Originally Posted by Simca
With on board sound and the AD700s, everything sounds "normal."
But let's be honest, if you're buying a sound card and AD700s, you're not looking for normal. You're looking for super human and that's what happens when you get a sound card with the AD700s.
Everything becomes clearer, you hear things you've never heard before. The sound stage on the headphones really shines when you have a sound card.
Without a sound card, you don't get any of the detail you think you're going to get when you buy these headphones.
I'm not quite sure what you mean by normal, if your definition of normal means the soundcard doesn't provide all the artificial software bells and whistles then that's just a personal preference.
Specs wise, the margin of onboard (ALC889) vs discrete is very narrow and it's really up to the user if he believe it's worth spending the cost of a his motherboard on a soundcard.
I think you're giving the AD700 more credit than it deserves as it is a entry level headphone and your opinions are rather subjective than actual fact. I think it's more of a Placebo effect.
When you said "full potential" as in being driven, the AD700 is a 32Ω headphone which ALC889 headphone amp fully supports.