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FYI: Your FRAME RATES and your SOUND CARD

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September 18, 2006 10:04:07 PM

EDIT 01: I made this post in the Graphics Cards forum because it directly relates to game performance questions people ask in this forum. Upgrading the video card is not the only way to improve FPS (frames per second). Depending on the system one may get a good boost by installing an inexpensive ($50-60) sound card.

EDIT 02: Many people misread this post before replying to it. The post below does not claim that everyone will get a 15% boost to their PC's performance by switching from on-board sound to a high quality dedicated sound card. Your results will vary but some systems can receive a very substantial boost (10-15%). The more powerful your CPU is the less of a noticeable boost you will get.

EDIT 03: The bottom line of the post is not that a 2 frames per second boost is very noticeable. The point is that if you had 20 FPS but with a new sound card you get 22 FPS, then you've achieved a 10% increase in performance wich will apply accross the board.

EDIT 04: The amount of performance increase will depend on how much sound processing is required by a given application and sound settings (quality) and effects. Not all games use high quality sound. In one game your increase may be 1% and in another it could be 12%...

EDIT 05: Lastly, this post is a summary of relevant articles by Microsoft and Thechnical Department of CGW (Computer Gaming World) magazine.

Read, experiment, have fun and form your own opinion.

========================================

I often see people posting questions about their frame rates. Many say that while their PCs are good, their frame rates are lower than they would expect. Many of these posters list their PC specifications, including their CPUs, video cards, hard drives, RAM and motherboards.

However, most neglect to indicate whether they have a stand-alone sound card or an integrated one and this is actually important. Most new motherboards have an integrated sound device. Many support Dolby Digital 5.1 and even higher and many gamers think this is good enough. They are wrong...

In trying to help posters figure out why their frame rates are lower than expected, THGC members often begin to speculate and question the quality of power supplies, drivers, video cards, RAM and what not....

What most people do not know is that there are almost no integrated sound cards which use hardware DSP (Digital Signal Processor).

A DSP for sound is like a GPU for graphics and some of the latest and greatest sound cards from Creative have tons of their own RAM (as much as 64 Mb).

What this means is that if an (integrated) sound card does not have a hardware DSP+ its own RAM – and about 90% of them do not – it offloads all sound processing to the CPU and in addition consumes system RAM much like an integrated video card which has very little of its own RAM and uses system RAM (a good example of this is Intel Extreme Graphics solutions which have 4-8 Mb of own RAM and use up to 248 Mb of system RAM)

The bottom line is that all else equal a system with a stand-alone sound card can be up to 15% faster than an identical system which uses an integrated sound card, especially if you set your gaming sound quality to "High" or "Very High" and enable surround/EAX or other effects. Compare average 60 FPS (minimum 30+maximum 90/2=60) vs. 51 FPS. There is a difference of 9 FPS (or 15%). This difference can be very noticeable when your game play is at its min FPS.

It does not matter how much RAM you have or how super your CPU is. I've read reports that the above is true even for Core 2 Duo machines with 2 Gb of RAM when playing games with heavy sound effects (such as BF2, for example).
September 18, 2006 10:25:49 PM

Unstickified :cry: 
September 18, 2006 10:33:45 PM

Finally

Although that Creative 'sound RAM' or whatever their marketing dept. call it is still boohockey.
Related resources
September 18, 2006 10:45:06 PM

Finally, someone is over exaggerating the benefits of a dedicated soundcard. The only real benefit gained from a dedicated soundcard is the improved sound quality.
September 18, 2006 10:48:12 PM

Well it may be a little enthusiastic and those FPS quotes are likely increadibly selective, but people should stop ignoring the sound card on their list of PC parts! Especially when they specify retarded things like SLi/Xfire and Extreme Edition/FX series CPUs and use onboard sound.
September 18, 2006 10:53:09 PM

I have heard from many people that the difference is pretty negligible and that you would be better off spending the money elsewhere (sound quality aside). I don't really know who is correct, can you provide either some data (numbers) and/or links please?
September 18, 2006 10:58:51 PM

I have to call BS, switching to a much faster CPU shows very little gains in framerate once resolution goes up, the bottleneck is not the CPU but the GPU. Offloading a little bit of work from the CPU is not going to give a 15% increase in framerates unless you're running at 640x480, in which case it shouldn't matter. That being said dedicated sound cards do have an impact (though very minor) and the sound quality is usually better, so an ultimate gaming rig should definitely include one.
September 18, 2006 11:21:35 PM

Todays processors have more than enough balls to handle any "soundcard offloading" they may come across.

