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Old 02-23-2012, 12:32 AM   #1
I Like Ponies
 
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Lightbulb Need sound card advice

Recently purchased AKG Q701 headphones and although they feel a little flimsy for their price tag they do sound great. I'm still debating what to power them with as my Xonar DG is rather noisy and weak. I've been looking at various dac & amp combos but for 200$, a solid soundcard like this doesn't seem like a bad idea. What do you guys think?

HT | OMEGA Claro Halo 24-bit 192KHz PCI Interface Sound Card w/ a built-in HI-FI Headphone Amplifier

ASUS Xonar Essence STX Virtual 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Express x1 Interface 124 dB SNR / Headphone AMP Card

Budget is ~ 200$
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Old 02-23-2012, 02:12 AM   #2
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I have the STX, very happy with it. The amp is also very nice in it.
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Old 02-23-2012, 03:30 AM   #3
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I have the Q701 with the STX powering them, and I've had no issues. If you look around in reviews you'll see that the STX soundcard is more than capable of powering these amazing headphones.

Good luck dawg!
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Old 02-23-2012, 07:28 AM   #4
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Personally, I have the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD Internal Sound Card, and it sounds absalutly fantastic.

The drivers installed slowly but surely, and even the download from Creative's site was very slow (<1MB/s). Overall, I'm happier with this card than I hoped I would be. The only other sound card I ever owned was an old Philips PSC706, which was a great card for it's time, but it definitely doesn't compare to this one.
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Old 02-23-2012, 03:18 PM   #5
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If I get either of the sound cards, how can I effectively connect both headphones and speakers to it without having to constantly unplug and replug jacks?
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Old 02-23-2012, 04:51 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by I Like Ponies View Post
If I get either of the sound cards, how can I effectively connect both headphones and speakers to it without having to constantly unplug and replug jacks?
short answer is that unless the cards have another output (like spdif or something), then you don't.

I personally never understood the fascination with "built in" headphone amps. I prefer my cmoybb. easy enough to plug it into my Z-5500's Headphone out port, and then my headphones into it.

Plus the amp can come with me and my mp3 player when I decide to not be lazy and take my fat for a walk.
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Old 02-23-2012, 04:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by I Like Ponies View Post
If I get either of the sound cards, how can I effectively connect both headphones and speakers to it without having to constantly unplug and replug jacks?
I'll be interested to hear the answer too, as the ability to switch from headphones to speakers via software is a feature I missed from my old Turtle Beach Santa Cruz. The last time I looked, no Creative cards do this, but I'm hopeful some of their competitors do.
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Old 02-23-2012, 05:30 PM   #8
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Creative Console has a setting which allows you to run both at once, at least the version that runs with my Titanium Fatal1ty Pro does. There are a new set of creative cards out (with 600ohm headphone amp) which have new software too, but I hear their sound quality doesn't even compare to the titanium series cards which from a music point of view isn't the best..

Forgive me but why would you need to unplug anything other than the headphones? Both the cards you linked have front audio connection headers.
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Old 02-23-2012, 05:35 PM   #9
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Creative Console has a setting which allows you to run both at once, at least the version that runs with my Titanium Fatal1ty Pro does. There are a new set of creative cards out (with 600ohm headphone amp) which have new software too, but I hear their sound quality doesn't even compare to the titanium series cards which from a music point of view isn't the best..
So you can switch between headphones and speakers from the console - while both are plugged in?

Quote:
Forgive me but why would you need to unplug anything other than the headphones? Both the cards you linked have front audio connection headers.
He might have an older case that only has AC97 connectors.
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Old 02-23-2012, 05:57 PM   #10
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So you can switch between headphones and speakers from the console - while both are plugged in?

He might have an older case that only has AC97 connectors.

Not exactly. You have the option to stop the automatic speaker mute when headphones are plugged in, you can drive them both at once or you can have the speaker signal cut when a headphone jack is inserted but there is no option to mute headphones and leave speakers going.

Good point about the headers, I forgot about the standard change entirely.
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Old 02-23-2012, 06:20 PM   #11
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Not exactly. You have the option to stop the automatic speaker mute when headphones are plugged in, you can drive them both at once or you can have the speaker signal cut when a headphone jack is inserted but there is no option to mute headphones and leave speakers going.
Arrgh, that's annoying for lazy people like me. This is a feature a ten-year old card had, and nobody else has replicated it?
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Old 02-23-2012, 06:24 PM   #12
I Like Ponies
 
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Originally Posted by Versteken View Post
short answer is that unless the cards have another output (like spdif or something), then you don't.

I personally never understood the fascination with "built in" headphone amps. I prefer my cmoybb. easy enough to plug it into my Z-5500's Headphone out port, and then my headphones into it.

Plus the amp can come with me and my mp3 player when I decide to not be lazy and take my fat for a walk.
I don't need portability, but if you have an external dac + amp suggestion that will outperform a 200$ audio card, I'm listening.

