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The time has come to replace my onboard sound

Last response: in Components
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Which would you choose

Total: 12 votes

  • Audigy 2 value £30
  • 34 %
  • Audigy se £18
  • 25 %
  • Audigy 4 £34
  • 42 %
  • Stick with AC97
  • 0 %
March 22, 2006 8:32:03 AM

Ok, I have finaly decided to replace my onboard ac97 soundcard but:

This is the only area I have never taken an intrest in so I have no Idea about value or specs.
Im a gamer first, BF2 mainly I may watch a few movies on the PC but nothing major and I certainly do not record things on the PC.

Im not sure if the extra cost is worth it and the differences between cards. The creative website isnt that much help so Im looking for gamers opinions.

These are my choices:

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy SE 7.1 OEM PCI £17.99 or $30

Creative Labs Soundblaster Audigy 2 Value - 24bit 64 Voice Pci 6 Speaker Support £30 or $50

Creative Soundblaster Audigy 4 OEM PCI Soundcard - no remote included
£34 or $60

Which card do you think is the best value and best suited to gaming. That said I mayuse the computer as a home cinema in a year or two.
March 22, 2006 10:10:59 AM

Regular Audigy 2ZS or X-Fi if you can afford it would be better option you would not need to upgrade for a few years to come.
If you budget limited pick one that has hardware accelaration, I think that is Audigy 4 OEM
March 22, 2006 10:33:55 AM

Agree With Unlce_Ben :
I Recommand Audigy 2 ZS :twisted:
Related resources
March 22, 2006 10:47:55 AM

Ok I have had a look and no where seems to have the audigy 2 zs. The only ones i can find is the platinum version but I dont need all that stuff that comes with it.
March 22, 2006 11:35:13 AM

Mainly use a logitech gaming headset, speakers wise I have logitech 2.1 setup, nothing expensive.I am condsidering taking my 5.1 dvd setup and using that instead.

the zs is just plain out of stock and is around £40 it is in stock if i want to pay £60
March 22, 2006 11:47:22 AM

Yeh I have an external decoder,

Any one no why they dont have optical out as I would prefer that to coaxial, even my AC97 has optical out
March 22, 2006 1:55:40 PM

some ppl think coaxial is better then optical, some say the opposite, as long as receivers have both inputs it is not a big deal. Coaxial and optical are both the same digital interface: SPDIF. For longer cable runs coaxial is more practical because long optical leads are more expensive if you manage to find any. Once again: wheter you use coaxial or optical connection this has zero impact on sound.
March 22, 2006 5:54:33 PM

Quote:
some ppl think coaxial is better then optical, some say the opposite, as long as receivers have both inputs it is not a big deal. Coaxial and optical are both the same digital interface: SPDIF. For longer cable runs coaxial is more practical because long optical leads are more expensive if you manage to find any. Once again: wheter you use coaxial or optical connection this has zero impact on sound.


I'm on the road and don't have the literature references with me but a guy from (I think) Cal Tech disagrees with this statement and has published a variety of papers about digital signal transfer. In the PC/Gaming/Home Theater context, I would doubt that many people have systems let alone listening rooms that would allow one to think they could hear differences. But, by looking at signal path artifacts, some people claim to be able to see (hear?) the differences between optical and coaxial. I'd like to have a high performance A/V card for my PC that has an HDMI connector and not the hybrid kind.
March 22, 2006 9:30:40 PM

Quote:
some ppl think coaxial is better then optical, some say the opposite, as long as receivers have both inputs it is not a big deal. Coaxial and optical are both the same digital interface: SPDIF. For longer cable runs coaxial is more practical because long optical leads are more expensive if you manage to find any. Once again: wheter you use coaxial or optical connection this has zero impact on sound.


I'm on the road and don't have the literature references with me but a guy from (I think) Cal Tech disagrees with this statement and has published a variety of papers about digital signal transfer. In the PC/Gaming/Home Theater context, I would doubt that many people have systems let alone listening rooms that would allow one to think they could hear differences. But, by looking at signal path artifacts, some people claim to be able to see (hear?) the differences between optical and coaxial. I'd like to have a high performance A/V card for my PC that has an HDMI connector and not the hybrid kind.

