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Onboard vs Dedicated Sound Cards/5.1 Surround Sounds System

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July 6, 2006 2:19:38 PM

Hey dudes, thanks for your help in advance...

At the moment I have a ASUS A8N-SLI Delexe motherboard with onboard 8 channel sound - link here.
I game and listen to music, have lots of RAM and a dual core proccessor. Do I need a dedicated sound card? Also I am in the market for a 5.1 surround sound system primarily for my computer which can be unpluged from the back of each speaker leaving the cables in place and then can be plugged into another set of cables connected to my television. I don't need wireless functionality and don't have a massive budget. What do you all suggest?
July 6, 2006 8:42:46 PM

If your really into the quality of music ie. enthusiasts, then buy a better sound card. But i find the onboard sound of most modern motherboards to be pretty "top-notch".
July 6, 2006 8:58:40 PM

"Top-notch"? :?: :?:
Have you ever heard a SoundBlaster? (not to mention some of the professional sound cards, like the ones from Turtle Beach)
There's no onboard audio solution that could came not even close to a REAL sound card.
I've had 3 SoundBlaster's (AWE32, Live! 5.1 and my current Audigy SE) and 5 different onboard audio solutions, and let me tell you, onboard audio can be enough for some people, but it's awful compared to a proper sound card.

EDIT: Besides, there are all the benefits from complete EAX support (Hardware mixing, Advanced HD, etc etc...)
Related resources
July 6, 2006 9:16:17 PM

Quote:
But i find the onboard sound of most modern motherboards to be pretty "top-notch"


I echo mulitplectic's sentiments. It's not even close to top notch...onboard sound is barely adequate.

To answer the original question, Do you need a sound card? People would tell you it works so why bother. But I would answer this better question, Is it worth the extra few dollars to buy a dedicated sound card? Yes!!!! The difference is huge!! Just read through some of the other posts here in the sound card section to learn why. This is a topic talked about all the time.
July 6, 2006 9:20:08 PM

8O I like my onboard sound. I don't know what you guys are picking up 8)
I really just game on my headphones so, yeah...
Yeah, I'd agree you could spend a bit more if your going for a 5-channel speaker setup.
July 6, 2006 9:23:47 PM

However, onboard AC97 sound has come a long way in recent times - and it now actually "not that bad" - but it is definitely a long long way from being "top notch".

If you are an audiophile, then you can even get PCI sound cards which have 2 valves - believe it or not. I forget from where though. Google is your friend.

I recommend Turtle Beach ahead of Creative (bad drivers) and I've installed maybe 100 Santa Cruz cards over the years and never had a single issue. That card is out of production, but there's three new ones available. Take your pick.
July 6, 2006 9:31:32 PM

try a 64 bit creative driver then, and listen to the awesomeness of screaching and static in every application!
July 7, 2006 9:35:04 AM

Onboard has a problem with noise... I have tried out onboard sound over 5 different motherboards for 8 years now and they all have terrible background noise... It's almost like they have sound effects for when I move my mouse or when I open a windows. That horrible high pitched buzzing sound happens every time I do anything... bugs the hell out of me!!!

So to answer I would rather they taken the cost of the soundcard off the motherboard and let me spend it on a soundcard... Onboard is for basic cheap assed people that don't give a damn or have cheap assed speakers... Onboard sound on 7.1 Gigawork speakers is not very nice what so ever!!!

P.s. Creative do have the worst driver support out there but there is no better alternative for gamers and they do make the best hardware for the cost...
July 7, 2006 9:53:28 AM

Quote:
Onboard has a problem with noise... I have tried out onboard sound over 5 different motherboards for 8 years now and they all have terrible background noise... It's almost like they have sound effects for when I move my mouse or when I open a windows. That horrible high pitched buzzing sound happens every time I do anything... bugs the hell out of me!!!

So to answer I would rather they taken the cost of the soundcard off the motherboard and let me spend it on a soundcard... Onboard is for basic cheap assed people that don't give a damn or have cheap assed speakers... Onboard sound on 7.1 Gigawork speakers is not very nice what so ever!!!

