the Creative Lab XM7 speakers are the weakest link.
    For the price you paid for the X7, you could have gotten a stereo speaker amplifier, that was better at driving speakers (best guess).
    Any chance you could return the X7 and XM7?
    Could you list any and all brands of speakers you would have access to?
    The HD660S could be plugged into the headphone jack of a stereo amplifier/receiver.
    shoyu likes this.
  13. shoyu
    Thanks for your suggestions. Do we suspect the X7 is weak in the amp department? It has a line-out so I think that means I can purchase a stereo speaker amplifier or use active speakers; but I'm not sure that's the problem. The XM7s sound great, it's just the bass is severely lacking and adding a subwoofer might fix that. I will go back and listen to my Z-5500 so I can hear what else is missing - a bit hard to tell immediately when there is no side-by-side comparison.

    I could probably return the X7 but then I would still need to buy a better DAC (to replace motherboard audio) too. The all-in-one headphone amp and virtual surround sound were the main reasons that got me to purchase them in the first place.
  14. theveterans
    No need to replace your DAC. Just add an active subwoofer with a high pass filter and you should get thumping bass
    shoyu likes this.
  15. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Sound Blaster Z sound card (used $70)
    Hifimediy optical DAC ($70)
    Darkvoice 336SE tube headphone amp ($250)
    Darkvoice line-output could be connected to a Stereo speaker amplifier.
    PC(SB-Z) optical > Hifimediy > Darkvoice
    The SB-Z card will process headphone surround sound.

    But yea, just adding a sub-woofer to what you currently have will work.
    shoyu likes this.

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