Large Soundstage vs. virtual surround.

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by darksable, Apr 5, 2017.

  1. darksable

    darksable Limp Gawd

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    Okay, here's what I've currently got: Sennheiser HD 598s, being powered by a generation 1 (Jan 2013) Astro Mixamp Pro. I'm absolutely keeping my 598's - I love them to death. I'm debating what the best solution to upgrade my audio is. I'm upgrading my SFF computer, which is my primary listening device, and unfortunately my choice is between either not having a Toslink optical out, or spending $100 more for 4 fewer USB ports.

    Double-Edit:

    Never mind, guys. I've been doing some research, both online and with samples, and what it really came down to is when I looked down at the shelf my mixamp is on and realized that Dolby was off... and probably has been for a year. The soundstage on the 598's is just good enough that I assumed it was using surround.


    Original question for posterity:
    I talked to Astro already, and unfortunately, my mixamp absolutely requires the optical cable to support surround. Their newest offering at $130 can do it just through USB. The important factor here is that I would very much like to keep Dolby Surround. It's pointless for music, but awesome for gaming.

    So, the question here, I suppose is this:

    1) Live with fewer USB ports, save $30, keep my mixamp. 2) Get the new mixamp, give mine to a friend. 3) Get a DAC & Amp or combo unit that gives me surround and good performance for less than the mixamp

    Budget: Up to $130 Source: USB type A on a desktop. (Sound card not an option, sadly.) Isolation, type, ect - N/A Tonal balance and music tastes: Balanced. I listen to pop, rock, folk, swing, and a lot of Enya. :)

    Thanks for the advice, guys!

    EDIT: Oh, and I can't have a USB dac that just sticks out of the computer, unfortunately. My computer is on one side of the desk and my headphone line comes off the other side - and if I have the line crossing my body, I've learned that I WILL fiddle with it until I destroy the cable.

    After doing some testing in games, I greatly prefer using my headphones without surround - so unless there's a highly cost effective DAC/Amp that will improve my sound, I'll be keeping what I have, just without the optical cable.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
  2. pendragon1

    pendragon1 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    if youre on win10 you could try the new atmos app in headphone mode. just search atmos in windows store, if youre interested.
     
  3. Clovis559

    Clovis559 [H]Lite

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    The atmos headphones option isn't functional yet. Says "Coming Soon".
    There is Windows Sonic for Headphones, Virutal 7.1. I wonder how good that is. Under the spatial settings in windows.
     
  4. pendragon1

    pendragon1 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    oh oops. give it shot, could be good or crap...
     
  5. darksable

    darksable Limp Gawd

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    Worth a try, thanks!
     
  6. capt_cope

    capt_cope Gawd

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    I'm not familiar with the Mixamp, so I can't offer any comparisons to it, but it's been my experience that nearly any set of headphones greatly benefit from even a halfway decent dac & amp compared to on-board audio. The difference in "surround" sound between my trusty G930s and my DT880s (with my AMB y2 dac and Schiit Valhalla) is staggering. So much so that I ordered another set of DT880s (this time in 250ohm impedance) and a modmic to replace the logitech headset.

    Are there any digital audio outputs on the motherboard you're considering? If not you might try out the "Fulla" USB dac. It's pretty cheap, and they make good schiit ;)
     
  7. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    In order to get any kind of soundstage with headphones you need to add positional head tracking into play. The brain detects true position through micro movements of the head and if the audio doesn't match those movements the illusion of space vanishes.
     
  8. Zardoz

    Zardoz 2[H]4U

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    I prefer sound stage. muti-driver closed headphone are trash IMO. Right now I have the same Sennheiser HD 598s. I also have a set of Sennheiser G4me Ones that work really nice as well. lately I have been getting some interest in the Philips Fidelio X2. I been hearing they have some life changing sound stage.
     
  9. tungt88

    tungt88 [H]ard|Gawd

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    The Fidelio X2 is a bass-friendly headphone that is a pretty big jump from the HD 598/G4me Ones (I wouldn't say "life-changing", though). If you can get the HiFiMan HE-400s, that would be an truly monumental jump from the HD 598/G4me Ones, enough to (maybe) justify the "life-changing" description (add the HiFiMan Focus pads for more bass, if you need 'em).

