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Sound cards? Amps? What?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
So I hadn't been much of an audiophile in the past, but now that I am done with college and have a real job, I can actually buy stuff. So today I ordered some HD555's, and now I am looking for more things to create a good listening experience...

And I have heard people talking about amps for their headphones. What is this? Why would I need an amp for my headphones? Is this really necessary? What does it do? I know, I have a lot of questions...

Also, sound cards. Is dedicated sound really that important? Or can I continue with on-board sound? I have seen ridiculous price ranges for sound cards, like $15 - $300. What is legit?

I need good speakers too, but I can figure that out on my own. I just feel like I can't get a solid answer on whether an amp/sound card is really worth it and how it actually would improve the sound (through speakers and/or headphones). Any input? Thanks so much guys.
post #2 of 9
Not all people are equal when it comes to their senses; some have better, more discriminative sight (e.g. painters), or hearing (e.g. musicians), taste, smell, touch.
As such, an audiophile might hear/sense sound reproduction imperfections while other humans have so sense of it.
If it does not bother you to listen MP3's on iPod, you need not go any farther; otherwise go to an audiophile store to try a few amplifier/speaker setups and see if you are impressed or not.
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post #3 of 9
Hit up your Local Guitar Center and go nuts!!!!

nobody here can tell you what to like, I learned you have to go and just experience audio for yourself.

Hit up our Computer Audio/Home Audio section for detailed info/suggestions/theory and stuff
Edited by Danker16 - 10/5/11 at 8:43pm
post #4 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by griffsterb View Post
And I have heard people talking about amps for their headphones. What is this? Why would I need an amp for my headphones? Is this really necessary? What does it do? I know, I have a lot of questions...
Some headphones require more power than is given by a sound card/onboard audio and thus one would need an amp to supply that extra boost. Depending on the impedeance of your headphones, you may or may not notice a difference using an amp.

Quote:
Originally Posted by griffsterb View Post
Also, sound cards. Is dedicated sound really that important? Or can I continue with on-board sound? I have seen ridiculous price ranges for sound cards, like $15 - $300. What is legit?
Yes, it is important. The raw sound data is normally processed on low-quality, terrible onboard audio chips...getting a sound card moves all that audio processing onto that dediated card where it will be clearer, higher quality, and better sounding in general. I wouldn't necessarily call it night and day like some people believe, but I can say that I will never go back to onboard. (ever)

For an entry sound card, the Xonar DX is on sale at Amazon for $30. I got mine for $60...so that is a great deal. Unless you're an audiophile there isn't much need to spend more than 150 on a dedicated card.



Remember, the three most important things in sound: input, processing, and output. Input=source of audio, processing=sound card, output=headphones/speakers
post #5 of 9
edit: semi-ninja'd

It's not just about high impedance, headphones with low impedance will also benefit from using an amp. Clarity is improved, not just volume levels.

As for sound cards, it depends on what you're playing. If you're listening to a 128kbps mp3 rip of xyz song, a dedicated sound card isn't going to make any difference whatsoever. However, if you've got a good source file (e.g. FLAC rip or ogg straight from source) then the difference really is amazing.

Again though, all that depends on how good your speakers are too, whether they be headphones or "normal" speakers.
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post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwiasian View Post
For an entry sound card, the Xonar DX is on sale at Amazon for $30. I got mine for $60...so that is a great deal. Unless you're an audiophile there isn't much need to spend more than 150 on a dedicated card.
I see the Xonar_DG on sale for about $30 at Amazon. The DX is about $90. Both have pretty good reviews though. I think I'll buy the cheaper one for now just to see how it is; I can always upgrade later. Cool. Thanks for the information guys, and I'll keep browsing around and doing my research : )
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by S0ULphIRE View Post
edit: semi-ninja'd

It's not just about high impedance, headphones with low impedance will also benefit from using an amp. Clarity is improved, not just volume levels.

As for sound cards, it depends on what you're playing. If you're listening to a 128kbps mp3 rip of xyz song, a dedicated sound card isn't going to make any difference whatsoever. However, if you've got a good source file (e.g. FLAC rip or ogg straight from source) then the difference really is amazing.

Again though, all that depends on how good your speakers are too, whether they be headphones or "normal" speakers.
Well, that's the thing. I used to just listen to whatever. But lately I have been ripping some CDs to FLAC and converting some to 320kbps as well. So I should hear a difference with nice headphones and a sound card on these kinds of files? I guess that does make sense : P

The speakers will come later. Like I said, just ordered some HD555's from Amazon so I'll find out soon enough.
post #8 of 9
You can do a simple test yourself! Take something you own which has the music in it's orignal source format, and rip it a few times using different settings. Do a FLAC, do a 320Kbps MP3, do a 128Kbps MP3, etc. Then listen through them, same song but different compression/codec standards.

I mean same deal with videos, except you can see the difference there.
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post #9 of 9
You can have a read on the latest Fiio E10 USB DAC/Headphone Amp as well ^^
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