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Hello friends, today I'd like to talk about an aspect of our glorious systems that get overlooked a lot: our audio experience on our battlestations. Thanks to paoper
for formatting. Again disclaimer that I am an idiot, so take this post with a grain of salt. Better info and more accurate info from people way more knowledgeable than I am is readily available from /audiophile /budgetaudiophile
, this is just a start-up guide for the beginner.
NOTE: The monster I gave birth to has become too long. I felt that instead of a short list of things to order, I needed to give context as high fidelity is really all about what sound is like in your
experience. Also a fun read if you are interested. Feel free to skip to the actual list (ctrl+f active speakers, passive speakers, headphones, subwoofer, amplifier)!
I have limited the price range of the products, because this is after all just food for thought and not even a proper guide; real audio purchases will require elbow-grease and research from your end to see if the product's sound signature will match your preferences in music and sound. If your product is not here, do not worry. I have put in products that I have had experience with and those that were recommended by multiple reviewers I hold in high regard (with the exception of a 2.1 system you will see later), and I had to consider the endless number of headphones/speakers vs the ones that are worth your hard-earned cash (and products vs how they compare to my current setup which includes both "high-end" and budget options).
I've been building systems for myself and others since I randomly took a buildapc course in middle school (currently 28) and enjoy music very much (I grew up on linkin park, dre, biggie smalls, 3 6 mafia, tupac, ac/dc, red hot chilli peppers am fond of electro and dubstep and various genres of music). I have 2 decades of experience playing saxophone, clarinet, and the electric guitar, and have performed in jazz bands, rock bands, and an orchestra. My ear is highly trained from raw musical performance and not just listening to speakers from home, as well as having the nuance to differentiate between good speakers. I have owned many many forms of audio gear (instruments, speakers, headphones, studio monitors).
So wtf is this?
So occasionally while answering questions on this subreddit (mainly on why new builder's systems aren't posting, or what components they should get, or just mourning with fellow builders for systems that have passed on as well as celebrating the birth of new systems and fellow pc builders who take their rite of passage of building their own system with their own two hands) I would come across the occasional "what speakers/headphones are best under $xx" and with the state of pc products being "gaming rgb ultimate series XLR" or w/e, it's hard to discern what audio products are actually worth your money. Note that if you are using just "good enough" cheap speakers, any of the speakers/headphones on this list will blow your mind away. Get ready to enter a new world of audio.
Why should I bother getting better speakers/headphones?
I have owned $20 logitech speakers, I currently own $1500 speakers. I have owned varying levels of headphones. The first half-decent (to my standards) speakers I had was a hand me down stereo set from an uncle. This thing was massive, but this thing was good. It's difficult to explain to you the sensation of music enveloping you with great speakers. Speakers are meant to reproduce sound, as in the sound of the instruments in the song. So great speakers and headphones can literally make you FEEL the music like at a rave or a concert or performance in the comfort of your home. This is why Home Theaters were so popular in the 80s/90s.
Upgrading will GREATLY enhance your music, netflix and gaming experience. In fact with passive bookshelf speakers, you can not only use them for your desktop setup, but also chuck them together with a tv and you've got a fine starter home theater system in your hands. You can even upgrade down the line incrementally, one speaker at a time, to a 2.1, 3.1, 5.1, 5.2, 7.2 Dolby Atmos Home Theater Setup where your movies make you feel like your in SPARTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
I currently live in a small apartment with my TV right next to my battlestation, and when i want to sit down on my couch and watch TV, I simply move 1 speaker from my desk to next to my TV, turn my AVR on and I have an easy 5.1 home theater in my tiny apartment. Move the speaker, revert back to 2.1 (or 5.1 if i choose to but i dont because of badspeaker placement when I'm sitting at my desk) amazingness at my battlestation. Consider this an investment into massively improving your experience
of playing video games, watching netflix, or listening to music. You think those 4k graphics and ULTRAWIDE monitor is giving you more immersion in your game? Shit...having great speakers or headphones can make you feel like you're IN NORMANDY BEACH DURING THE FUCKING LANDINGS
General considerations (or feel free to just skip ahead to the list)
Now, I totally understand using simple logitech speakers due to budget/space/easy-access from best buy or not knowing about the wider audio world. So I am here today to give you a perspective on what audio components are TRULY worth your hard-earned cash. I have owned $20 logitech speakers in college, I have owned guitar amps as well as studio monitors/other speakers ranging from $100-$1500. Do know that all of this information is readily available in /BudgetAudiophile /audiophile
. I am merely condensing all of it into a single list, and attempt to sort of explain it to the pc builders, or just an idiot rambling.