P.s. Creative do have the worst driver support out there but there is no better alternative for gamers and they do make the best hardware for the cost...


A few motherboards actually have Creative SoundBlaster Audigy audio built onto them. I've never had the opportunity to listen to these solutions myself, but I'd infer that they'd be pretty high-quality. I'd wonder, though, whether or not other mobo components still offer, graciously, to introduce noise into such a solution. I believe MSI offers onboard Audigy's. Does anyone have experience with these?
July 7, 2006 10:28:11 AM

>>A few motherboards actually have Creative SoundBlaster Audigy audio built onto them. I've never had the opportunity to listen to these solutions myself, but I'd infer that they'd be pretty high-quality. I'd wonder, though, whether or not other mobo components still offer, graciously, to introduce noise into such a solution. I believe MSI offers onboard Audigy's. Does anyone have experience with these?<<

My MSI board has a built-in Creative Soundblaster 24 bit LIVE! chip. I am dissappointed because I have two other Soundblaster PCI cards, Audigy LS, and one other similar, which are superior to the onboard SB 24 LIVE. One of the reasons I bought the MSI board was the onboard SB. I suppose the sound it can reproduce is slightly better than the Asus 8 channel offering on their current boards. I have that too. I use an older Boston Acoustics 5 way, w/seperate woffer, 75 watt speaker system. They sound great with the Audigy LS pci card. With the on board SB 24 the speakers sound generic. The Audigy LS is much better!
July 7, 2006 10:45:51 AM

Quote:
>>A few motherboards actually have Creative SoundBlaster Audigy audio built onto them. I've never had the opportunity to listen to these solutions myself, but I'd infer that they'd be pretty high-quality. I'd wonder, though, whether or not other mobo components still offer, graciously, to introduce noise into such a solution. I believe MSI offers onboard Audigy's. Does anyone have experience with these?<<

My MSI board has a built-in Creative Soundblaster 24 bit LIVE! chip. I am dissappointed because I have two other Soundblaster PCI cards, Audigy LS, and one other similar, which are superior to the onboard SB 24 LIVE. One of the reasons I bought the MSI board was the onboard SB. I suppose the sound it can reproduce is slightly better than the Asus 8 channel offering on their current boards. I have that too. I use an older Boston Acoustics 5 way, w/seperate woffer, 75 watt speaker system. They sound great with the Audigy LS pci card. With the on board SB 24 the speakers sound generic. The Audigy LS is much better!


I believe the sound qualities you describe of the SB Live! are not flaws, just that card's general *personality* with Creative's drivers. Want a change you'll likely deem pleasant? Try the Kx Project drivers ( http://kxproject.lugosoft.com/index.php?skip=1 ) for all EMU10K1 and EMU10K2 based audio processors (including SB Live! and Audigy). They'll work with all of your aforementioned audio cards. They took the sound of my SB Live! from generic and hollow to full and deep. A sound that is very very competive with the X-Fi I'm using, as well, with a deeper, fuller bass and a warmer sound in general. Equalization? Perhaps. ...but highly recommended for EMU10K1 and EMU10K2-based audio processors.
July 9, 2006 3:38:08 AM

Quote:
Onboard has a problem with noise... I have tried out onboard sound over 5 different motherboards for 8 years now and they all have terrible background noise... It's almost like they have sound effects for when I move my mouse or when I open a windows. That horrible high pitched buzzing sound happens every time I do anything... bugs the hell out of me!!!


i think that the humming and buzzing is a side effect of the sound not being grounded, almost always over an analog connection too... usually involving integrated sound in one way or another... add on cards ive seen much less of that (with only one instance that i *think* was an add on card anyhow, though mightve just been integrated)... ...possibly using mounting screws underneath the motherboard might fix the grounding issue though, maybe.