This subject was all the meat and potatoes before 64bit computing came along.

/thread.
September 18, 2006 11:32:40 PM

Quote:
Well it may be a little enthusiastic and those FPS quotes are likely increadibly selective, but people should stop ignoring the sound card on their list of PC parts! Especially when they specify retarded things like SLi/Xfire and Extreme Edition/FX series CPUs and use onboard sound.
I always use a dedicated soundcard, but I don't try to advertise fantastic performance increases that don't exist.
Quote:
Yes, but soundcard takes some load of CPU and RAM to some extent.
You hate SLI and Crossfire, but now you're saying your soundcard helps performance "some" ? :wink:
September 18, 2006 11:57:47 PM

Hardocp has shown performance increases when turning off onboard sound, how ever soundcards dont totally offload all stress from sound off of the processor, as the processor enevidibly has to run the drivers. And many cheaper sound cards dont nativly process EAX they have to use their drivers to do so, drivers using up clock cycles. I personally wouldnt spend more then 75 $ on a sound card, as my onboard sound tweaked sounds great along with my Sennheiser PC 160 sk's.
September 19, 2006 12:20:25 AM

Poeple its not just offloading work from the CPU that work has to get in and out of the CPU (IE bandwidth) and please people if you dont own a sound card dont say there is no benifit other then sound quality... speaking from actual experience here BF2 does have a difference in frame rates from turning it on and off. Now for the boo hooers yes you could spend money on a better graphics card and get waaaayyy more improvement on FPS then FPS from a sound card (wich kinda makes sense since the sound card doesnt do graphics.... duuhhhh) There are more benifits to a sound card then simply games too ! I guess no one listens to music on there PC's lol If you spend any amount of time listening to music on your PC and have decent speakers INVEST in a sound card (even a cheaper one) I wouldnt recomend anyone get the same sound card I did (Fatal1ty) as its expensive ! But for me it was a personal decision and I dont regret it one bit, I enjoy it every day :) 
September 19, 2006 12:33:43 AM

I still don't have any links to reputable benchmarks, so for now I am going to go with "it makes a difference, just not enough to really care".
September 19, 2006 12:40:30 AM

I bought a cheap sound card hoping for better sound quality then my inboard sound, how ever it really wasnt any better at all. Aslong as you tweek the equaliser onboard sounds good. The only problem I have with onboard is sounds not being played during games, such as oblivion. When there are many enemys small noises like sword swinging to groans from the monsters arent played. I listne to music alot on my box, and prefer using my pc to listen to music.
September 19, 2006 1:28:59 AM

Quote:
Unstickified :cry: 


Hahahaha! Silly boy :) 

Not that I feel the need to defend my original post, but it seems necessary to quell the anger of some of those who replied and reassure those who jump from conclusion to conclusion *winks at illicitsc*.

First, I read not only online articles but also printed media. The information comes from the Tech section of October 2006 issue of CGW, page 100. I have trusted this magazine for over a decade and I see no reason not to now. Go pick up a copy, since I cannot link to it :lol: 

Second, my post said up to 15%. This is exactly what it means. The performance gain can be as small as 1% or as great as 15%. Learn to read.

Finally, the performance gain does depend on the overall power of the system. However, my further research showed that on average the gain is about 10% which is substantial. People often go as far as volt-mod their video cards and replace stock coolers + overclock their CPUs just to get that 10% boost while they have it right there by sticking a dedicated sound card in. And as games use more realistic sound (for example X-Fi cards can simultaneously reproduce up to 64 voices and apply up to 4 EAX effects to each voice depending on where it is generated in the environment) more processing power will be required. If all this work is offloaded to the CPU via software, guess what will happen… So do yourselves a favor and get a good sound card especially if you are not running a Core 2 Quadro setup with 4 Gigs of RAM.
September 19, 2006 1:49:10 AM

And as games use more realistic sounds, the processors get better, so they can still handle them.

Btw, I like seeing someone use colour in their posts, it adds flair. Good work :wink:
September 19, 2006 2:33:41 AM

so... just a quick, simple question really...

if i have a case w/ front audio ports, will i be able to use them w/ the sound card?

i think i had heard somewhere some soundcards allow you to do that.
September 19, 2006 2:50:32 AM

Quote:
if i have a case w/ front audio ports, will i be able to use them w/ the sound card?


