Do I need a sound card?

I'm building a new rig using a Gigabyte GA-EP35C-DS3R.... it has a Realtek ALC889A chipset.

I'll be hooking this up to a 5.1 system powered by a Marantz SR7001. Use will be 80%+ listening to music(ripped and streaming audio) and 20% gaming. No DVD use planned.

Will a sound card significantly improve the quality of the music experience? If so, is Soundblaster still the only reasonable game in town?
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  1. For sure. However if you are going to listen to music most of the time, I would suggest looking into something better than Soundblasters, they focus more on gameing and sound effects rather than pure sound quality. How about Auzentech Prelude?
  2. Asus makes a fine Vista capable card, as does HDA, made by Auzentech.

    Creative stuff is supported very poorly, and have serious issues right now.
  3. No, you do not. You will not hear a difference. Sound quality is up to the speakers, not sound card. Save the money and use it on speakers.
  4. You can hear a difference, but it depends on:

    1. How well your brain can process the sound waves your ears pick up.
    2. How good your computer speakers are.

    I've listened to music using on board sound and with a Soundblaster. To me, music being pumped out thru on-board sound is kinda "flat" compared to music coming out thru Soundblaster.

    M-Audio and TerraTec sound cards are geared more for the computer "audiophile", than for gamers. Whereas Soundblaster is more for the gamer and the average music listener.
  5. It depends a lot on the quality of the output (be it headphones or speakers). To me it has never been a big issue so I have never added one. You could always try the onboard and add a card later if it is unacceptable.
  6. No. You cannot tell the difference in quality from the onboard realtek hd and anything else, especially if you are going s/pdif to an amplifier.

    The higher cpu utilization might cost you .01fps while gaming, but I'm not sure thats worth $100 :)
  7. Id stay away from any Creative products, including speakers. The customer service is terrible, and they have driver issues they cant fix, but others can, so whats that say?
  8. All music sounds pretty awesome when you're high. You'll not be making a mistake if you forego the sound card and instead get yourself some good pot.
  9. Do you work for Creative?^
  10. Thanks for the replies! I sense a difference of opinion! :)

    The Marantz is part of a HT setup so the speakers are pretty good. And, yes, I expected the connection to remain s/pdif, as it currently is. Is there a better method? I'm using WinXP, not Vista.

    I don't consider myself to be an "audiophile" but I think I can tell the difference between good and crappy. I'm definitely not a "gamer" although I play a game or two once in a while. Spending a couple of hundred on a sound card isn't an issue as long as the difference is noticeable to me.

    On Newegg, four of the top 5 cards with the most reviews are SB... figures. I'll take a look at some of the other cards mentioned here and see if I can figure this out. I'm afraid this might turn out to be one of those "gamble that it pays off" kinda things.
  11. Yea it will. As much as I hate to admit it, Creative isnt too bad on xp, but Vista is another story. Id go with something sweeter than Creative if it wasnt for gaming primarily. Look around, and put the gaming in perspective
  12. Think of it this way. Sound card vs. speakers is the same kind of battle between CPU and GPU. If one is greatly better than the other, it is held back by the lesser. A lot of people base their "do i need a sound card" question off of unbalanced speaker/sound device machines. No one in their right mind gets a 9800gtx2 to play crysis and pairs it with an Athlon 64. If you have nice speakers, you'll hear the difference in sound. If you don't, you won't.

    If you're using XP, and you're just looking to listen to music and such, a SB will serve you well. If you're looking to record or do other things, which you're not, that's the only reason I would recommend a M-Audio or Az. product. Vista is a different story with Creative, but since you said you're not using it, let's just forget it.

    You could use fiber as an upgrade to s/pdif, but s/pdif is fine. I think you'll appreciate the extra features associated with a dedicated sound card.

    IMO, you should search for a SB.
  13. Reason to buy a sound card : Inputs. Analog inputs or the need for midi inputs you will only get with an aftermarket card. The line-in on most motherboards you will get hiss and pops all day betwen devices and microphones will need some fiddling to get near clean sound.

    I use a a logitech 5.1 system, as well as the digital output to a 5.1 receiver/stereo. I get no interference on either setup at max volume using the same Realtek, but the inputs are dreadful.
  14. Thanks again everyone! I appreciate the advice!
  15. BlueSun said:
    I'm building a new rig using a Gigabyte GA-EP35C-DS3R.... it has a Realtek ALC889A chipset.

    I'll be hooking this up to a 5.1 system powered by a Marantz SR7001. Use will be 80%+ listening to music(ripped and streaming audio) and 20% gaming. No DVD use planned.

    Will a sound card significantly improve the quality of the music experience? If so, is Soundblaster still the only reasonable game in town?


    Would Sound Cards will make a difference? Answer: Yes
    How much? That depends. That’s why you have so many different answers because sound taste differs from everybody, as well as we all have different system setup.

    Equipments are all tied when creating a good sound system but the crucial part is always the source.

    If you're compressing like you said, then having a sound card will make a difference since the sounds can be control closer to your likings, if the sound card applications are used.

    If you can borrow a sound card from a friend before buying one, that would give you indication if you really need one. Auzentech Prelude is a good card but Auzentech X-plosion is geared toward Audio and Movie than games for half the price of the Prelude. M-Audio make professional cards and gear toward sound reproduction so some of their cards can be very expensive.
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