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Hunchback
24-07-2012, 12:17 PM
Hey all, i am currently looking to buy a good gaming headset so i am doing my net research.
I've spent some time reading guides and reviews on sites such as Tom'shardware, user reviews on Amazon and some other random sites i found on Google, but i am still not quite sure about my choices.

What i am looking for is something that does surround. I play quite a few online shooters and i figured having real surround sound would change the game experience a fair bit. The headset should also be comfortable, since gaming sessions can easily stretch over 2 hours straight. Sound quality is kind of not worth mentioning i guess, when shopping for a sound device. Lastly, my budget is about 100 euros, so sadly the sennheiser awesomeness is mostly off limits.

Now my first major doubt is - does surround actually work with headphones? I mean really work, like a decent home cinema 5.1 system does?

Then secondly, what to chose? There are quite a few options out there, with every major gaming gear or sound gear manufacturer offering some sort of a device that supposedly answers to my criteria.

According to a couple of reviews, the Logitech G35 are the best overall considering prices and quality. However, most of the reviews i found are kind of old, like a couple of years old, so i am not sure if they are still of importance. Also, i haven't seen much info on the Steelseries 5H (or 7H, the more expensive version).

Lastly, some of these headphones come with an "USB soundcard" - what's this all about? Could such a device provide better sound than standard MB integrated sound? Doesn't it consume too much power for an USB port to sustain properly?


I am mostly looking for personal experience based opinions, so if anyone has used/owns such headphones please share your experience.


Cheers!

Heliocentric
24-07-2012, 12:34 PM
Nice quality Hifi headphones designed for comfort with 16-24k range or better and a decent desk mic.

I use a pair of Philips SHP5401 http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001ETSAZI/ (these are 15 - 28000 Hz)
But I paid less than that amazon link.
Heres a desk mic with good reviews but I grabbed a logitech one in a sale.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Logitech-980186-0914-USB-Desktop-Microphone/dp/B0000ATCOR

Heres a thing about "headsets" the mic is stuck to your face like Madonna in a concert and you'll be breathing all over the damn thing, It'll either be tiny and pointless or it will get in the way, when you inevitably trip over your headset it'll all be gone down the toilet.

Desk mics are just better for me., guess if you were a heavy lanner you might feel different, but if you are sat next to your teammates do you really need a mic?

Edit: adressing your concerns, avoid USB sound cards unless you have read excellent reviews, they are mostly a good idea for listening to music on terrible sound cards (if you get fizzing and crackling on your current sound card its likely EM interference, usb processing will be shielded and mostly powered by your CPU. )

Edit 2: biaural surround sound is all bollocks, TBH most of the magic of surround sound is when your head is not centred, most blockbusters have your head track things so that the sound will catch you out "lampshading" the effect, but on headphones clamped to your skull? that will never happen.

7hink
24-07-2012, 01:47 PM
Check this thread (http://www.head-fi.org/t/534479/mad-lust-envys-headphone-gaming-guide-updated-7-14-2012-ultrasone-pro-900-added) over on head-fi. That should give you an idea. I'm aware that there are a lot of headphone recommendations which are far more expensive, but there should be a few headphones within your budget as well.

Edit: Too expand on the previous a little. It might be nice to have some more info on a few things. Like whether you want an open or closed headphone, whether you would like circumaural or supra-aural (over the ears or on the ears).

Some other tips/ info:

Dont' look at measurements done by the company themselves. They're likely not correct or displayed in a way that is very misleading. If you're going to look at measurements at all check out something like headroom. (http://www.headphone.com/headphones/) At least theirs are acurate.

Try headphone before buying them if at all possible. Some headphone are very uncomfortable for some people. People also tend to hear things differntly. You might think a headphone sounds very harsh (too much high frequency) while someone else might perceive that as being detailed or bright.

5.1 headphones are pretty much a gimmick. You would be better of with a proper 2.0 headphone in almost every case.

Headphone which provide their own USB DAC and amp could possibly be good, but I can't think of one that actually is. If it would be any good it would also have to be significantly more expensive than the most things that are out there.

And last but by no means least: Buy a headphone made by an audio company instead of by a gaming company. I don't know of any headphones made by gaming companies which I would call good.

Kadayi
24-07-2012, 02:23 PM
Siberia steel series. Expensive, but decent sound and robust build quality. Present set well over 2 years old now and going strong. Firm thumbs up.

djbriandamage
24-07-2012, 03:03 PM
If you have a Sound Blaster brand sound card its EAX effects do a very nice job of stereo surround with and without 2.0 headphones. It's so precise that in the old Call of Duty games I could hear a mortar falling (skreeeeerrrr) and actually turn my camera to directly face the explosion moments before it would happen. Having owned many headphones and soundcards my opinion is that this is mostly a function of the sound card. EAX is becoming much less prevalent and I find even triple-A custom sound systems (like the Source and Unreal engines) to be inferior to the precision of EAX's stereo surround.

I have the Pioneer SE-M390 cans. I use them for gaming, listening to music, and DJ monitoring although they're not ideal for the latter. They have very nice range and powerful warm bass. The ear cups are carpeted and are supremely comfortable - I never ever fatigue from wearing these and my ears are very sensitive to this. They have a single wire on one side and a nice long cable so I have it routed around the back of my to keep it out of the way. No mic, though. I think they ran me $80 Canadian.

