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OB Sound vs. Dedicated Card?

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October 22, 2006 3:59:41 AM

Back when I followed the tech stuff closer, there seemed to be two different thoughts, one was that having a dedicated sound card took load off the CPU, the other was using on-board sound didn't hog enough resources to care.

Right now, I am using all 7 channels on my on board sound, so I need something that is at least 7.1 capable.

The question is, would I see any gains from using a standard cheapo 7.1 sound card, vs. using the on-board sound? Is going cheap (I don't mean dirt cheap, I mean reasonable, say $50) on the sound card a bad idea?

Here are my system specs:

A8N-SLI Deluxe
3800 AMD64 X 2
2 gig of Ram
2 BFG 7800 GTs
Raptor Drives

More about : sound dedicated card

October 22, 2006 4:41:21 AM

Eh, depends on what you want. IMO, not really. For instance, tonight, I was installing BF2 and during the install, I noticed my music sounding a little bit funny. Brought up task manager, 1 core was dedicated to the install and the other was just idling, but somehow, installing BF2 was enough to distort the sound from my onboard sound. I'm thinking about investing in a sound card around Christmas. Go to newegg, they have one of the $200 soundblaster audigy 2ZS for $85 after savings... I think it's still up. I know it's old, but if's cheaper than the X-Fi. Once again, depends on your preference and how much you use your computer when listening to sounds from your computer.

Good luck!
October 22, 2006 4:55:57 AM

Check out the Turtle beach and Zalman External USB sound cards. Amazing products, and if you wanna benchmark your machine you just detach it and have no sound drivers bogging down your rig :) 
Related resources
October 22, 2006 5:03:19 AM

Check the following thread out in forumz/hardware/sound cards:

FYI: Your FRAME RATES and your SOUND CARD
By Slava

Date of post is Mon. Sept 18 2006
October 22, 2006 5:08:54 AM

It depends on what your looking for. By putting a dedicated sound card in, you won't see another 15FPS in your games. (well, maybe if you game at 640x480...) You will probably get perhaps as much as 5% more. What you will get is the option for better sound effects. From what I have come to understand in another thread, onboard sound is limited to EAX effect 2 or 3 depending on the motherboard. If you get a creative soundcard, you could move up to version 4 or 5. This allows for better positioning of objects. (you can tell where people are easier...)

The thing that bothers me is people who think they need a sound card, so they spend $80 on a soundcard, but buy a 7600GT because thats all the money they have left. If they drop that soundcard, they would have another $80 to spend on the video card, and can move up to a x1900xt/7900GT. This allows for much better IQ, while still providing 5.1+ sound. You however don't have this issue, as you already have good video cards. If all you have is $50, go ahead and buy the sound card, just don't expect miracles.
October 22, 2006 5:11:16 AM

dude, relooking at your posts, just get an X-FI Extreme Music card for like $100.

Oh yea, it's Sunday! Check Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, etc. They sometimes have good deals on sound cards!
October 22, 2006 5:31:57 AM

Well there is one thing that you can count on. That is if you have even a half decent speaker setup it will sound better than onboard.
October 22, 2006 6:38:30 AM

Never buy a creative labs they have terrible support and DO NOT allow you to connect front audio jacks on your case. Waaay overpriced too.
October 22, 2006 12:59:15 PM

The brand new Creative X-Fi cards do allow you to use your front panel HD audio connectors...finally ( http://www.creative.com/products/welcome.asp?category=2... ). I think if you heard a contemporary sound card with half descent speakers you'd hear a noticable difference between that and most onboard sound systems (Realtek and Soundmax, etc.). The question is whether audio quality is important enough to you for you to spend money on a specialized card. An audio enthusiast would say yes, but many others would just stick with onboard sound. ...just like a secretary likely wouldn't really understand getting a high-end video card instead of using that Matrox G200 forever. ...and if you don't have descent speakers I'd recommend investing there before getting a contemporary audio card.