edit: was also reading just now... i guess another possible culprit could be the wiring in your house, the outlets youre connecting to, which are generating the unwanted sounds... maybe a different outlet of some kind, seperate from your main outlet? (sometimes amplifiers have seperate power outlets on them, though that wouldnt power your tower at all, its just an example) possibly just a surge protector... or check at a friends house even... if the house wiring really is the issue (though no guarantee theirs are any different)... its also kindof a large jump to assume its an issue with the house wiring :?... ...but based on numerous complaints people were having when i googled, alot of people suggested that that poor wiring could very well be the reason... i still say maybe an add on card might fix it, or at least mounting screws under the motherboard...

one possible solution:
http://forum.cakewalk.com/tm.asp?m=802805
July 10, 2006 7:19:24 AM

With the humming thing. I randomly get it - but especially when I'm changing windows. Would this be a grounding problem and would a dedicated sound card fix it?
Thanks
July 10, 2006 7:48:42 AM

yeah... i think the annoying background sounds youre hearing, when you move the mouse around, and open windows and such, and/or a constant medium low hum in the background too (its about 60Hz i think), are specifically due to grounding issues... an add on card could very well fix it... mounting screws, which are a good idea to have underneath your motherboard anyhow (if you dont already have them), could very well help alleviate that too... and theyre cheap anyhow, a few dollars at most... a local electronics store might carry them.

this might be an unavailable alternative, unless you have the hardware readily available: but outputting the sound over the spdif digital connection on your motherboard to a device that can decode a digital signal (a receiver for example... or even a 5.1 set of speakers that accept a digital signal, you might consider looking into, since you brought up that you were looking for new speakers... the digital connection also would only involve one cable, instead of 6 cables for analog 5.1), that would fix the problem too. a cheap rca cable (about $0.99), or a optical toslink cable (which is more expensive >$10 or so usually) is all you would need to make the connection... soundwise, theres not really any difference between the two cables though. (you want to make sure to check which type of cable the 5.1 speakers or receiver accepts, coaxial or optical, if you do decide to go this route)

for the recommendation of a sound card (that would be outputting a digital signal for its main use, in a surround speaker set up), i always lean towards recommending any sound card that can encode dolby digital (aka ddl) or dts, in realtime... the overall sound quality comparison of a card that does that, to any other card, in a digital surround configuration... i feel is unparalleled, IMO

2 examples are:
AuzenTech HDA X-Mystique 7.1 Gold (~$105)
Turtle Beach Montego DDL (~$80)

they both use the same CMI8768+ chipset, so sound quality is the same, one is just cheaper
July 10, 2006 10:49:43 AM

There is no questions about it in my mind, a dedicated sound card is a good idea. Even an old sound blaster sounds better than onbord device. In my son's computer I put a Sound Blaster 128 which is certainly dated and the sound was a lot better that way then with the integrated device.
July 10, 2006 10:56:42 AM

Speakers are more important than sound cards. I got myself a logitech z-5500 for £180 and it rocks. I have both onboard ac'97 sound and audigy 2 zs, and to be honest, there isn't alot of noticable difference.

The only advantage with my audigy is the automatic upmixing from two channel to 5.1 when using 6 channel direct inputs. However my speaker system can do this anyway by itself, so i have the option of both now.

I think the only time a good sound card helps is when you have a crappy set of speakers with a low signal to noise ratio.
July 11, 2006 12:42:08 AM

I have the same onboard sound and good speakers and its great for gaming. I use some decent logitech speakers and sub-woofer and have no complaints. When I listen to music I dont use this system.. but for gaming .. hey .. its great and I put that extra money into my vid card!!

Shadowryder1
July 11, 2006 1:26:45 AM

I'm with Windego on that one. I have a set of Logitech Z-5500 digitals. These babies come with a desktop control pod WITH a built in decoder. I can select OPTICAL DIGITAL, COAX, or ANALOG. And on my ASUS I use the AC97 onboard. I don't know what the rest of you are saying about background noise (I;m sure that's true) but I don't get ANY BACKGROUND NOISE......ZERO. When I listen to MP3's or gaming, say like FEAR, HOLY CRAP I swear I'm right in the thick of gunfire and flying bullets. DAmn man when I listen to my MP3's like some good pumpin house or TEchno like Carl Cox I swear I;m right in the middle of a RAVE. I can't say anything bad about my onboard sound because there is nothing bad to say. SAve your money from a sound card and get yourself a KICK A@@ vid card !!! :lol: 

