Jul 28, 2013
Greetings, you lovely bunch!

I am in the process of building myself a new funmachine. Unfortunately, I have stalled at the sound setup. Through extensive research, I have established that the following criteria are the most recommendable in order to achieve the best overall sound experience:

  • ■ Avoid headsets (headphones with microphones)
    ■ Avoid wireless
    ■ Avoid USB
    ■ Only stereo headphones (i.e. one speaker per ear)
    ■ Open cup for sound quality (I sit in a quiet environment)
The machine will be used mainly for entertainment purposes – being gaming, video watching, and music listening (in order of importance).

I do not consider myself an audiophile per se – I do, however, value a great atmospheric feeling, accurate 3D positioning, and comfort.

I already plan on getting the Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD4H motherboard. Will its onboard sound (Realtek ALC898) cover my wishes when paired with some good headphones – or should I get a soundcard? And what about an amplifier, a DAC etc.?

Originally, I considered getting the Sennheiser HD 650 as it has garnered much critical acclaim. Unfortunately, momomo6789 wasn’t impressed with its sound stage.

Despite my highest efforts, this leaves me fairly puzzled and in need of your kind help: Which sound setup compliments my computer experience the most without being overkill?

I have a generous budget. All response is, of course, greatly appreciated.
Listen before you buy.
Generally closed cans are better but for gaming opens works fine.
Avoid optical since it can only send compressed 5.1.
The mobo has a headphone amp that can do 600Ω. So that is good for high end headphones. Try it out and it doesn't satisfy then a sound card might be justified.

HiFiman and Stax make great headphones.
For two channel I would recommend connecting a DAC with USB to your rig. Many of these come with headphone amps built in. The price range on these is huge but as a lower middle suggestion you might try the Teac UD-501 (runs about $850). This is the way an audiophile would do it.
As to headphones I would add Grado to your list. They tend to be very musical so for long sessions they are easy on the ears. Bass is there but not bloated or boomy. They have open and sealed models.
If you go for Stax you would need to purchase one of their amplified couplers to connect to a DAC or the PC directly.