The ports in the front are input/output jacks for your existing integrated sound card. This sound card will have to be disabled for the new one to work. This is done in the sytem BIOS. Chances are you will be unable to connect your front ports to the new sound card unless that sound card has a dedicated interface for that purpose.

Quote:
And as games use more realistic sounds, the processors get better, so they can still handle them.


Not necessarily in that order. Most new games challenge top of the line machines available at the time these games are released. Take Oblivion, for example. Granted, Oblivion's sound is not all that impressive nor is it that important. However, games like Splinter Cell or BF2 where situational/positinal awareness is important do use advanced sound settings. A good sound card not only takes some load off your CPU and RAM but also improves overall gaming experience and creates a sense of immersion.

I remember some time back when I played Rainbow Six games with friends I spent most of the time respawning because I had a bad sound (integrated) card and could never hear footsteps of those sneaking up on me from behind. My frame rate also suffered and I could not figure out why since my machine was every bit as good as theirs...

But regardless of the above, it is not the issue of whether the CPUs can or cannot handle the additional load of processing sound. They can. But by processing sound they spend resources which could be otherwise allocated and overall performance is reduced.
September 19, 2006 2:54:34 AM

So what about USB headphones? if you have a soundcard instead of the normal onboard, will the usb headset bennifit? or... sumthin... =/
September 19, 2006 3:03:10 AM

Thats a good question since there is no direct connection to the card. Which means the usb controller has to be a "middle man" I guess, introducing latency.
September 19, 2006 3:11:02 AM

Also, one last thing i'd like to know...

Im about to build a computer that will primarily be used for gaming... generally, i skip out on the soundcard...

I had kinda got this little idea in my head tho... i'd like to get a soundcard, but mainly only to use when im at my house (which will be most of the time, but the rare times i get out, i wouldnt mind using my front panel audio...

so i had figured on getting a soundcard that has a separate attatchment that sits outside the computer... much like this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682... (but something i can plug headphones and a microphone into, this one doesnt look like it has that, tho i might just not be able to tell)

i was thinking i could hook it up and use it when im at home, and if i ever take my computer anywhere (friends house, lan, etc...) i can just, disable that and enable the onboard (i guess that would be in device manager?)

is there any particular good setup for something like this? thanks
September 19, 2006 3:11:15 AM

Quote:
So what about USB headphones? if you have a soundcard instead of the normal onboard, will the usb headset bennifit?


It is impossible to answer your question by "yes" or "no". It depends on the capabilities of your current card versus those of the new stand-alone sound card. If your current card is "stereo" and the new card is Dolby Digital... AND if your headset is good enough you will hear the difference as your new setup will be able to emulate surround sound effects while your current setup cannot.

Whether you hear the difference in sound quality or not also depends on the quality of motherboard/integrated sound card you have. In most cases integrated sound cards are plagued by interference from motherboard's cirquitry. This interference is inaudible when you are in a firefight. But in a different situation, say when you are trying to sneak around quietly static and other inteference will be audible. I find that quite annoying, frankly.

But you are missing the point of this thread. If you have questions about sound cards you should go to the sound cards forum. Here we are discussing how sound cards affect frame rates.

.... and no, you should disable the on-board sound in the BIOS, not the Device Manager.
September 19, 2006 3:19:27 AM

Yeah, I remember when I didn't have a sound card. Then I got my Audigy.

The infinite range of sounds and sound effects I have at my disposal with a sound card like this compared to onboard isn't even a challenge to me; I'll never build a computer without its own dedicated sound card, no matter what I use a computer for.

And yeah, you do see boosts in performance. My games love EAX (shooters especially) - hey, if you get better sound and better framerates to boot, why not? Many aren't that expensive either, although, yes, Audigys and their front bay devices are mighty handy for headphone users like myself.

Games certainly aren't the only reason to get a card, either. Music is waaaay better with EAX, especially on my headphones - you can pretty much tweak music exactly to your liking and have full control of lots of goodies. I can't wait till I get my hands on an X-Fi for my next build, and a decent set of speakers.

