Upgrading my audio! Need help! Headphones for Gaming and Metal!

I'm wanting to upgrade my computer recently, I will be upgrading my graphics card to a 7950 and I was looking into upgrading my audio as well. I will be using a sound card or as my friend Mitch recommended to me a DAC(which until yesterday I had no idea what they were). I currently have a Turtle Beach headset that I was using on my Xbox, which they are good enough for listening for footsteps in Halo and such, but  for PC gaming and listening to music and games on PC I feel they aren't as good and are kinda missing something. I was looking on Head-fi.org for good headphones that are good for gaming and music(I mainly listen to metal, but I listen to everything except rap). I want to get the most out of my games, but at the same time I don't want to break the bank. The headphones that I kept seeing being recommended were:

Audio Technica ATH-AD700(x), I believe the x edition ones are just newer updated ones.

Audiio Technica ATH-AD500(x)

Audio Technica ATH-M50


Panasonic RP-HTF600-S

I have spent the last few days looking through forums trying to learn what I can from as many threads as I could read. I am trying to look for headphones that allow me to get the fullest experience out of games(I play anything from FPS to RPGs to Indie titles) as well giving me fullest out of my music. I'm not sure what my budget is exactly, but I guess you could at the Headset I posted and get an average from thoughs. For a sound card I was looking at a Xonar D2 that I found used on Ebay or an Auzen Tech X-Raider for a decent price there too or even a Fiios DAC that Mitch recommended to me that is around the same price. So I will getting one of thoughs, if any of you have any recommendations for thoughs as well it would be very much appreciated. Please note I live in France so the prices here may be more expensive then in the US.  If we could also get a small conversation going about some of the basics of good audio and what to look for when looking for headphones and some of the terminology used, etc as I don't know a lot about it(maybe like a crash course into audio). Thank you for the help!

I love these http://www.amazon.fr/Beyerdynamic-DT770-PRO-80-Royaume/dp/B0016MNAAI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1375304715&sr=8-2&keywords=beyerdynamic+dt+770+pro

they go around you ears(not like normal, you ears barely touch and are inside) They are extremely comfortable.

I have listen to every genre thinkable, and play all kinds of games.

I would reccommend using them with a dac like this: http://www.amazon.fr/FiiO-E10-USB-Ampli-casque/dp/B005VO7LG6/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1375305040&sr=1-2&keywords=dac

You even put the link to Amazon from France!<3 I also saw the Beyerdynamic DT770 PRO and I forgot to add them to the list. Could you please explain the main differences between a sound card and a DAC to me please. I understand it's more portable, but I plan to use this setup at home only. How is the bass on the Headphones you have? Also what are the difference between the difference types of OHMs in the headset? (80ohms, 32 oms, and 250 oms)

depends, if you amp is damn strong, if you have an android phone, download TT POD (I think thats it) its in half chinese and english, but if you use that to play audio, I can make the headphones literally shake like a ghetto car with huge bass. I would amp it to 80 ohm

I hope someone can elaborate on the DAC vs Sound card

make sure you can amp the beyers though, they are basically mmx 300(best gaming heatset imo) without a mic

Now I understood the first two posts from you but this one I don't get. Do I need an additional amp to get the headphones to work or will a  soundcard/DAC be enough to power it. I will mainly be using these for my computer so I don't plan to use it on any mobile devices, etc. What are mmx 300? I'm assuming they are a high quality headset. haha And I have a zalman mic that was like 5 euros which works good though in the future I may move up to a ModMic because I have seen some nice reviews on the quality of it. 

Money no object amp and heaphones



you can customize the mmx 300 (mmx 300 dont need amp really since they are 32ohms)

read these faqs, they might help http://eastern-europe.beyerdynamic.com/service/faqs.html


My gosh..... Thoughs a godly setup there.... But unfortunately out of my price range. For the headsets that I listed and for the one you recommended to me would I need an AMP to go with it or will a DAC/Sound Card work just fine for me? I will take a read through the FAQ you posted. Thanks

Alright, let's start with the resistance rating (ohms). The higher the resistance (measured in ohms), the less efficient the headphones are at moving the signal from the source (where you plug the headphone into) to the drivers (the pieces in the headphoens that move to make the sound waves). Most cheap headphones and pretty much all headphones meant for the masses are going to have a low amount of resistance, since most people don't have the hardware to smplify the signal enough to overcome the high resistance. That said, higher resistance can give headphones a different sound. The link below will explain the difference between the different ohm versions of the Beyerdynamic headphones.

