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Best Soundcard/hardware to make music and audio playback better?

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Ok so right now my headphones are connected to the 3.5mm headphone jack on my motherboard and after going to a friends house and listening to music through his headphones, the same music I listen to s… Read More
hamzahuk Avatar
2m, 2w agoPosted 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Ok so right now my headphones are connected to the 3.5mm headphone jack on my motherboard and after going to a friends house and listening to music through his headphones, the same music I listen to sounded way better through his even though he has the same headphones.

He has that Creative Sound Blaster Z PCIe sound card and says thats what I need if I want loader/better quality music and audio playback. Not alot of light is shown on sound cards, but if anyone has any recommendations to make my music and audio playback better please let me know below. Thanks
hamzahuk Avatar
2m, 2w agoPosted 2 months, 2 weeks ago
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#2
I have the same soundcard, I can confirm that a good quality soundcard will definately increase the quality of audio output. What is your current motherboard? I can find out what cards are suitable upgrades.
#3
What headphones are they?

Just curious as you say "way better" but what do you mean exactly?
#4
It's because your onboard sound is a live out, speaker out and not a dedicated headphone amp.
#5
Have you tried playing around with your own sound card settings? Your friend may just have his set up better than you.
#6
Wow, voted down again by the clueless brigade :)
Onboard soundcards aren't designed for higher impedance headphones but lower impedance ones unless they have a dedicated headphone amp.
https://www.cnet.com/uk/news/headphone-buyers-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-low-vs-high-impedance-models/

Pretty much if you want good sound on portable devices buy low impedance headphones and high impedance for better sound on high end gear.
Why do people not understand this ?
#7
I bought the Asus Xonar DGX 5.1 sound card for about 20 odd quid. I have a Logitech zz5500 system connected via optical lead and gaming /music/football sounds great
#8
Creative use a higher resolution digital analogue converter, its like comparing colour to black and white tv. You can get Creative Xifi Usb external if you have a laptop.
#9
foes4you
Creative use a higher resolution digital analogue converter, its like comparing colour to black and white tv. You can get Creative Xifi Usb external if you have a laptop.

To be honest I wouldn't touch any creative product except for its flagship range which is the ZXR as it atleast has some good kit in it. The DAC is a Burr-Brown and good op amps. The latter I think you can swap out with the filters to get a different sound. These give it a better sound but as to ear shattering I doubt it. My Hifi DAC is good enough.
Only good thing about these cards is audio capturing which is pretty good on the ZXR. Unless you're running analogue outs then it's a waste of time as spdif has no benefits.

The ZXR also has a headphone amp rated for 600ohm headphones so it can push out enough voltage for these headphones.
#10
I remember having the same problem. On my desktop if I use the headphone jack at the front the sound is a lot louder than using the headphone jack at the back of my desktop, or it could be vice versa for you. Try both headphone jacks to see if there's a notable difference.


Edited By: RiverDragon8 on Feb 09, 2017 00:21
#11
I have the Asus STX II which is great. I recently upgraded the opamps with a pair of Burson V5 and it's even better now.
#12
On smart device use a free equaliser app that will work with everything or pc like you are using you need software to play music with an equaliser. Don't stick with the trying to find the best hardware with good sound with default flat setting.
#13
wayners
On smart device use a free equaliser app that will work with everything or pc like you are using you need software to play music with an equaliser. Don't stick with the trying to find the best hardware with good sound with default flat setting.

EQ's only do so much. Headphones are designed and tuned to sound a certain way. In the OP's case, the same headphones, different output, "better sound". Without knowing what "better" actually means we can't be sure. A better DAC would generally give a clearer sound, wider soundstage, better imaging, up to a point, if that's what he's hearing as "better", then using an EQ won't do a thing. Does better mean louder, more punchier sound? Then maybe it's the combination of the DAC and AMP. In my opinion, EQ should only be used (as purely for listening in this case) to remove sibilant traits that some headphones have. I guess you could use it to boost bass but really, if you do that, you need to invest in other headphone that have "superior" bass, or just more prominent.



Edited By: rev6 on Feb 09, 2017 20:02
#14
rev6
wayners
On smart device use a free equaliser app that will work with everything or pc like you are using you need software to play music with an equaliser. Don't stick with the trying to find the best hardware with good sound with default flat setting.
EQ's only do so much. Headphones are designed and tuned to sound a certain way. In the OP's case, the same headphones, different output, "better sound". Without knowing what "better" actually means we can't be sure. A better DAC would generally give a clearer sound, wider soundstage, better imaging, up to a point, if that's what he's hearing as "better", then using an EQ won't do a thing. Does better mean louder, more punchier sound? Then maybe it's the combination of the DAC and AMP. In my opinion, EQ should only be used (as purely for listening in this case) to remove sibilant traits that some headphones have. I guess you could use it to boost bass but really, if you do that, you need to invest in other headphone that have "superior" bass, or just more prominent.

