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Should I Be Getting A Sound Card?

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August 14, 2009 3:57:03 AM

Hi everyone. Basically I am building my own computer and I have a question. Should I be buying a sound card. I think the first step to deciding is to take into account my specifications/needs.
I am an avid music listener and I need good quality sound. I also will be gaming, and having good sound quality for that is also imperative. My speakers are the Logitech X-540 5.1 surround sound. My motherboard is the GA-EP45-UD3R, and my OS is Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
I suppose to narrow the questions here I am wondering if the sound onboard my mobo is sufficient for what I'm asking for. If not, then how do I pick a sound card. I need to make sure it is compatible with my OS. Are there other things that only run on certain sound cards, or is it pretty universal. What is the price range? I am on a budget, so value will be important. Am I able to instal a new sound card if my motherboard already has something similar, like onboard sound? Lastly, I suppose, is whether getting a sound card will just complicate things.
As you can see I'm pretty lost, your guidance is appreciated.

More about : sound card

August 14, 2009 4:47:23 AM

Hmmm, Well I have a gigabyte mobo the UD5P,and,,I tried the onboard sound and I found the bass to be a little muddy compared to my [old]5.1 OEM soundblaster,
I suppose it all depends on how sensitive your ears are and what you are used to,you could try the onboard and then if you are not satisfied then look at a sound card Auzentech ??,seems to be producing some interesting stuff and Asus as well,,and too you might want to look at the extreme line from Creative,might just get lucky???:) 
August 14, 2009 5:19:46 AM

Don't forget HT Omega.
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August 14, 2009 12:06:54 PM

ASUS <> Auzentech > HT Omega > Razer > Creative

The sound cards I recommend (in ascending performance, in my mind)
Auzentech Prelude
ASUS Xonar DX (PCI-E) *Fixed PCI-E listing
ASUS Xonar D2/D2X (PCI/PCI-E, but the same EXACT card regardless; PCI-E version requires floppy connector)
Auzentech Forte (PCI-E)
ASUS STX Essence (PCI-E, Requires 4 pin connector)

I can't recommend Creative. Their drivers stink, and they lack other basic features (free DDL/DTS-C, 192KHz playback, etc).

As for connections, since the speakers use 3.5mm, the STX Essence (which is meant for Optical connections) is out the window.

Depending on use, the card I would recommend changes. For strictly gaming, you can't beat the Forte (even if ASUS has closed the gap) due to more precise EAX emulation (through Alchemy). If you plan to do some movie watching, however, ASUS gains a clear edge in quality.

Due to pricing, the three cards I recommend for you are:
1: ASUS Xonar DX (around $70)
2: Auzentech Prelude (Around $180 or so) *Fixed price
3: Auzentech Forte (around $140)
August 15, 2009 3:18:06 PM

gamerk316 said:
ASUS <> Auzentech > HT Omega > Razer > Creative

The sound cards I recommend (in ascending performance, in my mind)
Auzentech Prelude
ASUS Xonar DX (PCI)
ASUS Xonar D2/D2X (PCI/PCI-E, but the same EXACT card regardless; PCI-E version requires floppy connector)
Auzentech Forte (PCI-E)
ASUS STX Essence (PCI-E, Requires 4 pin connector)

I can't recommend Creative. Their drivers stink, and they lack other basic features (free DDL/DTS-C, 192KHz playback, etc).

As for connections, since the speakers use 3.5mm, the STX Essence (which is meant for Optical connections) is out the window.

Depending on use, the card I would recommend changes. For strictly gaming, you can't beat the Forte (even if ASUS has closed the gap) due to more precise EAX emulation (through Alchemy). If you plan to do some movie watching, however, ASUS gains a clear edge in quality.

Due to pricing, the three cards I recommend for you are:
1: ASUS Xonar DX (around $70)
2: Auzentech Prelude (Around $80 or so)
3: Auzentech Forte (around $140)


First off, the Xonar DX is PCI-e, the D2 is not. im not entirely sure about the D2X it most likely is PCI-e, but im too lazy to check it out.