If you would like more information on specific speakers, I would check out reviewers on youtube like zerofidelity, steve guttenberg, nextbigthing (nbt) studios, and thomas and stereo. For headphones, metal751, innerfidelity, Ishca's written reviews, DMS.
Z reviews is okay and he reviews everything from amps and dacs to speakers and headphones, but he gives 90% of his products good reviews, and has affiliate links to every single product he reviews....so you see where my dislike of him as a reviewer comes from. He is still an expert audiophile
, he just chooses to not use his knowledge and ramble on in his videos, plus the shilling. Great place to start for audiophiles, as he is still a professional. I just think many move on to other reviewers.
Also with speakers, speaker placement is extremely important. Get those speakers off your desk and the woofers/tweeters to your ear level NO MATTER THE COST. Stack boxes/books, buy speaker stands/isolation pads from amazon, at worst buy yoga blocks from amazon. Put your speakers on them, get ready for even better audio.
General rule of thumb: dont buy HiFi at msrp. There are ALWAYS deals on speakers/headphones to take advantage of at any given time (massdrop for headphones, parts-express, accessories4less, crutchfield, adorama, Sweetwater, guitar center, etc). Speakers will get cheaper over time as manufacturers have to make room for new products/refreshes of the same models just as with headphones. If theres a particular headphone model you want, check to see if massdrop has it (website where users of the website decide what niche products the website will mass order, and both the website and you the users get reduced pricing).
Now this list is just simple guide. Obviously for $150 budget, theres probably like 10 different speakers to choose from. You will catch me repeat this many many times but sound is subjective, I don't know what genres of music you enjoy and what sound signatures in headphones/speakers you would prefer (warm sounds? bright? aggressively forward? laid back sound signature? importance of clarity vs bass?) So consider this list with a grain of salt, as this is after all, the ramblings of an idiot on reddit.
So I will be splitting this list into 4 categories:
- active speakers,
- passive speakers,
And before I start, bass depth and low end does not fucking equal bad boomy bass. I absolutely detest low quality boomy bass like in Beats headphones and general "gaming speakers" or w/e. Also the budetaudiophile starter package is the dayton audio b652 + mini amp combo from parts-express. All the speakers that were considered were basically compared to the b652 before making it on here (and whether they justified the price bump over the b652)
Active vs. Passive (crude explanation)
So when a speaker plays music from your pc, the audio is processed by the audio card on your motherboard, which is then sent to the amplifier where the signal is amplified, and then finally is sent to be played on your speakers. Active speakers like logitech speakers that have a power cable running from the speakers directly to the wall socket have built-in amplifiers to power the speakers, whereas passive speakers require a separate amplifier to amplify the audio signal and feed the speakers power. Active vs passive, no real difference as both types of speakers will have good audio quality depending on how they are made and which ones you buy, but in the ultra budget section of speakers (under $300) actives tend to be cheaper than their passive counter parts. This is due to the manufacturer cutting corners elsewhere.
Take for instance the Micca MB42X passive speakers($90) which also have a brother, the Micca PB42X ($120) powered speakers. Same exact speaker, but built in amp vs the amp you buy. Obviously the mb42x will sound marginally better purely from the virtue that the amplifier is not inside the goddamn box. But the mb42x + amp + speaker wire will probably cost you anywhere from basic $130 to $200 with difference in amplifier and whether you use bare speaker wire or banana plugs/cables. Cabling aesthetics and management will be greatly affected, with sound quality affected to a lesser degree, or more (but at what cost?). Amp choice to be explained later.
