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Need insight for first mid level pc audio setup

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Ok here's the deal. Ive been a long time pc gamer but to this day have never really gotten into the audio side of my gaming experience.
I'm coming to you with little to no REAL experience, only info I've been attaining the past few hours. I'm basically starting completely fresh audio wise. The sound card i currently have was a loan from a friend and will be returned soon.
I only use headphones for my pc audio needs (fps, mmo and music... techno, trance, classical... and so on). However, my headphones are total garbage and simply don't cut it anymore. So recently i started to do some research on headphones, and being the audio noob i am, never realized that there are better options headphone wise for pc gaming/music than the standard run of the mill "Gaming" ones you can find in an electronics store.

So what it comes down to is this, i want a quality audio setup for my pc. I am willing to spend way more than i have been conditioned to spending on headphones and audio but i am by no means an "audiophile" possibly because i simply haven't had a taste of the possibilities (eating out of the garbage dumpster, never having tried a real meal).

I did some research and came across the AKG q701 headphones and these seem to be a good possibility (if you disagree, please say so). I also read mad lust envy's headphone gaming guide and began to learn about the functions of DAC's and Amps. Now, coming from a standpoint of hardly even knowing what a soundcard does a few days ago, i am wondering what steps i should take next if i am going to go with the AKG q701 headphones. I know i will need a amp, and after doing research, the Schiit Magni seems like a good option. The problem is, i no longer have a DAC other than the garbage motherboard one. So i am not sure what to do next. I have read about external USB DAC'S such as the Schiit MODI, and i have also read about sound cards but don't quite understand what ill be loosing/gaining if i bought the MODI vs a internal DAC soundcard. What does surround sound do and how does it play into this situation? Should i get a external dac? or soundcard? What option is cheaper and best suits my needs (gaming, music). Will open ear sound interfere or be two loud for microphone use (mmo games)? I would be purchasing a Antlion MOD mic.

Also, when it comes to headphones, I've read many reviews of the akg q701 and really like it, with the understanding that it will need a amp. My question is, will the sound quality really be worth it? also, i understand the bass is mid range, i by no means need huge bass, but a decent bit would be nice.

My budget would be around $500 at absolute MAX. I would prefer $450 or less, going into this audio area not even knowing if all this crap is worth it...

I'm basically just looking for some real advice on this matter. I am willing to change any of my purchase decisions headphone/amp/dac wise.
post #2 of 18
Quote:
AKG q701 headphones and these seem to be a good possibility
I'm skeptical. Headphones.com says, "the AKG Q701 headphones are the culmination of Quincy Jones unprecedented input," which sounds like something Beats would say about their own headphones. All that aside, I don't know about $200+ headphones.
Quote:
If i am going to go with the AKG q701 headphones, then i will need a amp,
Most likely a straight up lie. People say that if your headphone's impedance is ~60 ohms or more, then you need a super-special amp. However, I have headphones that are 250 ohms, and they get loud enough and sound good enough with the amp was built into my onboard and that is built into my current audio interface. Headphones.com says that the Q701s are 62 ohms.
Quote:
a DAC other than the garbage motherboard one
Your motherboard's onboard DAC isn't necessarily garbage. Let me tell you somethin'. I got into this audio stuff a year or so ago, and the one thing that I've learned for sure is that there are lots of fanbois and nubs who say things they shouldn't. This thing that I've just quoted you saying is one of them.
Quote:
What does surround sound do and how does it play into this situation?
Most music is stereo, which means it plays back through two channels, usually a left speaker and a right speaker, so it makes no sense to have surround sound (5 or 7 channel). I don't know how gaming audio works, but I think that some games will give you legit seven channel audio. However, surround sound is kind of a speaker thing, not a headphone thing, so if you want to use headphones, then surround sound is totally unnecessary. Games will also give you 2 channel audio, so don't worry about that. For 2 channel set ups (headphones, left/right speakers), there is such a thing as fake surround sound, where they take the 2 channel signal, apply some funny equalizer settings, and claim that your sound is improved.
Quote:
Will open ear sound interfere or be two loud for microphone use (mmo games)?
You're talking about open headphones? I have a pair. They make it tough to watch porn discreetly, but I doubt they'd make your mic unusable.

I'll share what I do.

I bought a bunch of fancy sound cards all the way up the the Essence STX, and I didn't think they sounded better than my onboard, so I stuck with my onboard and a decent pair of headphones. One day, I wanted to get a fancy XLR microphone, so I bought an audio interface. It's basically an external DAC with fancy XLR microphone inputs. Now I plug my headphones into that.

What you should do: buy, listen, and return until you think you know enough to type like a dumb, bitter, and old man on the internet.
Edited by cuad - 2/9/13 at 7:29pm
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post #3 of 18
Oh, there's confusion and lack of knowlegde here...............

First off bass is not mid-range. There's treble (high). mid range, and bass.

If at all possible, you should visit a hifi shop and audition headphones at various price points. All headphones (and amps, DACs, speakers, even interconnecting cables) all have their own "sound". Choosing one over the other is really a personal decision. What someone else may think is the greatest, may sound like crap to you.

You say you're a gamer. Are you interested in multi channel (ie positional) sound, where the sound comes from the front right, and left and from the rear right and left? Most gamesters are.

Of course, going from cheep headphones to those AKGs will be a big improvement, but are they the ones you really want? Or could you get something for the same price that will be even better (for you)?

