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Old 2008-04-28, 23:17   Link #1
Potatochobit
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Spend more on a sound card than headphones?

So i was going to finally buy a set of headphones, then I was reading this one post and the guys said I should spend more on the sound card instead?

I had planned to just get a cheapy 5.1 sound card for 30$ maybe, but the thread recommended I get the auzentech prelude sound card.

200$! are u kidding me? thats as much as my graphics card.

anyone play any games with EAX? is this price justifiable?

Would this prelude sound card offer any benefit to watching fansubs over the cheapy 5.1 sound card for 30$?
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Old 2008-04-28, 23:39   Link #2
Ledgem
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I'm inclined to say hell no, the quality of your speakers/headphones matters way more than your sound card. The only time when you want to get an insanely priced (good quality) sound card is if you have insanely expensive speakers and can really hear the difference, or if you're doing recording and mixing.

I'd wait for hobbes_fan's input before making the final decision, but I think he's stated something similar to what I just said in the past.
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Old 2008-04-29, 00:36   Link #3
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First of all, transducers are the ones that make big difference, not the source really in this entry level. By the way, due to the recent accident happened on the Creative forum, I am really against buying Creative products (Prelude uses Creative's chips).


Here are some 0.02$ I can give : Get good headphones first. You really don't need 5.1/EAX to figure out where is opponent coming from in CS:S, for example. Get good headphones like Equation Audio RP-21, Beyerdynamic DT770 pro (80 ohm), Sennheiser HD555, HD595 (a bit expensive), Goldring DR-150, Audio Technica ATH-A700, A900 (a bit expensive) or Denon D1000(1001K).

Here is the semi-complete price list of headphones you can buy. By the way, this site below is where most headphone experts reside.
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f4/hea...8/#post3454398


Those headphones are about 80$~250$, and they are really good for their prices. Those headphones also have good bass responses, ideal for gaming as well.
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Old 2008-04-29, 05:14   Link #4
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Agree with Ledgem and wnmkh.

For ("normal") people like me, even that onboard sound card do the job well. It's more depend on your speaker/headset rather than your sound card.

However, IF you have an extreme quality speaker, maybe those equipped with tubes... You will need a good souncard to support them too...
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Old 2008-05-01, 16:43   Link #5
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If you're using headphones mainly don't bother with a soundcard. Sennheiser and AudioTechnica for >$100 ,Beyerdynamic <$100 are your best bet for headphones. As stated previously the best headphones are in the Music stores. The bargain stuff there will demolish most dedicated PC headphones. Try to get a set of headphones with a flat eq response. A flat eq response makes sure you hear the audio not the speakers. Often they'll be referred to as Headphone studio monitors.

What did you ask to get a recommendation for the Auzuntech Prelude? That's A grade stuff, probably the best card you can buy. Not heard the asus Xonar yet though. EAX isn't a big deal. I use an HT Omega Claro in my gaming rig and in Company of heroes it's nothing flash. I use an HT Omega Claro+ in my HTPC and from a sound reproduction perspective it provides awesome depth and feel, but bear in mind that both rigs a re hooked up to a Denon reciever/Wharfedale 7.1 setup. Some alternatives at half the price are the HT Omega Striker, Turtlebeach Montego at around $50-80USD, shipped. They're a cut above your onboard audio, have some nice gimmicks (Dolby Digital Live mainly, but this comes into play mainly when using a 5.1 setup also note Windows only not supported by Linux) and have very very good opamps for sound quality processing - CMI8770.

But overall sound quality is still a product of the source. Crap in = Crap out. I'd say at least 3/4 of the equation is dependant on the source, the rest can be divided between processing and output.

So in short yes it does make a difference but depending on how you intend to use the card whether connected to headphones or speakers, your source it can make a massive difference
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Old 2008-05-01, 16:52   Link #6
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As hobbes_fan said, the quality of whatever file you're listening to is going to be a huge bottleneck. With crappy headphones, bad quality can pass unnoticed (since everything sounds crappy anyways), but with good ones, mp3 sounds awful when compared to uncompressed audio. And there's an even higher bottleneck in the way the audio was recorded--there are a lot of popular "musicians" that should be firing their producers if the music business was guided by quality and not by what the masses have to say about their tastes.