Getting a really nice rig only to skimp on sound doesn't seem quite logical but I'm more of an audio enthusiast.
October 22, 2006 1:26:33 PM

Check out the Turtle Beach Cards, especially the Montego for around $50.
They are excellent, and I mean EXCELLENT cards for the price.
October 22, 2006 1:39:35 PM

I know THAT'S right. ...but you lose the onboard DSP chip that Creative card's offer and thus don't get those few framerates back, if that's a consideration for you.
October 22, 2006 2:42:53 PM

why would you even want to use the front panel case plugs for your soundcard... from my experience the audio quality is much worse than from when its plugged into the audio card itself
October 22, 2006 4:16:12 PM

On-board sound is normally inferior to a dedicated soundcard. Unless the MB is using either a Creative Labs chip, or the performance equivalent, one is stuck with AC97 performance. In addition, the amplification level of OB sound is noticably lower than a dedicated card can produce. This is a less critical issue if you have a fancy set of speakers, but GIGO still applies

Now, the most popular music format in the computer world is MP-3. This is a lossy compression format. Combine this with low capabilities of most OB sound.

What is your primary use for the sound in your system? Is it games, or playing music, or watching movies? Are you planning to do any music creation?

If you work your way through the thread I referenced, you will get a bunch of useful information.
October 22, 2006 4:47:09 PM

Thanks for all the feedback so far guys.

The USB deal is out, I don't need an artificial way to inflate my benchmark numbers.. :lol: 

Mainly I play games, and listen to music on this machine. I've got nice speakers hooked to it, 11 speakers, 3 subs (and I mean real subs).

My sound quality doesn't seem bad, mainly I figured if I could pick up even a few frames in games, why not, its a relatively cheap investment compared to other pieces of hardware.

I think I will start looking through NewEgg some.
October 22, 2006 11:14:42 PM

If you are real into music check out the auzentech x-plosion 7.1 DTS. It has the possibility of upgrading the op amps for better quality and optical ouput ^_^. Its great for people with large audio setups such as yours

Click here for the x-plosion on xoxide
October 23, 2006 9:52:59 AM

I agree, if you don't need or want a dedicated APU for those few gaming framerates an X-Plosion or Montego DDL are nice cards. However, I think I remember a poster stating a while back that the X-Plosion's analog out was rather weak compared to Creative's cards (in his experience) and that you actually needed to change the OPAMP to get good analog output.

Having digital I/O actually on the card without an accessory is a nice feature, though. DDL, DD, and DDS may be more important to many than Creative's dedicated APU's. I had to spend $15 on the digitial I/O module to add that to the X-Fi...I'm glad the X-Fi's were on sale. Remember that $81 NewEgg sale? God bless NewEgg, my personal pusher.
October 24, 2006 3:19:56 AM

I read your knowledgeable reply about sound cards and hope you don't mind me asking you about sound cards for my application.

It's simple, I just want to play downloaded music on my computer. I'm not a gamer, I just have these simple speakers: Logitech X-230 32 Watts RMS 2.1 Speakers-OEM, $35 at newegg, free shipping. 2 speakers and the sub. They're not bad and I know there are better ones out there, but these are OK for now and what I'm doing with them.

I'm runnning the following rig mostly for online stock trading and net surfing:

Asus A8N 5X
AMD X2 3800
Corsair XMS2048 3200
PNY Quadro NVS 440 PCIEX 16
WD Caviar SE16 2500KS
Samsung 16X DVD+R DVD
Sony IDE DVD-ROM
Samsung 1.44 3.5 floppy
Cooler Master RS 450
Cooler Master Centurion 5CAC-T05
Logitech X-230 32 Watts RMS 2.1 Speakers-OEM
2 AGM CW 19" wide screen monitors
MS XP Pro
NOD 32

It's just got onboard sound. The question is, would my modest speakers sound better with a simple add on sound card and which one would you reccomend?

Thanks.
October 24, 2006 4:36:30 AM

I recommend getting the Audigy 4 OEM.. Note: alot of creative's value series, er, most of it actually (Audigy 2 Value, SoundBlaster Live, etc.) DONT have an audio processing unit and rely on your cpu as much as onboard does.. The Audigy4 OEM however, has a dedicated sound processing chip, and does make a difference in performance in games. I benchmarked myself a 14-18% increase in framerates. Of course, this depends on your setup.

This card can be found for under 50 bucks, I personally bought it at NCIX.com because I'm in Canada.. Here's a link:

http://www.us.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=17936

It will definately give you a performance boost, aswell as sound a ton better!