I tried some carpeted Razor brand headphones at the local tech shop which had a built-in mic but they weren't quite as bassy or comfy as my Pioneers. 50% more expensive too.

Sakkura
24-07-2012, 03:53 PM
Siberia steel series. Expensive, but decent sound and robust build quality. Present set well over 2 years old now and going strong. Firm thumbs up.
Steelseries headsets are bad in my opinion.

I would agree with 7hink that gaming brands aren't known for quality headphones/headsets. And I don't just mean in terms of some uber-hifi sound quality, but also just build quality and comfort. Had a Steelseries headset that nearly squeezed the life out of my ears (even though it was circumaural and I'm no Dumbo), and then it crapped out with a loose wire somewhere. Save me, Sennheiser! And I lived happily ever after.

Finicky
24-07-2012, 04:48 PM
Steelseries headsets are bad in my opinion.

I would agree with 7hink that gaming brands aren't known for quality headphones/headsets. And I don't just mean in terms of some uber-hifi sound quality, but also just build quality and comfort. Had a Steelseries headset that nearly squeezed the life out of my ears (even though it was circumaural and I'm no Dumbo), and then it crapped out with a loose wire somewhere. Save me, Sennheiser! And I lived happily ever after.


My steelseries H5 lasted me for almost 3 years before crapping out and didn't vicegrip my skull.
I had a 130 euro sehneisser headset 4 years ago and after only 2 weeks the cable snagged once (not hard, the steelseries went through far more abuse) and the soldering already let go and it was broken.

I have a 12 year old phillips heaphone and it's still working perfectly with no sign of wear.

ALL gaming headsets are a scam, they are made to break so you buy a new one.
This isn't some conspiracy theory crap, it's a well known and well documented fact about products being made disposable, goes from light bulbs to nylon stockings to cars and washing machines and printers that have counter chips.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bxzU1HFC7Q throws a nice light on it.

Gaming headsets have a sales pitch based on style and gaming, traditional headphones are (were) pitched as something you buy to last for life, just like good old 3 way standalone speakers were renowned for lasting 20+ years and that was part of the sales pitch.

If you want to dismiss the docu, at least watch it first, it's not opinions based on making their own conclusions (like most media) ,they are well documented facts.

7hink
24-07-2012, 05:23 PM
It's true that most electronics aren't made to last these days and can't be made that way if they're going to be sold for a certain price. However, all the headphones I own right now have been going strong for several years. That said. I still need to replace certain parts of them every once in a while. That's one of the things that you get with headphones. No matter how expensive or robust, certain parts of them are going to fail. Think about things like earpads and headbands. Drivers can still last a very long time depending on your use/ abuse.

One of the things that makes more expensive headphones worth it is that most of them have a modular design. If a cables fails, I can get just a new cable instead of buying a completly new headphone. It probably is still cheaper to get several cheaper headphones though.

Just for reference, these are the headphones I own at the moment:

Sennheiser HD650
Sennheiser HD25-II
Sennheiser 250 Linear II
Beyerdynamic DT880 (2003 model)

Kadayi
24-07-2012, 05:38 PM
Steelseries headsets are bad in my opinion.

Mileage may vary. If you want better sound then you're likely better off getting a proper audio headset, but if you want a gaming headset (where you don't have to dick around) I'd say the Siberia's are a good choice. I've been through a good dozen or so headsets over the years (some last months, some might last a year). my assessment is made on the basis of cost Vs likely lifespan. Do the Siberias grip? yes. Not as much as the Fatal1ties do (damn uncomfortable headset tbh). However like a boot eventually they wear to your head. Cables going is one of things you can't mitigate for tbh. The Siberias have a detachable extension cord which alleviate a certain amount of risk though.

Ravelle
24-07-2012, 05:49 PM
I enjoy my Razer Orca and Razer Megalodon. They both have excellent audio quality.

internetonsetadd
24-07-2012, 08:09 PM
Just for reference, these are the headphones I own at the moment:

Sennheiser HD650
Sennheiser HD25-II
Sennheiser 250 Linear II
Beyerdynamic DT880 (2003 model)

I imagine most people here aren't aware of what nice headphones these are (I've owned an HD650 and 2003 DT880). Gaming buyers always tend to go for surround and gaming headsets, and it's pretty hard to convince them not to, so I don't try. The best advise one can give is to check head-fi. I'm partial to Audio-Technica for gaming. Used a W2002 for a long time, and then switched to a W1000x. I like a spacious sound with decent isolation (fan noise, yuck) and comfort that keeps on giving.

Edit: Of course, I bought these headphones for music and just happened to still have them when I started playing more games. They would make absurd recommendations for gaming headphones. My point is that there are tons of great options for all budgets that are not gaming-specific and not surround; rather than mention what I think they might be, I'd simply point to a headphone-centric hivemind.

Finicky
24-07-2012, 10:09 PM
It's true that most electronics aren't made to last these days and can't be made that way if they're going to be sold for a certain price. However, all the headphones I own right now have been going strong for several years. That said. I still need to replace certain parts of them every once in a while. That's one of the things that you get with headphones. No matter how expensive or robust, certain parts of them are going to fail. Think about things like earpads and headbands. Drivers can still last a very long time depending on your use/ abuse.