Oh and my Z-5500's are SOOOOO dang LOUD,,,,,they can KILL BACTERIA on the wall :lol:  Hell, they can even piss off a deaf person. 8O

Antec P180 PerformanceSeries Mid-Tower Case
SeaSonic S12 600 watt power supply
Asus A8N32 SLI mobo AMD N-Force 4 SLIX16 (bios 1103 V02.58)
RealTek 97 onboard digital 5.1 Surround
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ Toledo Core, 2 X 1mb L2 cache (AMD drivers w/MS hotfix)
2 gigs of Corsair TwinX3500LL Pro @ 437Mhz 2-3-2-6-1T
2- BFG Tech 7900 GT OC 256mg in SLI (nvidia driver 84.21)
Western Digital RAPTOR 74.3 gig 10-K rpm HDD for XP & Apps
Maxtor SATA II 250 G HDD for gaming, movies, MP3's
Maxtor SATA II 250 G HDD for document backup (unplugged)
Sony CD rom 52X
Plextor 708-A DVD/CD rom
Logitech Z-5500 digital 5.1 THX Surround 500watts
July 11, 2006 9:21:27 AM

i do agree with a speaker set up being the most important factor in how something sounds... but just like with gaming, your fps performance is usually determined by your weakest component (that example doesnt exactly work i guess, cuz most games performance are determined usually by the graphical demand you place on the gpu)... im sure you know what im saying though, 'a chain is only as strong as its weakest link', if you have a great speaker set up, but a horrible sound card/low quality media file or such... youre almost guaranteed to be able to pick out flaws in the source sound... and vice versa, if your sources sound is great, but your speakers are less than you would want... the sound card (or the media your playing), wont have nearly enough justice done to them, and be more of a waste qualitywise, cuz your speakers cant adequately perform... speakers are the most important part, no doubt there... but with having good speakers, doesnt mean having a decent or great sound card should go neglected (unless youre happy with the sound card you have, and the overall quality of sound thats output from your speakers, then no problems)... ...as far as 'background noise' though, some people dont have the problem at all (for instance: using a strictly digital interface between the sound card and the digital signal decoder certainly helps with that problem though)... but, if/when the problem does occur, it really can be a bother.

also, in regards to comparing audigys to most current integrated sound solutions... i agree that there really isnt much audible difference between the two in comparing sound quality... the main advantage audigys have, is to reduce cpu usage during gameplay (and they are really about the only cards that can use versions of EAX above 2.0, for licensing reasons, making that just proprietary, and locking you into purchasing their cards, if you really feel you want EAX support, but its by no means required for any game to work, at least that ive seen anyhow, could be wrong though... theres also the x-fi that can use higher versions of EAX too, but yeah, same company again)... but with cpus being as fast as they are now, now with dual cores being widely and readily available, and multiple cores on the horizon (and games being coded, and patched, with multithreading in mind), the point of low cpu usage, almost becomes moot... thats about the only practical difference between the two though, IMO.
July 11, 2006 10:30:05 AM

Before i got my X-fi i relied upon the ALC650 ac97 onboard sound codec.
i found that for the most part it was ok except in doom3 where i would hear clicks whenever the character walked.

since then i've noticed much better sound quality in all departments, and to top it off, games "feel" like they run much better performance wise. i'm certain the x-fi has added a few fps to all my games.
July 11, 2006 12:33:45 PM

Yeah, it's a difficult one because I do agree with most posts that it depends on your current system and what use you have for the audio.

I mainly play games and listen to the odd mp3/cd but I just use the onboard sound with my DFi Mainboard. It's actually a seperate module which you plug onto the board and the sound I get is awesome. I have just a logitech 2.1 setup (2 speakers and subwoofer) for the music which is good enough for me and for gaming I use a Sennheiser headset. Not sure whether it is the headset or the seperate onboard sound module but I hear things which many of my friends don't whilst playing games online.