Now generally speakers should be recommended based on your music/audio preferences and tastes as speakers and in a larger part, speaker brands will have their own unique sound signatures that some will love and others will hate as sound is such a subjective experience. But since this is meant to cater to a wide audience, note that my list is not the ALL inclusive, and again is only the ramblings of an idiot.
If you want to add bluetooth capabilities to your wires active or passive speakers, simply buy the esinkin W29 wireless bluetooth module, plug your speakers in, connect to your bluetooth on pc/phone/w/e, enjoy.
Simply connect to your PC or TV via 3.5mm (or the occasional usb).
Note: you may experience a hissing with active speakers that may annoy you to no end even up to the $400 mark. This is a result of the amplifier being built in to the speaker in close proximity, as well as sometimes the manufacturer cutting corners elsewhere. Passive speakers do not have this unless you buy a really shitty amp. Note that while bigger woofer size does not necessarily indicate better quality/bass, this does more often than not seem to be the case as manufacturers put bigger woofers on the higher stepup model.
Note that while I have included 2.1 systems here, I would always recommend you get good bookshelves first, save up money and buy a subwoofer separate.
- Cyber Acoustics CA-3602FFP 2.1 $40. This is the I'm broke af but I need speakers route. 2.1 setup for 40 bucks. We do not have the luxury of options here. Enough said. Amazon
- Okay, for under $100 for good quality active speakers, there really is no other choice here besides Edifier speakers on amazon. In fact, their entire lineup is pretty solid all around ranging from the 980T for $70 to the S350DB which is a 2.1 system with 2 bookshelves and a sub for $300. Differences in the models are basically bigger woofers/tweeters as you go up in price, resulting in better bass performance and clarity (again crude explanation). If you don't want to research much and want simplicity, any of the edifiers are the way to go, with the 1700BT being the goto 2.0, or the 1850db which as a sub-out so you can add in a subwoofer into your setup later.
- Micca PB42X: $120- The active version of the popular MB42X passive speakers. Very good performance for price.
- Mackie CR3/4 $90/$140- Now normally I don't recommend these, but they are okay/meh speakers and have that razer aesthetic going on, and aesthetics are big part of speaker choice, so if you like the black/green color scheme, I guess these are passable.
- Klipsch Pro Media 2.1: $150- the only 2.1 system I'd recommend under $200. The thing about adding in a subwoofer to a 2.1 system under $200 means they have to cut corners elsewhere. This is the main difference of 2.1 systems vs bookshelves. While the subwoofer will allow your music to hit the lower notes in frequency resulting in deeper and more bass, this will usually come at a cost of audio quality in the mid and upper ranges in the music. If you are a BASSHEAD then yeah you probably want a subwoofer, though bookshelves under $200 also have decent bass. Note, ALWAYS BETTER TO BUY BOOKSHELVES AND SUBWOOFER SEPARATELY, but this will be pricier. Klipsch Website Direct or amazon.
- Fluance ai40/ai60: $200/$300- nice looking speakers that come in white and walnut and black that also have good clarity and quality. Their bass is surprisingly okay as they are rated to go a little bit below in the lower frequencies than speakers in similar price. I have listened to these before shortly for 2 hours, and would recommend. IIRC the ai60 has a subwoofer out. Mind the size of the 60s, quite big. Fluance direct or amazon.
- Kanto YU4: $270 Direct competitor to fluance ai series. Comes in white as well.
- Audioengine A2+/A5+ :$270/$400. I have no experience with this lineup, but lots of love/hate dynamic with this brand over on budgetaudiophile. Good and bad thing.
