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Do sound cards really make a difference?

Last response: in Components
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August 1, 2010 4:28:31 AM

I've had the creative x-fi xtreme gamer card for a while, with 2 sattelite speakers and a nice sub. I was just wondering how much of a difference i'd notice if i used the onboard audio on the MSI 790FX GD70. One thing that i really can tell the difference with is whenever i record audio the sound quality is noticeably better. So basically what else does the card help with?
August 1, 2010 4:45:38 AM

In gaming you might notice an increase in fps due to the processor not having to process the sound data.
August 1, 2010 10:36:01 PM

lewbaseball07 said:
In gaming you might notice an increase in fps due to the processor not having to process the sound data.

:lol:  haha yeah if you're running a pentium 4 and are CPU bottlenecked with your game

Some people can notice a difference in sound quality when listening to sound though a good sound card as opposed to integrated. Especially if you have a good speaker system.

If you are ripping music from a vinyl record, there will be a difference in sound quality. That ties into you noticing the quality of recorded sound though I guess.

And lewbaseball07 is right too, it will remove any load from the CPU because the sound will be handled by dedicated hardware on the card.
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August 2, 2010 8:18:44 AM

I've noticed a lot of onboard sound cards get a lot of crosstalk from the other components in the system. Like, strangely, I've been able to hear mouse events (or maybe the associated video update events) on several systems with onboard audio. Also the optical drive's motor, though that's more common in laptops.

Though, I had to be plugged into good speakers or headphones, with the volume up. (Sometimes the volume HAS to be up because your audio source is weak, though.)

Similar systems with high-quality add-on sound boards have not had that crosstalk in my experience.

Sometimes you can't get certain proprietary technologies without buying from a specific vendor (like X-Fi and Creative) which means you can't get that tech built-in to a motherboard.

Some people have really good ears and can hear the difference between this or that type of DAC or op-amp or whatnot. You probably need better speakers or headphones than you have before that stuff makes a difference. I'm about 80% there... Low quality speakers physically bother me and I end up springing extra money for Klipsch and getting annoyed at Bose for pretending there's no such thing as midrange, but I couldn't tell one op-amp from another without looking.
August 2, 2010 8:52:55 AM

Most audio upgrades are victims of sighted bias--i.e., you can tell which one is better than the other...but only if you can see it. But when they have to close their eyes, they can't tell the difference. It's kind of like if wine tasters were suddenly more clairvoyant...after seeing the name on the bottle.

You would be surprised what conclusions you come to in a blind test. In fact, most people that make sweeping statements about sound quality are terrified of doing a blind test because they are afraid the results indicate that they were deluded the entire time and just trying to justify their purchase.
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