    Right now the main HiFiMan store has the HE-400s (refurbished) for sale at a very reasonable $249: http://store.hifiman.com/index.php/he400s-427.html

    Philips Fidelio X2 are going for $243.70 on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Philips-X2-27-Fidelio-Headphones/dp/B00O2Y2MZG

    Between the two, I'd go for the HE-400s any day of the week. It is a rock-solid upgrade over the Philips Fidelio X2, and when you add the HiFiMan Focus pads to the HE-400s, it has smoother and more precise bass than the X2 (for a slight loss in clarity).

    HE-400s review: http://www.innerfidelity.com/conten...lanar-magnetic-headphones#HSWJHmkb85qFBsXf.97

    Fidelio X2 review: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/boss-philips-fidelio-x2#SvUzswAcGkBQHQyQ.97
     
  10. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    I have never heard headphones yet that would make me want to listen to music through them.
     
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  11. Gmok Bonecrusha

    Gmok Bonecrusha [H]ard|Gawd

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    Genuinely curious. What is the most expensive headphones you have used?
     
  12. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    Stax SR-007mk2 plugged into a 2000 buck headphone tube amp and being fed through a high-end cd player.
     
  13. capt_cope

    capt_cope Gawd

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    There's your problem, you need to try some nicer cans, you were on the right track looking at electrostatic cans, but you should really step up to a "real" pair of headphones like the SR-009.
     
  14. Clovis559

    Clovis559 [H]Lite

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    I'm with B00nie on this one. You jumped to some $3500 cans, and I'm sure they sound great, amazing, mind blowing. I'm not spending $3500 on cans. (I'm sure you don't plug those into the back of your computer either). I'd rather put all that into a Yamaha CX-5100 and MX-5100. Get a fully loaded 7.1.4 Surround, that I can enjoy on my computer, on my TV and watch movies with everyone... if I wanted. I don't have insane $4000 speakers, just Klipsch RP-280F, but I like them. They sound great.
     
  15. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    No ordinary headphone can overcome the physical limitations the cans bring with them. Without a high quality head tracking the imaging is not natural. Sure the sound is clean and accurate - but it can't hold a candle to the imaging proper speakers can give you. Not to mention the physical sensation of having the bass slam your body.
     
  16. Tup3x

    Tup3x [H]ard|Gawd

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    I don't have room for large bookshelf speakers let alone proper >5.1 setup. Decent open back headphones have really, really nice sound stage on top of nice audio quality and since I'm not a bass head it's easily the best choice for me. On top of that I can listen to what every I want without upsetting others.

    Not going to fix these again though... If these break I guess I'll move to HD 599.
    [​IMG]
     
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  17. Clovis559

    Clovis559 [H]Lite

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    In your case you do what you gotta do. Seems you've found a specific pair that have done you well too. I used to live in an apartment upstairs, and walking across the living room was too much sometimes, let alone having speakers of any sort would not have been welcome.
     
  18. B00nie

    B00nie [H]ardness Supreme

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    I bought a house with a separate building just for audio purposes. That's how committed I am to enjoying music...
     
  19. OFaceSIG

    OFaceSIG [H]ard|Gawd

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    There's two different things going on here.

    The game engine itself has a LOT to do with how good your sound stage is. Older game engines had SHIT sound engines so no matter how good your virtual surround was, if it wasn't be fed good audio direction from the game engine it's all for naught. For example. A more modern game engine like Frostbite 2 or 3. Much better sound stage. You can tell the game you have "hifi" speakers and then set windows to 7.1 sound. Then set your headphone software to it's appropriate settings. For me it's creative and I engage the proper headphone settings in CMSS 3d.

    The game engine then sends 7.1 channels of audio to the OS via it's sound stage in game. The OS then "outputs" 7.1 audio to the sound card which downmixes the audio via cmss-3d to your headphones. This works very well for me.

    The other option is to set your OS to two speakers, set the game to "headphones" and disable any headphone wizardry in your sound card software. This then lets the game do all the work. My personal impression of this in Battlefield was much lower quality sound. I can't explain why but maybe the sampling or output is different than headphone mode. Spacial awareness wasn't drastically different which is a compliment to the headphone mode but audio samples for whatever reason didn't sound nearly as good.