Tharbad wrote:Milo Burke and Firestarter: The computer is emitting ~20dba on standby and ~45dba in games. As far as I'v read about open vs close, close are better in this case. I don't intend to fall in the "premium gamer headset trap, pay a lot of money get moderate quality" so no headset is required.
Milo Burke: About the sound card. My current card is integrated HD Audio - [url="http://www.via.com.tw/en/products/audio/codecs/vt2021/"]VIA VT2021[/url]. Is it good enough so I would notice the difference between the new headphones to my current (Silverline XT-HS75MV)?
According to Scott's recent comparison with the 290x, my GPU (5870) puts out 36 dB while idling and 49 dB while gaming. It is in a case with a lot of holes for fans, so much of it leaks out. It can get loud sometimes. I have two pairs of closed headphones and one pair of in ear monitors, but I still game with my open headphones. Why? Three reasons: First, they sound so much better. Second, noise (within reason) is less of an issue when I'm sucked into a game. Third, open headphones do block some sound, just not all the frequencies very well. I have no trouble hearing someone in the room talking or music playing in the room, but my open headphones do block out a substantial amount of the GPU fan noise. The fan noise tends to be pretty high frequency, like white noise, and the headphones are significantly better at blocking those higher frequencies.
Airmantharp is right and cyanan is very right about the noise, so don't let this be a deciding factor. Unless you game in a kitchen with someone washing dishes, or in a living room with someone watching a movie or something. That's when you want to game with closed headphones.
Tharbad, I have no stake in what headphones you buy. If you're happy, that's all you need. I hope my above answer helps you make an informed decision.
As for will you notice a difference on that integrated audio? Absolutely.
I don't have a great deal of experience with different integrated audio chips and I can't tell you which are different than others and how. My general perception is that none of them are great, and other people on the internet (including our friendly, neighborhood Tech Report writers) share that sentiment. And it makes sense: they've got to produce a motherboard with x number of features at y price-point and still make z amount of profit, so they cut corners. What are the first corners to cut? Any feature that is quantified as "does it have this feature?" instead of qualified as "how well does this feature work?". It's the same with the DAC and amp section of basically every laptop, tablet, and portable music player. They've got a price point to meet, so they'll cut corners. It's business. (There are exceptions with portable music players, but they are expensive.)
But that doesn't mean you can't appreciate great headphones. You'll get more extended frequency response in both directions. (Don't trust the specifications, if they don't tell you anything if they don't tell you +-3dB or +-1.5dB, etc.). You'll get clearer sound. You'll get sound that rocks more with good music, and sound that is more detailed with everything you listen to, from hi-res music files to YouTube videos. Sound effects in games are more realistic, and it's much easier to position the sources of sounds. Getting good headphones makes a difference.
But ... upgrading the DAC and/or headphone amp just improves it a bit more. (Mostly for music, but some for other uses.)
And Voldenuit is right, Grado's aren't as comfortable as some. They have stiff foam cups that sit on top of your ear, where as Sennheiser and AKG have cushioned pads that surround your ears. If you have a hard budget for $100 and want to mix music (and for some reason couldn't use speakers), I'd say get the Grado's.
As far as comfortable cushioned pads around the ears go, the AKG's have a firmer grip, and the Sennheiser's have a looser grip. Some find the looser grip more relaxed, but I find it irritating that the imaging and focused sound don't feel "locked" in place (contrary to the still-comfortable AKG's). Sennheiser makes really good cans, though. I've heard the HD 600 and HD 650. They're quite nice, although not quite as detailed as the good AKG's. Yet they are smoother and more relaxed. And the Sennheiser HD 800 is fantastic, although at $1,500, neither of us can afford it!
I looked up the headphones you currently have. The picture makes them look like an $80 USD gamer headset (could be good, could be bad). If my currency conversion worked right, they cost 70 New Israeli Shekels, or about $20 USD? I can't be sure because I haven't heard them, but I suspect unless they are well designed in the neighborhood of $150+ USD, the upgrade will be substantial. Even on integrated audio, even with a laptop or iPod or smartphone.