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How much difference does a sound card make?

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May 15, 2006 11:01:10 PM

Hey,

Having never had a sound card, I have no experience of what difference it makes to games. If i upgraded from onboard sound to an Audigy 4 or SE, how much difference would i see in games? I'm talking about FEAR and Oblivion on a system with a A64 3200+ and x1800xt.

Is it purely sound quality, or would a sound card like the ones above make much of an impact on performance and if so, how much?

Thanks :) 
May 15, 2006 11:42:55 PM

Alot
I would defentlly Get the Sound card
The ZS is great, but I heard that 4 is not much better.
For me ZS will do, but if you want to go higher, then X-Fi is the way to go.
Pluse, with a sound card you will also be able to record high quality audio. As in converting old casset tapes.
May 15, 2006 11:49:06 PM

It also depends on what kind of speakers do you use. If it's just a regular low end pc speakers then the onboard sound would be good enough as the sound cant produce good sound quality to a regular pc speakers. However, if you have a nice set of speakers 2.1 or up to 7.1 set up then you would hear a lot better sounds in both entertainments and gaming. Im currently using X-Fi with Klipsch 2.1 Pro Media speakers and it sounds really nice and I never go back to my Realtek onboard sound device.
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May 15, 2006 11:50:01 PM

It's hard to say how much improvement you will get, because some of the integrated sounds solutions these days are pretty darn good. However, in general, a stand-along sound card reduces the load on the CPU and provides noticeable improvement in sound quality. (If you have some decent speakers to hear the new sound with).

I use the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz card, it's very good 5.1 sound, and incredibly cheap. I despise Creative: revolting drivers, and serious bugs in some games.

There's no need to spend a ton of money - but don't get a Genius sound card, whatever you do!

You might want to take a card on "Appro" (Do they do that where you are?) so you could install it, test it and if it doesn;t provide an improvement for you, you can return it.

Personally, I'd never run on integrated sound though.
May 15, 2006 11:56:08 PM

Thanks for the reply - found an old thread that says the difference in FPS is minimal if you have a half-decent CPU, so doesn't seem like i should get it for that aspect, but i think i may invest in order to get better sound quality overall. Unfortunately an Audigy 2 ZS or X-Fi are out of my price range, and i might just settle for a nice cheap Audigy SE for under £20. :) 

Thanks for your help, Maxtoons (i'm loving the fact that you seemed to register just to answer my thread :D  hope you enjoy the forums)
May 16, 2006 12:01:38 AM

I have the Audigy SE built in to my motherboard, it's a whole lot better then onboad audio and not much worse then X-Fi, I think you will be very happy with an Audigy SE.
May 16, 2006 12:04:07 AM

Whoa! 2 replies whilst i was being slow and answering Maxtoons! :) 

Thanks for your input. i have my PC hooked up to a Hi-Fi at the moment which has two pretty good 3-way speakers with subs. Only prob is the Input they receive from the PC is very quiet compared to playing CDs, but that just requires an extra few volume notches!

Looks like the Audigy SE it is then :D 
May 16, 2006 12:26:59 AM

Been an avid reader of Tom's Hardware Guide for years. I have gotten a lot of good information here and it's helped me too many times to count. Thank you to everyone who has posted in the past.
My first post, thought I would throw in my 2 cents worth here as I have somewhat of a track record on this.

I have built 8 or 9 systems in the last 6 years. I have used Abit, Asus, Albatron, MSI, DFI, Gigabyte, Biostar and maybe even an Intel board or two, hard to remember them all. Pretty much all of them had on board sound. I have an old Turtle Beach Santa Cruz sound card that is like at least 6 years old. With each build I have first retired the old card to the closet and tried to use the onboard sound. Each and every time within about 2 days it came back out of the closet and went into the machine. I am not a music buff and don't need the best equipment to enjoy my mp3's or play a few games, but man, I have to tell you it makes a difference. Sound level is at least 2 times higher without major distortion, and all the background sounds and music in games you probably never knew existed comes through loud and clear. Just finished a brand new build 2 weeks ago, same story again. Maybe my old Altec Lansing speakers and subwoofer set needs that extra kick from a dedicated card, but I am here to say that there is big difference to my ears.
May 16, 2006 12:37:48 AM

Amen. Amen.
May 16, 2006 12:57:45 AM

It really depends on what you do with your system, how fast your system is, and what onboard sound you mean. I still use a soundblaster live and it works fine for me even in games. My next mobo Im planning to buy will have onboard audigy. If you have a slow system with onboard audio, your using your cpu power for your sound, with a stand alone card, your using less system resources. If you have a fast system, with onboard sound, your going to be happy unless you are a serious audiophile.
!