Bang & Olufsen sound-card is too quiet, what can I do to make it louder?
April 10, 2016 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Hi MeFi, I recently upgraded my PC and snagged an i7 4790k / 4.00Ghz with 30GB of RAM. Much to my disappointment, I noticed that my new sound-card from Bang & Olufsen is super quiet and nowhere as loud as my previous Beats card that came bundled with my older HP machine. I record via Ableton Live/Reason and really miss the rich sound I used to get with Beats and no longer get with Bang & Olufsen. What are my options besides replacing the Sound-Card all together? Are there any headphone amplifiers for PC's that will give me more volume? Is there a stand-alone hardware I can buy and run via USB that will allow for richer sound? Thanks for your tips!
posted by bostonhill to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you using speakers or headphones? If speakers, how are they wired to the sound card? Is it possible that the new card is putting out a line-level output? That would certainly sound quiet and tinny with headphones or unamplified speakers. There are many headphone amps that take mini input and provide mini output, and range from portable battery-powered to huge and AC-powered.

If you want to bypass the sound card altogether, there are a ton of USB audio interfaces on the market that act as DACs, usually with a headphone amp onboard. Sky's the limit on how much you want to spend there.
posted by supercres at 11:46 AM on April 10, 2016

Headphone amps are totally a thing. You can probably spend <$100 and get a decent amp that'll drive whatever headphones you happen to have. If you're into Ableton and Reason, you may want to look into a dedicated USB audio interface, which will be a bit spendier, but will provide higher bitrate audio I/O and maybe "higher quality" ADCs/DACs (though do a bunch of reading first, since the marketing bullshit is thick in this arena).
posted by Alterscape at 11:48 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

first, i'd check the settings / drivers.

second, iirc, "beats" soundcards had various settings that applied different equalizer settings. you mention a "rich" sound, which sounds like you were listening with the bass levels boosted. that doesn't seem like a good idea if you're mixing music that other people listen to, since without the bass boost they will hear something different (likely worse). anyway, if you want that sound, you may find that you can reproduce it using a software equalizer that boosts highs and lows.

third, there are two kinds of headphone amplifier. you can buy them with and without a dac (the part that converts from digital to analogue). i would expect a b&o branded card to be of decent quality, so you likely only need a headphone amp that amplifies the analogue output. that will connect via rca plugs (and need a spearate power supply). in contrast, a headphone amp that connects via usb will include its own dac. partly due to market demand, and partly because analogue only headphone amplifiers are more "audiophile" you may find that a usb amp with dac is cheaper than an analogue one without.

if you want a recommendation, the audioengine d1 has a warmer than neutral sound you might like. that includes a dac and connects via usb.
posted by andrewcooke at 12:17 PM on April 10, 2016

Is there a setting to change the 1/8" output between line-out and headphone-out? This would be the difference between a very soft, unamplified signal and using the onboard headphone amp to provide a stronger signal.

If that's not the problem or you still need more power for your cans, the Schiit Magni 2 is a $99 nicely made in America, solid-state amp.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:31 PM on April 10, 2016

« Older Is it possible to charge a Surface Pro 3 via a...   |   Need an ONION joke explaining Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.