Question Help With PC System / Headphone Setup


Oct 14, 2020

I am looking to upgrade my headphones. Currently using a previous What-HiFi recommendation AKG K550 I bought over 4 years ago. I have been very pleased with them, but i would like to upgrade my system. I always listen through my PC, it could be via spotify, or my ripped CD's on my home server, or gaming. I only watch movies in the lounge through speakers.
I wear my headphones quite a lot during the day thanks to working from home and in the evening too. I mostly listen to all types of rock music from the Rolling Stones through to present day, orchestral rock is the current flavour of the month.

The AKG K550's I currently use are closed back, and this is ideal for not bothering my wife who sometimes sits next to me, I noticed there seems to be a lot more choice with open back headphones, does the sound quality suffer with a closed back design? I haven't done back to back auditions for audio equipment for a long time, and never for headphones.

I have the headphones plugged into the headphone socket on my PC speakers, running off the onboard sound chips built into the motherboard.

Current motherboard - ASRock X99 Extreme 4 - LINK
- 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC1150 Audio Codec)
- 115dB SNR DAC with differential amplifier
- TI® NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier (Supports up to 600 ohm headsets)

1. Is there a noticable difference between the built in sound and dedicated sound cards. I did have a dedicated sound card, but it gave up on me after a couple of years. so I went back to the on-board sound. I have to be honest I didn't notice the difference, but I also wasn't looking for differences at the time.

2. Should I have the headphones connected directly to the computer rather than the speakers? I had connected them to the speakers because it was convenient at the time, and then never thought about by-passing them until now.

3. Should I be using a seperate DAC? Would it improve / alter the sound compared to the current connection?

4. Are open style headphones better than closed or is it just down to personal taste? I could use open back headphones and swap back to the current closed set if my wife is next to me

I am trying to get to a short list of headphones to audition, some of these I have seen people recommend in these forums.

AKG K712PRO - Open back LINK
Sennheiser HD 660 S - Open back LINK
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO - Open back LINK

Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO - Closed back LINK
Shure SRH1540 - Closed back LINK
Meze 99 Classic - Closed back LINK
Beyerdynamic T 5 p (2nd Generation) - Closed back LINK
Audeze LCD-2 - Closed back LINK

Would ideally not want to spend the amount needed for the last 2 on this list, but could stretch to it if they were a lot better, rather than a little better.
I do worry about Beyerdynamic quality, as a previous pair I owned had one side fail just after the warranty period, and they hadn't been used that much.

Any recommendations for an optimum PC / Headphone setup would be appreciated.


Deleted member 188533

1. Is there a noticable difference between the built in sound and dedicated sound cards

With newer motherboards no. Not unless you need a headphone amplifier in which case an audiophile grade card such as the Asus STX/STX II or the new EVGA Nu series makes sense. They'll also offer gaming and entertainment modes. For pure music you might want a discreet amp/DAC or amp/DAC separates for the desktop.


Own them and love them. Comfort is 10/10 and they have an amazing soundstage that's just addictive for me. Great extension on both ends with nice tight bass for an open back dynamic. Underrated. They've replaced my old HD598s as daily drivers and for gaming.


Probably my next purchase unless I break down and spend way more money on a Focal Clear. A solid overall choice if leaning towards brightness.

Sennheiser HD 660 S

Haven't heard it. I do have the HD600 and the HD650 though. Almost perfect tonality and amazing mids. Bass rolls off on both.

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO

Also own it and love it. Comes with 2 sets of pads that dramatically change the sound signature. I like the sharp Analytical pads over the wider staging and more bass of the Balanced pads but there's no wrong answer there. Some people have a problem with Beyerdynamic treble being too bright and I agree on the 770,880 and especially the 990 but I love the 1990s. Built like a German tank. No build quality issues at all with the better Beyerdynamic stuff I've played with or owned.

Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO

For me a no. It has issues. Very bright and peaky. Good bass though. I believe the Drop x Beyerdynamic DT177X is an improvement.

Shure SRH1540

The 1540 and 1840 have both had my interest for quite some time. However in the end I decided against buying either. They both apparently fall apart at anything approaching higher volumes. And while I don't listen loud very often sometimes you just want to crank a song up.

Meze 99 Classic

Decent for portable use and the best looking headphone here but not in the same league as everything else you listed. Bassy.

Beyerdynamic T 5 p (2nd Generation)

sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss It hurts my ears make it stop! :p Actually it's a really good headphone if you like bright. Really really bright. Did I mention it's bright?

Audeze LCD-2

The LCD2 Classic is warm and gooey. I don't like it enough to buy one but I can see why some people would. Great bass. The LCD2 Fazor is a great headphone if you can find one. I wouldn't buy an old LCD2 though as Audeze had very common driver failures before they revised the process in 2016 I think it was.


Well-known member
I would spend £25 or so on a Behringer UCA222. That takes the digital sound from the PC via USB and uses it's own DAC. Just plug the headphones into the Behringer.


Oct 14, 2020
Thank you both for the replies.

I will look into getting a USB DAC. What HiFi's 2020 recommendation is the iFi Zen DAC, and the internet seems to agree with them it's a fine product for the price.

For the headphones the short list will be

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 PRO

and a couple from the closed list for comparison

Beyerdynamic DT 1770 PRO
Shure SRH1540

Again thank you for taking the time to reply.


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