Closed Back Headphones (Higher End) Gaming + Music Guidance

Let me just start by saying that I am new to anything dealing with high end audio and equipment. Always done my PC gaming on headsets. Plug, play, forget about it. Currently rocking a pair of Logitech G930’s which have served me just fine. They are comfortable enough (though they can get hot in summer), sound is fine (nothing to talk about but gets the job done), and the mic doesn’t pick up too much keyboard smashing. Unfortunately they have seen better days. The ear and head pads are peeling and the mic arm is cracked and now being held on by tape. They function, but I think it’s about time for an upgrade. I can’t really remember but I think I’ve had em for 10+ years. Anyway, my wife’s nephews came to visit not too long ago and couldn’t stop laughing at my sorry excuse for headphones. I stumbled upon some youtube videos and realized I’d like to save myself some embarrassment as well as experience what I now feel I’ve missed out on for years of gaming and listening to music.

Really I’m not too sure where to start. Much of the info I’ve read or watched is aimed at a lower budget than I’m willing to spend or defaults to open back headphones. First off these headphones most likely won’t leave my PC desk and really there isn’t a budget I have. I’d like to keep total costs of headphones + any mods worthwhile, DAC, AMP, and MIC under $1000, but if I need to go over I’m flexible. Future proofing (able to get the most out of harder to drive headphones) the DAC and AMP would be a bonus since I could see myself buying another set of headphones primarily for music or movies down the road. I know I need closed back headphones or at the very least low sound leak. My wife would kill me if she had to listen to bullets and explosions while she is trying to sleep. I tend to do much of my gaming at night. I’m aware open back have many advantages for gaming but it isn’t in the cards at this point. I play many FPS or what would be considered competitive games so imaging and sound stage are important but on the same token I would like some bass as well as immersive qualities. While gaming is my main focus, I spend a decent amount of time listening primarily to electronic music but I delve into other genres regularly.

From what I can gather these seem to be in my wheelhouse

Headphones

  • Audeze El-8C
  • Beyer T5P
  • DT177X GO
  • Modhouse Argon
  • T60rp/Argon variant
  • NDH20
  • Drop + THX Panda

DAC and AMP
I’m completely lost.

MIC

  • Antlion
  • V-MODA
  • standing desk mic

Hope I’m at least in the right area. Any help steering me in right direction is greatly appreciated. I’ve spent way too much time going in circles and bringing my knowledge up to a rudimentary level. I fear I have analysis paralysis.

So this is a bit high for starting off imo lol. I do think that you could get a sweet setup for around the 500 usd range imo.

With what you listen to, starting off with something like a dt770 250 ohm is a smart and solid choice imo. I think that would offer you the imaging and soundstage for gaming you are after, would be pretty comfy, and also would work well with electronic as well imo

What I would do for a dac amp is go for an interesting combo, I would say for your dac you could get a focusrite scarlett solo, and use it as a dac and an interface for an xlr mic. For an amp, the schiit magni 3+ works well with the 770 250 ohm, and would be connected to the solo to get the signal.

For the mic itself, by going with an xlr setup offers you lots of flexibility and a solid sound quality. What type of vocal signature are you going for? Assuming your room isn’t treated either? And male or female?

The dt770 250 ohm with the scarlett solo and magni 3+ seems pretty nice. Not to discount your opinion, but this is kind of a matter of know thy self. I’m just afraid of going the beginner or upgrade route and ending up swapping out all three in a year leaving me with 3 pieces of hardware collecting dust or having to sell. I’ve gone this route before with say skis and other toys. I wish I’d went higher end in the first place. I’m sure there are diminishing returns in quality for the money, (as well as preference) but I’m trying to hit a sweet spot where I don’t feel the need to upgrade asap… I’m sure I will at some point but my wallet usually thanks me in the long run as I can extend the life of my gear. First world problems I know. If I was to go up in tier, what would you suggest?

As for the mic vocal signature, I really don’t know. I’m male, don’t have a sound treated room, and family also tend to wander in and out and have conversations or watch their personal media in earshot. Gone are the days of focused gaming sessions of counterstrike by myself, hence closed back headphones. I don’t really have a preference for style of mic as long as it isn’t picking up tons of noise and is clear enough for voice coms. I tend to like to keep an open mic if my family isn’t making sounds in the background. No streaming or recording is taking place, so I don’t need to sound like a broadcaster.

Well, if you feel like you would want something higher tier, then that could be done. I would say for headphones then, the t5p is pretty good for that role, or the 177x go, both of those would be a noticable upgrade over the 770 250 ohm for music and gaming.