- JBL 305P: $300 - maybe the endgame speakers of this list. These are very famous and respected studio monitors that music artists and producers use often. They are sold $150 per speaker, and you will need to get 2. Hooking them up requires separate cables, as these are standalone speakers with it's own volume control on each speaker. Simplest way is to buy a 3.5mm to dual TS Cable. Set both speakers to same physical volume level via knob, and adjust volume using windows settings (having a volume knob on your keyboard helps immensely here). Or buy a separate in line volume control from amazon ($20 bucks or under) and connect via 3.5mm to rca. Being studio monitors, these are meant to reproduce sound neutrally (they will have no external flavoring like how Beats adds muddy boomy bass to its headphones to use as a bad example) and may not sound alive or bright or to your tastes. They can be demo-ed/tested out at guitar center if you have access to one in this pandemic.
- Logitech G560 RGB Gaming Speakers: $200 (yes, you read that right): Okay, now normally I'd be crucified for recommending a logitech speaker in the other audio forums. But I have used these speakers briefly for about 3 months when I got them cheap from a friend. The sound quality of these satellite speakers are....surprisingly not bad? Might I dare to say that these are even....decent for it's price? Now these are $200 speakers for a 2.1 system. This means that it's either this or Klipsch 2.1. Honestly my vote here goes to the logitechs. I owned the Klipsch promedia 2.1 for about half a year. I can definitely say I prefer the clarity of the logitechs vs the boomy bass of the Klipsch. The subwoofer on the 560 does NOT have its own control knob, so you would need to adjust bass settings through logitech eq. Note, these speakers will not sound good out of the box. You will need to go into the eq settings via logitech software, and change the settings to match your tastes. Honestly the fact that you have to tweak the eq through shitty logitech software to make these sound good is pretty bullshit. Note that I am not recommending the z623/625. Don't get those. I used these in college in my apt in brooklyn, and while boomy bass, I'd definitely go with the B652 + mini amp, klipsch 2.1, or the g560 over the z623/625 FOR SURE.
- Second-hand market: okay, let's say you are determined to get quality speakers but you do not have the budget. Look around on the second hand market for stuff from KRK, Emotiva, Ascend, HSU. Make sure to demo them out for as long as you can until the seller gets pissed (please don't), so that you can test to see if you like the sound.
These speakers will require you to buy a separate amplifier, as well as separate cables. But the passive route allows you to have a modular audio system that allows you to upgrade parts as you go along in your life (yes I said life for once you dip your toes into high fidelity, you will get hooked onto a great lifelong journey searching for the perfect setup), or even just add parts in altogether (like having a miniamp on your desk for your passive speakers, having a separate dac or bluetooth module for your speakers so you can connect the passive speakers via USB or bluetooth wirelessly, stacked on top of a headphone dac/amp combo, stacked on top of a preamp, etc). Amplifier list to follow later.
Passive speaker specs to pay attention to will be their impedance (measured in ohms) and their sensitivity (measured in xx db/1w/1m). Speaker ratings in wattage are measurements of how much power can be driven to them (higher watts, higher volume...once again crude explanation). A 20 watt x 2 channel amp (measured in 4 ohms) is enough to power 4 and 6 ohm speakers rated at 100 watts to moderate/decently loud listening levels on your desktop. Now the sensitivity thing. A speaker with a rating of 85db/1m/1w means it will produce 85 decibels of noise at 1 meter with 1 watt of power. Now this not linear....to make the same speaker go up to 90 decibels may require 10 or 15 watts of power depending on other variables. Depending on how loudly you play your music and what impedance/sensitivity your speakers have will result in your choice of amplifiers. More on this later.
The thing about passive bookshelf speakers are that you can use them in your desktop setup, AND with your TV as a legitimate starter 2.1 home theater setup (which you can upgrade to 3.1, and then 5.1/5.2, just buy a used receiver from craigslist for 50 bucks, ez)
What you will need for passive setup:
Note that passive speakers and amp require you to purchase speaker wire
separately (fairly cheap) and strip them (youtube video will guide you, very easy). Or if you like clean cable management and easy setups, banana plug cables
from amazon will set you straight, and while these banana plugs and cable are nice and PURELY OPTIONAL, they will add up in cost as your buy more of them for frankenstein 2.1 cabling. Also a 3.5mm to rca cable
will be required. The connection will be your pc -> 3.5mm->rca->amp->speaker wire-> speaker wire->speaker. (replace speaker wire with banana plug if going that route). Subwoofer connection will be explained in subwoofer section.