A little note I wanted to add, I read that the APU chip on this card is actually a revision of the same chip, or, from the same series as the chip on the Audigy 2 ZS, for half the price.
October 24, 2006 4:48:56 AM

With those speakers listening to what I assume to be .mp3s, I wouldn't bother. I doubt you'd see any improvement at all.
October 24, 2006 1:05:51 PM

I have to disagree. With any speakers besides those cheap $20 little ice-cubes they ship with some systems I'd think you'd notice some difference over onboard sound. ...and with any contemporary Creative soundcard you'll get support for higher than EAX 2, that with the dedicated APU that all but the most economical of Creative cards has would be motivation to spend at least $40 on a dedicated card.

If you've listened to an SB Live! or better with anything but the cheapest of speakers you'll likely agree that the sound is cleaner and more dynamic from said card than from onboard sound. We're talking big jumps in S/N ratio and THD.

If anyone can find onboard sound that specs better than ~100db with less than .006 THD please post a link. If one exists I'm conifident it would be very rare. These are the figures that make a dedicated card sound noticably better than onboard audio.
October 24, 2006 1:13:23 PM

Ooooo, that bad huh?

Well, they were a big $35 with free shipping.

What speakers are you using? What would you reccomend?

For my real (art) studio, I have some huge, vintage Altec A7's but they are not connected to the computer.
October 24, 2006 1:32:48 PM

Quote:
I read your knowledgeable reply about sound cards and hope you don't mind me asking you about sound cards for my application.

It's simple, I just want to play downloaded music on my computer. I'm not a gamer, I just have these simple speakers: Logitech X-230 32 Watts RMS 2.1 Speakers-OEM, $35 at newegg, free shipping. 2 speakers and the sub. They're not bad and I know there are better ones out there, but these are OK for now and what I'm doing with them.

I'm runnning the following rig mostly for online stock trading and net surfing:

Asus A8N 5X
AMD X2 3800
Corsair XMS2048 3200
PNY Quadro NVS 440 PCIEX 16
WD Caviar SE16 2500KS
Samsung 16X DVD+R DVD
Sony IDE DVD-ROM
Samsung 1.44 3.5 floppy
Cooler Master RS 450
Cooler Master Centurion 5CAC-T05
Logitech X-230 32 Watts RMS 2.1 Speakers-OEM
2 AGM CW 19" wide screen monitors
MS XP Pro
NOD 32

It's just got onboard sound. The question is, would my modest speakers sound better with a simple add on sound card and which one would you reccomend?

Thanks.


I missed seeing this until now. :(  I'd think you'd be safe with a bunch of soundcards and would probably look in the $30-$70 range. Fast-pick? I'd probably go with the X-Fi Xtreme Audio:

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

Quote:
What speakers are you using? What would you reccomend?

For my real (art) studio, I have some huge, vintage Altec A7's but they are not connected to the computer.


I use the Logitech Z-5500's on my audio rig. ...but there's some descent 2.1 systems out there. I'd start with the Klipsch's:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?N=2010370...

...but have also personally tried the Creative iTrigue L3800's, which personally liked. Judging from my Z-5500's I'd imagine the Z-2300's offer bass that swats flies and kills bacteria. For PC speakers I'd try to stay above the $100 mark if you want any real sonic quality. ...and yes, PC speakers do not compare to a decent home stereo/home theater set, IMO. PC speakers do have their uses. If you search you can find a low cost receiver and a pair of decent satellite speakers that will give you GREAT sound and a better long term investment, if that's what you're looking for (and it may cost a bit more unless you want a used system, love eBay, or are willing do some research...depends on how important it is to ya).

I think you can still get a lot of enjoyment out of a good set of 2.1 PC speakers.

edited for poor grammar...again.
October 24, 2006 6:26:11 PM

First, for the record, I use a home theator setup for my speakers. Pioneer 7.1 reciever, with LARGE JVC speakers. (floor standing monsters, they have 15" speakers on the bottom.) Not the best speakers, but I got them for free so I'm not complaining.

