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thinking about getting a sound card

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I'm thinking about getting a sound card for higher quality sound. At the moment I only use on board sound. Main uses are music and gaming, only stereo. At the moment the audio goes through an ATEN CS1734B KVM switch. Perhaps if I was tricky I could make the audio not go through the switch while still using audio with the switch; I'm not sure. I am using the Altec Lansing MX5021 speaker set and the beyerdynamic DT234PRO headset. I was looking at the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium FATAL1TY Pro PCIe but I noticed the signal to noise ratio isn't very impressive (109dB).

 

Suggestions?

 

Thanks.

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http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_p...oducts_id=14612 - (Creative) this is what the atomic mag believes is the best available at the moment

 

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_p...roducts_id=8756 - (Azuntech) this would be pretty amazing.

 

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_p...oducts_id=10940 - (Asus) this sound card is pretty good acording to reviews.

 

I have a little experience with all of these companies and I gotta say at the momment I'm prefering azuntech. I have owned many creative cards (recently 2 xfi and an audigy 2) before and the trick with them is getting them up and running. Drivers are a pain in the arse but once they are up they are pretty decent. The card I pointed you towards at the top seems to be the absolute top of the creative range and it reviews exceptionally well. I cant remember anyone complaining about its drivers so I doubt that it is a concern. It almost certainly would be with the titanium fataTitanium FATAL1TY Pro PCIe though.

 

My brother in law has an Asus Xonar DX and its a damn nice card. Software was easy to install and pretty good. So I would imagine that the upper end would be pretty spectacular as this was just a middle of the road card.

 

Currently as per my sig I am running an Azuntech Bravaura 7.1 and it is the best out of all the ones that I have heard (none of the ones I linked I have heard or used but I have read reviews and they seem to be closer to your price bracket than mine currently). The highs are sharper, mids clearer and the bass is more defined even with my crappy logitech 5.1 system (I really miss my big setup). I would definately buy Azuntech again and will, in the future if I resetup my large speaker system, buy higher in the line.

 

BTW 109db SNR isnt really too bad you know.

Edited by UberPenguin

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i am using creative titanium hd right now, coming from auzentech xfi forte and to my ears it was an noticeable upgrade

 

the titanium hd and asus xonar essense st/x are probably the 2 best cards right now

 

titanium hd would be the only creative card i'd look at as it uses high quality quality components unlike other creative cards (burr brown dac, lme49710na for op amp at buffer and option to swap op amps) if not go for asus or auzentech alternatives

Edited by basketballfreak6

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I have a Asus Xonar Essence STX and its awesome with my Audio Engine A2's and my phones.

 

I really cant say anything more then its fantastic.

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Thanks for the replies. I'm guessing that if I want the best sound for music, the Asus Xonar Essence STX would be the best way to go with the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD close behind and for gaming the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD would definitely be the best. Is that accurate? Also, any thoughts about putting the audio through a KVM switch? Is it likely to make the audio quality less?

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i think they won't be much to it between the 2 cards, i mean both cards use almost the same burr brown dac, same op amps, both have swappable op amp sockets i guess creative takes the cake gaming wise and asus if you have hard to drive headphones since it has built in headphone, you can't go wrong with both tho :)

 

i ended up with creative only because of familiarity with software more than anything, after learning that there's really not much between the 2 cards, originally was going for the essense stx :)

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What do you mean by "asus if you have hard to drive headphones since it has built in headphone"?

 

Thanks.

Edited by fajw

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just re-read my own post it was meant to say asus has built in headphone amp lol

 

Some headphones require amping to get the best out of it and the asus card has built in headphone amp whereas the creative card doesn't

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I recently got the Asus essence stx along with Beyerdynamics dt880 pro. This is my first soundcard and choose it for the excellent reviews, I was looking at a setup mostly aimed at gaming (80% gaming 20% music is how I would put it) and this is what I came up with.

 

So far it has been a fantastic soundcard, expectly once you switch on Dolby Headphone for games eg. Bad Company 2.

Edited by SoaS

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If I went with the ASUS card could I have the speakers and the headset connected at the same time?

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If I went with the ASUS card could I have the speakers and the headset connected at the same time?

 

Yep.

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So looking at Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD vs ASUS Xonar Essence STX...

 

AFAIK I don't think I need a headphone amp.

 

Which would be best for gaming?

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I read that EAX isn't being used so much in current games. Is that right? How do the cards compare with headphones? It looks like the ASUS card has "Dolby headphones". Does the Creative card match this?

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EAX isn't really used that much, turning it on/off I don't hear anything different. Perhaps I'm trying it on the wrong games.

 

 

Creative offer XFI CMSS-3D, essentially does the same by virtualizing 5.1 channels over stereo. From what I've read Dolby HP gets afew more votes than CMSS but than again others will say Xfi does it better.

 

Try to test it out if a mate has one, I didn't have that opportunity so I went with Asus.

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im wondering if a soundcard would benefit me as well, im also intrigued about this "headphone amp" that some soundcards boast.

is it different than if a soundcard doesnt have a "headphone amp"?

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I don't know much about it, but at http://headphones.com.au/ , they recommend some headphones be used with an amplifier, and with others there is no mention of needing an amp', so it looks like some need an amp' and others don't.

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im wondering if a soundcard would benefit me as well, im also intrigued about this "headphone amp" that some soundcards boast.

is it different than if a soundcard doesnt have a "headphone amp"?

Standard soundcards output sound at a 'power' that is able to drive earbuds (like for mp3 players) pretty easily, and some lower-end headphones. However when you start looking at more professional headphones, like audiophile-grade or even enthusiast grade (around $300, basically) the output of a standard soundcard isn't able to overcome the resistance of the headphone, which can either result in (unlikely) damage to the soundcard or merely inaudible sound.

 

A soundcard with an amp, however, takes the same source output that is generated by the card and boosts the 'power' to much higher levels, making it more able to drive expensive headsets to the full extent.

 

So if you're going to be using a decent set of headphones with the soundcard, get the one with an amp in it. Keep in mind that both the STX and Titanium HD are stereo-only and are not useful for 5.1 audio.

 

Personally I use an ASUS Xonar D2X for my 5.1 audio, and a Matrix Mini-I as an external DAC for my Audio-Technica ATH-AD900 headphones and Audioengine A5 speakers. I had used an Auzentech in the past which had a very 'warm' sound to it; the Xonar is much more neutral to my ears.

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I just discovered that the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD doesn't work with Windows XP, so I think I'll be going with the ASUS Xonar Essence STX.

 

Keep in mind that both the STX and Titanium HD are stereo-only and are not useful for 5.1 audio.

Analogue, yes, but I believe both cards support surround sound via digital.

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I just discovered that the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD doesn't work with Windows XP, so I think I'll be going with the ASUS Xonar Essence STX.

 

Keep in mind that both the STX and Titanium HD are stereo-only and are not useful for 5.1 audio.

Analogue, yes, but I believe both cards support surround sound via digital.

 

True, but if that's the case you'll need an amplifier or speakers that support that; traditionally PC audio/speakers were analogue-only.

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