- Dayton audio b652+ mini amp combo on parts-express for $60/70. Two combos, two separate mini amps, one from lepai (china) and one from dayton. Same shit. It LITERALLY does not get better than this for under $100, maybe even $150. CHIEF THIS IS IT, i cannot stress this enough. This is the budgetaudiophile 101 starter pack. I'd recommend these over the active Mackies, Edifiers (up to the 1700), and any and all logitech/creative pebble/cyber w/e EVERYTHING systems (except for the g560). These are very BIG speakers and hence will deliver good sound and good bass due to its big woofers. If you have less than $100 to spend on the ENTIRE audio setup, go get these and speaker wire/banana plugs no questions asked. gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
- Dayton Audio B652 AIR $70- The difference between the AIR and the normal 652 is in the tweeter. The AIR tweeter on this speaker costs as much as the entire b652 speaker. This tweeter upgrade gives even more clarity and quality in the treble range (middle upper sound frequency). The next best thing for under $100, though doesn't come with the mini amp combo.
- Sony SSCS5 Bookshelf Speakers. $150 msrp, $120 on amazon/bestbuy until recently, and sometimes goes on sale for $75. These are 3 way speakers with woofer, tweeter and supertweeter. The strength of these speakers lie in its unmatched clarity in the highs and upper mids. I still have these in my collection, and VERY WORTH though my opinion of these is skewed as I got them for $75/pair. If you appreciate bass, you will need to add a subwoofer with these (or generally any speaker below $500....some people would say you cant listen to music on bookshelves without subwoofer) as they sound a bit thin compare to the b652s (a bit less bass because smaller woofer) but better sound quality (though this is just my SUBJECTIVE thought after listening to the cs5s and b652s). These have 5 in woofers and have okayish small form factor.
- Micca MB42X $90- the passive version of the powered PB42X in the active list. The difference is between the amplifier built into the PB42X vs the one you're going to buy separately to power the MB42X. Obv the MB42X route is going to be better because the amplifier in the PB42X will be shit compared to the one you're going to buy ($30/50/75/150 options to follow later)
- Micca RB42X $150 - Amazing small size speakers. For under $200, either this or the cs5s. The rb42s have a bit more bass.
- Elac Debut 5.2/6.2 ON SALE NOW FOR $230/250. GET EM WHILE IT LASTS. Normally $280/350. These are speakers highly acclaimed by many of the speaker reviewers I consider the best (imo zerofidelity, steve guttenberg, nextbigthing (nbt) studio, thomas and stereo). Great bass, warm sound signature. Just go, what are you waiting for. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
- Q Acoustics 3020/3030i $230/400. Highly acclaimed by reviewers, look VERY NICE in white, and have a warm sound signature with lots of bass clarity and bass depth. These speakers are big, which is why they have great bass. Check the dimensions. Their size is the only downside to these fantastic speakers.
- PSB Alpha P5 $400: Great speakers for nearfield listening, aka at your desk, excels in this department more so than the other speakers (better at low volume, etc). Just all around amazing. Get these if the Q Acoustics ones are too big.
- Triangle BR02/03 $450/550. Coming from across the atlantic, these french speakers made a splash last year destroying its competition in the below $1000 range. Highly acclaimed to the point where some see them as overrated (too much hype out of nowhere in such little time). If you have the space in your setup as well as in your wallet for these, they are the way to go. Comes in black, walnut, white.
- Obligatory Klipsch R15/R51/RP600 post: you've heard of klipsch. They're widely available audiophile speakers, and so sometimes get the "overrated" hyped up treatment. They are good speakers but their have their own unique aggressively forward sound signature with the horn style tweeter. These were designed to make you feel like you're at the rock concert direct, may not be for everyone (much so not for me).
