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  1. #21
    Obscure Node Eophasmus's Avatar
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    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!

  2. #22
    Obscure Node 7hink's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post
    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) 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. A lot of surround sound has to do with what your soundcard is able to do in that regard. A xonar DG is the low end of that (while still being pretty good) and a smith realiser is the extreme high end.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eophasmus View Post
    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.

  3. #23
    Network Hub Hunchback's Avatar
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    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?
    --
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  4. #24
    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...eywords=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.

  5. #25
    Network Hub Hunchback's Avatar
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    My setup uses ASUS 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 ?
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  6. #26
    Network Hub Hunchback's Avatar
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    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-...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-...er-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*
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  7. #27
    Obscure Node 7hink's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post
    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)

    Quote Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post
    I read this - http://www.head-fi.org/t/593050/the-...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 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 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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post
    Then i read this - http://www.head-fi.org/t/534479/mad-...er-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. 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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post
    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 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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hunchback View Post
    *ponders*
    So yeah, good luck with that. Sorry about the wall of text. Here is one last link. It covers pretty much anything you would want to know about computer audio and then some. Hope this helps a little.

  8. #28
    Activated Node Hirmetrium's Avatar
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    Been following this thread somewhat, whats the opinion on these 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).

  9. #29
    Network Hub Hunchback's Avatar
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    Check my thread over at head-fi, it should respond to your question:

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/620102/look...ng-sound-setup

    But in short - apparently "gaming phones" with 5.1 etc are not worth it, better get a real soundcard + good headphones.
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  10. #30
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    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.

  11. #31
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    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.

  12. #32
    Lesser Hivemind Node Shooop's Avatar
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    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-MI...4221035&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.

  13. #33
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    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.
    I'm failing to writing a blog, specifically about playing games the wrong way
    http://playingitwrong.wordpress.com/

  14. #34
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus mrpier's Avatar
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    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.

  15. #35
    Lesser Hivemind Node Shooop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrpier View Post
    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.

  16. #36
    Obscure Node 7hink's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shooop View Post
    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.

  17. #37
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    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.

  18. #38
    Network Hub Hunchback's Avatar
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    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.
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  19. #39
    Obscure Node 7hink's Avatar
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    Nice. I hope it works out for you.

  20. #40
    Network Hub Hunchback's Avatar
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    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...
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