Best new PC audio options for 2018?

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by JoseJones, Nov 17, 2017.

  1. JoseJones

    JoseJones Gawd

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    If you were hoping to put a new computer together say by spring, what Computer Audio options would be best for 2018 onward?

    I currently use a pretty old system and have just been using these wired Turtle Beach X12 headphones & and some cheap PC speakers so I'm not sure what cool new options await so, I'm wondering what the best options are but for the best price. I'm hoping to be able to easily go back & forth between my computer, TV, XBox X, Discord, Skype, without having to disconnect & reconnect cords everytime I want to change devices.

    It would be sweet if the AMD AM4 X470 motherboards came with Dolby Atmos audio support and Bluetooth support ... what's the new 5.0 all about?
     
  2. illram

    illram [H]ard|Gawd

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    If you want something central to handle the audio for multiple devices and decode Dolby etc. a receiver is probably still your best bet. Not sure what else you're looking to upgrade.
     
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  3. Pillars

    Pillars Limp Gawd

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    Really good = external setups
     
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  4. RPGWiZaRD

    RPGWiZaRD Gawd

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    When on this topic, is there really some external setup which handles virtual surround? I suppose there is that new Smyth Realiser A16 coming out which looks like a good buy if you're very serious about audio and positional sound but is there something else out there?

    For me no 5.1/7.1 processing support = no buy on a PC setup.
     
  5. Pillars

    Pillars Limp Gawd

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    Using optical out, yes. However Imo for the highest quality sound 2ch is king.
     
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  6. JoseJones

    JoseJones Gawd

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  7. JoseJones

    JoseJones Gawd

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  8. spaceman

    spaceman [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I have a decent 2 channel. Very entry level. All used gear. Each piece around $100. It is very immersive. BF1 is my favorite game sound source.

    That atmos would be nice though.
     
  9. Commander Shepard

    Commander Shepard Proud Brony

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    I always prefer 2.1 for my PC audio. I'm running a DAC, power amp, pair of bookshelf speakers and subwoofer. Sound is immaculate, but I spent way too much $$, which is very easy to do when it comes to audio. ;)
     
  10. illram

    illram [H]ard|Gawd

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    I have a Soundblaster X7 which does pretty good virtual surround sound. I also have an E5 which also presents 7.1/5.1 VSS pretty well, just the amp section is a slight notch lower than the X7. There is also the Sennheiser GSX1000/1200 which people like, but its amp is fairly weak.
     
  11. RPGWiZaRD

    RPGWiZaRD Gawd

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    I do have both the ZxR and G5 (same as E5 without the Bluetooth support) but I'm not quite pleased with those (ZxR for its poor surround processing, I never liked SBX but it doesn't even do 5.1/7.1 properly that on the other hand G5 does thx to the changes to "virtual 7.1 surround sound" option added but it just doesn't sound all that good speaking strictly sound quality, almost like there's a clipping distortion due all processing which doesn't seem to be able to turn off or if you switch to "hifi" mode you do lose proper 5.1/7.1 channel mixing support. I mean even the ASRock ALC1150 setup sounds cleaner with less distortion unless you are in "hifi" mode at which you are just pure stereo) and I'm not confident at Creative at this point to give X7 a try, their drivers aren't using the hardware to its full potential it seems to me.

    Smyth Realiser A16 again is almost 2 grand as pre order price and well that's several times more than my headphones cost so it's not quite at my budget range. I do have the money but not quite the insanity to go for it, I'm a bit cheap like that, so would rather stick to 150 ~ 500 range roughly.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2017
  12. illram

    illram [H]ard|Gawd

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    There is the Nx Waves and the Out of Your Head software you can also try?

    On the E5 and X7 both simulate multiple speakers to Windows and use SBX Pro. Does the ZxR not do that? Over at Head-Fi people seem to agree that the E5 is, for whatever reason, using a different surround software than the G5. I have not verified that as I do not have a G5. Creative's implementation of their surround software is very confusing.