As far as being on-topic goes, I call balderdash on onboard audio. Although it will do in a pinch. So there.
September 19, 2006 3:20:27 AM

Quote:
Whether you hear the difference in sound quality or not also depends on the quality of motherboard/integrated sound card you have. In most cases integrated sound cards are plagued by interference from motherboard's cirquitry. This interference is inaudible when you are in a firefight. But in a different situation, say when you are trying to sneak around quietly static and other inteference will be audible. I find that quite annoying, frankly.

I've never noticed it, but I've never listened for it either. Plus I use hopeless speakers too, but they're good enuf for me (creative inspire 4400 4.1 I think).
September 19, 2006 4:00:52 AM

Quote:
so... just a quick, simple question really...

if i have a case w/ front audio ports, will i be able to use them w/ the sound card?

i think i had heard somewhere some soundcards allow you to do that.


Chances are you can disconnet the fornt audio from you board internally, then you just need to find a card that has the right interface, or do a custom wiring job to get it to work.
September 19, 2006 4:47:57 PM

Even +15% isn't a very substantial boost. If you suffer from a bad framerate (say 20), +15% means you'll be still stuck with 23fps, which is approximately the same.

Some mobos might still have crap onboard sound, but since a couple years now it's generally very good. Yes, a dedicated sound card will give better sound quality, but that might only be significant if your speakers are good enough to allow you to hear the difference, and that is a big if (as I know of no reasonably priced computer speakers that would allow that. Computer speakers are designed for making explosions sound big, which is not something hard to do.). Secondly, most games use heavy sound compression: Doom 3 sounds are impressive, but they're in .ogg @ 30 to 85kbps. Civilization IV's beautiful soundtrack is in mp3 128bps, as is most of the music you get on Limewire and stuff. If I want to listen to a master recording of Prokofiev's 3rd, I'll use the sound system in my living room, thanks.
September 19, 2006 5:18:40 PM

Quote:
Even +15% isn't a very substantial boost. If you suffer from a bad framerate (say 20), +15% means you'll be still stuck with 23fps, which is approximately the same.


Well, according to MS there is an increase in performance with a dedicated sound card.

Here is a quote from THIS article:

"A small investment in a high-performance sound card can vastly improve your computer's sound as well as boost its overall performance. Music, games, DVDs, and Web audio will all sound more three-dimensional and fully present everywhere in the room with a good sound card. That's the first reason to upgrade. But a boost in overall computer performance? That's the less obvious benefit of a good sound card. Good cards boost PC performance because they feature small processors of their own. They actually share the computing work in the sound department, instead of channeling data to the speakers. The less time your processor has to spend crunching sound data, the more it can do without bogging down or dropping other tasks."

Now, while I have not yet found any benchmarks to post I wonder why there are so many claims in the sources I have no reason not to trust that a dedicated sound card actually improves your PCs overall performance. I figure that if performance gains were negligible sources such as MS and CGW would hardly instist that the gains exist.

What I will do is this: I have on-board 6.1 card on my motherboard. And I have a stand-alone card. I will test this myself and post the results. My PC may not reflect the typical picture, but still.

As for the difference of 3 FPS - which is irrelevant - as I pointed out before it still matters a great deal. People often spend a lot of money on aftermarket coolers and what not to overclock their GPUs and CPUs to get the same 10-15% boost in overall system performance. If you add another 10-15% by installing a high-qyality dedicated sound card you will get a 20-30% total increase I hope you are not going to tell me that 30% is nothing even though your min 20 FPS only goes up to 26.3 FPS as a result of a 30% performance gain... *sighs* you should also consider 45 FPS becoming 50 or 60 which is a major improvement as many shooter players will confirm.

The whole idea of my original post (though I did not state it clearly) was that by overlooking a dedicated sound card people are robbing themselves of some performance. I don't think this can be disputed.

In combination, tweaking OS, RAM timings, CPU/GPU clocks, using a dedicated sound card etc. will give you substantial overall performance gains. 5% here, 10% there.. you know. So I do not quite understand why some people insist that gains from using a dedicated sound card are irrelevant.
September 19, 2006 6:12:14 PM

Well, if MS says it, it MUST be true! :twisted: Heh, J/k
September 19, 2006 6:27:56 PM

Thanks for the link. I figured if we lambasted the idea for long enough somebody would come up with a supporting link.

