Speakers Vs Headphones


Feb 9, 2013
Hello :D

I have just moved and I am finally looking at purchasing either speakers or a decent set of headphones.

The use is main for for gaming (PC XBOX one), music and movies/TV all streamed from my PC. My question is such, do I buy a good set of headphones + a clip on mic OR a set of speaker and a cheap gaming headset.

I have not looked at headsets yet but from what I have read people are mixed between good stereo headsets + mic and quality 7.1 gaming sets. My argument is that gaming headsets lack the ability for music more than stereo for gaming. Although has anyone tried the new Polk gaming headphones?? What sets would you suggest? (400 USD budget for headphones + mic)

As for speakers, I am looking at buying at pair of Polk Rti A1's (480)and a Sony STR-DN840 (665) which I have been quoted for 1100 NZD. As for the accompanying sub, I have yet to decide as it is outside my budget. If I go down the speaker road, this will most likely be my choice.

Any thoughts?
one benefit of headsets (or headphones and clip on mic) is that since they are headphones there isnt sound leakage into the mic. this means that nobody has to hear your music or game sounds and only your voice.

if you chat alot during games you might at least want a cheap set for this.

however, in the long run speakers are better if you dont have to worry about keeping the volume down, waking people up at night and all the other various reasons people get good headphones instead.

you have two options...

go with a hifi/receiver type setup. while costly you can definitely get some good sound. as far as what your options are.... that depends on total budget and if you want surround sound or not. you might be able to find a set like the klipsch hd theater (which includes all 5 speakers and sub) if you dont mind satelite speakers and come in under budget with surround sound or you could go with some decent stereo bookshelf speakers instead and forgo surround.

or go with a speaker set like the z906. the benefit of this is that it would work with both your pc and xb1 and is surround sound. however, its not going to be on par with decent home theater equipment.


personally i went with a surround sound set (photos in signature link) and its great. i do watch many movies so having surround sound was really worthwhile and for music i can set the receiver to external stereo and crank tunes from all speakers.

your call.. just giving you a few ideas.


Feb 9, 2013
In NZ speaker selection can be very limited so finding a Polk retailer by chance was great. I am looking at building up a home theater set starting with receiver and bookshelf then adding. Thing is that I am currently flatting so the opportunity to really use them may be limited (plus lack of room), hence why I was considering the high end headphones until HT is more appropriate in a year or so. I know movies wont be as good with headphones compared to speakers mainly due to the lack of bass "feel" but can anyone comment on movie experience between stereo and surround head phones??

i've got a pair of studio headphones (audiotechnica ath-m50s) and i've used them for movies. they are stereo only and while true that you dont feel bass throughout your body its darn good for headphones.

a good pair of studio headphones can work for gaming (razer has free virtual surround software you can use with them too!!) and music and movies. you will need a clip on mic though.

i dont consider gaming headphones or any of the surround sound headphones to be in the same league though.

i cant comment on the difference between the virtual surround (or just running them in stereo mode) vs true surround headphones since i dont have a pair of real surround headphones and never will.

if you live on a flat and so are quite limited as to volumes.... headphones might be the best

i would suggest a nice decent pair of studio headphones from audiotechnica, grado, sennheiser (be aware sennheisers often arent good for bass though), beyerdyamic and akg.

depending on your selection (you should be able to tell by the ohm resitance level listed) you might need an amplifier for them. for example headphones listed as 35ohm play fine from any source however headphones listed at 200ohm require a good amp. if you want to use them with your xb1 you might need an external DAC anyways (to take the optical signal from your xb1)

however, if you use an external DAC i'm not sure if virtual surround software like the one from razer will work. it should work though if you just used an amplifier. (of course you might not even need an amplifier depending on what headphone ohm level you get)

as for microphones... take a look at modmic (google it) they are microphones which stick to the side of your headphones and are removeable. perhaps not best in class sound however they are easy to use and are removeable not to mention convenient..

if you have any more questions just give a holler.


