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Please help me make a dream Headphone Soundsetup ??

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January 4, 2006 7:13:08 AM

Hi, i'm one of the people who live by their pc's. I love techno/trance, and so i've always had this thing for a good bass system !

I had Creative Megaworks 5.1 550D system back home, but now i'm overseas studying. Finally i've managed to get some money to setup my dream soundsystem once again.

I'm runnin an onboard 5.1 setup with logitech Z640 speakers (lol, that was the only thing i could afford at that time.)

Now i'm planning to get a soundcard, but before i get the ultimate UBER thing, i've already recieved complaints from my neighbours cuz of the high bass n stuff., so i'll be looking into a nice 5.1 headphone setup !

Now please friends, can u suggest me which soundcard should i get, the options are ;-

Xi-fi - 208$ AUD
Audigy 4 - 115$ AUD
Audigy 2 Value - 87$ AUD..

Also, which headphones should i go for with this soundcard ! i was looking into the zalman 5.1 headphones, but i read that it's got no bass. That'll just kill me as i cant live without a good bass reflex !

I can spend around 150$ AUD for 5.1 Headphones, please suggest me something.

Any feedback is most appreciated,
Thanx.
Jazz
January 4, 2006 10:46:36 AM

Look for a Sennheiser product, starting from HD570+

They are about $70USD and up now here, I don't know how much they would cost in Australia.

As for the sound card, the line-outs are pretty similar on all 3 of them, and the DACs are pretty close, although the Audigy 4 has the best DACs out of the 3 you listed (the difference is minute).

When you are purchasing for audio, your equipment comes first, electronics second. The reasoning--speakers produce anywhere from 10 to 100 times more distortion than electonics. So each extra dollar you pump into equipment is going to give you more marked improvement than putting more money into electonics. Your output device is the greatest limitation; adding $100 to your equipement and you'll see better output and lower distortion by perhaps two to five times, more gain than going from a $100 to a $200 soundcard, which might see paper specs improve by 5%.
January 5, 2006 12:12:11 AM

Hi thankyou very much for your suggestions ! What you say makes a lot of sense, cuz as this product isnt some CPU or MHZ enhancer, numbers wont be able to justify the increased quality.

I'd rather sped the extra 50$ on the headphone/speaker setup than get the highest end soundcard and go for cheap headphones !

But i looked up the HD570 and this is what i gathered :-

Pros:

-Lightweight design and padded headband make them comfortable for hours of listening
-Low-distortion Duofol diaphragms provide exceptional detail and clarity
-Single-sided cable makes it easier to move around while wearing headphones

Cons:

-64-ohm impedance level makes headphones difficult for most portable players to drive; works best with dedicated headphone amplifier
-Somewhat bright (trebly) tonal balance may strike some listeners as too much of a good thing

Look at the cons, its a 64ohm impedance thingy, does that mean i wont get enough punch if i just attach it to my soundcard directly ?

Are there any headphones from Sennheiser that can gimme a good 5.1 sound setup ?

Thanx heaps.
Jazz
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January 5, 2006 1:30:11 AM

Hi, after much looking i think http://www.headphones.com.au/prod.php?search=Sennheiser has got most of the Sennheiser Headphones,

Can you recommend me one of them.. there dosent seem to be any HD570, but they got the HD555 and the HD595 ; i think the HD595 is a bit pricey.. 100$ more.

Is it really that better than the HD555 !

Thanx.
Jazz
January 5, 2006 7:21:03 AM

HD212


HD250II


HD280


HD497

HD580

HD595

HD600

HD600


Too bad I don't have a graph for the 555s but, anyway, the 5xx-series are all pretty similar in tonality. As you can see, they all exhibit what's known as the British sound, which is 1) the upperbass/midbass "hump" to give the illusion of more bass extension then there actually is, and 2) also the downward sloping frequency response curve which gives the sound a "warm" quality to it." The highs are pretty messy, but then all headphones are (it's the cost of having to produce all those other frequencies at low distortion; you lose control of the highs).

Tonally they'd all sound similar, the difference in higher models will be lower noise floor, less distortion (as you turn it up) and, channel linearity (as you can see on the 497s, the left and right channels are slightly tonally different, this is just the result of lower precision specs -- basically they are just using two random drivers they manufacture which pass the QA tests, rather than tossing drivers out until you find tonally matching ones, which would be partially the cost that's passed on to the higher models).

This is an assumption of course, based on the electronics industry; CPUs and video card GPUs of a generation are all the same, the differences lie in the manufacturing (the precision to which the finished product matches the production specs). If a certain CPU that just came off the assembly line is tested to have less tolerance for heat than say the 1000+ model specs, it'll simply be factory clocked at 800+. This is a rough generalization.

I wish I could help you more, but most of what I am saying is going to be understandably idle speculation. I haven't heard the 555s, I have the 570s and the 590s. If you have any other questions I'll try my best to answer them.

As for an impedence of 64 ohms, soundcard line-outs can easily power those. It's once you get into 100-ohm territory that you'll lose significant bass response without a seperate amp.
January 5, 2006 12:55:00 PM

Lot's a lot of money for a pair of headphones! My last pair was a $40 pair from best buy and they were very nice sounding....granted I didn't have a $200 pair to compare with but I can't imagine that much difference!

But it's your call of course. Just make sure not to get a USB version or one of those open kind. The USB have (technical) problems and the open kind let in background noise and let out what you are listening to....(bad if girlfriend is trying to sleep in same room).

....also, that headphones.com site looks expensive. I saw the same pair of phones on NewEgg for $100 cheaper!!!!!!!!
January 6, 2006 12:51:28 AM

Lol, fortunately my GF dosent have that problem..., besides the prices at the australian headphone.com were in australian.. hence u found the difference !

