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Finalizing my "big" sound upgrade

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm looking to make a significant upgrade from my on-board audio and finally have the funds to do it (~$1000 budget). Need some help from the OCN sound guru's to finalize it and make sure these are the best purchases for my needs/$$.

I listen primarily to pop-punk, punk, electronic, and indie music (thinking short, fast, punchy bass). I do play quite a bit of SC2 and plan on playing a lot of BF3 when it comes out. Music takes the priority over game sound as most of the time I usually even listen to music over game music but I still want the option of not having games I play sound like complete garbage?

Tentative upgrade includes:
HD 598's
Asus Xonar Essence STX
M-Audio BX5a Deluxe's
Dayton Sub-120 HT 12'
Total - $840

I ruled out DAC's because I still want to play games, is this thinking correct? Do I need a receiver? Are the headphones suitable to what I listen to (should I opt for open or closed)? Any areas where I can improve?

Thanks a lot!
Edited by HometownHero - 5/6/11 at 4:16pm
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post #2 of 18
Thread Starter 
Bump?
Edit: Also considering the DT 880 (250ohm) now, as well.
Edited by HometownHero - 5/7/11 at 1:47pm
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post #3 of 18
Hey man. I hope I can be of some help as I have changed around my HT setup several times in the last year looking for the perfect (within a reasonable budget) sound. First things first: $1000 is a great budget for an entry-level system. You should be able to get a pretty satisfying sound within this budget.

Something you should consider: do you really want to get headphones and speakers right away? If you dive right into the speakers with your full budget, you will have more to work with. I suppose the question is how often you would be using your headphones. If it is any less than ~20% of the time, I would suggest omitting these, at least for now (you can always buy them later). If you want the headphones at the same time, then adjust your budgets for each accordingly.

Now, I need to know the following before I can suggest hardware more accurately:

Room size (dimensions)?
Desire/possibility for surround sound?
How much desk space for speakers?

I will give some general suggestions for now:

Receiver. If you are going to be going surround sound in the future (which you may want to, as I did), you will need a 5.1 receiver, as external DACs do not support surround sound, as I understand. Onkyo and Harmon Kardon are great choices, but ultimately, just get the best one your budget will allow.

Now, for "short, fast, punchy bass", as you mentioned which is prominent in punk music especially, you are going to want a tight sub over one that is loud (think "musical" vs. "home theatre"). I'm not familiar with that Dayton sub, but I would be willing to wager that you can do better while still hitting the $1000 budget for your whole system. Hsu makes brilliant entry level subs (I admit to having some inherent bias as I have Hsu pieces myself) as well as bookshelves. They constitute my entire music listening system, and I couldn't be more thrilled with the sound. If you can spring the $300 to $350 for an STF-1 or STF-2, respectively, I think you will be very pleased with the decision. They have a 30-day in-home trial automatically upon purchase, so if you want to send them back there will be no issues.

For bookshelves, you will want a pair of passive speakers (meaning they have no power cable, they just use a speaker line from the receiver). Depending on how close they will be, you will have to decide whether to buy near field monitors (close range) or regular, "Home Theatre" speakers (like I have). If you have room behind or beside your desk to place the speakers on stands, the latter would be a fine choice. If not, near field monitors would be your best bet for close range listening.
    
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post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
Wow great response, thanks. I plan on leaving my computer system as a 2.1 set up and need the head phones for night time listening as I live in a shared wall apartment for the time being but our schedules differ so much that it leaves me time to play speakers during the day but restricts listening to headphones at night.

I havent heard of Hsu Research but there are some raving reviews out there about the quality, definitely a good suggestion, thanks. Your distinction between musical and home theater is a good one, I'm not going for volume but rather, accuracy.

I have plenty of desk space, I am picking up the full size Ikea Galant L desk next week so I will have plenty of room.

The $1000 budget is more like a guide, I dont want to spend any more now but I am sure I will once I listen to the setup.
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post #5 of 18
How much of the time will you be using the headphones?
    
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post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arrec Barrwin View Post
How much of the time will you be using the headphones?
Probably 40-50% of the time,
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post #7 of 18
Oh, in that case, definitely put some good money into your headphones. I'm not familiar with headphones around the 400-500 range, but ask around on the forum, you will most definitely get suggestions. You can get some pretty kickass cans and maybe an external DAC (since you are only going stereo anyway) with that budget.

For speakers, 500 bucks will admittedly do less damage, but you should still be able to get a solid entry level system (my first system was $500 budget). Just remember that you will need a receiver, which you can used pretty cheap, especially stereo ones. I wouldn't spend more than $100. For speakers and sub, it's a little harder to say, as a lot of subs that will fit in this price range will most likely be lackluster (mine was!). You may want to consider just buying speakers for now, and expanding with a sub later. $400 can get you a pair of the speakers I'm rocking right now (Hsu HB-1 MK2), which definitely won't dissatisfy. But, if you're a bass fiend like me, go for some budget speakers and a sub. I would say, a good rule of thumb is to allocate about 40% of the total budget to the sub, but again, I love my bass So, you're looking at a pair of bookshelves for $200 and a sub for $200. I won't bother suggesting any specific speakers because honestly, I don't have nearly as much knowledge of what's out there as others on this forum. But, these are the prices I would recommend, and you can go from there
    
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post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arrec Barrwin View Post
Oh, in that case, definitely put some good money into your headphones. I'm not familiar with headphones around the 400-500 range, but ask around on the forum, you will most definitely get suggestions. You can get some pretty kickass cans and maybe an external DAC (since you are only going stereo anyway) with that budget.

For speakers, 500 bucks will admittedly do less damage, but you should still be able to get a solid entry level system (my first system was $500 budget). Just remember that you will need a receiver, which you can used pretty cheap, especially stereo ones. I wouldn't spend more than $100. For speakers and sub, it's a little harder to say, as a lot of subs that will fit in this price range will most likely be lackluster (mine was!). You may want to consider just buying speakers for now, and expanding with a sub later. $400 can get you a pair of the speakers I'm rocking right now (Hsu HB-1 MK2), which definitely won't dissatisfy. But, if you're a bass fiend like me, go for some budget speakers and a sub. I would say, a good rule of thumb is to allocate about 40% of the total budget to the sub, but again, I love my bass So, you're looking at a pair of bookshelves for $200 and a sub for $200. I won't bother suggesting any specific speakers because honestly, I don't have nearly as much knowledge of what's out there as others on this forum. But, these are the prices I would recommend, and you can go from there
Thanks, definitely a tremendous help. Would I still need a receiver though if I bought a Asus Xonar Essence STX? I was under the impression I can just run the two monitors and a sub through the STX, although I could definitely be wrong.

I too appreciate a solid bass and am going to take your advice on the 40% allocation. I rarely listen to music where there isnt some kind of bass being produced.

As for headphones, I am leaning towards some DT990's. The folks over at Head-fi have been very helpful in that regard.
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post #9 of 18
You will still need a receiver. The soundcard only converts digital audio to analog (among other things), which is what the receiver does anyway, in addition to sending sound through your speakers and powering them. If you buy powered speakers, a receiver is unnecessary.
Edited by Arrec Barrwin - 5/9/11 at 12:07pm
    
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post #10 of 18
Why not a HD558 and modd them to the 598? save a few €/$
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