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Onboard Audio vs. SB Audigy

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June 29, 2010 12:45:34 AM

Hi all,
I just bought a new motherboard (MSI 80FXA-GD70) for a new computer upgrade. The board has onboard sound built in, but I currently have an old sound blaster audigy 4 laying around, I think I got it in a machine I bought back in '05. I was wondering if I would get better audio from the onboard option or the sound card?

Thanks for any advice

More about : onboard audio audigy

June 29, 2010 12:59:54 AM

The old Audigiy should still sound better then the onboard, but there is only one real way to find out install it and see how it sounds.
June 29, 2010 3:36:01 AM

I wouldn't be so sure of that, the Audigy 4 is a rebadged Audigy SE...the thing is ancient, it's nearly 7 years old.
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June 29, 2010 4:00:39 AM

astrallite said:
I wouldn't be so sure of that, the Audigy 4 is a rebadged Audigy SE...the thing is ancient, it's nearly 7 years old.


Tell that to my sound blaster live 24 bit which still sounds way more deeper and louder as compared to the realtek chipset on my gigabyte ga-ep45-ud3r.. Dedicated sound card will always stay ahead from the onboard stuff.. And since OP is anyway having the card, no point in not using it.. Follow as SAIELLO has mentioned and find out for yourself.. Do post back with your observation(s)
June 29, 2010 4:33:04 AM

That's interesting. I don't believe I could hear the difference between onboard and the SB Live 24 (which I own). The difference between modern pre-amps are less than 0.005db up to 20 KHz. There must be some EMI issues with your onboard.
June 29, 2010 2:04:17 PM

im sure even an ALC888 will beat that old creative card.
June 30, 2010 2:02:08 AM

I'm running $2.6k speakers, a $1k sub, and a $7k a/v receiver and I'm pretty sure I can't hear the difference between a pair of low end sound chipsets, and I have very sensitive hearing (out to 19 KHz). I'm surprised some guys with some tiny desktop speakers are hearing night and day differences. The last guy that was making incredible claims that I challenged to a double-blind-test declined to respond.
June 30, 2010 6:54:15 AM

astrallite said:
I'm running $2.6k speakers, a $1k sub, and a $7k a/v receiver and I'm pretty sure I can't hear the difference between a pair of low end sound chipsets, and I have very sensitive hearing (out to 19 KHz). I'm surprised some guys with some tiny desktop speakers are hearing night and day differences. The last guy that was making incredible claims that I challenged to a double-blind-test declined to respond.


You could've given the model numbers instead of the pricing.. That'd have been more clear and impressive too.. I own a altec lansing MX 5021 and i can clearly spot out difference between two audio files encoded differently from the source.. I can spot out the difference better using my sound card than with my onboard (tested many times before).. So an audigy 4 which is better than mine, will surely put up a more wholesome experience..
June 30, 2010 8:27:43 AM

Speakers: Paradigm Signature S2v2
Subwoofer: Rythmik F15
Receiver: Pioneer Elite SC-09

I also have a pair of 5021s...they are absolutely terrible with the typical pre-amp hiss that's par for AL's multimedia offerings; previously had the ATP5s which had the same issue. I'm really surprised you can tell the difference between the two with such poor sound quality on the ALs.
June 30, 2010 11:52:22 AM

maybe good ears???

good speaker system astrallite :) 
June 30, 2010 12:03:09 PM

class D receiver :) 
June 30, 2010 1:03:49 PM

astrallite said:
Speakers: Paradigm Signature S2v2
Subwoofer: Rythmik F15
Receiver: Pioneer Elite SC-09

I also have a pair of 5021s...they are absolutely terrible with the typical pre-amp hiss that's par for AL's multimedia offerings; previously had the ATP5s which had the same issue. I'm really surprised you can tell the difference between the two with such poor sound quality on the ALs.


