Which soundcard for headphones?

I am having some trouble picking out a new sound card for my headphones. I have been using the Soundblaster X-fi Gamer and...its so so. I am a huge music guy with some gaming in mind. I use my headphones for 95% of everything I do on the computer so I definently need a good headphone sound card.

My budget is, up n down to be honest. I was sort of thinking about the $200 HT Omega claro + or the halo. However that just seems really high. I was hoping to stay below $100. Are they really that much better? Does having the amp built in make it that much better? The other option was the striker or maybe an asus sound card.

I also dont need it to do 7.1 or 5.1 or anything like that. I mean ya it would be nice for future expansion but my main priority is best possible sound through my sennheiser HD555 without buying some overpriced thing when its only a small margin better than another.

Any input is appreciated guys, thank you!
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  1. As a pro audio guy, I have to say that almost any sound card that you will find will be about the same. Cheap Jamicon caps, solid state amps, and jittery sampling clocks.

    You should be fine with your X-Fi. Most of the sound difference comes in the headphones themselves!

    Honestly, if you're really serious, and you know your electronics, go get a headphone Tube Amp kit online, solder it together, and put it in a project enclosure.

    All the amp does is make the sound loud. It doesn't change the sound (the cheap solid-state ones in sound cards, at least).

    So, your X-Fi should be fine. Go ahead and tune the settings to your liking, but $150 is not worth the insignificant improvement of a new card.
  2. Coming to sound card it always depends on how much passionate you are about music if you are really crazy about it, you have ahuge variety of sound cards depending on your budget.
  3. The amp actually helps a ton, but the Claro is a bit overrated as a card; the ASUS Essence STX or the Auzentech Forte are more affordable buys just for getting a headphone amp. Unlike Creatives junk, Auzentech/ASUS actually put high-quality components on their cards. Even on crappy speakers, you can hear a noticable difference.
  4. Thx for all the helpful tips. You say the claro is overrated but its the same price as the Asus Essence (which is only on amazon and only through 1 seller though, not on newegg or at bestbuy). And the Auzentech Forte I cannot find for sell anymore :(

    Also, does an external amp work just as well as a built in one? Or should i keep shopping for built in one cuz in the end will i save money?
  5. i think the both will work equal but i feel external amp will be a good chocie.
  6. An external amp will work, definitely. They can be a little more flexible.

    Just make sure that it is a quality component and it's SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) is good.
  7. Do you guys know of a good one on amazon.com? im in Alaska and shipping is horrendous otherwise. Amazon still does free shipping on most things. If there is absolutely nothing on amazon where then? Becusue theres no good stores up here to buy these at :(.
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