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Jack-of-all-trades sound card

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March 15, 2006 3:18:47 AM

Hi, I'm new to these forums so please bear with me.
I'm looking for a sound card that is pretty much a jack-of-all-trades (recording, games, movies, music, etc.), but I have a few questions.
First of all, I have a Boss GT-6 guitar effects processor, which has a digital line out. I'm not sure how sampleing rates with with digital. Is the digital stream going to be the exact same on all cards with a digital input? If thats the case, then as long as the card has a digital input, I'll be getting pro audio recordings, correct?
I also play a lot of computer games (both old games and new). I run my output to optical out, and into my Panasonic SA-HT920 5.1 system. I use the same config for listening to music and watching movies.
My current sound card, C-Media X-Mystique 7.1 Gold, is great for output audio, but the latency in recording is unbearable.
It seems like the cards on the market are either for recording, or for gaming. Is there a card that is pretty good at everything?
I am currently considering one of the X-Fi's, but im not even sure which one is the best there either.
:?:

More about : jack trades sound card

March 22, 2006 10:32:48 AM

try looking on howstuffworks.com or wikipedia before listening to salesmen :lol: 

If you consider X-Fi these cards do not encode gaming surround sound into digital. For this purpose your card is actally one of few that can do that.
So either stay with what you have for gaming and buy yourself a card for recording or use analog connection for gaming. In this scenario
X-Fi Elite Pro is the best jack-of-all-trades. It has separate box for additional I/O, works with Asio so you are getting low latency (unless you use loads of plugings with only slow and/or little RAM :wink: ).
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March 22, 2006 12:57:48 PM

Quote:
try looking at www.m-audio.com


Yes, M-Audio makes nice products for the audiophile.

Also check out http://www.audiotrak.net for options.

Both M-Audio and Audiotrak use the VIA Vinyl Audio, the Envy24 chip, which offers much better fidelity and quality that creative products.
March 22, 2006 1:32:06 PM

I'll second strangers advise:

while the m-audio cards are great audiophile/prosumer cards the x-fi is the better "all around" option as it has better game support. Getting the top of the line version does give you better signal to noise ration than the others, but they are no slouches either. I think all but the bottom version (the one I have) have a breakout box w/ lots of connections.

The only drawback (mentioned above as well) is that your digital connection to your soundsystem would not work w/ the x-fi as it only has analog for multichannel audio. This is not a big issue if you have analog connections on your soundsystem and dont mind running multiple cables to it... but for consumer level card it is the best. (hl2, bf2 and FEAR sound freakin amazing on it)
March 22, 2006 9:21:38 PM

Actually if you just browse the 100s of Creative threads involving M-audio, or just use the search function you will easily find the multitude of arguments available.
March 22, 2006 9:33:48 PM

So am I, I'm usually the one writing those responses. Since it takes about a page long to not offend anybody, I think I'll make a pass this time. Especially since it takes far less effort to use a search engine
: >
March 22, 2006 9:43:55 PM

can i get on here and be lazy too?

I am actually curious like stranger... but would be more interested in something like tech specs and such... like what chip do they use? is it a DSP (i assume it is for a high end card)? etc...

I have a friend that will not use anything but terratec cards. He does alot of music composing/recording w/ it and has an extreme audiophile's taste in sound. Wonder how m-audio stacks up to terratec? again, also just curious.
March 22, 2006 10:31:04 PM

ok, so maybe i'm not that lazy...

I looked it up, and m-audio and terratec use the same chips: different flavors of via's envy24. (vanilla and HT versions mostly). The vanilla envy24 is for prosumer level stuff and thus more expensive... but the envy24 HT is right in line w/ creative card prices +/-

It is not a bad little chip, and after reading some of the stuff I do have a higher opinion of the cards based on it than I did before. The chip is old however, and is no where near where the x-fi is... having said that it is just as viable (perhaps more so?) than an audigy/audigy2.

here is a link that has some older info on teh via env24 chips

even older, but prb still relevant is this which has a review of lots of cards including a terratec w/ the envy chip

Either way, looking at both m-audio's site and terratec's they also have some low-end cards that use lesser chips so be careful. All those lower chips seem to be cpu dependent varieties and are definitely not a performance saver.

