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Soundblaster X-Fi vs. ASUS onboard Realtek ALC882M

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August 1, 2006 3:25:19 PM

I'm going to be using an ASUS P5W DH motherboard for my new computer, and i was planning on sticking in a SoundBlaster X-Fi sound card. However, the board comes with Realtek ALC882M 8 channel onboard sound. Am i going to notice a difference with the X-Fi over the onboard sound?
August 1, 2006 5:18:59 PM

Startout using the onboard sound. If you dont like the way it sounds then try the x-fi sound card.
Now if you dont have a good set of surround speakers then no sound card will make a bit of difference. Good speakers first then worry about the sound card.
People will say "oh the x-fi is sooooo much better plus you get more fps in games and a bunch of other stuff. Listen for your self and then make a decision. Your the only one that can listen with your ears. I use onboard surround and have no problems and it sounds good to me.
August 2, 2006 3:28:49 PM

Onboard sound consumes more CPU time because HD audio is just a codec which implemented using CPU.
Separate sound card with DSP should reduce CPU consumption.

I have the same problem. I've got my Intel975XBX, waiting for C2D and trying to find good sound card. Although I'm not sure that X-Fi is the best choice.
From what I know - X-Fi has a lot of bugs, mostly noticeable on high-end configurations.
So, I'm looking for Audigy2 ZS
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August 2, 2006 3:52:02 PM

Personally I was dubious before I bought an X-fi. I have never had any probs with it and through my nice set of speakers sounds much better than onboard sound. Good advice about needing decent speakers above though. Also did increase my FPS by roughly 5 in CSS
August 2, 2006 4:17:15 PM

I've got an X-Fi Fatality and I love it. I use it with a set of Logitech Z-5450's and it incredible. The Fatality version (and the Platinum versions) have 64mb of onboard ram on the card and that does aid in the signal processing. But, what the soundcard does is it takes on what the CPU would be doing if you used onboard sound. In effect, besides superior clarity, it also aids in fps for games (as it frees up cpu power). Also, it is not bothered by having circuitry that could suffer from emi (as onboard sound can be prone to do from time to time)
August 2, 2006 4:25:28 PM

Quote:
I'm going to be using an ASUS P5W DH motherboard for my new computer, and i was planning on sticking in a SoundBlaster X-Fi sound card. However, the board comes with Realtek ALC882M 8 channel onboard sound. Am i going to notice a difference with the X-Fi over the onboard sound?


Judging by your video card, you're probably not a gamer. If not for the extra few FPS that you might gain with a discrete sound card, there's probably no compelling reason to upgrade.

I have the same audio codec on my board and it sounds very good. My system feeds a seperate stereo amplifier and JBL speakers. I noticed an immediate improvement over the codec on my A8V-Deluxe.

Some folks are well served by purchasing better speakers for their systems than upgraded sound cards, if audio quality is the issue.
August 2, 2006 4:51:52 PM

Even though I have always used a soundcard in my systems, what rushfan said does warrant consideration. While sound quality and such is always going to be better having a soundcard, any noticeable difference won't really register with a general computer user. That being said, the sound quality from todays onboard sound would probably do just fine - especially if you aren't a gamer.
August 2, 2006 4:57:53 PM

I imagine that you'll notice a sizable difference in quality over the onboard sound when using the X-Fi. Does your mobo manual list the audio specs for the onboard sound (S/N ratio, THD?) If so, compare those number to the X-Fi and you'll see why many speak highly of the X-Fi's sound. If the mobo manual does not list the onboard sound's specs...the omission pretty much sums it up, IMO. If you're a gamer, you'll likely get better results from the X-Fi by a noticable margin.

If onboard sound has risen to the level that one can't tell the difference between it and a decent sound card, when using reasonable speakers/headphones, that's a tremendous improvement for the industry...and it's about time. ...but I remain skeptical until I hear it myself.
August 2, 2006 6:10:26 PM



For those who lazy to follow the link and read the whole story, below are the most interesting parts:

Creative's advertisement says that Crystalizer expands dynamic range of 16 bit records to 24 bit. I made some advanced experimenting in RMAA 5.5. I have played 16-bit and 24-bit WAV files on X-Fi and then recorded them via S/PDIF on the professional LynxTwo-B sound interface in 24 bit mode when Crystalizer was ON and OFF. The results were compared with the reference 16-bit and 24-bit WAV files, generated by the test application without any playback.
As we can see, Crystalizer does not expand DR of the 16 bit signal, it even reduces it. By default (50%), Crystalizer amplifies the signal so that the two 60 Hz @ -5 dB and 7000 Hz @ -17 dB sines (it's a standard SMPTE-IMD test signal) cause about 1% of distortions (IMD+Noise). The distortions cannot possibly make the sound crystal clear.


