Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

What is the best Sound Card?

Last response: in Components
Share
July 4, 2006 3:52:52 AM

Alright, I'm am soon going to be building a new system and I've been looking around for sound cards and am unsure wich one is "The Best"
My budget is around a max of 600$ CAD for a soundcard and speakers(can go over a bit). It doesnt need to have a front access panel thing or anything like that.

what I've found so far is:
1) AuzenTech HDA X-PLOSION 7.1 DTS Connect DDL Sound Card PCI 32BIT Optical Output
2)Creative Sound Blaster X-FI Xtreme Music 24BIT Sound Card
3)M-AUDIO REVOLUTION 7.1 PCI SOUND CARD 24BIT/96KHZ W/ DIGITAL OUT
4)Turtle Beach Montego DDL 7.1 Dolby Digital Live Surround Sound Card PCI W/ Digital Out


I'm mostly concerned about the sound quality and driver support.

If you could also give me some suggestions for speaker systems, so far I've seen the Logitech Z5500 and Klipsch Promedia Ultra 5.1.

I will be probly buying this from NCIX if anyone cares.
Thanks in advance

More about : sound card

July 4, 2006 4:33:29 AM

The X-Fi cards are the best sound cards around at the moment. Best speakers, go with logitech or creative. I have a set of Logitech 5.1 speakers on an x-fi xtreme music sound card and the sound quality is amazing. The software is also extremely fun to play around with.
July 4, 2006 4:46:01 AM

Klipschs blow logitech out of the water... quality wise. I love my 5.1 Ultras.

The only exception is my friend's 1000W Logitech setup that wins with sheer brute force... makes the room smell with ozone when you turn it up! 8O


[edit] yea thats it the z-5500... prepare to disturb the peace.
The klipsch do sound nice, ( have better response) but they're not as powerful.
Both are quality speakers and you can't go wrong,
but if you feel like waking up the neighbourhood once in a while go with the z-5500.
Related resources
July 4, 2006 5:24:43 AM

Thanks for the replies
Alright, I've been reading reviews and the Klipsch Promedia 5.1 speakers are the ones for me. If anyone knows a better system or problems with this one, please post.

That still leaves the sound card tho, the creative one is known to be good, but wouldnt 32bit sound be richer than 24bit sound?

I've always had creative cards and I'm not sure if possibly the AuzenTech HDA X-Plosion is better. both cards have had good reviews.
July 4, 2006 7:05:09 AM

There's not a big difference between 16bit (96db dynamic range) and 24bit (144db dynamic range) on most material, except those with a lot of dynamic range--such as orchestral scores (and even then, 18bit would've sufficed 99.99%)

Also, 24bit is almost impossible to physically achieve anyway, so 32bit sound, if that indeed ever happens, will be a ways off, not to mention uneeded, since you will go deaf long before you ever exceed 24bit dynamic range.

Most of the noise and distortion (barring freak noise) comes from PC speakers themselves. I would personally like to see better speakers in the PC market.

If you end up getting the 5.1 Ultras, you need to stick with either the X-Fi or M-Audio since the speaker system has analog inputs only.
July 4, 2006 7:57:43 AM

Quote:
There's not a big difference between 16bit (96db dynamic range) and 24bit (144db dynamic range) on most material, except those with a lot of dynamic range--such as orchestral scores (and even then, 18bit would've sufficed 99.99%)

Also, 24bit is almost impossible to physically achieve anyway, so 32bit sound, if that indeed ever happens, will be a ways off, not to mention undeeded, since you will go deaf long before you ever exceed 24bit dynamic range.

Most of the noise and distortion (barring freak noise) comes from PC speakers themselves. I would personally like to see better speakers in the PC market.

If you end up getting the 5.1 Ultras, you need to stick with either the X-Fi or M-Audio since the speaker system has analog inputs only.


If you're more into music than into games I'd recommend the M-Audio Revolutions...5.1 or 7.1, the sound is as good or better than the X-Fi's, they're a little less expensive, and they offer more flexible connections (i.e. actual Coax S/PDIF). If you do occasionally dip into games there's still EAX 2.0 support, so you can get some benefit. ...there's also not the occassional problem some are reporting with the Creative cards and the "Rice Crispies" effect (snap, crackle, and pop).