Second, I'm not saying dont' get the sound card. I'm saying temper your expectations. Popping a new soundcard in isn't going to provide a big jump in frames. It will allow better EAX effects, but even that will be limited by your cheap $35 speakers. I guess you could consider this one of those chicken/egg things. Do you upgrade the speakers first so when you get the soundcard it sounds good? Or do you upgrade the card and live with the slightly lower the possible sound for awhile until you get better speakers? You already have enough ram, dual core CPU, good video cards, harddrives, etc, so sound is the next logical step. Seeing as you just bought the speakers, I'll bet you'll go for the soundcard next.
October 24, 2006 7:05:01 PM

I ended up getting a sound card (X-fi Extreme Music) because the microphone port on my onboard sound didn't have enough gain.

And the difference is just remarkable. I'm glad I did it.
October 24, 2006 8:01:25 PM

Quote:
First, for the record, I use a home theator setup for my speakers. Pioneer 7.1 reciever, with LARGE JVC speakers. (floor standing monsters, they have 15" speakers on the bottom.) Not the best speakers, but I got them for free so I'm not complaining.

Second, I'm not saying dont' get the sound card. I'm saying temper your expectations. Popping a new soundcard in isn't going to provide a big jump in frames. It will allow better EAX effects, but even that will be limited by your cheap $35 speakers. I guess you could consider this one of those chicken/egg things. Do you upgrade the speakers first so when you get the soundcard it sounds good? Or do you upgrade the card and live with the slightly lower the possible sound for awhile until you get better speakers? You already have enough ram, dual core CPU, good video cards, harddrives, etc, so sound is the next logical step. Seeing as you just bought the speakers, I'll bet you'll go for the soundcard next.


I am not a gamer (illustrated more so by my low powered rigs), my claims that a Creative APU-based soundcard will give some performance increase in games is purely academic from having read the press and forum-member posts. So I don't know if the amount of performance gain is worth mentioning or not. Perhaps it is not. I've read that its around 3-5%, and that may not be noticable. Congrats on the JVC speakers with "15" speakers on the bottom)." Those are Woofers and they do add a bit for bass, eh? :p 
October 25, 2006 5:44:30 AM

Quote:
my claims that a Creative APU-based soundcard will give some performance increase in games is purely academic from having read the press and forum-member posts. So I don't know if the amount of performance gain is worth mentioning or not. Perhaps it is not. I've read that its around 3-5%, and that may not be noticable.


Just do the math. Playing a game, lets say Farcry at 1280x1024, with the soundcard provides a gain in FPS of 5%. If you got 70FPS before, you'll now have 73.5. (70 * 1.05) Is there a big difference in FPS? No. Even if you got a 10% jump in FPS, you'll now have 77FPS instead of 70. Bigger jumps in FPS can be had by upgrading your CPU or Video card. Upgrading to a soundcard should NOT be done for increases in FPS. It should be done for better sound quality, effects, etc.

Quote:
Congrats on the JVC speakers with "15" speakers on the bottom)." Those are Woofers and they do add a bit for bass, eh?


The long story on them is that I got them for free. I was at my storage unit paying the monthly fee when I noticed them sitting in a trash pile outside someones unit. I got out of my car and looked them over. Not a scratch on them, even the black mesh in front wasn't ripped/torn. I figured it would be worth taking them even if some of the speakers were blown, as I could always replace them. To my surprise, all speakers in both of the cases worked just fine, not a single bad one. I don't know why whoever threw them out did, but I'm not complaining...

As for the noise, my apartment manager won't let me play my Illegal Bass CD anymore, as it bothers to many people.:( 
October 25, 2006 9:55:47 AM

Kewl. I wish someone would dispose of a C2D E6800 or some AKG-K701's for me to find!

Thx for the breakdown on APU performance as I'd been too lazy to do that math. Even so, that you get any CPU savings with an Creative-based APU is motivation because its the only card that offers that. So, for gamers who want to tweak & twitch... well, enough on that. The thing I'm almost regrettfully finding that I like about the X-Fi's is that it seems to be good at everything and great at 1 thing in particular...even though I don't personally use that 1 thing...it's gaming abilities.

