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So... This is What a Low/Mid Range Audiophile Setup Sounds Like?

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
Hey all, firstly the audio is one of the most enjoyed aspects of my PC, but I know I'm probably going to ruffle a few feathers with this post but here goes...

I've had a variety of rather nice sounding bookshelf 2.0 setups with power stereo amps. Though recently I decided to move away from that and go for a low/mid range headphone set up.

First up I got a pair of Sennheiser HD 558s, and they're nice, don't get me wrong, but I didn't think "wow this sounds £130 good!". So I thought maybe it was because of my onboard sound I was using (Realtek ALC898) which is apparently one of the better onboard solutions. But still I bought a Creative Sound Blaster Zx (haven't used the ACM yet) and honestly, I can't really tell a difference in games or with the .flacs I listen to, I did a fresh windows install when I got the card with the latest drivers. My hearing isn't terrible, and I'm not saying it sounds bad, it sounds very nice, but I wouldn't say the Sound Blaster sounds £100 better than my onboard...

However I am very happy with the setup as it does sound clear and smooth, and most importantly, that positional audio in games! Oh my god SBX Pro Studio is so good in games, I don't know how I ever went without it.

Basically apart from voicing my opinion of not being able to notice a huge difference between the onboard and the Sound Blaster Zx (maybe if I swapped back to onboard now I'd be able to notice... hmm) I wanted to ask if there's any settings I could be missing? Maybe my ears just aren't tuned enough to pick up on the differences!
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Clevo P650RP6-G
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post #2 of 34
The SBZx is indeed a bit overpriced imho. The SBZ OEM for example costs only 50£.
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post #3 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiihokatti View Post

The SBZx is indeed a bit overpriced imho. The SBZ OEM for example costs only 50£.

I was going to return the Zx to get the OEM Z but I felt the additional £50 was worth it if I was going to buy it at all as I've heard the EMI shield does actually make a difference, and considering the sound blaster is hovering right over my PSU I figured it'd probably be a good idea to keep the shield.

Also I would like the option of being able to use the ACM to control the volume!
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post #4 of 34
Two things.

1: I felt the same way after getting my asus stx some eons ago. It took me about a month before I said screw this and I went back to onboard audio. The difference was night and day. I don't know why this happens, but this does happen to quite a few people here.

2: The HD558s are not the greatest headphones in the word for picking up on subtle changes either, so that also has something to do with it as well.
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post #5 of 34
Some misunderstandings going on here...

1) Onboard audio cards are not "audiophile", their "I'm a G4M3R who was convinced spending tons of money on a decent soundblaster/Xonar was an intelligent thing to do". By moving over to real, actual audio hardware, you can get far far superior, cleaner sound from a real DAC. The FiiO Olympus F10 is only $76 and it's better than any PC audio card unless you can't live without fake sound modifications like interpolated positional audio.

2) The Sennheiser 558's aren't particularly good headphones. They are certainly much better than gaming PC headsets, but in the world of real audio headphones, they're pretty low on the chain, and as they're open back, they require a very good headphone amplification, and in my personal opinion, sound inferior to the purposes of gaming; the closed experience in which sounds are intimate and resonate are much better for racing and especially shooters like Battlefield.

I have a FiiO F10, and AKG K550 closed backs (which are cheap now that AKG has replaced them with 2 other models) and I can almost guarantee they are superior to any other set up that isn't radically more expensive in the true audio world.
post #6 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GridIroN View Post

Some misunderstandings going on here...

1) Onboard audio cards are not "audiophile", their "I'm a G4M3R who was convinced spending tons of money on a decent soundblaster/Xonar was an intelligent thing to do". By moving over to real, actual audio hardware, you can get far far superior, cleaner sound from a real DAC. The FiiO Olympus F10 is only $76 and it's better than any PC audio card unless you can't live without fake sound modifications like interpolated positional audio.

Oh boy, right, I'm aware that a Sound Blaster Z isn't strictly audiophile hardware. But tied in with a pair of 558's it could be regarded as dipping your toes onto that side of the spectrum. I even described it as a low end set up.
I have plenty of external audio hardware and amplifiers as stated in my original post, but my PC is mainly used for games, not critical listening and what have you, so funnily enough that entire point is moot as the "fake sound modifications" is the main thing I'm happy about.
Quote:
2) The Sennheiser 558's aren't particularly good headphones. They are certainly much better than gaming PC headsets, but in the world of real audio headphones, they're pretty low on the chain, and as they're open back, they require a very good headphone amplification, and in my personal opinion, sound inferior to the purposes of gaming; the closed experience in which sounds are intimate and resonate are much better for racing and especially shooters like Battlefield.

I have a FiiO F10, and AKG K550 closed backs (which are cheap now that AKG has replaced them with 2 other models) and I can almost guarantee they are superior to any other set up that isn't radically more expensive in the true audio world.

You're the first person I've seen that's described the HD 558's as not particularly good headphones, most people seem to be quite happy with them as good all rounders.

Also you're the first person I've seen that has suggested closed back > open backs for games. I disagree for one, I like the huge soundstage of open backs and the feeling of the sound coming from "outside" rather than speakers next to my ears.

Also you're the first person I've seen that has said that the HD 558's need very good amplification. They're incredibly easy to drive headphones, in fact the headphone amp on the Zx is far too much for it IMO, I've got the volume on 4% for comfortable listening, and could easily blow the headphones with the power the amp the Zx has. Almost everyone seems to agree you can get away without amping the HD 558's. (That doesn't mean there would be no benefit to amping it however, but its not as necessary as you're making out).

Regardless, you're entitled to your opinion but it completely conflicts with literally hundreds of posts, pages, forum threads etc that I've read over the past month and you seem to be pushing it more as fact tongue.gif
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post #7 of 34
You want open headphones for gaming. Pretty much everything that guy said is wrong.
post #8 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by d-block View Post

You want open headphones for gaming. Pretty much everything that guy said is wrong.

Yeah I agree, not really sure what that dude is on about. Open is much better for gaming than closed, and Fiio amps are really only good for portable setups. Also not sure where he heard that open-backs require more amplification than closed, that depends more on stuff like impedance, voltage, etc.

Also the 558s are pretty decent, OP may want to look into the foam mod for them, supposed to make them sorta close to 598s
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post #9 of 34
Open vs. closed has nothing to do with being good for gaming or not IMO. For competitive FPS open does have an advantage thanks to the more expansive sound stage, but for any kind of casual gaming I'd go with closed. Most closed headphones have a very good bass response which works well for explosions, gunshots etc. Another drawback of open headphones is that you cannot take them to offline events. For music maybe open does always have an advantage over closed but for gaming it really depends on what you play.
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post #10 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by LinkPro View Post

Open vs. closed has nothing to do with being good for gaming or not IMO. For competitive FPS open does have an advantage thanks to the more expansive sound stage, but for any kind of casual gaming I'd go with closed. Most closed headphones have a very good bass response which works well for explosions, gunshots etc. Another drawback of open headphones is that you cannot take them to offline events. For music maybe open does always have an advantage over closed but for gaming it really depends on what you play.
Generally gaming headphones are used for directional audio. If you want headphones for "casual gaming" (=not competitive), they are called "immersive" headphones and not "gaming" headphones.
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