The X-Fi is a great card, but it seems to be a bit overrated simply because of Creative's legacy, not because it beat its competition flat out.

note: I haven't read everyone's post above so if I'm being redundant please forgive.
July 4, 2006 5:17:58 PM

If you do any gaming at all get the x-fi music since they have the most up to date EAX. As for sound get a nice Klipsch promedia ultra cooled version from ebay or a logitech 5500.
If you gonna get headphones x-fi plat ($131) on sale and the breakbox will help a lot since it brings closer the headphone jacks.
July 5, 2006 7:23:21 AM

I have been using M-Audio Revolution 7.1 for about 2 years.
It have a better DAC than Creative's card so Revolution is better than Creative Card's for music. I did not encounter any problem with Revolution's driver.
If you using you system primarily for music I would definitely recomment Revolution.
July 5, 2006 8:13:27 AM

Quote:
I have been using M-Audio Revolution 7.1 for about 2 years.
It have a better DAC than Creative's card so Revolution is better than Creative Card's for music. I did not encounter any problem with Revolution's driver.
If you using you system primarily for music I would definitely recomment Revolution.


While I agree with you totally here I might add that unless one has speakers or headphones that have excellent resolution and accuracy one likely will not be able to appreciate (or even hear) the difference in DACs between an X-Fi and a Revolution. I don't want to start any mess, but truly wonder if a Creative or Logitech speaker solution is going to provide one with the kind of resolution one would need, in music, to hear the difference between these two cards if, indeed, there even is a perceptible difference to the most "golden-eared" of audiophiles.

If you're really into music and that's the card's primary purpose consider a card with a good DAC, inperceptible THD&IMD, high S/N ratio, and RCA stereo outputs. I know I'm nit-picking here, and I apologize for that. I'm thinking of what to consider to get one closer to their music. A card that seems to fit this bill, and look good (on paper) is the M-Audio Audiophile2496 ( http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Audiophile2496-ma... ). This is a purely musical solution, so if you're into gaming, the Revolutions or X-Fi's offer more utility, IMO.
July 5, 2006 8:29:30 AM

M-Audio stuff is much more geared toward music creation (so don't be spending extra just to get a card with ProTools compatibility!), however if you find a card more angled at great monitoring it'd be sure to sound great.

On to my point -

A friend of mine has had a few troubles with his Audiophile24/96 card, he's found it fine for recording and MIDI, but found the playback quality a bit of a problem. However if you couple it with a decent set of speakers and cables I'm fairly sure that'd fix it - my friend is one of those who believes that cables don't matter. Which is wrong.
July 5, 2006 8:39:46 AM

Hmmm...playback problems with the '2496..."Rice Crispy" effect with the X-Fi (for some). Interesting. Even on this low-end audio rig I can't hear any of the "Rice Crispy" effect. I'm going Optical out to an outboard DAC, but even when i was traveling out via 1/8" 4' K-Mart grade interconnect the sound was noiseless.

Um, interconnects make a difference, even though subtle (tighter bass, more controlled upper range (smoother)) ...and that's only with 192kbps AAC.
July 5, 2006 8:55:13 AM

Quote:
Hmmm...playback problems with the '2496..."Rice Crispy" effect with the X-Fi (for some). Interesting. Even on this low-end audio rig I can't hear any of the "Rice Crispy" effect. I'm going Optical out to an outboard DAC, but even when i was traveling out via 1/8" 4' K-Mart grade interconnect the sound was noiseless.

Um, interconnects make a difference, even though subtle (tighter bass, more controlled upper range (smoother)) ...and that's only with 192kbps AAC.


An interesting forum for such considerations: http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php

Here, you'll have the chance to be introduced to ABX comparisons and then discover that the sound of interconnects is placebo effect (except in the case of interconnects having problems of course). Also, 192kbps AAC is generally (certain people with very good hearing capabilities are able to spot differences on very special cases called "killer samples") transparent. Only transcoding to another lossy format is an issue.
July 5, 2006 9:04:41 AM

Quote:
Hmmm...playback problems with the '2496..."Rice Crispy" effect with the X-Fi (for some). Interesting. Even on this low-end audio rig I can't hear any of the "Rice Crispy" effect. I'm going Optical out to an outboard DAC, but even when i was traveling out via 1/8" 4' K-Mart grade interconnect the sound was noiseless.

Um, interconnects make a difference, even though subtle (tighter bass, more controlled upper range (smoother)) ...and that's only with 192kbps AAC.


An interesting forum for such considerations: http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php

Here, you'll have the chance to be introduced to ABX comparisons and then discover that the sound of interconnects is placebo effect (except in the case of interconnects having problems of course). Also, 192kbps AAC is generally (certain people with very good hearing capabilities are able to spot differences on very special cases called "killer samples") transparent. Only transcoding to another lossy format is an issue.

