I still can't decide on a soundcard to get. Budget is $200 max.

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by Trojita, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. Trojita

    Trojita n00b

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    So I'm building a new computer and I'd like to get a new soundcard with it. I've had an Xtreme Music from my last two builds, but it would always cause driver and BSOD problems.

    Right now I have a Z-5500, but I'm thinking about possibly getting a 2.0 System from Audio Engine, Swan, Behringer. I finally realized a 5.1 system really doesn't work in my computer desk layout. Before that I was looking at the Corsair system, but didn't realize all of these other companies make active audio systems. If anyone wouldn't mind recommending some audio systems, I'd appreciate it, though I'll probably make a new thread for that.

    I will be using this soundcard to play 45% Video Games 30% Videos and 25% music. I have a pair of ATH-AD700's and Sennheiser 598HD. I will be using the Speakers 80% of the time and the headphones 20%, I might change this up though.

    So assuming I go with a 2.0 setup should I get the Asus Xonar Essence ST (I heard it is better than the STX?) or should I get the Phoebus? Should I get something cheaper?
     
  2. bigsnyder

    bigsnyder Gawd

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    Just FYI

    This card is going on sale in the lightning deals section on amazon in about 7 hours from time of this post (don't know much about it other than it seems much better the Recon3D):

    Soundbaster Z SBX
     
  3. dwightschrute

    dwightschrute Gawd

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    Just saw it, terrible lightning deal considering it from $112.17 to 94.99
    but the cheapest price on zon for this card was $107.24 before so $94.99 not bad
     
  4. spaceman

    spaceman [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Your new sound card should be a Denon AVR-1612

    Better sounding, more flexible, sexier?

    Size constraints be damned. Figure it out and you will be rewarded with sound quality of astounding amplitude.
     
  5. atarione

    atarione [H]ard|Gawd

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    i've heard the blah blah the ST is slightly better than the STX (if i recall the STX has some sort of PCI to PCIe bridge chip to make it PCIe... so maybe it is indeed true that the bridging to PCIe makes it not quite as good as the STX).

    however i'm not sure i'd want to drop $200~ish on a PCI sound card at this point ...my current motherboard has PCI but looking at top end Z77 mobos many lack PCI at all.

    so if i was going to get a ST/STX i'd get the STX (assuming you have PCIe slot for it now)


    but... there are other options to start thinking about at this sort of price range ... like external dacs HRT Streamer II springs to mind

    http://www.amazon.com/HRT-Music-Str...cs&ie=UTF8&qid=1354404458&sr=1-1&keywords=hrt


    however it doesn't really do anything for headphones but it quite awesome for 2channel audio (speakers)

    or THIS (finally remembered what i was trying to think of )

    http://www.amazon.com/Audinst-HUD-m...=UTF8&qid=1354404935&sr=1-34&keywords=usb+dac

    Audinst HUD-mx1 Hi-Fi

    nice headphone amp / usb dac


    so yeah a ton more choices some less some more expensive DAC Zero // Maverick Audio Tubemagic D1/D2 ...blah blah blah.. many think for audio getting the sound card (DAC) out from inside the PC case and it's relatively high RF noise environment is preferable to sound card installed inside the case.

    I'm currently listening to KEXP live stream w/ winamp using the Maiko WASAPI using my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (DAW) as a DAC..and it sounds very nice.

    so if you have to the desk space it might be worth considering moving to a outboard dac solution also.
     
  6. JohnleMVP

    JohnleMVP [H]ardness Supreme

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    +1 AVR is the way to go. It is unfortunate that they tend to be pretty large though.

    At this point though I feel its a waste of money to spend big bucks on a sound card.
     
  7. Impulse

    Impulse [H]ardForum Junkie

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    You can pair the HRT SII with any headphone amp, it's actually one of the purer/simpler high quality DAC's out there in that it's nothing BUT a DAC, USB one way and RCA the other. Even if you were gonna use it with speakers you'd need to pair it with an amp or powered speakers. It's decently priced considering where it sits relative to other cheaper DAC or DAC/amp combinations from Fiio, Audioengine etc.

    I still really like my STX and would easily buy it again today if I was building a new system, tho I only paid about $150 for it... At $200 I'd probably have to think it over a bit harder. I think at $150 it's a great value for someone like me, a great DAC and a pretty good headphone amp would cost me significantly more if I bought discrete components, unless I went with something like a Fiio unit which have their own drawbacks (some can't play while charging etc) and isn't necessarily any better or cheaper than the STX.

    An AVR receiver is great if you actually intend to go 5.1, but it's hardly this one size fits all option that everyone should flock to. For people with a simpler 2.0/2.1 setup it's frankly a waste of space, power, and money. When you get a receiver, particularly a budget one, you're paying for a lot of things and many of them you don't really need around a computer unless it's an HTPC. It's not even necessarily gonna be a better DAC or amp than cheaper components, and I actually have the AVR-1612 mentioned above in my living room, it's great for a budgetHT.

