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Dedicated Amp + Dac, High End Sound Card, or On Board Audio?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I am completing a fully new build with the upcoming release of Haswell and now I'm trying to get the audio portion of it set up. I am still trying to decide on which headphones I want, between the K702 65th Anniversary, HD650, HD600, and HE-400, but that's another discussion for another time. tongue.gif

My question today is what is the best, and most cost effective, way to run audio from my computer to my headphones for gaming, music, and movies?


Option 1: Schiit Magni + Modi - I have read a lot of good things about these and they can be had for around $200 total.

Option 2: I honestly don't know anything about sound cards. lol I'm all ears when it comes to this.

Option 3: The new motherboards are supposed to have extremely good onboard audio. However, I have no clue how that compares vs everything else.


What do you guys think?

Thanks for the help!
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post #2 of 13
IMO, I think you need to decide on the type of headphone you want first before deciding on anything else.

But to answer your question, the most cost effective way is of course just to use onboard sound... since you'll already have to pay for it regardless of whether you want it or not.

Seeing as your list of headphones are pretty high-end though, a Schiit Magni+ Modi stack is definitely the best way to go. No soundcard means no DSP effects like virtual surround sound however, so think about whether that's important to you or not.

Manufacturers does indeed have taken a step up to improve onboard sound for Z87, but plenty of them are still glorified Realtek ALC898. At best, they'll sound as good as a cheap Xonar DGX, don't expect anything high-end.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Well, the K702 Anniversarys are definitely #1 on my list and the rest pretty much follow in order. I'm just trying to find a good price on a pair as I have nowhere to demo them and I'm going purely on comparative opinions from reviews and posts. It's easier to recover most of the money, of course, if I can buy used for a decent price just in case I don't like them and need to sell.

I definitely worded that wrong. haha I apologize. I should have said "most cost effective way without sacrificing quality". Do you happen to know which Z87 boards will have the best onboard audio and will any of them be strong enough to drive decent headphones on their own? I do game a lot so not having surround sound would be unfortunate. I know I read that Gigabyte and ASRock are putting a lot of emphasis on sound quality with their boards, the rest I'm not sure on.

I'm afraid here because I don't want to buy just the board and end up judging whatever headphones I buy w/ the soundcard and not knowing which one is actually having negative effects, if there are any. Will using the onboard as the DAC be vastly different than the Modi? I can always buy the Magni and hook it into the sound card for extra power, right?

Thanks for the help!
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post #4 of 13
If you are starting out I would recommend getting yourself a Xonar STX as 1 - it provides a high quality D/A unit and also a very powerful headphone amplifier. K702s are great cans (I have owned them) but they do take a fair bit of juice to sound reasonable so onboard sound wont come close to cutting it.

A Xonar STX will get you a good all in one solution to get you started without costing too much money. From there you can look at a dedicated headphone amplifier if you get into the whole head-fi thing.

I still use my STX as a pass through to a dedicated external DAC which feeds a dedicated headphone amplifier. I too however started off using my STX as a standalone solution and let me tell you, it still sounds great running straight from it!
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post #5 of 13
If you're planning to use a lot of 5.1 or 7.1 audio, you'll definitely need a sound card. If you're just going to to do stereo, then get the Schiit Magni/Modi. I have the 65th Annies, and they're very good.
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post #6 of 13
A good pair of cans will actually sound better running in 2 channel for games then using virtual surround. I wouldn't personally get a gaming soundcard as their actual sound reproduction is very average.
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post #7 of 13
Buy an Essence ST (PCI), then the replace op amps (2xLME47920, 1xLM6172), and there's another mod you can also do: Replace the clock on the card. Installing an extremely low jitter clock will improve your sound quality much more than you might think.
Edited by linkin93 - 5/19/13 at 11:37pm
post #8 of 13
Just going to answer this here and now.

I have the Q701s which are not too dissimilar from the K702s. The Q701s are great for the money...the K702s....aren't.

The HE-400s and HD650 are just two very different headphones. HE-400s are slightly better IMO though.

Having had the STX and after listening to the modi/magni, the M&M stack wins...period. I did NOT however tweak or mod the card. That very well could make it a better option, but I would still go for the M&M combo for the lower EMI interference.
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post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks for all the great info, everyone. I truly appreciate it.

So, it is possible to run the Modi + Magni through a sound card? Will the surround sound from the sound card still be presented? If that is the case, that could work out well as I have to buy a new motherboard which is supposed to have decent enough soundcards and I could upgrade from there with the M&M stack, if needed.

I have honestly never tried stereo gaming. I know people either love stereo or love virtual surround so I definitely need to give it a try.

As for the headphones, right now I have a Sennheiser PC360 Headset. I'm aware that's not really in the same league as the above mentioned cans but, if I'm not mistaken, the PC360 is supposed to be HD555/595 drivers w/ a nice mic attached. For anyone who has tried the HD 555/558/595/598 from Sennheiser, how would you compare the sound to any of these other four that I've listed?

Thanks!
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Gideon
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post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Melee View Post

Wow, thanks for all the great info, everyone. I truly appreciate it.

So, it is possible to run the Modi + Magni through a sound card? Will the surround sound from the sound card still be presented? If that is the case, that could work out well as I have to buy a new motherboard which is supposed to have decent enough soundcards and I could upgrade from there with the M&M stack, if needed.
Not possible. M&M requires the use of USB for audio, and will bypass soundcards for audio processing.
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