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The Nameless Guide To PC Gaming Audio (with binaural headphone surround sound)

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by namelesspfg, Jan 28, 2012.
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  1. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Even better price for the X-Fi Titanium HD, $124.99
  2. Sabin0786

    Thanks. I bought it here! I also bough the amplifier.  So now it's just time to sit down and make the hardest choice-- the headphone set that will go with them!
  3. dedemouse
    Hi, i want to ask something.
    If i want to change the op-amp in my soundcard but while still using an external amplifier, Do the change of op-amp in soundcard will change the sound signature? or any benefit?
  4. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I believe one (The buffer op-amp) of the 3 op-amps in the Essence ST affect the audio quality (flavor) of the card's RCA outputs.
  5. genclaymore
    Actually All 3 op-amps effect the Sound signature of the RCA outs on both ST/X and X-FI HD,  The I/Vs on both cards are only used when your using the headphone jack out. I had both STX and a X-FI HD and all 3(STX)  4(X-FI HD) cam be swapped. The X-FI HD has Two buffers so both would need tobe changed with the same op-amp.
  6. Evshrug

    Ouch. OOOH Ouch! Ok, I haven't had much experience with PC audio beyond the PowerBook & MacBook Pro on board sound before this, and I was pleased with the Recon3D beyond what seems like random days where it decides to produce harsh treble. But Nameless basically said "Eh...", Mad Lust Envy heard it (same unit) and paraphrased is saying "better than nothing, but only 75% of Dolby Headphone," and you... I don't think you've actually listened to it, but you say "Like a fake, below even an average performer." The only thing keeping me wondering if the enthusiast bias is overplaying the difference is that I'm the only one who I know of who is willing to play with the driver software, and that I'd rather have a "good enough" system to live with rather than suffering from perpetual upgradeitis while on a new-career income.

    That's not to invalidate your opinions and the facts you have found through research, in fact I greatly respect that everyone not only makes that effort but also shares the fruits of that labor (this hobby ain't cheap!). I'm just trying to find the mid-fi balance, not the best kit but the best kit to price ratio. For example, I wouldn't buy a $300 GPU for gaming (right now at least), I know that a $200 card will get more than decent performance while performing at what $300 would have got you last year, just like I can't honestly say I can make full use of a Quadro 2000 right now.

    So, I'm not married to the Recon3D, in fact I almost got a Mixamp or DSS for the Xbox, or just fixed my Mac audio and stuck with the receiver I already have. I could just give up on Mac gaming and headphones, but that would hurt. So, I don't know.

    Right now I need to find cheap speakers or something to replace the cheap wal-mart CD boombox my girlfriend uses to teach Zumba (birthday present), more than anything.
  7. Roller
    First of all, Dolby Headphone isn't superior to CMSS-3D at all and IMHO Dolby Headphone is far more fatigating than CMSS-3D. Now, the main audible differences between DH and CMSS-3D is that DH enhances bass while CMSS-3D enhances treble, and while there are other differences, those are the most noticeable.
    Basically, I find that non codec based hardware performs far better, and I did have the chance of listening to a unit at a store, therefore experience was limited, but it certainly didn't wow me at all.
    Now, what you have to keep in mind is that when getting a card like the X-Fi Titanium HD, you simply won't have any need to upgrade anytime soon (read, as in before a decade goes by), given that card is the pinnacle of gaming audio, with everything released afterwards performing poorly in comparison to it and even previous PCI and PCIe X-Fi generation cards, as well as being one of the best consumer soundcards, making it perfectly suitable for music and movies as well.
    If you're thinking about pricing, you should think that DACs can cost up to several thousand dollars, and while $150 would get you a reasonable above entry external DAC, those same $150 can get you a far better performing internal unit that also has more features (should you choose to use them).
    So basically, Recon3D/Mixamp/DSS are all bottom of the electronics barrel, and even a base X-Fi Titanium (non-HD model) that costs around $50 would outperform all those toys that happen to cost far more with less sonic performance.
    Well, going the Quadro route means one already knows exactly what he needs, not so much for a beginner's path, otherwise it's wasted money along with untapped potential.
  8. Phos
    The FR with CMSS 3D is still pretty flat.  I tried it out with a sinewave generator.  It just sounds processed.
  9. Roller
    Good point. I was merely talking about perceived differences, though.
  10. Evshrug
    Can an X-Fi Ti [HD] accept optical in from a console? If I had continued down the programming path instead of pursuing arts, I might be considering a Mac-driver workaround. I still may stick with the Recon3D for now, cuz Mac and Xbox are my main platforms. I was also unimpressed with the store demo of the DSS2, but store demos are hardly optimal testing grounds. I won't know till I try, but I'm wondering if even a proper X-Fi card isn't a world better.

