I am looking for the best bang for the buck sound card for listening to mp3 music on my computer.
I have Klipsch Promedia 2.1 speakers and I recently got a new Inspiron 530 desktop. I like the onboard sound on the Dell a little better than my previous computer. I was using the onboard sound on my previous computer as well because the cheap Soundblaster Live! 24-bit card I purchased did not give me any improvement. I still have the card but I am not using it.
I do not care for any 5.1, 7.1, optical out, co-axial out features and I do NO gaming at all. I enjoy listening to music on my computer but I know it does not drive my speakers as well as it could. I especially miss the clear highs that come from good amps (my car has an Alpine headunit which I love). All the sound card discussions and reviews center around the gamer features. So, what do the folks here recommend for a good MUSIC sound card, preferably under $50, and preferably PCI-e (two PCI slots are taken) interface?
If you have 2.1 speakers, just stick with the onboard sound, which supports up to 5.1. You won't notice any diffrence with a soundcard whatsoever.
there will be a difference. take a look at the creative x-fi extreme audio. it's $45 and it's pci-e. but you'll never find a modern sound card without optical and at least 7.1 channel audio. also, i doubt you'll actually hear a huge difference in quality unless you invest in a very good set of speakers.
Forgive me, I've not read all of the preceding posts.
While the Klipsch ProMedia are respectable PC speakers, they are indeed PC speakers. ...which means means as good as they might seem, they leave something to be desired, and I've auditioned them on multiple occasions. However, that doesn't mean that they can't audibly render sound from something better than that included with a motherboard.
I would not recommend sticking with onboard sound for the following reasons:
* Limited to no isolation from any noise caused by other onboard components
* Lower THD and S/N ratio than you typically will find with discrete audio cards
Those two factors can affect sound quality notably, even on sound rendered to PC speakers.
Thanks halcyon for the thoughtful reply. I agree with everything you said about Klipsch. I know they have limitations. I might change those later. I am looking at buying Bose Companion (under $100) or M-Audio AV-40 ($200). I have auditioned both and I like the price on the former and the sound on the latter. But for M-Audio's $200, I can probably get a pair of bookshelf speakers AND a stereo receiver.
But I know these Klipsch are capable of reproducing more than what I am driving them with. Especially after hearing the difference between previous mobo audio and the current mobo audio.
At this point, your second option (USB Interface XMOD) seems the best bet for me. For one, being USB it will bypass the noise from inside the case and for another, my PCI slot problem will be solved. Hopefully a local store will have it so I can try it and keep it only if I like it.
I wouldn't recommend the Bose - they tend to lack clairity across the entire sound spectrum, especially on highs. The M-audios look nice, although the ideal is a separate receiver completely isolated from your computer's electronics (mine is driven with a fiber optic connection).
I'd been using the Logitech Z-5500's driven by an X-Fi Elite Pro. Not bad sound and I used that for nearly 2 years. Folks on this forum kept recommending to get a pair of bookshelves and a receiver, but I would never invest the money, just figuring the Z-5500's were pretty decent.
Its quite a difference, and though it was more expensive then my Z-5500's I'm happy with the results. The stereo imaging, highs, mid-range, mid-bass and bass are in a completely different class...but obviously at a cost. The Z-5500's did offer more low sub-bass "radiation" (I like to call it that though I know better), the kind that surely would kill the bacteria on the walls..but it was much looser and less controlled. The bass now is much tighter...faster. I love the sound. This setup is still considered "low-end" but it sounds better than the Z-5500's to me. My Wife now has the Z-5500's in a 2.1 configuration, quite an upgrade for her.
Further, about a month ago I'd tried to improve upon my sound card. Again, I use an X-Fi Elite Pro. So I tried the Asus Xonar and Auzentech Prelude. While both sounded very nice I could hear nothing that was worth the cost to upgrade and I prefer the X-Fi's driver set in Vista 64.
If and when you can go with bookshelves, a sub, and a receiver...I'd highly recommend it.