Now, the difference between a DAC and a sound card. They essentially do the same job, which is turning the data that music is stored on the computer as into a signal that can be used by headphones. With cheaper products, this won't be much of a concern, but technically, a DAC only decodes the data it is sent and is completely incapable of changing the volume. You need an amp of some sort for that. Like I was saying though, that won't be too much of a worry at the lower end of the price spectrum as the DACs will come with amps built in so that it is an all in one unit. Technically, sound cards have both a DAC and an amp inside of them (if I'm not mistaken). The Fiio E10 that was linked above also has both a DAC and an amp. They perform the same job. Here is the difference, sound cards are aimed at the masses and computer enthusiasts who want something for their expansion slot which will give them better sound than the integrated audio which comes on the mobo. DACs are aimed at audiophiles. They don't much care about the convinience of having it built in to the computer, they just care about audio quality. If you want good sound, I advise getting a DAC/amp. The E10 is a good and cheap choice. It is capable of pushing most headphones barring the ones with higher resistance (I would say that an E10 would be fine with the lion's share of headphones, except something with like 600 ohms, but I don't know FOR SURE).

Back to the headphone reccomendations. Seeing as how this is your first venture into the audiophile world, I would advise against getting the AD700. They are known for their open sound, detailed nature, and being incredibly bass light. That makes them fantastic for listening to classical music (depending on your tastes) and for competative foot-step-listening (think first person shooters). They are great headphones for what they are, but I doubt that they are what you want. The M50 is a very good all around headphones, but there are better headphones to be had around the same price, so I wouldn't advise getting those. The RP-HTF600-S is another headphone that is great for what it is. It has a very fun sound that will please the masses. But seeing as how you are looking at spending a decent amount of money, and are looking into getting a DAC, I would advise against getting a cheap pair (they sound great for what they are cost, but much better can be had with the money you are looking to spend). The AD500 and the RX900 I don't know much about, however I know a good bit about the AD700 and the RX700. Seeing as how those headphones are in the same lines as the ones I know, I don't think I would reccomend either of those. I would expect the AD500 to be bass light like the AD700. The RX700 is a good budget can, so I would expect the RX900 to be pretty good for the price, but I think that better can be had.

An upper limit on your budget would really help, but I will throw out some general reccomendations. I do reccomend that you get something like the E10 or a decent soundcard (you would probably get better sound for the money with an external DAC). Better solutions can be had, but it is a really good option for a budding audiophile. However, if you would like to spend more on a DAC and amp, just let me know and I can throw out some reccomendations. As far as headphones go, I really don't like a loud and intrusive bass (ESPECIALLY when listening to metal. It makes everything sound confused and muddled). So bare in mind that my reccomendations will be based off of that (detailed sound with a tamed bass). Also note that I won't send you to a website that I wouldn't personally trust (I've used mp4nation myself and the audio forum I posted below is my favorite one so far).

On to the headphone reccomendations. The first thing that crossed my mind was the HM5 (http://www.mp4nation.net/brainwavz-hm5-studio-monitor-headphones). Good and accurate sound at a very reasonable price (considering what you get in terms of audio quality).

The Beyer DT990 Pro 250 ohm is currently on sale at amazon and I think it is a great deal. Look to the link below to get a desciption of how they sound to see if that tickles your fancy, but they probably won't be on sale for very long, so if you want them, move quickly. Do note that this will probably require some sort of amplification to get decent results due to their high resistance, so if you got these, you should definitely also get some sort of amp to go with them (I think an E10 would suffice). I advise getting something like the E10 anyway, but especially so with these headphones. http://www.amazon.com/Beyerdynamic-AMS-DT-990-Pro-250-Professional-Acoustically-Applications/dp/B0011UB9CQ/ref=pd_sim_e_79

The same goes for the DT880 pro as went for the DT990 pro. These should be great for metal if you are ok with spending this much. http://www.amazon.com/Beyerdynamic-DT-880-Pro-Headphones-250/dp/B001B1QENY/ref=pd_sim_MI_32

These are also a good option from what I've read about them if I remember correctly (check head-fi to see what people say about them if you are interested in this pair). http://www.amazon.com/Sony-MDRMA900-Over-Style-Headphones/dp/B007DCCK60/ref=pd_sxp_grid_i_0_2