And, besides, there's something you should be asking yourself: Will you really notice the difference in quality? I've spoken to a lot of people who've given me blank stares when I compared the difference in quality of whatever songs we were listening to at the moment, and I've also heard a lot of people listen to 128 kbps crap not even noticing the fact that it sounded like shit. I don't consider myself an audiophile, but I do tend to be picky about what I listen to. Drums, the #1 sufferer of the reign of the mp3, can make or break my opinion of a band or song, but that doesn't have to be true for you.
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Old 2008-05-01, 17:05   Link #7
Ledgem
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderingKnight View Post
And, besides, there's something you should be asking yourself: Will you really notice the difference in quality? I've spoken to a lot of people who've given me blank stares when I compared the difference in quality of whatever songs we were listening to at the moment, and I've also heard a lot of people listen to 128 kbps crap not even noticing the fact that it sounded like shit. I don't consider myself an audiophile, but I do tend to be picky about what I listen to. Drums, the #1 sufferer of the reign of the mp3, can make or break my opinion of a band or song, but that doesn't have to be true for you.
This brings up an interesting point, actually. When I was using Windows I had a special plugin for my media player (Winamp) - it'd adjust the volume on-the-fly to account for volume fluctuations, and it brought out highs and lows of a song. Even though I was using on-board sound and my speakers weren't spectacular (some 5.1 Polk Audio speakers that came with my system many, many years ago), using that plugin, many piano pieces suddenly sounded like crap unless they were lossless. Static and "fuzzing" (if that's even a real term) became apparent in the songs. I only really noticed it consistently with piano music, but it made me realize that the audio argument gets a bit more complicated than how compressed the audio is and what sound equipment you have. Software enhancements can make quite an impact, as well.

I don't consider myself an audiophile, though; I usually can't tell the difference between a 128 kbps song and anything higher (I think).
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Old 2008-05-01, 17:24   Link #8
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From what you're saying, Ledgem, that plugin probably adjusted pre-amplification in the equalizer.

A very, very crappy way of adjusting volume if you ask me You're better off fiddling with the equalizer settings yourself instead of touching the preamp slider.
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Old 2008-05-01, 23:42   Link #9
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Just my $0.02 cents..

Like what many others have said, it's dependent on your source, I am by no means an audiophile, although sometimes I can detect a minimal difference between 128 and 192 kbps, personally, the sound card CAN make a difference, but no, I'd say in your case go with a better set of headphones/speakers.

It'll be your speakers or headphones, really, that make a difference, Sennheiser HD595's are a popular GAF choice, along with the HD 555's, for gaming at least.
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Old 2008-05-02, 03:30   Link #10
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it seems to be that the whole 'basis' of an expensive sound card is that it can use 'directional' sound in stereo headphones. supposedly the x-fi cards have a special logarithm that gamers live by.

sure I like music but the single MOST important thing for me is to be able to hear voices clearly in anime. if the bass or background music is getting in the way of translations that causes huge headaches and tons fo wasted time for me and I'm fresh out of q-tips. apparently listening to music and clear sound effects in games and movies seem to have different headphone requirements. when I learned this I became a little more interested in sound cards.

I dont play any real FPS games, though, so I guess I have to agree with the rest of you that the prelude is probably not a wise investment.

the claro seems to be a 7.1 and at 160$. thats probably too high up there still, I would like to stay under 100$ ideally. any reason to go 5.1 instead of 7.1 other than price?
the HT Omega Striker is in the right price range, I may get that or an audigy something.

anyway, here is one thread I was reading in case you are interested.

http://www.hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1234050

I think I may get the cheap koss sb40 headsets they say are so great. If i dont like them I can just give them away or put them in the laptop bag since they are only 30$ish and may try the audiotechinca, sennheiser or medusa headsets.

when I first saw that creative x-fi cards intentionally corrupted their own drivers so they would not work with vista I did get a chuckle out of that.

before I place my order though, does anyone know why people keep saying graphic card prices are dropping this coming week? I noticed newegg had a blow out sale and I really want to get a g92 8800 gts, but lots of people posted they are wating. so I am waiting. but I dont really know what for yet
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Old 2008-05-02, 12:03   Link #11
Ledgem
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If I'm thinking of the same thing with this term, directional sound support varies from card to card. It's a "false" way to get a sense of surround sound with only two speakers. I don't know if it works with headphones - you'd probably have to check each manufacturer's implementation separately, as there's no standardized psuedo-surround method.

Regarding hearing voices clearly in anime, I've never had an issue with this due to speakers. It's usually either due to the anime itself (voices meant to be hard to hear), or if your player's equalizer settings are off (meaning bass and possibly treble levels are way too high, making music and other noises much more apparent than voices).

5.1 vs. 7.1 only has to do with your speakers - that is, whether you have five satellites or seven. But you're using headphones, so it really won't make a difference to you. If you're looking to get speakers in the future, consider your needs. Do you have the space to properly place seven satellites? Does it matter enough to you to spend a bit more for a 7.1 system over a 5.1 system? (Just in case people aren't aware, those numbers refer to the number of speakers, and the .1 refers to the subwoofer. So 2.1 refers to two speakers (also called "satellites") and a subwoofer; 4.1 is four speakers and a subwoofer, 5.1 is five... and so on. If you ever see "5.1" or such for a show's audio, it means that the show can make full use of a 5.1 system (the sound was encoded to have enough channels so that each speaker can play something distinct); if you use a 7.1 system with 5.1 audio, two of your seven satellites will be playing the exact same thing as another two satellites in your system. If you use a 2.1 system with 5.1 audio you'll still be able to hear everything, but you won't get the surround-sound effect.)

