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Budget USB sound card and Quality Headphone build - Update 10/27/11 Got my Gear!!

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

So I have finally seen the light and am ditching my USB headset and onboard sound card (similar to my struggles with mechanical keys). But since I am loyal to my mini-itx, the sound card is gonna have to be USB... and since I am a broke cheapskate, the headphones/mic are gonna have to be on a budget.

I am currently selling all the crap I can find around my house on ebay and I think I can scrape togther $125 to $150 for both items. For my mic, I am going to pick up a Zalman clip on... giving in to the countless recommendations.

As for the sound card, I just need something pretty basic to plug my 2.1 speaker system into, and also my headphones/mic. This is what I was thinking for the USB sound card, thoughts, questions, concerns:


Now onto the headphones.

1. these are going to be used about 60% gaming 30% music and 10% movies. The games I plan on playing are BF3, SC2, and maybe some SWTOR.
2. My music tastes vary from mainly metal, classic rock to rap/hip hop and 80's electronic.
3. I am not really a bass head, but most of my headphone experience is with earbuds (little bass) or Logitech closed back headsets (no sound can escape).
4. I need to make sure that the headphones go AROUND my ears and not on them, I cant stand the pain... so large cups please.
5. sound leakage doesnt concern me as long as it is not overtly loud. I game with the door closed usually, but open headphones might be nice so i can actually hear the wife yelling at me
6. i am a hot head, so closed headphones do "eventually" make me sweat... although it is not a dealbreaker.
7. overall, not really sure if I should be using open or closed.

Pros and Cons of these, if you please:

http://www.soundprofessionals.com/cg.../item/ATH-A700
http://www.soundprofessionals.com/cg...item/ATH-AD500
http://www.soundprofessionals.com/cg...item/ATH-AD700

I am just looking for a decent experience to ease me into more quality sound, without going all out (budge constraints). Comfort, quality, and durability are huge factors of me enjoying the new equipment.

Thanks in advance for the help, cant spend this recycled cash without you!

Update

so I got my JVC HA-RX900 ($47 on newegg) and my Sound Blaster X-FI Surround 5.1 USB SB1090 ($35 used on eBay) today and I have not taken them off yet.

I know these need some burn in (or I have read that at least), but I realize how much I have been missing out on all these years with USB headsets and crappy skull candy ear buds.

this might sound noobish, but I just feel like I can hear all of the instruments clearer now, including notes I never previously heard. They have enough bass to handle rap well, but do equally well with multiple-instrumentation like David Bowie and Peter Gabriel.

for $83, this was a very, very valuable upgrade. I am going to get some time in on BF3 tonight and see how they do.

Later on this week, I will be doing a detachable boom mic mod, hopefully some pics and a build guide forthcoming.


Thanks for all the help in the decision making process!
Edited by dutchgenius - 10/27/11 at 6:39pm
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post #2 of 31
Thread Starter 
just found this deal, 40% off your order at Steel Series website:

http://www.overclock.net/online-deal...all-steel.html

anyone know if this USB sounds card is decent at all? it would be $24.00 after discount, but not sure if it has all the same features of the Sound Blaster.

http://steelseries.com/us/products/a...-usb-soundcard
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post #3 of 31

I can only speak for the headphones I currently own, but I love my JVC HA-RX700s. Quite comfortable and they fit perfectly around my ears, which are on the larger side. I won't claim these are the best headphones out there, but I thoroughly enjoy the sound of these headphones and would recommend them as a budget option.

As for USB sound cards, I don't have one yet, but since I have a small form factor system I don't have room for a regular card either so I have been looking into them myself. I am particularly fond of this one.



Since I don't see myself using a surround system for my computer I don't need anything other than stereo.
I don't think that the Steelseries one would be that much better than onboard sound mainly because of how small and cheap it is.
post #4 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gameworm View Post
I can only speak for the headphones I currently own, but I love my JVC HA-RX700s. Quite comfortable and they fit perfectly around my ears, which are on the larger side. I won't claim these are the best headphones out there, but I thoroughly enjoy the sound of these headphones and would recommend them as a budget option.