Alright, so with my rig I have Logitech Z5500 speakers. Are they of high enough quality that a sound card will make much of a difference? I am not a huge audiophile, but I do listen to a lot of music and play games. My current onboard sound is (I believe) 7.1 which is more channels that my speakers have anyways. I don't have any complaints currently, but then again, I have never used a sound card before.
September 19, 2006 7:08:34 PM

That Logitech 5.1 setup looks decent. I checked the specs. However, SNR (signal to noise ratio) is 93.5 dB. This is not very good as 100 dB or greater is considered acceptable (as in "you hear little or no noise").

If your motherboard's SNR is low as well, say 90 dB or below - which is likely - the combination of your speakers and the integrated sound card = low quality sound plagued by interference which will be especially noticeable if your soundtrack is not very noisy (read classical vs. heavy metal).

The quality of your sound will definitely improve quite dramatically with a better sound card which whill fix the motherboard SNR problem and may compensate for the low SNR of your speakers.

As for 7.1, this is actually a marketing gimmick as there is no such a thing as true 7.1 as the 6th and 7th channel are usually not independent but rather the same signal split between two speakers. So, you are not losing much by sticking with your 5.1
September 19, 2006 7:21:09 PM

Sounds good, I bought those speakers because they were relatively cheap (about $300 CAD) and pretty loud. I'll check out the sound card forum for some advice about which sound card would be good to get. Also, I listen to both Heavy Metal and Classical (which are musically very similar), even bands like Apocalyptica which play metal music on cellos :)  .
September 19, 2006 7:58:57 PM

Quote:
even bands like Apocalyptica which play metal music on cellos :)  .


Love them!
September 19, 2006 8:17:01 PM

Dammit, I've never heard about it until now. Just checked a few Google videos... pretty damn cool. I think we have a new favorite :D 

How cool is THIS :?: :!:
September 19, 2006 8:21:33 PM

I used to listen to them more about 5 or so years ago, but yeah they are awesome. I saw them play live about 6 months ago and it was one of the best show I have ever been to (and I go to about 1 every month). They are way better live than they are on CD (and they are still awesome on CD).
September 19, 2006 8:31:49 PM

Quote:
Poeple its not just offloading work from the CPU that work has to get in and out of the CPU (IE bandwidth) and please people if you dont own a sound card dont say there is no benifit other then sound quality... speaking from actual experience here BF2 does have a difference in frame rates from turning it on and off. Now for the boo hooers yes you could spend money on a better graphics card and get waaaayyy more improvement on FPS then FPS from a sound card (wich kinda makes sense since the sound card doesnt do graphics.... duuhhhh) There are more benifits to a sound card then simply games too ! I guess no one listens to music on there PC's lol If you spend any amount of time listening to music on your PC and have decent speakers INVEST in a sound card (even a cheaper one) I wouldnt recomend anyone get the same sound card I did (Fatal1ty) as its expensive ! But for me it was a personal decision and I dont regret it one bit, I enjoy it every day :) 


dead on!
i use the computer for so much more than games...and ANY offboards sound is better....my onboard (on my k8v se) clicks and pops all the time...even a sound blaster live gives great results.....Hell even the newest onboard cards dont match the first sound blaster live in most cases...
September 19, 2006 11:26:01 PM

I bet if I took my sound card and installed it in these peoples machines that say "Buying a sound card is a waste of money" for a week and then came back a week later to take it back they would cry.

Its one of those things you dont even know your missing out untill you have it... I guess it would be like feeding lobster to a homeless person for a week. Sure they would love it and it tastes great but what about the week after ? Is it worse to know your missing something or not to know....
September 20, 2006 5:19:24 AM

Quote:
dead on!
i use the computer for so much more than games...and ANY offboards sound is better....my onboard (on my k8v se) clicks and pops all the time...even a sound blaster live gives great results.....Hell even the newest onboard cards dont match the first sound blaster live in most cases...

Actually I prefer my onboard to my old SB live. The SB used to pop and make extremely high pitch noises at odd times. But it was a good card in its time.
September 20, 2006 5:31:28 AM

odd.....it was always clear as a bell for me(and it was the value one :)  ).... hell it still is...in another computer....

Quote:
Its one of those things you dont even know your missing out untill you have it

thats like my core2 without raid...it was painful.....i mean my A64 3200 was owning it....at least in response to my every click and load times....had to re raid in 1 day....going to get my fast(er) drives back soon....
September 20, 2006 6:04:09 AM

Quote:
odd.....it was always clear as a bell for me(and it was the value one :)  ).... hell it still is...in another computer....