Yes, you will need:
Something to convert digital sounds to analog sound (sound card or DAC).
An amplifier to boost the loudness of the weak analogue signal from a sound card or DAC to something useable by headphones (or speakers).

There's also impedance to consider. I'm not going to go into that other than to say the impedance of the amp must "match" (not be the same, but be compatible with each other) the impedance of the headphones.

Some more reading is in order is suspect.
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post #4 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by cuad View Post

Most likely a straight up lie. People say that if your headphone's impedance is ~60 ohms or more, then you need an amp. However, I have headphones that are 250 ohms, and they get loud enough and sound good enough without an amp. Headphones.com says that the Q701s are 62 ohms.
 

 

The Q701 from what I have heard are almost if not exactly the same as K701 which are solid headphones. They do have a unique sound signature (not from experience but vicariously) they some people like and some people don't.

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post #5 of 18
Quote:
Will open ear sound interfere or be two loud for microphone use (mmo games)? I would be purchasing a Antlion MOD mic.

It depends. If you keep game volume reasonably low and aren't always playing music, open headphones are fine. People might be able to hear music or whatever in the background, but not to the point where it would be annoying or cause problems. Open vs. Closed is an issue that I think a lot of people who aren't into MMOs or voice chat brush aside too quickly. With an open pair of headphones and average volume music I can hear it through a closed door, so it CAN be an issue.

For your music taste, I think the q701 will probably be a great choice. Here's what one guy above me was getting at: The Q701 have an impedance of 62 Ohms, so you want to drive them with an amp with an output impedance below 1/8 the headphone impedance to avoid distortion. That means you want an amp with under 7.75 Ohm output impedance, and that is something you won't find in a soundcard. Keep in mind that you could still use a soundcard as a DAC and just get a standalone headphone amp like the Magni. Something like the Creative Z or Zx would let you have a hardware EQ and simulated surround, and the Magni would properly drive the headphones.

So I would get the Q701 and Schiit magni, and either the modi for 100 or Creative Zx which keeps going on sale for $110

Other contenders similar to the AKGs at this price point might be:
Grado SR 225i $200
Sennheiser HD 598 $205
Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro $240
Used Sennheiser HD 600 $250-325
Edited by DrGroove - 2/9/13 at 11:04pm
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post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrGroove View Post

It depends. If you keep game volume reasonably low and aren't always playing music, open headphones are fine. People might be able to hear music or whatever in the background, but not to the point where it would be annoying or cause problems. Open vs. Closed is an issue that I think a lot of people who aren't into MMOs or voice chat brush aside too quickly. With an open pair of headphones and average volume music I can hear it through a closed door, so it CAN be an issue.

For your music taste, I think the q701 will probably be a great choice. Here's what one guy above me was getting at: The Q701 have an impedance of 62 Ohms, so you want to drive them with an amp with an output impedance below 1/8 the headphone impedance to avoid distortion. That means you want an amp with under 7.75 Ohm output impedance, and that is something you won't find in a soundcard. Keep in mind that you could still use a soundcard as a DAC and just get a standalone headphone amp like the Magni. Something like the Creative Z or Zx would let you have a hardware EQ and simulated surround, and the Magni would properly drive the headphones.

So I would get the Q701 and Schiit magni, and either the modi for 100 or Creative Zx which keeps going on sale for $110

Other contenders similar to the AKGs at this price point might be:
Grado SR 225i $200
Sennheiser HD 598 $205
Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro $240
Used Sennheiser HD 600 $250-325

Thanks alot for the reply.
So if i got the creative Zx i would have hardware EQ and simulated surround, where as with the MODI as DAC would exclude me from this option?
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedFox911 View Post

Thanks alot for the reply.
So if i got the creative Zx i would have hardware EQ and simulated surround, where as with the MODI as DAC would exclude me from this option?

And all the other hardware DSP options soundcards offer. The trade-off is potentially slightly lower sound quality. You can get the best of both worlds by using a cheap soundcard to ouput an optical connection to an external DAC. DSP effects can carry over the optical connection and but still use the better DAC on the external unit. The downside is the cost goes up, and you'd probably be looking at $250-300 for both a cheap soundcard and DAC with optical input.

With the Modi as DAC you could still use software EQ in your media software for music or video, but not on games and you wouldn't have 3D effects. Keep in mind that some people, including myself, think that stuff is useless.
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post #8 of 18
I would suggest something from Sennheiser HD family. If you want good sounding headphones, you also need good source audio and good sound card. You don't need good audio equipment if you are going to listen to MP3 or such.

I would more recommend you at first visit http://www.head-fi.org/ and read there about headphones and headphone amps, reviews and tests. Most audio cards do not have proper amplifying for headphones...
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post #9 of 18
+1

And check out the Grado SR325is
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post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrGroove View Post

And all the other hardware DSP options soundcards offer. The trade-off is potentially slightly lower sound quality. You can get the best of both worlds by using a cheap soundcard to ouput an optical connection to an external DAC. DSP effects can carry over the optical connection and but still use the better DAC on the external unit. The downside is the cost goes up, and you'd probably be looking at $250-300 for both a cheap soundcard and DAC with optical input.

With the Modi as DAC you could still use software EQ in your media software for music or video, but not on games and you wouldn't have 3D effects. Keep in mind that some people, including myself, think that stuff is useless.

Yea I'm going to have to agree on the useless part, for some that may be wonderful but at this time i simply don't need external DAC + soundcard.
I liked the idea with the Creative Zx and the magni though. That definitely seems to be a good option.
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