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Why get a sound card instead of onboard sound?

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June 7, 2007 6:20:13 AM

Like the title suggests, why do people get SCs instead of using onboard sound? Is there much of a sound quality difference? Can your ears really tell? Also I know that having a soundcard can take some load off the cpu, but how much of a performance jump is it?
June 7, 2007 6:45:33 AM

The performance boost is not that big. Not really noticeable for the average user. Same goes for the sound quality. If you use two small desktop speakers it doesn't matter. But if you've got a good soundsystem or good headphones and claim that you can hear the difference between 128kbs and 196kbs (I claim I do) then it's probably worth thinking about a good external SC.
June 7, 2007 6:58:02 AM

You also get a lot more inputs and outputs with a soundcard than a mobo.

It's actually quite handy to have analogue RCA inputs to record music from an external source which would otherwise be copy-protected if you're using a digital cable:wink:
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June 7, 2007 7:34:02 AM

Yep you need good sound system to hear the difference. The external sound card can provide better surround sound in games though... (read eax 5), if it is somehow supported.

I use high guality hifi-spekers and headphones (when it's too late at night to keep up the volume...) so I have allways used external sound card. But if you use normal game speakers you definitely can not notice any difference!

If you are editing music, sampling and recording, then external sound card can be alternative to real samplers, but they are not even near good professional equipment...
June 7, 2007 7:34:29 AM

Quote:
if you have 250 dollar head phone i think you need more than a sound card
maybe a therapist

i think a common mistake most of us make is thinking the state appointed shrink is our "friend"


The RRP for mine is AU$669.

Of course I didn't pay that though.

Judging by your post though I'm led to believe that you've never experienced premium quality headphones.

What's $700 for something that's going to last 10-15 years, especially compared to, say, an 8800GTX?
June 7, 2007 7:44:21 AM

Quote:
nope just using the sane 15 dollar headphones
they should last for 2-4 years then ill get another crappy pair

edit btw i didnt pay that for my 8800 GTX either


You have my sympathies on the headphones and my jealousy on the graphics card.
June 7, 2007 7:56:24 AM

There are a lot of neat features in sound cards that I never thought I'd use. For instance, the ability to record "what you hear" which is handy for making those movie sound-clips ;) 
June 7, 2007 8:02:31 AM

Quote:
There are a lot of neat features in sound cards that I never thought I'd use. For instance, the ability to record "what you hear" which is handy for making those movie sound-clips ;) 


Little Nicky + Chicago. Best. Ringtone. Ever. (Oh my god, Chicago kicks ass!)

If you've seen it you'll know what I'm talking about.
June 7, 2007 8:30:03 AM

soudn card>any integrated unless u use lik crappy 2 speaks or cheap headphones/headsets, as above stated. i hav a 3 speaker set up and u do notice the difference even though my mobo has integrated hd sound and im only using a xfi xtreme audio(aorund 40 dollars)

the higher end u buy the better it gets, but u need a gd sound system, around 50 and up i guess
June 7, 2007 9:10:25 AM

Quote:
Like the title suggests, why do people get SCs instead of using onboard sound? Is there much of a sound quality difference? Can your ears really tell? Also I know that having a soundcard can take some load off the cpu, but how much of a performance jump is it?


Years ago I used to build with ONLY the top branded/adverted stuff....now I know better.

MB sound is now "about" as good as the human ear can tell so save the $100+ USD on the "name" sound cards unless your really into music and have a $1K sound system at home.
June 7, 2007 4:09:23 PM

Coz u need the joystick port!!
June 7, 2007 4:26:43 PM

Well, you free your cpu of doing the math for sound processing. Sound quality is better, and in some cases you do have a real EAX support.
8)
Hasta la vista baby
June 7, 2007 5:21:26 PM

I've found that onboard sound is much more susceptible to noise generated by other components/connections to the motherboard. For instance, on my work computer, if I plug headphones into the onboard sound headphone jack, there is always a background buzzing noise, which increases when I move the mouse.

Similar things have occured with friends who use onboard sound...many times there seems to be more background noise. Some find it too much to take and purchase a sound card, other's ears are not as sensitive and they don't worry about it too much.

I happen to have very sensitive ears to that sort of thing, and thus I use a sound card. Yeah, it is a bit more money, but there are other benifits to it.

