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Best sound setup

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  • Sound Cards
  • Headphones
  • Components
Last response: in Components
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December 5, 2011 4:46:41 PM

Guys I have been researching this and its just to much for me to handle. I currently only have onboard sound but what I want to do is is run 5.1 or 7.1 but also use high end headphones for gaming and music. So what do I need? A sound card? A headphone amp? A DAC? Also when using headphones I would like to still is able to use the 5.1 if possible. Sound Quality is a must...Help me out Toms Hardware Forums your my only hope.


More about : sound setup

December 5, 2011 5:40:03 PM

So, you want both a 5.1/7.1 output and a headphone output? Assuming you don't want to use both at the same time, you have a few options.

Most soundcards only have analog outputs, but a few have both 5.1/7.1 analog outputs AND a seperate headphone output [typically with a built in amp]. The ASUS Xonar Xense is one such card, though a few others [HT Omega Claro XT, Auzentech Forte, Auzentech Home Theatre HD] come to mind. This is probably your "simplest" option, as you can hook up both a 5.1/7.1 system and a headphone, and swap the one you want to use via the driver software.
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December 5, 2011 5:40:33 PM

Let me start off by saying that I would strongly recommend against using 5.1 or 7.1 for headphones. It is mostly a gimmick and will degrade overall sound quality. There are also generally issues with the driver that can cause sounds to be heard in the wrong ear. This can be especially a problem if you're determining the direction of footsteps in an FPS game. Having 5.1 sound on your headset is mostly something that sounds cool, but not something that's useful.

Since you said best sound quality I'll give you the package that I think offers the highest sound quality. At the high end range sound quality is quite subjective so you'll have to do some research on your own as to what type of sound you actually want, but I'll give you a good starting point.

For a headphone amplifier the best on the market for PC is the:
ASUS Xonar Essence One USB DAC
http://www.amazon.com/Asus-Xonar-Essence-One/dp/B00612Z...
Here's a link to a good video with more information about this product.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vd94WYRkaj4


For headphones, the Sennheiser flagship model should do nicely. I've demoed it and its one of the best pair of headphones by any definition. They're extremely comfortable and produce the most accurate sound you will ever hear.
http://www.sennheiserusa.com/dynamic-stereo-headphones-...
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December 5, 2011 7:17:19 PM

What can I say I'm a total noob.

@soccerdocks Ok thats a hell of a setup! How bout something in the $500 range? How does directional sound work with the headphones or is all just stereo?

@gamerk316 Yes I would like the option of either 5.1/7.1 speakers or headphones. How do you hook up the 5.1/7.1 to the Asus card? I don't see that many ports on the back?
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December 5, 2011 9:04:32 PM

m1helmethead said:
What can I say I'm a total noob.

@soccerdocks Ok thats a hell of a setup! How bout something in the $500 range? How does directional sound work with the headphones or is all just stereo?


Well, you asked for the best so I gave it to you. What headphones do you currently have? Are you interested in upgrading them along with an amplifier? Or are you looking to spend $500 on an the amp?

When you said 5.1 or 7.1 sound I assumed you meant the emulated type in headphones. My point was that directional sound beyond left and right doesn't really work in headphones, but you were meaning to be able to plug in a set of speakers and be able to use those separately than headphones? If so then what type of inputs do your speakers have? Do they support Dolby Digital/DTS? If they do you can a use coax or optical cable to carry a multiplexed signal.

Its not the same as having 6 channel discrete, but I'm not aware of any soundcards (beyond the ones gamerk316 mentioned) that have an integrated headphone amp and 5.1 discrete.
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December 5, 2011 10:42:26 PM

The budget priced Asus Xonar DG 5.1 also has a headphone amp. Front panel connection also supports this.
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December 5, 2011 10:56:15 PM

soccerdocks said:
Well, you asked for the best so I gave it to you. What headphones do you currently have? Are you interested in upgrading them along with an amplifier? Or are you looking to spend $500 on an the amp?

When you said 5.1 or 7.1 sound I assumed you meant the emulated type in headphones. My point was that directional sound beyond left and right doesn't really work in headphones, but you were meaning to be able to plug in a set of speakers and be able to use those separately than headphones? If so then what type of inputs do your speakers have? Do they support Dolby Digital/DTS? If they do you can a use coax or optical cable to carry a multiplexed signal.

Its not the same as having 6 channel discrete, but I'm not aware of any soundcards (beyond the ones gamerk316 mentioned) that have an integrated headphone amp and 5.1 discrete.


I just have a set of cheap Sony headphones. Yes I was saying I want the option to use speakers configured for either 5.1 or 7.1 for when I'm at home or just use the the headphones for when I'm at my girlfriends. My current setup consists of a Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 5.1 system.

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December 6, 2011 2:43:19 AM

m1helmethead said:
What can I say I'm a total noob.
@soccerdocks Ok thats a hell of a setup! How bout something in the $500 range? How does directional sound work with the headphones or is all just stereo?


Depends. Personally, I find 5.1 headphones a waste, because the individual drivers are so weak. But ASUS sound cards can virtualize a 5.1/7.1 audio stream onto a 2.1 headset, which makes any stereo headset very close to what a surround headset would be like.

Quote:

@gamerk316 Yes I would like the option of either 5.1/7.1 speakers or headphones. How do you hook up the 5.1/7.1 to the Asus card? I don't see that many ports on the back?


In the case of the Xense, it has a seperate attachment on the back that allows the 7.1 analog connection. So you can hook up speakers to the 7.1 analog outputs, and the headphones to the dedicated headphone output, and swap between them via the driver software.

The only other real option involves either switches or a Receiver.
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December 6, 2011 3:30:26 AM

So heres the setup I'm looking at:

Asus Xonar Essence STX
Audio-Technica ATHM50S Headphones or AKG K701?
Digital 7.1 speaker setup connected through spdif

What do you guys recommend for $300 or under headphones? I listen to classical, metal, rock, blues, and alittle bit of rap and I do enjoy good bass. Would connecting the digital speakers through spdif be the preferred method?

Thanks for your time guys
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December 6, 2011 5:04:36 AM

m1helmethead said:

What do you guys recommend for $300 or under headphones? I listen to classical, metal, rock, blues, and alittle bit of rap and I do enjoy good bass. Would connecting the digital speakers through spdif be the preferred method?

Thanks for your time guys


Yes, using the spdif will be the preferred method to use with your speakers.

Have you considered open headphones vs. closed? The ATH-M50S are closed headphones whereas the AKG K701 are open ones. Open means that you will be able to hear your surroundings and your surroundings will be able to hear your music.

I am somewhat partial to Sennheiser and the HD 558 or HD 598 should suit your needs. However, the two pairs of headphones you listed are both well rated. If you want more detailed information about the specific sound qualities of each of the headphones here are a few links. Head-Fi is a great site to check out if you're really concerned with audio quality.

ATH-M50S
AKG K701
Sennheiser HD 558
Sennheiser HD 598
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