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Which sound card for gaming?

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August 8, 2010 4:34:40 AM

I've heard that having a sound card can improve ones ability to hear other people (with the 3d sound or whatever through stereo headphones).
I also have integrated audio on my motherboard (Asus P5QC). Which games would it make a lot of a difference, and which not so much? do you think the card would last for a long time? will it work well with my audio technica ATH-AD700?

Here are the 4 options:

Integrated Audio: Realtek ALC1200

Creative 70SB073A00000 7.1 Channels 24-bit 96KHz PCI Interface Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer

HT | OMEGA STRIKER 7.1 Channels PCI Interface Sound Card

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Professional 70SB088600002 7.1 Channels 24-bit 96KHz PCI Express x1 Interface Sound Card


Tell me why you choose whatever you choose :)  thanks.

More about : sound card gaming

August 8, 2010 4:39:49 AM

you don't need a sound card, and you won't hear anyone better with a sound card

the sound cards on motherboards work just as well as a dedicated sound card

sound cards are only for people who work in the music industry

don't waste your money on this card
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August 8, 2010 4:46:09 AM

But what about the 3d surround sound with stereo headphones? And the fact that an onboard sound card uses the processor.
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August 8, 2010 4:59:16 AM

that is just a load of propaganda, and the integrated sound BARELY, HARDLY uses up any processor loads
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August 8, 2010 5:00:40 AM

BUT 3D SOUND D:
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August 8, 2010 5:01:16 AM

loads of BS
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August 8, 2010 5:02:28 AM

have you tried it? I want someone else to post :D 
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August 8, 2010 5:04:03 AM

have you tried it?
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August 8, 2010 5:05:18 AM

alright here

get the sound card, you can get amazing sound performance in games and feels like you're actually in the game and actually part of the war
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August 8, 2010 5:07:55 AM

Aww i'm reading things that contradict what you said..
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August 8, 2010 5:11:36 AM

oh really? where?
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August 8, 2010 5:14:37 AM

they are saying what i said......?
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August 8, 2010 5:15:42 AM

It is true that with EAX and similar technologies that, even when using headphones, the 3D depth of the sound is better and it does offer benefit in games.

Benchmarks are just a timedemo and do not show the difference when actually playing and there is a real feedback loop (versus just streaming output with very high read ahead cache hit rates).

I'm not saying you'll see benefit from a X-Fi card with integrated memory, although the lower end ones do actually provide a noticable benefit when playing. Or at least they did under Windows XP.

Most people that use Creative Sound Cards never set them up correctly, especially under Windows Vista or Windows 7 - they need a newer software suite to re-enable EAX under supported titles as Vista (and 7) totally changed the audio subsystem.

For example (this is all offloaded from the CPU):
  • X-Fi CMSS-3D provides a very good balance between 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound and stereo headphones. - I would strongly encourage people read up on it!
  • The dynamic range of the sound volume can be set so that the difference between loud and soft noise is not as much - This provides a tactical advantage similar to night vision - but for audio.
  • EAX Effects can be tweaked between -60.0dB and +12.0dB
  • X-Fi Crystalizer can perform something similar to bicubic resize for images, but for audio, so that 16-bit audio sounds much more like 20-bit audio (16 times the precision) or 24-bit audio (256 times the precision). - I'll admit the human ear tends not to be able to differentiate above 20-bit audio precision though.
  • There are many other audio benefits that most people just refuse to read up on and would rather remain ignorant to.

    Here is the link to X-Fi CMSS-3D as I believe it is what interests you the most:
    http://www.creative.com/soundblaster/technology/cmss-3d/welcome.aspx


    Regards,
    Scott2010au
    Australia


    PS: I would not be surprised to find that in many of the tests that the required updates (for Windows Vista and/or Windows 7 were not installed), nor possibly the required updates to the Creative suite in many of the tests.
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    August 8, 2010 5:18:32 AM

    so what are you running XP , Vista, 7?

    how old is the article? and of course if you go to a sound card website they WILL PROMOTE their product
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    August 8, 2010 5:24:10 AM

    $175?!?!?!?

    alright its your money
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    August 8, 2010 5:26:10 AM

    also, let me know if my specs/headphones/speakers will affect anything, thanks!

    @Upendra
    yes, only considering, the other two are both close to 100
    I havent ever used a dedicated sound card, so i want to try it out
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    August 8, 2010 6:16:34 AM

    bamp
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    August 8, 2010 6:37:47 AM

    Unless modern games have COMPLETELY stopped utilizing EAX you are going to notice better sound in games. (that support EAX.)

    To me it sounds like Upendra09 just isn't the kind of person who would listen and notice. Which is fair, but if you don't like coffee then don't go around telling people there's no difference between an instant packet and a Rancillo Silvia.

    It's considered fact, at least on this forum, that if you don't have either a Xonar or an X-Fi-based card you can't use EAX above 2.0, which means with onboard sound you are limited to that if you even have EAX support at all.

