I am debating right now on getting a sound card to replace my Realtek ALC655 AC97 onboard. I'm just not sure what kind of difference it'll make. I've read a few forums on people comparing onboard vs. sound cards and it seems sound cards are typically better. The ALC655 doesn't seem all that bad though. It supports EAX 1.0 and 2.0 and has 16 bit full duplex up to 48 KHz.
If I were to get a PCI sound card I'd need something thin so it doesnt block the fan on my eVGA 7800 GTX.
I also thought about a USB sound card. Has anyone had experience with these? I know SB makes a Live! 24 bit one and Turtle beach makes a few. But do they support all the EAX HD features and stuff for gaming?
My speakers are Logitech X-230 and my headset is a Logitech USB headset 350.
I just want to make sure with games like World of Warcraft, or Heroes of Might & Magic V I'll notice a difference and not just waste my money.
I have an eVGA 7800 GTX and I can say that the Creative X-FI fits without problem on my ASUS A8N32-SLI deluxe board. They are not directly next to each other, but have a WI-Fi board in between. Modems and some other small boards should also fit in between. How they fit on your board is only something you can answer.
The Creative board does give better sound then the Realtek, but if the X-FI is used, make sure to download the latest drivers from Creative as the original ones were found to have problems. Realtek is the best of the on board sound systems in my experience, but it still is not as good as a separate one. Whether you will notice a difference is dependant on your ears, not mine. I listen to lots of music and have a Klipsch 5.1 system with THX, and I do hear the difference.
As to USB cards, just read the technical specs to find out if EAX or whatever else you want is supported by the card in question. I think Turtle Beach is a good card, but just not quite as advanced as Creative. For your needs, Turtle Beach might work well enough.
I've used USB audio and PCI (SB AWE64, Audigy, Live!, and now X-Fi). You'll get better performance from a Creative PCI card as it will use less CPU power. The Creative cards use hardware accelleration in their processing. That's processing your CPU won't have to do...so it can save itself for your games, etc.
As with USB sound, I'm not sure you'll get better performance than your onboard.
I think your best bet, especially with gaming in mind, is to go with a PCI card. I'll recommend Audigy 4 or X-Fi since they do offer hardware acceleration and , heck, they sound good. The X-Fi is $52 more than the Audigy 4 but you get a lot more of that hardware acceleration I mentioned...and the X-Fi's drivers and software (important to bring its serious DSP power under control) are considerably better than what I understand the Audigy 4 offers.
If you're getting your card with music primarily in mind, than there are many choices and many brands...down to the $30 Audigy 4SE and ACME specials...even these will likely be a good alternative to onboard sound as they're considerably more isolated from all the other components on the motherboard that may contribute to noise.
First I would like to thank you all for replying to my message.
I went out this weekend and had some Best Buy coupons that I used to buy an X-Fi XtremeMusic. Also picked up Rise of Legends, which I haven't gotten to try out yet
To get an idea of my space constraints you can go to this link.
As you can see the PCI-E slot is right near the PCI and the card overlaps part of the PCI slot. I put my wireless card in front of the video card and it covers about 75% of the fan. Although full load it doesn't go over 75C according to the temperature reading. The card runs hot anyway because of the nature of the KO series of eVga OC'd cards, so that's fine.
My processor is a AMD X2 4800+ with 2 gig of 2-3-2-5 OCZ platinum series dual channel kit. 37 gig raptor(windows and apps) and 74 gig raptor(games and games).
Okay, my next question. I was thinking about getting a 5.1 setup but I only have my desk to put the speakers on. Would it be worth it to put them on different tiers of my desk, like the front speakers on the desk level and the rear speakers up top on the shelves. My desk is about 4' wide and about 5'6" tall.
BTW I really notice a difference even with 2.1 speakers as far as MP3s and games go. I was just amazed that I could hear my character's clothes swish back and forth as I ran around in World of Warcraft. the swishing of chainmail as you run was just like whoa! I ran around for a while just listening to the foot steps changing while in grass or dirt and the swishing of chainmail.
So basically the question is, is 5.1 worth it if I can't put the rear speakers behind me?
oh, so you got the x-fi already? that's cool then, that you could notice a big difference.
Well, i think i have a similar problem with my 5.1 speakers. I have space for only the 3 front speakers on my desk. The way i solved was like this:
when i'm lazy, or dont feel like using 5.1, or i'm using some application that is not 5.1, i just keep the rear speakers on my desk. If i'll watch a movie or play a game that is 5.1, then i get 2 chairs like those bar ones, taller. Then i place them behind me and put the surround speakers on them. After using i roll the wires and put the surrounds on my desk again.
if you cant do that, i dont recommend going 5.1 to let the surrounds on your desk.