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Needing an upgrade... Headset/Soundcard

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July 1, 2009 8:38:12 AM

Well, for the last 5 hours I've been trying to decide on a sound card/headset for gaming. Whenever I find a card/headset I am interested in buying, I read a ton of negative feedback about it that makes keeps me looking for another card/headset.

I'm wanting to spend around $200...

No real concern if the headset is 2.1 or 5.1, unless there is really a big difference between them. I've been reading that the quality of 5.1 headsets is less than 2.1. Not sure if that is true or not... but if the 5.1 headsets are actually good, I'll pick those! ;p

Really hoping for a huge improvement since I've been using these old Dell champagne speakers for over 10 years mixed with $15 gaming headsets from Wal-Mart. (Will be upgrading my speakers later)
a b 4 Gaming
July 1, 2009 4:05:23 PM

I am no expert on sound cards and headsets. But, here are my thoughts anyway:

1) 2.1 vs 5.1. A headset is essentially two speakers. Therefore what advantage is there for a 5+ speaker 5.1 sound card?

2) Does the best headset have the frequency range of a good set of speakers? I don't see how it can in the lower frequencies. Therefore, is the quality of a sound card vs. the integrated HD sound of any value? With today's multi core cpu's the old advantage of lower cpu load is minimal.

My suggestion is to use integrated audio and find the most comfortable headset for you. Go to a store where you can try one on. Spend any savings on a better graphics card.

Is there more to this than I think?
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a b 4 Gaming
July 1, 2009 4:06:04 PM

Before we start, note there are 2 major connection types for headsets (As optical connections don't support simultanious input/output, so headsets with a microphone do not use that connection type):

3.5mm analog: Primary mode of connection for PC's, each channel gets its own connection jack (Green: Stereo, Pink: Microphone, etc). Supports up to 7.1

USB: New connection interface for most headphones. Supports up to 7.1. Any headphone that uses this interface will have an onboard soundchip, as opposed to running off the computers primary sound device. This is important to note, as any soundcard that you have will often not be used in sound processing. For this reason, many gamers like myself still prefer the older 3.5mm analog jacks.


For soundcards, I recommend one of the following:

ASUS Xonar D1 (cheap option; PCI connection)
ASUS Xonar DX (still cheap, but much better quality)
ASUS STX Essence (God, but uses digital optical as its primary output; adaptor for stereo output and microphone is included)

In your case, I'd probably recommend the Xonar DX.

If EAX means anything to you and want a card that fully supports it, I recommend either the Auzentech Prelude or Auzentech Forte. I do not recommend any soundcard/product made by Creative Labs, period.

Headset wise, for 7.1 gaming, the only two real competitors are the Logitech G35 and the Razer Megaladon. Note that both are USB based, so whatever soundcard you may have will be essentially useless. (Note: If anyone knows of a decent 3.5mm based 7.1 headset, I'd love to know about it)

5.1 is a lot more open, with several offerings from Razer, Logitech, Plantronics,, and Sennheiser.
July 1, 2009 6:11:20 PM

Get JVC harx900 headphones and a Auzentech Forte..... you will not be dissapointed.

Quote:
If EAX means anything to you and want a card that fully supports it, I recommend either the Auzentech Prelude or Auzentech Forte.

You get surround sound on stereo headphones with this card as well. That CMSS feature works perfectly. Its far better than the xonar. You need a decent headset though which i assume you would get if you are into buying soundcards in the first place.

Do not buy 5.1 surround sound headset btw, they are all terrible. The rear speakers are always tinny and terrible sounding with questionable sound placement. Usually you can only judge whats behind you by how bad the sound is. The Razer headset suffers from this, the only one i've ever used that didn't was this Zalman headset that was so poorly made that it breaks just from wearing it. I went through like 5 or 6 different 5.1 headsets until I realized the terrible audio quality and/or non functionality that came with them. These JVC headphones plus the Forte has the best surround sound out of anything i've used other than actual speakers.

Xonars are the most overrated overpriced sound cards ever. Their only use is if you are building a HTPC. They offer no notable features for games other than sound quality, the Forte offers plenty addtional features along with equal if not better sound quality along with a headphone amp which i dont think a xonar has.
a b 4 Gaming
July 1, 2009 7:43:07 PM

kanaric said:
Get JVC harx900 headphones and a Auzentech Forte..... you will not be dissapointed.

Quote:
If EAX means anything to you and want a card that fully supports it, I recommend either the Auzentech Prelude or Auzentech Forte.

You get surround sound on stereo headphones with this card as well. That CMSS feature works perfectly. Its far better than the xonar. You need a decent headset though which i assume you would get if you are into buying soundcards in the first place.

Do not buy 5.1 surround sound headset btw, they are all terrible. The rear speakers are always tinny and terrible sounding with questionable sound placement. Usually you can only judge whats behind you by how bad the sound is. The Razer headset suffers from this, the only one i've ever used that didn't was this Zalman headset that was so poorly made that it breaks just from wearing it. I went through like 5 or 6 different 5.1 headsets until I realized the terrible audio quality and/or non functionality that came with them. These JVC headphones plus the Forte has the best surround sound out of anything i've used other than actual speakers.

Xonars are the most overrated overpriced sound cards ever. Their only use is if you are building a HTPC. They offer no notable features for games other than sound quality, the Forte offers plenty addtional features along with equal if not better sound quality along with a headphone amp which i dont think a xonar has.