Yea thats the one I have, the value. It came with some Cambridge Soundworks 4.1 speakers as a package deal. 10W subwoofer, its Da Bomb :lol: 
September 20, 2006 6:37:23 AM

Nice post, but I think if fell a bit short. (I'm thinking of doing this very thing in another forum I belong to.) I was hoping for something you had done yourself to prove this to be true. I was disappointed to not see any testing done.

I don't think you really NEED a sound card anymore. I remember the doom days were there wasn't any onboard sound, and you have to run an AWE32. I can remember having to install a card to get playable frame rates. As has already been talked about, there are really only two reasons to have a sound card anymore. First, your ears are good enough to hear the lower quality sound provided by onboard sound. (mine are not, I don't have this problem.) Second, you are a speed freak, who has finished overclocking/tweaking everything else in your system, and you don't mind spending $60-$200+ on something that will get you another 5% increase in speed. As long as people keep coming to me with only $1000, and want something that will get them playing Prey, I won't be suggesting a soundcard.
September 20, 2006 8:09:33 AM

Actually, some time this weekend I will do my own testing. StrangeStranger (who's PC is totally different from mine and more powerful) indicated in a PM to me that he might be interested in doing some tests of his own.

I will be using Aquamark 3 Commercial Plus which allows use of various sound settings.

He has a full version of 3DMark03 with sound capability.

It frustrates me that some people demand that I support my post by my own test results though I am sure that CGW guys did quite a bit of testing before they published the article on which my post was based.

Perhaps, instead of complaining more people should join me and StrangeStranger and help test this on different configurations using different benchmarks? No?
September 20, 2006 10:55:31 AM

G’day I’m from aus here and I’ve been reading from THG for quite sometime now , I often see some of you wankers say crap about having a sound card doesn’t improve at all which is a load of BS. I recently brought a XFI and I play games at 12801024 and there is improvement in my FPS. Even my GF could notice the difference. I often wonder if any of you guys have even owned a sound card before you say your 2cents. It’s like you have a voice with nothing to back it up. You don’t even address people’s problems correctly in some forms, you just say buy this…hardly anything else….Anyhow this is my first say in THG and the whole form deal.

P.S I'm only 21 and i can even notice how full of crap some of you guys are.
September 20, 2006 2:23:12 PM

I've always used SoundBlaster cards in the few PCs I've owned over the years. Onboard sound has always been kinda crappy to me. However, I think performance loss would be small if using a very fast single core CPU, or any dual core CPU. I'm guessing the 15% loss in performance would be for older systems with slow CPUs.

Anyway, onboard sound is good in a pinch, or for people on a tight budget. But I think a discrete sound card is the way to go especially when listening to music.
September 20, 2006 3:49:40 PM

So I assume that onboard sound can vary greatly? I still have an Asus nForce board (Athlon XP 2500+) with 5.1. Now I'm sure that isn't using a DSP but would it be considered taking the strain off the CPU? What about something newer like the nForce4? And now we have the nForce 570 and 590 mobo's. Surely those are no longer using the CPU for sound processing?
September 20, 2006 5:26:43 PM

Quote:
As for the difference of 3 FPS - which is irrelevant - as I pointed out before it still matters a great deal. People often spend a lot of money on aftermarket coolers and what not to overclock their GPUs and CPUs to get the same 10-15% boost in overall system performance. If you add another 10-15% by installing a high-qyality dedicated sound card you will get a 20-30% total increase
People who spend a lot of money on overclocking represent a minority of geeks. Most people either don't know about all those beautiful ways of wasting time and money, or figure out that money is better invested on one important upgrade from time to time than small, sometimes psychological and often risky "tweaks".

What bothers me with your initial statement is that it sounds like "no wonder you're getting bad framerates, you're using onboard sound". That's like saying "no wonder you're getting bad framerates, you're not even overclocking the hell out of your rig".

Of course if you're out to build the most powerful system money can buy, get a sound card without hesitation; but as someone said earlier on this thread, I'm not going to reccomend investing any sort of money on a sound card for mainstream computers.
September 20, 2006 5:47:05 PM

Why are you guys using synthetic benchies? Why not use real games? This is my weekend today and tomorrow, and I believe I have an old SB 5.1 card laying around. If I get the chance, I'll throw it in my computer tomorrow and test with Farcry. (today is way to busy...)

Something else that just occured to me. The difference will vary depending on how you have sound setup. If you don't normally enable EAX or higher levels of sound effects, then adding a sound card won't help much.

