I think I have only tested the dedicated HP out through my front panel connection, so that might be the reason I found it sounding different than the front out. Now that I been crawling on the floor and plugged the head phone plug to the rear of the card it seems to sound better. It's actually a relief to hear that they use the better DAC for the HP out too. I had my doubts, since CL gives it only a 105 db snr on their specs. As for the reason why I would like to use the front out with my head phones: I really like to have a physical volume knob to adjust the volume levels. Since the cards seem to have pretty powerful amps (I really found Forte living up to its name, lol), I find it hard to find the exact comfortable volume. I think Anarion pointed out this in some post regarding the Forte volume control, as it goes silent at 4%. I have been using a CMOY amp for my volume adjustment needs. I own also a hybrid tube amp, but for some reason I like the CMOY sound more. To Meocene: thanks for the tip, I'll try that out next time I'm going to play a game with openal.