Most people don't have systems who can hear the difference, in lowfi, midfi, or hifi. Humans are unable to hear the difference long before we are able to measure a difference. Audio delay is one of the things humans are least sensitive to in the audio spectrum. This is one of the primary reasons the design of *loudspeakers* since the 70s have moved away from perfect time-coherency to what's now considered the top priority in audio, dispersion (linearity has always been considered a given).

Therefore, while dampening effects of amplifiers have been measurable (and thus you would assume different interactions with wires of different resistances and inductance), DBXs have shown while there are measurable differences, perceptive differences are not there. Any effect of optical jitter on short runs compared to coaxial would be even less audible, given as we know how humans perceive (or lack of) time coherency. One would think the impedence differences among coaxial cables would give a greater audible difference than a pure optical vs coaxial argument.
March 23, 2006 2:25:32 AM

Quote:
Most people don't have systems who can hear the difference, in lowfi, midfi, or hifi. Humans are unable to hear the difference long before we are able to measure a difference. Audio delay is one of the things humans are least sensitive to in the audio spectrum. This is one of the primary reasons the design of *loudspeakers* since the 70s have moved away from perfect time-coherency to what's now considered the top priority in audio, dispersion (linearity has always been considered a given).

Therefore, while dampening effects of amplifiers have been measurable (and thus you would assume different interactions with wires of different resistances and inductance), DBXs have shown while there are measurable differences, perceptive differences are not there. Any effect of optical jitter on short runs compared to coaxial would be even less audible, given as we know how humans perceive (or lack of) time coherency. One would think the impedence differences among coaxial cables would give a greater audible difference than a pure optical vs coaxial argument.


You make some good points but I'll disagree with the statement that:

"Humans are unable to hear the difference long before we are able to measure a difference."

There is plenty of solid research out there where some individuals can reproducibly hear differences that have not yet been measured. And there are still high end designers giving plenty of attention to time-coherency. The huge growth in the subwoofer market has fueled much new development in this area. But trends in audio are kinda funny - for many years, consumers looked at the THD of a component and assumed that alone was adequate in helping to make a buying decision. Over the last 20 years many tests have been developed to study time-domain distortions and these have shown far better correlation with listening tests than have harmonic distortion tests. And this is all perfectly logical - acoustic instruments display even order harmonics at a fairly high level. But the ear is very sensitive to time domain artifacts - they interfere with the information the ear/brain uses to discern location and distance from the source, etc.
March 23, 2006 2:47:17 AM

Of course, but you are saying there are "exceptions to the rule." These will always exist, with people with exceptional hearing. Some people have significant hearing out to 23KHz, and cannot stand aluminum dome tweeters. As for time-coherency, this isn't a "hearing" issue, but the ability of the brain to process miniscule delays. DBXs have shown in the *mass majority* (as no test has ever shown not to have an exception individual) have no major problems with time coherency.

The moment we got into the stereo world (60s?), time-coherency lost a significant portion of its importance. In the mono days, sure, time coherency would have been more easily pointed out. But in stereo, by its very nature, you are sitting off axis 99.99% of the time. There are significant time coherency problems just playing back stereo with 1-way speakers. The placement of the speakers (or listener), the interactions of two discrete channels, in addition to room interactions has put a significant wrench in any attempt to tweak time coherency.

Yes, there are still "high end" designers given a lot of attention to time-coherency (aka low order crossovers). But they are paying a high price in other areas, whereas the majority of the industry is moving the other way. Of course one reason is cost effectiveness--you need much more expensive drivers for better time coherency because you need drivers with a wider bandwidth, whereas with higher order crossovers the bandwidth requirements are less, with a steeper db/octave curve. The benefits of working the other way (high order crossover, and forgetting about time-coherency) are lowered distortion, linearity, better dispersion, and linearity across a WIDE power level. If you focus on time coherency, you may lose sight of the goal of actually building a *better* loudspeaker, rather than meeting this specific goal in mind.