Not sure about the graphics cards - I haven't heard anything from my tech news aggregators recently.
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Old 2008-05-02, 16:40   Link #12
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There's really no difference between 5.1 and 7.1 via headphones, 5.1 is just the standard that's all. It's extremely difficult to separate the difference via a full speaker setup let alone headphones. There is a difference but it's not so distinct as to make a huge impact. It just has a little bit more ambience and depth for things like echoes and ambient sounds.

Note the striker and the Montego are 7.1 cards. Almost all sound cards are 7.1 but 5.1 is the traditional setup for speakers. It;s a bit confusing but it all stems for the Dolby prologic era. The majority of home theater setups is 5.1, I think it was a 4:1 ratio last time I checked.

I don't like the recent Creative stuff, I find that its overpriced and lacking in features/ Compare the specs of the Striker to anything Creative has in the sub $100 range. Compare the specs of the Auzuntech although it uses Creative components to anything Creative has over $100 and it's no contest. The whole card crippling thing disgusts me, I mean these are still newish cards, 1 generation old, even Nvidia and ATI are still supporting 4-5 year old cards. And then how they handled the situation afterward was disgusting.

I think the next cycle of Video cards are to be released this week or next week.
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Old 2008-05-02, 22:57   Link #13
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I tend to forget why I should bother with a sound card. It's way easier (and cheaper) to simply learn how to use the equalizer.
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Old 2008-05-03, 01:21   Link #14
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Originally Posted by Claies View Post
I tend to forget why I should bother with a sound card. It's way easier (and cheaper) to simply learn how to use the equalizer.
Majority of people don't need a soundcard. It's not a knock on them or on audiophiles. EQ'ing is another solution to improve audio quality but it's far from the definitive answer. For instance EQing isn't going to make mono signal into stereo or stereo into surround. Most people can tell mono from stereo. There's a whole heap of simple things like eqing that can help your audio "depth", things like speaker positioning, understanding basic sound principles ie how sound travels, what kind of speakers to use/how different speakers work ie tweeters and subwoofers, Understanding the environment you are in ie a room with a 12ft ceiling will have different acoustic properties to a same size room with a 8ft ceiling.

What additional soundcards offer is superior processing of the signal, things like superior connection technology ie SPDIF/Toslink after all Dolby Digital/dts can only be carried by SPDIF/Toslink, superior processing components, audio bypass and improved recording functionality etc etc as well as the previously mentioned trickery like on the fly Dolby Digital/DTS encoding. If you have a HTPC connected to a DD/DTS recieve,r its pretty much a must. But with most people having trouble detecting prologic vs DD, most people can live without it.
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Old 2008-05-03, 01:39   Link #15
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Quote:
I tend to forget why I should bother with a sound card. It's way easier (and cheaper) to simply learn how to use the equalizer.
Equalizing is usually done to compensate for the limitations of your speakers/headphones or of the geometry of the room you're in. The equalizer is really a destructive tool--the less you use it, the better. If your speakers produce too low sound in a certain frequency, you may bring in distortion if you amp it up to the max in the EQ. If you get a good enough amplifier and good speakers, the only limitations would lie with the OS itself (since every OS inflicts upon the audio its own EQ curve) and, ultimately, the sound card.

Then again, for each person there's a particular EQ curve. Finding the one that suits you is part of the fun of listening to music

For the record, mine *tends* to lie in low medium frequencies and moderate low and high ones--I find medium frequencies (1k, 2k) to be particularly unnerving and "unnatural" when amped up too high. Voices sound "radio-like"... I don't know if I can convey the feeling properly. Then again, it depends on my mood, the speakers/headphones I use and the room I'm in.
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Old 2008-05-12, 10:59   Link #16
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I use the standard sound card which came with my laptop and I didn't really care for the sound. But then I decided to see if there were any programs that could improve the sound quality. I first tried out DFX Audio Enhancer which came with Dvix as a trial. I really liked it but it was only made to run on separate applications such as Divx, WMP, etc. I looked around on the net and found SRS Audio Sandbox which modifies the sound right before it's sent to the sound card so it's compatible with all programs. I instantly fell in love with the program. It greatly enhanced the sound coming out of my laptop speakers, headphones, and even when I had it connected to my stereo. It was well worth the money!
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Old 2008-05-12, 16:31   Link #17
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Well, to be honest, I really do not think that source is as important as others said.