If you want to spend a bit less money and don't care too much about build quality, this should be a great pair. http://www.amazon.com/Superlux-HD-681-Professional-Monitor-Headphones/dp/B00BWUHJFQ/ref=pd_sim_sbs_e_9

On the other end of the price spectrum, we have the HE400. http://www.amazon.com/HiFiMAN-HE-400-Planar-Efficiency-Headphones/dp/B007ZG32I4/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1375309101&sr=1-1&keywords=he400

As well as the Mad Dogs. https://www.mrspeakers.com/MrSpeakers-Mad-Dog-Fostex-T50RP-Headphones/MrSpeakers-Mad-Dog-Alpha-Pad-Fostex-T50RP-headphone

Both of those more expensive headphones will require a good bit of power and might need a bit more than an E10 can give. Something like a Fiio E17 would probably work decently though (there are plenty of better options for more money).


If you need me to clarify anything, or have more questions, feel free to ask.


I forgot to mention the reason to have a good amp. Just like how PSUs start to get inefficient towards their max load, amps (and anything with a volume knob is basically an amp or has one somewhere in it) will start getting really static-y at the top of their output range. So an turning the knob all the way up will result in a loss in audio quality and an increase in background noise. Along with that, some headphones require more power to be able to reach apprpriate listening volumes. This is largely about the resistance rating, but also has to do with what drivers the headphones use. Electrostatic drives require a lot more to push than standard dynamic drivers do and some dynamic drivers are harder the push than others (the K701 is an example of a headphone with drivers that are hard to push if I remember correctly).


So basically, you don't want to have to turn the volume all the way up. A powerful amp will give you that luxury.


Wow this is a lot of info! Thank you so much! I re-read through it twice just to make sure I get all the information correctly. So the first off my questions:

  • In the first paragraph you describe the higher resistance it has the less efficient it will be which I assume is a bad thing but in the sentence following you describe that headphones made for the masses usually have lower resistance because they can't overcome higher resistances? Could you elaborate on that for me?
  • From the amount of recommendations I have been getting for it from here and other forums I will definitly be going with a DAC, probably the FiiOs E10 as it is cheaper than most higher end sound cards(like the Asus Xonar D2 I found used on eBay), though if I had the choice would you recommend the D2 over the FiiOs E10 if I can get it for the same price or cheaper?
  • I was curious to know how long a setup with a decent/good pair of headphones and a DAC like the E10 would last me? Is it something like other hardware(CPU, Graphics cards,etc) were I need to upgrade them every 3 years or so due to the newest thing coming out and games being more and more demanding and needing better preforming equipment?
  • Would you recommend any alternatives to an E10 in the same price range(perhaps it can be a bit more expensive but not to much please)?
  • Will I have to push an DAC like the FiiOs E10 to the max from the headphones you recommended? Because I would like something that will last me a little before I would have to replace it.

As for the Headphones you recommended the last two are unfortunatly out of my price range(though thanks for the option!) I really like the first one you recommended to me as they are very reasonably priced along with free shipping to France(though I don't know how much I trust Feddex) along with fantastic reviews and ratings! I'm very interested in the DT990s you linked as well because they are also on sale in France as well, so I may grab thoughs while I can(I also really like the looks of them). And again thank you for including a cheaper set of headphones(in the off case I need to put the money else as in food or survival haha). I will try to keep the FiiOs E10 knob down as to keep them as long as possible.

I think over all, I will probably be going with the DT990s with the FiiOs E10 if I can scrounge enough extra cash to do it.

Once again thank you for such a detailed explanation of audio(especially with all the links you gave too), I actually learned a lot more here than I have from all the forums I have read in the last few days, simply awesome. Also thank you Crimson Ryoka for you help too!

On of the main problems in the audiophile community is how hard it is to get started. Finding reviews and stuff is pretty wasy, but it is much more difficult to find somewhere where the basics are laid out for a new comer. I've been there. I know how it is.


1) A higher resistance will help to keep down background noise as well as change the overall sound of the headphone. It is usually for the better and there are some headphones that people add resistance to just to improve the sound (I know people do it with the Etymotic HF5). The link I posted a few posts ago about the various differences between the Beyerdynamic DTmodels should help to give you an idea of what high resistance can do to the sound of a pair of headphones. High efficiency is good for anything that uses a battery, but higher resistance will yield a better sound overall (generally speaking that is). Again, the trade off is the need for a more powerful amp.

