Please help! I'm new and I dont know what I'm doing!
Feb 27, 2013 at 5:57 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 24

Sierra419

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Ok, I'm new here so please bear with me.  I know a lot about computers and I'm pretty knowledgeable on home theatre equipment but I'm totally new to the ins and outs of high quality audio.  I currently own a pair of Tritton AX Pros that I use for Xbox and PC, but mostly PC.  My AX Pros just plug into their Dolby box and then optical into my mobo.  I'm wanting to upgrade my head phones to something really nice. I've decided I want the Q701's (please don't try to talk me out of them or recommend something else, I've had headache after headache narrowing it down to these after looking at mad-lust-envys list).  So my main question is this:
 
Say I buy the Q701's for PC gaming- then what?  
 
I've heard I need an amp- if so what good but cheap amp do you recommend? I also heard I need a sound card in my PC. If that's the case cant I just use the integrated 7.1 surround sound thats built into my P8z77 mobo or do I really need a dedicated card just for a pair of headphones? What else would I need?  Do I need a mixamp(?) of some sort? Do I need a DAC (still not sure what that does)? If I need all of this then its going to start getting pretty expensive.  I thought the Q701's were expensive enough but all this on top of it? Would I just be better off buying Astro a40's and calling it a day?
 
Please DO talk to me like I'm completely stupid and will have no idea about what you're saying because I probably wont understand half of what you say and I don't want to miss anything.  
 
Please help! thanks
 
Feb 27, 2013 at 11:45 PM Post #3 of 24

flatmap

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Whether you need an amp or DAC depends several factors IMO.  
The analog signal coming out of your computer's headphone jack
contains both signal and noise.  Sometimes, even when scarcely audible,
the noise component can be very wearing.  If you find you're in that camp,
then a DAC may help.  It can and often does also provide a better quality
analog signal from your computer's digital out as well.  If you get an DAC,
then you also need an amp to control the analog signal volume.  
Sometimes a DAC will be packaged with a headphone amp.
 
But the way to start is to find headphones you like and simply plug them
into your computer's headphone jack.  If the sound is good and not fatiguing,
then you're in good shape.  Although, yes, by spending more money, you can
improve on that sound... well there's no end to that.  You go route as you find
you need to, based on your satisfaction with your starting point.  IMO.
 
The Q701 provide a nice spacious sound.  They probably do benefit from an
amp, but I've never listened to them so not sure.  I have the AKG K702 -- which
may be somewhat similar -- and those are much more satisfying when used
with an amp: more exciting sound, better dynamics, and better support for the
sound through the gamut from high to low.  Sound is a bit thin sounding without
an amp, in the case of the K702.
 
So first get your 'phones and try it out direct from the jack and see how it sounds.  
Of course there are many options in the price range that you're looking in.  
Some with better bass, some more neutral and even, some that are easier to drive,
and etc.  Of course lots of threads here on head fi about the different options!
 
Feb 28, 2013 at 2:30 AM Post #4 of 24

Tsujigiri

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The DAC is the digital to analog converter; you need it to convert the computer's signal to an electronic signal your headphones can use. Your sound card will have a DAC in it already. People buy separate DACs when they think that the DAC they have isn't good enough and they want to bypass it. The amp you need to make the headphones sound loud enough and good enough (even if they're loud enough they could be underdriven). This is really only an issue with the nicer headphones, which the Q701's are.
 
If you're just using them at your desk you could go with the new Schiit Magni and Modi  Amp+DAC combination. Maybe you won't even need the DAC if your sound card is good enough.
 
Feb 28, 2013 at 11:07 AM Post #5 of 24

Sierra419

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Thanks for all your help.  You both helped out a lot.  After looking into all of this I think its going to cost too much for me at the moment.  Idk what to do... I want to get these phones but I dont have / wont have the money for an amp or dac for a long time.  I'm thinking of just settling on astro A40's for the money, I'm just not sure.
 
Feb 28, 2013 at 7:29 PM Post #7 of 24

Sierra419

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Ok, so after a ton of research I think I'm going to go with a Sound Blaster Titanium X-Fi HD Sound Card.  Would this card provide enough to power properly drive the Q701's without having to buy an amp?
 