    Yes, VSS meses with the sound quality, although I never found it to sound like clipping. Just lots of echo-y reverb depending on how high you push it.
     
  13. Brian_B

    Brian_B [H]ard|Gawd

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    If your going external, why bother with virtual 5/7? May as well just get actual channels at that point - virtual I find is really only useful in headphones. I can understand if space/layout is an issue, but virtual surround sounds like junk on external speakers in my opinion.

    Bluetooth on PC is not a big issue and doesn't need to be a part of the sound card, as your sound card still processes, your just changing the output device.

    I agree with illram, I would look to a receiver setup. That lets you get all those various devices your wanting to support in one go via HDMI. Especially if you are talking Atmos - those require some pretty specific speakers above and beyond basic Surround Sound, and you aren't going to do that virtually or with very many PC-oriented solutions.
     
  14. JoseJones

    JoseJones Gawd

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    I agree with you and the others here, Brian ... I think my main issue right now is that I have no Bluetooth options. Dolby Atmos is more of a pipe dream due to the costs but I'd consider a DA sound bar when they start making them smaller and less pricey. My system is old and the only thing I own right now that has Bluetooth is my iphone 5, so, I was considering upgrading to the iphone8 with BT5 and get an AMD AM4 X470 motherboard with BT5 - I can use the BT app. for XBox One X. I suspect I'll be good after I finally own a few BT5 devices.
     
  15. Brian_B

    Brian_B [H]ard|Gawd

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    You can usually just add Bluetooth via USB easily enough without needing it built into a particular motherboard.

    I don't know that BT5 is available yet though, and from what I gather, most of it is oriented around energy use, which is not a concern in a PC.
     
  16. DoubleTap

    DoubleTap [H]ard|Gawd

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    These are not super new, but they are an incredible deal. The KEF Q100 speakers are $249 at Amazon - I got mine for $299 in May and I thought that was a great deal.

    https://www.amazon.com/KEF-Q100-Bookshelf-Loudspeakers-Black/dp/B0047K3X1M


    This is a good review from a former KEF hater...



    If I can swing it (and the annual bonus gods smile on me), I'm going to try to get the uber LS50s and put these in the living room.
     
  17. TechLarry

    TechLarry Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    I remain very happy with my M–Audio M3–8 Monitors, Rokit 10 Sub and Schitt Stack fed via Optical.

    But, that’s about $1100 in kit. Not sure what your price range is.
     
  18. pippenainteasy

    pippenainteasy Limp Gawd

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    For nearfield, probably something with non-metal drivers as I find most metal drivers fatiguing over time. Unlimited budget, I would get the Raidho D1.1 with the best ribbon tweeter in the world and diamond woofers. Below that, probably Dynaudio C1. At the 2k and under I would look at something with RAAL ribbon tweeters, probably something from Ascend Acoustics, Philharmonic, Salk, or Selah Audio. On an absolute budget, probably the Chane A1.4.

    For headphones, obviously the Smyth Realizer A16 when it's available, paired with either Stax SR-009, MrSpeakers Ether E, or the Focal Utopia headphones. On on a mid-tier budget I would go Stax L-700 w/ SRM-353X or a Sennheiser HD800 with the superdupont mod. At the entry-level, a Hifiman Sundara or HD6XX.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2017
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  19. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    For nearfield only speakers that are designed for near field will provide a guaranteed result. Near field has completely different requirements than mid- or far field listening. Many regular speakers lose their coherency completely if listened too close. They're simply not designed for that.

    A good budget option is the JBL LSR 305 for example.
     