2) I personally don't know much about sound cards, but I do know that Fiio is known for being a great budget option. I would probably go with the E10, but I am sure that both have their merits.

3) Here is where you will be thrilled. Headphone technology doesn't progress practically at all. Over the course of a decade, the landscape will change, but always bear in mind this one key thing that people seem to always overlook in the audiophile world - the point of the entire audio rig is to make you happy. If you are happy with what you have, there is absolutely no reason to spend any money (aside from curiosity which has cost many people quite a lot of money, but sometimes you just can't help but to want to get another pair to see how they sound ;) ). We have been using the same dynamic driver style of headphones now as we were decades ago (if I'm not mistaken). A good set up will literally last you a life time (barring damage to it). The great thing about the E10 is that it is a DAC/amp as well as just a regular DAC. That means that is has both an audio out that you can use for your headphones as well as an audio out (known as a "line out") which is meant to be used in an amp. That means that if you want to get a more powerful or higher quality amp for your rig, you can buy just the amp and still use the E10 as a DAC. That is to say that an E10 will last you a good long while. Sure better stuff will become available, I'm sure, but it is absolutely nothing like the computer world.

4) I have the Fiio E17 and it is a really good value, if you are ok with spending that much. I won't list all of the things that I can do (you can find that out on their website or in some reviews), but I will tell you that the amp section of the E17 is better than that in the E10. It also has the option of adding an amp which is specifically built for it to dock it. That isn't a huge deal, but it is pretty cool, and makes adding a better amp section that much easier leter down the line (that is if you ever feel the need). The price has come down a bit on the E17 since I bought it when it first came out, and I think that it is a great deal (it is $100 here, compared to the E10 for ~$65 here). Both the E10 and the E17 have line outs so that you can add an amp, so the call is really up to how much you want to spend and if you want the extra taht you get with the E17.

5) I am not too sure about whether the E10 would be able to power the headphones that I reccomended, but I am guessing that it would be fine for most of them. It should be enough for the HM5 and the HD681 EVO.


Also note that you don't have to be afraid of turning the volume up all the way. Nothing bad will happen (won't damage your hardware, I don't think). If you don't notice any degrading of sound quality, then you can turn it up to your heart's content, but just like any speakers, you can destroy the headphones if you play stuff too loud. But the volume would probably turn you deaf before destroying the headphones. Just don't use the headphones as speakers, and everything will be fine ;)

for the dt 770s the 80 are the loudest btw, all beyer headphones are great.

I think I'm going to go with the combination of  the DT990s with the FiiOs E10s. I googled the combo and people said that they are a good combo and if i wanted I could hook up another amp if i wanted the extra juice. Could you tell me how long the sale on the DT990s will last, because that is a great price for thoughs headphones? Also how much would the performance suffer on the DT990s? Because I'm calculating how much it all together will run me with a new graphics card and I can buy the DT990s now with a new GPU but no DAC for a maybe a few months. Would it still be worth it or do you think I should go with a cheaper solution? And perhaps in a few months I could get the E17 instead. I apologize if I'm making this complicated.

I would say to grab the DT990s now if you think that is what you want. But read what this guy says before you make your decision (http://www.head-fi.org/t/513393/guide-sonic-differences-between-dt770-dt990-models-more). Wouldn't want you spending that much money without knowing that you will like what what you get. You probably would need an amp to get good sound out of the headphones, but even without an amp, they will probably sound better than pretty much any common pair that people use (or that you have probably ever used). Get the DAC when you can, but headphones are the really important part.

I read through the post and even though the guy said that the DT880 were good for metal, he did mention that the  DT990s do metal better than the DT770s are. And right now the DT880s are to far from my budget to buy, but the DT770s and the DT990s are in the same price range and are actually cheaper than the Audio Technicas' at around 145 euros from a site that I usually purchase things from. Are you sure they are on sale I do not see anything to indicate that they are on sale on Amazon France or at the other sites that I have looked at, could it just be a price reduction?

I just talked to a friend and he said he has an old AMP I could borrow in the mean time, so hope that works out good! Thanks for all your guy's help!

Do note, not all amps give good quality sound. Cheaper amps can give static-y sound, just like you will probably notice straight from your mobo. If you want good and clean sound, you will need to make sure that the amp that you are using is of good quality. With that said, I have no idea what amp your friend has, or how well it will perform. I am just telling you this so that you don't get discouraged if you were to notice bad sound from the amp.


