Best Amp/Sound Card for Sennheiser HD700 (gaming)

May 17, 2018
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Hello everyone. I've recently purchased a pair of Sennheiser HD700s as an entry into HiFi audio headphones. For many years I've relied on crappy "gaming" headphones that have always left me disappointed, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy how these HD700s sound. I do love my music, but I love to game too. I was wondering if anyone had any advised Soundcards or external AMP/DACs that would work nicely with these headphones. They perform quite well with my basic on-board audio (in comparison to my crappy headphones I used to to use) when it comes to music, but for anything gaming they seem sub-par. They have boosted treble (so certain weapons are too loud) and low sounding footsteps. I could tell the moment I bought them that I'd have to switch between these headphones and my old headset to get be the competitive gamer I am, but I realized it's something I can probably avoid.

I'm a novice when it comes to anything audio, so all that I know is that I'd like to use these headphones for both competitive gaming and music. With the low quality headphones I've used thus far, even the on-board audio I have now is better for listening to music. My only goal for now is to figure out how to make these more applicable for gaming within my current $300-ish budget. I can stretch that figure a small bit if need be.

I've already looked into the Asus Essence STX ii and it's 7.1 daughter board, but to be frank I'm not knowledgeable at all when it comes to these sorts of things. I have no idea what I should be looking for in terms of specs, I just know that a sound card meant for gaming sounds really nice for me. I have a very small desk and small room for anything external, so I'd naturally prefer an internal card, but if the external is high enough quality I'd be fine with stretching things a bit. I'd also like any information on the Essence that you could share, because I wasn't able to find any sort of detailed review on how it performs with these headphones. It just seems like a lot of people have them and that they are highly rated. I've seen a few mentions of HD700 owners having them, so my hopes for them are high.

Thank you for your time and input.
 

anort3

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The STX II is a good start if you're after both gaming and music. The amp and DAC sections are both quite good. I have an original STX that's been going strong for almost 8 years now.

You don't need the one with a 7.1 daughterboard unless you're plugging in 7.1 speakers.

That being said the HD700s are good enough that you can go full hifi with them if you want to spend the money. To really upgrade the STX II sound quality you'd be looking at least $200 and up for an amp and $100 and up for a DAC though. Anything cheaper and the STX competes and the STX has virtual surround for gaming.

I haven't heard the 700s but by all accounts they have amazing soundstage and are probably great for gaming.
 
May 17, 2018
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Hello there :) So the 7.1 daughterboard would be pointless without 7.1 speakers? I was under the impression that it provided 7.1 surround sound for headphones, but I may have been mistaken as I'm unfamiliar with most things Audio. As for your previous statement, were you saying I'd need to spend an additional $300-ish dollars PLUS the STX, or were you referring to the initial $200 for the STX + a DAC. Apologies, but you confused me a bit with how you stated that. Thanks again for your time.
 

anort3

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Right the daughterboard is for speakers. You can get the cheaper STX II that doesn't have that board.

I'm saying to get separates that are better than the sound quality of the STX II is going to be $300+. The STX II is as good as the typical entry level desktop amp/DAC recommendations which fall in the $200-$250 range.

HD 700s are quite good. I'm not sure how they scale with better equipment but spending double or even triple your budget on a good amp and DAC wouldn't be crazy. The STX II would give you a good start and let you decide for yourself if investing more is something you'd want to do in the future.

I still use my STX for gaming even though I now have better sources that I use for music. The virtual surround is great.
 
May 17, 2018
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Thank you for your assistance. I have one final question/favor to ask you. Would you mind telling me exactly how many open slots I'll need for the card? Is it just a singular pcie slot? Because my motherboard is pretty cluttered with dual gpus and water cooling. I can go into my BIOS to check what slots are filled and which ones aren't, but I want to be sure that I have room for it before ordering. I think I've decided to go with the STX II for now, I believe it'll be a decent starting point. Oh, and also, I saw something on the reviews saying that it isn't compatible with "am4" slots whatever that is. Will that be a bother for me, or is that only for dated motherboards. I'm currently using a "Z170A GAMING M9 ACK" Mobo, I'm pretty sure I don't have whatever an "am4" slot is, but I'd like to be sure. I think it has something to do with amd, and I use Nvidia.
 

anort3

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See the 3 short black slots?

https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/Z170A-GAMING-M9-ACK/Gallery#lg=1&slide=0

Those are PCI-E x1 slots. The card goes in any of those 3 and it's single slot. It will need a 4pin MOLEX power cable from your computer's power supply to power the amp.

You'll plug the headphones directly into the headphone out on the card.


Oh and yeah you have an Intel system. Same generation as me. I also have a Z170 ( 6700k ) board.
 
May 17, 2018
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Apologies for the late response. Here is my current setup, I only have the middle slot open, but because of how large my dual 1080s are, I'm worried that it won't fit. Do you think this will work? The smaller slot under it is currently taken by an m2 drive as well (if you look closely). Do you think I'll be able to fit it there?


 
May 17, 2018
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Apologies for the late response again. I went ahead and ordered the STX II. Thank you for your help.
Do you have any advice or instructions on proper installation of soundcards? Mine will be arriving tomorrow, I've read up that you have to disable on-board audio and whatnot in the bios, but any detailed instructions you could give me would be appreciated. Thanks again :)
 
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