So now it comes down to a comparison between a 120$ desktop speaker set to a 2.6k$ hi-fi setup.!! Typical.. The AL's do the job for what they are meant i.e. playing mp3's and other stuff.. I usually rip my audio cd's to various bit rates and listen (just a hobby).. I can clearly spot out difference between a 64 kbps file to a 128 kbps file to a 192 kbps (my usual listening frequency) file and so on.. There are very many differences and one doesn't requires gifted ears to realize them.. Try listening a file directly from the CD with the onboard processing and then with the sound card processing.. The quality of the audio file remains same so it all comes down to the best reproduction which my card does better than my onboard.. And even my card has no EMI shielding so the onboard cannot be excused for that..
June 30, 2010 1:19:37 PM

telling the diff between 64kpbs to 128 to 192kbps is what even logitech speakers can do... itd be supriding if u couldnt tell the difference in sound with files with bitrate as low as that...
June 30, 2010 1:23:56 PM

Emperus said:
So now it comes down to a comparison between a 120$ desktop speaker set to a 2.6k$ hi-fi setup.!! Typical.. The AL's do the job for what they are meant i.e. playing mp3's and other stuff.. I usually rip my audio cd's to various bit rates and listen (just a hobby).. I can clearly spot out difference between a 64 kbps file to a 128 kbps file to a 192 kbps (my usual listening frequency) file and so on.. There are very many differences and one doesn't requires gifted ears to realize them.. Try listening a file directly from the CD with the onboard processing and then with the sound card processing.. The quality of the audio file remains same so it all comes down to the best reproduction which my card does better than my onboard.. And even my card has no EMI shielding so the onboard cannot be excused for that..


i doubt with that creative card, you can tell teh difference of sound in CD between onboard and a ded. card, espescailly with those speakers.
June 30, 2010 1:40:53 PM

MEgamer said:
i doubt with that creative card, you can tell teh difference of sound in CD between onboard and a ded. card, espescailly with those speakers.


Well the differences are there.. I guess the best person to tell this is will be OP since he is trying out the transition (from a recent onboard to a dedicated)..
June 30, 2010 7:21:23 PM

Emperus said:
So now it comes down to a comparison between a 120$ desktop speaker set to a 2.6k$ hi-fi setup.!! Typical.. The AL's do the job for what they are meant i.e. playing mp3's and other stuff.. I usually rip my audio cd's to various bit rates and listen (just a hobby).. I can clearly spot out difference between a 64 kbps file to a 128 kbps file to a 192 kbps (my usual listening frequency) file and so on.. There are very many differences and one doesn't requires gifted ears to realize them.. Try listening a file directly from the CD with the onboard processing and then with the sound card processing.. The quality of the audio file remains same so it all comes down to the best reproduction which my card does better than my onboard.. And even my card has no EMI shielding so the onboard cannot be excused for that..


Unless the listener is deaf anybody can hear the difference between 64kbps and 192kbps because real output differs by entire decibels, with entire octaves of the audible spectrum removed. You are changing the subject. Originally your claim was someone can easily tell the difference between onboard and a 7 year old soundcard.

Measurable audible artifacts are THD, IMD, Decay (accelerometer, waterfall plots, impedance ripples), crossover distortion, comb filtering. In pre-amps this is primarily measurable in THD and IMD, measured using sine sweeps. A worst case scenario in distortion levels between modern pre-amps (post 2000) are 0.1%, which would be 1/1000 of a decibel.

If you are hearing an audible difference, it's due to factors outside of the two devices and some external corruption like a ground loop, AC bleed, or heavy RF interference from some other device. If you can hear the difference using lossy formats and small satellite speakers with such a poor built-in pre-amp themselves something terrible is going on with your computer. From my personal experience, poor on-board performance has typically been due to IRQ conflicts which can be solved with a little PC know-how.
June 30, 2010 7:33:20 PM

MEgamer said:
class D receiver :) 


Class D is nice, it runs very nice and cool. I had an A/B receiver and A/B power amp in my room earlier (previously a 140x7 Onkyo 805 receiver and 350x2 Parasound 3500 amp). They ran like they were on fire and I'm pretty sure the passive power draw was close to 200+W. The receiver weighed 55lbs and the amp weighed 100 lbs -_-


The new receiver pulls very little power out of the wall and as a result, I don't feel like I'm in a furnace. Since there's no need for massive heatsinks, I don't have to break my back now for any minor adjustments.
June 30, 2010 9:02:28 PM

I notice a difference, I have really good setup (Labtec Arena 4.1 Speaker) work very well and with onboard my volume in Winamp is set to 60% and speakers are at halfway, sounds good but some songs recorded in lower range are quieter, with my SB Live Digital my volume in Winamp is 15% and everything else is same and sometimes have to bring this down as my windows start to shake. Also games sound better with EAX enable and full surround on, I play L4D2 and I near crap my pants when things jump out but with onboard I have to bring volume way up and still strain to hear what characters are saying. Personally I prefer having the actual sound card VS. onboard, all my PC's use a sound card rather then onboard.
June 30, 2010 9:54:00 PM

