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First time sound card buyer. Need advice.

Last response: in Components
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May 23, 2012 8:36:06 AM

I never thought I was going to play "real" games on my computer as an avid ps3 player, but I discovered steam and have been buying game after game. I bought a pair of senheiser hd558 headphones and would like to get better sound quality coming from my computer. I just connect the headphones to my speaker set ( not directly to the computer since it doesnt have a volume control switch ), and Im not sure if this causes sound to leak or lose quality. Im planning in playing games like fallout, skyrim, bioshock, adventure games in general. Nothing like call of duty/battlefield action since I use my ps3 for that (with a dolby surround sound box). Would like to listen to music and get an upgrade in the quality especially in the bass. I was thinking in getting one of those fiios headphone amplifiers, but Im not sure if it will be better to just get a soundcard. My budget is around $50 but may go a little higher depending if its worth it for what Im going to use it. I heard ASUS make decent soundcards at great prices.
Thx in advance.

Edit: I forgot to post my setup. Its an HP p7-1110, and I guess it has some kind of integrated "HD" soundcard.
May 23, 2012 3:58:41 PM

The best price/performance option is the ASUS Xonar DX, which goes for about $70.

While your current headset doesn't benefit from an amp, if you plan to upgrade later, you may want to go with the ASUS Xonar DG instead.
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May 23, 2012 4:55:19 PM

Excuse my ignorance, but how can I control the volume if I plug my headphones directly to the sound card jack? Or should I just directly plug my speakers to the sound card and then my headphones to the speakers or something?
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May 23, 2012 5:17:51 PM

Use the sound card software to control volume levels. If you plug into speakers, you are going to take a huge quality hit.
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May 23, 2012 9:27:21 PM

yeah.

there is zero difference you will have any chance of noticing between onboard hidef audio and a dedicated sound card. and frankly if you are spending money on a card you are misguided anyway.

the complex explanation:

modern onboard audio is very, very good.

a dedicated card willl have its own D/A converter which will make the end result .. different. NOT necessarily better or anywhere near a faithful reproduction, which is something no man of sound mind would expect out of music files anyway.

in addition, IF you had the most astouding audio card in the world and the biggest, most faithful FLAC files ever made, what would you use listen to them? Cheap headphones? PC loudspeakers?

a reasonable advice would be to save your money and if you really want better sound to improve either your headphones or (better yet)your speakers. my advice, keep your money.
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May 23, 2012 10:21:08 PM

gamerk316 said:
Use the sound card software to control volume levels. If you plug into speakers, you are going to take a huge quality hit.


I thought I may have to do that. The thing is that I will be playing games in full screen so in order to adjust the volume I would have to minimize the window, open the soundcard software and change the volume there.
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May 29, 2012 6:30:13 PM

Sorry for the double post, but Im not sure what will be the best option for me. Ive heard that there are these headphone amplifiers like the ones fiio make. There are many models, and they claim they act like external sound cards. Will it be better to get one of these? There are e6, e7, e10, e11, and besides some of them being portable or not, I dont know exactly the difference between them.
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May 29, 2012 7:09:17 PM

Again, if you don't plan to move to high impedance headphones, there isn't much reason to go with an amp or a soundcard with a dedicated amp.

Also, in regards to volume, I typically set a "master volume" in my driver control panel [say, 50%], and if a particular program needs adjusting [say, a game] I adjust it within that program.

Quote:

modern onboard audio is very, very good.


Not really. Very muddled, but passable for the low quality .mp3/youtube files most people use, but far better then onboard used to be.

Quote:

a dedicated card willl have its own D/A converter which will make the end result .. different. NOT necessarily better or anywhere near a faithful reproduction, which is something no man of sound mind would expect out of music files anyway.


Lets not forget the extra processing, feature set, or opamps used. Those are areas where onboard lags, badly compared to any decent soundcard.

Quote:

in addition, IF you had the most astouding audio card in the world and the biggest, most faithful FLAC files ever made, what would you use listen to them? Cheap headphones? PC loudspeakers?


In the OPs case, a pair of hd558's, which are more then good enough to benefit from a soundcard.
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