How can I optimize my audio experience?

I've learned recently that sound quality is very important and decided that I wanted to upgrade my pc to allow for a better quality output to my headset. I use my headset for music, movies, games, and ventrillo/xfire/other chat clients.

I am currently using a cheap $20 usb 1-eared headset. As you can tell from the specs alone, I'm not very happy with it, and want to upgrade.

I don't mind spending much as long as the performance/cost ratio is worth it. I only use my PC, I don't care for solutions that are for other consoles.

I am currently deciding between a few options:

1.) USB --> Logitech G35
2.) Sound Card --> Sennheiser PC 350
3.) Sound Card (optical output)--> Astro Mixamp --> Sennheiser PC 350
4.) Sound Card --> Astro Mixamp --> Astro A40

Another issue that comes to mind is which sound card to use. I'm currently debating between an Auzentech Forte or Asus Xonar Essence STX.

Are there any issues that are known about the Sennheiser PC 350 / Astro a40 that I should know about? I heard that the Sennheiser needs a preamp for the mic. What does this mean and is it true?

If none of these ideas are good, please suggest what's on your mind. I'm very open to new ideas and my budget is around $500-700. Note: I only want a soundcard for a headset; I will not use a true surround sound system.

Thanks to all who answer.
8 answers Last reply
More about optimize audio experience
  1. Well any USB headphone option doesn't use your soundcard at all so if you buy USB headphones there is no need for a better soundcard.

    Out of the two soundcards you listed I would get the ASUS another good card is the HT\Omega claro Halo. When using good headphones you need a good headphone amp which you wont find with cheaper cards.

    HT Omega claro halo

    This card is the best of the best when it comes to Hi Fi sound with headphones.
  2. I might get the logitech g35 just as option for on the go gaming (lan parties), but as for sennheisiers/astro a40's, which would you recommend? Also if I use a sound card, does the astro mixamp help increase sound quality or is it useless with a high-end sound card?
  3. Well sennheisiers are the best the astro a40 I dont know enough about to know if that makes a difference I just know that sennheisiers are some of the best there is.
  4. Any advice on the mixamp?
  5. It looks like something that could help with gaming being able to make the people you are online louder over the game but as far as sound quality I have no clue you will have to find a review on it or someone who has it to tell you more about it.
  6. Sennheiser makes some good headphones. I don't own them, but from what I understand via, the PC350 actually kind of sucks.

    No need for the Astro mix amp if you get a good sound card (assuming your plan is to only use these headphones with your PC). I say go with the X-Fi Forte and an Audio Technica ATH-A700 ($110 on Amazon right now which is a pretty huge discount).

    I just got the Forte with the ATH-A900 (one model up from the A700, but I have some A700s for music at the office and really like them) and I have been pretty much blown away using CMSS-3D Headphone with these things. WAY better sound quality and positional audio than my Z-680s or Tritton AX 720s.

    At this price, though, I think the A700 can't be beat. My opinion, of course.
  7. Well i just wanted a mic on so I could 1.) record myself and 2.) speak to others. I'm going to get the sennheisier pc 350's and if i don't like them, then return them. As for sound card, I'm set on buying the auzentech forte's.
  8. I can see the appeal of a headset then, but just another option... you could always get a desktop or clip on mic (Zalman has one people seem to like) and use it in conjunction with the headphones. But yeah, if you do want the 350s, go for it.
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