The EQ is pretty much to attenuate the gain of certain frequencies and you use the gain to bump the whole range up. Don't ask me why EQs have positives gains though. It's a good idea as both your hearing and headphones will have weird dips in them. I think in OPs case he's running out of voltage so he is probably missing the deep bass and is clipping the hi frequencies due to too high on the amp gain. Pretty much as you bump the gain you lower the bandwidth. :)

Edited By: kester76 on Feb 10, 2017 13:30
#15
kester76
rev6
wayners
On smart device use a free equaliser app that will work with everything or pc like you are using you need software to play music with an equaliser. Don't stick with the trying to find the best hardware with good sound with default flat setting.
EQ's only do so much. Headphones are designed and tuned to sound a certain way. In the OP's case, the same headphones, different output, "better sound". Without knowing what "better" actually means we can't be sure. A better DAC would generally give a clearer sound, wider soundstage, better imaging, up to a point, if that's what he's hearing as "better", then using an EQ won't do a thing. Does better mean louder, more punchier sound? Then maybe it's the combination of the DAC and AMP. In my opinion, EQ should only be used (as purely for listening in this case) to remove sibilant traits that some headphones have. I guess you could use it to boost bass but really, if you do that, you need to invest in other headphone that have "superior" bass, or just more prominent.
The EQ is pretty much to attenuate the gain of certain frequencies and you use the gain to bump the whole range up. Don't ask me why EQs have positives gains though. It's a good idea as both your hearing and headphones will have weird dips in them. I think in OPs case he's running out of voltage so he is probably missing the deep bass and is clipping the hi frequencies due to too high on the amp gain. Pretty much as you bump the gain you lower the bandwidth. :)

Indeed. He never really said what's so good and then vanished.
#16
Looked this up about postive gain on EQs and reasoning to use additive or subtractive on an EQ.
https://theproaudiofiles.com/subtractive-vs-additive-eq/
A lot more stuff out there but most of it goes into music mixing which isn't something I've got experience of :)
#17
rev6
kester76
rev6
wayners
On smart device use a free equaliser app that will work with everything or pc like you are using you need software to play music with an equaliser. Don't stick with the trying to find the best hardware with good sound with default flat setting.
EQ's only do so much. Headphones are designed and tuned to sound a certain way. In the OP's case, the same headphones, different output, "better sound". Without knowing what "better" actually means we can't be sure. A better DAC would generally give a clearer sound, wider soundstage, better imaging, up to a point, if that's what he's hearing as "better", then using an EQ won't do a thing. Does better mean louder, more punchier sound? Then maybe it's the combination of the DAC and AMP. In my opinion, EQ should only be used (as purely for listening in this case) to remove sibilant traits that some headphones have. I guess you could use it to boost bass but really, if you do that, you need to invest in other headphone that have "superior" bass, or just more prominent.
The EQ is pretty much to attenuate the gain of certain frequencies and you use the gain to bump the whole range up. Don't ask me why EQs have positives gains though. It's a good idea as both your hearing and headphones will have weird dips in them. I think in OPs case he's running out of voltage so he is probably missing the deep bass and is clipping the hi frequencies due to too high on the amp gain. Pretty much as you bump the gain you lower the bandwidth. :)
Indeed. He never really said what's so good and then vanished.
He's having a lot of issues with monitors and other things I guess from his posts. It seems like a case of buyers regret and he's bought something without properly researching it. I think with music in general louder always sounds better. I prefer deep low base but not at high volumes where it shakes the house, it's more the feel of the bass as it rolls off, like the reverb in a cello. Always nice to have a good subwoofer :)
#18
kester76
Looked this up about postive gain on EQs and reasoning to use additive or subtractive on an EQ.https://theproaudiofiles.com/subtractive-vs-additive-eq/
A lot more stuff out there but most of it goes into music mixing which isn't something I've got experience of :)

I think the problem with me and EQing (pure for listening) is that for the most part, you'd be changing it per track, and that's something I can't be bothered with. I'd focus more on buying hardware that has the signature you want. That's just my opinion though. If his speakers need more power than what his soundcard provides then that can be easily fixed.

Edited By: rev6 on Feb 10, 2017 14:44
#19
rev6
kester76
Looked this up about postive gain on EQs and reasoning to use additive or subtractive on an EQ.https://theproaudiofiles.com/subtractive-vs-additive-eq/
A lot more stuff out there but most of it goes into music mixing which isn't something I've got experience of :)
I think the problem with me and EQing (pure for listening) is that for the most part, you'd be changing it per track, and that's something I can't be bothered with. I'd focus more on buying hardware that has the signature you want. That's just my opinion though. If his speakers need more power than what his soundcard provides then that can be easily fixed.
It's his headphones, I just think that a headphone amp would be a good investment. I doubt it's the DAC unless he's running hi def FLAC or DSD. Most onboard will do 24bit 192Hz fine but the amps and filters are so so.
#20
kester76
rev6
kester76
Looked this up about postive gain on EQs and reasoning to use additive or subtractive on an EQ.https://theproaudiofiles.com/subtractive-vs-additive-eq/
A lot more stuff out there but most of it goes into music mixing which isn't something I've got experience of :)
I think the problem with me and EQing (pure for listening) is that for the most part, you'd be changing it per track, and that's something I can't be bothered with. I'd focus more on buying hardware that has the signature you want. That's just my opinion though. If his speakers need more power than what his soundcard provides then that can be easily fixed.
It's his headphones, I just think that a headphone amp would be a good investment. I doubt it's the DAC unless he's running hi def FLAC or DSD. Most onboard will do 24bit 192Hz fine but the amps and filters are so so.

Yeah I meant headphones X)

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