You know little. The Xonar line supports DDL (which you have to pay for on Creative cards) which upmixes any incoming 2.0 signal. Everything Creative's cards can do, the Xonar line can do better.

The STX Essence is the best card on earth, and its not even a contest.

Essence Review:
http://www.guru3d.com/article/asus [...] stx-review
http://www.extremetech.com/article [...] 333,00.asp
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/m [...] e-stx.html
http://www.overclockersclub.com/re [...] sence_stx/
August 5, 2009 5:24:09 PM

gamerk316,
Your links listed at the bottom of your post don’t work. For those wanting reviews, he was trying to save you the trouble of a Google search, but you can find your own reviews as well. Just do a good search and type whatever product you want to find out about and then the word “review” (ie: “Xonar DX review”). You will find everything you need to know.
gamerk316, I disagree with you about the Creative sound cards. I'm not a Creative fanboy, by any means, and have had problems with some of their cards in the past. However, running the "Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Professional" card has given me great results, and Vista even installs all the drivers and software for you automatically (I’m running Vista Ultimate 64bit). I’ve owned about 6-7 different sound cards, all dedicated (no onboard), and this is by far the best card I’ve ever used. Yes, I know the name is extremely long, but they’ve had several renditions of this card, and I guess they need to keep adding to the name as they come out with new models.

Nisallik, I recommend that you do the following: go to the Egg (newegg.com) and so a search for “sound card.” Then sort by “BEST RATING” and then see what is listed on the page. The Creative card I use is listed as 18th. There are other cards ahead of it, but keep an eye on the number of ratings, as well as the cost. Now re-sort by “MOST REVIEWS” and my card is listed 4th. The top spot for number of reviews is also a Creative card, and is listed 1st by over double the reviews of the number 2 card. It also has more than 6x the reviews of the highest rated Asus Xonar card.
I’m not saying that Creative is better than Xonar (I’ve never used a Xonar card), but I recommend that you go through and read the reviews that hundreds of people have written, and see what the majority thinks, and then decide for yourself.
I do this for just about all the PC products I own, and it has paid off. If I wasn’t happy with my Creative card, I’d probably look into the Xonar DX, or try to find a special sale/deal on the Xonar D2X card, which looks promising

Now for my input on headphones: Do some research on Turtle Beach’s surround sound headsets. These things are amazing. I own a set of HPA2’s (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) and they are the best sound I’ve ever heard from anything, including surround sound speaker setups. These literally have 4 speakers in each ear piece (1 front, 1 center, 1 surround, and 1 big wubwoofer speaker (yes, there are actually 8 individual speakers in this headset). Not only that, the complaints that some people have of low rear speaker volume in surround sound headsets in general is resolved in this set by the controller on the headset cord itself that allows you to individually control how loud each speaker set is (you can make the rear set as loud as you like!
Check them out, that is my recommendation. I’ve used good headsets in the past (you never run a cheap $13 Wal-Mart headset with a $100 soundcard), and last set was the Plantronics GameCom 777. The Plantronics is a great virtual surround sound headset that I’ve always really enjoyed using and costs $100. After using the Turtle Beach set (yes, I’m definitely a Turtle Beach fanboy), the Plantronics sounded hollow and empty.
Just my opinion, and I’m not telling anyone here that they know nothing, I’m just stating my experience.

Ransom
a b 4 Gaming
August 5, 2009 8:06:04 PM

No idea why toms decided to destroy my links...

Whats sad about Creative, is they force you to purchase basic features like Dolby Digital Live after the fact, which are necessities for digital outputs. Other basic features, such as 192KHz playback, STILL aren't supported in any of their models. Plus, their drivers still stink...

Auzentech is simply continuing to kick creative in the rear, as they've done for almost 5 years now (since the Meridian). Heck, even ASUS managed to get EAX 5.0 working through drivers.

Creative isn't competitive anymore in the market they invented.

AND BTW; If you're going to spend more then $50 on a headset, just get a Logitech G35 and call it a day, as most USB soundcards run off their own audio engine.
August 6, 2009 1:11:15 PM

Good points about the drivers. Do you need Dolby Digital Live to play BlueRay with full sound output through optical out? I'll have to look into that. Actually, it looks like my card comes with DDL, so no need to purchase for me (yes, the Titanium Pro comes with it). I found this out by checking on the spec info for my card, as well as looking at which cards are capable of running the purchased software to run DDL: http://buy.soundblaster.com/_creativelabsstore/cgi-bin/...

What turned me off from the Logitech G35 (and from most USB headsets in general), is the lack of control over the (virtual) directional speakers. If you feel like the rear/surround sound isn't outputting enough volume, you have no way to increase the individual volume for it. Also, I've read that the G35 doesn't support surround sound for all games. That's a bummer if one of those games is one that you happen to really like (Call of Duty: WaW). http://www.everythingusb.com/logitech-g35-surround-soun...

In my case, by going with a true surround sound headset (not virtual), I get surround sound with anything: movies, games, etc.

I have more to say, but that's enough for one post. I'm not trying to argue, just trying to show anyone stumbling onto this thread for info, that there is more to it than "just get a USB headset and go with it."

I've also tried to cite my sources for those wanting more info than I gave.

Ransom





August 14, 2009 5:52:09 PM

I need a PCI express sound card, so those PCI ones won't work for me. Look like great cards though!

Ransom
!