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USB vs. 4mm/8mm jack vs. Soundcard vs. CPU

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a b à CPUs
June 3, 2010 4:51:47 AM

Hard to title this question...

I just recently added a sound card that I like to think is a good card, but beside the point. The card sends audio to the reciever, and the reciever to the speakers. I upgraded from onboard in order to have more compatability, and to take a small load off the CPU, and for better quality audio. Here soon I am planning on some good headphones, maybe Sennheiser 190 or 180s. Not sure on that yet, got to do alot of research...

First question: If the headphones I pick connects via USB, will it make the CPU process the audio more so than headphones with a normal jack or will it make the sound card process most everything as usual? Remember, one of the 3 reasons I bought the sound card is to give power back to the CPU.

Second question: If the headphones come with a jack, would that be more ideal than USB headphones? Does USB offer a significant advantage to sound vs a jack. Is it that a sound card basically becomes irrelevant when you have USB headphones that process their own sound?

Third question: If the headphones aren't USB, is 5.1 or 7.1 possible?

Basically I'd just like to know the pros and cons of USB vs 4mm/8mm jack headphones vs soundcard processing for the cpu.

Thanks!
a c 190 à CPUs
June 3, 2010 5:00:38 AM

Not sure about the first question but i can answer the second two.

You shouldnt get any difference in sound quality between USB and audio jack connections, but USB may be used to power various addons in the headphones like active noise cancellation.

The determining factor in if 5.1 or 7.1 is possible is in how the headphones are built, if they only have one driver per ear then you can only get stereo, they can emulate surround sound through fading but they cannot output it as such. Technically 5.1 or 7.1 is not possible with headphones(no single woofer to get that .1) but if they have multiple drivers per side then it might need the USB connection to allow it to get all the different data streams.

If you are going to be getting high end headphones and consider yourself an audiophile get a nice sound card to go with them, if you dont consider yourself an audiophile then its probably not worth it.
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a b à CPUs
June 3, 2010 5:12:05 AM

Thanks

So the soundcard controls audio that is transmitted through USB? That is how I should have phrased the first question, sorry bout that. I just want to make sure I am using the card when I plug in the headphones through USB.

I appreciate audio, I am not sure if I am an audiophile or not but I pay heavy attention to the details of music and I appreciate knowing that I am hearing everything thats meant to be heard. But for some reason the word audiophile makes me think of a audio crazed person that might headbang and jump out of a 2 story window. I don't know.

The soundcard is a Fatal1ty champion series.. I needed a PCIe card since thats the only space I had left on the PC, also being a gamer, and since every higher dollar card on newegg had bad ratings, I just went with the popular brand that had the neat front panel. Got a working one on the second try as the first one was defected.

Thanks for the info on the 2nd and 3rd question!
Asked about the 5.1 and 7.1, thinking about those funky headphones that are out now that actually do have like 8 speakers in them
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a b à CPUs
June 3, 2010 6:24:25 AM

My understanding is USB will indeed bypass your sound card. Secondly, many decent sound cards have good headphone preamps and such. For example I have an AuzenTech Bravura and it's capabilities for headphones is beyond it's minijacks for 7.1 audio (from a purely technical standpoint). I would have to think then that you should look for headphones with a standard jack. Most high end headphones will either have multiple drivers or emulate the surround sound so it shouldn't be much of an issue. I've read that the emulated surround is very good. I suppose there might be headphones that use a jack AND usb for extra power for other features but I haven't seen a set.
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June 3, 2010 8:02:37 AM

even better get a very good headphone, and use your soundcard to do the surround sound.
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a b à CPUs
June 3, 2010 12:05:45 PM

The USB audio stack operates independently of your soundcard. If you get a set of USB headphones, your soundcard basically becomes a brick.

Secondly, high-quality USB audio typically claims a output SnR of about 50dB or so, where even integrated soundchips regularly can reach 108 dB SnR these days...USB audio solutions are frankly not that good, just convienent.

And yes, in some respects, emulated surround is better then outputting to different individual speakers, as there is less jumping around the soundfield as you move from speaker region to speaker region, but at a cost of clarity (due to all the post-processing).
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June 3, 2010 2:01:21 PM

get a analogue headphone, and use your soundcard to do the surround sound. cheaper overall anyway.
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a b à CPUs
June 3, 2010 3:20:36 PM

Thank you very much everyone! So many good answers here.
Very helpful information from you guys. I think thats all I need to know.

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!