Okay here is where we need to get into specific numbers. Active speakers have built-in amplifiers so they are exempt. But passive speakers will require separate amps and so you will need to pay attention to certain specs. In speakers you will need to pay attention to their impedance (measured in ohms) and their sensitivity (measured in xx db/1m/1w). The typical mini amplifier will be class D (small form factor amps for desktop use) and their wattage per channel will be usually expressed in 4ohms. Take for instance the popular SMSL SA50. This is an amp that delivers 50 watts to its 2 channels, rated at 4 ohms. Speakers will have impedance of 4, 6, or 8 ohms usually. 50 watts at 4 ohms can be 25 watts at 8 ohms, but is probably more like 20 watts at 8 ohms, refer to product specs for specific wattage ratings at specific ohms. Speakers with high sensitivity (85-95 db/1w/1m) that have 6 ohm impedance are easier to drive with lower wattage.
But here's the thing, an the smsl sa50 will not deliver 50 CLEAN watts. Somewhere in the 30-40w range distortion will start to appear. But for reference, 30 clean watts is enough to drive sony cs5s to uncomfortably loud levels in an apartment (the whole apt, not just your room) so listening on your desktop, you only really need 10-15 clean watts (only after turning up your preamp input to maximum volume, which in this case is your youtube/windows10 volume level). Do note that if you have the space, a used $60 AV Receiver that will just shit out watts and have 5.1 surround will be the best, but these things are massive.
- Lepai 2020ti (LEPAI and not Lepy be wary) $25. 20 watts in 2 channels. Budget
- SMSL SA36 $62: SMSL's 2x20w.
- SMSL SA50 $72: The most bang for buck amp that's also decent. 2x50watts.
- Topping MX3 $130: Speaker amp, headphone amp, dac rolled into one. Allows for your speakers and headphones to be connected via USB and Bluetooth.
- SMSL AD18 $150: SMSL's answer to the MX3. This one is probably the goto. It's got 2x80w at 4ohms, has USB connection, has subwoofer out, has bluetooth connection, headphone amp, coaxial and optical connection.
If you need more watts than the AD18, you're gonna need to get a class a/b amp that just shits out watts for cheap, or get a used av receiver. If you want a new one, the best budget option is the DENON AVR-S540BT 5.2 channel AVR from accessories4less.
Good subwoofers are expensive, and cheap subwoofers will hurt your listening experience rather than improve it (muddy boomy shitty bass). Your best bet may be to simply find a used subwoofer from craigslist or offerup, just dont get the polk audio PSW10
, this is a very common sub you see on the 2nd hand market, because it is a shitty sub and so people get rid of it. Now as to whether you need a subwoofer. If you are in a dorm, don't get a subwoofer. Because.... if you live in a dorm, do not get a fucking subwoofer
. Now if you live in a small apartment, fear not, proper subwoofer management will save you noise complaints. A good subwoofer will produce good quality low end you can hear and feel without having to turn up the volume. You want to look at the subwoofer's lowest frequency it can go to. That will show you how "tight" the bass will be. Now, low volume levels on a good sub will produce that bass for you without vibrating your walls (though subwoofer and speaker isolation as well as PLACEMENT (refer to the sub-crawl) will do more for getting the most sound out of your speakers without having to turn up the volume....and just turn off the sub after a reasonable time)
Now as to how to add a subwoofer to your system will depend on what setup you have and the available connections. If your speakers or amplifier has a subwoofer output, simply connect that to your subwoofer, set the crossover freuency (the frequency at which the subwoofer will start making sound) to 80hz, or lower depending on how low of a frequency our bookshelves can go down to.
If your speakers/amp do not have a subwoofer out, you will need to find a subwoofer that has high level speaker inputs
. You will need to connect your bookshelves to the speaker outputs on the subwoofer via speaker wire/banana plugs, and then run speaker wire/banana plugs from the subwoofer input to your amplifier, ending with rca to 3.5mm connection to your pc.