You should read this interview of Revel, one of the most respected "high end" designers that actually design their systems for linearity (and other preferred characteristics of today's market).

http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_11_2/feature-inte...

Of course THD isn't the main thing. Certain manufacturers (aka, not *high end*) try to cut corners by *copying* the output specs/linearity of a higher end brand, or say matching THD specs (often measured at a certain frequency to make it look even nicer). But any DIYer knows there are also other forms of distortion--cabinent distortion, and spectral decay (time-domain distortion you speak of), which all contribute to the overall coloration of a loudspeakers output.

Quote:
Over the last 20 years many tests have been developed to study time-domain distortions and these have shown far better correlation with listening tests than have harmonic distortion tests.


This is actually debatable. A lot of people aren't even conscious of long decay times. It's one of the reasons there is a large market for metal-based midrange speakers (even DIYers!) because everyone's hearing (and/or mental perception) is different. While companies that use metal-based midrange material is questionable loudspeaker design (because of high decay times; and if you try to hold it down with notch filters, you are losing real *detail* in the process, and get a laid-back, not so linear speakers...defeating the purpose of using metal in the *first place*, which was trying to achieve linearity with low distortion). To me, I can hear (because I've read up, and I know what I'm lookign for, not because I have "golden ears", even though, as we all know, some people actually *do* have great hearing, and not just closet audiophiles pretending they do) the harsh ringing of metal-based midrange cones (although not the same with metal tweeters, my hearing bandwidth isn't that wide). Other people, don't have this problem, and aren't fatigued in the same way.

So loudspeaker design goals need to be addressed for the company in question: 1) does it need to be focused on what's the most efficient, so *most* people will enjoy it (but some might not, because of better/different hearing)? or 2) you are producing a *niche* product, either it's because its more expensive do to better "overall" design (such as Revel, with loudspeakers that routinely measure well within +/-0.75db), or because it fills a specific market.

And I guess with that, this thread has officially been hijacked 8)
March 23, 2006 2:58:28 AM

Quote:
Of course, but you are saying there are "exceptions to the rule."


No, I'm not saying that - you are!

The point I'm trying to make is that measurement science has not yet caught up with educated, critical human senses. What sells in any field, such as consumer audio, often is dominated by marketing and/or how the public perceives the image of the company in question to be. Most people never take the time to learn how to be critical, let alone spend the money. But a few posts back, my reply to Uncle Ben's comment:

"Once again: wheter you use coaxial or optical connection this has zero impact on sound."

had nothing to do with marketing or successful new designs. I was addressing the "zero impact on sound" aspect.
March 23, 2006 3:05:30 AM

Quote:
Of course, but you are saying there are "exceptions to the rule."


No, I'm not saying that - you are!

The point I'm trying to make is that measurement science has not yet caught up with educated, critical human senses. What sells in any field, such as consumer audio, often is dominated by marketing and/or how the public perceives the image of the company in question to be. Most people never take the time to learn how to be critical, let alone spend the money. But a few posts back, my reply to Uncle Ben's comment:

"Once again: wheter you use coaxial or optical connection this has zero impact on sound."

had nothing to do with marketing or successful new designs. I was addressing the "zero impact on sound" aspect.

The problem is, different people will sense things differently. Take what you said "caught up with educated, critical human senses." What does this mean? If you can critically sense something, and are educated about it, then that implies you know what the issue is. If it just means *someone* can hear a difference between two things, and people can't measure any difference given the usual set of metrics, then there is something critically missing in audio theory--a metric that people don't know about, but can hear a difference. That's going to take time and research, so of course whatever is established is going to sell. If everyone had the *time* to audition equipment for their purposes, they would. But like most products, people buy what is readily available or what is easily perceived as being *good*, or is a *trophy* product. This isn't really tied specifically to *audio*.

