Help me choose new sound card + headphones

Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by z997, Feb 4, 2020.

  1. z997

    z997 New Member

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    Hello,

    My current sound card is dying (SB1356) so I'm looking for something new which would also be at least a small upgrade. Currently I have only bookshelf speakers (Edifier R2600; probably low-mid end stuff). My main consumption of audio is video games and movies.

    I checked out what is available at local stores and some reviews online and thought Creative Sound Blaster X AE-5 might be a good choice. Are there any known issues with this card? Perhaps there's something better I can get in similar price range?

    Additionally I would like to get some headphones since I don't own any and they would be useful for more immersive experience, lower noise pollution, and privacy ( ͡• ͜ʖ ͡• ). I know almost nothing about headphones so my choice was mostly based on people's comments and reviews. I'm currently looking at Beyerdynamic DT 990 (600 ohm) but I'm not sure how well AE-5 can handle 600 ohm headphones (or even what's the difference). Any thoughts if this is a good choice? Are there any other good choices for similar price?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. sverek

    sverek Ancient Guru

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    If you plan to get headphones, I'd rather suggest to get headphones dac/amp instead of soundcard.
    It will output cleaner stereo sound and won't be affected by internal PC parts.
    Current audiophile go to DAC/AMP setup is Topping D10 + JDS Atom labs. It will drive all headphones without issue with crystal clean sound.
    Basically as good as it gets for the price. If you live outside of USA, consider Topping A30 for the AMP. It will do work just as good.

    DT990 are not bad. However they might sound very unpleasant due to bright sound signature, causing sibilant sound.
    You probably will want to use EQ to balance the sound of DT990.
    Also keep in mind DT990 are open headphones, so it will leak some sound. Not as much as speakers, but if there someone in the same room, they might hear it.

    For your first open headphones, I'd rather recommend Sennheisers HD599. It has less crazy sound than DT990 and it won't need much power to be driven properly, so you can safe money on dac/amp.
    If you prefer to stick with Beyerdynamics, I'd rather suggest to check DT880. Those are more balanced sounding and won't murder your ears with treble.

    I can recommend many other headphones, if you tell me about your sound preferences (more bass quantity or more bass quality, how relaxed it should sound, etc....)
     
  3. theoneofgod

    theoneofgod Ancient Guru

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    Without knowing your budget, I think sverek has you covered for now with the DAC/AMP. I agree with them, I'd go that route for purely headphone usage.
    The Philips Fidelio X2 headphones are quite impactful for games and movies, but can be sibilant, on occasion, which can be fixed with a bit of EQ.
     
  4. insp1re2600

    insp1re2600 Maha Guru

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    on a decent budget the ae-5 is great, never had issues with it and it can be loud and clear.
    for headphones you may prefer a separate dac / amp but its depending how much you wish to spend and effort involved.

    youll be fine with the ae-5, or if you are feeling flush, go for the ae-9
     

  5. warlord

    warlord Ancient Guru

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    Get s-xfi amp. It is the best for any phones only. It destroys ae5,7,9 and g6,x3,x7. But it is for headphones and such usage. Each to his own.
     
  6. z997

    z997 New Member

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    While that does sound nice I still need to be able to use my speakers. Preferably with a way to easily switch between them.

    To be fair, I don't like design of Sennheisers headphones. But that aside, according to https://reference-audio-analyzer.pro they are even less balanced than DT990, although louder. DT880 do seem to better, except for the spike around 6 kHz they seem to be quite neutral.
    Assuming I get DT880 (or any other headphones) should I try to get ones with some specific resistance or any is fine? In local stores 250 ohm is 60 dollars more expensive than 32 ohm and 600 ohm versions. Is there a reason for that or it's just popularity markup?

    I think neutral is best. Especially for the first purchase. Too much bass will kill all other sounds while too much treble might be tiring. But I do want rich sound - don't want them to sound like cheap speakers inside a barrel.
     
  7. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    @z997 Assuming you don't have a huge budget, I would suggest you just skip lo-fi and mid-fi, and just start in good-fi. :) Look at HifiMan Sundara (open), DT-1770 Pro (closed), DT-1990 Pro (open). These hit the $359-$479 range. I tend to avoid the Senn HD5-6 series due to that I find them boring headphones. Too laid back for my taste, and compressed soundstage.

    The AE-5 is a decent soundcard, tho I prefer externals. The G6 is an USB AE-5, with the Cirrus Logic CM43131 DAC instead of the Saber DAC. Same Xamp amplifier. Only does headphones, but can also be used on consoles and laptops. It can also be integrated easily with better headphone equipment should you ever invest in a DAC or headphone amp. This way the G6 is your DAC/7.1 Virtualizer as needed.
     
  8. sverek

    sverek Ancient Guru

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    For neutral sound, I'd say Hifiman Sundara is pretty decent, it sounds good out of the box without need for the EQ.

    If you decide to go with DT880, consider 250 Ohms version. 600 Ohms are rather hard to drive and might require powerful headphones amp to properly handle them.
     
  9. GenClaymore

    GenClaymore Ancient Guru

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    For me the AE-5 works alright, creative did released a new command center software suit and improved things here and there with the drivers. So far every thing been working good in the pc I moved it to. As for headphones, I suggest going to a store that will allow you to listen to different headphones, so you can pick out one that you like. I also suggest giving the HD599 a listen, as well the 250ohm version of the DT880, and while you at it, the Audio Technica R70X.

    Like it was already mentioned, a External Dac and Headphone amp or a AIO would be another choice, AE-5 won't handle the DT880 600ohm's that well any way, its hp amp isn't strong enough for it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2020

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