New to Computer Audio: Looking for some advice.
Jan 10, 2009 at 7:38 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 34

A Lemon Demon

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Hello I have been lurking for a few days, but I have not made any posts yet - I am an Amateur in this field, although I certainly would like to change that since I enjoy music and appreciate beautiful sounds!

I am not sure I fully understand how exactly things work just yet, and I am not sure where to find a basic enough overview to fully be able to understand everything that I need to know in order to have some good sounds come out of my computer.

A good friend handed me his old AKG K701s because he no longer needed them, this is what sparked my interest. Now I obviously do not have a rig setup to fully be able to enjoy these 'cans'.

My primary media center is my computer (which is actually relatively high end in most respects, aside from its audio performance). I do not know where the quality of the hardware is compared and how exactly things work. The first thing I did when I got these new cans was that I plugged them into my sound card, a "Creative Sounblaster Audigy 2"

Well, they sound okay to me - but I don't really know if they sound okay "objectively" for I do not have any high quality audio equipment to compare it to. From what I have gathered around the forums is that I will need a power AMP, and maybe even a DAC to make them sound better as I may be hearing a lot of distortion, which I am unaware off due to my own ignorance.

My primary use would be music in general, even though I occasionally play video games, and do enjoy a good sound there, too, but I listen to music most of the day. I am unsure whether the genre's matter, but I enjoy a wide variety from classical to jazz, rock, metal and even reggae. I occasionally even listen to rap and techno.

So I come here for advice. How does my sound card rank? Does it supply my cans with enough energy, or is what I am hearing distorted? If I need some dire upgrades, what should I buy to do the cans justice that is within a $100-$200 budget. How big of a difference is there between $200 equipment and $4,000 equipment for my untrained ear?

Thank you folks in advance
k701smile.gif
k701smile.gif
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 11:13 AM Post #2 of 34

poo

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^ I think you need to research some of the basics first. Use the search feature to search your sound card model first. Then look up 'bitperfect', find out what a DAC is and why it matters, search AKG 701 and sift through some of the larger threads, let us know what OS you're using and make sure you have the correct settings for that OS...

That should get you started, then post back with a few questions as you go.

No offence intended here - just that you are asking about some very broad and much answered topics.
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 11:28 AM Post #3 of 34

A Lemon Demon

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Thank you.

I looked up bit-perfect which is apparently the way sound comes from the computer "By bypassing the Windows KMixer and running either ASIO or Kernel Streaming, [and] ensuring that you are hearing the music as it was encoded on the CD." This may not be necessary, as I do not always listen to music from CDs.

A DAC is a digital to analog converter. I am unsure why it matters, I would assume that signal the headphone jack spits out from my computer would be the proper format and would no longer require any converting: I may be wrong. Perhaps you can elaborate? A DAC would be there to bypass the sound card? If so, why?

I am using Windows Vista.

I read into several threads on the AKG 701, and most people suggested using an amp, as a must.


So my questions now, are, do I need a DAC then or not? Is an amp really imperative? It does seem to sound fine, but what do I know? I have nothing to compare to.
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 11:56 AM Post #4 of 34

poo

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Keep reading... but to answer a few of your queries, a DAC matters because it is the thing that turns digital data into music. Regardless of what device you use to listen to digital audio (including CD, MP3, lossless audio like FLAC or ALAC etc), that device uses a DAC. That includes your sound card. The point is, it is one of the devices that can make your audio sound better. An external DAC is usually the way to go when looking for a DAC upgrade, though it is not necessarily the place for you to start.

Read this: Computer Audio Playback - Setup Guide - Benchmark and set your computer up based on what your system is comprised of. It's a good starting point.

If you do nothing else, don't buy anything yet! Try before you buy as much as possible. Your ears are different to everyone elses and will hear things very differently.

And last of all - if it sounds good to you - then it sounds good! Don't go looking too hard to find out why others think it might sound bad - just enjoy the music and appreciate what you have. The 701'a are a great pair of headphones.
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 12:47 PM Post #5 of 34

A Lemon Demon

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Thank you, I have followed your configuration advice.

Is there any way I can tell wether I would like these headphones better with an AMP? The problem I have is that I don't know how they would alter the sound - it could be better, it could be worse. They seem loud enough, but I do not know how much distortion there is (or if there is any distortion at all) since my old pair of headphones were $20 and I am sure they are not very good to help me objectively assess the situation.

So essentially the question boils down to, how do I know if I need an amp, or not?
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 1:57 PM Post #6 of 34

scytheavatar

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Yes, without a doubt you will need an amp, the K701's performance is very dependent on its source and without the correct source you'll be struggling to hear any bass. The Creative soundcards are all third-rate sources without any modding.

That's why the K701 is very unsuitable for an audio n00b, not only is it picky about its source the end product is something that wouldn't appeal to all audiophiles. Only those who know what they want will enjoy those phones.