As for the new guy, I'm over 21yo, and don't find the need to insult people. Give it a couple more years and you should be there.
September 20, 2006 5:57:33 PM

well i used to use onboard sound on a Gigabyte GA K8NS pro mobo....i added a Creative Audigy 2cz sound card and the sound quality using a decent pair of Yamaha MSP3 active monitors is neglegable to zero improvement.

i have gained about 2fps more in doom 3, 5fps more in CSS source, and about 6 fps more in quake 3 using the same gfx drivers.
EAX was not possible on my onboard sound because it didnt support it.

on a modern pc with a fast CPU say AMD 3400 which is what i have, buying a soundcard in the hope to improve FPS in games is only going to give you neglegable performance increase....and sound quality is also neglegable.

maybe in the old days of 500Mz cpus would it actually give you a significant increase in performance...

System Specs
Gigabyte K8ns pro
Audigy 2 CZ
AMD Athlon 3400+
Gainward Bliss 7800gs 512MB (agp) (7800gt core)
2GB kingston ddr400
September 20, 2006 5:59:14 PM

Quote:
Finally, someone is over exaggerating the benefits of a dedicated soundcard. The only real benefit gained from a dedicated soundcard is the improved sound quality.


Heyyou27, I hate to bother you, but is your image a scene from the Jonestown massacre?

Off subject I know. My sincere apoligies, but I must know.

High regards,
Howard
September 20, 2006 6:42:12 PM

mmmmmm 15% seems a little hopefull , when i upgraded to hardware sound there was no noticible differance in gameplay FPS running sound on high/EAX.

I dont waste my time on benchmarks as i dont think there worth it so i couldnt comment on them.........
September 20, 2006 8:03:49 PM

Quote:
So I assume that onboard sound can vary greatly? I still have an Asus nForce board (Athlon XP 2500+) with 5.1. Now I'm sure that isn't using a DSP but would it be considered taking the strain off the CPU? What about something newer like the nForce4? And now we have the nForce 570 and 590 mobo's. Surely those are no longer using the CPU for sound processing?


To tell you the truth, I never really bothered keeping up-to-date regarding onboard sound advances. I do know that a handful of premium motherboards have a Soundblaster Audigy chip on it. That would be the besy onboard sound you can get since the Audigy chip will do all the sound processing.

I believe Intel's onboard sound, Azilla, and whatever onboard sound the nForce boards are using still are bound to the CPU for processing power. As I stated before, as long as the CPU is fast, the impact of onboard vs. discrete sound will be small.
September 20, 2006 8:18:32 PM

Buy a soundcard if you are an audiophile and can tell the difference, or do any kind of realtime signal processing / audio editing.

If you listen to internet radio or crap Mp3's encoded at 128 kbps, which a good deal of them are, you aren't going to notice a difference or care. If you have a nice sound setup and listen to well-mastered audio (including well produced gaming environmental soundtracks) there will absolutely be a difference.

The original poster was somewhat misleading in regard to the SNR in computer audio. The signal-to-noise ratio of your soundcard is based on the bit depth, which when higher keeps cumulative rounding to a minimum. 16bit soundcards by nature offer a logical 96db of dynamic range, but why this is a a stupid criterion to judge by is because generally recording studio's can't do much better than 60 db SNR anyway. Although it is discretely a part of it, 24-bit souncards aren't generally better because of the SNR.

Speakers are a completely different subject, as the SNR refers to the ratio between the noise floor and an reference level, which sadly lacks standards, making company's claims somewhat uninformative. What is much more important in my opinion when purchasing speakers is the frequency response, totaly harmonic distortion, intermodulation distortion, and of course, the average output power.

Making the argument that today's processors can handle the calculations necessary in audio is always a weak one. There always comes a point where processing demand from applications starts to match processing power made available by the processors. When applications become more demanding you don't want processing power caught up in something it wasn't meant to do, plain and simple.

EDIT: Also:

Quote:
So I assume that onboard sound can vary greatly? I still have an Asus nForce board (Athlon XP 2500+) with 5.1. Now I'm sure that isn't using a DSP but would it be considered taking the strain off the CPU? What about something newer like the nForce4? And now we have the nForce 570 and 590 mobo's. Surely those are no longer using the CPU for sound processing?


If it has any onboard audio at all it has DSP. It's the only way digital information can be converted into audio information useful to your speakers.
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