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I have a HP Pavilion DV6 and I need more volume than what my laptop's integrated/default sound card and software offer. Will an external USB soundcard resolve this and/or do I need to upgrade the software. Volume for integrated speakers is acceptable, but I need more volume on my headphones (which are a decent pair).

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you could consider buying an amp for your headphones – Shekhar Apr 22 '13 at 14:17
You can get an external headphone amp pretty cheap - I have got a fiio e3 (which bumps up volume, and adds some bass), though a fiio e5 is a better choice. Both would be dirt cheap and should make a difference – Journeyman Geek Apr 23 '13 at 4:10

An external USB soundcard can provide more volume than the internal one in a laptop. See this review of a Asus Xonar U3 USB audio device at tech report as an example of one such product.

With a native USB interface, the UA100 doesn't need a bridge chip to interface with a host system. Asus has, however, incorporated the same Texas Instruments DRV601RTJR headphone amplifier used in the Xonar DG. The headphone amp makes a lot of sense given the U3's notebook aspirations

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There are a few choices.

You say you have a decent pair of headphones, which suggest the impedance might be higher than standard heaphones (Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Grado all often have higher Ohms, and need an amp (as already suggested), a sound card that can push more out, or a dedicated DAC.

I would go for the DAC, and let your budget decide from there:

A DAC generally will amplify more than a laptops onboard sound card.

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If you're talking about only basic Music playing and Video playing, try the VLC player and increase the volume beyond 100% to 200%. However, if you need to increase the overall experience too, try getting better headphones from more reputed companies like Sennheiser. Getting a sound card is an option, but it doesn't make that much of sense compared to buying better headphones.

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The better headphones tend to be quieter not louder. As the ohms increase, the same amount of energy driving the headphones will not produce the same volume. $10 Coby heaphones will likely have 20 Ohms or less (15, 16 likely). Start looking at Sennheiser, Grado, Audio-Tecnica etc. 30 Ohms is about minimum, 150 Ohms or more is possible. – AthomSfere Apr 23 '13 at 3:57

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