You might want to visit the headphone buyers guide and seek headphones which are more easy to drive:

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f4/hea...-guide-271258/
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 2:00 PM Post #7 of 34

analogbox

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Just get a Mac Mini or Macbook and a Apogee Duet and you got yourself a pretty awesome rig.
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 2:19 PM Post #8 of 34

A Lemon Demon

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Quote:

Originally Posted by scytheavatar /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Yes, without a doubt you will need an amp, the K701's performance is very dependent on its source and without the correct source you'll be struggling to hear any bass. The Creative soundcards are all third-rate sources without any modding.

That's why the K701 is very unsuitable for an audio n00b, not only is it picky about its source the end product is something that wouldn't appeal to all audiophiles. Only those who know what they want will enjoy those phones.

You might want to visit the headphone buyers guide and seek headphones which are more easy to drive:

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f4/hea...-guide-271258/



I'll learn =)

That's what life is all about!

So, since my sound card is not particularly good, if I get, say one of those iBasso D2s (or the Headroom 'sTotal Bithead) that I have been hearing about (DAC and AMP), would I be good to go? Or is that still not enough?
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 2:22 PM Post #9 of 34

A Lemon Demon

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Quote:

Originally Posted by analogbox /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Just get a Mac Mini or Macbook and a Apogee Duet and you got yourself a pretty awesome rig.
smily_headphones1.gif



That is a little too costly for a poor man like me
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 2:33 PM Post #10 of 34

dmashta

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i guess there's no way to know without trying one out. while i will tell you that a decent dac/amp will definitely improve the sound, i also know that some people just don't care much and are perfectly happy listening to 128kbps mp3 out of their computer headphone out. i gave my brother a hd600 and ibasso d3 (which by the way is a very decent portable dac+amp in your price range) for xmas. he kept the headphones but sent back the d3 saying he can't tell the difference and don't need it. *shudder* even though it cost him nothing! he was happy using the headphones straight out of his laptop HP out. so there, ignorance/indifference is bliss.

so my suggestion is to try one out and decide for yourself. depending where you live, there are many stores that offer a 30-day return policy. you'll only lose out on shipping costs if you decide to return it but that's a small price to pay.
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 2:40 PM Post #11 of 34

analogbox

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Quote:

Originally Posted by A Lemon Demon /img/forum/go_quote.gif
That is a little too costly for a poor man like me
smily_headphones1.gif



Actually, it's not. Granted, you can have a basic computer audio rig for as little as $100 but to have a decent rig, you'd have to spend money on a soundcard, DAC and amp which could easily add up to over $1000. On the other hand, Mac Mini + Apogee duet will cost about $1100 which is about the same as you would with the other mentioned method. If you could get used gears on top of that, you'd be able to stay well below a thousand mark.
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 2:44 PM Post #12 of 34

analogbox

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If you want to stay mid-fi, you could either get a DAC with a integrated headphone out such as Zero DAC or Emu 0404 which you could do below $200.
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 2:46 PM Post #13 of 34

dmashta

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Quote:

Originally Posted by analogbox /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Just get a Mac Mini or Macbook and a Apogee Duet and you got yourself a pretty awesome rig.
smily_headphones1.gif



OP already has a capable computer and not looking for a new one. not to mention a $200 budget. if you had read that, would you still suggest getting a new mac+apogee just so he can get a little better sound out of his headphones? i have nothing against fanboy comments but at least try to stay within reasonable range of the discussion.
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 3:12 PM Post #14 of 34

analogbox

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Quote:

Originally Posted by dmashta /img/forum/go_quote.gif
OP already has a capable computer and not looking for a new one. not to mention a $200 budget. if you had read that, would you still suggest getting a new mac+apogee just so he can get a little better sound out of his headphones? i have nothing against fanboy comments but at least try to stay within reasonable range of the discussion.


I see. I missed the part about $100-$200.

However, I don't understand where you got the idea of my fanboy-ism on the products I've mentioned which I don't even have. My comments were totally just a suggestion based on countless comments from head-fiers who are very happy with a similar setup. In case you haven't noticed, I've also posted another suggestion that stays within reasonable range of discussion so before you try to throw your ego on somebody for no reason, I'd suggest you learn how to read first, as well. In the mean time, I'll try to be careful as well.
 
Jan 10, 2009 at 3:54 PM Post #15 of 34

scytheavatar

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Quote:

Originally Posted by A Lemon Demon /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'll learn =)

That's what life is all about!

So, since my sound card is not particularly good, if I get, say one of those iBasso D2s (or the Headroom 'sTotal Bithead) that I have been hearing about (DAC and AMP), would I be good to go? Or is that still not enough?



That's certainly not enough, you might want to look at the new Asus Xonar Essence STX that has been getting a lot of hype recently.
 

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