What Do You Use to Listen?

Rory Buszka

Partition Master
Hey, everyone, Rory here.

As Techgage's resident audio geek supreme, I get to play with an assortment of cutting-edge PC audio gear, and I firmly believe that the PC-bound audiophile has never had it so good when it comes to their options for a truly great-sounding audio system for their computer.

I'm curious to know where our forum members stand when it comes to their audio gear choices.

I'll go first:

My Main PC

Source: Digitally-transported CDs, FLAC files, >128kbps WMAs (from Napster subscription service), played back via the foobar2000 player and Windows Media Player 11.

Audio Card: ASUS Xonar D2/PM -- the absolute finest PC audio card I've ever heard, and still an incredible value at its price. Not to mention more input/output features than you can shake a Toslink cable at.

Speakers: Cambridge Soundworks MicroWorks II -- they won't move the earth under your feet, but I don't think you can find more musicality for $150 while preserving some semblance of bass extension. I also appreciate their space-saving design, since they've got to live on the same desk as my dual 22" dell monitors. These speakers are still my value pick at the price point, even though I've had them for about two years now.

Headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 770 2005 (250-ohm) -- These headphones combine a powerful yet textured bass range with an extended, admittedly 'bright' (though not unrefined) treble range, making them a decent closed-back headphone for music listening, with a knack for revealing hidden detail. Their 250-ohm impedance makes them difficult to drive, but the ASUS Xonar D2 can muster up voltage swings of 5.0 volts on its outputs, so I've been able to avoid investing in a dedicated headphone amplifier for some time now. I may yet add one to the signal chain, out of curiosity alone.

A couple more notes: For the last year and a half, my main PC has been connected to a multichannel A/V receiver via the Toslink output of a sound card -- first the Razer Barracuda AC-1, and then the Xonar D2. That A/V receiver has been in turn connected to a pair of two-way high-fidelity main speakers and a 500W powered subwoofer that's flat to 20 Hz in-room. That's why I've been able to hang onto the Cambridge Soundworks MicroWorks II speaker system, despite them being a little, uh...pedestrian. I've got a project in the works to explore some more refined audio from my main PC, and outfit it with a speaker system that's a little less compromised.

My Laptop System

DAC, Speakers: Logitech Z Cinema* -- These speakers let me get better sound out of this laptop than I could ever dream of getting from its built-in audio, thanks to their built-in multichannel USB DAC. Though they can be fairly heavy-handed at times, they still have a rich, satisfying full-range sound thanks to their two-way satellites with textile-diaphragm dome tweeters.

*Note that my laptop system has presently been replaced by a review sample of an audiophile-level PC audio package that includes a stereo integrated amplifier with built-in USB DAC and matching single-driver loudspeakers. The review of that system will be very shortly forthcoming. (Addendum: The review has been posted. Check out my review of the NuForce Icon-1 and S-1.)

Now it's your turn. What equipment do you use at the PC for your musical and cinematic enjoyment?
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The Tech Wizard
Computer: 1 In living room
Q9450 Quad core
EVGA780i mobo
Storage system Synology NAS 207 2 Terabite Hitachi Deskstar( music files, mp3 and video files ) I use one source for both computers, as well as a Compaq Laptop for remote listening.
The EVGA has optical out which goes to a Kenwood 7.1 Surround system. ( Awesome sound )
As well as the Triton AX360 headphones ( for editing and gameing late at night )
I also do sound/video editing on the same system ( Sony Vegas 8 Platinum ) and virtual Dub.

Cpmputer 2: in computer room
E8400 Dual Core
EVGA 780i mobo
Audigy2 Z sound card
Klipsch 5.1 Surround speakers
Connected to the NAS Server for music/video files.
Dlink N Router

:techgage: Merlin :techgage:


The Tech Wizard
ASUS Xonar D2/PM

I see three different cards from Asus.

ASUS Xonar DX 7.1 Channels PCI Express Interface Sound Card


ASUS Xonar D2X 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Express Interface Sound Card

And yours

ASUS Xonar D2 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Interface Ultra Fidelity Sound Card with Complete Dolby/DTS Sound Technologies

Other than price you prefer the PCI over the PCI express?



Techgage Staff
Staff member
While reading/typing, currently listening to: http://www.last.fm/music/Jonathan+Elias?autostart=1

Well, up till a little while ago I used HD Azalia courtesy of AC97... which surprisingly or not offered a tangible audio difference over the AC97 setup on my first Abit IS7 motherboard.

I use the ASUS DX and a set of Logitech Z-5300 5.1 speakers, which are analog only. Quality could always be better but for me this is studio quality sound and I'm really happy with it. Enough so that I am now paying attention to bit-rates for mp3s and radio stations I enjoy, and do go for lossless files where possible. Speakers were an impulse buy thanks to the bargain bin at the local AAFEs that was a rare, but really good deal I couldn't pass up.

For headphones for the longest time I used KOSS UR-30 closed-ear stereophones. They gave real depth to the sound while preserving the treble, and made my Altec Lansing desktop speakers sound bad despite using the same poor AC97 output.

I still have the rather worn down replacement set I got thanks to their lifetime warranty coverage, and just never have found anything good enough to replace them with. Also partly because I no longer have a need for them, my new sound setup sounds just as good now and my system is located in my bedroom, so gaming is a nonissue as far as noise is concerned.

I figure I'll some day grab a set of good quality noise-canceling stereophones such as the Sennheiser PXC-450, except those are just a tad outside of my price range. ;) If/when I ever need something beyond the portable Sony earbuds I'll consider something like those, assuming a good discount comes along for them!

Merlin, I'd say go PCIe... one, because so little things use those slots anyway, and second because PCI slots are dimenishing and will eventually be phased out long before PCIe will be. I plan to keep/use my Xonar DX for a very long time, as I see no reason to upgrade my sound card further.