There's still a lot of good non-Creative cards out there from the press I've read so those that want to look elsewhere aren't limited by any means. The Auzentech Xplosion, TB Montego DDL, or M-Audio 2496 appear to be great contenders but they seem to be more specialized whereas the X-Fi seems to be, again, a Jack-of-All-Trades, Master-of-1 (I've written that so many times I surely look stupid). Just my opinion and way off OP. :roll:
October 26, 2006 2:31:43 AM

Humans CANNOT percieve the differnece in sound quality between modern onboard and sound cards.

The only thing that makes sound different is speakers/headphones.

The only reason to spend $$ on sound card is features (digital in/out)

Anyone who argues with me needs their brain checked.
October 26, 2006 3:14:44 AM

Quote:
Upgrading to a soundcard should NOT be done for increases in FPS.


Yeah but it wouldn't just be gaming, even when I'm just surfing the net, or doing office document type stuff I have a DVD or music playing on the other monitor, so even then I would see an improvement. Even if its not real noticeable, its an improvement. I was referring to FPS, as usually games are most taxing on the system.

I'd say its like drag racing, take out 50 pounds of weight isn't a big deal, but 50 pounds is worth something. That 50 pounds could be the difference between the winning time and losing time.

That extra 3-5% would still be some performance gain, I don't have a problem with my current audio quality, but a sound card is a cheap investment compared to other pieces of hardware. So I figure why not?
October 26, 2006 4:27:04 AM

Quote:
That 50 pounds could be the difference between the winning time and losing time.


So how are you losing right now? That argument only makes sense if you currently can't do something you should. I really don't think buying a soundcard will allow any great improvements in your computing life. You would have probably got better sound by spending the $35 you spent on speakers with the $50 you would have spent on a soundcard, and spent the entire $85-$100 on better speakers. That would be an improvement you could feel...
October 26, 2006 9:26:00 AM

Quote:
Humans CANNOT percieve the differnece in sound quality between modern onboard and sound cards.

The only thing that makes sound different is speakers/headphones.

The only reason to spend $$ on sound card is features (digital in/out)

Anyone who argues with me needs their brain checked.


I respectfully disagree, wholeheartedly. My AC'97 and X-Fi sound noticably different to me using the same high quality headphones and reasonable speakers (Logitech Z-5500). They only time they sound more alike is when I use my Firestone Audio SpiteFire DAC and Cute Beyond headphone amp to push the Senn HD595's or Grado SR325i's from either the X-Fi or onboard. ...coming straight off of the audio card's analog outputs there's no contest...and I don't have "Golden Ears" or anything like that.

EDIT:
Come to think of it, the sonic difference between AC'97 and the X-Fi is like the sonic difference between a boombox and the stereo output of a quality receiver/pre-amp/amp. The reasons? Well 2 of the reasons are 100+db S/N ratio (109db in the X-Fi) and .004 THD. When you have a chance look up the specs of your AC'97 based sound and you'll see they don't compete favorably. You indeed may not be able to hear the difference but I'd be careful about speaking for everyone.

P.S. I'll consider making the appointment to have my brain checked. :D 
October 26, 2006 9:32:35 AM

Quote:
That 50 pounds could be the difference between the winning time and losing time.


So how are you losing right now? That argument only makes sense if you currently can't do something you should. I really don't think buying a soundcard will allow any great improvements in your computing life. You would have probably got better sound by spending the $35 you spent on speakers with the $50 you would have spent on a soundcard, and spent the entire $85-$100 on better speakers. That would be an improvement you could feel...

Again, I respectfully disagree. A good soundcard allows access to high quality music, for me. ...making a huge difference in my computing life. Music via the cleanly spec'd X-Fi (with EAX and CMSS3D if I prefer) sound obviously different and more pleasing to my low-fi ear than the same music via my mobo's onboard sound. ...and that difference has a direct affect on my computing enjoyment because I'm a music enthusiast and the more dynamic the music sounds the more enjoyable it is.
October 26, 2006 6:19:33 PM

Do you really think that $50 sound card is going to make that $35 set of speakers sound that much better??? Depending on what he does with his computer, how good his ears are, this might be a good upgrade. But I'm always drawn back to those $35 speakers, which makes me think he's just throwing his money away. That 109dba is going to sound like junk once its attached to those speakers.
October 26, 2006 7:16:36 PM

$35 speakers. Yeahp. I overlooked that. My brain still doesn't want to see the term "$35 speakers" so it may have filtered that out originally. I think any soundcard is going to be wasted on $35 speakers unless its free. I believe that onboard sound was created for $35 speakers...where audio quality is, in most ways, irrelevant.