Okay, I said this was left to "exceptions" to the general rule. Since you aren't saying that, then you are implying there are things "most" people hear that isn't measurable. Can you give an example? Otherwise, this discussion is a bit nebulous, don't you think?
March 23, 2006 3:09:16 AM

You guys are missing an important point on the coax/optical issue, they are both DIGITAL and have error correction, they can't affect sound quality as long as the data stream is clear, if it's not you'll hear definate pops and clicks as a single wrong bit can through that particular sample off into the next dimension (or octive :)  ) I can get into the physics of it if you'd like concerning coax and fiber and how they differ.

I personally recommend an SB Live! 5.1 if you can find one for $10, unless you have a GREAT stereo you won't tell the difference, cpu impact probably isn't too different though I've never seen any benches to back that up.
March 23, 2006 3:21:50 AM

Quote:
You guys are missing an important point on the coax/optical issue, they are both DIGITAL and have error correction, they can't affect sound quality as long as the data stream is clear, if it's not you'll hear definate pops and clicks as a single wrong bit can through that particular sample off into the next dimension (or octive :)  ) I can get into the physics of it if you'd like concerning coax and fiber and how they differ.

I personally recommend an SB Live! 5.1 if you can find one for $10, unless you have a GREAT stereo you won't tell the difference, cpu impact probably isn't too different though I've never seen any benches to back that up.


No, we actually aren't missing the point.

Go back to what was said previously:

"Once again: wheter you use coaxial or optical connection this has zero impact on sound."

(1)That was laymen's advice to other laymen. uncle ben said there was zero impact to sound.
(2)clueless69 said there are research papers from a Caltech professor who would disagree, and implied a difference could be heard with good equipment.
(3)So I said, people stop hearing differences before there is no longer a measurable difference, and is based on individual hearing.

The argument here is *jitter*. Things that are not "time-coherent." If optical connections "jitter" problems are audible, that would mean that a song that plays 1:00 might end up playing 1:03 because of time delays. That *is* effecting the sound quality. Just like distortion effects the sound quality. Just like crossover distortion (in an amp) effects sound quality). Just like negative feedback affects sound quality (IMD). Just like THD (sum of orders of harmonic distortion) affects sound quality. Just like spectral decay (in a loudspeakers) affects SQ. Just like dispersion, off-axis performance, affects sound quality. Just like clipping (at any stage) affects the SQ. Etc, etc, etc. Every bit can be exactly perfect, and any or all of these conditions could exist. But if affects the sound quality.
March 23, 2006 3:38:04 AM

I get that there is zero impact on sound regardless of cable. But then you say jitter on the optical connection thus implying cable DOES impose a difference. The cable in use will not cause jitter, only poor software that decodes the digital signal. All SPDIF equipment has some form of software to decode and modulate the sound, that's where the jitter is introduced this is emphisized by the fact that there exist bit buffers to store the last few bits in case the cable gets momentarily kinked or disturbed, which by the way is easier to do with coax than fiber. So maybe we are discussing two differnt things here. Crossover, THD, spectral decay, etc will all cause probs like you said, but they won't be caused by the cable.

So I think that means that you're saying it's ONLY the THD, SD, etc that's causing the sq issues, correct?
March 23, 2006 3:49:53 AM

Quote:
The problem is, different people will sense things differently. Take what you said "caught up with educated, critical human senses." What does this mean? If you can critically sense something, and are educated about it, then that implies you know what the issue is. If it just means *someone* can hear a difference between two things, and people can't measure any difference given the usual set of metrics, then there is something critically missing in audio theory--a metric that people don't know about, but can hear a difference. That's going to take time and research, so of course whatever is established is going to sell. If everyone had the *time* to audition equipment for their purposes, they would.


