I recently broke another one of my shitty 10$ headsets and it got me thinking about buying a more decent headset. I've been looking around and I think I will get the Zalman ZM-RS6F+M (unless someone has a better suggestion for that pricerange (~75€)).
Anyway, to the point: I'm running onboard Realtek HD sound on my P5N-E SLI mobo. Will this drastically bottleneck the quality? I've been looking at other sound cards and I could get a SB1040 PCI Express Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme relatively cheap.
Should I? Am I better off with a different card/headset? Should I not bother at all and just stick to onboard + cheapo?
I'm grateful for any advice you can give me
PS. It's important to point out that I'm not a big audophile. My main concern is gaming and the quality (and surround) experience during it.
Those headphones will probably be decent for positional audio in gaming, although I'd be hard pressed to use them for music/movies. But sound is different for each person. I prefer a good stereo headset.
A relatively inexpensive sound card with decent sound that will be leaps and bounds over onboard audio is Creative's audigy.
Soundcards are dirt cheap these days, and even a decent one is better then onboard. Just stay away from Creative proper; I will never, ever, recommend one of their products...
At the really low end (~$50), the ASUS D1 and HT Omega Claro are major upgrades from onboard. Mid range (~$80), you have the ASUS DX and HT Omeger Striker, and at the high end (>$100), you have the ASUS D2/D2X, ASUS STX Essence, Auzentech X-fi Prelude, Auzentech X-fi Forte.
That being said, if you stick with cheap headphones, theres probably no point to a sound card anyways.
Well did you reproduce the same settings exactly on both computers? I know from experience the creative cards come with it's own software when installing the drivers. That means a completely different sounding card just because of the software, and not necessarily the quality of the device.
I have a 60 dollar sound blaster in my backup computer, and on board sound on my Asus P5Kc mother board. Both running no effects or software except itunes (setup exactly the same). Through Klipsch Pro Media 2.1 Speakers (which blow your 20.00 headphones out of the water as far as accuracy and range), and have concluded that there isn't an audible difference, unless I spring for better speakers.
How old is the mobo and what make and model is the one you tested against your sound card. Also try to verify that your testing bed was done with the same conditions for both.
Look at the range of the hardware device, then reference that against the range of your headphones. You will see that your headphones do not have the range to handle what that sound card is capable of producing.