  20. JoseJones

    JoseJones Gawd

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    I was not clear enough in my original post - my biggest complaint with audio right now is that I have to disconnect this or that and then connect to something else just to switch from PC to XBox or PS4. At times, if my headphones or speakers are connected to my PC I will not switch over to a console for long periods of time due to all the inconvenience - this is my gripe and reason for my original post. I'd like to easily be able to switch from headphones or speakers to PC, XBox, PS and anything else without all the disconnecting and reconnecting. It really sucks for me because I have to get down on the floor to hold the power cable in every single time I switch because the slightest move & power cable will merely slide out & lose power. It's really dark back there & I can't see squat and have to use a flash light even with the lights on - and that's just dealing with the PC.

    I'll give these headphones and mic linked below a going over after Xmas - these should simplify my situation tremendously so, I'll post again after I've spent some time with them on PC, XBox & PS4

    Status Audio CB-1 Closed Back Studio Monitor Headphones
    https://thestatusaudio.com/products/cb1

    V-MODA BoomPro Microphone for Gaming & Communication - Black
    http://v-moda.com/boompro-microphone/

    ; )
     
  21. jevans64

    jevans64 Gawd

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    What you would be considering to do this is an A/V receiver. That is the cheapest option for multi-channel support and switching BUT a receiver can take up a lot of space. If you just want 2.0 or 2.1 then take a look at the DC-1 DAC made by Emotiva. There are 5 digital inputs ( USB, TosLink, S/PDIF, BNC, and AES/EBU ) and one line-level analog input plus an option to add additional analog inputs ( 3 line-level plus a phono-level ) with the SP-1 expansion. That's a lot of inputs considering the DAC is only 10" D x 8" W x 2" H. The DC-1 has both XLR and RCA outputs, so a pair of speakers and a sub with a built-in crossover ( like SVS ) can be connected at the same time. The DC-1 is currently $500 and the SP-1 expansion is $300. The DC-2 should be out within 6 months so there will probably be a clearance on the DC-1 if you don't need 32bit/768KHz and native support for DSD. The DC-1 comes with a remote, so sources can be switched with the press of a button.
     
  22. DoubleTap

    DoubleTap [H]ard|Gawd

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    You need to come up with a budget as well as any gear you already have and any space constraints. Buying used and refurbished mid fi gear could get you setup nicely for a few hundred dollars and with audio, the sky is the limit.

    Also, the Kef Q100s are down to $229 and are great in a nearfield config, extremely hard to beat in that price rang.
     
  23. illram

    illram [H]ard|Gawd

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    Are you not interested in receivers? If you want something smaller another small receiver-like device is the NAD D 3020. Sounds amazing and looks pretty cool. Headphone and passive speaker taps, plenty of inputs. Remote control.

    Only thing I dislike about it is lack of line-out.
     
  24. Nenu

    Nenu Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    The new Creative AE-5 is a superb 5.1 soundcard if you want to remain internal.
    It also has a decent headphone amp and separate headphone output so you wont have to keep unplugging to use headphones.
    There is no better internal soundcard if you care about sound quality.


    Use an AV amp to connect all the other devices.
    You will need a very costly one to beat the headphone quality from the AE-5 so while you could just get an AV amp to do everything, an AE-5 for the headphones is a worthwhile investment.
    Then you can get a cheaper AV amp for everything else.
    The AE-5 will follow your PC upgrades, you will have better audio for a very long time.

    Depending on the AV amp you should be able to feed analogue stereo into it from the AE-5 and get the higher sound quality with stereo speakers as well.
    You can use optical or HDMI out when gaming to get 5.1.
    Or use the AE-5 with stereo headphones for a very good 7.1 simulation.
     
  25. DoubleTap

    DoubleTap [H]ard|Gawd

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    If I could get myself to go down to 5.1 the AE-5 would be tempting. It would make my speaker config easier as well.
     
  26. Nenu

    Nenu Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    Yeah, a bit strange these chips.
    I cant find the info on ESS own website that says how many channels the 9016K2M dac chip has.
    http://www.esstech.com/index.php/en...mobile-dacs/sabre-hifi-stereo-dacs/es9016k2m/
    Only a Russian site says it is 7.1.
    If so its odd the AE-5 isnt 7.1.

