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Tygerwoody
11-26-06, 09:38 PM
I've never had high quality audio before. I don't even know what it sounds like. Everyone talks about XiFi and EAX like it is some godsend for sound.

Currently I am using onboard sound. My speakers are a 4.1 set. Logitech Z560. I don't know if its good anymore. I've had the set for probably 4 years. Cost me over $200 at the time.

Anyway, i want to spend around $100-$300(the lower the better) on a complete audio revamp. Are my speakers still good to use? Or are they stone age? I really don't want to buy another speaker set. I'd rather just buy a set of headphones if i need to upgrade them. Currently I have a set of 5.1 Zalman headphones, but the rear speakers don't work anymore(already RMA"d once for the same problem! out of warranty now). Make sure the headphones are comfortable. These Zalmans hurt my head and cause my ears to become sweaty after only 5 minutes. Definitely not comfortable.


I need a soundcard and possibley headphones. I am looking for best bang for my buck. I will only be using the headphones for GAMING. I already have an external mic, so it doesn't need to have one. Let me hear what you guys got. (nana2)

superklye
11-26-06, 09:52 PM
Well, the Logitech Z-5300s are fantastic and can be found for $150 or even less. Using a combination of equalizers along with the abilities an X-Fi comes with can allow you to get what you consider the perfect sound.

I say get the 5300s and grab an XtremeMusic or Platinum X-Fi (if you want the front bay). You won't be disappointed. :D

Rytr
11-26-06, 10:09 PM
Sennheiser make some good headphones. For an entry point and for the price the HD555's would be a good selection if you want to experience some quality headphones.
Just checked, it looks like the HD580's have dropped considerably in price and also may deserve consideration. I personally use the 590's and they are very good for gaming.

ynnek
11-26-06, 10:16 PM
Take a look around your computer area itself.. Make sure you can actually position the speakers well.. Meaning a bit far out and equally placed around you, around ear level. Once you do that, IMO, you'll actually get better spacial surround positioning than any headphone can give you.

Zelda_fan
11-26-06, 10:17 PM
Well, the Logitech Z-5300s are fantastic and can be found for $150 or even less. Using a combination of equalizers along with the abilities an X-Fi comes with can allow you to get what you consider the perfect sound.

I say get the 5300s and grab an XtremeMusic or Platinum X-Fi (if you want the front bay). You won't be disappointed. :D

The Z560 are not bad at all. They actually output more watts than the Z5300, but the Z5300 is 5.1 (the standard that all games and movies are designed for).

If you are interested, I'm selling some Z5300's used for $100. Check the for sale/trade forum.

To be quite honest, you're really not going to get great sound out of a headphone. Part of great sound is feeling the room shake when a rocket exploded two feet away. You don't get that with headphones.

Zelda_fan
11-26-06, 10:17 PM
Take a look around your computer area itself.. Make sure you can actually position the speakers well.. Meaning a bit far out and equally placed around you, around ear level. Once you do that, IMO, you'll actually get better spacial surround positioning than any headphone can give you.

QFT, positioning is critical.

Rytr
11-26-06, 10:24 PM
I have Klipsch speakers, actually 3 sets, and you can rock the house if that's your thing. But you should not sell a set of quality headphones short.

knghtwhosaysni
11-26-06, 11:43 PM
I'd just save some money and go with the X-Fi Xtrememusic rather than the more expensive versions. I get along just fine without the front drive bay, and the lack of 64mb of X-ram makes very little (if any) difference in performance.

superklye
11-27-06, 12:28 AM
Fatality for $132
http://nvnews.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?p=1079298#post1079298

nVidi0t
11-27-06, 12:41 AM
you're really not going to get great sound out of a headphone.

That's just a completely false statement.

I can understand how you enjoy the added realism to the senses using a subwoofer but bass can be extremely accurate using a good pair of cans. Sure, If I'm watching an action movie on DVD, I want the crashes and the bangs, but If I'm listening to an orchestral track or piano solo a good pair of cans blow similarly priced speakers sets out of the water. Generally I find logitech speakers systems to sound constrained, muddy, mechanic and generally to have poor reproduction. Of course, it's all subjective but I would recommend headphones for a cheap, but high quality listening experience.