One of the things that makes more expensive headphones worth it is that most of them have a modular design. If a cables fails, I can get just a new cable instead of buying a completly new headphone. It probably is still cheaper to get several cheaper headphones though.

Just for reference, these are the headphones I own at the moment:

Sennheiser HD650
Sennheiser HD25-II
Sennheiser 250 Linear II
Beyerdynamic DT880 (2003 model)

Yes but those are headphones, not headsets:p key difference.
As I said in my rant, headsets are a totally different market, aimed at kids and students, they are built to break and squeeze every euro out of people's pockets.

Headphones (quality ones of respectable make) are still aimed at more old fashioned users who want their shit to last for many, many years.

I was trying to say the argument about which headset is best is moot as one should look for some good headphones, not overly expensive poor build quality headsets.

7hink
24-07-2012, 10:46 PM
^^ I agree with the above.

Just as another bit of info. You can just get a modmic (http://www.modmic.com/) and stick it on pretty much any headphone you would like. I don't own one myself so I can't vouch for the quality of it, but I've heard pretty good things about it. Another option would be to go for something like the logitech microphone (http://www.logitech.com/en-us/webcam-communications/microphones) which a few of my friends use. Those also work quite well.

For actual headsets the only ones I can truly recommend (from personal experience) are the Beyerdynamic MMX300 and the Sennheiser PC360. Those are far above the OPs budget though.

Timofee
24-07-2012, 11:39 PM
Now my first major doubt is - does surround actually work with headphones? I mean really work, like a decent home cinema 5.1 system does?

Then secondly, what to chose? There are quite a few options out there, with every major gaming gear or sound gear manufacturer offering some sort of a device that supposedly answers to my criteria.


As others have said, avoid at all costs the ones which have millions of speakers, the faux surround sound a standard stereo headset when combined with a good sound card is perfectly capable of giving you the direction component you're looking for with regards to gaming.

As someone who down the ages has owned 2 sets of Zalman 5.1s, 2 sets of Medusas and another 5.1 headset I can't remember the name of - they aint worth it. You'll be much happier with a set that can push out a decent amount of bass.

That being said if it wasn't already obvious, headsets are just so subjective you'll really want to try them.

In terms of value to performance the 2 best headsets I've ever owned were some Technics I picked up for 20 in Dixons as a student, and a set of Logitech headphones I got for a similar price.

I've been bitterly disappointed with the 5.1 ones I mentioned above as well as a fair few generic sets as well as the creative Fatality ones which were utterly awful and felt like someone was drilling into my brain while squishing my ears tight.

However I do have a freakishly shaped head which means all headphones/sets are periodically very painful for me to wear. My quest to find the perfect set eventually took me to the Sennheiser PC350s and the Beyerdynamic MMX300s both of which I can thoroughly recommend but which are sadly out of your price bracket.

And I can usually go comfortably for a 6 hour gaming session with the above

Nice quality Hifi headphones designed for comfort with 16-24k range or better and a decent desk mic.

I use a pair of Philips SHP5401 http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001ETSAZI/ (these are 15 - 28000 Hz)
But I paid less than that amazon link.
Heres a desk mic with good reviews but I grabbed a logitech one in a sale.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Logitech-980186-0914-USB-Desktop-Microphone/dp/B0000ATCOR

Heres a thing about "headsets" the mic is stuck to your face like Madonna in a concert and you'll be breathing all over the damn thing, It'll either be tiny and pointless or it will get in the way, when you inevitably trip over your headset it'll all be gone down the toilet.

As someone who has been forced to sit on Mumble / TS with people who have voice activated desk mics all I'll say in NO NO NO!. If you're a push to talk guy then go for it, or if you don't use voice comms very often then again I agree with Heliocentric that you'll likely get a much better set of headphones for your money and a desk mic will be ok


5.1 headphones are pretty much a gimmick. You would be better of with a proper 2.0 headphone in almost every case.

Headphone which provide their own USB DAC and amp could possibly be good, but I can't think of one that actually is. If it would be any good it would also have to be significantly more expensive than the most things that are out there.

And last but by no means least: Buy a headphone made by an audio company instead of by a gaming company. I don't know of any headphones made by gaming companies which I would call good.

As above, I heartily agree to avoid 5.1s.

In terms of USB amps my only experience was the medusas which got HORRIFIC interference from mobile phones (in other rooms no less), so I'd avoid.

And agree with the advice on going with a headphone company, certainly if you're purchasing without testing - although as mentioned above I got on really well with a set of 20 logitechs which I bought in desperation when I grew so frustrated with my search for a decent set.

Please please stay away from Razer - one of the worst crimes to be inflicted upon gamers over the last decade has been their continued existence.


Do the Siberias grip? yes. Not as much as the Fatal1ties do (damn uncomfortable headset tbh). However like a boot eventually they wear to your head. Cables going is one of things you can't mitigate for tbh. The Siberias have a detachable extension cord which alleviate a certain amount of risk though.

Agreed on Fatalities, one of the worst purchases I've ever made.


For actual headsets the only ones I can truly recommend (from personal experience) are the Beyerdynamic MMX300 and the Sennheiser PC360. Those are far above the OPs budget though.

<3

Ergates
24-07-2012, 11:40 PM
I use Sennheiser HD555s - they're within your budget and sound good.

