Go Back   OC3D Forums > [OC3D] Hardware & Software > Sound Cards & Speakers
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
  #1  
Old 03-03-14, 07:35 AM
sn8kedr's Avatar
sn8kedr sn8kedr is offline
Newbie
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Posts: 83
Audio Upgrade....STX/D2X/Phoebus??

Hi all,

I am by no means an audiophile and help is very much needed. I have a couple of questions to pose to those more knowledgeable than me.

My current audio setup is Asus Maximus VI Formula on-board audio and a Steelseries 7H Pro gaming headset + Edifier C2XD 2.1 speakers. My main usage at the moment is 60% gaming with the headset and 40% watching movies (mix between the 2.1's and the headset).

Firstly what I wanted to know is will this setup benefit significantly from a dedicated sound card compared the Formula's on-board audio? (i'm aware that most people automatically advise that any dedicated sound card is better than on board - however given what seems to be a significant improvement of mobo's audio these days does it still hold true with the formula VI?)

Secondly, if I would benefit from a dedicated sound card should I consider upgrading the headset to something that would take advantage of the dedicated sound cards potential?

The bottom line is I am willing to drop around $500 on a audio upgrade and am still happy with my existing audio setup but can't help but feel I could be getting a much better experience with some dedicated gear. The main cards I have been eyeing off are the Assus Xonar STX/D2X/Phoebus.

Any help would be great guys. Cheers.

__________________
Primary/Gaming: i7-4770K | 16GB Vengeance Pro 2133mhz | GTX780 DC2 | 500GB Sammy Pro | Asus Maximus VI Formula | Corsair 750D | H100i
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 03-03-14, 07:43 AM
jamesriley94 jamesriley94 is offline
OC3D Elite
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Sheffield
Posts: 5,948
If you're wanting to do this, the STX should be your only choice really.

The Phoebus just isn't as good, and the D2X lacks a headphone amp which IMO is one of the main reason to be buying a soundcard these days.

However, with your current headset, I don't see that much of a point in upgrading. You will experience a better sound quality with the STX and the headset, but it isn't really what the STX is built for, so you would be better off upgrading those too.

You could always buy the STX and see what you think, and then decide from there if you want to go the extra mile and buy some proper headphones. You may think the 7Hs sound good on the STX, but a proper pair of headphones would be significantly better.

Look at some of the Beyerdynamic ranges - DT770/DT880/DT990, or ATH-M50s, or there's a few Sennheiser sets around the HD558 that may be good for you too.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 03-03-14, 07:52 AM
sn8kedr's Avatar
sn8kedr sn8kedr is offline
Newbie
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Posts: 83
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesriley94 View Post
If you're wanting to do this, the STX should be your only choice really.

The Phoebus just isn't as good, and the D2X lacks a headphone amp which IMO is one of the main reason to be buying a soundcard these days.

However, with your current headset, I don't see that much of a point in upgrading. You will experience a better sound quality with the STX and the headset, but it isn't really what the STX is built for, so you would be better off upgrading those too.

You could always buy the STX and see what you think, and then decide from there if you want to go the extra mile and buy some proper headphones. You may think the 7Hs sound good on the STX, but a proper pair of headphones would be significantly better.

Look at some of the Beyerdynamic ranges - DT770/DT880/DT990, or ATH-M50s, or there's a few Sennheiser sets around the HD558 that may be good for you too.
Sounds like a good plan mate - I was actually looking at getting a combo of the STX and DT880's earlier today....but I might see how the STX goes first.

Should I decide to head towards the decent headphones, say the DT880's, is there any versions I should be looking for (just thinking that some of the models of headphones I have seen seem to have varying Ohm categories)?
__________________
Primary/Gaming: i7-4770K | 16GB Vengeance Pro 2133mhz | GTX780 DC2 | 500GB Sammy Pro | Asus Maximus VI Formula | Corsair 750D | H100i
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 04-03-14, 04:56 PM
cuylar cuylar is offline
Newbie
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 21
WHOA.... hold on...

You have the Maximus IV Formula.... This board: http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/MAXIMUS_VI_FORMULA/

Correct?

You aren't going to gain anything from any of the Xonar boards or Creative boards based on what you have in your post.

What are you really looking for that you feel you are not getting right now?
  • Better sound?
  • Less interference?
  • Positional audio for gaming? Which games?
  • Better SnR?
The onboard audio (SupremeFX) that you have is pretty amazing.

The ONLY benefit you will get from the STX would be the ability to change amps on your board and a tiny bit more shielding.... the shielding shouldn't be a huge issue anyways. (compared to what you have)

This is what you have already....



