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What sound card card for gaming with 5.1 speakers + dedicated amp/headphones

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Getting a new computer build this week and have been thinking of sound card for God knows how long.

Setup is 5.1 surround sound speakers, or Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro/80 ohm through a dedicated amp at night.

Have been traditionally using Creative X-Fi sound cards. Mainly game and listen to club/dance music with lots of bass.

Was looking at the following cards, but not too sure of sound quality
  • Creative X-Fi Titanium HD
  • Creative X-Fi Titanium Fatality Professional
  • Creative Recon3D Fatality Professional
  • Asus Xonar D2X

My concern is for the output jacks, as Titanium HD only has RCA. Also not sure whether the lack of CMSS and Crystallizer can be replaced by THX TruStudio in the Recon3D line. The D2X looks nice, but I have no experience with it and the online reviews are either not comprehensive enough or do not show clear advantages over similar competitors.

Thanks for any input.

SIde thing : Also looking for good 5.1 (or more) speakers. Have never really touched custom setups, used an Altec Lansing FX5051 and was looking at Logitech Z-5500/Z906 (I know many of you say those suck).
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post #2 of 16
Another card to look at is the HT|Omega eClaro: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829271006

HT|Omega's products are well liked by the audiophile community, and they do a great job of creating high-quality sound reproduction. Now, the one thing that HT has going against it is that none of its cards support EAX (or emulate EAX). In my experience, I've found that EAX is more of a marketing gimmick than anything, as I personally can't hear the difference when it is enabled or not.

Now, if you want to get into good 5.1+ speaker systems, then you really should be talking about a dedicated receiver/amp. Though a lot more expensive than a sound card, the receiver system is probably the way to go for the top-of-the line. For example, you can use this setup:

Computer ---(digital signal)--> receiver ---(analog signal)--> Headphones/speakers

In that kind of setup, you'll have no need for a soundcard, because you can output the digital signal using the onboard Optical/Coaxial connection. However, a good receiver, 5 channel speakers, and a subwoofer can run you well in excess of $1k, so it's really a matter of what you want to spend right now.
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
while I like the idea its one too many due to the reciever.

I'd like just a sound card + speaker / headphone setup.

For e.g. Among those cards I listed which would suit my needs for gaming + bass heavy music/ movies? Also those cards I mentioned are the easiest for me to obtain as I don't have newegg where I live.
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post #4 of 16
Ok. I just wanted to make sure you knew about your options thumb.gif

Of your choices, my personally recommendation is the D2X. It's a great card, and though it might be slightly over-priced for what you get, it won't be a disappointment.

I would steer clear of the Titaniums. People here have been reporting that the Titaniums suffer failure about a year after purchase. The Titanium is only tentatively recommended on the OCN's Most Recommended Audio Products list. Also, The FATAL1TY branded stuff is gimmicky, and provides no real-world benefits over the non-FATAL1TY branded stuff.

With that in mind, your only choice really is the D2X, but again, it's a great card. If you want to spend a little less, the DX is virtually identical. The D2X has slightly better chips than the DX, as well as a few more features like DTS, but unless you really need those features, the DX is a much better value.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
D2X looks nice for music, but I would like more insight into its gaming feel compared to the more known X-Fi (EAX and related)?

Also, I've had Titanium in my media HTPC for almost two years so I feel that those failures may really be down to bad batches.

My main reason for looking at the Fatality is not for the branding, but the jacks. For example, the Titanium HD only does RCA but not direct analog 5.1 and/or 7.1 output. The Fatality ones do offer that.

I'm also not too sure of Recon3D's standing - seems so new that not many people have tried it yet. Reecon3D vs X-Fi also presents the difference of THX TruStudio vs. CMSS/Crystallizer and other X-Fi stuff.