When I build machines for friends, who usually are trying to get the best bang for their buck, the usual choice/recommendation is to forgo a dedicated soundcard in the beginning. Then, if increased sound performance is desired at a later date, or if background noise is too much for them, they can always drop a soundcard in whenever they want.
June 7, 2007 5:34:04 PM

Quote:
The performance boost is not that big. Not really noticeable for the average user. Same goes for the sound quality. If you use two small desktop speakers it doesn't matter. But if you've got a good soundsystem or good headphones and claim that you can hear the difference between 128kbs and 196kbs (I claim I do) then it's probably worth thinking about a good external SC.


You're kidding....right?? The sound quality difference is very noticeable, even with cheaper equipment. It's like night and day. And please, bit rate doesn't have anything to do with it. Point being onboard sound can even make lossless files and a CD sound bad. Anyways here are my top reasons to get a sound card:

1. Sound Quality Improvement - This is across the in board in games, vusic and video. Plus you get better EAX and spacial surround effects.

2. Value- Let's face it, sound cards are one of the most affordable components you can purchase for your PC. So you are assured great sound for a great price.

3. Performance Boost - Bottom line is having a separate sound card can offload some of the work your CPU does. It may give you a few extra frames in game. Depending on your system this can vary a bit. In older systems a sound card seems to help out more than in newer systems. But it will definitely give you clearer and more pleasing audio. It also gives me confidence that I am getting the most out of my system.

Also if you would have a forum search this question has been answered many many times. So you can find more info there.
June 7, 2007 5:48:36 PM

my pc is for gaming and also it is the htpc in my livingroom. if excellent sound is important to you, get a soundcard that does it, if not the onboard sound should be fine. for dolby digital and DTS and EAX a sound card cannot be beat. mine is an audigy i bought in 2003 and it is about to be in its 3rd motherboard.
June 7, 2007 6:18:45 PM

As well as the above benefits a decent sound card (I have a Xi-Fi) on a gaming system gives more 'voices' during games, with better 3D support. When I built my current system I used the onboard sound. If you test with 3DMark03, there is a sound test on the Air War sequence which tests with different number of voices. My onboard sound could not produse 60 voices, My old Sonic Fury can, as can the Creative Xi-Fi. You can tell the difference easily. DOOM3 V1.3 supports the Xi-Fi and produces brilliant sound effects.

Mike.
June 8, 2007 1:05:28 AM

My headphones (actually "STAX Electrostatic Ear Speakers") cost $2500 and that was 12 years ago. New price is probably double that. Do you think I need therapy?

No, I need good quality recordings to listen to - that's all.
June 8, 2007 1:27:30 AM

Quote:
check this out with your insane headphones
i have been listening to this for the last 2 weeks

Nice song but the compression is to high, the quality of recording is very low.

Quote:
MB sound is now "about" as good as the human ear can tell so save the $100+ USD on the "name" sound cards unless your really into music and have a $1K sound system at home.

I have a $5K home theater not including display (not the best but what I can afford). I can absolutely tell the difference between sound qualities. I disagree about onboard being about as good as humans can hear, most humans don't care to listen they just want to hear noise.

Most consumers are happy with their ipods and earbuds and have no concept of quality sound. I have a test for you, listen to an MP3 at about 192 then listen to a .wav and see if you can tell the difference. If you can't then onboard is for you.

The video card analogy is correct can you play games with less than a $500 video card, yes. Would the game be more enjoyable with it, yes.
June 8, 2007 3:13:05 AM

I'm in the same boat as AUsch30. Its a matter of praticality.

I see no reason to spend $200 on a sound card if its feeding $15 walmart headphones. I do see a reason to purchase dedicated sound hardware if you find a use for it.

If all you listen to is mp3's and do some minor gaming, then ya, onboard may be for you. If you where me, then maybe its different.

I do a lot of .wav and DVD-A, and other lossless format listening. I also watch a lot of movies, and 90% of my games are played based on hearing (AA, CS being top ones). I also spent $220 a pair for my speakers... I also paid $1500 for my 32" 1080p TV, and guess what, Im not feeding it a 480i signal either!

There is a saying (cant account for its accuracy)... Why spend $1k on electronics and zilch on audio, when your missing 90% of the sound experence, and half of the entire experence!

Get the point?
June 8, 2007 5:30:41 AM

I prefer a discreet sound card over integrated audio.

To me it simply sounds better. But everyone is different. Some time ago a spoke to a friend of mine about audio systems. He actually told me he could not tell the difference between a $500 stereo system and a $10,000 audiophile system. My jaw dropped.