For instance, I can play 24bit master flac files, played via kennel-streaming/ASIO/OpenAL -> SPDIF -> External DAC -> a headphone amplifier. A decent setup, huh? The amplifier alone costs over $1000 (and it is a DIY one... You just cannot buy such thing in commercial companies since the total cost of its components is insane)

I put my some random headphones (the name is "GPX") on the amp, and they just sound terrible, way more terrible than the sound coming from my Sennheiser PX100s, connected to my portable music player playing *drumrolls* lossy .ogg files.

The example above sounds extreme, but what I want to say is that transducers -headphones and speakers- are the one making the most noticeable differences (thus the most cost effective IMO.)

Suppose you have about budget of $150 (estimated from your posts), you can buy some $100 sound cards and Koss KSC-75s (not SB40s. They are crap as hell. If you want a full-size headphones from KOSS, get UR40 instead. Both KSC-75s and UR40s do not have mic, but they do not have overwhelming bass.)

Or, you can just grab some really decent headphones (if KSC-75s are not decent enough), like Sennheiser HD555, Denon-D1000(1001) or others I've mentioned in my earlier post. I seriously do not think that $100 soundcard + $25ish Koss headphones setup can beat onboard soundcard + $130 headphones. No, they just can't :/


If you use Vista, you can dramatically improve the sound quality by simply bypassing the Vista audio signal paths. The ones with ASIO or Kennel streaming support will allow you to bypass crappy Vista drivers, resulting better, clearer sound. Foobar2000, for example, support Kennel streaming (using an add-on), and IRCC there is a ASIO program somewhere in Hydrogen Audio forum. Both will ignore the Vista and transfer the signal directly to the audio driver.

I really do not like software sound enhancements. They rather degrade sound. You may try to use hardware enhancement like this: http://intunition.com/


P.S : To be honest, as speaking about source, I barely can distinguish 192kb CBR and CD-quality (depend on source, sometimes I just cannot distinguish at all if it is VBR.) Sometimes even 128kb VBR gives some hard time if the encoding is done right.

And I always 100% fail at distinguishing 24bit vs. 16bit as well. And I have some of the really nice headphones and a bit decent speakers (Studio L series for speakers. For headphones, look up my name on head-fi.org)

I feel that the most of the time when the sound is bad, the source is usually not the origin of the problem unless you further climb up the world of audiophiles.
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Old 2008-05-12, 22:44   Link #18
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It's true that hardware setup is very important, but the real problem regarding the source is that a lot of mp3 files you find these days are lousy 128kbps encodes, and people do not seem to mind that.

Of course that if you have a 24bit master flac files, the quality is going to be mainly dependent on your hardware. But if your files are lousy encodes, the hardware can improve it but only so far.

It's just basic input/output concept, you just can't get better than what you have. Hardware enhancements only get you to a limited point.
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Old 2008-05-13, 00:04   Link #19
Potatochobit
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Placed my order already it should be here in a day or two so we can see if this is worth the investment

headphones
audio-technica ATH-A700
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16826402012
wanted to get open headphones but these are closed since I do a lot gaming at odd hours, early morning or late at night.

soundcard
HT OMEGA STRIKER 7.1
http://www.htomega.com/rgboard/view....age=&doc_num=8
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...mega%2bstriker
not too sure why I picked this card. has good reviews, seems well built and hobbes likes it
unless you're a bat, a yorkshire terrier or parappa the rappa I heard u dont really need a 192KHz card. thats mainly for recording and speed settings I think.
the downside is this card does not have the cmss3d and the eax5 of the creative cards. maybe it has something similar, idk.

now I have 2 other things I was wondering about
is it possible to run, how do you say this, 2 seperate application channels at the same time? the card has seperate front outputs, so can I play a game with the headphones on in the front but at the same time run a video with the output in the back playing only the movie sound out? (I have a dual monitor setup)

also I have an old 5.1 Prologic system I have unhooked. It does not have S/PDIF inputs. it also does not have inputs for the rear or center channels I think.
So is it worth hooking it up to my new sound card? pro logic 2 is backwards compabtible? but this will not come out in surround sound via the standard L/R inputs?
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Old 2008-05-13, 00:40   Link #20
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A700s are really good headphones for their price, you chose well.

Quote:
Of course that if you have a 24bit master flac files, the quality is going to be mainly dependent on your hardware. But if your files are lousy encodes, the hardware can improve it but only so far.

It's just basic input/output concept, you just can't get better than what you have. Hardware enhancements only get you to a limited point.
Yes, I can't get better than what I have, since there is define limit. The point is that the most of the time I just fail to feel that limit at all because the limit is too high to be recognized by my ears. :/

I usually say that there is really no difference after 256~320kbp VBR (some people say they can, but I highly doubt their claims)
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