Also, the prelude is -NOT- 80$ Its 175$
The Xonar DX is 55-89$
August 19, 2009 4:40:36 AM

ok iv done some research and its time to change tactics I think. New question: how is the onboard sound on my motherboard. If anyone has any information, that would help me to decide whether its worth getting a new one. Also, is it hard to upgrade my sound card once everything is already built. Like i'll be building my computer and im thinking maybe it would be wise to test everything out first, and if im still not happy, then to upgrade.
August 19, 2009 5:29:06 AM

Definitely recommend the Asus Xonar Dx, I use it. Best soundcard I have ever used. I am also a serious music listener;

Current headphones: Denon ah-d2000 / d1001 - Music : Pop, Rock. All store bought CD's
Speakers: Logitech Z-2300
No amp yet~
August 19, 2009 12:16:51 PM

Sined said:
First off, the Xonar DX is PCI-e, the D2 is not. im not entirely sure about the D2X it most likely is PCI-e, but im too lazy to check it out.

Also, the prelude is -NOT- 80$ Its 175$
The Xonar DX is 55-89$


Yeah, I have no idea how the DX got listed as PCI...sorry about that one (Heck, I chose the D2 over the DX simply because my mobo has known issues with the PCI-E bridge chip the DX uses!).

The D2X is basically a D2 with a bridge chip to make the card work on a PCI-E interface. (The DX is basically a D2X with budget parts; it even uses the same bridge chip).

As for the Prelude price, I'm assumig I simply missed the '1' in 180. No idea what I was thinking...

I updated my post to reflect those corrections.
August 19, 2009 12:19:42 PM

ckaz said:
ok iv done some research and its time to change tactics I think. New question: how is the onboard sound on my motherboard. If anyone has any information, that would help me to decide whether its worth getting a new one. Also, is it hard to upgrade my sound card once everything is already built. Like i'll be building my computer and im thinking maybe it would be wise to test everything out first, and if im still not happy, then to upgrade.


I could tell you without looking your onboard is probably a Realtek. Good quality, but no where near as good as you get with a dedicated card. Basically, if you are using cheap desktop speakers, then you are fine. If you're using a 5.1 setup, its time to upgrade.

Replaceing the cards are simple: Uninstall driver, swap out cards, install driver.

EDIT:

I was right. You mobo uses the Realtek ALC889A.
August 19, 2009 3:36:57 PM

The asus xonar dx looks pretty good except it says its made for 7.1 audio systems. Does that mean it can still support a 5.1, but its compatible up to a 7.1? I want to get sound blaster's 'xtremegamer' card, but a few questions. One of the main resons I am upgrading is because this '3-d' sound feature sounds really appealing. Do both of these cards (xonar dx, xtremegamer) use 3-d sound? what are the differences between the two sound cards.

p.s. some of these cards seem a bit out-dated, any recommendations on some newer cards, but still in the less than $100 range?
August 19, 2009 8:21:58 PM

Yes, both use 3d sound. Yes, 7.1 means supporting up to 7.1.

Basically, Creative cards use their own audio algorithm, CMS3D, to make a 2.0 signal sound like 5.1. ASUS cards simply use Dolby Speaker Surround/Headphone for the same type of effect. Both can handle positional audio without issue.

As for the ExtremeGamer, its an older budget model that has not held up well in the market (with a lot of cards in the $69-$99 price range now). The DX simply crushes it head to head; its only redeaming quality is the fact its the cheapest decent PCI card avaliable.

A lot of the newer cards (and some old ones) are still priced high:
Auzentech Prelude (PCI): ~$199
Auzentech Forte (PCI-E): ~$139

ASUS Xonar DX (PCI-E): ~$89
ASUS Xonar D2 (PCI): ~$179
ASUS STX Essence (PCI-E) ~ $199

Creative offers the most budget models, but non of them are of particular high quality. The DX is the perfect card for its price point (think of it as a ATI 4850; ruler of the Price/Performance ratio)

It comes down to how much perfect implementation of EAX effects in some games matters to you. Personally, I see these effects as minor (at best), but some people swear by them. If they are not important, its hard not to justify buying the DX.
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