- Dayton Audio SUB-800 $100: The cheapest one, don't go any cheaper. Enough said. Get from parts-express. If you need cheaper, 2nd hand market.
- Dayton Sub-1000 $120: The bigger brother. This thing is 10 inches, be prepared for a BIG box sitting in your room.
- Bic Acoustech PL-200 $300: Has good bass, goes down to 22hz. Very good bang for buck "good" subwoofer. A BIG step up from the daytons.
- SVS SB-1000 $500: Bassssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.
Okay, I keep saying headphones and not headsets right. But you ask, Kilroy, you're an idiot. You're posting on buildapc for PC gamers and builders but you're talking headphones and not headsets. How idiotic are you? Pretty big, but friends hear me out. Now I used to live in South Korea, where PC Bangs (internet cafes) set the nation's standards for computers. All the places had to get the best bang for the buck pc gear to stay in business and remain competitive (all 100 computers at these places had like i5-6600k and gtx 1080 in 2015 or something I don't remember, along with mechanical BLUE SWITCH FUCCCCCCKKKKKKKK (imagine 100 blue switch keyboards being smashed on in a small underground area in Seoul) keyboards and decent headsets.
So I have tried MANY MANY different headsets, here is my conclusion. Just get proper headphones and get either get an antlion modmic, or V-MODA Boompro mic both available on amazon. (short list of mics later) or get proper headphones and usb mic. Okay, I have seen the headphone recommendation list, and the only one I would give any (if at all) weight to in the usual pc websites that our subreddit goes to, is the list from rtings. These guys mainly measure monitors and tvs (very well might i add) but the writer for their audio section is lacking it seems.
Please dont get Astro AXX headphones or corsair rgb xxxxxx w/e. Please for the love of god, take your good hard earned cash and get yourself a NICE pair of cans my fellow PC users. The mic part is secondary as GOOD headphones will forever change your PC using and music listening experience FOREVER
The TWO EXCEPTIONS that I have observed to this rule are the Hyperx Clouds and Cooler Master mh751/752.
- Hyperx Cloud CORE/1/2/ALPHA (please find prices on amazon). So these headphones are a rare instance of when a gaming branded pair of headphones was actually a good no bullshit product. These are hyperx reskins of OEM Takstar Pro 80, a pretty damn good pair of cans from china for under $50 (no longer available on aliexpress but Seoul had a SHIT load of these) with a mic attached to it. Chief, this is it. Reasonably good audio quality from headphone drivers for their price, and you get a mic for discord needs.
- Coolermaster MH751/752 $90/110. Now beware, on amazon there are the mh630/650/670 series headphones that are in the same...product "selection" styling part of the product page. Do NOT GET THESE, these are the typical bullshit gaming branding and are pretty bad. Now, the mh751 and 752s are coolermaster's copycat of the hyperx clouds. They are coolermaster reskins of the Takstar pro 82, another good pair of headphones. I cannot comment on this one, as I have not used either the takstar variant nor the cm variant. But the pro 82s are just as good as the 80s. If i had to guess, different styling (headband) and maybe slightly different sound signature. Difference between the 2 is the dac (the block thing in between your headphones and the wires to your pc). The dac the mh752 is most likely inferior to the dac on your mobo's build-in soundcard. Get the 751, unless you have a laptop, then the 752's dac may be better.
- Audio-Technica ath-m40x $80: You may have heard of the ath-m50/x. Now these headphones are looked down on, on the headphone forums or reddit. The m40/x is the bass reduced, aka the neutral version of the m50x for cheaper too. Great headphones for under $100. Now, I have owned the m50 waay back, and I think if you enjoy bass, then go for it. After all, they are YOUR fuckin pair of headphones and ears, who are others to say shit?
- Sony MDR7506 $100: I remember these were $75, but I guess everything changed when the coronavirus attacked. Anyway, these are the venerated mdr7506, the industry standard for headphones in the professional audio/music industry. Great quality, cheap price. They just, dont have anything going on in the looks department. These are it for pure price/performance.