Edit: here is an article that does show that the presence of an envy24 does not mean that the processing is done there... which confirms what I have thought for a while now: creative is the only consumer level card maker still handling sound processing on the card. This is where the cpu gets hit with sound and IMO not a good thing. Envy 24 is good... but only when used w/o hitting the cpu IMO.
end EDIT.

There! now we have some constructive info. cheers!
March 22, 2006 10:50:25 PM

interesting blurb here on the x-fi.

I am sure that most here know about how awesome the tech for the x-fi proc is, but what caught my attention, was the comment on digital outputs on mobo-based audio. as long as it doesn't get converted to analog, thus staying digital to whatever speaker/amp you have... you dont get the interference/static from the mobo in the sound. This has been in the back of my mind for a while, and i was thinking about it today while replying to another similar thread... basically if you use the digital output on the mobo you should be fine for audio quality (providing the onboard setup is a good one... like the soundstorm) and then only need to worry about cpu usage.

...interesting...
March 22, 2006 11:26:46 PM

Yep...that's why when I moved to bookshelves and a digital switching receiver/amplifier, I went and got a Chaintech AV-710. I needed something that provided a digital out with no resampling, and the cost ($20) was too good to pass up.

Even analog based receiver will have audible crossover distortion (hissing tweeters). anything that involves digital to analog conversion before the final output/amplification stage is likely to induce all sorts of noise.
March 23, 2006 12:26:09 AM

Quote:
can you provide some links explaining why they are better? im not trying to say your wrong, just curious.


Quote:
I looked it up, and m-audio and terratec use the same chips: different flavors of via's envy24. (vanilla and HT versions mostly). The vanilla envy24 is for prosumer level stuff and thus more expensive... but the envy24 HT is right in line w/ creative card prices +/-...It is not a bad little chip, and after reading some of the stuff I do have a higher opinion of the cards based on it than I did before. The chip is old however, and is no where near where the x-fi is... having said that it is just as viable (perhaps more so?) than an audigy/audigy2.


Have to disagree with Vinyl Audio "only" being viable with audigy/audigy2 implying it's not on par with X-Fi. Generally speaking and in my experience, I prefer the M-Audio, AudioTrak, and Terratec cards over Creative. The above mentioned use the Via Vinyl Audio Controller (as Sojrner pointed out) which offers true 24bit/192kHz whereas the X-Fi only offers 24bit/96kHz. Formats like DTS, 5.1EX, etc are given a straight pass thru compared to being processed by the Creative. With Creative, you have to use the break out box for any digital I/O whereas M-Audio, Terretac, and Audiotrak have either coax and/or toslink I/O. This is especially handy when using these cards in an HTPC thru a receiver. I will give one to Creative for paying Lucas to have THX support. In the past, I've used Audiotrak, Turtle Beach, Creative, and M-Audio and overall the M-Audio offers the best sound quality and fidelity to my ears. (One qualifier there is that I was a band geek thru school and do have an ear for those type of things. Tenor & Alto sax, baby! Paul Desmond and Stan Getz, effing A all the way!)

CPU utilization can be argued either way to be in favor of Creative with a dedicated APU or Vinyl Audio using the CPU, but IMO, with the procs and memory that are going into machines today, who's gonna miss 2-3% cpu utilization. And, don't hand me that lost frame rate crap because of not having a dedicated APU, especially if you've got a dual core or single core running faster than 2GHz! System wise, the M-Audio, Terretac, and Audiotrak have less system requirements with a K6II 500MHz for M-Audio compared to X-Fi with a PIII 1GHZ.

My biggest beef with Creative tho is their driver support! In a word $HITTY!!!! I was getting killed back in the day with the compatibility issues between Creative and the VIA 8235 southbridge. After hours of trying to figure WTF and emails with Creative denying any issue, it was my fellow enthusiasts, in forums much like these, that pointed out the real deal; and truly, ever since then, I haven't used a Creative product since. Perhaps a little bias, but the moment I slapped the Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1 into my HTPC and the M-Audio into my production/gaming machine, I noticed a significant change in sound quality and fidelity. But that's just me...

