Why do my cans sound so good connected directly to the laptop?
Feb 13, 2006 at 4:34 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 33


100+ Head-Fier
Mar 1, 2003
For some reason, the Grado SR-225s and Senn PX-100s sound so good when connected to the Soundmax soundcard in my laptop. There is weight, depth, detail, and smoothness. Mentally, it seems that an amp and better source would make things sound better, but I realize that the music often sounds best direct from the laptop. I've used a variety of tube and solid state amps, but end up returning to just using the laptop. Anyone else have similar experiences or an explanation on why I often prefer a setup without an amp and seemingly less than optimal source?
Feb 13, 2006 at 4:39 AM Post #2 of 33
i actually get this too with my PX100 and UE SP5.
Feb 13, 2006 at 4:47 AM Post #3 of 33
To add: The other thing I notice is that I can listen longer just using the laptop. There is a level of fatigue that comes along with using an amp I find too. Also to note: as well as the variety of amps I’ve used, I've also used quite a few decent sources and cables.
Feb 13, 2006 at 5:17 AM Post #5 of 33
I have a laptop with the Analog Devices Soundmax in it also, it sounds extremely good with HD6x0, seriously. Big soundstage, incredibly smooth, and musical for whatever reason ...and I hate using adjectives like those, but that is the best I can come up with. Not the last word in detail or anything but not bad at all. Sounds very very tube like, definitely not neutral, but pleasant. The only sound card I heard that sounds better subjectively is the EMU1212M.

However, when I connected ATH-W2002s to this, it sounded pretty bad in every way for whatever reason. The W2002s are picky and it's also possible the output stage is not really up to the current demands or just performs poorly with low impedance loads.
Feb 13, 2006 at 5:20 AM Post #6 of 33
I'm guessing the Soundmax is decent because I get almost no noise from it compared to "HD-Audio" on my Dell desktop.

However, I did notice quite an improvement when upgrading to an Echo Indigo.
Feb 13, 2006 at 5:24 AM Post #7 of 33
The soundmax measures... not so well, but probably better than many onboard codecs. It definitely measures worse than an M-audio Revolution, yet sounds better I think, at least with Senns.
Feb 13, 2006 at 5:34 AM Post #8 of 33
It all depends on the internal chips and the 'phones used. My old Toshiba always sounded pretty good with my Shure IEM and even the HD 580's at low volume. My new HP laptop just sounds crap, same with the SB audigy laptop card, that's crap too.
Feb 13, 2006 at 9:51 AM Post #9 of 33
Might be psychological for me, but my SR 125 sounds so-so on a SoundMax, but much better on my Archos Gmini 400 portable or Tascam US-122 sound card (I'm guessing the latter SHOULD sound better).
Feb 13, 2006 at 10:02 AM Post #10 of 33
My SR-80 sounds quite good for the first few minutes plugged into the laptop (don't know what on-board audio it uses), but soon after, I realise the sound is downright fatiguing and lacking in any fine details. It's utterly terrible, given the same headphone fares far better with my old PCDP, MP3 player and most other portable devices.
Feb 13, 2006 at 3:45 PM Post #13 of 33
IBM T43p. I have to agree that the soundmax sounds very good. Doesn't have the spank / dynamics / snarl of my mint amps but its a more relaxed sound. Best of all, its very clean.

Feb 13, 2006 at 4:10 PM Post #14 of 33
I'm always shocked by how horrible everything sounds from a laptop. I have tried with my Fujitsu P2000 portable lappy, very low power transmeta chip, great onboard sound card with a hardware mixer and I in part bought it to watch movies/listen to music so the good things I heard about the sound chip (made by rockwell I think) made me choose this laptop.

The second I plugged in my Shure E5 to it I started crying
- so much hiss, static, and crackle, distorted sound, absent lowend, absent highs end, just boomy midbass and muffled mids
-- amazing how I never noticed with cheap earbuds.

I since then tried the Powerbook G4, expensive IBM laptops, Dell laptops, nothing - not even with an external card, the sound is intolerable. I now use a Cowon A2 PMP for music/videos and its a nice step up even from the Kio Karma in terms of sound quality, but a laptop? - are you joking?

PS: can you name a single laptop that doesnt distort sound with static when you move the mouse?

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