Obvious downside is that they'd leave you needing a mic (assuming you actually want one). I've not really found a good solution to the mic thing - I wear an old headset around my neck and use the mic from that, but it doesn't work very well. However, I don't find myself using it very often anyway, which is why I've never really put any effort into finding a better solution.

Heliocentric
24-07-2012, 11:45 PM
As someone who has been forced to sit on Mumble / TS with people who have voice activated desk mics all I'll say in NO NO NO!. If you're a push to talk guy then go for it, or if you don't use voice comms very often then again I agree with Heliocentric that you'll likely get a much better set of headphones for your money and a desk mic will be ok
Oh, god yes, push to talk, I have a family, I'm not airing my entire life just because I've passed a certain sound threshold.

PUSH TO TALK FO' LYFE

soldant
25-07-2012, 01:58 AM
I enjoy my Razer Orca and Razer Megalodon. They both have excellent audio quality.
Oh man I hated my Megalodon headset. There wasn't enough padding on the headband so it basically hammered into my skull all the time. Audio quality seemed about on par or slightly better than my old G35s, which for better or worse I absolutely adored and kept until they basically fell apart. But the G35s had weird driver issues where some games would suddenly have the sound cut out whenever a reverb effect was playing.

I currently use a set of Sennheiser HD215s headphones. I don't talk in online games that much so I don't have a mic (though I miss having a boom mic simply for convenience) and I find the quality reasonable for the price. That said, if I wasn't often listening to music, I don't think they'd offer that much of a significant advantage over a gaming headphone set.

For what it's worth, the 5.1 "surround" settings on gaming headsets (the ones that use software, not multiple drivers which sound terrible) do sort of work, but depending on your soundcard or even the game itself it may be able to virtualise this anyway.

In any event the headset that sounds right and is comfortable for you is the one you should go with... definitely listen to the suggestions here but don't just pick a headset because someone tells you it sounds better than X for $n more.

Hunchback
25-07-2012, 10:54 AM
First of all, thank you all for the lengthy replies!

Now here's the deal - I am well aware that proper headphone companies produce a much better product than "gaming" ones do. as i mentioned in my original post, they also tend to be quite more expensive. Thing is, it'll be my b-day soonish and my wife was wondering what to get me, as i said our current budget is about 100 euros.
Some more info on the situation/needs - My PC is in the living room, right next to the wife's PC. We usually play together, except that she doesn't play any shooters so i play that on my own. There's also the TV in the room, with the kid watching TV/Movies on it in the evening. All's fine when playing some strategy, quest or even RPG, even if the wife's playing/watching something else next to me and the kid's watching tv, but once you get into something like BF3 or similar the sound levels mixing gets seriously annoying for everyone so in the end everyone ends up lowering the sound to a minimum. Not that's it's CRITICAL, i don't play on a professional level, but it does cut back quite a bit on the experience. I currently have the Fatal1ty headset which i bought without much thought, and i am kinda sorry about it - as others have said, it is uncomfortable, the sound is not that amazing.

With all that said, i thought about using the opportunity (my b-day) to "upgrade" my headphones. I also thought it would be nice to be able to play with some sort of real surround, so that's how i ended up looking at "gaming" headphones that do 5.1. I ain't got a real soundcard, i am using my onboard sound with a 2.1 BOSE system.

As for communications - i don't really use TS anymore, i did use it back in my WoW days, but lately i've been off MMOs. I do use Skype sometimes with my friends when playing Diablo, but that won't last much longer. Anyways, the microphone part is not a priority for me. If i was to get some music headphones, i could always buy some cheap desk mic et voila.

About the gaming headphones - I am cautious about these, that's why i started this thread (and others on other forums). The thing that kind of encouraged me was a review on tom'sguide that says that the Logitech G35 are actually quite good on terms of quality, comfort and sound. And that the 5.1 does make a difference.
Thing is, if i don't get some 5.1 headphones, i might just as well not bother with spending money on new headphones since i don't use them all that much.

And lastly, about music headphones - some months ago, when i got my wife an Yamaha DGX 640, we decided she would need some proper headphones if she was to play it a lot. We ended up choosing the Sennheiser HD 518 as the best money/quality solution. They are in the budget too, so i guess if we don't get me some "gaming headset" and still decide to stick with a headphones gift we might go for them, since we've already done a bit of research about them. Opinions?

Ergates
25-07-2012, 11:13 AM
In that case (i.e not needing the mic) I'd recomend going for a pair of headphones rather than a headset. The HD518s which you've already looked and or the HD555s are both in your budget and either would both be good purchases.

One slight caveat is that they're "open" headphones - which means they'll "leak" a fair bit of sound. (i.e. people in the room will be able to hear your headphones). Though unless they're trying to watch a really quiet film, or you have them cranked up stupidly high, it shouldn't be a problem

Hunchback
25-07-2012, 11:39 AM
We picked open over closed for comfort's sake (heat)...

Eophasmus
25-07-2012, 01:08 PM
The down-side to open back (if in headset variety) is that the sound leakage is easily picked up by the mic which can lead to a horrific feedback loop which can only be solved by reducing the volume or jury-rigging a closed back with tape, cardboard and chewing gum. This is a problem I've recently realised with my painful SteelSeries Siberia 'neckband' headset.