Lastly, I have heard Crystallizer on my current rig's XtremeMusic and love it whereby it boosts certain otherwise inaudible sounds (frequencies maybe?). Not sure if normal equalizer can do that; if not any sound card should be capable, except its troublesome. With Crystallizer its just enable and maximum.
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post #6 of 16
EAX used to be something, but since OpenAL developers can implement their own 3D audio fairly easily and often do so!
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post #7 of 16
Hold on a second...

If you already have an XtremeMusic, then there's really no reason to upgrade. The quality of the sound between the XtremeMusic and any of the sound cards isn't really worth it.

As far as EAX is concerned, at this point in time, it's fairly gimmicky and not used that frequently. For most game developers, the coding cost of using EAX vs OpenAL is very low, but OpenAL gives even onboard guys surround audio, so many games go that route. Therefore, all EAX basically gives you the ability to have more numerous simultaneous sounds (voices) which are not really useful in practice.

The Crystallizer is basically a black magic algorithm that undoes dynamic range compression common in CDs or digital sources. What happen is that audio producers essentially equalize volume across the board in order to maximize loudness within the 16-bit dynamic range. Crystallizer undoes this. In other words, the 16-bit dynamic range of a CD is expanded to the 24-bit dynamic range and the volume is adjusted to essentially return the "punch" to the high and low ends of the range.

Also, since I realized I didn't specify, it's the Titanium HD that's having the problems, not the normal Titanium.
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Ok that's interesting. To me so far, it's just Crystallizer = sounds nicer. I suppose what you describe is actually....good for what I want?

So, Titanium HD is out then. My reason for new sound card is that I'm building a new rig, so all components remain in my current rig for giving to brother. Is it then safe to assume that since I seem to prefer Crystallizer I should go with Titanium Fatality (again not for branding, but for the jacks - on second thought, then again it wouldn't be much different from the normal Titanium would it?)? I wonder if anyone knows if the new series of Recon3D's THX TruStudio is anything similar to Crystallizer.

Not that I'm dead against D2X or anything, I just like to know more before buying. In any case I've just purchased my main components, left sound card / dvd which aren't so essential so taking my time.
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post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by scarletoath View Post

Ok that's interesting. To me so far, it's just Crystallizer = sounds nicer. I suppose what you describe is actually....good for what I want?
So, Titanium HD is out then. My reason for new sound card is that I'm building a new rig, so all components remain in my current rig for giving to brother. Is it then safe to assume that since I seem to prefer Crystallizer I should go with Titanium Fatality (again not for branding, but for the jacks - on second thought, then again it wouldn't be much different from the normal Titanium would it?)? I wonder if anyone knows if the new series of Recon3D's THX TruStudio is anything similar to Crystallizer.
Not that I'm dead against D2X or anything, I just like to know more before buying. In any case I've just purchased my main components, left sound card / dvd which aren't so essential so taking my time.

It decompresses the compressed audio, so crystalizer actually makes FLACs worse, because it has to compress them first before decompressing and tweaking the sound ( or so I believe). For most stuff however, crysallizer is a fine thing.
I have a Xonar STX, which has similar outputs to the Titanium HD, and I'm using 2 speakers out of my 5.1 set (roll on well paid job so I can move to receiver and nice speakers), but I mostly use headphones, so no loss.
But I've not noticed anything missing sound-wise in any of the games I play between the low end X-fi on my old Asus Crosshair, and this Xonar, the Xonar manages to make everything sound clearer, crisper, and lovelier.
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post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by allikat View Post

It decompresses the compressed audio, so crystalizer actually makes FLACs worse, because it has to compress them first before decompressing and tweaking the sound ( or so I believe). For most stuff however, crysallizer is a fine thing.
That's not true. It has nothing to do with compressed audio, but rather compressed dynamic range. If you have a FLAC track with 24bits of dynamic range, then Crystallizer is useless. It just won't do anything. A bigger problem is actually when people capture CD audio (which has 16 bits of dynamic range) using FLAC with 24 bits of dynamic range. Then, even though Crystallizer could have improved the quality of the audio, it won't.
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