I have to also keep in mind that for many users audio quality is not important...as long as identifiable sound is coming from the speakers that's good enough. I'm way guilty of forgetting that.
:( 
October 26, 2006 8:09:59 PM

Its easy to overlook...

As I mentioned earlier, its a chicken/egg thing. Who plugs highend/quality speakers into onboard, and having a soundcard is usless with cheap speakers that handle the sound. So which do you upgrade first? As I mentioned earlier, his rig isn't that bad, (He doesn't need more ram, better video card, etc) and he just upgraded his speakers, so the soundcard is probably the best choice. If I was him I wouldn't have bought those speakers, but better ones using the speaker and soundcard money. (actually, seeing as I have semi decent speakers, I would have bought the audio cable that goes between my computer and my 7.1 reciever...) Seeing as he did buy the speakers, his best bet is to be a REALLY good soundcard. I'd look for one with a remote possibly, and a front pannel definately. This way it will carry over to the next build or two, and he won't have to worry about sound for awhile.
October 26, 2006 8:14:33 PM

You'd find the X-Fi Platinum or Fata1ity, I think. 8O
October 26, 2006 8:28:30 PM

Since someone mentioned x-fi and gaming, I recently bought an Xtreme Audio. I bought it primarily for the purpose of gaming. I just noticed that there was no mention of EAX support on the card and that there was no software selection thingy for games. Any ideas if I can get the software somewhere and if EAX is supported on the Xtreme Audio?

Thanks...
October 26, 2006 8:37:05 PM

I'm sorry. The Xtreme Audio is NOT meant for gaming, its meant for music and movies. The XA does not have the DSP/APU that the higher-end versions have.

If you want an X-Fi card that is geared for gaming start with the the Xtreme Gamer.

Is it too late for you to return the card? I don't know if you'll have success getting EAX to work on the XA.
October 26, 2006 8:51:14 PM

Bought an Audigy 2 after using OB for years. I didn't know what to expect, but the sound quality difference it tremendous. The immersion factor of using EAX in games cannot be overstated, IMO. The sound quality jump made Quake 4 a much more interesting game, so much so that after installing the card I restarted the game just to hear it all.
I don't know if it really sped anything up, if it did it wasn't enough for me to notice, but the quality was a wonderful change.
October 27, 2006 12:16:08 AM

" limited by your cheap $35 speakers"

Oh geeze 474, ya really hurt my sensitive feelin's there.

I got my "cheap $35 speakers" just to get some sound out of my new build to listen to my stock trading programs with not much expectation of listening to "quality music". Besides, I have tinitus and hearing loss below (or above, I forget which) 3000 mhz from my rock and roll days with the giant amps and speakers and the hot pounding rhythms of my own devil drums!!

I'm a former musician, so I know good speakers, etc. and I'll upgrade to something better later. These were stopgap speakers until I get my whole rig etc. sorted out.

I just thought that my onboard sound was probably not so hot and that maybe a better sound card might have a little better sound and a little more control.

Do you forgive me?
October 27, 2006 12:38:58 AM

Dude, I'm bummed to hear about your Tinnitus...that's not funny. I have a fear of that so I'm real careful with my headphones. I even got my hearing checked this past summer...paranoid.

On the lighter side...$35 speakers. My brain still fights those two words together....$35 ....speakers. $35 speakers, 35 dollar speakers. 35dollarspeakers. There...I did it. We could start a GaryHope Speaker Fund. Each contribute 50 cents and you could get some Logitech X-530s by the time we'd be done. ...then write that 50 cents off our taxes. 8O

...you're in a soundcard forum...of course we're gonna razz you about the 35dollarspeakers. There, I said it again!
October 27, 2006 1:03:10 AM

Quote:
Oh geeze 474, ya really hurt my sensitive feelin's there.