    However, with a modern receiver you're basically paying for input switching, a GUI, a remote, room correction algorithms (more useful for 5.1), all sort of decoding licenses and processing, an amp, a DAC, a radio tuner, an usually mediocre headphone amp, etc. You only need a fraction of all that on a desktop 2.0/2.1 or headphone setup (basically the amp/DAC).

    Granted if you get a used/vintage receiver you mitigate a lot of that by simply paying less and possibly getting better base components and less modern tech, but still... A simple Xonar or one of the many USB DAC's out there (+ T-amp and/or headphone amp) is more sensible if you aren't doing 5.1, it'll take up less space and it'll be purpose built for your needs. atarione put some good recommendations out there, I alluded to others, NWAVguy's site has some good reviews even tho he pimps his O2/ODAC a lot (if you have the budget or need it's a very nice option).

    Having said all that, the OP has two very easy to drive headphones and hinted he might be getting a powered speaker system. I don't see why he'd need anything more than a $50 Xonar card at this point. If he wanted a better headphone amp for some reason then I could see the point in leading him down this rabbit hole but I think everyone's ignoring what he's actually using/saying. /shrug
     
  8. Impulse

    Impulse [H]ardForum Junkie

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    TL;DR - for 2.0/2.1 + headphones: one of the cheaper Xonar cards, like the DGX ($50-ish) < Xonar STX ~= budget USB DAC/hp-amp (anything or any combination under $250, Fiio's, AE D1, etc.) < higher end USB DAC & amp ($300+)

    And a budget (<$350) receiver wouldn't really be any better than any of those options, specially when he hasn't even decided if he's gonna get some powered speakers or passives.

    The one advantage sound cards do have is stuff like CMSS-3D or Dolby Headphone for virtual surround sound processing with headphones... Some people hate that stuff and say it just mangles the audio stream, others think it helps them with positional cues (console gamers actually swear by it, but then their audio is usually even more compressed and crap to begin with). I happen to like DH with some games, but not all.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2012
  9. Impulse

    Impulse [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I also happen to enjoy switching from headphones to speakers with a mouse click without constantly unplugging my headphones (something the STX and the new Creative Z allow thru software controlled actuators, exactly like a receiver switches inputs), but that's a personal choice and others prefer the exact opposite. I actually have my Beyers plugged in permanently at the back (along with speakers) and I occasionally plug in other easier to drive headphones into the speaker's headphone out (decently amp'd on my Samson's).

    Running an extension to the desk and switching cables around with a cheap Xonar is no big deal tho, did it for years with my X-Fi.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2012
  10. spaceman

    spaceman [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Yeah but I have two stereos and a pair of headphones for my pc. One is 5.1 with smaller, budget speakers and one is a 2.1 with full sized speakers with 12" woofers. I prefer the 2.1 even for games. It just sounds more realistic.

    So if you have the room for it, I always suggest a good 2.1 over a cheaper 5.1. Each situation is different of course. I have an entire basement to myself.
     
  11. Tyler-Durden

    Tyler-Durden 2[H]4U

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    +1

    I, too, prefer a great 2.1 system over anything else for my PC audio. The specs are in my sig. I spent more $$ than I should have, but every time I game or play music, movies, etc. all I do is smile. :p
     
  12. Trojita

    Trojita n00b

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    I'm not sure a receiver will be viable in my situation, but who knows. Reason being I live in a cramped 500 SQFT apartment :(

    I have a VSX21-TXH Pioneer Elite receiver that I could replace with a new Denon and use the Pioneer with the computer. Reason being is because the Pioneer only has 4 hdmi inputs, and I already filled them :(

    So right now it is either a $50ish Sound Card (Some Asus?), the ST (or STX), or a receiver. Decisions decisions.
     
  13. Tyler-Durden

    Tyler-Durden 2[H]4U

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    Does your motherboard have digital (optical/coaxial) out capability? If so, you could run a cable from the board to the optical/coaxial port of your Pioneer receiver. This way, you wouldn't even need a sound card. Attach a couple of bookshelf speakers and a small subwoofer. This setup would sound better than anything you mentioned in your original post.

    Not being a fan of the Denon sound, I'd stick with your Pioneer.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2012
  14. JohnleMVP

    JohnleMVP [H]ardness Supreme

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    Ideally you would use HDMI to connect to a receiver. For optical to do 5.1 it would be compressed and technically lower quality than using a sound card with analog cables.
     
  15. Tyler-Durden

    Tyler-Durden 2[H]4U

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    He's not looking for 5.1 in his new audio setup. I think optical is more than capable for 2.0 or 2.1.
     
  16. spaceman

    spaceman [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Yeah keep the Pioneer. Just run optical or coax digital into it and all will be well.