Thus, applying Crystalizer to modern maximized records will lead to manifold growth of distortions, resulting in cracks and pollution of the recording with spurious harmonics.

We had serious problems determining X-RAM advantage in synthetic tests. Even most thorough tests with all performance bottlenecks in code removed demonstrate tenths of a single percent. It seems we have performance gains in games and no gains in synthetic tests. We asked Creative to comment on this phenomenon and were even ready to send our code for inspection. Creative has taken the news calmly. It didn't even try to impeach the fact that X-RAM offers no gains in synthetic tests. According to Creative, we should compare X-RAM advantages in OGG predecoding versus real time decoding. We shall certainly release such a version in the nearest future. But even now this proof seems pointless — games indeed enjoy high performance gains from such X-RAM usage. What I wonder is why not use system memory for storing samples? And what's the point in buying more expensive sound cards with on-board memory for gamers? It makes sense today, but we have an impression that it's rather artificial: in case of X-RAM, sound files are unpacked beforehand; but in case of no X-RAM, samples are decoded in real time in order to save system memory irregardless of its size in a computer. We can assume why — Creative employees took part in the development of such audio engines and the company benefits from an artificial handicap in its cards.

Does X-RAM provide real advantage in games? It does, but it can be said for sure only about new games that were created in cooperation with Creative programmers. There are only a few such games so far, but they are all hits: DOOM3 1.3, DOOM3:ROE, Quake4, BattleField 2, BattleField 2:SF. Taking into account that EAX5/X-RAM SDK has been released only recently, we have some grounds for optimism – we may have more games soon. But as OpenAL is too slow to take roots among developers because of its differences from DirectSound, we can make a conclusion that the situation will not change much here.


A lot of our users were disappointed to see that X-Fi XtreemMusic uses the same DACs as in Audigy2.

Thinking about the price of X-Fi I doubt it worth to choose it over Audigy2
August 2, 2006 6:42:24 PM

If I already had an Audigy 2 I don't think an upgrade to the X-Fi would be money well spent, IMO. If I had no card at all, could only get a Creative card, and could get an Audigy 2ZS with the same ease and speed as I could get an X-Fi, I'd likely go with the 2ZS. If I had to search just a little bit harder or wait just a little bit longer to get an Audigy 2ZS, I'd get the X-Fi, even it if cost $30 more. I'm not a patient man.
August 2, 2006 6:50:17 PM

Quote:
If I already had an Audigy 2 I don't think an upgrade to the X-Fi would be money well spent, IMO. If I had no card at all, could only get a Creative card, and could get an Audigy 2ZS with the same ease and speed as I could get an X-Fi, I'd likely go with the 2ZS. If I had to search just a little bit harder or wait just a little bit longer to get an Audigy 2ZS, I'd get the X-Fi, even it if cost $30 more. I'm not a patient man.


NewEgg OEM Audigy2ZS SB0350 in stock 65$
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

NewEgg Retail Audigy2ZS SB0400 in stock 64$
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

NewEgg Retail X-Fi Extreme Music in stock 122$
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...
August 2, 2006 6:55:01 PM

Quote:
If I already had an Audigy 2 I don't think an upgrade to the X-Fi would be money well spent, IMO. If I had no card at all, could only get a Creative card, and could get an Audigy 2ZS with the same ease and speed as I could get an X-Fi, I'd likely go with the 2ZS. If I had to search just a little bit harder or wait just a little bit longer to get an Audigy 2ZS, I'd get the X-Fi, even it if cost $30 more. I'm not a patient man.


NewEgg in stock 65$
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

retail 64$
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

...good prices, I have 3 X-Fi's, 1 came with my Dell X600, and I got 2 from NewEgg when they were $82, so I'm not in the market for a new soundcard.
August 2, 2006 7:10:53 PM

all good advice above, however:

I don't know of bugs on xfi (others may have them, I dont) as my system has been stable and solid since the first day. Sound quality is great, I use good headphones and mediocre speakers.

Yes, you might notice a slight performance improvement in games but not enough to justify the cost... plus as stated before w/ your vid-card you are not gaming so even less justification.