Also: don't buy neckband headphones!

7hink
25-07-2012, 03:12 PM
And lastly, about music headphones - some months ago, when i got my wife an Yamaha DGX 640, we decided she would need some proper headphones if she was to play it a lot. We ended up choosing the Sennheiser HD 518 as the best money/quality solution. They are in the budget too, so i guess if we don't get me some "gaming headset" and still decide to stick with a headphones gift we might go for them, since we've already done a bit of research about them. Opinions?

Good headphones (the HD518) for that price in my opinion. If you're willing to go second hand you can maybe go for the HD595. Possibly the HD580 as well, but those aren't really that great when used directly out of a soundcard or mp3 player. Anything above that (HD600 to HD800) will get you firmly in the realm of diminishing returns for as far as price /sound quality is concerned so I wouldn't recommend that.

I still recommend trying it before you buy it if you've got the opportunity at all. You may have already done that, but it doesn't hurt to repeat myself in case you haven't I suppose.

One of the problems I've had with quality headphones is that they allow you to hear how awful some music has been recorded or how bad your soundcard is. This doesn't have to be the case per se, but it's a possibility.

I would go with using Dolby Headphone (or what have you) with a 2.0 headphone over using a 5.1 headphone any day. There simply aren't any 5.1 headphones that are actually good for as far as audion quality is concerned. Dolby headphone isn't without problems either though. The main problem with Dolby headphone or similar technologies is that they're based on an average HRTF (head related transfer function (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head-related_transfer_function)) which may not be exactly compatible with the size and shape of your own head, torso and ears. In laymans terms: They're using a formula to calculate where the sounds are supposed to come from based on a head which isn't your own. Because of that sound may not seem as natural depending on how much your head, torso and ears vary from the average head etc. they measured and used for their calculations. Most of this could be solved by using your own HRTF and loading it into some soft- or hardware, but let's face it: Not many people actually have their own HRTF measurements. Like I said before, I would still go for the 2.0 headphones, but as always that's just my opinion and YMMV etc etc.

Read more about surround sound on headphones and general PC gaming here (http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-nameless-guide-to-pc-gaming-audio-with-binaural-headphone-surround-sound). A lot of surround sound has to do with what your soundcard is able to do in that regard. A xonar DG (http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_DG/) is the low end of that (while still being pretty good) and a smith realiser (http://smyth-research.com/index.html) is the extreme high end.


The down-side to open back (if in headset variety) is that the sound leakage is easily picked up by the mic which can lead to a horrific feedback loop which can only be solved by reducing the volume or jury-rigging a closed back with tape, cardboard and chewing gum. This is a problem I've recently realised with my painful SteelSeries Siberia 'neckband' headset.

The HD5xx series don't really leak that badly in my opinion and even when they cause some feedback it can be solved quite easily with some echo cancelation. It's build-in in some soundcards and some communication programs. Mumble has it for instance. Don't really know about skype since I haven't used that in quite a while.

Hunchback
25-07-2012, 05:46 PM
So much to read... ^_^

As for the sound card - to be honest, i've always thought they were quite more expensive. Do you know how exactly the quality varies with pricing? And does the sound really change that much over standard MB integrated 5.1 sound?

Aerothorn
25-07-2012, 06:19 PM
So much to cover here!

First, I've been using the 555s for years and love them for gaming. Though it's true that they even entry-level audiophile headphones like those will reveal bad quality in the source sometimes. But I love them all the same. They are "last gen" now and have been replaced by the HD 558s, which are for some reason more expensive than the 555s were, but the HD 518 sounds like a big improvement over the 515s and is the same price point my HD 555s were ($130 MSRP, you can perhaps get them for less). The great thing with these headphones is that they have very low impedance, so you can run them fine from your portable player, intergrated sound card, whatever.

As far as mics go: http://www.amazon.com/Zalman-Zm-Mic1-Sensitivity-Headphone-Microphone/dp/B00029MTMQ/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1343236334&sr=8-4&keywords=hd+555. Works great for me.

Finally, sound cards. The good news is that intergrated sound cards are far better than they used to be, and you WILL notice a real quality improvement with good headphones on them. That said, they generally don't have the "surround software" that something like an EAX card will have, and they aren't amplified.

I have an Auzentech Forte and the sound difference is very much noticable - it features a build-in headphone amplifier plus a intergrated EAX software. That said, make sure you have a motherboard that will let you slot in a PCI Express soundcard properly - ended up mine was stupidly set up so that the sound card blocked the graphics card, and as such my forte is now sitting waiting for my next machine.

That is the good news with a nice sound card: sound card tech advances MUCH slower than graphics card tech, so if you plunk down $130 on the Forte or something like it you can expect it to last more than one machine. Sounds great now, should sound great in ten years.

The Head-Fi forums can be overwhelming, so I recommend checking out the previously mentioned Headroom at http://www.headphone.com/. They have some great, short writeups of a larger variety of headphones.

Hunchback
25-07-2012, 06:39 PM
My setup uses ASUS P7P55D (http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/Intel_Socket_1156/P7P55D/) MB atm, gotta check if there's space on PCI-E, since my graphics card is quite huge with the fans and all.

Again about pricing - When my b-day comes i could spend some 50 euros more on a soundcard, since other people are looking for gift suggestions. Will a ~50 bucks sound card really matter over the integrated one on the P7P55D ?