Down the line... here's what you have...
SupremeFX - XonarSTX
  • Processor 192KHz/24bit *SAME*
  • SnR 120db vs. 124db *MARGINAL*
  • Headphone amplifier 600ohm *SAME* (TI TPA6120A2)
  • Premium ELNA audio capacitors vs. Nichicon "Fine Gold" professional audio capacitors *MARGINAL*
  • Fixed vs. Swappable OPA Sockets... Pointless for your application. Also, if done incorrectly or poorly it could seriously degrade your audio.
I'd challenge ANYONE to put on a pair of Sennheiser HD650 headphones and be able to tell which is which in a blind test. (You won't be able to)

So back to the original question.... You have $500 to spend, what do you want to get out of it?

I don't mean to come in an undercut jamesriley94 rudely (especially given his position on the boards here) but there is NO measurable benefit for you to upgrade to a sound card based on what you are saying about yourself. I can't, for the life of me, understand that recommendation.

Personally, I'm partial to Sennheiser... but Beyerdynamic makes good headphones too...

One thing I'm wondering with the headphones... Do you chat while gaming? Would you benefit from something like a headset... maybe: http://en-us.sennheiser.com/g4me-one

Or, are you looking to use a boom mic?

A little more info on what you want to gain and how you game/watch movies would help me make a recommendation.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 04-03-14, 05:14 PM
iBeInspire iBeInspire is offline
OC3D Elite
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: The Dirty North of London
Posts: 1,314
Just a quick chime in to say that when it comes to sound output quality, specs mean next to nothing and it's all in the way the hardware sounds
__________________
/|i5 4690k @4.6Ghz @1.315v /|\ Asus Z97-AR /|\ 8Gb G.Skill RipjawsX /|\ Asus GTX970 Strix |\
/|TX550m /|\ Samsung 840 Pro |\
/|Asus Essence STU /|\ Hifiman HE-400S /|\ AKG K551|\
[OFFICIAL] OC3D Overclockers Club Member [#025]
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 04-03-14, 05:27 PM
Lazlo's Avatar
Lazlo Lazlo is offline
Advanced Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 288
Quote:
Originally Posted by iBeInspire View Post
Just a quick chime in to say that when it comes to sound output quality, specs mean next to nothing and it's all in the way the hardware sounds
TBH I'm not exactly sure if you are serious or if you are being ironic. But cuylar's arguments are pretty solid in my book. Espsecially considering both have the same DAC and headphone amp.
__________________
"The road to hell is paved with good intention."
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 04-03-14, 05:27 PM
cuylar cuylar is offline
Newbie
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by iBeInspire View Post
Just a quick chime in to say that when it comes to sound output quality, specs mean next to nothing and it's all in the way the hardware sounds
That's my point. The same headphone amplifier is used in both devices. The hardware driving the audio is the same.

Caps are of similar quality and the processor (which is digital) is for the same output)

You can make an argument that there are better jacks on the card than on the board but that's not likely to make a difference unless there is some fault or damage to either.

As previously stated, the OP is not an audiophile and I can't see the benefit for an upgrade.

Without knowing the real reason driving him, we can't possibly advise on a product.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 04-03-14, 05:44 PM
jamesriley94 jamesriley94 is offline
OC3D Elite
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Sheffield
Posts: 5,948
Granted onboard sound chips has progressed significantly in recent years but in terms of shielding, despite being separated in a different PCB layer, they still don't provide close to the kind of EMI protection the STX does.

That, coupled with the marginally poorer DAC on the motherboard would actually make the differences quite a lot more noticeable, especially at higher volume levels.

As said, the specs can't really be compared that well at all. They can be set up differently and tuned more precisely depending on the intended use. As the Maximus is intended more for gaming use, I would imagine to an extent that it has slightly more enhanced bass levels, although without actually using one I couldn't really say for sure.

I'll also mention the power delivery differences. Despite the EMI shielding, the power circuitry does have to go significantly further on any motherboard in order to get the power to the chip/DAC/amp. This will still pick up interference from nearby components and will detract from the overall audio quality. On the other hand the STX is better shielded and the circuitry is more precise in delivering the power. This will result in a cleaner sound, especially at higher volumes or powering higher impedance headphones.

I would be confident actually in discerning the differences between the onboard audio and the STX. At higher volumes the onboard solution just wouldn't be capable of minimising white noise to the same extent of the STX.

However, I will agree that purely using this for gaming and films won't be that noticeable.

I will also add in regards to headphone amplifiers; doesn't the STX use multiple headphone amps? I would imagine that this does add to quality as opposed to running through just the single one on the motherboard?