I've considered getting these 2:
HRT Streamer 2 DAC
Objective 2 Amp
But together they would run at around 300$, slightly over my budget. You gain superior sound for music by going with the external option, you loose all the sound card noise, but you give up certain sound card capabilities.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GutterSmurf View Post
Creative Console has a setting which allows you to run both at once, at least the version that runs with my Titanium Fatal1ty Pro does. There are a new set of creative cards out (with 600ohm headphone amp) which have new software too, but I hear their sound quality doesn't even compare to the titanium series cards which from a music point of view isn't the best..

Forgive me but why would you need to unplug anything other than the headphones? Both the cards you linked have front audio connection headers.
Front panel cable tends to pick up noise from PSU. One of the reasons on why I prefer not to use front panel jack is due to my dog and myself having the tendency to trip over it hence my computer case is on the floor.

Last edited by I Like Ponies: 02-23-2012 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 02-23-2012, 07:03 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by I Like Ponies View Post
I don't need portability, but if you have an external dac + amp suggestion that will outperform a 200$ audio card, I'm listening.
The price has little to no bearing on the quality. Sound cards already try to be good at many things at once (3d positional audio, stereo quality, mufti-channel quality), and on top of that, thing thing is also trying to be a headphone amp.

Versus, a standalone amp does not try to be anything but what it is, an amp. All it tries to do is be the best amp it can be. How well it can do it's job though, depends heavily both on the quality of the input, the quality of the output device (your headphones/speakers, among other things, not to mention your personal sound preferences.

Sound quality, as I've said in many other threads about the topic, is HIGHLY subjective. I can tell you what I think sounds good, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll think the same thing sounds good.

With that said, the cmoybb is made by jdslabs. I think it sounds fantastic. It's much cheaper than the O2 but it's also a much smaller and less powerful amp, an inherent characteristic of being a portable amp. It has a DC input though, and it's power does scale with the amount of power to give it. it drives my HD590's well even when running just off one 9V battery. the opamp is socketed too, so it's easy to swap if you want.


If you don't require or care for mobility, then the O2 is a far more suitable amp for your needs. It's a very low impedance output, so it should be able to drive big cans really well.

I've considered buying the O2 myself, But I was happy enough wit the cmoybb that I've been using it on the desktop too.

I'll say this about jdslabs too - they ship fast, have great documentation, and are responsive to inquiries.
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Old 02-23-2012, 07:06 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Versteken View Post
The price has little to no bearing on the quality. Sound cards already try to be good at many things at once (3d positional audio, stereo quality, mufti-channel quality), and on top of that, thing thing is also trying to be a headphone amp.

Versus, a standalone amp does not try to be anything but what it is, an amp. All it tries to do is be the best amp it can be. How well it can do it's job though, depends heavily both on the quality of the input, the quality of the output device (your headphones/speakers, among other things, not to mention your personal sound preferences.

Sound quality, as I've said in many other threads about the topic, is HIGHLY subjective. I can tell you what I think sounds good, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll think the same thing sounds good.

With that said, the cmoybb is made by jdslabs. I think it sounds fantastic. It's much cheaper than the O2 but it's also a much smaller and less powerful amp, an inherent characteristic of being a portable amp. It has a DC input though, and it's power does scale with the amount of power to give it. it drives my HD590's well even when running just off one 9V battery. the opamp is socketed too, so it's easy to swap if you want.


If you don't require or care for mobility, then the O2 is a far more suitable amp for your needs. It's a very low impedance output, so it should be able to drive big cans really well.

I've considered buying the O2 myself, But I was happy enough wit the cmoybb that I've been using it on the desktop too.

I'll say this about jdslabs too - they ship fast, have great documentation, and are responsive to inquiries.
I appreciate honest advice. Would you suggest getting a DAC for O2, if so which one? What does it mean to drive headphones well - volume levels? I run my Q701's from Xonar DG at 25/100 Windows 7 volume level and at Xonar set to 32-62 Ohm settings, does it mean O2 amp would make my headphones unpleasantly loud?
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Old 02-23-2012, 07:34 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by dosbox View Post
I'll be interested to hear the answer too, as the ability to switch from headphones to speakers via software is a feature I missed from my old Turtle Beach Santa Cruz. The last time I looked, no Creative cards do this, but I'm hopeful some of their competitors do.
Well, I have a sound card which is connected to an iHome, Subwoofer, and a pair of Turtle Beach headsets.

I use a 3 way splitter, so 1 male 3.5mm to 3 female 3.5mm. And if I don't want to use my Turtle Beach I turn down the volume and turn my iHome to the Line-In option and turn up the volume!

Easy.

You can pick one up at Radioshack for around $10!

Here is what it can look like(this is a 2 way splitter, can't find a 3 way): http://www.amazon.com/Belkin-F8Z359t.../dp/B0047T79M2
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