Sound Blaster Z's SBX Pro vs Xonar STX's higher SNR choice

ashish18

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Feb 20, 2014
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Hello everyone.
Kindly, I need help. There is this troublesome decision that bothers me.

I am a headphone dude. I currently have a Senn HD 598 SE headphone and Xonar U3 sound card. I can't buy Sound Blaster ZxR due to availability issue. Creative doesn't deliver in my country and other website prices are quite high. I also never bought from abroad before.

I wanted these two things: Virtual surround in games (for pinpoint accuracy) and movies, and highest SNR possible.
I don't know why I find Xonar's Dolby Headphone echoey and inaccurate even after testing a lot. I dislike it as it doesn't help. I read good about Creative's SBX Pro so I want to give it a try.
And I also read about higher SNR values for better sound. My U3 has only 98dB SNR. I don't know what to expect with these features and upgrades. I neither practically experienced SBX nor higher SNR cards. Just read online.

So that's why. Should I give Dolby Headphone another try with Essence STX this time and regret about SBX Pro later? Or rather get Sound Blaster Z and regret about higher SNR of STX (124 dB) compared to Creative's 116 dB?

This is the dilemma. Please help anyway you can. What are your opinions? Thanks.
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
depends on the persons ears, the headphone used and the material being played.

there is not as much of a noticeable difference on the dac end. where the biggest difference lies is the amplification.

for instance you will notice poor quality most on highly detailed bright cans while others may smooth out the imperfections. you will notice poor amplifiers most on high impedance low sensitivity cans or those that require significant draw for bass output. you will get that anemic bass, metallic or low volume symptom in such cases.

i know for a fact that onboard audio can not handle certain headphones and that a decent amplifier is needed. i also know for a fact that some onboard audio suffers from crackles, pops and buzz. the review does not account for this nor any other such variables.

its an interesting read but needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

i for instance can notice a fairly significant difference between poor devices and decent ones and i'm not even an audiophile. as i said before, it depends on how good your ears are, how detailed your cans are and what audio you play.

there are of course huge diminishing returns on $/value once you go above a certain value. a $1000 product is not twice as good as a $500 product.
 

sizzling

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I'm not going to suggest which soundcard is better as I'm unsure but 'Pinpoint accuracy' and 'Virtual Surround Sound' are contradicting terms. Virtual surround sound even at its best is vaguely directional when compared to a true surround sound setup. Even headsets with multiple drivers such as the Tiamat 7.1's only give a vague directional sound
 

ashish18

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Even if it is vague directional sound I believe one method is better than another. I can't invest in real surround sound yet so if I can get a better virtual directional sound (which I haven't ever tried with SBX Pro) I would rather try it atleast. I might like it. I might not.
 

sizzling

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Agree its worth trying but just manage your expectations. I've tried many headsets and found the Tiamat 7.1's driven by Asus Pheobus as the best but they still fall very short of real surround sound.
 

anonymousdude

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You don't really need to be worrying about SNR. Higher SNR doesn't equal better sound. It does mean that if you're hearing a hissing sound through your headphones it could be alleviated with better SNR. Anyways if you don't like Dolby Headphone then I wouldn't try it again. It's software so the effect of the sound card should be minimal. You could also try Razers surround software. It's free so there's no risk.
 

ashish18

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Yup. Of course real surround is totally better. But thats why they cost a lot!
 

ashish18

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I didn't like Razor surround as well. Keeping that in mind I think if better sound card can improve sound detail, bass and especially soundstaging of my HD 598 then both Razer and Dolby Headphone might get significantly better in virtual surround experience. This is what I am not sure of. I only experienced DH surround of my U3 yet which doesn't really amplify my headphone for better soundstaging. It also doesn't even have a more than average DAC.

 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
SNR does not mean better sound. it only means that there is less self noise. while this is a good thing its not going to be a big deal once you get over the 'i dont hear any self noise' of even cheaper units.

now, quality components and better dac components can make headphones sound better however whether or not you can notice over a cheaper product really depends on your own ears and the headphones you have. the more detailed the headphones and the better your ears the more you may notice.

real surround sound headphones does not mean they actually sound better at surround. in fact, many people state that they have dead zones and arent a smooth surround experience. honestly its a gimmick and if anything multiple smaller lower quality drivers are not going to sound as good as two higher quality drivers. think about lining your room with cheap crappy speakers instead of with two good ones. while one may sound a bit better (subjective..) on surround overall sound quality will not be as good.

if you do not like dolby virtual nor razer virtual chances are you may not like sbx/cmss3d (creative) as well and certainly will still dislike it even if you bought a higher end card. dolby headphone is dolby headphone regardless of device. all virtual is distorted from the true audio stream to make it seem like sound is coming from different distances or directions. there are certainly cases where with well coded games that running without it is actually better than with it although this is also due to your own preferences. look at the videos linked at the top of http://www.head-fi.org/t/534479/mad-lust-envys-headphone-gaming-guide-3-18-2016-mrspeakers-ether-c-1-1-added and see if you like cmss3d (which is the precursor to sbx).

the hd598 does respond well to amplifiers though it really does not need one. any decent amplifier (such as on decent soundcards or external amplifiers) will bring out a bit more bass on the hd598. keep in mind that i say a bit.. they are not bassy headphones and if anything are fairly neutral and laid back.
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
depends on the persons ears, the headphone used and the material being played.

there is not as much of a noticeable difference on the dac end. where the biggest difference lies is the amplification.

for instance you will notice poor quality most on highly detailed bright cans while others may smooth out the imperfections. you will notice poor amplifiers most on high impedance low sensitivity cans or those that require significant draw for bass output. you will get that anemic bass, metallic or low volume symptom in such cases.

i know for a fact that onboard audio can not handle certain headphones and that a decent amplifier is needed. i also know for a fact that some onboard audio suffers from crackles, pops and buzz. the review does not account for this nor any other such variables.

its an interesting read but needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

i for instance can notice a fairly significant difference between poor devices and decent ones and i'm not even an audiophile. as i said before, it depends on how good your ears are, how detailed your cans are and what audio you play.

there are of course huge diminishing returns on $/value once you go above a certain value. a $1000 product is not twice as good as a $500 product.
 

ashish18

Estimable
Feb 20, 2014
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Thats what I was looking for. I found a review that claimed Sound Blaster z and zxr dont have any significant difference in sound quality. ZxR is comparable to STX. So Sound blaster z is the winner.

But... I opened my pc case and discovered that the only PCIE x1 slot I have is covered by my huge GTX 970. Only available slot is PCI one.

I will try to get my hands on Sound BlasterX G5. Its external sound card but its availability is not good at my place.

Thanks. :)
 

ashish18

Estimable
Feb 20, 2014
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Thanks for your suggestions. I can buy Sound BlasterX G5. :)
 
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