Sorry, didn't mean to step on any toes or hurt any feelings. As always, I give the best advice I can, and always make sure its LOGICAL. (another word for reasonable...) As I've said so many times, I dont' think its worth it to spend any money on a sound card to make $35 speakers sound good. I'm not sure I'd blow $50 to make a set of x-530s sound "good".

Quote:
I have tinitus and hearing loss below (or above, I forget which) 3000 mhz from my rock and roll days


Dude, you could EVER had heard anything at "3000MHz", you had wonderful hearing. Most people can hear up to 20K, your "3GHz" is way beyond anything I could ever hope to hear. My hearing is shot also, I can hardly hear some girls on the phone. Matter of fact, I can't hear any voices on the phone with my right ear.

Quote:
I just thought that my onboard sound was probably not so hot and that maybe a better sound card might have a little better sound and a little more control.


It isn't, but as long as you have a cheap pair of speakers hooked up to it, I doubt you'd hear much difference between onboard and the soundcard. But as I've said, you might as well get a soundcard, its one of the last upgrades you need right now.
October 27, 2006 1:33:20 AM

Quote:
Humans CANNOT percieve the differnece in sound quality between modern onboard and sound cards.

The only thing that makes sound different is speakers/headphones.

The only reason to spend $$ on sound card is features (digital in/out)

Anyone who argues with me needs their brain checked.


I disagree completely with this statement. All of my motherboards for the past several years have had on-board sound. I have not used high dollar speakers, ever. My newest speakers, Logitech 530's while get decent reviews are $75 dollars. Not exactly audiophile quality.
I have always tried the onboard sound with each and every build I have ever done. I pop my old Santa Cruz sound card in, and BANG.
Big difference over any onboard sound I have ever listened to from my builds. And that Santa Cruz card is not exaclty state of the art, either.

I think that anyone who says there is no difference has only used onboard sound and never had a dedicated sound card, because there is a difference.
October 27, 2006 2:50:46 AM

You really didn't hurt my "sensitive" feelings. I was just kidding.

As far as my "3000Mhz" hearing loss, the Dr. told me I couldn't hear certain sounds well below, I don't know if it was 3000 or 300 somethings.

Anyway, I've got tinnitus and hearing loss at certain frequencies, whatever they are. I wouldn't wish tinnitus on a dog. It's a total drag, I will never experience true silence or quiet ever again

Also, buying or not buying a sound card, necessary or unecessary is just part of the fun of fooling around with my computer.
October 27, 2006 9:19:12 AM

There are a few soundcards, economically priced, that are marketed to those who just want something better than onboard sound but are not quite ready to spend $50 getting there.

The SoundBlaster Audigy SE 7.1 ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682... ) is the one I typically think of...priced @ less than $30

The Chaintech AV-710 is popular card that specs well and is ~ $28 ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682... ), based on the VIA Envy it offers bit-perfect reproduction and has optical S/PDIF...right on the card. This would be the card I'd go for if looking for an economical solution with higher-end audio performance. Nope, it doesn't accelerate games at all but I've read it's good for music despite its simplistic drivers.

...and the're more...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?N=2000360...

You don't have to spend a lot to get a good non-accelerated soundcard. If you listen to music @ all on your PC for any length of time I think you'd enjoy the quality of a card if you were feeding $50-$100 speakers...like these ( http://us.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=4&... ) or these ( http://us.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=4&... )
).
October 27, 2006 1:55:50 PM

Quote:
Humans CANNOT percieve the differnece in sound quality between modern onboard and sound cards.

The only thing that makes sound different is speakers/headphones.

The only reason to spend $$ on sound card is features (digital in/out)

Anyone who argues with me needs their brain checked.


I second this. The same goes for FPS. 130 FPS compared to 90 FPS makes no difference to the human eye. It's all bragging rights. I've read an article about it by a guy who designs monitors. If you're not doing professional recording and you insist on spending money, add ram or something. Maybe get yourself a new set of headphones so you can't hear your girlfriend bitchin. I bought the Creative Fatal1ty card and there's no static at all. It actually makes my music sound "less alive" - muffled. You're not going to notice a difference in games and without great speakers and high kbps quality recorded music you won't hear much of one either. People that say they upgraded and hear a huge difference upgraded from older standard onboard sound. Today's motherboards have better onboard. It's like comparing my 6150 GPU to my old Riva TNT-2/32MB PCI video card. Of course it's better. But I'm not going to be able to tell any real difference under most applications and if I'm still using a Pentium 3 system...well...my money could be better spent on a new chip instead. :-)
October 27, 2006 3:22:23 PM

Quote:
Back when I followed the tech stuff closer, there seemed to be two different thoughts, one was that having a dedicated sound card took load off the CPU, the other was using on-board sound didn't hog enough resources to care.