As for USB sound cards, I don't have one yet, but since I have a small form factor system I don't have room for a regular card either so I have been looking into them myself. I am particularly fond of this one.

http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Sound.../ref=pd_cp_e_2


Since I don't see myself using a surround system for my computer I don't need anything other than stereo.
I don't think that the Steelseries one would be that much better than onboard sound mainly because of how small and cheap it is.
thanks for the tip, but what is the difference between these two Creative units?


and

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post #5 of 31
The main differences are the X-Fi HD only supports stereo output where the X-Fi 5.1 supports 5.1 surround sound. However, the HD uses higher quality components than the 5.1. If you are planning on using a surround speaker setup go for the 5.1, but if you'll mainly use headphones and 2.1 speakers, go with the HD.

Also just so you are aware, the X-Fi HD uses the larger headphone jacks on the front inputs, but most higher end headphones either come with adapters or have that as standard, so you should be just fine.
post #6 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gameworm View Post
The main differences are the X-Fi HD only supports stereo output where the X-Fi 5.1 supports 5.1 surround sound. However, the HD uses higher quality components than the 5.1. If you are planning on using a surround speaker setup go for the 5.1, but if you'll mainly use headphones and 2.1 speakers, go with the HD.

Also just so you are aware, the X-Fi HD uses the larger headphone jacks on the front inputs, but most higher end headphones either come with adapters or have that as standard, so you should be just fine.
I noticed that regarding the larger headphone jacks... but that does mean I need to get a spare one for my mic though.
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post #7 of 31
while not really the best for gaming, the Fiio E-7 is a tremendously powerful DAC and sounds great, it is only two channels so gaming isn't as spacious, but it sounds much much better

Also, for budget headphones, you cant get much better than Sen. HD428 for $50
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post #8 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdrdrdrd View Post
while not really the best for gaming, the Fiio E-7 is a tremendously powerful DAC and sounds great, it is only two channels so gaming isn't as spacious, but it sounds much much better

Also, for budget headphones, you cant get much better than Sen. HD428 for $50
what exactly are the differences between a DAC and a usb sound card... or are they the same thing? one of the aspects of the Creative models that I liked is that I could leave my speakers plugged into the rear outputs all the time, and then just plug my headset in and out of the front when needed. I am not sure the Fiio has the same capabilities (dont know much about their technology)

the vinyl earpads of the Sennheiser make me think I am gonna be sweating , especially since they are closed back. I think maybe a pleather or velour solution might be better, just not sure how affordable it is going to be...
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post #9 of 31
Quote:
I noticed that regarding the larger headphone jacks... but that does mean I need to get a spare one for my mic though.
You would, but they only cost a couple of dollars, like this one.


Quote:
while not really the best for gaming, the Fiio E-7 is a tremendously powerful DAC and sounds great, it is only two channels so gaming isn't as spacious, but it sounds much much better
I have heard that the e7 is a great DAC, but mainly if it is used portable or in conjunction with the e9 amplifier. Correct me if I am in error here. Also, having a microphone input on the external card is also a useful feature.

Quote:
what exactly are the differences between a DAC and a usb sound card... or are they the same thing?
Every soundcard has a DAC, or Digital Analog Converter, as part of it. Roughly, it converts the digital signal to analog waves.
Edited by gameworm - 10/20/11 at 9:36pm
post #10 of 31

Heya,

A DAC and Soundcard are the same thing, the Soundcard has a DAC onboard, in converts digital to analog signal so you can feed a driver. Sound cards also have a level of current going through the output jack, which is the same as an amplifier, and simply does it to a degree that is often not documented well. In my experience with soundcards, I have 10 year old soundcards that pushed 300ohm headphones without a problem. I would say that you shouldn't worry about impedance ratings when selecting one other than the highest level of 600ohm for example. For 300ohm and below, a big wig amplifier really is not likely necessary.

Since you're on a budget, want USB, and want something for your genres of choice and you want dolby headphone, then here's a concoction for you:



(these sound like $200 headphones).
Here's a review of them on Head-Fi: http://www.head-fi.org/products/pana...r/reviews/5665

(for comfort; totally optional, they fit perfectly)



Very best,
Edited by MalVeauX - 10/20/11 at 9:35pm
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