Feb 9, 2013
I think I will go with a headphone set up of some kind. I don't really want to go into surround gaming sets as they just don't appeal for general music use. I hope to find a store somewhere to test out whatever I plan to buy first! Can you recommend a few good sets of stereo headphones, I have heard the m50s are great. Lets assume 300 USD ish budget.

As for amps, whats the main difference between a sound card and a DAC (what is a DAC? lol) as I have looked at getting a sound card for awhile. Is the DAC just a portable sound card? What are the main advantages of a DAC over a card? DAC's seem to be double the price of the equivelent card.
i listed a bunch of decent brands above.

sorry the only ones i can personally recommend from experience are the m50s (since i own them)

some claim they have a small soundstage... but thats a very hot topic in and of itself. however most agree that for the price they sound really good otherwise.

sound stage = how speakers appear to handle 3d sounds. ie wide would mean that sounds can either sound far away, close, or appear to be moving away. narrow would mean that they appear to be fairly close. the reason why its a hot debate is that quite a bit of this has to do with the input source and not the headphones. also the very meaning of soundstage is hotly contested and in general isnt a thing that is set in stone.

i've had the pair for several years now and i've used them mostly for music however i have a fair number of hours in on them for games and movies and i've really never had any problems with them. i've never heard anything on them which made me think of a limited soundstage either when playing in 3d games.

i'm not going to say they are the best headphones however i will say that they are not bad at all for the price. i will also say that its nice that they require no amp.

DAC= digital analog converter. converts from the digital format (from your pc and other devices) to an analog format needed for speakers.
AMP= amplifier. this boosts the analog signal to levels which can power speakers.

soundcards are basically DAC + AMP on a card inside your computer. there are external soundcards as well.

many dac which are meant for headphones are only stereo output while many soundcards can output 5.1 or more.

a good DAC will cost more than a soundcard. however, it should also be better quality as well.

remember, if you used an external DAC it would need an AMP included (since just a conversion from digital to analog would be like the line out port on your soundcard... which provides not enough power to drive anything)

to be honest there are only two ways i use my headphones. i either use them on the go with portable devices like laptops (using the provided headphone jack and internal onboard sound), my ipod or my phone. or i use them plugged into my receiver on my home system (which basically acts like a large DAC/AMP).

do i notice a huge difference? no. now there IS a difference (bass hits a bit harder, perhaps things are a bit clearer) however if you have decent sources to begin with its not a big deal. now if you had a really bad soundcard it would be a huge deal to use an external dac+amp or an external soundcard.

also of note: the dac+amp combos you buy which are meant for studio headphones are often capable of handling stronger headphones than soundcards (stronger amps inside) so if you bought a 300ohm headphone for example that would be what you would need to handle it (external dac+amp meant for those kinds of headphones)

well unless you buy a high ohm resitance headphone and unless you have a crappy onboard/slot soundcard i think you can do fine with what you have now and just getting decent headphones. you can always buy a slot souncard or dac later (provided you dont use up your whole budget).


we really need a final fantasy 3rd movie by now :p

i had to say it from your avatar.


Feb 9, 2013
I have only watched advent children. What's the other? Enjoyed it. Just googled the first one and the reviews are bad xD.

As for headphones, what ohm rating starts to require an amp? As for sound card, currently just onboard and since I was budgeting 1000+ for speakers I figured why not.

Will have a scan around those brands for headphones but I feel I may come back to the m50s.

Thanks for all you info!!


Feb 9, 2013
Been delving into audio literature for the pass few hours and would love your opinion. So I have decided to buy a set of stereo headphones once I find the right one BUT I may also get a DAC depending on your answer to this question.