Hunchback
26-07-2012, 10:51 AM
Ok, i've done a fair bit of reading and i am maybe even more confused than before.
I read this - http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-nameless-guide-to-pc-gaming-audio-with-binaural-headphone-surround-sound which got me wondering if having a real sound card is of any use or not. If i got it right it's still better than onboard sound thanks to the different (software?) audio engines such as the GX2.5, but i am not entirely sure. If that is the case, i am considering getting this - http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_DGX/

Then i read this - http://www.head-fi.org/t/534479/mad-lust-envys-headphone-gaming-guide-updated-7-24-2012-m50s-edited-other-minor-edits which has a lot of info about a ton of headphones, they are all "normal, stereo" ones that the reviewer uses with the DolbyHeadphone technology to produce 5.1 sound sensation. He doesn't mention the HD518 in his review but then again most (if not all) of the headphones the guy recommends are somewhat too expensive for me. Also, the thread got me wondering about having the http://www.astrogaming.com/mixamps/mixamp-usb as a necessity, is it to use with a real soundcard or it actually replaces it?

Also, if i understand it right, "gaming headphones" such as the Steelseries, Razer or Logitech, that provide 5.1 sound are basically just normal headphones with integrated DH technology on their usb soundcard? If that is the case, then the obvious choice for me is to go for a real soundcard + real headphones.

*ponders*

7hink
26-07-2012, 12:57 PM
Ok, i've done a fair bit of reading and i am maybe even more confused than before.

Yeah, lovely site isn't it? *And I only wanted some headphones. ;(*

Anyway. Get yourself a cup of coffee and lets get started. (I got myself a cup of coffee and some sandwiches)


I read this - http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-nameless-guide-to-pc-gaming-audio-with-binaural-headphone-surround-sound which got me wondering if having a real sound card is of any use or not. If i got it right it's still better than onboard sound thanks to the different (software?) audio engines such as the GX2.5, but i am not entirely sure. If that is the case, i am considering getting this - http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_DGX/

The xonar has the advantage in 2 things.

1. It has an amp designed to be used by headphones. That's neat because it allows you to 'drive' your headphones better. What that means is the following. If an amp is not powerful enough to drive your headphones it won't be able to give you the sound that your headphones are capable of. I don't really want to go into that too far, but that's what it comes down to. If you would listen to Massive Attacks song Angel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbe3CQamF8k) your headphones may not be able to produce the sounds that are there. The amplifier needs to be powerful enough to move the membrane quickly enough to be able to produce the sounds that are presented in a song or game. If this doesn't happen you can noticed this because the sounds generally become more cluttered or you get a crackling sound. This rings more true when talking about sounds with a lower frequency because the membrane has to make bigger movements for these sounds. What it comes down to is that better speakers/ headphones and amps allow you to pick out certain sounds with more accuracy than the lesser ones. Different speakers/ headphones require different amps. The HD518 doesn't really require a very powerful amp, while certain other headphones might benefit from a more powerful amp.

The most important thing for us - the consumers - is this: Is it going to make an audible difference at all?

Well, to be honest I'm not entirely sure. The HD518 doesn't really benefit from a much more powerful amp that much so if there is a difference it's going to be small. Onboard cards do have a tendency to have some trouble with EMI (electromagnetic interference) which can translate in static, crackles and other assorted noise. Better headphones are going to allow you to hear these things with more accuracy which simply means that you can hear more detailed static. Not ideal. Whether this is true for your onboard soundcard is once again something I can't say for sure. What I can say is that the Xonar is very likely going to have the advantage here, because it was made with the purpose of sounds reproduction in mind. That means that they've likely thought about things like shielding in order to combat EMI.

2. The xonar has stuff for surround sound which your onboard soundcard doesn't have. In this case Dolby headphone, EAX support and what not.

Once again: Is is going to make a difference?

Yes. It makes quite the difference. Like I said in my post before, how well it works depends a lot on how much your HRTF is different from the HRFT they've been using. That said, there is still a quite significant difference for me.

I assume you've already seen/heard this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVdgMQC2rYM&feature=player_embedded) since it was in the thread you linked, but it's a good example of the difference dolby headphone makes. I don't think it's the most brilliant display of 3D sounds in a video game, but it's something anyway. Some games do a better job than others. Some headphones are better at it than others as well. It would've been nice to see some examples from somewhat more atmosferic games, but I don't know of any videos that have better examples than this one. Might make one myself one day.


The 'surround stuff' can be hardware or software depending on what you're talking about. Some require an actual chip on the soundcard and some are just software. Doesn't really matter all that much, but if it's an actual chip it likely saves some CPU time which can't be all that bad. The difference is a lot like the difference between good and bad network cards. A cheap network card will run everything by the CPU while a more expensive one will run a lot of things on the card itself.

Why the balls didn't they just put that stuff on your mobo? Well, I believe Dolby actually requires a license, but don't quote me on that. So it's more expensive this way and asus likes to sell you more stuff. Seeing that most people don't actually select their mobo on whether or not it has dolby headphone they're getting away with that. Marketing people are very good at their jobs.


