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Sound cards even necessary?

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November 19, 2009 5:33:11 PM

I have an Audigy 2 ZS sound card that I bough back in like 2004, and I'm not sure if I should keep it with my upcoming build (starting this Friday). Wth the advancements in onboard sound technology, is a dedicated sound card going to be any benifit for modern day games?

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November 19, 2009 6:29:25 PM

Just check the audio chip on your card and the one on your next mobo, compare it. I bought an audio card one month ago, to be honest I really ear the difference mostly in music and movie. In game it's almost the same just a little bit better. the important thing is I need a preamp on the card for my headphone. The audio on the mobo don't have that fonctionnality. I get an asus essence STX.
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November 19, 2009 6:51:36 PM

Onboard sound has gotten much better since the AC'97 days.

Having said that, I keep migrating my 2 ZS to what is my current gaming and multimedia build.
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November 19, 2009 7:22:39 PM

another vote for "Onboard Sound Has Gotten Better" - Because it has, and is more than adequate for most any usage.

Though if you're serious about sound, you'd likely want an aftermarket card anyhow. But understand this is already entering the realm of Diminishing Returns (lots of money spent for small gains).
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November 19, 2009 7:51:07 PM

If the motherboard has 7.1 HD audio, I think you are probably better off with the onboard audio. Be sure to install the audio drivers (rather than the generic windows drivers) and do a little tweaking. I have a high end audiophile system (sunfire) and my computer sound keeps up with all my other sources. So if its good enough for my system, I have to assume it will be more than good enough for the vast majority of users who are using computer speakers or home theater in a box for their sound.
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November 19, 2009 8:14:45 PM

While on the subject of sound, I'm unable to get enough volume out of players like WMP. I don't hear well and I have everything I can find maxed out. Is there something I can add on to boost volume?
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November 19, 2009 8:50:36 PM

first of all as everyone says onboard audio has certenly come a long way... but dont expect to much of it... if you have a nice sound system chances are, onboard cant feed it enough juice...
second, onboard audio eats cpu cycles... if you game or what ever while using audio, like listening to music while photoshoping or recording anything, it will decrease performance... most add-in sound cards have a sound processing unit which takes care of that... thats why they started to say that x-fi processing power was about the same of a P4 or what ever...

ram1009, windows has also a sound control panel, its probably far from maxed out... especially in the wave section which controls music and some other stuff... have you checked that out?
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November 19, 2009 9:40:26 PM

N19h7M4r3 said:
first of all as everyone says onboard audio has certenly come a long way... but dont expect to much of it... if you have a nice sound system chances are, onboard cant feed it enough juice...
second, onboard audio eats cpu cycles... if you game or what ever while using audio, like listening to music while photoshoping or recording anything, it will decrease performance... most add-in sound cards have a sound processing unit which takes care of that... thats why they started to say that x-fi processing power was about the same of a P4 or what ever...

ram1009, windows has also a sound control panel, its probably far from maxed out... especially in the wave section which controls music and some other stuff... have you checked that out?


I'm not sure what you mean by 'enough juice'. It is line level, not amplified. You have to feed it to an amplified source. As for the quality, any HD audio is higher quality than CD players, so if you are happy with CD sound you'll be happy with onboard audio. In fact many HD onboard specs exceed that of some of the add-in sound cards.
While it is true it does use some CPU power, in reality it is such a minimal amount any system that has HD onboard audio will not be affected by it at all. I've never seen any study that shows any decrease in performance by using onboard audio in a modern system.

@ram1009...right click the speaker icon for all your options, and be sure whatever sound system you are using has the correct settings and volume adjustment.
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November 19, 2009 10:05:29 PM

I buy dedicated soundcards for several reasons:

The sound is significantly better
EAX really enhances games - even on my 2,1 setup
audiochip and onboard memory takes 3-5% workload off the cpu while gaming and watching movies
There is no static noise - which is a problem with MANY onboard solutions. Gets even worse with highly overclocked systems.

My current Soundcard set me back 38£ which in my mind isn't a whole lot.
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November 19, 2009 10:32:24 PM

My friend and myself have the same speakers, Klipsch Pro Audio 2.1, pretty nice computer speakers. He has a 80 dollar creative card and I'm using my onboard Asus P5KC sound. Both of us use itunes with the same settings, we even picked the same song with the same sample rate and bit rate. At the end of the day there is no audible difference (no audible difference a human can hear anyway).

That being said, if you have some true "Audio File" speakers, say- B&W or something high end, maybe that would be different. The average or even above average computer speaker just aren't capable of the added benefits of a dedicated sound card.
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November 19, 2009 10:32:46 PM

Yes a soundcard is necessary if you care about sound. Games,movies,and most importantly music sound way better. Its like night and day. I didnt realize how bad my mb sound was until I hooked up my ax pros to it. It was so bad, I bought a soundcard on newegg and music and games and movies never sounded better.