Redeemed
11-27-06, 01:38 AM
My advice will differ from all the others.

But here it is.

You said your budget is $300 max. So here I go.

This is the sound card I'd get:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16829156001

$81.99 right there.

Now, go out and get a decent 5.1 channel surround sound reciever with speakers. Say about $150 for that:

http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Panasonic-Home-Theater-System-SC-HT40/sem/rpsm/oid/147316/catOid/-12954/rpem/ccd/productDetail.do

^^^800 watts of beautiful 5.1 surround sound glory.

Why do I recommend this? Cause you said you want this for gaming. EAX is nice, but it isn't actually intended for any sort of "surround sound". It is actually a method to more accurately generate sounds. How people relate EAX to surround sound eludes me.

With that sound card (the X-Plosion), it will encode anything in true 5.1 Dolby or DTS Digital- and that will blow away anything EAX can do.

All in all that should come to just under your $300 limit, and it'd kill any Creative/PC Speaker combination you could think of.

Oh, and how would I know this? Cause I currently have my computer hooked up to my RCA STAV 3970 A/V Reviever. It was only $200, but the speakers I have hooked up to it are atleast $2k in them selves. And I've heard the "high-end" PC speakers on the X-Fi... it can't hold a candle to such a setup as this.

I guarantee that you wont be disappointed. :D

Zelda_fan
11-27-06, 01:39 AM
That's just a completely false statement.

I can understand how you enjoy the added realism to the senses using a subwoofer but bass can be extremely accurate using a good pair of cans. Sure, If I'm watching an action movie on DVD, I want the crashes and the bangs, but If I'm listening to an orchestral track or piano solo a good pair of cans blow similarly priced speakers sets out of the water. Generally I find logitech speakers systems to sound constrained, muddy, mechanic and generally to have poor reproduction. Of course, it's all subjective but I would recommend headphones for a cheap, but high quality listening experience.

I bolded the key word there. High end speakers blow high end headphones away. Of course you'll pay 10x more, but nothing beats a great pair of home theater quality speakers.

Zelda_fan
11-27-06, 01:46 AM
My advice will differ from all the others.

But here it is.

You said your budget is $300 max. So here I go.

This is the sound card I'd get:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16829156001

$81.99 right there.

Now, go out and get a decent 5.1 channel surround sound reciever with speakers. Say about $150 for that:

http://www.circuitcity.com/ssm/Panasonic-Home-Theater-System-SC-HT40/sem/rpsm/oid/147316/catOid/-12954/rpem/ccd/productDetail.do

^^^800 watts of beautiful 5.1 surround sound glory.

Why do I recommend this? Cause you said you want this for gaming. EAX is nice, but it isn't actually intended for any sort of "surround sound". It is actually a method to more accurately gernerate sounds. How people related EAX to surround sound eludes me.

With that sound card (the X-Plosion), it will encode anything in true 5.1 Dolby or DTS Digital- and that will blow anything EAX can do away just in the spatial surround effect.

All in all that should come to just under your $300 limit, and it'd kill any Creative/PC Speaker combination you could think of.

Oh, and how would I know this? Cause I currently have my computer hooked up to my RCA STAV 3970 A/V Reviever. It was only $200, but the speakers I have hooked up to it are atleast $2k in them selves. And I've heard the "high-end" PC speakers on the X-Fi... it can't hold a candle to such a setup as what I recommend. You have far more watts, and support for Dolby and DTS in games, music, or within Windows itself. :p

I guarantee that you wont be disappointed. :D

I disagree with the speaker recommendation. They are not 800W speakers. The 800W rating is the peak power which nobody goes by. It's a BS number that manufactures throw out. Go by RMS power rating. It's RMS power rating is probably around 400W which makes them only a little better than your current speakers. However, these do support 5.1 and DolbyDigital & DTS so that is also a big big plus.

I recommend buying nothing right now. If you have to buy something get the soundcard he recommended (the X-Plosion). It will encode your computer sound into DTS which is what you need to connect to a REAL set of speakers. As far as the speakers themselves, save your money and buy a pair of real home theatre systems. Expect to save around $2000, but trust me, when you hear sound like this, you'll never go back. You're 4.1's will do just fine for now.