What does that mean? Look at it this way - on this group, many people have the goal of optimizing the performance of their gaming rig. They might run accepted performance tests, measure the fps on a favorite game, etc. Those numbers are a validation of sorts. In high-end audio, life ain't so simple. The potential component interactions are huge. Around here, people ask about which video card works best with a specific game or mobo/CPU, but in audio, the answers to which component is best can become quite nebulous. Often, it gets down to personal preference and for many people, those decisions are dominated not so much by how something SOUNDS, but by how it LOOKS.

But again, my point of view on this thread was about a statement that optical vs. coax having no impact on sound. That argument isn't as easily solved is determining which video card generates the most fps on BF2. But what the high end field has done over the years is to move towards systems that determine if a listener can reproducibly hear the difference between two components or two setups, etc. What is "better" in audio can be your tomato vs. my tomoto. But if a listener can reproducibly hear differences between optical and coax, then one could argue that optical vs. coax DOES have an impact on sound. THAT was my point.

Anyone that wants to take the time to audition audio equipment can find the time. Just like people here find the time to play games, tweak PCs and post stuff on Tom's.

Quote:
Okay, I said this was left to "exceptions" to the general rule. Since you aren't saying that, then you are implying there are things "most" people hear that isn't measurable. Can you give an example? Otherwise, this discussion is a bit nebulous, don't you think?


That's an oversimplification. MOST people believe that they can't tell the difference between two different speakers. Most people would never bother to learn the terminology involved to describe differences in sound. But there are many pubs out there that show that a large percentage of the population with reasonably healthy hearing do in fact have very critical listening ability. They might not know it until they take the time and learn to hear nuances that they had previously ignored. Check out the scene in the movie "Ray" where Ray shows his wife-to-be that she CAN hear the hummingbird above the din of restuarant conversation.
March 23, 2006 4:00:17 AM

Quote:

So I think that means that you're saying it's ONLY the THD, SD, etc that's causing the sq issues, correct?


No...this is what I said.

Quote:
Every bit can be exactly perfect, and any or all of these conditions could exist.


I don't see anywhere here saying output artifacts are the only things affecting sound quality.

Quote:
But then you say jitter on the optical connection thus implying cable DOES impose a difference.


Yes. light to electric conversion in the abscence of the original master clock will result in *some* jitter. This is unavoidable.
March 23, 2006 4:04:52 AM

Quote:
So I think that means that you're saying it's ONLY the THD, SD, etc that's causing the sq issues, correct?


There's an article I read a couple of years ago that talks about cable termination artifacts in optical, coax and analog audio interconnects. The authors looked at wav bandwidths vs. 24 bit 196kHz for optical and coax and saw artifacts occuring in the D/A process that was dependant upon the type of cable termination, the sampling frequency and some other factors I've forgotten. The popular belief that A/D and D/A conversion is a bombproof commodity is in fact a misconception. Basically, the bandwidth constraints of a given system can lead to interactions with transmission hardware and vice-versa. High end audio designers even have been accused of using analog cable termination artifacts coupled with (tuned by) cable capacitance to color the sound of the audio system.
March 23, 2006 4:06:33 AM

Ok, cool, but the light to electrical conversion isn't a factor of the cable itself, just the quality of the convertor used. So maybe cheap integrated fiber convertors are poor quailty on mobo's causing the caltech guy to see issues with it? Optical convertors on high end stereo gear or higher end sound cards shouldn't have that issue.
March 23, 2006 5:04:59 AM

Well now we are arguing semantics. Yes its not "the cable itself." The medium that the cable is connected to and how it interacts with the cable gives the final output. System synergy. But the fact that you used the cable gives you the *problem* in the first place.

And to top it all off, I don't even consider it an audible *problem.* Too much of this discussion has been about running in circles. We really should just stop (and I'm studying for finals to top it off) ^^
March 23, 2006 6:10:50 AM

:lol:  I now know how others feel when I hijack their threads :lol: 

So any real difference between the cards?

Im no sund expert by the way, all I really need to do is take the load of the cpu and enable EAX for all the pretty sounds.
March 23, 2006 7:10:15 AM

I would say the CPU utilization % would be pretty consistent between these cards.
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