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onboard sound vs. stand alone sound card

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October 10, 2008 4:28:22 AM

I know this has been asked before many times, but for the first part, I wanted to get into the specifics of my particular setup. I've been doing tons of research on the subject of onboard sound vs. stand alone sound cards since I was thinking of upgrading from my onboard sound. I currently have a Realtec AC97 ALC 850 7.1 channel system onboard my ECS KN1SLI Extreme motherboard. My speakers are Logitech Z-640 5.1's. I've been very satisfied with the sound quality over the last three years I've had it (then again, I haven't heard anything else through my Logitech speakers). Long story short, quality isn't my big concern unless there's something I'm overlooking. I've heard complaints about electronic noise or whatever but I can't notice anything of that nature.

What I'm really wondering is how much of a boost I'll get when playing games if I switch to a PCI card for my sound. My gut tells me my money would be better spent on more RAM, and a second video card for SLI.
October 10, 2008 10:33:33 AM

Your money would be better sent. Probably. IMO.

What's the rest of your current rig?
October 10, 2008 10:55:13 AM

Processor is AMD Athlon X2 4400+ 2ghz (possibly looking to upgrade to the 5600+ 2.8ghz which is the fastest socket 939 CPU I can still find but don't know if the 800mhz is worth it)
Graphics card is 8800GT 512mb (looking to get another to SLI)
Nothing else comes to mind that would affect gaming performance.
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October 10, 2008 11:21:32 AM

Dont spend your money on a stand alone sound card, unless you are having problems (like electrical noise) or isnt satisfied with your sound.

The difference in sound quality is very small and you probably wont notice any big difference.
October 10, 2008 11:26:50 AM

(Couldnt edit)

Regarding performance: You wont be seeing any noticable fps difference.

Spend your money on something else imo.
October 10, 2008 12:05:06 PM

Cool. I figured that. Even though this is the sound card forum, anyone got any opinions on my processor conundrum? I really don't want to start another topic under the CPU forum.
October 10, 2008 12:42:49 PM

Actually, regarding the sound card, I beg to differ. Whether or not you see fps improvement in your gaming will depend on which dedicated sound card you're looking at. I won't be a huge leap in fps, but you may see some difference.

http://www.elitebastards.com/cms/index.php?option=com_c...

Check the bottom of this review page for an example. The card being reviewed is the Auzentech XPlosion (NOT a gaming card). Included in the list, however, is an early Audigy based sound card. There is a clear difference between the onboard chipsets and the audigy based card in the review.
October 10, 2008 12:50:28 PM

I noticed that you mentioned you had a socket 939. I also noticed you said your X2 4400+ is 2Ghz and that you can upgrade to an X2 5600+. These are contradicting statements all around. First because the socket 939 X2 4400+ is 2.2Ghz with 1mb L2 per core and second, socket 939 only went up to an X2 4800+ OR the FX-60 (FX60 was 2.6 if I remember right). Either way you are going to have a very hard time finding either of these processors to upgrade to and in any case neither of them will be worth the money you are going to have to spend right now to get them.
If you truly have a socket 939 system right now (like me) you should wait and build new. Its still fast enough that its keeping up ok and unless you buy one of those 2.9Ghz chips OEM off newegg (along with some of this crazy cheap DDR2 and a new board for cheap) or somewhere else I don't think it would be worth the money. With your ram it would be worth it to max out your ram to 4gb (socket 939) but keep in mind you must have a 64bit OS to do that. Save your money dude and wait for the next truly NEW architecture be it Nehalem which is around the corner or Griffin (laptop code name?) when/if it ever comes out.
Jtrumpet...the reason the explosion card from Auzentech does better is because of drivers...come on man we all know that creative's drivers suck in Vista because they don't support direct sound too well and in order to transform the eax calls into direct sound call it eats up cpu cycles.....blah blah blah...we've all heard it before. Did if occur to you that these websites make money off of pointing out that " old stuff is junk/slower and new stuff is better" despite that it is not always true? There is not one gaming card on the market right now that has native drivers for Vista AND full hardware acceleration....not one. So all of them will take up cpu cycles, how many is a question of drivers more than anything.
October 10, 2008 12:50:40 PM

When playing games, a good souncard will provide 3d sound support such as EAX, and also will provide more 'voices' for sound effects, giving a better game experience. 3DMark03 has a sound test that plays a game segment with no sound, then repeats with some voices, then with 30. My onboard sound cannot do 30, my Xi-Fi does, and it makes a big difference.

Mike.
October 10, 2008 4:44:29 PM

Reasons to get a sound card include:

- Processing power (more voices in games, better resampling of audio when necessary )

- Higher precision - audio accuracy: software can only emulate sound as processed by hardware (esp. valid for games and EAX)

- Typically higher quality components compared to onboard audio, often with extra shielding, for less noise and interference

- Longer support - motherboard manufacturers typically ditch driver development after a year or two and you are left with generic drivers. Sound card manufacturers offer support for years, at least in terms of drivers

- Better headphones support - better then with onboard audio. This one is hard to explain but belive me there is a difference I assume it has to do with power output and some level of crossfeed between L and R channels or something more sophisticated like CMSS-3D Headphones on my X-Fi sound card

October 10, 2008 4:54:43 PM

Complete support to uncle_ben... Since I bought my X-Fi sound card, I don't want to hear anymore about onboard sound... :D 
difference is quite big, at least on my machine...
October 10, 2008 8:27:45 PM

kona said:
I noticed that you mentioned you had a socket 939. I also noticed you said your X2 4400+ is 2Ghz and that you can upgrade to an X2 5600+. These are contradicting statements all around. First because the socket 939 X2 4400+ is 2.2Ghz with 1mb L2 per core and second, socket 939 only went up to an X2 4800+ OR the FX-60 (FX60 was 2.6 if I remember right). Either way you are going to have a very hard time finding either of these processors to upgrade to and in any case neither of them will be worth the money you are going to have to spend right now to get them.


http://www.amazon.com/AMD-Athlon-Dual-Core-5600-Process...

I found this on Amazon. Looks like it's socket 939 unless I'm misreading. Yeah, you're right. My processor was 2.2 gigahertz. Most likely I was going to just max out the ram, get an SLI, go to Vita home pro, and ride it out till a newer and better boards come around.
October 11, 2008 7:30:49 AM

uncle_ben said:
Reasons to get a sound card include:

- Longer support - motherboard manufacturers typically ditch driver development after a year or two and you are left with generic drivers. Sound card manufacturers offer support for years, at least in terms of drivers



ECS is real bad about keeping current drivers on their site, although anyone with common sense would go to the manufacturer of the component's website straight away to get the latest and greatest.
October 15, 2008 7:22:55 PM

Kona, in my experience Creative's drivers for Vista64 have been great for the past 9+ months. I give them a lot of credit cleaning up their act, even if they were forced to do so kicking and screaming.

The Elite Pro I'm using works precisely as prescribed in Vista64. There's no reason for me to upgrade, and believe me, I tried to find some reasons.
October 15, 2008 7:49:08 PM

Again, I've had nothing but trouble with my Creative sound card, especially in EA games (maybe theres a theme there...I'm on XP, so its not a Vista issue). Razor makes better sound cards at this point.

As long as your onboard is 64 channels, and you only use stereo speakers, I see no reason to waste money on a sound card. Now, if your onboard stinks, or you use surround, thats a diffrent story. Either way, I'd stay away from Creative for the time being.

EDIT

I finally got around to searching for fixes for my sound issues with my Xfi and Crysis, apparently all Creative sound cards hate the game (just google 'Creatve Crysis Sound' (minus quotes) to see what I mean)
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