Redeemed
11-27-06, 01:53 AM
I bolded the key word there. High end speakers blow high end headphones away. Of course you'll pay 10x more, but nothing beats a great pair of home theater quality speakers.

I disagree with the speaker recommendation. They are not 800W speakers. The 800W rating is the peak power which nobody goes by. It's a BS number that manufactures throw out. Go by RMS power rating. It's RMS power rating is probably around 400W which makes them only a little better than your current speakers. However, these do support 5.1 and DolbyDigital & DTS so that is also a big big plus.

I recommend buying nothing right now. If you have to buy something get the soundcard he recommended (the X-Plosion). It will encode your computer sound into DTS which is what you need to connect to a REAL set of speakers. As far as the speakers themselves, save your money and buy a pair of real home theatre systems. Expect to save around $2000, but trust me, when you hear sound like this, you'll never go back. You're 4.1's will do just fine for now.

I apologize, but I assumed that was a given (as in most everybody would know that). And for that setup, I believe the 800 watts is referring to the amps maximal output, not the maximum amount of watts the speakers can handle.

And I just used that setup as an example. Just to have the games in 5.1 Dolby or DTS Digital on that setup would sound far better than the best of EAX on the best of PC Speakers. That was merely my point. In fact, I'd recommend he go with some other reciever/speaker combination. But he did limit himself to only $300, and as you mentioned to get truly high-quality sound you best be expecting to be spending atleast around $1k.

But you are right in that he would be better off just getting that X-Plosion now, and saving up for a really killer speaker setup later down the road.

Tygerwoody
11-27-06, 05:57 AM
Ok by "positioning the speakers at ear level", how do I do that with my rear speakers? Right now, I have all four speakers sitting directly in front of me and the subwoofer sitting on the ground. Definitely not setup for surround sound, but only for the reason that I don't know how I should mount the speakers behind me.

I'm going to do what Zelda suggested and try out these speakers for now. They seem to be good speakers. Down the road, i'll save up for better ones. Now I guess all I need is a good sound card. I know there are tons of different versions of XiFi, however I have no clue which ones are low end or high end(well obviously fatal1ty are the high end ones... i think).

What difference will I be able to tell? I'm not an audiophile by any means. Will I still be able to tell the difference? What exactly is EAX anyway? Is this Xplosion card that Redeemed linked better than the Xifi series?

Thanks for all the help btw.

ynnek
11-27-06, 10:49 AM
Ehh, for mostly gaming, I still would stick the X-Fi series.. The X-Fi positional and sound clarity is awesome across the surround speakers already and it has some decent DACs on it.. You'll have to connect each speaker with analog wires(or use a custom creative digital speaker set), but I really doubt there's any loss of sound quality compared to the lossy conversion of DDL. BTW, creative does sell a seperate 5.1 encoder, but its analog->digital.. ALthough I'm not quite sure what the other cards such as xposion do, as in are they too internally digital -> analog -> digital? or is it all digital conversion and mixing?

Like it or not, the X-Fi will have the best support in games, since it supports both the latest versions of EAX (which blow EAX1 2 3 away), and it supports OpenAL, which will be very very very crucial for Vista.

Here's a good link describing audio in modern gaming.. and goes into EAX http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/sound-technology/ The latest versions of EAX is pretty impressive, if the game supports it.

Wow, $130 for the Fatality?! Thats an awesome deal. IMO, that would be the best card all around.. If you *really* care about audio quality for music and movies, you can then always just do a digital bypass into your home receiver and let that do all the heavy lifting.

Also about speaker placement.. Its easy, just get creative with stands. or spend money on fancy stands. The fronts are easy since you can just prop them up on your desk or something.. I got my room furniture positioned in such a way that I conveniently have a place to put the rear speakers.. Plus this room is small anyways, around 10x12 feet.. Which in a way is good, cause its isolated away from the rest of the house. Then there's wire management.. heh..