If you want to cut corners on the cost of a PC then using a integrated audio instead of a discreet card is an obvious choice whether you can hear the difference or not.

I all boils down to whether integrated audio sounds "good enough" to you.
June 8, 2007 7:10:30 AM

Quote:
is WMA lossless?


WMA can be lossless, but only with Windows Media Encoder 9 if that option is selected. How does WMA lossless compare to uncompressed wave files or to other lossless codecs like FLAC and APE? I don't know.

For those who are not familiar with lossless codecs, don't expect high compression. At best it will be about a 2:1 compression ratio. One minute of uncompressed music will take about 11MB. Using a lossless codec will shrink that down to about 6MB per minute of music.
June 8, 2007 8:33:23 AM

Quote:
The performance boost is not that big. Not really noticeable for the average user. Same goes for the sound quality. If you use two small desktop speakers it doesn't matter. But if you've got a good soundsystem or good headphones and claim that you can hear the difference between 128kbs and 196kbs (I claim I do) then it's probably worth thinking about a good external SC.


You're kidding....right?? The sound quality difference is very noticeable, even with cheaper equipment. It's like night and day. And please, bit rate doesn't have anything to do with it. Point being onboard sound can even make lossless files and a CD sound bad. Anyways here are my top reasons to get a sound card:

1. Sound Quality Improvement - This is across the in board in games, vusic and video. Plus you get better EAX and spacial surround effects.

2. Value- Let's face it, sound cards are one of the most affordable components you can purchase for your PC. So you are assured great sound for a great price.

3. Performance Boost - Bottom line is having a separate sound card can offload some of the work your CPU does. It may give you a few extra frames in game. Depending on your system this can vary a bit. In older systems a sound card seems to help out more than in newer systems. But it will definitely give you clearer and more pleasing audio. It also gives me confidence that I am getting the most out of my system.

Also if you would have a forum search this question has been answered many many times. So you can find more info there.

Yah, everything said here is correct.


Actually he mispelled "music" as "vusic". So everything ASIDE from that is correct :mrgreen: :tongue:
June 8, 2007 9:05:07 AM

Quote:
I've found that onboard sound is much more susceptible to noise generated by other components/connections to the motherboard. For instance, on my work computer, if I plug headphones into the onboard sound headphone jack, there is always a background buzzing noise, which increases when I move the mouse.


That could be an IRQ issue as well ;) 
June 8, 2007 9:44:32 AM

A onboard soundcard uses system memory, and brings down system performance and not so great sound quality even though onboard sound hascome a long way. A dedicated sound card uses dedicated memory on the card itself which improve frame rates while playing games.
June 8, 2007 9:58:55 AM

There aren't a lot of sound cards that actually use its own RAM. It's mostly just buffers really. The thing that improves performance is the offloading of the processor when moving from onboard to a sound card with its own SPU, and the increase isn't that much. BUT, an SPU is a hell of a lot more efficient at it than a CPU since it's been designed specifically for sound. This also gives it more ability for features like speeding up a sound clip without changing the pitch or making it sound all f*d up and sweet by changing the clip itself to sound like Zeus or an alien (all ye with SB card know what I'm talking about).
June 12, 2007 3:43:46 PM

Thanks for the great replies. All your input has informed me a lot.
I can conclude that:
:arrow: Sound cards are a worthy investment because they don't cost a lot.
:arrow: If sounds requirements are high, then it beats onboard sound.
:arrow: If you have good audio equipment, you wouldn't be doing them justice pairing them with onboard sound.
:arrow: Affects system performance, game performance, added EAX features.
:arrow: If you are an audiophile, a soundcard is a must have.

Well, I 'think' i do have a good sound system, I have a Creative 5.1 surround sound system. It got given to me as a present. I forget which model, but they may be last years model?

The thing is, I've always been living with onboard sound my whole life, so I never really got a taste of sound card audio. What I dont know doesnt hurt me! And I always thought onboard was good enough, but maybe I should try it out and see without being naive.

Thanks all, I think I might invest in like a cheapish 50 dollar sound card?

Chris
June 12, 2007 4:15:15 PM

I can definately hear the difference between on board sound and a sound card on my Razer Barracuda headset.
June 12, 2007 5:09:00 PM

My Sennheiser headphones don't like integrated sound.
My Audigy 2 NX external is far better quality than the integrated sound on my nforce 570.
The main difference I notice is if I'm playing music and playing a game at the same time on my integrated, it will crackle a lot during heavy action.
!