The Sennheiser PC350 definitely seem to be a popular choice and would fit your needs. I have no experience with them. I'm not too impressed by my Senns but a lot are. I went on the expensive side and bought myself a set of phones for gaming purposes and then a set for music ...but I also listen to music when I am on the plane, at work, etc. so it made sense to separate the two.
If you go with a sound card, you are definitely on the right track because USB sets bypass the soundcard.
You would definitely notice the difference of high impedance headphones. I am no audiophile and the sound quality difference between my Sonys and my Senn HD438s to my Beyer DT 990s/250ohm is just staggering. The bass is clearer, the vocals are sharpers, the clarity allows you to hear the different layers in the music as they come in from different directions and blend in together in the center. It makes songs you thought you knew sound different and makes the whole experience immersive. There is less of an impact on Rock music but they allow you to hear the reverb off of the electric guitar as the drums are getting wailed on. Oh ya, you would notice!
But you would definitely need an amp if you went with higher impedance headphones ...and honestly, now that I have a cheapy little amp I would even recommend it for 32ohm headsets. I wouldn't buy the 600ohm headsets as you are looking at BARE minimum of a $400 amp to properly power them. You can get away with 250ohm cans and a portable amp, but honestly even with a portable amp you still aren't bringing out their true potential. Fiio makes good cheap little amps for people like us who want better sound but aren't obsessed by it.
Right now if you want the cheapest option:
- G35 (USB, no soundcard - $80- $100 out the door)
Solution that is more in line with want you want:
- Sennheiser PC350
- Soundcard (i really can't help ya here tho I would guess an ASUS for ~$100 would work)
- Nice set of music cans (would need your pref on music to help here)
- A decent enough amp to drive headphones (possible portable and desktop amp - portable $70, desktop $100)
- Than a gamers headset so you have a mic (can go cheap or expensive)
Wow sounds like I'll definitely want to get an amp then! So if that's the case, I wonder if it would be worth it to invest in something like the Asus Xonar Essence sound card that comes with a built-in amp? Hear they're amazing cards. And yeah the PC350 seemed great because it's much cheaper now that the PC360 is out and I really would prefer the closed acoustics just because my environment can tend to get a little loud. But yeah I had the wireless version of the G35 and I liked the audio but they were a bit heavy and I've had 3 break on me from faulty wiring or parts which really turned me off from them, as well as the fact I wanted to get into higher-quality sound.
When it comes to music I really do listen to most anything besides rap and screamo-type music. But mostly I listen to Classic and Alternative Rock, Classical, and Electronica/Techno. So I would like decent bass but I wouldn't need anything extraordinary. I wonder how the PC350 is with bass?
I own and use both the Sennheiser HD 555 headphones and PC350 headset. Both are perfectly fine for larger heads (I have a pretty large one) and are comfortable for hours on end. I've worn the HD 555s for 6+ hours straight before, no issues. PC350s not as long just because I haven't owned them as long, but still, hours of comfortable use.
The HD 555s do not need an amp due to their 32ohm impedance, while the PC350s do because of their 150ohm impedance. Basically, anything over 80ohms will need an amp, while all headphones will benefit from one. Just be sure to not put too much power through the amp to the headphones, because you can damage the headphones by providing too much power.
I have used the HD 555, PC350, and the HD 280 Pros for gaming and music. The HD 555s and 280 Pros are headphones so they are better suited to music, but will work just fine for gaming. The PC350 is great for gaming and works just as well for music, but you may miss a few things with the PC350s if you cannot drive them properly. Personally, I've been using the PC350s more for everything instead of the HD 555s because the headband padding on the 555s is starting to pull away and I haven't had the time to fix them yet.
The HD 558/555/515 and PC360 are all open air, meaning you can hear everything around you as well as having people hear what you're listening to. The PC350 and HD 280 Pro are closed, so no sound leaks in or out. I have not used the Razer Carcharias so I cannot attest to them.
Again confirms that the PC350s are probably what I'm looking for then with a nice sound card and amp. I feel like I might be having to spend more than I planned for but I think it'd be worth it, right?