    All this is so subjective too... I don't even know how great my hearing is, or anyone else's here.
    Ps I never mentioned, but I enjoy your signature quote.
  11. Roller
    Take a look over this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/608873/possible-to-connect-my-ps3-to-my-soundcard-and-use-my-headphones
    Above all, you ought to ask yourself whether you want to pursuit higher quality audio or not, as that can be a rather expensive path to follow and if you're not certain whether you want to pursuit it, then don't go overboard. But then again, people with untrained ears won't notice significant improvements when going from low quality devices like onboard audio chips to dedicated soundcards or DACs, but they always know when they downgrade. It's actually quite amusing as to how the brain works in that way.
    Unlike GPUs that are out of date in a matter of short years and something even less than that, DACs and soundcards will last you as long as they are physically able to, and you won't feel SQ lacking. A good example is a $300 GPU that in 3 years will only be able to play modern games of the time at medium to low settings, low resolution and console-like frame rates, while a $200 soundcard/DAC will play audio just as well in the same timespan as when you first got it.
    And thanks :) It was a comment made by the girlfriend of another Head-Fier, I felt it was interesting. But that quote has already quite some time, I ought to set something new.
  12. Disharmonic
    So i'm thinking of picking up a X-Fi Titanium pci-e(non-HD) and using spdif out to connect to my dac/amp(emu 0404 usb or whatever i upgrade to later) in order to get positional audio in games without sacrificing any sound quality. Will the card actually apply the necessary effects when using the opt-out/coax-out instead of the headphone plug? In games that don't support OpenAL/EAX5 would you say CMSS-3D in (5.1/7.1) mode is still superior to both Dolby Headphone and GX 2.5 in Asus cards? Do the Asus DG make a credible alternative for my setup?
  13. genclaymore
    Yes the card will still apply the gaming features Thur Digital out Including CMSS3D headphones. You don't have to be using analog to get it applied. Just remember to disable any game features when you get ready to listen to music. Also if you do use CMSS3D headphone, I sure it was mention some where in this thread. But setting the windows speakers to 5.1 and using Headphones in the creative game mode panel with CMSS3D headphone on instead of just Stereo in the windows speakers settings work really well.  As the Windows speakers settings go Thur the sound card's DSP which does the CMSS3D headphone adjustments before going out of Digital out to your Dac amp.
  14. Roller
    IIRC, processing is sent along optical, as long as it's set as the exclusive output method.
    EDIT: Ok, it's quite redundant as running S/PDIF already makes it exclusive.
    Asus GX feature is a simple software emulation that does nothing if the game doesn't have any features above software rendering. For games that do have hardware renderers, Asus GX will enable some additional options but without the added quality since Asus hardware lacks both the DSPs that games target as well as features like voice count, positional algorithms and any EAX support beyond EAX 2.
    The thing you have to keep in mind is that CMSS-3D and DH are both surround virtualization techs that work in slightly different ways, and due to slightly different yet similar approaches, they end up being dependent on users own preferences, and despite there not being any empirical evidence of significant advantages of one over the other, the fact is that DH was mainly designed for movies and music (on that order) while CMSS-3D was designed from scratch to cater games, music and movies.
    A cost effective setup is to get a base X-Fi Titanium like you said, and routing the audio through either S/PDIF or simply doing it internally through the What U Hear feature to whatever device you see fit, whether it is another internal soundcard or an external DAC.
  15. NamelessPFG
    Yes, it'll pass through all effects through S/PDIF. I've verified it myself. Just make sure to check "Play Stereo Mix using Digital Output" in the card's control panel if you want to hear anything.
    For games with pre-mixed 5.1/7.1, I wouldn't say that CMSS-3D Headphone is significantly better or worse than Dolby Headphone, just different. Both will give you the positional cues you're looking for, but CMSS-3D tends to emphasize treble while DH adds a bit more bass.
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