Regarding the purpose of this thread, cards based on the Via Vinyl Audio are an excellent choice and the X-Fi has nice specs. But keep in mind, while a card may be a Jack-Of-All-Trades, it will also be Master-Of-None.

Edit - disappointed the nVidia got out of the onboard sound business...
that was a nice chip with good quality and fidelity.
March 23, 2006 2:16:25 AM

Quote:

My biggest beef with Creative tho is their driver support! In a word $HITTY!!!! I was getting killed back in the day with the compatibility issues between Creative and the VIA 8235 southbridge. After hours of trying to figure WTF and emails with Creative denying any issue, it was my fellow enthusiasts, in forums much like these, that pointed out the real deal...


I think the opposite my friend. I have had MANY issues with systems (friends as well as my own) using various drivers for via and realtec codecs. These may just happen to be "soft" solutions that offload to the cpu, but I have had way too many prbs that have always been fixed w/ a creative card and drivers.

Via chipsets have had issues with more than just a creative soundcard, I had an older kt266a and a kt333 continuously crash to desktop in many games b/c of incompatability w/ nvidia cards... and via knew of the issue w/ no consistent solution for YEARS. I think the issue there is not w/ creative but via... that is why i dont buy via based mobo's anymore.

I now agree that if digital connections are used onboard sound is servicable. If you use headphones alot (which i do for games) then the onboard sound is just not good enough with the interference. and nothing can get around that except a seperate card.

Having said all that, I do not believe that with digital connections out of the picture that you can get comparable sound above a creative x-fi w/o going much more expensive... IMHO terratec and m-audio have good cards, but to get as good of specs as what the x-fi has you need to spend much more $, i spent $110 us.
March 23, 2006 9:03:05 AM

Quote:
Having said all that, I do not believe that with digital connections out of the picture that you can get comparable sound above a creative x-fi w/o going much more expensive... IMHO terratec and m-audio have good cards, but to get as good of specs as what the x-fi has you need to spend much more $, i spent $110 us.


I respect your opinion, and it seems we've had different experiences with VIA, Creative, nVidia, and compatibility issues. It seems to me that Creative and nVidia are quicker to dismiss older gen hardware and no longer provide driver support for that hardware.

I can't agree with the price for performance. The X-Fi does have nice specs but not as good as Vinyl Audio (i.e.; sampling rate, no coax/toslink, etc) and, in fact, the X-Fi Music, the cheapest of the X-Fi series, is anywhere from $25-50 more expensive than the M-Audio 7.1 Revolution.
March 23, 2006 9:13:42 AM

Quote:
just being picky but the x-fi does manage 192 sampling rate on digital/analog stereo conversions. so technically they can also claim up to 192 sampling rate


Technically, I can also claim to have more money than Donald Trump, but that doesn't make it true.
March 23, 2006 12:36:50 PM

I had ECS board with KT133 chipset myself and this was a culprit of all evil.

@chunkymonster, you admit you have not used creative product since issues with via chipset that had issues with anything, and that's about 8 years ago!

Using present tense when talking about things you say you touched on in 1997 or so does not make sense. I have X-Fi and it outperforms any sound card I used before including M-Audio based Pro-Tools system I used for some music mixing. Cubase is so much more versatile software then protools and when paired with X-Fi hardware in Audio Creation mode it works great. But it could be me and my preference towards PC (used M-Audio usb card on Mac)

Not to forget since VIA took over M-Audio they have moved more into consumer products, I am not saying this is done to the cost of pro stuff and quality, but as you said yourself when attempting to be jack of all trades you end up being jack of none.

Contrary to this the idea of 3 modes that X-Fi uses (1.Creation for Audio Processing, Music edits etc, 2. Gaming and 3. Entertainment for watching Movies ) seems like a reasonable compromise. I only wish there was a keyboard shortcut to flip thru them.
March 23, 2006 1:26:23 PM

good word man.
!