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Advice concerning headphone/headset choice


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#1 Sindorius

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 04:14 PM

Hello everyone. I currently am looking for help in choosing what would be the best headphones/headset for my specific needs. I haven't dabbled in anything beyond $100 or so gaming headsets but want to purchase a set of headphones (and will get a sound card as I hear it's a must) that can deliver great gaming audio as well as music listening for all genres. Really looking for something that's the best bang for my buck. I would LIKE a headset (Sennheiser PC350/360?) but I keep hearing you'll get better headphones for cheaper and can just buy a cheap microphone so I figured I'd do that.

Looking for in headphones/headset:
  • Price Range: Under $200
  • Non-USB
  • Great for gaming audio as well as all genres of music listening
  • Would prefer headset but to get most bang for my buck I'll probably want headphones?
  • Comfortable for a larger head
  • Over the ear
  • Can deliver great audio without the need of amp? (Good idea or no? High impedance headphones a LOT better or would someone like me even notice it?)

I've been looking at headphones like the Sennheiser HD558/555/518 and headsets such as the Razer Carcharias at the low end and Sennheiser PC350/360 at the higher end. Looking at other brands like Denon and Audio-Technica I feel like I don't like the looks and design of them quite as much as the Sennheisers, but if you have one that you highly suggested I'd love to look at it. Any and all help is greatly appreciated, thank you.

#2 Fogel

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 04:40 PM

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)

Expensive Option:
- 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)

#3 bp9801

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 04:42 PM

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.

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#4 Sindorius

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 06:08 PM

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)

Expensive Option:
- 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?

#5 bp9801

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 07:10 PM

If you can find the ASUS Xonar Xense, it is essentially the same card as the Essence STX but with the Sennheiser PC350 headset included. The headset has been modified a little, so instead of two 3.5mm plugs it has two 6.3mm plugs. The Xonar Xense has an integrated amp for both the headphone and microphone port, plus an adapter to connect a 5.1 or 7.1 system to it.

$300 though, and I don't see it in stock on Newegg or Amazon.

Also, the PC350 has enough bass as it is, but like most Sennheiser headphones, a little EQ tweaking can greatly enhance the bass. Sometimes it can be really overpowering too. :lol:

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#6 Sindorius

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 10:42 PM

Are you talking about this?

Asus Xonar Xense Premium Gaming Audio Set

It looks like an amazing set that gives you a wonderful set of headphones and a sound card that are built for each other and knocking off about $100 of what you'd pay to buy the similar versions separately. The only problem is that I'd probably only trust newegg.com and amazon.com to buy such a set and with them being out of stock I don't see them restocking the item anytime soon, if at all. Oh well.

#7 Stonerboy779

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 10:45 PM

Are you talking about this?

Asus Xonar Xense Premium Gaming Audio Set

It looks like an amazing set that gives you a wonderful set of headphones and a sound card that are built for each other and knocking off about $100 of what you'd pay to buy the similar versions separately. The only problem is that I'd probably only trust newegg.com and amazon.com to buy such a set and with them being out of stock I don't see them restocking the item anytime soon, if at all. Oh well.

That is the one and I second BPs recommendation of it.

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#8 Fogel

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 02:16 PM

The only problem is that I'd probably only trust newegg.com and amazon.com to buy such a set and with them being out of stock I don't see them restocking the item anytime soon, if at all. Oh well.


I have to agree with BP - that looks like the perfect set for your needs. Shame it is sold out ...almost looks discontinued as you said. I don't trust many online sites either so I know where you are coming from. Though if you are interested in that set, try some of the more reliable names in addition to Newegg and Amazon. NCIX lists it as on Backorder too.

So let us know what you want to do...

- Wait for the Xonar Sense to come back in stock
- Pick a new PC Gaming Headset / Soundcard Combo
- Pick a Music Headphone Combo

First option is obviously on you. Second one it seems like there are plenty of people here to help on that - I unfortunately cannot because I separate the two. You could still pick the PC350 and go with Xonar Essence for $362.25. If you get everything you want it may be worth it ...assuming funds allow.

Third option I can help you with a little because I spent a LOT of time researching my set music headphones - more so than I stated in my topic. Long version in the spoiler tags below if you find too much text is more boring than help. :P

Spoiler

Edited by Fogel, 12 January 2012 - 02:18 PM.