    Maybe they doubled up 4 channels for stereo out to give 3dB better s/n on the front speakers.
    Perhaps but doubtful ...

    There isnt a big loss going to 5.1 because most films dont use 7.1.
    You will know better what benefit it brings.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2017
  27. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    If only a Russian site says it's 7.1 then you should remember the rule of thumb: Never trust a Russian site.
     
  28. DoubleTap

    DoubleTap [H]ard|Gawd

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    I don't watch films on my PC, I just maintain surround sound for gaming because I like it so much - but with 5.1, I've heard some sources expect your rear speakers to be directly behind you and some expect them to be on either side so if you have the wrong config, the cues can be off - this isn't really an issue for movie surround sound.

    Still, I don't have a headphone amp yet and it might be worth playing around with that card to see if I'm ok with 5.1 and if not, maybe just use it for headphones....
     
  29. Tup3x

    Tup3x [H]ard|Gawd

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    AE-5 is 5.1 card. The 7.1 is just name for the virtual headphone surround on this card (and it's definitely better than the SBX on Z series cards). In reality it's virtual 5.1 (not that it really makes any real difference).

    The way they use the SoundCore3D chip is quite different on AE-5. Even the smart volume thingy seems to work better now. Also the volume control is handled by the DAC instead to the SoundCore3D chips which definitely improves the quality. Also the volume control works in exclusive WASAPI mode.
     
  30. RPGWiZaRD

    RPGWiZaRD Gawd

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    How do you know it's actual virtual 5.1 labelled as 7.1? I'm curious because I personally think virtual 5.1 tends to work better with headphones than 7.1 for direction pinpoint clarity (mostly because I suppose the simulated distance between every channel in 7.1 becomes too narrow for headphones so that the directions becomes more diffuse as a result).

    I'm a little bit curious in testing the AE-5 personally but I heard the soundcard is fairly on the "smooth" side of things and my onboard is slightly on the opposite I'd say, quite analytical and bright but it pairs extremely well with my warm'ish sounding headphone making them more detailed sounding (I really like the onboard audio of ASRock's ALC1150 and 1220 config). I already have a STX II, ZxR and SoundBlaster G5 mind you but I prefer the sound coming out of the onboard with my set of headphones because the sound signature of the onboard amps pairs just perfect, it has the most punchy and textured bass especially while not missing out on details up top.

    I do like virtual surround sound when it doesn't affect sound quality, on the onboard I like how it sounds when using 5.1 speaker setting (stereo speaker setting in comparision sounds closed-in and boring on Realtek), it even slightly changes the soundstaging for the better even for stereo content like music to be more open and "around you" as opposed to inside your head sounding which was my big problem with ZxR that didn't allow 5.1 speaker use over headphones. G5 again does with its virtual surround setting but this card again I hear as if it would distort more easily as a result, it just doesn't sound clean, especially with modern loudly mastered EDM music, also the sound itself was ever so slightly too smooth to my liking.
     
  31. Tup3x

    Tup3x [H]ard|Gawd

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    I have one and in virtual 7.1 mode it puts Windows in 5.1 speaker mode.

    It's "smooth" but detailed. Zx was definitely a bit harsh sounding and artificial, AE-5 sounds very natural.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2017
  32. RPGWiZaRD

    RPGWiZaRD Gawd

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    Wow, I'm suprised Creative actually does this, as if they would have listened to enthusiasts in this department. You know how it goes, bigger numbers must be better yadda yadda (ok they advertise it as 7.1 which I guess is logical as average joe would be like why 5.1 when there's 7.1!1!!). I think it's probably similar to SoundBlaster G5 usb DAC/amp then which also has this very smooth sound. ZxR is less so but it suffers from boomy bass as well.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2017
  33. Tup3x

    Tup3x [H]ard|Gawd

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    it will not sound like SoundBlaster G5. G5 has same DAC as Zx/Z and as far as I know AE-5 uses different op amps. The headphone out is definitely better on AE-5. AE-5 has very tight bass.
     