I had contemplated on whether to buy a seperate soundcard but given the fact that I hear things now which others don't playing the same game, I think I'll save my money and put it towards a nice tft.
July 11, 2006 1:30:26 PM

Go with a card. Good creative cards have really come down in price. This is what I have..Audigy2 ZS
What you really need to do is get a reciver and speakers. I've heard the Z-5500's and they are really good, but about two weeks ago I was just checking out the local Pawn Shop and picked up a Pioneer VSX-D514 souround reciver, a Pioneer HTP300-SW passive sub and a pair of 12" three-ways. I just can't find the words to describe it! And the price couldn't be beat, $100.00 US!! 8) . I am still looking for the rest of the speakers to fill out the surround setup and I'll find them eventually. Radioshack had some special cables so I can either use the little computer speakers when I need to keep it low or crank on the big ones when the mood hits. Doom 3 and FEAR never sounded SO GOOD! Wish I knew how to post a pic and I'd show them to you... :D 
July 11, 2006 2:15:08 PM

If you have the money to burn, go for it. Better sound is always a good thing. For most budget applications, like budget gaming rigs, onboard sound is sufficient, especially some of the current multi-channel options available on many current boards.
July 11, 2006 2:53:50 PM

Quote:
try a 64 bit creative driver then, and listen to the awesomeness of screaching and static in every application!
I have an X-FI and XP 64-bit and I've noticed none of this. I did have a problem with Far Cry awhile back in 64-bit mode with my X-FI but that's gone thanks to the newest drivers.
July 11, 2006 3:21:09 PM

My new mobo has Dolby Master Studio. The sound is better than a DVD player's. SPDIF output works even gaming, where a Creative card requires a lot of wires with low quality connections. :( 

You can't just lump all onboard sound together. The actual implementation has as big as effect on the overall sound as the parts in the circuit. My DualSATA2 sounds like garbage, my Tforce-6100 has about the same parts but sound much better.

The Dolby Master Studio HD audio is just plain awesome on my P5W DH Deluxe. :D 
July 11, 2006 4:05:17 PM

I have gone through 3 sound cards pretty recently, so I think I can give some insight into this. I started witht he onboard sound on my ABIT AN8-SLi board, which is supposed to be pretty good quality. I listen to a lot of music though, and I rip all my CD's in wav format, and the sound quality just wasn't there. I figured it wasnt my speakers, considering I was using Z-5500's they should sound decent. I purchased a m-audio 5.1 card, and the music quality went way up. Unfortunately it sucked for gaming, and Im also a heavy gamer so I got my money back for it and got a audigy 2 zs. The gaming performance was far ebtter than the M-audio card, but the music was not. Eventually I upgraded to the X-fi card I have now, which has very good gaming performance, and improved quite a bit on music over the audigy 2 card I had. In short, sound cards make a big difference over onboard if you have good speakers I think, otherwise it isn't really worth it. If you do buy a sound card get one that will fit your needs, if you game quite a bit I would definitely recommend an x-fi card, because theyre the most widely supported cards now in games, as well as giving decent music performance.
July 11, 2006 4:26:10 PM

hi,
i have an asus a7v8x, there were background noise from hardisk and mouse moving on my speakers and decided to buy a sound blaster audigy 2 value.
I was very disapointed because the noises still there :( 
July 11, 2006 4:27:24 PM

Quote:
hi,
i have an asus a7v8x, there were background noise from hardisk and mouse moving on my speakers and decided to buy a sound blaster audigy 2 value.
I was very disapointed because the noises still there :( 


Try muting all inputs.
July 11, 2006 4:33:25 PM

thanks for the idea ;) . it worked (i think, cause not always the noise appears), but i need "line in" because i have a tv card connected to it.
July 11, 2006 4:35:48 PM

Yes, that's why I know about that problem too--a AIW. I'm using a TV wonder in this rig in my sig with no noise at all. :D 
July 13, 2006 5:28:59 AM

Could the headphones be at fault here? I have a pair of AKG K-44 headphones which put me back $50 (AUD).
!