#9 Sindorius

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 06:05 AM

The Asus Xonar Xense set does look amazing but its unavailability will probably be what ultimately keeps me from getting it. Shame. But I think I might just grab the equivalent sound card (actually the Asus Xonar Essence ST) and headset for about $70 more like you said Fogel. And thanks for the great bit of info! Like I said, I listen to most music but mainly focusing on most varieties of rock, classical, electronica/techno, and soundtrack music (which I suppose would be mostly like classical). The reasons I'm staying away from differentiating gaming and music headphones is simple because it would be a lot more expensive and it's more inconvenient than one pair that can handle both well enough.

Another issue I wanted to bring up if anyone had any general knowledge concerning it.

I originally wanted to get a Razer Tiamat but after researching I found a lot of people tend to scorn 5.1/7.1 headphones since it's trying to stuff 360 degree audio into speakers that only go around your ear, and they tend to be lower-powered drivers since there are so many in each ear. It seemed that most said virtual positioning audio was good enough now that buying a great pair of 2/2.1 speaker headphones would do more good and provide better overall quality if someone wanted to use the headset for more than just gaming (aka music). Do you agree with that? And if not, why? Would the Razer Tiamat perchance be worth it if I was running it through a strong sound card and amp, or would it still be better to just get a high-quality 2-speaker headphones (running through the same sound card and amp)?

#10 Fogel

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 11:56 AM

The Asus Xonar Xense set does look amazing but its unavailability will probably be what ultimately keeps me from getting it. Shame. But I think I might just grab the equivalent sound card (actually the Asus Xonar Essence ST) and headset for about $70 more like you said Fogel. And thanks for the great bit of info! Like I said, I listen to most music but mainly focusing on most varieties of rock, classical, electronica/techno, and soundtrack music (which I suppose would be mostly like classical). The reasons I'm staying away from differentiating gaming and music headphones is simple because it would be a lot more expensive and it's more inconvenient than one pair that can handle both well enough.


Like I said, I know I went the expensive route ...but most of my music listening is away from my pc, and I just cannot justify having a big dorky mic attached to my headphones in addition to sacrificing audio quality.

I originally wanted to get a Razer Tiamat but after researching I found a lot of people tend to scorn 5.1/7.1 headphones since it's trying to stuff 360 degree audio into speakers that only go around your ear, and they tend to be lower-powered drivers since there are so many in each ear. It seemed that most said virtual positioning audio was good enough now that buying a great pair of 2/2.1 speaker headphones would do more good and provide better overall quality if someone wanted to use the headset for more than just gaming (aka music). Do you agree with that? And if not, why? Would the Razer Tiamat perchance be worth it if I was running it through a strong sound card and amp, or would it still be better to just get a high-quality 2-speaker headphones (running through the same sound card and amp)?


Well amps help every headphone out. That said... i think it would be a complete waste to buy a high quality soundcard/amp on the Tiamat. Sadly you need a soundcard capable of running 7.1 surround sound just to plug the Tiamat into. The Tiamat's highest impendance on some of the drivers is 32Ω and goes as low as 16Ω. The sensitivity is also 125db and most quality headsets are usually in the 90s somewhere ...or low 100s like the HD650 (103) and AH-D2000 (106). So ya I would agree with what you heard. Looks like the Tiamat is over compensating for its low impedance with high sound pressure. Honestly I'm not sure I would even want to hook a amp up to that. Speakers are generally 85db - 95db for sensitivity for another reference point.

I think it is wiser going with a high quality 2/2.1 setup over a medicore 5.1 / 7.1 setup.

#11 bp9801

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 12:25 PM

I think it is wiser going with a high quality 2/2.1 setup over a medicore 5.1 / 7.1 setup.


:withstupid: No question. Plus, if you do get the Xonar Essence, it will only work with stereo setups unless you run optical or find the H6 add-on card on eBay.

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#12 Sindorius

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 01:57 AM

Sounds like I had good information then, thanks guys! Plus I hear Dolby technologies and equivalent Creative Technologies really make true 5.1 or 7.1 headphones unnecessary on top of all the downfalls of the 5.1/7.1 headsets you mentioned above.

After looking at what I can afford (I suppose my budget at this point is like $400 --- much greater than I originally planned! All in the name of sound!) I think I'm going to actually go with the Sennheiser HD 558's and the ZALMAN attachable microphone, since I can get much better quality per dollar out of headphones than any headset and the ZALMAN microphone would do just fine for my purposes. I think I'll still stick to the Asus Xonar Essence ST card because I would really be using my headphones most of the time and my speakers are independent of my sound card (HDMI to the video card. Speakers aren't too important to me).

I just felt like getting the PC 350 for $140 or the PC350 for like $220 would be a waste compared to what I would get out of something like the HD558's which run like $180.