  34. RPGWiZaRD

    RPGWiZaRD Gawd

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    If G5 is "smooth" and ZxR is boomy and "romantic" sounding in the mids (piano notes in particular) with slight bit of splashy highs, then STX II can be described as "lean" sounding, it's probably the most neutral sounding of the 3 but it sounds rather unexciting as a result, weakest bass (lack of punch/impact), while mids & highs sounds quite okay I feel there's lack of engagement of some sort.

    Enter ASRock's Realtek ALC1150 & 1220 config from the amped front headphone port (only goes for the front port): closest simbilance to the STX II but without the weak bass (it actually has the ZxR kind of impact but without the boominess, it's just punchy and snappy, so nicely textured) and highs that are very analytical sounding without becoming harsh or unnatural sounding (obviously might be a prob depending on headphone you pair it with as always, it's not going to work great with headphones that pairs best with Tube amps obviously).

    I'm getting mad how an onboard sounds best to me/my setup. IT SHALL NOT BE POSSIBRU!!!
     
  35. Tup3x

    Tup3x [H]ard|Gawd

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    What headphones are you using?

    If I'd had to describe how AE-5 sounds I'd say that it has everything under the control across the range, never "breaks". There's plenety of detail for something like Emma Hewitt - Miss You Paradise (Shogun Remix). I currently have HD 595 but I should receive my HD 700 later this week. (I swear Verkkokauppa.com gets slower ans slower...).
     
  36. RPGWiZaRD

    RPGWiZaRD Gawd

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    It varies, I used to have a Ultrasone Signature DJ but I sold it as I slightly prefer the much cheaper M-Audio Q40 when making the original pads slightly deeper as the Signatures were a bit too V-shaped for my tastes. I also used Sony MDR-1A (slightly grainy highs, slightly boomy bass) for a little while, some Yamaha MT220 (slightly grainy highs, lacking punch in the bass) that was a pretty popular lowcost alternative and tried several other low-midrange costing headphones etc. Ie. nothing fancy. I prefer closed headphones with a ^-- signature, little bass boost with otherwise balanced mids vs highs range which is hard to come by and the Q40 does this signature best so far that I've tried (I only wished the soundstaging were better, it's definitely on the closed-in side of things even among closed headphones). I should have the new Kickstarter project Taction Kannon headphones possibly tomorrow though which I'm very interested in that have had great responses so far by those who recieved it (not just about the bass where it's rather unique due to the world's first sophisticated haptic driver design technology, it's nothing like you find in for example Skullcandy Crusher - this is day and night difference in execution. For some it's impossible to go back to traditional headphones after listening to these).

    I listen mostly to Hardstyle, but yea trance, progressive house, DnB, even some pop etc works.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2017
  37. Tup3x

    Tup3x [H]ard|Gawd

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    I take it that you like closed back headphones then. I absolutely detest all closed headphones. xD The soundstage, positioning and sense of space just isn't there. Serious disadvantage for gaming.
     
  38. RPGWiZaRD

    RPGWiZaRD Gawd

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    Yea, headphone type is about priorities, I need that isolation and bass impact. Positioning I disagree with though, that's not directly linked to soundstage size, closed headphones can also have as good imaging as open headphones (the best open ones typically slightly better but in average is probably pretty close). The Q40 does fair way better in that sense than it does percieved soundstage size. For me poor soundstage is easier to live with than lacking bass impact (notice not volume but percieved/felt thumpiness) or sound leakage & isolation from outside noise.
     
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  39. FlipCody

    FlipCody Limp Gawd

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    JoseJones, sounds like your on about the same budget as me :)

    I would go for the following:
    Sound BlasterX AE-5 Soundcard ($150)
    Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System ($265)
    Grado SR60e Headphones ($80) in you want on-ear headphones
    Sony MDR1A Headphones ($250) if you want over-ear headphones

    The above are all great choices on a budget.