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Choosing between sound cards!

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February 21, 2012 3:43:38 PM

Audiophiles of the internet!

I am posting this to ask for help in deciding between soundcards, and to a lesser degree headphones. Im looking at upgrading my computer, and along the way I started thinking about getting a dedicated soundcard for additional aural pleasure (hah). I have M-Audio AV40 monitors which Ive had for about 3 years and absolutely love, they make music a religious experience compared to what I used to use, but theyre hooked up to just onboard audio and Im slowly beginning to realise what a travesty this is.

What the card will primarily be used for:
- Music (HQ from spotify premium, dont have much flac, etc, though how much of spotify is 320kbps is up for debate)
- Gaming (I should have enough firepower when upgraded to not have to worry about losing too many fps, but Id like to avoid it if possible. Id also like good 3D positional as I play BF3 etc)

Headphones I've basically decided on unless you can persuade me otherwise (I dare ya): Sennheiser PC 360's

Soundcards I cant decide between:
- Xonar Essence STX
- Xonar D2X <--- leaning towards this atm as its only £20 more than the DX, and has more connection options than the STX
- Xonar DX

I dont really want to go Creative as Ive had awful driver issues with them in the past that have left a bad taste, but Im open to any suggestions from other manufacturers. Two last things: Im not an extreme audiophile, I just like good music, and find the sound environment in games to be almost as important as the visuals. So, since Im viewing this as a long term investment, Im not too worried about paying a bit extra if I think its worth it.

Ive been researching this for the past two weeks or so, and didnt quite realise how deep the rabbit hole went when I first started lol :heink: , so Ive been finally forced to admit I dont know a DAC from an opamp, and in posting this I'm now slightly worried they're the same thing :D . In any case, Id really appreciate some advice from the good peoples of Toms, so I leave my auditory future in your hands!

Thanks in advance everyone :) 

More about : choosing sound cards

February 21, 2012 4:04:05 PM

So, kinda wondering, when was the last time you had a Creative card?
I had problems with them way back in the late 90's early 2000's but now their cards are top notch.
As far as Xonar, I have yet to hear them(are they a UK company?)
And the headphones, I usually go with the ones that provide the broadest range of response possible(like 10 - 40,000hz for example) with the least amount of distortion. This requires looking up specs. Sony does a good job of this. Others don't. My last couple of heaphones have all been sony's.. I have heard BOSE and their' noise cancelling tech is good stuff... but because they *are* headphones, I won't touch them because they could get destroyed...
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February 21, 2012 4:32:28 PM

Yeah lol, last time I had a Creative was in the 90's, but it left a lasting impression, childhood scars and all that :p . Last I heard they were having a lot of problems migrating from XP to vista/7 werent they? (I use 7 64-bit)

Xonar is made by ASUS, and has gotten pretty rave reviews everywhere...theyve been out for a couple of years now :) . On that note, I just read that there may be a Xonar product refresh this year as previously the cards were using a PCI to PCIe bridge, but a native PCIe chip has just been released, can anyone comment on this?

The headphones I chose as they'd all gotten quite a lot of recommendations for both sound quality and build quality. Had a look at BOSE but none of the headsets I could find really interested me, havent had a look at sony yet! Thanks for the response :) 

also thanks for the link, I'd already read it, was what got me thinking of getting some headphones in the first place :p . Unfortunately some of the ones I was quite interested in (mainly slightly higher end ones) werent in it, so Im going off of reviews elsewhere :D 
February 21, 2012 5:42:20 PM

I've been running a Creative ExtremeMusic pci card for several years now.
Have had zero problems with it, unless I attempt to overclock it(don't ask =D )
It went from XP to Vista to 7, no problem.
I think both me and you have had rough experiences with the old Audigy cards, which sucked badly.
But now you've pic'd my interests on Xonar, and I think I will have a go out one of those base cards.
February 22, 2012 12:07:31 PM

Yeah I think Im going to go with the STX, was initially put off by the lack of connectors, but I only use a pair of monitors and Im not expecting to upgrade to anything more anytime soon so...

Headphone wise I think Im going to go with the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80ohm, and get a mic seperately, whatcha think?
February 22, 2012 6:06:43 PM

Well, if you want a high end card with a headphone amp with 7.1 connectors, you could go with the ASUS Xonar Xense. Plus, you get a PC350 with the card, which is a very good headset. [My new BD DT770's blow it out of the water though].

The D2(X) is an interesting option for about $120 or so, since it competes directly against the newer Auzentech Meridian 2G. $120 makes a lot more sense then the $160 it was stuck at for almost a year...
!