Can I run bookshelf speakers from an appropriate DAC? Eg a set of Polk RTi A1's?? Or would I be better just doing with a receiver. I have also read that using a DAC in between your PC and receiver is better?? PC--DAC--Receiver.
advent children was a great movie. the spirits within wasnt terrible but wasnt great either. i happen to own both.

sorry but off the top of my head i cant really give you a set ohm resitance. basically what it comes down to is if you use a headphone too high of a resistance for your amp the volume will be very low (or just a whisper in the case of plugging a 300ohm into a normal pc headphone jack). i would just keep this in mind but not let it swerve you from your decisions.

again, i personally do like my m50s but there are certainly other choices out there. i would look at some hifi or audiophile forums (just google best headphones under $200, best under $300, best under $400 and see what pops up. normally a few posts on audiophile hifi forums show up and you can read through some recommendations.

as for your dac question... no, you can not drive bookshelf speakers directly from a dac (since it has no amp). as for dac models which have an amplifier then it depends on the amplifier however i would have to say that this isnt something that you will likely do unless its a pretty beefy set.

i cannot answer about going PC->DAC (without amp)->RECIEVER and any possible benefits but can say that you wouldnt want to use a DAC (with amp) in that lineup since you would be doubleamping which could distort the signal more. now... that would mean you would need a seperate amplifier to connect to the dac if you used it for headphones. more cost. also the receiver is already a dac + amp + tuner + alot of other things in one box. in other words: i wouldnt bother.

now, heres another wrench thrown into the mess: you CAN use a receiver to power your studio headphones. in fact, thats how i use my headphones when i connect up to my home system (photos in my signature link).

now there are people on audiophile websites who say that it sounds like crap when compared with a decent amplifier and decent dac however often the equipment they recommend is high priced and illogical for budget shoppers. of course there are others who have 600ohm high end headphones who use only old stereo amp/receivers they have laying around and are perfectly content. audiophiles are a very picky lot and have opinions abound they throw around like fact. beware :lol:

how do things sound to me when connected up in this way? a bit better than when on portable sources. so perfectly fine to my ears anyways.

i'm not sure if razer virtual surround (or other surround software) will work properly over a receiver or external dac though. if you care about that it might bare some though and additional research into the matter.


the way i see it you have 3 options.

-use your onboard sound (or get a slot or external soundcard if you wish) and power the headphones that way. this results in zero or limited extra cost. when you hook up a real home theater system you will likely use hdmi out of your video card (bypassing your soundcard) so its a bit of a waste of cash to do too much. you would need to get a cheap headset for your xb1 though.

-use an external dac amp to power the headphones. this would work with your pc and xb1 however you might not get virtual surround on your pc with software (cant say for sure) and when you go to buy speakers and a receiver in the future you wont need this piece for those speakers. you still could use it for headphone sound for your xb1 and pc though so its not a total loss.

-use a receiver to power your headphones. this accepts multi-source as well just like the dac would so it would work with your xb1 and pc. again virtual surround on pc might not work (cant say for sure) however this will be able to be used for your speakers when you buy them. however there are a few risks associated with buying a receiver now instead of when you get your speakers.

*tech could become outdated. for example new video modes could come out, hdmi2 or some other new cable could become the standard, or new sound modes may be released. if you plan on getting speakers in 6 months its fine however if you plan on getting speakers in 1-2 years or more than its not worthwhile to buy a receiver now.

*the amplifier outputs (ohm/watts) need to be sized correctly for your speakers. for example a receiver may output something like 150w at 4ohm, 120w at 6ohm and 85w at 8ohm. speakers are also rated in ohm resistance and maximum wattage. for example if you bought a speaker which needed 80w to drive at 8ohm it would be fine on this receiver however if you bought big tower speakers which required 100-200w at 8ohm you might have trouble. generally bookshelf speakers are 8ohm and around 100w. the polk ones you were looking at are 8ohm at a recommended 20-120w so would play on the receiver however if you wanted more volume i'd suggest something with a beefier amp (something rated at 100w @ 8ohm or a bit more). also to take into account is peaker sensitivity (another thing listed on the speaker spec sheets). basically the higher the sensitivity the power needed to drive them. i know its a bit confusing.


personally i'd say just go with your onboard soundcard if you buy a relatively low resistance pair of headphones (like the m50s) or use a dac+amp (or sometimes some soundcards have a 1/4" jack and support high end headphone dont forget ... look at asus) if you buy some rather high ohm rated headphones.

depends on what you buy.

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