- BeyerDynamic DT770 (32, 90, 250 ohms) $150: Amazing pair of cans, very comfortable. 32 ohm version if simply plugging into your motherboard. The higher ohm versions may require separate headphone amp. Generally more amps=better audio quality, but differences are NEGLIGIBLE to nonexistent with low output amps (this is like the difference in sound of the same 100w speaker powered by a $30 smsl amp vs a $5000 Mcintosh amp at the same volume levels, very subtle and small but it's there)
- HiFiMAN HE4XX $160: Simply amazing. Open back planar headphones.
- Sennheiser 650/6xx from massdrop/660 $220-$400. The legendary series of headphones from sennheiser. Highly venerated.
- HifiMAN DEVA with Bluemini Receiver $300: Interesting set of open-back planar headphones that came out recently that also allow for usb connection, as well as 3.5mm, but the bluetooth function is a separate module (with a built-in mic) that you connect to the side of the headphones. So it's actually a wired set of planar headphones, but the separate bluetooth module also allows for wireless connection. The module only has enough battery for 5ish hours, so while that is charging you will have to use the wired connection. This is a usb dac/amp/bluetooth module rolled into one. Very stylish and interesting design.
- Audeze Mobius $400: "Gaming" wireless headphones from Audeze, a high end audiophile grade planar magnetic headphone manufacturer. If those words don't mean anything to you, these are wireless headphones with a detachable mic made by an extremely respected audiophile headphone manufacturer. If you want wireless headphones, I would also suggest these or the hifiman deva. These are closed-back headphones vs Hifiman's open back. These headphones also have an onboard dac for usb/3.5mm/bluetooth connection.
Now obviously, there's other choices. A metric fuck load of them. But I had to account for how much you should be paying (price range) for upgrades in sound quality and performance.
Example options (Wireless headsets)
Okay. Wireless headsets, now let's think why do you need a wireless headset? Do you want to walk around your house while on discord? Maybe you want to keep the headset on while having to afk real quick for a smoke break or whatnot.
- TaoTronics 5.0 Bluetooth transmitter+receiver unit $30. It's a small device that can either A: give your non-bt PC bluetooth capabilities by acting as a receiver, or give your wired headphones wireless connectivity to your pc by acting as a transmitter. This thing is battery powered (like a wireless gaming headset) up to 10 hours. You just plug your wired headphones in, put the thing in your pocket and leave your pc.
- See Hifiman Deva above.
- Still here? Fine then. Steelseries artis 7. I put this....thing on this list mainly for true wireless headset inclusion. Still would recommend other headphones.
- Other wireless recommendations: Sennheiser pxc 550 and Sony wh1000xm2 and Bose QC35.
HEADPHONE AMP/DAC (digital to analogue converter)
My knowledge/experience with headphone amps and dacs are...extremely lacking, I'm more of a speaker guy. But, here is a list for you guys.
- Fiio E5/6 $15/25- portable, tiny, budget headphone amp.
- Fiio E10 $55- bang for buck
- SMSL M3 $85 - has usb and spdif connections and line out rca. good starter dac/amp combo.
- Schiit Magni $99- probably the most popular one here. This will drive anything but the most power hungry of headphones. The Schiit stack with the Magni and the Modi is the goto stack for small form factor amp+dac.
- Micca Origen G2 $110 - DAC/amp combo that has usb and fibre, and has a switchable pre-out for powered speakers. Accepts 3.5mm and 1/4''
- V-MODA BoomPRO $30: this is a mic with a 3.5mm that plugs in to your headphones that have a removable cable, simple.
- Antlion modmic $50: yes the modmic. You've probably heard of this.
- Fifine K669B condensor mic $46: simple mic on a stand that plugs in via usb. Imo has better recording quality than Blue snowball.
- Blue Snowball $57: Yes, you've most definitely heard of this.
Other mics? Yes, but are they worth the extra $$ for marginally better audio recording? You decide.
Cool. Stay safe in these dark times brothers. Have a glorious day.
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