If I had money, I'd upgrade my computer speakers to this Onkyo hitb setup
http://www.onkyousa.com/model.cfm?m=HT-S790&class=Systems&p=i
I have an older model downstairs for my main tv, and its really nice.. yea, yea, I know people scorn about HTIB systems.. but for $500ish, I don't think you can build an equivalent NEW component surround system. (yea yea, for music sinking your money into a higher quality 2.1 is better, but I don't listen to just music) I have friends that are audiophiles, and yea, their systems sound awsome, make mine sound like a tin can.. But they also cost more than one of my cars.. literally 20x in price.

Oh, for something like that, depending on the room, I'd just use a combo of speaker stands and wall mountings(which can be as simple as a nail).. I lucked out in my main room, by hiding the rear wires under a rug, and then routing them up the side and top of vertical blinds, with the rear speakers hanging right on top of the blinds horizontal cover thing, to hide the wires. I just used like 10 gauge? speaker wire.. nothing fancy.


And if your ultra crazy about sound quality.. then you want to make your computer as silent as possible, or move it into another room.. Why pay all that money for an system with an awesome signal to noise ratio.. then put a obnoxiusly loud computer next to it? ;)

DarkJedi664
11-27-06, 11:14 AM
If you don't care about digital audio, then get an X-FI; but if you do care about digital audio (like me), you're best choice is the Auzentech X-Plosion (or the X-Meridian if you want to) as it supports DDL and DTS encoding in real-time; but it only supports EAX2 and doesn't have OpenAL support yet, but at least the audio is digital :)

ynnek
11-27-06, 11:21 AM
If you don't care about digital audio, then get an X-FI; but if you do care about digital audio (like me), you're best choice is the Auzentech X-Plosion (or the X-Meridian if you want to) as it supports DDL and DTS encoding in real-time; but it only supports EAX2 and doesn't have OpenAL support yet, but at least the audio is digital :)

That should be if you care about digital audio ENCODING of 5.1.. Simply to have one "wire" to connect from your soundcard to receiver, vs analog wires out of an X-Fi (unless you use creative's custom speakers) Although I wonder about the lossy conversion to DDL and DTS.

For pure music and movies, your best bet would be to use digital bypass (which the fatality would have the jacks for o the breakout box) and feed your receiver the raw digital feed, and let it decode. Note, this way, games only come over digitally in stereo on the X-Fi since it doesn't have ddl/dts encoding.. only decoding.

Which is why, I still think the X-Fi is best overall for both gaming and music.

RAY16
11-27-06, 11:28 AM
Ok by "positioning the speakers at ear level", how do I do that with my rear speakers? Right now, I have all four speakers sitting directly in front of me and the subwoofer sitting on the ground. Definitely not setup for surround sound, but only for the reason that I don't know how I should mount the speakers behind me.

My rear speakers are on top of boxes behind me. Not the most elegant setup in the world, but it works.

BrianG
11-27-06, 11:44 AM
That should be if you care about digital audio ENCODING of 5.1.. Simply to have one "wire" to connect from your soundcard to receiver, vs analog wires out of an X-Fi (unless you use creative's custom speakers) Although I wonder about the lossy conversion to DDL and DTS.

For pure music and movies, your best bet would be to use digital bypass (which the fatality would have the jacks for o the breakout box) and feed your receiver the raw digital feed, and let it decode. Note, this way, games only come over digitally in stereo on the X-Fi since it doesn't have ddl/dts encoding.. only decoding.

Which is why, I still think the X-Fi is best overall for both gaming and music.
Trouble is that most inexpensive HTIAB do not have discrete channel inputs. The Onkyo you listed does, but I think that blows his budget. So I do not understand how X-Fi is best overall despite the issue that many games would not be in surround with most HTIAB systems.

That said, at his budget, I would probably go X-Fi Xtreme Music and a set of Logitech's of some variety, best bang for the buck he could find. He does not seem to have space to go with a full 5.1 system that woul drequire rear stands etc. Smaller PC systems are a bit more conducive to keeping every speaker on or near the desk.

Another option is to get a high end set of 2.1 speakers which will kill all for music...

BrianG
11-27-06, 11:48 AM
My rear speakers are on top of boxes behind me. Not the most elegant setup in the world, but it works.
I was lucky enough to get the wall-mounts with my speaker system, Midiland S4 8200. Nice to have. I also used white flat speaker wire to hide the wall verticals for the rear speakers.

