Originally Posted by saxahonker
the sample rate (kHz) has nothing to do with the bit rate (kbps) something is encoded in
Let me add my 2 cents to this thread. I've seem decent suggestions and some not so decent ones. First of all, listen to Jimmy2Shoe, Chipp, soloz2 and Rakukojin. They know what they're talking about.
Now, at the risk of being flamed, I am going to add something here. I do not consider the A500, A700 or A900 to be as good as they are made out to be. Are they decent? Yeah, they are. Are they better than bose headphones and most sony headphones? Again, yeah.
But they are not spectacular by any stretch. They have a rather honky midrange that is very noticeably recessed, coupled with pretty loose and uncontrolled bass with little impact that tends to smear the lower mids, and the highs sound rather artificial. They do have a rather nice soundstage, but imaging is sub par. They are good for gaming but I would not recommend them for anything else. The Sennheiser HD555 and HD595 fall into this same general category in my book as well.
I would recommend the Alessandro MS-1, Grado SR-80, Goldring DR150, Stax SR-001, AKG K501, Sennheiser HD580, Beyerdynamic DT880 & 990 etc... It depends on what kind of music you intend to listen to. Speaking of which, what kind of music DO you listen to? Also how much if anything are you planning to spend on amplification?
As for speakers, I have not seen these suggested yet. The Swan M200s. They are not super high end but sound half decent and are a good bang for the buck:
A little larger and more expensive, these seem to have great initial impressions:
Now if you want to get cheap:
As for a sound card, I would suggest an E-MU 0404, 1212m, ESI Juli@ or M-Audio Audiophile 192. The modded X-fi seems to be getting good impressions as well.