I have crappy hearing and onboard sounds as good as a dedicated card to me when played thru the same speakers so I haven't bought a soundcard in a long time. Some motherbds do implement onboard audio poorly, I could name a few asus boards I've had, so I would recommend the OP actually install the dedicated card and compare for themselves. Just remember, nothing will make crappy speakers sound awesome so if you have $10 walmart speakers don't waste your time.
July 1, 2010 7:41:13 AM

Hello again all, I know its been awhile but I plan on testing out which sounds better tomorrow (being its 3am atm and I just remembered this thread :-P) but before I do I have one question. To ensure I get a decent comparison, how do you suggest logistically going about this. I currently have the card itself and all the drivers for the card installed with the onboard disabled in bios. Do I have to physically remove the card from its PCI slot or can I just uninstall the device from my system, then reboot with onboard enabled, install those drivers, and go from there?

I'm running windows 7 so I am worried that if I dont physically remove the card after uninstalling the device, it will try to automatically install the SB Audigy drivers when i reboot.
July 1, 2010 8:33:40 AM

Just switch default playback device in Hardware & Sound -> Sound -> Playback
July 1, 2010 3:30:13 PM

OP: what speakers do u have anyway?
July 1, 2010 5:23:22 PM

I'm using a plantronics gamecom 777 headset atm, but I'm looking for a pair of floor standing speakers.

2 questions in regards to this actually:
-Does the the little dolby 5.1 usb adapter that came with my headset really do anything for sound quality? I used it for awhile after buying the headset, but ran into problems with ventrilo while using the usb adapter, so i scrapped it and have been running off my soundcard ever since. I haven't noticed any loss in sound quality though.
-Also, can anyone recommend a floor speaker that is decent? I'm not looking to break the bank, don't want to really spend more than maybe 300 dollars for two.
July 1, 2010 7:24:25 PM

You might get some decent bookshelf's for that budget.. Check out Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 or if you need instant hi-fi on PC then give a look to the Audioengine A5..
July 1, 2010 8:56:29 PM

$150/ea floorstanders is cutting it close. Your best bet is either Polk or ebay/audiogon. Also you should look at DIY speakers, some of those are going for a firesale on audiogon and use some very good components.
July 1, 2010 9:50:42 PM

Shoot I'm old and loosing my hearing so no sound comparions from me
However the audigy has inputs and outputs and controls, you can hook
almost anything to it. and I like it!
July 3, 2010 2:51:30 AM

Upon doing a comparison on a few songs from itunes (made sure to test using songs at 320kbps) I couldn't hear a noticeable difference between the two on my headset. Looks like for now I'm gunna stick with the audigy. However, once i buy a decent pair of speakers I'm gunna retest and see which gives me the better output. Its probably that my headset isnt that great for sound quality.

Anyway, for now I suppose this thread has been answered :-)

Thanks for all the advice!

PS. if this isnt locked by the time I buy a new pair of speakers Ill post my new findings
August 23, 2013 6:33:16 AM

Ahhh,,, reviving old threads to give my two cents.

I own an Audigy II sound card, and play a LOT of music on a set of custom bookshelf speakers and subwoofers. (nothing too fancy, but my tweeters can hit 30khz, and my subs respond nicely down to 33 hz (though they wobble about at 5 hz or so, 33 is really the limit for sound production)

anyway. I would never go back to MOBO sound. For one thing, its less stable. Having cpu hangups and glitches during a song STINKS.

For another thing, there is more capacitance in the card itself, everywhere. Moreso, the capacitors on a card can not only be applied anywhere they MIGHT be needed, they can also be generously sized and tuned to produce the best sound possible given the hardware.

There are of course many sound cards better than my little audigy, like ASUS Xonar, and SB X-FI, but that's not the point.

The point is, motherboard designers are forced to take sacrifices and make cuts on a sound card where design constraints interfere with what might be a miniscule benefit. Sound CARD designers do not have to worry about such things as much, and therefore will always be able to produce a better sounding product than the motherboard sound cards of years in the future.
!