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Audio upgrade for a laptop

Poll Results: What should I buy?

 
  • 25% (3)
    Better headphones
  • 25% (3)
    External soundcard
  • 50% (6)
    DAC
  • 0% (0)
    Amp
12 Total Votes  
post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I've read the "essential reading" thread, and it was informative, but I don't know too much about audio and I have a few questions.

I have a laptop with an onboard sound card, I have Sennheiser 202's that I've had for years and cost me like $20, and I have some old Altec Lansing 5.1 speakers that my laptop doesn't even fully utilize because it is only doing 2.1. The stuff is all old, it was cheap to begin with, and it's starting to break.

I'm looking to upgrade/buy something to get better audio, and I've seen OCN suggest 1. better headphones 2. external soundcard 3. external DAC 4. headphone amp. What is the best decision given what I have? I'd spend up to $150 on any single one of those components, as long as it would make a difference (if that's even possible with a laptop).

I listen to music (post-rock, electronic, classical) and play FPS games, but I'd give priority to equipment that would enhance music listening more than game playing. Thanks for any suggestions.
Edited by foxhaze - 7/29/11 at 5:39am
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post #2 of 15
I would get better headphones.
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Intel 40GB SSD WD Caviar Black 1TB ASUS DVDRW Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit ASUS Glossy Black 23" 
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post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
I have seen people say that getting good headphones doesn't matter if you have a bad sound card. Is it not that big of a deal?
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Sager Laptop
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1650x1080 LCD Logitech G15 Razer Deathadder 3.5 
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post #4 of 15
Depends. Some laptops are decent, but a lot have a ton of static and background noise. I'd get an external DAC.
post #5 of 15
Can we have a budget?

There are some DAC combos i might consider for high impedance headphones like the Fiio E7 + E9, or if you just need a sound card, you could use the USB creative Titanium HD.

If we can upgrade two things at once then youll have a much better audio experience.

If it was up to me I'd upgrade the DAC first.

An external sound card will be a DAC, no need for the external sound card and DAC option in the poll
Edited by pangolinman - 7/28/11 at 7:58pm
post #6 of 15
Better sound starts with the source (audio files included), then flows from there. Definitely invest in a DAC first, then better headphones.
    
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post #7 of 15
depending on budget, why not both USB DAC and headphones?
post #8 of 15
DAC and Headphones!!
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Razer eXactMat ASUS XONAR D1 -7.1 Channel PCI Audio Card Sound... AKG Acoustics K550 Closed-Back Reference Headph... Grado Prestige Series SR325is Headphones 
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Teh PC!
(24 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7-2600K ASUS P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3 XFX Double Dissipation R9 290 2 x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
SanDisk Ultra Plus 2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS 2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3500630AS Seagate Barracuda 2TB 
Optical DriveCoolingOSMonitor
LITE-ON iHAS124 Thermalright Ultra Extreme 120 Windows 8.1 Pro 64-Bit ASUS VN248H-P 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Logitech G510 Seasonic SS-760XP2 760W Corsair 650D Logitech G500 
Mouse PadAudioAudioAudio
Razer eXactMat ASUS XONAR D1 -7.1 Channel PCI Audio Card Sound... AKG Acoustics K550 Closed-Back Reference Headph... Grado Prestige Series SR325is Headphones 
AudioAudioAudioAudio
M-Audio BX5a Deluxe 70-watt Bi-amplified Studio... Dayton SUB-120 12" 150 Watt Powered Subwoofer Millett "Starving Student" Hybrid Amp Sennheiser HD595 
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Reply
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pangolinman View Post
Can we have a budget?
$150 is what I was looking to spend on any one component. If that's not enough to get anything decent, I was just going to hold off.

Just out of curiosity, is there a reason you are all suggesting DAC's over headphone amps? What makes one better than the other?
Sager Laptop
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CPUGraphicsRAMOS
Core 2 Duo 2.5GHz GeForce 9800M GTS 4 GB Windows 7 Professional 
MonitorKeyboardMouse
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  hide details  
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Sager Laptop
(13 items)
 
  
CPUGraphicsRAMOS
Core 2 Duo 2.5GHz GeForce 9800M GTS 4 GB Windows 7 Professional 
MonitorKeyboardMouse
1650x1080 LCD Logitech G15 Razer Deathadder 3.5 
  hide details  
Reply
post #10 of 15
Do you know the difference between a DAC and an AMP? A DAC is pretty much a "sound card" in the sense that it turns the digital information into analog signals the headphones can use to produce sound. An AMP just amplifies a given analog signal. So a good DAC will produce a more accurate analog signal, given that the digital source is good.
Teh PC!
(24 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7-2600K ASUS P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3 XFX Double Dissipation R9 290 2 x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
SanDisk Ultra Plus 2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS 2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3500630AS Seagate Barracuda 2TB 
Optical DriveCoolingOSMonitor
LITE-ON iHAS124 Thermalright Ultra Extreme 120 Windows 8.1 Pro 64-Bit ASUS VN248H-P 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Logitech G510 Seasonic SS-760XP2 760W Corsair 650D Logitech G500 
Mouse PadAudioAudioAudio
Razer eXactMat ASUS XONAR D1 -7.1 Channel PCI Audio Card Sound... AKG Acoustics K550 Closed-Back Reference Headph... Grado Prestige Series SR325is Headphones 
AudioAudioAudioAudio
M-Audio BX5a Deluxe 70-watt Bi-amplified Studio... Dayton SUB-120 12" 150 Watt Powered Subwoofer Millett "Starving Student" Hybrid Amp Sennheiser HD595 
  hide details  
Reply
Teh PC!
(24 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7-2600K ASUS P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3 XFX Double Dissipation R9 290 2 x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
SanDisk Ultra Plus 2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS 2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3500630AS Seagate Barracuda 2TB 
Optical DriveCoolingOSMonitor
LITE-ON iHAS124 Thermalright Ultra Extreme 120 Windows 8.1 Pro 64-Bit ASUS VN248H-P 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Logitech G510 Seasonic SS-760XP2 760W Corsair 650D Logitech G500 
Mouse PadAudioAudioAudio
Razer eXactMat ASUS XONAR D1 -7.1 Channel PCI Audio Card Sound... AKG Acoustics K550 Closed-Back Reference Headph... Grado Prestige Series SR325is Headphones 
AudioAudioAudioAudio
M-Audio BX5a Deluxe 70-watt Bi-amplified Studio... Dayton SUB-120 12" 150 Watt Powered Subwoofer Millett "Starving Student" Hybrid Amp Sennheiser HD595 
  hide details  
Reply
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