Mar 1, 2013 at 3:15 AM Post #8 of 24

calipilot227

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Schiit Magni/Modi is an excellent combo, with plenty of current for the power-hungry Q701's. They're pretty light on bass though. I ended up ditching them for the Sennheiser HD580 (basically the HD600) and have since upgraded to the HD650. Much more natural sounding, IMHO.
 
Mar 1, 2013 at 8:13 AM Post #10 of 24

BrokeStudent

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Quote:
Ok, so after a ton of research I think I'm going to go with a Sound Blaster Titanium X-Fi HD Sound Card.  Would this card provide enough to power properly drive the Q701's without having to buy an amp?

If you don't want to spend a lot of money on a DAC/Headphone amp I suggest going with something like the Asus Xonar DGX (W/ built in headphone amp). They're about $50 CDN/$40 US so the price is right. It will provide enough power for your needs and budget IMO. The cards are good.
 
Mar 1, 2013 at 8:20 AM Post #11 of 24

joespride

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Hello you were already given this advice once but it's such good advice I'm going to repeat it

Buy the headphones you want (preferably the best you can afford) use them with your existing equipment and get to know them, then down the road when $ allows buy your amp/dac if YOU feel you need them. You can get tons of advice on what pairs nicely with whatever you choose for headphones

If you buy cheaper headphones because you get scared off by all the associated gear (you may or may not need), you will always be second guessing them and never be truly happy

Don't think of this as Hi-Fi, instead call it My-Fi, what's right for me may not be right for you. All our ears are different:)
 
Mar 1, 2013 at 8:56 AM Post #12 of 24

Sierra419

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Hello you were already given this advice once but it's such good advice I'm going to repeat it

Buy the headphones you want (preferably the best you can afford) use them with your existing equipment and get to know them, then down the road when $ allows buy your amp/dac if YOU feel you need them. You can get tons of advice on what pairs nicely with whatever you choose for headphones

If you buy cheaper headphones because you get scared off by all the associated gear (you may or may not need), you will always be second guessing them and never be truly happy

Don't think of this as Hi-Fi, instead call it My-Fi, what's right for me may not be right for you. All our ears are different:)


I appreciate you yelling that at me because I totally didn't listen the first time. However, if I go with what my budge allows, which is either the dt990's or the q701's, and the xfi hd sound card- if the card is under driving the headphones won't it sound like garbage? That's what I assumed under driven meant.
 
Mar 1, 2013 at 11:07 AM Post #13 of 24

blitzraider

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I think the creative sound card would. I know you've "banned" this, but aren't there other choices of gaming headphones that are easier to drive other than the Q701? I thought that they are pretty picky in terms of finding the right amplification.
 
Mar 1, 2013 at 11:58 AM Post #14 of 24

DrNickRiviera

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Simply put a soundcard is very similar to a DAC+Amp combo, the difference is that the soundcard is installed in your computer while the DAC+Amp are external devices.
The advantage of external devices is that you can still use them when you get a new computer (which can be a problem for soundcards - a few years ago soundcards mostly used PCI slots, which are hard to find in modern PCs). You can also use them on a laptop.
The second advantage of an external device is that there is less EM-noise than inside your computer case (most modern soundcards have preinstalled EM-shields because of this).
 
I am new to this forum myself, so I don't know if there is any particular reason why nobody is talking about an ASUS Xonar STX soundcard? With its built in headphone amp it should be able to drive any headphones, if you need multichannel output for surround you can still use the digital out, and it is only marginally more expensive than the Titanium HD where I live.
 
Mar 1, 2013 at 1:55 PM Post #15 of 24

Sierra419

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Ok, I need help making a decision then. What's better: a fiio e9 and excellent sound blaster card or fiio e9 and fiio e17 dac? Would they sound the same? What would be different? You kind of answered this question but I'm still fuzzy on the details. If I went with an external amp/ dac would I still get simulated surround sound audio like Dolby Headphone?
 

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