Sound quality is always better on better speakers, (here comes the justification) but even on low-end logitecs I notice background system static w/ onboard sound. (have built many systems w/ it, and have used the soundstorm [great chip] on my asus nforce2 board and tested the sound on my current system) W/ all the extra stuff going on in the mobo there is too much static that crosses over to the sound. On some boards (including the great soundstorm) I can even hear the mouse movements... and that is on a cheap-a$$ pair of $10 logitec headphones!

Not sure if my ears are just hyper-sensitive, but that alone is reason enough to get a sound card. And if you are in the market for one, you might as well make it an x-fi. The quality is there, and it will last you for years to come through many new systems. (heck, I still have an audigy in an old system and it is better [interference wise] than any onboard sound)

Yes, the audigy2 is also a good card, but for just a few bucks more you get the higher end that will last longer. JMO
August 2, 2006 7:16:48 PM

Quote:

I don't know of bugs on xfi (others may have them, I dont) as my system has been stable and solid since the first day.


Take a look at Catherina's post:
http://forums.creative.com/creativelabs/board/message?b...


Hi everyone,

First of all I'd like to thank you all again for your feedback, both here on the forum and in direct contact with Customer Support.

A problem was identified on nForce4 based systems where the system ran into difficulties, related to the enumeration of the cards with 2MB (X-Fi XtremeMusic and X-Fi Platinum). This resulted in a variety of symptoms:

- The system may freeze or not boot

- The system may list multiple "Unknown PCI Device" entries and lead to a BSOD

- The system may reboot repeatedly (when "Automatically Restart" is enabled in the Advanced system settings)

Some motherboard manufacturers have already acknowledged this issue and released a BIOS update to resolve it. For systems where a BIOS update is not available we will be providing an alternative resolution in the form of a replacement card with modified firmware. Please contact Customer Support for your region for further details.
August 2, 2006 7:22:19 PM

This is how I see it. If you use normal pc speaker then it's good enough for the onboard audio hardware and soundcards should go with quality speakers to fully use it. So speakers also makes a big difference along with the sound card.
August 2, 2006 7:24:35 PM

ya, it has never happened to me... and I have the exact things they spec in that post. I had looked a while back and saw that the cause was thought to be the pci load allocation on nf4... that the xfi was getting starved for bandwidth and had to eat up teh buffer which resulted in all kinds of issues. Like that post says many bios updates fixed it.

I never had the issue, and never needed a new bios... could be that I had a new enough version that fixed it already but who knows?

Either way, there is a fix and I just thought I would be the voice of "hey, not everyone has glitches w/ it!" lol
August 2, 2006 7:35:13 PM

Quote:
Either way, there is a fix and I just thought I would be the voice of "hey, not everyone has glitches w/ it!" lol


I agree, that problem was fixed with new BIOS on some motherboards. Not sure about the rest of them.
The question is - do I really need all this hassle without noticeable benefits for extra price?
August 2, 2006 7:40:02 PM

Quote:
ya, it has never happened to me... and I have the exact things they spec in that post. I had looked a while back and saw that the cause was thought to be the pci load allocation on nf4... that the xfi was getting starved for bandwidth and had to eat up teh buffer which resulted in all kinds of issues. Like that post says many bios updates fixed it.

I never had the issue, and never needed a new bios... could be that I had a new enough version that fixed it already but who knows?

Either way, there is a fix and I just thought I would be the voice of "hey, not everyone has glitches w/ it!" lol


I have the same mobo and that could be why I've never had much trouble with the X-Fi. I had some of the rice-crispy effect but it was so short lived as to not even be worth considering. Definitely not everyone has the issue, I think its definitely a minority. ...but if I were part the minority I'd be pretty irritated, but it would just be an excuse to get an M-Audio 2496 or a Revolution.
August 2, 2006 7:44:31 PM

Quote:
...but if I were part the minority I'd be pretty irritated, but it would just be an excuse to get an M-Audio 2496 or a Revolution.


:lol: 

ya, that pretty much sums up how I got all my home theater/stereo stuff. An excuse is all you need in the pursuit of nice sound... and video... and... :wink:
August 2, 2006 7:59:52 PM

X-Fi is much better then onboard sound. Not only due to performance issues with onboard sound. But cause onboard sound doesnt give you all the options a X-Fi can give you. Like DTS audio CD playback and DVD audio disk playback. Plus i've seen no bugs with the X-Fi. It just works flawless. You never have to do a thing to it. Unlike the Audigy series which had tons of software issues.
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