Oh, I know, the battle over whether or not Yugo-class interconnects sound any different than Bentley-class gear is age old. I wasn't sure, myself, so I tried the wires that come with most standard gear and compared it to my slightly better gear. I swear there's a difference but it may indeed be psychological. I love HydrogenAudio, good stuff.
July 5, 2006 10:07:54 AM

It's interesting the interconnect argument, but I don't see how anyone can say it's all 'placebo'.

The difference between a £2 2xRXA->2xRCA cable and even just a Cambridge Audio cable is profound. Although anything above that I haven't tried extensively.
July 5, 2006 11:40:10 AM

I just installed an audiophile 2496 the other day and it's fantastic. I'm using an arcam alpha amp and castle speakers: you really do need decent hi fi gear to hear the best from the card. Years ago my hi fi separates cost about £300 or so each. A £50 2496 is right at home in this kind of setup. Great value - but I don't play games so I've no idea how it fares there.

You're best bet might be to hunt down a second-hand bargain for an amp & speakers. That's where the money needs to go given that good cards are so cheap.
July 5, 2006 12:08:20 PM

I think the problem is the mixed up messages and intended audience. We will lose our ability to differentiate long before we lose our ability to measure the differences. In light of the intereconnect argument, I *believe* (or hope) the placebo argument is merely used ward off those those with less pocket change and point them in a better direction. If one truly believes there are no differences *at all*, then that's denial of the scientific method.
July 5, 2006 2:01:51 PM

Quote:
It's interesting the interconnect argument, but I don't see how anyone can say it's all 'placebo'.

The difference between a £2 2xRXA->2xRCA cable and even just a Cambridge Audio cable is profound. Although anything above that I haven't tried extensively.


We could say it is placebo until the contrary is proven.... I have not yet been aware of real double blind tests (and with particular care regarding level ajustements, you know this issue used in hifi shop to prove the superiority of the more expensive device) showing a trend for a particular interconnect. Instead, all the tests I know have shown no trend even though some of the participants were (before!) convinced of the opposite. Of course we are talking about "hearable" (do not know if it is an English word) differences, not measurements that could (that will) depict impedance differences.
July 8, 2006 8:11:04 AM

I've had my coffee folks, be scared, be very scared.

In my ignorance I have this thought about "What is the best Sound Card?". I think the answer to question depends on the application, and this has been stated before. I think most of us will agree that the best Swiss Army Knife of sound cards probably lies somewhere in the Creative line of products. ...especially when one is thinking of gaming as their primary application.

Consider this, though. We go on and on about Creative's APU and how that spares the CPU from being bothered. Does Creative's APU make a marked difference in a multi-processor or dual-core system with the average 2-3% of CPU usage audio processing tends to consume? I don't know, so I'm asking. If not, one can forget kind-of Creative and go with a better sounding solution with better physical connections, especially when pushing sound out to a receiver/amp.

If I have have a dual-core CPU and use M-Audio's Audiophile 2496 or Revolution series cards will I get better quality and just as good performance as someone with a single-core CPU and an X-Fi? Interesting thought. In gaming, today, who cares if that second CPU/core takes the 2-3% CPU hit of audio processing when they've got true high-end sound quality and the game is designed for single-core CPUs? I know I'm not considering EAX v4/5 and that makes a difference.
July 8, 2006 11:52:04 AM

It has been my experience that different cables on soundcards has very little if any difference unlike home audio gear.

There is a reason for this. Home audio gear has highish ouput impedances (300-1000 ohms) whereas sound cards have typically less than 32 ohms. this is so that soundcards can drive headphones directly.

The high ouput impedance of the home gear interacts with the capacitance in the cables to roll off the high frequencies & make even the most lively piano sound dull & lifeless. such is not a problem with soundcards in my experience, they seem to sound the same no matter the cable. Other factors limit the soundcard quality such as DAC quality, whether or not the sample rate is alter & the quality of the sample rate converter.

Note, I make all my own cabling as my soundcard is hooked up though my home grade preamp. My cabling has the lower measured capacitance than any commercially available cables that I have tested & you can really tell it on my system however I use regular comercialy available cabling on my soundcard connections to the peamp as it has no difference there.

I use the X-Fi platinum soundcard myself as it is versatile & sounds very good. & yes Ive had the M-Audio audiophile 24/96 card (also very good card) either one will do any music fan proud duel cpu or not thogh there is no substitute for creative in gaming (ps. I'm not a gamer though)
!