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How much do you need to spend on a sound card??

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January 21, 2007 7:00:01 AM

I know everything about pc components except for the sound card... so could someone tell me what kind of money i have to spend on a card..

i listen to music alot...
play a couple fps games and some rts
i have a pretty good set of speakers
would like to save as much as possible but still get a good/great sound card..

More about : spend sound card

January 21, 2007 7:09:37 AM

Mostly, the money you sink into a sound card is for sound processing for games, such as EAX.

Whereas the money you sink into speakers is for music--sound quality. Some sound cards can be "cleaner" than others because they have better DACs, but you are still majority limited by your speakers.

How much you need to spend? As much as whatever features seem important to you.

For some people who have receivers and prefer to offload sound processing to their receiver processors and DACs, they'll buy DDL (dolby digital live) sound cards than can encode multiple analog channels into a single digital channel (much like Dolby Digital 5.1 is a single channel with 6 compressed channels of sound), and in doing so, also only need a single (digital) cable to connect to their PC, instead of 3 analog cables for surround sound.

Some people like to have the newest sound processing for games like first person shooters, so they buy Creative cards for EAX5 (or whatever is newest).

Some people just want to buy whats easily available, so they buy Creative X-Fi cards, and buy whatever off-the-shelf PC speakers.

Some people just like simple solutions for music (like myself). I just wanted a sound card that could play music without resampling it (Creative cards resample all music to 48KHz), and I dislike the loss of quality there. So I bought the Chaintech AV-710, it's a simple sound card with a digital optical connection, and I offload the sound processing to my Panasonic receiver. It was $20, and since I already had a receiver (with built in DACs), I figured I didn't need to waste money on an expensive soundcard with better DACs.
January 21, 2007 8:00:37 AM

I'd like to add that today's integrated sound chips have nice DACs on non entry level cards, and some acceleration features.
If you don't want or need the latest EAX effects, and have an external Dolby decoder, then get a motherboard with a nice sound chip (Realtek ALC8xx are quite good and support EAX 2.0) and a numeric output (like astrallite said).
If you need to offload your CPU as much as possible, then get a Creative card with EAX5.
Be careful though, that in Vista EAX games won't make use of EAX anymore (except if they use OpenAL) as DirectSound will now be software only.
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January 21, 2007 8:38:21 AM

Astrallite its great to see you. Happy New Year!
January 21, 2007 8:47:43 AM

Quote:
Astrallite its great to see you. Happy New Year!


Happy Belated New Year to you to =P
January 21, 2007 8:48:42 AM

Anyone here know what the sound quality is like on the integrated chip for the evga 680i mobo? Just curious. I've got a dell altec lansing 5.1 surround sound system.
January 21, 2007 9:24:52 AM

I recently tried integrated sound on my Asus A8N SLi Premium (nVidia nForce Audio and it seems adequate for basic audio but its not as clear and sharp as my aging X-Fi Xtreme Music. Though it supports basic EAX, up to level 2 I think the thing that plagues it the most is the fact that its not isolated from the noise caused by the other motherboard components.

If you really want the most accurate sound with less distortion I'd recommend getting at least a basic PCI card for the reasons Astrallite and Mitch have outlined as well as better isolation from the other mobo ICs.
January 21, 2007 9:43:09 AM

So what would be a good card if you wanted something that will work with vista but is doesn't cost a ton?
January 21, 2007 10:48:00 AM

Is "doesn't cost a ton" anything less than $100 or anything less than $50?
January 21, 2007 5:54:29 PM

Sorry, should have been more specific. I guess lets just say less than $100
January 22, 2007 12:08:12 AM

I'd recommend a Creative Xtreme Gamer ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682... ) or the venerable X-Fi XM at the sub-$100 range. By now you know you'll lose hardware accelerated EAX in Windows Vista so there a lot of cards that would probably be good choices...but I'd still recommend these right off the bat.
January 22, 2007 8:38:51 PM

the isolation will actually depend on the board design; a basic PCI card may be less sensitive to some interferences, but a well designed mobo will remove most of the interferences noise and on top of that, will provoke less background noise (due to the absence of a PCI slot) so it depends on both the PCI and mobo design.
January 22, 2007 8:48:40 PM

Quote:
So what would be a good card if you wanted something that will work with vista but is doesn't cost a ton?

onboard sound at a total cost of $0.

Seriously, it has gotten a lot better. Start there and if you ever find it lacking, then you'll be in a better position to describe WHAT about it wasn't good enough which will help a LOT in determining how to meet your needs. But for the vast majority of people, onboard sound is all you'll ever need.
January 22, 2007 8:56:12 PM

I want to test out the onboard for evga 680i. I would expect that the audio be at least half decent for that much money. Has anyone tried the onboard for evga 680i? I am interested to know what it is like. Honestly, I would be happy not spending any more money!
January 22, 2007 9:02:41 PM

Quote:
I want to test out the onboard for evga 680i. I would expect that the audio be at least half decent for that much money. Has anyone tried the onboard for evga 680i? I am interested to know what it is like. Honestly, I would be happy not spending any more money!


It'll be fine. And you can always add a card later whenever you decide to. But my money says it never happens. Most people's sound quality issues come not from their sound card/chip, but rather from awful speakers. If anything, upgrade those first.
January 22, 2007 9:26:41 PM

I was planning on using my old speakers from my dell dim 8300. I upgraded and got the Altec Lansing ADA995 5.1 speakers. these things put out so much sound its rediculous. but I have absolutely NO clue how they'll work with any other pc.
January 22, 2007 9:30:13 PM

Quote:
I'd recommend a Creative Xtreme Gamer ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682... )


Seconded, and as for the hardware acceleration Creative Labs is pushing the OpenAL standard which will supposedly replace DirectSound...supposedly, so the loss of sound API may not be much of an issue.
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