Then i read this - http://www.head-fi.org/t/534479/mad-lust-envys-headphone-gaming-guide-updated-7-24-2012-m50s-edited-other-minor-edits which has a lot of info about a ton of headphones, they are all "normal, stereo" ones that the reviewer uses with the DolbyHeadphone technology to produce 5.1 sound sensation. He doesn't mention the HD518 in his review but then again most (if not all) of the headphones the guy recommends are somewhat too expensive for me. Also, the thread got me wondering about having the http://www.astrogaming.com/mixamps/mixamp-usb as a necessity, is it to use with a real soundcard or it actually replaces it?

He also mentions a lot of headphones which require a more powerful/ better amp. My headphones requrie a more powerful amp as well. I've got this one (http://www.wooaudio.com/products/wa6.html). It's neat. If you're going to get a HD518 it's not making much sense to get an amp which is twice as expensive. It's not going to make that much of a difference. If I run $10 earbuds from my amp it's not going to magically make them sound much better. It just means that I'm driving them to their full potential. They're still going to sound pretty bad though.

The astro mixamp is a soundcard. It has a DAC and an amp and some 'surround stuf' in between. A DAC is a digital to analog converter. That does pretty much what it says on the box. It converts digital signals to analog ones. So it doesn't make use of whatever you've got inside your computer. Pretty much like this:

Sound > USB > Mixamp > Headphones

I wouldn't recommend it for the headphones you want to get right now.


Also, if i understand it right, "gaming headphones" such as the Steelseries, Razer or Logitech, that provide 5.1 sound are basically just normal headphones with integrated DH technology on their usb soundcard? If that is the case, then the obvious choice for me is to go for a real soundcard + real headphones.

Yeah, funny isn't it? While there are headphones which actually use more than just 2 drivers (razer tiamat (http://gizmodo.com/5831962/razer-tiamat-the-first-legit-71-surround-sound-gaming-headset-carpet-bombs-your-eardrums-with-10-discrete-drivers) being one of them) a lot of them just use the 2. More drivers doesn't mean better necessarily though. With that you run into a whole new set of problems.


*ponders*

So yeah, good luck with that. Sorry about the wall of text. Here is one last link (http://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/index.html). It covers pretty much anything you would want to know about computer audio and then some. Hope this helps a little.

Hirmetrium
27-07-2012, 12:47 PM
Been following this thread somewhat, whats the opinion on these (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Creative-Soundblaster-Tactic3D-Wireless-Headset/dp/B005JAJQ9M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343308793&sr=8-1) creative soundblaster tactic3D wrath wireless headphones? the price looks pretty good, and I've seen some glowing reviews. I also like the fact they are wireless (all my previous headsets have died to wire related problems, such as dogs and hoovers).

Hunchback
27-07-2012, 01:32 PM
Check my thread over at head-fi, it should respond to your question:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/620102/looking-for-guidance-in-choosing-a-budget-but-solid-gaming-sound-setup

But in short - apparently "gaming phones" with 5.1 etc are not worth it, better get a real soundcard + good headphones.

Pinky
27-07-2012, 02:54 PM
I have audio technica ath-ad700 which I used with my consoles with the wireless astro 5.8 mixamp (bought a clip on mic to use with it).

I also have a pair of Turtle Beach HPX's.

What do I use?

Steel Series Siberia V2 USB. Brilliant value for money, smashing clarity of sound, more comfortable than either of the above headphones, has a top quality hideaway mic (at least the guys I play BF3 with on TS reckon they can hear me crystal clear).

No faffing about and I actually prefer the sound of the V2's compared to the other headphones.

oli_g89
27-07-2012, 04:23 PM
I am a very big fan of the Roccat Kaves, 5.1 surround (with the right number of speakers, not just 'faked' 5.1). The only issue with them is your ears will get rather warm with them on so they aren't best for longer gaming sessions.

Shooop
06-08-2012, 03:51 AM
Your best bet is to find the best stereo headphones you can buy for your budget and then a clip-on mic. I personally love Sennihesier but they may not fit your budget. Here's a good quality, cheap clip-on mic:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zalman-ZM-MIC1/dp/B00029MTMQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1344221035&sr=8-1

If you have a proper sound card (which I hope you do because it's worth it), it'll automatically take care of audio positioning if you tell Windows and your sound drivers you're using headphones. Make sure to disable any virtual 3D effects, those will ruin your sound.

They do make headsets that have multiple sound drivers built into them, positioned around the cup so you get true surround, but they're expensive, heavy, and the drivers are so small you sacrifice sound quality. I used to use a Roccat Kave 5.1 but moved to a Sennheiser stereo and have not looked back.

Heliocentric
06-08-2012, 07:04 AM
Headphone surround sound is a, scam.
Gaming headsets have a stupid high mark up and are near universally poorly made.

Just get a nice 2.0 set of headphones, or understandably stick with what you have.

mrpier
06-08-2012, 01:03 PM
I'm really tempted to pick up the Sennheiser HD 558s, and get rid of my AKG K430s, while not bad headphones by any means, they have never sounded as good or been as comfortable as my old and broken HD 555s.

Shooop
06-08-2012, 02:53 PM
I'm really tempted to pick up the Sennheiser HD 558s, and get rid of my AKG K430s, while not bad headphones by any means, they have never sounded as good or been as comfortable as my old and broken HD 555s.
I personally can't recommend Sennheisers enough to anyone who has the budget for them.

