Upgrade soundcard or headphones in bargain PC setup?
Sep 20, 2013 at 11:40 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 7

imrazor

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So...I dove in the bargain basement and came up with a $30 M-Audio Delta 410 and some $65 Sennheiser HD-280 Pros. Now I have the best audio I've ever heard. I know those of you with HD800s are snickering right about now, but that's OK. My question is how to best allocate $100 - $200 to improve my situation. Headphones, soundcard or something else?
 
A little more about my PC and how I use it. I have a homebuilt PC used primarily for music and gaming, dual booting Windows 7 x64 and Linux Mint Maya 13. I have an Nvidia GTX 670 that might conceivably be used for HDMI audio, but it sounds shrill to me, at least when I plug the HD280s into my TV.
 
My music comes to me in several forms. I have about 200 CDs in my collection, as well as a few thousand 256k MP3s, and a couple of hundred HD music videos. I also use Spotify and Pandora quite a bit. The free version of Spotify sounds surprisingly good on Linux, not so hot in Windows.
 
I listen to a fairly wide variety of music. Right now I'm on a techno kick, though I'm not sure exactly which subgenre I'm listening to. Daft Punk, Ellie Goulding, Morgan Page, Pretty Lights and Emancipator are some of my favorites, if that helps any. In the recent past, I've also listened to a good bit of country and progressive rock/metal.
 
So to the meat of the question, what should I upgrade? The Delta sounds really good to my inexperienced ear. I've got an Echo Indigo in my laptop, and the Delta wipes the floor with it using the same cans. Can I drive the HD280s with a better soundcard (say an HT Omega eClaro), or would that be a waste? Or should I invest in a better pair of headphones? I've read great things on this forum about the Audio Technica ATH-M50S.
 
If the answer is a new sound card, there are two things I want in it - Linux compatibility and MIDI. I have an old Casio MIDI keyboard I'd like to hook up to my PC, and start playing with sequencing. This is not a priority, though, if a headphone upgrade is called for.
 
Sep 21, 2013 at 1:54 AM Post #2 of 7
Sennheiser HD558, $131.26.
Sell off the HD-280 Pros.
Sometime in the future, add a Schiit Magni headphone amplifier, $99
I'm assuming you have Linux software/drivers for your current sound card?
 
Sep 21, 2013 at 7:28 AM Post #4 of 7
@PurpleAngel Yes, luckily the Delta was recognized out of the box. That's not always the case with sound cards and Linux. I've found that when a sound card is recognized, it generally sounds better under Linux. Unfortunately, that's not the case with my Echo Indigo.
 
Sep 21, 2013 at 8:44 AM Post #5 of 7
  @PurpleAngel Yes, luckily the Delta was recognized out of the box. That's not always the case with sound cards and Linux. I've found that when a sound card is recognized, it generally sounds better under Linux. Unfortunately, that's not the case with my Echo Indigo.

For you budget, I'm guessing it better to stay with the current sound card and just get better headphones.
I believe the Delta comes with a fairly decent DAC chip, so to improve over it's audio quality would eat too much into your budget, it VIA 1712 audio processor is an older audio processor, but I'm assuming Win 7 64 has at least some basic drivers for it. I'm sure the Delta has the standard high impedance line-out/headphone jack :frowning2:
so a low impedance headphone amplifier would help, but it's $100 (Magni), you been ok using the HD280 Pros without a headphone amplifier, getting a headphone like the HD558, will improve audio detail, while plugged straight in the Delta.
 
Sep 21, 2013 at 9:55 AM Post #6 of 7
  For you budget, I'm guessing it better to stay with the current sound card and just get better headphones.
I believe the Delta comes with a fairly decent DAC chip, so to improve over it's audio quality would eat too much into your budget, it VIA 1712 audio processor is an older audio processor, but I'm assuming Win 7 64 has at least some basic drivers for it. I'm sure the Delta has the standard high impedance line-out/headphone jack :frowning2:
so a low impedance headphone amplifier would help, but it's $100 (Magni), you been ok using the HD280 Pros without a headphone amplifier, getting a headphone like the HD558, will improve audio detail, while plugged straight in the Delta.

 
Actually, the Delta only has RCA and SPDIF outputs. I'm using an RCA to female 1/4" headphone adapter. I'm not sure how much power is coming out of the RCA jacks, but the volume is pretty loud and I'm hearing plenty of detail. The HD280 Pros are rated at 64 Ohms, so I don't think they need much juice. The 558s are rated at 50 ohms, so they need less power...right?
 
EDIT: M-Audio has Delta drivers for download for Win7 x64, unlike my Revolution 7.1.
 
Sep 21, 2013 at 12:44 PM Post #7 of 7
   
Actually, the Delta only has RCA and SPDIF outputs. I'm using an RCA to female 1/4" headphone adapter. I'm not sure how much power is coming out of the RCA jacks, but the volume is pretty loud and I'm hearing plenty of detail. The HD280 Pros are rated at 64 Ohms, so I don't think they need much juice. The 558s are rated at 50 ohms, so they need less power...right?
 
EDIT: M-Audio has Delta drivers for download for Win7 x64, unlike my Revolution 7.1.

The Delta should be able to drive the 50-Ohm HD558 as well as it drives the 62-Ohm HD280 Pro.
There is other stuff that affect the Delta's ability to drive headphones, but the headphones should be roughly equal.
 

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