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Soundcard/Headphone advice please

Last response: in Components
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June 21, 2010 10:46:10 PM

Hey all,

so I've recently gone ahead and built my gaming rig, but I need to decide on the sound setup. I'm primarily going to be playing games, but I will also definately be listening to music (I've recently discovered .flac files :D  ) and watching movies on it. I've been doing some research online but there's -so- much info out there that I'm getting a bit confused.

I was thinking of focusing on getting the headphones first (since those will be the biggest difference), along with a mic that I can attach, and lastly a soundcard.

Question:

Do I even need a soundcard? I have an Asus M4A89TD PRO motherboard with Realtek ALC892 Audio codec. Is this sufficient or should I get a sound card for more 'oomph'. I was thinking of going with the Asus one's.. but damn are they ever expensive :p 

I will be using my headphones almost all the time. I have no speakers in my room. I'd like to have surround sound capabilities for when I game, but without compromising music/movie quality. I was thinking of getting some senheiser headphones (HD555 I think) for this purpose, but does anyone have any other options (595? or 580? or something else?).

Lastly... can anyone reccommend a good mic to attach to the headphones? I was thinking of going with Zalman's.

Any help would be -really- appreciated.

Cheers,

Sam
June 21, 2010 11:04:47 PM

If you get a hd555 and dont want it to be disappointing, you should get a sound card with a built in amp
June 21, 2010 11:14:27 PM

Well it depends on how much of an audiophile you are. If you are super picky about sound, then you definitely need an add in sound card as you just won't be satisfied with onboard sound. If you can't hear an ant fart at 1000 paces then onboard sound should be acceptable. If you have any games that use advanced sound positioning / occlusion etc (ie EAX) you may want to give a look at something with a Creative chip on it. Notice I didn't say get a Creative card. I have a personal grievance with how Creative treats it's customers regarding providing drivers for perfectly good sound cards on newer operating systems. I know that Azentech makes some very good cards using the X-Fi series chips at a competitive price. Now some people are going to jump in here and bash EAX since it isn't directly supported in Vista/7. While this is technically true because MicroShaft removed DirectSound in Vista and Windows 7, however, Alchemy gives this support back through OpenAL. Now if you don't have any games which use EAX (and it's importance seems to be dwindling now) or you don't care and wish to use host based positional sound then by all means use onboard sound.
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June 21, 2010 11:33:47 PM

I have an Auzentech X-Fi Forte and a few pairs of Audio Technica headphones (AD700 and A900... prefer the A900 but the fiancee doesn't like it when I can't hear her since they're closed) and am quite pleased. Coming from some Logitech Z-680s, the positioning with the headphones is way clearer, which I hadn't expected. I greatly prefer gaming with this setup than my previous 5.1 setup. Closed headphones like the A900 will give you good bass, where open headphones may give you more realistic/wider soundstage.

If you can swing it, as techgeek mentioned above, get a sound card with a headphone amp (the Forte, some Asus cards like the STX, etc.). Then get some good headphones. If you want more detailed opinions on headphones, check out head-fi.org (you can search for "gaming"-related threads if you're so inclined). Personally I'm happy with the Audio Technicas and you can get them online for reasonable prices, so I recommend them.
June 21, 2010 11:54:32 PM

I strongly recommend the Creative Soundblaster Arena but make sure that if you have to RMA it you do it through the retailer as Creative are a bit of a nightmare :) 
June 22, 2010 1:18:22 AM

Thanks for the advice so far...

just to follow up though:

I just realized that if I do get a soundcard with an amp, then I won't have enough room on my motherboard to crossfire 2 video cards in the future (simply not enough space). Are there any external soundcards that have the amp feature?

thanks,

Sam
June 22, 2010 6:02:34 PM

I'm assuming you don't want to use the x4 slot or the bottom PCI slot (or they're already full) on your mobo... unless you have other cards, it looks like you could *technically* fit in a sound card, no?
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