CaptNKILL
11-27-06, 12:08 PM
I'd suggest just getting an X-fi xtrememusic and leaving it at that for now. The 560s are still excellent speakers as far as I know. They were top of the line when they were released, and I doubt Logitech's current mid range setup (z5300e) is going to sound better, even with a center channel.

I don't know if you'd be able to get a significantly better sounding system in that price range. The Z5500 are probably a bit better, but they are priced around $260. I wouldn't go with any less of a system than that coming from the z560.

I can tell you right now that combining an X-Fi with my Z5500s seems like a perfect match up. I imagine the 560s would be pretty damn good as well.

If you end up with some more $$$ to put toward a new setup eventually, a 5.1 system will be nice. But for right now, unless you really really want new speakers, stick with what you've got and feed it some tasty sound from an X-Fi.

BTW, lots of people will downplay the "Crystalizer" effects on the X-Fi but I think it sounds amazing. You'll swear you're listening to a whole new set of speakers when you turn that on and listen to some music.

EDIT: I have to agree with others about speaker placement though. It can make all the difference. And if you don't quite have the room to have them all exactly the same distance apart, the Creative THX control panel on the X-fi allows you to individually adjust the distances of each speaker, as well as the angles. Ones that are far away will be a tiny bit louder than ones that are closer and I don't know how the angle adjustments work but they do. This sort of pulls it all together to make up for less than perfect speaker placement. You still need your rears behind you though. :p

Zelda_fan
11-27-06, 02:09 PM
I apologize, but I assumed that was a given (as in most everybody would know that). And for that setup, I believe the 800 watts is referring to the amps maximal output, not the maximum amount of watts the speakers can handle.

And I just used that setup as an example. Just to have the games in 5.1 Dolby or DTS Digital on that setup would sound far better than the best of EAX on the best of PC Speakers. That was merely my point. In fact, I'd recommend he go with some other reciever/speaker combination. But he did limit himself to only $300, and as you mentioned to get truly high-quality sound you best be expecting to be spending atleast around $1k.

But you are right in that he would be better off just getting that X-Plosion now, and saving up for a really killer speaker setup later down the road.

Something you should realize is that DTS Connect compresses the audio into 5.1 channel surround. There is a loss of quality when it is pitted against the uncompressed analog signal of 3x 3.5mm audio jacks. The absolute highest quality signal would be if you converted each 3.5mm jack to L/R RCA cables, and plugged it into a receiver capable of accepting 8 channels of analog RCA audio. However, as mentioned a receiver that can do that is fairly expensive, plus the cabling is a mess, and it's a lot easier to plug a single coax from your PC to your receiver. To be honest, I can't wait until they come out with a sound card that supports TrueHD or DTS-HD lossless encoding.

einstein_314
11-27-06, 02:16 PM
I'd say go with an X-Fi. Which one? Depends on your budget and needs. I love my Fatal1ty. And the front bay is awesome. I use it for my headphones and occasionally SPDIF in and other line ins. If you want some great headphones, get some Sennheiser HD555's. I got mine last christmas and they blow my logitech Z5300 speakers out of the water. Well, there is a noticable improvement in sound quality. But the Z5300's are awesome too.

Redeemed
11-27-06, 02:41 PM
Something you should realize is that DTS Connect compresses the audio into 5.1 channel surround. There is a loss of quality when it is pitted against the uncompressed analog signal of 3x 3.5mm audio jacks. The absolute highest quality signal would be if you converted each 3.5mm jack to L/R RCA cables, and plugged it into a receiver capable of accepting 8 channels of analog RCA audio. However, as mentioned a receiver that can do that is fairly expensive, plus the cabling is a mess, and it's a lot easier to plug a single coax from your PC to your receiver. To be honest, I can't wait until they come out with a sound card that supports TrueHD or DTS-HD lossless encoding.

Dude, the X-Plosion has a digital RCA out. Thus you would just need a single RCA cable going from your X-Plosion to the reciever.

Now, for his current speakers that wouldn't make a difference (I believe). The point in buying the X-Plosion would be so that he could later get a better speaker setup capable of decoding the digital signal.

There shouldn't be any problem with compression so long as he hooks his speakers up to the coaxial or RCA out.