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Need for a sound card / headphone amp?

Last response: in Components
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December 20, 2011 11:09:50 PM

Hello!

I have a question.

I currently have an Asus P7P55D-E PRO motherboard with no additional sound card.

I am considering getting either a Corsair Vengeance 1500 Headset or a Corsair 1300, but I wanted to know, How much better would the USB headset be compared to the analog headset with NO sound card? What about the UBS vs an analog with a dedicated sound card?

Also, do most sound cards include a headphone amp? What does a headphone amp give you in terms of sound?

One more thing, Would you recommend even getting a sound card for normal use of any device? How much better sound do you get VS the on-board audio?

I am kind of an audio newbie (though I am NOT a computer newbie), so I don't know much about sound cards.

One last thing, If a sound card would be advisable, is there one you recommend that is under $100?

Thank you very much!

-- Yogman
December 21, 2011 12:44:20 AM

1: I consider all USB headsets to be worse then using onboard, because they will all use very cheap digital to analog converters to handle the audio conversion. There are VERY few exceptions to this rule.

2: Most soundcards do not have a built in amp. The only thing an amp gives you is the ability to use high impedance headphones, which some would argue gives a slightly higher audio quality as a result.

3: As far as quality, treat a soundcard like a high-end GPU: With a high end GPU, you can crank up anti-aliasing to improve picture quality. While not needed at all, some swear that turning up AA to 4x is a significant improvement, and worth a hundred extra dollars on a more powerful GPU. Thats pretty much what a soundcard does for sound: A better signal quality, better handling of dynamic ranges, and the like. That being said, the speakers at the other end also play a role...

Oddly enough, when going from one sound device to another, I typically don't hear an improvement right away. Its only after I go back and listen to the old sound device after a while that I notice the quality difference...[might just be me, but I've heard others say the same thing...]

4: As for as under $100 goes, the ASUS Xonar D1/DX is king. The ASUS Xonar DS rules the $40 range, and the ASUS Xonar DG offers a low-cost headphone amp for those who need it, for around $20 or so.
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December 21, 2011 1:07:31 AM

gamerk316 said:
1: I consider all USB headsets to be worse then using onboard, because they will all use very cheap digital to analog converters to handle the audio conversion. There are VERY few exceptions to this rule.

2: Most soundcards do not have a built in amp. The only thing an amp gives you is the ability to use high impedance headphones, which some would argue gives a slightly higher audio quality as a result.

3: As far as quality, treat a soundcard like a high-end GPU: With a high end GPU, you can crank up anti-aliasing to improve picture quality. While not needed at all, some swear that turning up AA to 4x is a significant improvement, and worth a hundred extra dollars on a more powerful GPU. Thats pretty much what a soundcard does for sound: A better signal quality, better handling of dynamic ranges, and the like. That being said, the speakers at the other end also play a role...

Oddly enough, when going from one sound device to another, I typically don't hear an improvement right away. Its only after I go back and listen to the old sound device after a while that I notice the quality difference...[might just be me, but I've heard others say the same thing...]

4: As for as under $100 goes, the ASUS Xonar D1/DX is king. The ASUS Xonar DS rules the $40 range, and the ASUS Xonar DG offers a low-cost headphone amp for those who need it, for around $20 or so.


Thank you so much for your response, but I have a few follow-up questions.

I don't know how familiar you are with the Corsair Vengeance 1500, but I would not expect something as low end as your describing from Corsair. But, that's just my opinion.

So, would you say for a normal to moderate impedance headset you should have a headphone amp? Does it make it sound better?

Also, does the Xonar D1/DX or the Xonar DS have a headphone amp?
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December 21, 2011 1:18:28 AM

Stay away from all of the so called "gaming" headsets out there, a decent analog headphone out of a good'nuff sound card will give you much better sound quality and versatility than any of those usb headsets at less than half the price.

How much better can it be with a sound card? depends on how much you're willing to spend, there are D/A converters that cost $60 ( and sound much better, but generally pretty much everything blows away the onboard sound card), and some that cost $3000 + that will make your jaw drop from the very first second, provided you have well recorded high-res material and matching equipment ( good headphones/speakers).

How much are you willing to spend in the total setup (headphones/sound card)?

On a high impedance headphone ( that includes many old models and current hi-fi), an amplifier will make a world of difference, the bass will be tighter, everything will sound clearer overall, without an amp it may sound distant and muffled.

Asking about quality audio at tom's is not a very good idea. here's one site that will surely help you make an informed decition http://www.head-fi.org/ .
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