Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Headphones, Headsets, Earbuds, Canalphones - stuff that goes on, around or in your ears.
chewybacca
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Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by chewybacca » Tue Nov 22, 2011 4:38 pm

I'm thinking of upgrading my PC's audio setup. Currently using (Sennheiser) HD201s and onboard sound (new motherboard bought over <5 months ago). Now, the HD201s are quite decent, mind you - they're generally quite comfortable and detailed up the top compared to my bass/mid-range-biased AKG in-ears - but I'm looking to step it up a bit more. And I'm not too much of a fan of my new on-board chip's sound quality.

I have fairly broad music tastes, but the bulk of my listening habits generally revolve around three main genres: trance & electronica, Japanese pop music (including the usual J-R&B and rock) and classical. Which means I need a very good all-rounder, not requiring much EQ as I'm currently doing. A large proportion of that music is in lossless format, too, if that matters.

I have a few options: upgrade headphone, upgrade sound card or both.

Headphone (budget = <$200):
Currently I'm looking at the popular ones: Audio Technica AD700 and Shure SRH440. I understand one's open and the other's closed.My HD201s have decent trebles/midrange, but bass is sorely lacking (there's quite a bit of distortion when EQed) unless I press the cups firmly on my ears, which isn't very common (otherwise my arms will get sore!). On the other hand, my AKG (K321) is quite the opposite, although clarity is pretty fine by my standards. Given my tastes, I prefer something with both strong low-end/bass and detailed trebles/mid-range qualities (yeah I know, I'm probably asking for too much :lol: ). A wide open sound-stage would be a bonus.

Isolation isn't a priority, but I've heard the AD700 lacks bass, or at least it's rather thin from what I've read? I don't intend to use headphone amps either. My other issue is with the SRH440 - I've heard comfort might be an issue (and I personally don't think I have a "large head" :D ), and I'll be using them for lengthy periods of time, so if I do get it, chances are I'll be purchasing the SRH840 pads as well. Portability isn't a problem, since this is for home use (and I've got my AKGs when I'm out), but obviously nothing really massive.

If there are other models worthy of consideration (I'm aware of the MS-1 and the DT440 through my research, for example), please suggest!

Sound card (budget = <$200):
I'm looking at Asus' Xonar Essence STX. Looks a little on the expensive side, though - is it still okay if I step down a little to, say, the D1 or DS? I'm definitely not interested in gaming, so EAX etc. isn't an issue. The problem is whether to upgrade at all, even taking into account upgraded headphones (or not). How much of a difference will it make?

Suggestions welcome!

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Riverback
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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by Riverback » Tue Nov 22, 2011 5:51 pm

Purely music? MS-1's :D

For the sound card, its not really a big deal if you step down a bit. I doubt they'd be bad choices. We usually say get a sound card just to get away from all that onboard noise.
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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by aster » Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:40 pm

For headphones, I'd suggest MS-1's, they are the first pair any budding person would get when wanting to upgrade the listening experience.
Was a fantastic upgrade for me when I got MS-1's months ago (and I was using on board when I first got them).

For a soundcard, I've personally got an STX, which I quite like. With MS-1's onboard is enough to drive them but they're not going to sound as good as they can, not saying they
will sound bad but after I got my STX, my music just sounded so much clearer and had a little crispness to the bass (quite hard to explain, but there was a difference, a positive one).
You also mention you don't want to be using headphone amps, the STX's inbuilt amp would suffice for most headphones as well, which is a plus.

Hope this helps.

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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by mallethead » Tue Nov 22, 2011 10:07 pm

Riverback wrote:Purely music? MS-1's :D
I'll second that... I can make this recommendation having both the SRH440 and MS1's as a comparison. It's a noticeable difference in sound quality.
I only use the SRH440's for some isolation and to stop sound leakage that pisses my wife off.

SRH440's are much more comfier with the 840 pads.
The MS1's can be pretty comfy- you just need to be patient and fiddle with the headband a bit until you get the fit you want.

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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by chewybacca » Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:13 am

How good are the MS-1s for anything else other than rock/heavy metal though? And how large are they compared to, say, the SRH440?

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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by Riverback » Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:15 am

Should be close in size. They're really good for music in general. They tend to perform better than the SRH440's unless you need the isolation

If you want a little more soundstage you could try using the bowl pads.
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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by Drubbing » Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:51 am

chewybacca wrote:How good are the MS-1s for anything else other than rock/heavy metal though? And how large are they compared to, say, the SRH440?
I think they do anything well, they just tend to work nicely with the mids and guitar driven sound of rock. I think the phones for genres thing is overdone, especially at the lower end.
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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by G-rig » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:18 am

Probably not too many headphone choices for $200, but more for $300.

I was going to suggest the MS-1 as well, more suited to music than games though. Don't be put off by the cheap price, they are really good. AD700 would be good too although sounds like they wouldn't be bass heavy enough for you. The DT770 32Ohm would have been about perfect but you can't get them anymore.

Sound car I'd except one of the lower Asus models would be fine.
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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by Marcus » Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:10 am

I've used the MS1 for gaming without any problems. I'd rather use the AD700 (for gaming) if I had to choose between them and the MS1, but I'd absolutely choose the MS1 for music over the AD700 and frankly them being "not as good" for gaming as the AD700 wouldn't bother me.

Not as good means not as good, it doesn't mean terrible/useless, which a lot of people seem to assume.
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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by Felix » Sat Nov 26, 2011 10:28 am

G-rig wrote:Sound car I'd except one of the lower Asus models would be fine.
This. You wouldn't get as much benefit from the built-in amp on the STX as you would by putting the extra $$ towards a better set of 'phones in the first place. The lower range models will be great :)
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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by chewybacca » Sun Nov 27, 2011 4:37 pm

Thanks for the advice everyone!

Hrmm... seems like most people are recommending the MS-1. How's the comfort levels (I know this is pretty subjective, but on average) for extended listening sessions?

I've noticed different types of pads available for it. What's the better type of pad for long-term listening use that doesn't degrade the audio quality?

And considering it's open, how much sound does it leak out? Minor point, but just for my reference.

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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by Drubbing » Sun Nov 27, 2011 4:40 pm

They come with comfiys. I think they're the best. Other Grado pads will fit, but I don't think they make any real difference.
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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by luftkopf » Sun Nov 27, 2011 5:02 pm

I have always disliked any headphones that touch my ears, however, I found the MS-1 to be quite comfortable anyway, and is the only one of its type that I could wear for hours.
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chewybacca
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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by chewybacca » Sun Nov 27, 2011 6:58 pm

Okay, I've decided to order the MS-1. Let's hope it's good! =)

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Re: Audio Upgrades + Headphones Advice

Post by G-rig » Mon Nov 28, 2011 6:47 am

chewybacca wrote: Hrmm... seems like most people are recommending the MS-1. How's the comfort levels (I know this is pretty subjective, but on average) for extended listening sessions?
Very comfortable I find, may just need to flex the headband at the top initially and the clamping pressure it's much at all. Your ears may get a little hot after a fair few hours but easily acceptable. I find them more comfortable than the DT250 as they are very lightweight.
I've noticed different types of pads available for it. What's the better type of pad for long-term listening use that doesn't degrade the audio quality?
I'd stay with the comfies, they sound a lot more fun and I've tested the bowl pads and it doesn't sound 'right'.
And considering it's open, how much sound does it leak out? Minor point, but just for my reference.
They don't leak very much in my opinion, compared to other open headphones. Definitely a lot less than the driver side you listen too. I have mine on at a decent level (not too loud) in a quiet office with no complaints.
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