Another very important thing that I have yet to mention is the quality of the music that you are playing. I have no idea how much you know about audio quality, so I will just lay it all out for you.

The rate that digital audio data is being sent to your DAC can be measured in kbps (that is kilobits per second). The higher the kbps, the more information is being sent to your DAC and ultimately to your ears via your headphones. So it is pretty obvious that audio with higher a higher bit rate will sound better than the same audio with a lower bit rate.The problem is that having a higher bit rate will mean that the audio file will need to be bigger (same length song with a higher bit rate means more bits meaning a larger source file). The average Joe doesn't care too much about the quality of the music, so most of the time, audio is compressed to get it take up less space. The most common form of this is the mp3 file format. The audio in a compressed format such as mp3 will be much smaller than it was in the uncompressed format. To avoid having the problem of listening to low bit rate music on a high quality set up (and the DT990 will definitely be a case where this will make a difference) and thereby hearing the crappiness of the audio format, music files should be in uncompressed formats. Unfortunately, uncompressed music is much harder to come by than mp3. The most common lossless format is flac. Others such as wav exist, but flac is much more prevalent (if I remember correctly, Apple has its own lossless format, but it isn't very common anywhere that isn't itunes). To give you an idea, the absolute highest bit rate achievable with mp3 is 320 kbps. Most of my flac files push 1,000 kbps (I do believe that it would be 1.000 kbps in France, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong though). A lot of times, mp3s won't even hit the max of 320 kbps. And some files have a vbr (variable bit rate) meaning that it will use more bits as required and thereby take up less overall space, whereas most files have a cbr (constant bit rate). So if you are looking at two files of the same song, one in 320 kbps cbr and one in ~200 kbps vbr, they might just have the same overall quality, but the one with a vbr will take up less space. However, more often than not, it is easiest just to grab and more common to find the 320 kbps mp3 than anything else. 320kbps will do pretty well, all things considered, but if you can get a flac version, I would advise doing so.

But keep in mind that bit rate is not everything. With a well mastered audio track, it would be hard to tell a 320kbps mp3 from a 1,000 kbps flac from sound quality alone. Key phrase there is a well mastered track. Mixing has become a lost art for the most part, so grabbing a flac version of your music is probably your best bet for better quality sound. But without a good DAC to decode that high bit rate effectively, you won't see any real sound improvement with flac.

A good analogy of low bit rate music is playing VHS tapes on an HDtv. No matter how good your tv or your VCR is, the video given by the tape can only ever look so good and no better. It is just easier to tell with video than it is with audio.

Be sure to check out Logan's foobar 2k video. It is fantastic for audio playback, not just for custimization, but it also does probably the best job as a music player. I don't really know the nitty-gritty of it, but it does its job and it does it well. I personally love it.


Also, important to note is that not all music players support flac. Just like Windows Media Player often doesn't support a video format (dont know from experience, as I always just use VLC), many popular audio playback devices (mp3 players, or as audiophiles refer to them daps - digital audio players) and playback software (itunes for examples) don't support uncommon file formats like flac. There are alternatives though. Flac support is growing in daps and there is always foobar for your computer.

Again a ton of information to take in so thank you. I'm not exactly sure the amp he has but he does music for tv, movies, and muscians for a living so I would imagine it won't be half bad of an amp, but it may be old. He has sound equipment from the 80s that he still uses today and some stuff he just doesn't through away. Cool guy though. I have always wondered what the difference between what the mp3 version or a sound file and flac version were so now it's cool that I know =D. Even if the file sizes are larger that is fine I still have a lot of space on my HDD to go through before it's filled up! I too use VLC for watching. A buddy of mine mentioned foobar to me the night before Logan actually released his series of videos about, so I got intrigued in that software. Are they any other softwares I should get that could increase audio quality or increase the quality of the things I listen to? What about Codacs(I think that is what they are called) I know there are many of thoughs that are used to increase quality in video and audio, etc. Would you recommend any?

Also what do you think about this? It would be a lot easier on my wallet.



Sound Card:


That or a FiiO E10

But as you can see the price is a lot less. So that may be a steal even though they may not be as good as the DT990s(that look so beautiful). I know you advised against the Audio Technicas' but for that price point could it still be worth it? If not I can still grab the DT990s and hold off on the other things.