I agree that they may be relatively close, but the STX is still a better solution overall, despite using similar components. Whether the OP thinks it's worth the extra cost is another question though.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 04-03-14, 07:10 PM
cuylar cuylar is offline
Newbie
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesriley94 View Post
Granted onboard sound chips has progressed significantly in recent years but in terms of shielding, despite being separated in a different PCB layer, they still don't provide close to the kind of EMI protection the STX does.

That, coupled with the marginally poorer DAC on the motherboard would actually make the differences quite a lot more noticeable, especially at higher volume levels.

As said, the specs can't really be compared that well at all. They can be set up differently and tuned more precisely depending on the intended use. As the Maximus is intended more for gaming use, I would imagine to an extent that it has slightly more enhanced bass levels, although without actually using one I couldn't really say for sure.

I'll also mention the power delivery differences. Despite the EMI shielding, the power circuitry does have to go significantly further on any motherboard in order to get the power to the chip/DAC/amp. This will still pick up interference from nearby components and will detract from the overall audio quality. On the other hand the STX is better shielded and the circuitry is more precise in delivering the power. This will result in a cleaner sound, especially at higher volumes or powering higher impedance headphones.

I would be confident actually in discerning the differences between the onboard audio and the STX. At higher volumes the onboard solution just wouldn't be capable of minimising white noise to the same extent of the STX.

However, I will agree that purely using this for gaming and films won't be that noticeable.

I will also add in regards to headphone amplifiers; doesn't the STX use multiple headphone amps? I would imagine that this does add to quality as opposed to running through just the single one on the motherboard?

I agree that they may be relatively close, but the STX is still a better solution overall, despite using similar components. Whether the OP thinks it's worth the extra cost is another question though.
I'm not just looking for an argument or trying to assert being "right"... this topic isn't that simple.... hat being said some issues/points I would state we disagree on...

  • I don't think that onboard audio as a whole is improving significantly. What I am seeing is that for certain motherboards, a great deal of research and development has gone into truly building a separate sound card on the board itself. While they are connected, they are separate units as far as the circuitry is concerned.
  • I'm not sure exactly how much more EMI is being shielded with the STX... or if more is actually being shielded at all. I do know that physically there isn't any criss-cross of datapaths on the botherboard and there isn't going to be any on the PCIe option either. The processor for both is covered with a shield... There is a copper divider in the STX but that isn't extremely substantial.... or at least to the point where it would invalidate the onboard side of the argument. Besides.... the ROG Armor would work as an EMI shield as well.
  • I'm looking for the exact part number for the caps on the Formula but I do know that the FG caps on the STX are not the premium line from Nichicon... that'd be the KZ series. http://www.mouser.com/pdfdocs/Nichic...sdatasheet.pdf
  • If anyone can get me the part number for the caps on the supremeFX caps I'd be hapy to go over the differences. To be fair...the marginal difference was not to suggest the STX has better caps.... just that the difference wouldn't be noticeable. If they are the high end caps from ELNA, they could be actually "better".
  • The use of multiple amps is for tone in the audio. The true audiophiles claim (I can't) they can hear a level of richness. Some people mod this card with crazy amps... (crazy is subjective) like this: http://bursonaudio.com/asus-xonar-st...burson-opamps/
  • This is where I got my info on the apm which is used in both devices: http://www.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/tpa6120a2.pdf
I would wrap this up by stating that I don't think the Xonar is a "better" option... I'd call it a niche option when compared to the supremefx.

Sound cards seem to be more of an upgrade from basic onboard audio than in this case.

IMO, both options are great but I don't believe there is a measurable benefit in this case.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 05-03-14, 12:12 AM
sn8kedr's Avatar
sn8kedr sn8kedr is offline
Newbie
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Posts: 83
Yup. Its the correct mobo: Formula VI.

Im glad this is generating some discussions and I'm interested to see exactly how this unfolds.

As for what I want to get out of this.....i really just want to ensure I'm getting the best audio experience (for my untrained ears) I can for gaming, movies and some moderate music listening. To facilitate this I would be willing to spend some cash if it would make a difference. I wasn't aware that the STX and SupremeFX were so closely matched for specs on paper. I have had a number of other people suggest that regardless the STX os superior but I just cant see myself being able to discern the difference. At the end of the day though I have ordered the STX since I have a friend who will buy it from should I not want it.

I'll post back next week once I've installed and had a play and see if I can hear any significant differences since I haven't come across anyone with this exact setup yet.
__________________
Primary/Gaming: i7-4770K | 16GB Vengeance Pro 2133mhz | GTX780 DC2 | 500GB Sammy Pro | Asus Maximus VI Formula | Corsair 750D | H100i
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump










All times are GMT. The time now is 03:10 PM.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.