7hink
06-08-2012, 03:26 PM
I personally can't recommend Sennheisers enough to anyone who has the budget for them.

I recommend not looking at the brand name at all. While I do think that Sennheiser made some very nice headphones (I own several of them), they also made some headphones which are plain garbage. That and you'll be paying more because the headphones have text on them which says: "Sennheiser".

Trying a headphone before you buy it is the best recommendation I can give anyone. Since everyone's head and ears are different, the way anyone perceives the comfort and sound of a headphone are different.

Ravenger
06-08-2012, 08:41 PM
I've got a set of Goldring DR150's. Way better sound quality than any gaming headphones. I use a separate mic. It's not as convenient as a headset, but worth it for the better experience. Price is around 50.

Hunchback
07-08-2012, 11:26 AM
What i ended up buying:

ASUS Xonar DGX
Sennheiser HD555
Speedlink - SL-8691-SBK-01 (random "ok" clipon mic).


Will have to wait till the 5th of September to try it all out. Will mod my HD555 into HD959s too.

7hink
07-08-2012, 05:40 PM
Nice. I hope it works out for you.

Hunchback
10-09-2012, 09:00 AM
I finally have all the gear!

I had some troubles installing the soundcard, apparently there are some problems when having a previously installed soundcard etc... Anyways all is working now, i have my headphones and mic.

I didn't have a lot of time to properly test it out this weekend, but i will do so in the coming days.

My observations so far:

1. Having a clip-on mic is sooo much better than a headset kidna thingy. You can just clip it on anything or if you are playing topless just hang it around your neck and it works. The sound quality is great, apparently, and you don't get a huge mic stuck in your face. Costs only about 5 euros or so too, so it's definitely a go-for thingy.

2. The HD555 are great so far.
- They seem quite robust and the materials are definitely high quality. They even have the looks too. Very stylish, nice to touch.
- The comfort level is beyond any other headphone i've had before (which would be low-level, crappy headphones, mind you). They cup my years completely without pressing on them anywhere. The headband does not compress my head in, nor do the cushions. Heat seams to be fine so far, you do feel your ears warming up after a while but there's no sweating or unpleasant feeling from the touch, like leather headphones tend to give.
- The sound quality i've only tested on my PC so far. I received the headphones a couple of days before the soundcard, so i tried them without it. It was unbearable, i used them for like 20 minutes and put them aside - the parasite sounds that my onboard soundcard was producing were so bad that it really was pointless to use. I could hear my mouse moving, my scrollwheel scrolling (no, not the physical sound of doing it, the parasite sound the PC sends through the sound jacks), when cranking up my processor with a game or something i'd get a constant heavy buzzing sound... Never really heard those parasite sounds with my old Creative Fatal1ty. After i installed the Xonar things got better, but there's still some parasite noises when using the front panel jack. I ended up with plugging my headphones at the back and my speakers at the front. That way i get super great sound with the headphones and the speakers are OK since the noise can't really be heard. (Got a decent BOSE 2.1 desktop system for about 300 euros so i guess that helps too)
Other than that, the sound is great. I tested a very bassy song (Nero - Doomsday) and a very highish too (London Symphony Orchestra - Adagio for Strings) and both played great.
- I still have to test the headphones with a real amp though.
- I haven't modded them into HD559s yet, will wait a bit on that but i am definitely doing it.
- As reviews have said, the jack IS huuuuge. Well ok, not that huge but it's really damn long since you have to use the adapter to plug the headphones in the 3.5mm jack.

3. The soundcard boosted all sound output, not just when using headphones. I am not sure if the general sound quality is better, when not using headphones, but the forementioned parasite noises that i would get even on my speakers with the onboard sound are now gone. Installing it was a bitch though, The drivers failed to install, and so did the sound control panel. I had to uninstall and then disable my onboard sound, then run a specific installator from the CD, etc... Nothing all that major really, but it's annoying and something one wouldn't expect from a recent product.
- The Xonar Audio Center is honestly disappointing. I find the interface not very intuitive and kinda clunky. I spent a good deal of time figuring out how to turn off the effects that i had turned on by accident. Maybe i was just being thick...
- As mentioned earlier, my speakers sound better and require less volume cranking too.
- I must do some serious testing on the Dolby Headphones feature before i could comment on it. I have a few questions about that, i will ask them after the conclusion.



Conclusion so far - Do NOT buy high quality headphones unless you have a proper sound card. It's not only not worth it, it actually is WORSE than having low quality ones.


Now the questions, for those who might know:


1. What software settings should i use, outside the Xonar Audio Center? I read that i should setup windows to 7.1 or 5.1 audio, even if using 2.1 desktop speakers, for the Dolby Headphones to work, when using headphones.

2. Is there a reason not to use the maximum channels possible (8, in the Xonar Audio Center) ?

3. What settings to use in games? Some games, like Battlefield 3, offer some "enhanced 3d for when not using surround speakers or headphones", should i keep such options switched ON (since i don't really have surround) or OFF (since i have Dolby Headphones) ? Also, what settings to use for games that allow 7.1, 5.1, "Headphones", etc?

4. Is there a way to make the Xonar DGX play sound through both the front and back panel at the same time? My onboard sound used to be able to do that and it had it's uses, however i can't seem to find such an option with the Xonar...