I'll try searching for the HD570's , but if i still cant get it from newhere then i'll have to order the HD555's for 200$ AUD.

Again, regarding the soundcard.. will the 24bit crystallizer make all that difference to the quality of the sound on the headphones ?

Cuz the review of at TomsHardware seems to positively indicate that !
I'm not a avid gamer, so i wouldnt mind the EAX and all.. only thing thats important to me is good sound quality even at compressed bitrates.

Cuz i often listen to a trance/techno station that's got only a 96Khz MP3 streams. They sound good on my speakers but on my headphones the noise is very distrubing and u can easily point out the low quality artifacts in sound !

Will getting a X-fi over Audigy4 gimme any upperhand in that ?

Thanx Heaps for helpin me out,
Jazz

EDIT : I just figured, if you could play the 1st and the last track's from http://di.fm/mp3/trance.pls and let me know how does it sound on your Sennheizer's i would have an exact idea on what to expect from it when i get mine !

Cuz if the streams are just too compressed to sound good at all on a headphone, then i'll have to start looking at alternatives (including moving houses :D  )

Thanx heaps.
January 6, 2006 1:28:21 AM

No, the CrystaLIZER is an EQUALIZER. Equalizer's are meant to slightly correct poor (compressed) sources that have lost high amounts of HF and LF information (for reference, better encoders like LAME don't do frequency cutoffs, even on higher end compression), or poor frequency response of cheap speakers. (The cost of the correction is high amounts of distortion).

With good equipment (and good sources, hopefully >128kbps mp3s), it wouldn't even be suggested that you utilize the crystalizer.



You can see the effects of the crystalizer right here. It's not magic. It's a very steep equalizer (and hence distortion increases by over 50%).

The "smiley face" shape of the equalizer is the opposite of "British Sound" or "Northatlantic" sound I aluded to earlier. This is known as "West Coast Sound" or "1980s JBL Sound" to those who know that bit of music history. The Crystalizer just does what people have been doing for decades on poor equipment, massively EQing to get a flatter response (at the cost of other performance perameters).
January 7, 2006 5:17:06 AM

Thanks a lot astrallite ! based on your comments/research/advices, i'm in a much better position to know whats finally goin on !

I'm finally goin in for the Sennheiser HD555's as they hit the sweet spot between price/quality and comfort for me !

But just a 'lil nagging bit about the soundcard !

Now i need a better sounding soundcard, i'm not too concerened about EAX or Gaming abilities, if i need the extra FPS i'll rather upgrade my Graphics card instead of investing substantially more in just gaining 5-7 fps !

Now i can either get the Xi-Fi Xtrememusic or the Audigy4 (NON-Pro) ! now which one of these are good for listening to music !
Especially listening to Headphones based on their SNR and DAC's !

PS :- After reading your other post regarding the Bookshelve's i've started saving money already to get a decent pair of bookshelves. Maybe in a year or so i'll own a decent 2.1 system. :D 

Please help me out with the soundcard and i'll be set !
Thanx Heaps..
Jazz
January 7, 2006 5:57:36 AM

For just music and simplicity I would reccommend the Chaintech AV-710. It has both a optical out and a second regular stereo out with a high quality Wolfsenn DAC that should be comparable to the Audigy 2 ZS/X-Fi Extreme Music DAC.

Make sure with the drivers to turn on SPDIF in order to enable this second stereo output (black socket alt-out next to the optical out), as its much higher quality than the regular (green socket). You can select the output frequency with the control panel on the fly (make sure you download the newest drivers from viaarena.com).

This would be a little bit better of a music option (the Chaintech), since all Creative soundcards work natively at 48KHz and need to resample 44.1KHz (all stereo music) sources which adds sampling errors and IMD distortion (which isn't that bad; the most glaring effect it would make transient peaks like explosions, loud noises, sound horrible). The Chaintech is $20USD. I'm not sure if it's available in your area. If not, I would suggest the Audigy 2 ZS as a backup plan.
January 8, 2006 12:05:08 AM

Hi, well i checked for the Chaintech and couldnt find it anywhere..
Also, the price for M-Audio 7.1 was something like 250$ AUD, much higher for :

Audigy 4 (Non-Pro) - 115$ AUD
Audigy 2 ZS - 148$ AUD
Xi-Fi XtremeMusic - 208$

Now regarding the DAC's, according to the data i've collected the DAC's present on Audigy 2 ZS and Xi-Fi XtremeMusic are the same i.e Cirrus Logic CS4382 DAC, whereas the Audigy 4 PRO has the DAC that is present in the Xi-Fi Elite Pro version i.e AKM 5394AVS DAC.
Link ref. http://www.maximumpc.com/2005/09/creative_labs_s.html

But the problem is that the info i got on the Audigy4 DAC's corresponded to SNR of 116dB whereas the non-pro version's SNR is only 106dB as compared to 109dB of Xi-Fi XtremeMusic and 108dB of Audigy 2 ZS.

This means that the DAC's present on the Audigy 4 (non-pro) are definately not the one's present on the Xi-Fi Elite Pro, as a matter of fact they even appear inferior to Audigy 2 ZS and Xi-Fi XtremeMusic.

Can you please confirm this fact, and advise a solution !??

Also, i was wondering that as the nature of this post has much gone technical in regards to your posts, it definately needed a change in Topic name and also more attention from other users so as they can easily make their decisions based on the posts of this thread 8)

Thanx a lot,
Jazz
January 8, 2006 6:17:58 AM

Yeah, the Audigy 4 (non-pro) I believe is a rebadged regular Audigy 2 Value. The only reason I can think of them doing that is to boost sales on old stock =
!