Even a cheap card will yeild signifacant results.
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November 19, 2009 10:35:14 PM

The benefits your experiencing are most likely effects that sound card drivers love to bundle to make their product sound better.
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November 19, 2009 11:02:04 PM

sportsfanboy said:
The benefits your experiencing are most likely effects that sound card drivers love to bundle to make their product sound better.



K let me say this another way.

Im an audio snob and yes the soundcard will always in most cases sound way better than your onboard audio. If you care how music sounds and have a nice speaker setup then you want a sound card to compliment it. If you have crappy oem issued speakers then you need to upgrade your speakers and your sound.

Onboard audio will suffice but why have a 1500 dollar beast and it sounds like crap. Trust me theres a difference.
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November 19, 2009 11:34:59 PM

I don't think klipsch speakers are crap but ok
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November 19, 2009 11:55:49 PM

Punisher, if you have the parts, test both. It's your ear and speaker system. Either you'll notice a difference or you won't. Its easy enough to add in after the initial build. Test with onboard and see if its good enough or as good as your current system.

ram1009, as belial2k pointed out, the output is line level. If all your settings are maxed and you need more volume, getting a pair of powered speakers more powerful than you have now will be the best way to increase volume.

silky, there's definitely those audiophiles that will hear any difference and can't understand why others can't hear the difference. If someone is asking should they use a sound card or not probably aren't. They'll minimally appreciate the increase in sound.
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November 20, 2009 1:26:38 AM

I think many people who think there is a huge difference are 1) using an old MB without HD audio 2)are using windows generic drivers rather than the sound chip drivers (realtek in most cases these days) 3)never bothered to go into their audio program to tweak the sound (realtek offers all the DSP options you could ever want, if you know they are there) or 4) are suffering psychosomatic perceptions.
I am a true audiophile, and have over $10,000 in audio equipment. My system is very revealing of subtle differences. If I play a high quality audio recording through my computer, then through my CD player, I can guarantee you NOBODY can tell the difference in a blind listening test. I wish toms would put this to the test and do some blind listening test of these people who claim you need a sound card. I think what they like about the sound cards is the effects (which any audiophile would cringe at), but like I said, onboard audio has them too if you know how to set them up and where to look.
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November 20, 2009 1:55:30 AM

Well I guess I will just keep using the sound card on my new computer.

Thanks for the input guys!
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November 20, 2009 11:01:16 AM

If you go beyond 2.1, a soundcard is a must; the difference on decent cards is noticable.

Basically, anything better then a Titanium will suffice (109 SnR? Its really THAT bad?)
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November 21, 2009 10:48:47 AM

belial2k said:
I think many people who think there is a huge difference are 1) using an old MB without HD audio 2)are using windows generic drivers rather than the sound chip drivers (realtek in most cases these days) 3)never bothered to go into their audio program to tweak the sound (realtek offers all the DSP options you could ever want, if you know they are there) or 4) are suffering psychosomatic perceptions.
I am a true audiophile, and have over $10,000 in audio equipment. My system is very revealing of subtle differences. If I play a high quality audio recording through my computer, then through my CD player, I can guarantee you NOBODY can tell the difference in a blind listening test. I wish toms would put this to the test and do some blind listening test of these people who claim you need a sound card. I think what they like about the sound cards is the effects (which any audiophile would cringe at), but like I said, onboard audio has them too if you know how to set them up and where to look.


so what sound card would you recommend for true digital sound. I have a decent stereo system and run my PC through it. Right now I am using the Mobo sound which is not digital. I watch blueray from my PC as well as movies and listen to some MP3 music.
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November 22, 2009 2:51:33 AM

the word digital can be somewhat misleading. All sound coming from your PC is digital. Its just a matter of where that signal gets decoded. Most modern MBs have optical and coax digital outs. And most modern video cards support hdmi with sound. Most modern receivers also support a direct input of 5.1 or 7.1 signals from minipin to RCA which are decoded by software and your onboard audio. So if you want your receiver to decode the signal, you will need something that has either optical, coax, or HDMI outs. If you have the correct software, you probably already have what you need to output the already decoded sound to your receivers direct inputs.
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November 22, 2009 12:56:11 PM

punisher 281 said:
I have an Audigy 2 ZS sound card that I bough back in like 2004, and I'm not sure if I should keep it with my upcoming build (starting this Friday). Wth the advancements in onboard sound technology, is a dedicated sound card going to be any benifit for modern day games?


It depends, if you use a crappy sound system then no. If you use a surround sound home theater with a subwoofer and good amp then yes it will be benefit as it will give better quality sound. However modern boards are extremely good when it come to sound so you will need to buy a very expensive sound card to notice.
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November 22, 2009 5:29:36 PM

Your computer will have no trouble handling 2 soundcards at once. You DO NOT need to disable your onboard sound to install the Audigy 2 ZS. Run them side by side for a while and make your own choice.

Install the kX drivers for the Audigy if you want to have maximum control over it.
http://www.driverheaven.net/general-discussion/189827-3...
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