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Audio Noobie Seeking A Professional - Headset Audio Quality - User Error?

Koastie
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Hello everyone,

 

I'm a new member to Linus Tech Tips and was hoping someone may be able to help me with an audio issue I'm having in relation to my PC/Peripheral setup.

 

Backstory:

For the last few years I've been gaming with a Logitech G430 wired Headset. The headset comes with a USB dongle that acts like a external sound card and provides a much more powerful sound when used with the headset. I tried to find the specs on this sound card dongle but couldn't find anything. This headset has been wonderful from an audio quality standpoint (specs below), however I am more than ready to find an equivalent that is wireless and thought I had found it.

 

Retail price: $40.00

Link to the product: https://www.logitechg.com/en-us/products/gaming-audio/g430-7-1-surround-sound-gaming-headset.html#product-tech-specs

This product has been great from an audio standpoint but the wired feature of this product has become quite an issue for me so I went out in the market searching for a wireless gaming headset with similar sound quality.

 

The Goal:

To find a wireless pair of headphones that support 7.1 surround sound for gaming that are of similar quality or better than my existing Logitech G430s.

 

The issue:

 

Now I recently bought a pair of Steel Series Arctis Pro Wireless headset and after plugging everything in, I discovered the sound was considerably weaker than the Logitech G430s, specifically in the bass and overall power. The product comes with an external DAC as well. 

 

Retail Price: $300+

Link to product: https://steelseries.com/gaming-headsets/arctis-pro-wireless
 

 

 This new product is $300+ and much more expensive than my current headset, therefore it's hard for me to believe that the audio quality is poorer than my existing $40.00 pair. I'm not an audio genius so I've come here in hope that someone may be able to enlighten me on whether my problem is due to user error or product limitations.

 

Below is a list of questions:

 

1. Is it possible that the external usb sound card dongle is higher quality than the external DAC provided by the Arctis Pro?

2. Is it possible that my motherboard sound card is being utilized over the DAC? Link to my current motherboard: https://www.asus.com/us/Motherboards/ROG-MAXIMUS-X-FORMULA/specifications/

3. My main issue is the lack of bass (and perceived power) in this new product, can someone explain to me the actual differences in potential audio quality in these 2 products from the specs listed?

4. Do I need to adjust some settings to fix this?

 

If any other information is needed to help diagnose my problem please let me know and i'll be happy to provide that information.

 

Look forward to hearing back from someone.

Thanks!

 

Koastie

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I heavily recommend against  a wireless headset. the Sound quality is appalling regardless of what one you buy and in all is a waste of money. I would personally recommend the hyperX cloud II pro. My friend has one and it is amazing considering its only £70 ($90)

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1. The problem with these virtual 7.1 headsets is that there is SOOO much software processing of the sound. They are NOT actually outputting 7.1 audio (you cannot do this over a standard 3.5mm jack which the logitechs use, neither can you do this with only two drivers, which both headphones have. The audio is processed through software to sort of trick your brain into it sounding more like surround (even though its not, its still two-channel). So the difference is likely in the tuning of the audio processing that each of them use, rather than the DAC itself. Though yes, the USB dac from logitech is likely better than the DAC integrated into the arctis headphones. Although with DACs that cheap, honestly it could go either way, hell they could even have the same DAC chip in them.

 

2. No, DACs output an analog signal, meaning only the device physically plugged into them can recieve it. You can't transfer an analog signal from a DAC in your motherboard to a headset connected via USB. You are definitely using the DAC your headphones are connected to

However, your motherboard's DAC is likely the highest quality of the three.

3. The arctis pro comes with a transmitter box. However this is not a DAC. DACs are always in the end device. Meaning the DAC being used to generate the signal for wireless headphones is always in the headphones themselves. 
The PC outputs a digital signal to the transmitter box, this then transmits data to the headset via one of many various wireless options, and then the DAC inside the headphones converts that to an analog signal and outputs it to the drivers (which generate the sound itself)
The most likely reasons for your experience with poor audio are:


-The audio is compressed (most wireless headsets will compress audio to some extent. Unless you can find one that supports codecs such as aptxHD, which you will NOT find in cheap headsets, let alone gaming headsets
-The headphones are wireless, and so need to use less power. Bass frequencies take the most electricity to produce, and so many wireless headsets are tuned to produce slightly less low-end in order to elongate battery life
-The drivers themselves are just different. Every different headphone has a different frequency response. It could just be that the arctic pros are lacking in low end.

 

4. You could try using some EQ software (or if your headphones software have that built in use that) to increase the bass, but short of that no, not really, you'd need to get a different set of headphones.


Some notes:

 

-Wireless headphones are very convenient, but anyone who is remotely into audio quality will tell you, AVOID them unless you have to. Wireless headsets have many disadvantages, poor quality integrated DACs, compressed audio, and often poorer sound quality additionally because the drivers are made to be much more sensitive (outputting more volume for the amount of power put through them) so that the battery can last longer. Most higher quality headphones will have a low sensitivity and high impedance to avoid this.

For example, high end sennheiser headphones like the HD800S have an impedance of 300 ohms, compared to about 30-50 ohms for most headphones, and you actually have to use an amplifier to power them! (but oh good god do they sound amazing)


I would recommend getting a wired headset if possible, and also, think about avoiding "surround" sound headsets. Virtual 7.1 is a gimmick. There is ABSOLUTELY NO physical difference between a virtual 7.1 headset and a normal pair of headphones. Its all in the software.

If you really want it, the best option would be to get a good set of proper headphones, a modmic, and use Razer Surround to get the virtual 7.1 if you really feel you need it.

Video reviews: https://youtube.com/goldensound Written reviews and measurements: https://goldensound.audio
Current Main Setup: Roon -> HQPlayer -> Intel NUC -> Intona 7055-C Isolator -> Holo Audio May KTE DAC-> Holo Serene KTE preamp -> Benchmark AHB2 / Woo WA33
Most used headphones: Hifiman Susvara, Abyss 1266 Phi TC, Sennheiser HD800-S

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First off thank you so much for the detailed answers. The advice is greatly appreciated. I've always been one to dread being corded but I suppose the tech isn't there yet to justify letting go of the "leash".

 

If wired is truly the way to go, would you recommend one of these two?

 

https://www.amazon.com/Sennheiser-Open-Back-Professional-Headphone/dp/B00004SY4H

 

or

 

https://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-ATH-M50x-Professional-Monitor-Headphones/dp/B00HVLUR86/ref=sr_1_2?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1543942741&sr=1-2&keywords=audio%2Btechnica%2B50mx&th=1

 

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