Mid level and up Creative cards handle their own audio processing, thus relieving the CPU of that task. Is that important? ...depends on the system and whether the CPU can handle audio processing tasks well enough so that frame rate is not impacted. If it can't than any little bit will help and thus the use for an APU. Make sense?

Quote:
Right now, I am using all 7 channels on my on board sound, so I need something that is at least 7.1 capable.


Fair enough. There's plenty of choices in the ~$30 or less range that meet this requirement.

Quote:
The question is, would I see any gains from using a standard cheapo 7.1 sound card, vs. using the on-board sound? Is going cheap (I don't mean dirt cheap, I mean reasonable, say $50) on the sound card a bad idea?


IMHO, yes. An audio card in the $50 range will provide noticably better audio specs than onboard sound. Don't take my subjective word for it. Look up the specs on your onboard sound card (if they can be found) and compare them to those of any sound card you're considering. You'll probably see dramatic differences (in favor of the sound card) in specs. Way better S/N ratios and Total Harmonic Distortion figures. You do no need a $100 pair of speakers to hear or appreciate the difference in these figures, in my opinion...but you'll enjoy a better soundcard with better speakers. Anyone, please post the specs of their onboard sound's S/N ratios, THD figures, environmental audio capabilities, etc. so we can compare...could be educational. $5 dollar computer speakers should be illegal...but they're not, so we'll have to try to remain saavy enough to avoid them.

Does 64 or 128 voice audio positioning in games sound the same as 16 or 32 voice audio positioning? I've read over and over that the difference is how well objects can be aurally located in the gaming environment. ...and therefore how quickly a virtual enemy can be located and eradicated. Do seconds count in a First Person shooter? Does audio quality enhance gameplay?

Does Puddle of Mudd, Nelly Furtado, or Bach sound the same in 2-channel stereo or 5.1 channel onboard upmix as it does in the simulated aural environment of an arena, concert hall, ampitheater, or even a church on a multi-channel surround speaker setup with accurate positioning, high S/N ratio and low distortion? To my ears there's a detectable distinct difference that I find pleasing when desired...and disabled when not.

These are 2 of the plethora of things that separate onboard audio from a dedicated card such as the Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 or X-Fi.

The items I've listed may not be meaningful to you or the OP, if they're not stick with onboard sound. ...but be mindful about trying to convince others that the audio experience from onboard sound is the same as through even a reasonable soundcard. Again, don't take my word for it. Let's talk specs and features if numbers are more your thing.

...this is the low end:
http://www.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=1...

http://www.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=1...

...and this is not:
http://www.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=1...

http://www.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=1...
October 27, 2006 4:28:28 PM

FINALLY!!! Someone mentioned DISTORTION! Only thing besides price, wattage, and channels to compare!
October 31, 2006 12:01:28 PM

"Now, the most popular music format in the computer world is MP-3. This is a lossy compression format. Combine this with low capabilities of most OB sound."

Pardon me for jumping in, but I don't know much about MP-3, etc. If MP-3 is a "lousy" format, what is a good format? What other ones are out there? What would you reccommend?

Thanks.
October 31, 2006 12:23:38 PM

Quote:
"Now, the most popular music format in the computer world is MP-3. This is a lossy compression format. Combine this with low capabilities of most OB sound."

Pardon me for jumping in, but I don't know much about MP-3, etc. If MP-3 is a "lousy" format, what is a good format? What other ones are out there? What would you reccommend?

Thanks.


I think AAC and WMA are pretty good "lossy" formats, preserving much of the audio quality through psycho-acoustics. Since I'm an Apple person in heart yet a Windows person by budget I'd recommend AAC as the "lossy" format of choice and Apple Lossless when the utmost quality is desired yet WAV is just too extravagant.

I don't know that much but those are my choices.
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