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Help choosing components.

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 
All right, I need help on choosing a sound card and speakers/headphones. This is where I'm willing to spend a lot for my computer, I want the best audio performance.

But before I get to my choices for sound cards, I need some advice on whether I should go for speakers or headphones. Speakers because I want to blast music... But I usually use headphones. So it's either these:

Klipsch ProMedia 2.1
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16836119101

or

SENNHEISER HD 280
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16826106328

Yes, it's hard to compare headphones and speakers. I don't really care much about bass. I just want to hear my music (chose a 'closed' type headphone).

Ok, now I have 3 choices for sound cards. I will mostly be playing my .mp3 files. I won't be doing much gaming, but it's a plus if it's good.

bluegears b-Enspirer
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16829127002

or

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16829102188

or

M-AUDIO Audiophile 192
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16829121125

When it comes to audio, I have no clue what-so-ever on how to choose. I just want to move away from the integrated + cheap earphone combo. So help is greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 54
Sennheiser HD280s IMO. also the X-Fi is better for gaming but the M-Audio might offer better sound quality in terms of music listening.
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post #3 of 54
Quote:
Originally Posted by FreshSoap View Post
All right, I need help on choosing a sound card and speakers/headphones. This is where I'm willing to spend a lot for my computer, I want the best audio performance.

When it comes to audio, I have no clue what-so-ever on how to choose. I just want to move away from the integrated + cheap earphone combo. So help is greatly appreciated.
Okay, best audio performance for music listening will cost a lot and it's not simply a sound card plus headphones/speakers. In fact, the sound card is basically reduced to a transport for higher end audio systems. To get really good sound [with headphones] you will basically need:

Sound Card (Bit-Perfect Digital Out) -> External DAC -> Amplifier -> Headphones

Right now I'm pretty sleepy so I don't have time to list some recommendations, but I'll post them later. If you want an example of an good PC audio setup then take a look at my signature for now. If you just want a sound card and headphones, I'll recommend some too later.
    
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post #4 of 54
SENNHEISER HD 280 and Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic
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post #5 of 54
get this card as it has a pretty good digital out and you can use bit perfect ASIO with it
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16829120103

then get an external DAC. You don't need to spend an arm and a leg so take a look on ebay for an Entech Number Cruncher 203.2 it'll most likely be NOS (new old stock) and what once was a $300+ DAC you can get for about $50 shipped. If there aren't any there I can try to find one on head-fi for you.

Then you'll want to go with a headphone amp... this would depend on budget and headphones.

then your choice of cans. I suggest getting the hd555's over the 280's though.

Another option would be to totally bypass the sound card and get a USB DAC. You can get an Alien DAC for about $75 and then get a matching PPAS or PINT class headphone amp for about $100-125 depending on options and which amp you choose. They look good together and will give amazing sound. I'm planning on building some of these pairs as soon as I can come up with the money to order the parts... I've already got the boards.
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post #6 of 54
Thread Starter 
All right, so this is the blueprint.
Sound card -> External DAC -> Amplifier -> Headphones

A few questions. What's a DAC? Could I use speakers in this set-up?
The sound card (Chaintech) surprised me, so I'm guessing you wouldn't need an expensive one to get the best sound. Also, it would seem like that the DAC would be the most expensive component to get.
If it's too expensive, then please recommend a sound card + headphone combo.

Thank you for the recommendations and help.
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post #7 of 54
Yes, the blue print would be either:

1) Sound card -> External DAC -> Amplifier -> Headphones
2) USB DAC -> Amplifier -> Headphones (often used with laptops)

A DAC is a Digital-to-Analog Converter. It's basically a device that changes a digital recording like mp3's and CD's from binary code (0's and 1's) to an analog signal. Basically everything from CD players to sound cards and so forth has a DAC in them and the quality of the DAC is very important. The DAC's on sound cards are only so good and to get better sound you will need an external DAC to do the job. This means that a sound card (with the abilities to) will ideally send a bit-perfect signal from whatever you're music file is to the DAC through a digital out port. Bit-Perfect means however you music is encoded is what will be sent out exactly that way without any changes to it.

What is your budget and what music do you often listen to?
    
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post #8 of 54
Would you be willing to link a good extrenal DAC and amplifier? The DAC's I found were like 500. And the amplifers were general 100 plus.

Found the DAC:
http://cgi.ebay.com/Entech-Number-Cr...QQcmdZViewItem

And found the Amp:
http://cgi.ebay.com/Little-Dot-Micro...QQcmdZViewItem

How big of a difference does it make?
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post #9 of 54
Thread Starter 
I usually listen to Anime soundtracks. So they range from classical to pop to rock. Multiple genres. Budget would be at max 400 dollars.
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post #10 of 54
The cheapest high quality DAC you can get is the Entech Number Cruncher 203.2 which both soloz2 and I use for our home setup. However, after checking Amazon and eBay it seems that the seller no longer has them in stock anymore (nor does he have the 205.2 ) So the next best thing might be the Behringer SRC2496 for $130 plus shipping or LiTe DAC-AH for $150 plus shipping.

The cheapest amplifier you can get would be a CMoy which is an amplifier built in a tin case. You can buy the parts cheap and build it yourself or buy a pre-made one on eBay for around $30~$40. Better choices though would be the PA2V2 or the Little Dot Micro+ which can be bought on eBay (by the makers) for around $60 plus shipping. A step up from those would be the Go-Vibe V5 which is $75 plus shipping.
    
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