Going back to the dac and amp then, you could grab a archel 2.5 pro and an enog 2 pro (as long as you have an optical out), and that would be very solid imo

For the mic then, I would actually say stick with the scarlett solo but then get a modmic and the antlion xlr adapter, that way you can get the most out of the modmic and upgrade to an xlr mic later on. A desktop mic would most likely pick up more noise than a modmic, so you might have to sacrifice a bit of mic quality for noise rejection.

Thanks for entertaining my own neuroses. I unfortunately don’t have an optical out on my motherboard. Is it worth it to add one to my motherboard or connect an external one via USB? Or would you recommendation change?

I think I may be leaning toward the 177x go over the t5p. Is there much of a difference with sound signatures? They both seem to be similar. With the t5p being more refined and detailed? Perhaps slighty better imaging and separation of sound? And of course there is a sizable price difference.

Yeah I would agree the t5p mk2 is a bit better in those regards, but the 177x go presents a better value for sure

It would most likely change then, I would say a topping e30 for the dac, and an asgard 3 for the amp imo, that would work well imo

Any reason you chose to move away from XLR for the amp and dac? Does XLR force me into using optical out?

Nah, but balanced in this realm just ends up costing more to go with, and typically a good single ended sounds just as good as balanced

I’m assuming the asgard 3 is the ak4490 115VAC version?

You also think I should pick up a Scarlett solo, modmic, and xlr adapter? Is the modmic wireless a worthwhile option?

So you would get the no module version and grab the e30 dac

That seems right to me. The antlion xlr adapter is the one you want. The wireless will trade sound quality for convenience so that one is up to you imo

Isn’t purchasing both the e30 and scarlett solo redundant? Or does the e30 serve as the better DAC and the scarlett serve just as an audio interface for the mic? What is the advantage other than better voice communication quality? I’m also assuming you mean the modmic uni analog 3.5mm + xlr adapter that will only connect to the scarlett.

Correct. The e30 is the better dac than the scarlett solo, so the solo would be only used as an audio mic interface now

Mainly flexibility, you mentioned futureproofing, and with an xlr interface you are able to upgrade or change mics easily if you are interested in that. If not though, then ditch it altogether and just run the mod mic from the motherboard, it will most likely get the job done

Yes

I’m not very concerned with mic Thanks for helping me narrow down my options. There is just too much to consider and I have no way of trying before I buy.

I am a bit concerned with the e30. While it seems to get good reviews, some don’t have a lot of confidence in topping as a company. Do you think that is warranted?

I’m also pretty sure I would like to use balanced xlr cables at some point. I’d like to have options in the future. The e30 and asgard 3 seem as though I would be limited in this regard. Any other options I should consider?

So from my experience topping is really reliable, but there is a distributor called aimpire that you should not by from, they are not reputable

So is there a reason you would want do this? From my experienced going balanced mainly adds cost and complexity in this price range with not really any sonic benefit, as a good single ended design will sound just as good as a balanced one

I can see myself going into headphones in the sub $2k range and not wanting to shell out for a new amp/dac when this happens. I’d like to cover as many scenarios as possible without saying to myself, “crap, if I want to get these headphones I need to upgrade my setup again.” I probably will also be trying to fill in different sound signatures and/or refining my preferences. I’m one of those people that likes to dabble in many aspects of my hobbies. Back to skiing for an example. I could just buy one all mountain ski and be fine, sure. But I found i love skiing in deep powder so that warrents me buying fat skis. I enjoy playing around with tricks and just having fun on the mountain so that warrents some loose buttery skis. Sometimes I just want to be game on and assault the mountain going mach 11, again totally different skis. I hope that makes sense.

That’s most likely not going to happen then lol, you will want to upgrade when you get to that range, the headphones will really appreciate it

Sounds good, but with an amp and dac, you want to match it to the headphones you get, but there are good all rounder dacs and amps as well

I think if you quickly plan to move to the 2k+ range, I do think you would want to spend more on your dac and amp if you did so, with some more info on what you plan to be moving up to so you can match an amp better

Was kinda figuring i would probably buy a new headphone on average once a year. The argons may be my next purchase but the balanced version seems very appealing and an e30 and asgard combo wouldn’t do the trick.

What balanced amp are you considering then to go along with it?

I think if you are really after a balanced amp some good all rounders are a cayin iha6 or cavalli liquid platinum imo, that would offer a significant jump in performance over the asgard 3 and have balanced

I’d assume the dac would need upgrading at this point as well? Would I run into issues where headpnones like the 177x go start sounding like crap?

Yes, but you could grab an enog 2 pro or something like that which are solid for the price until you plan on spending more for the dac.

If you don’t run it balanced then yes, both the cavalli and cayin sound pretty bad single ended compared to their balanced out, and this is the case for most true balanced amps. Good thing though is that the 177x go can actually be balanced with an aftermarket cable from someone like Hart audio, so you would actually be fine there. For those amps you would really want only balanced capable headphones