    Well, IMO EAX 2.0 was Creative's super-crappy PR release (like more than 10 years ago) to try and convince the public to be OK with them killing the amazing Aureal Vortex 2.0 technology. Since then (EAX 4.0 especially) they have added some really good positional technologies, like being able to position audio streams in one environment in space within another environment. This solved, for example, the problem where if noises were happening in a bathroom and you're in that room (i.e. a short, hard reverb) and you walk into the hallway, the reverb on the bathroom sounds would abruptly stop and change to the hallway's "muffled, no echo" environment. Well, you just went 6 inches outside the bathroom door... Why did the drips from the faucet all of a sudden stop echoing? Because the sound card didn't know how to deal with two different, simultaneous, environmental effects.

    This might depend on the type of games you're playing. If you're in a game like Unreal Tournament then you're probably overwhelmed with constant weaponfire sounds from every direction and you really can't hear much for the ambiance of a room in that situation. This probably goes for Counterstrike, BF-whatever, straight-up multiplayer arena games in general probably won't focus on realism of your audio environment. (Probably.) But more immersive games like Bioshock, Fallout, will focus more on the sound environment and there you'll hear a difference.

    Playing games like the Thief series, I've been wowed by amazing sound reproduction coming from some computers and been saddened when a friend's system (or my laptop) with onboard sound just sounded bad. Playing Bioshock on my (VERY high end) laptop, I was horribly disappointed in its ability to handle the game's audio. Environments sounded awful compared to games I played on an Audigy 2 ZS four years prior, or even what an Aureal-2 sounded like even further back than that.

    With the Aureal Vortex-2 chip, I used to be able to close my eyes and have my brother move the virtual sound source around in the driver's tech demo, and ACCURATELY and CONSISTENTLY point to the spot he moved the dot to, even when he kept it centered and moved it vertically "above" and "below" me, eyes closed. I could tell, using my ears, when an audio source was in the same room but had walked behind a pillar. That tech is dead (Creative killed it) but still saying there's no difference between $5 worth of built-in mobo sound that's limited to 10-year-old positional audio tech and today's latest and greatest is just silly.

    But maybe things have changed, maybe none of the games released in the last 6 years support positional audio anymore.


    Oh and I've no experience with those particular headphones but price-wise I do know you can easily get really good headphones in that price range. (So either they are solid and you can definitely appreciate the new card on them, or you got badly ripped off, I guess!)

    You'll likely not notice a difference between any of the cards that have an actual X-Fi chip on them. You may or may not miss the X-Fi features if you get the Xonar. The Xonar will have much better quality in the audio reproduction, but will be running the EAX sounds through an emulation layer that might have small inaccuracies here and there. Asus basically re-wrote their own EAX handler to give their cards EAX support when Creative wouldn't play nice and share.
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    August 8, 2010 7:25:03 AM

    meh, what the heck, I bought it.
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    August 8, 2010 7:25:11 AM

    Wow, some serious bad info here...

    1: EAX is dead. Theres no other way to say it. There hasn't been a major game supporting the standard in over two years no. In short: its a non-factor.

    2: sound cards do not offer significant performance increases. Unless you are still using a slow pentium 4, the performance hit of using software sound is minimal.

    3: In general, Creative soundcards are lagging behind the competition, in price, performance, and stability. They were once a solid brand, but have been a joke for a few years now...

    My recommendations (in order of increased quality):

    ASUS Xonar D1/DX, HT Omega Striker
    ASUS Xonar D2/D2X, Auzentech Prelude
    Auzentech Forte, HT Omega Claro, ASUS Essence ST/STX

    Unless your an audiophile, anything above the ASUS Xonar D1/DX and HT Omega Striker is plain overkill.
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    August 8, 2010 7:53:48 AM

    Quote:
    1: EAX is dead. Theres no other way to say it. There hasn't been a major game supporting the standard in over two years no. In short: its a non-factor.

    Wow that happened quick. Sad news but I'll buy it because I've been "too busy for games" for about three years. So do games just not have positional audio any more or what? Is there something new replacing it that is soundcard-independent?

    Quote:
    2: sound cards do not offer significant performance increases. Unless you are still using a slow pentium 4, the performance hit of using software sound is minimal.


    I second this, in fact on most systems the Xonar's emulation system will probably use cores that the game doesn't even have the threadedness to utilize.

    Quote:
    ASUS Xonar D1/DX, HT Omega Striker
    ASUS Xonar D2/D2X, Auzentech Prelude
    Auzentech Forte, HT Omega Claro, ASUS Essence ST/STX


    I think those are all solid recommendations but I'll add in the Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD or the equivalent Asus HDMI pass-through card, which could come in handy in a few years if (like me) you find that you now own a nice HDTV and a good sound system and would like to play PC games on it. If you use analog PC speakers though the X-Fi HT HD is said to have lower quality DACs on its multi-channel analog out.

    Asus Xonar supports emulated EAX for older games that want it. Auzentech X-Fi cards will support native EAX. I would personally be buying the HT Omega, except that I would like to play some games I have that do support EAX.
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    August 8, 2010 8:47:26 AM

    EAX is not dead!

    Quote:
    "There are over 400 EAX® games currently available that make optimum use of Sound Blaster® gaming audio technology. The latest games offer direct in-game X-Fi™ support to take gaming to the next level of performance and quality.

    24 times more powerful than the Sound Blaster Audigy®, the revolutionary Sound Blaster X-Fi processor gives you faster frame rates in your games while providing EAX® ADVANCED HD™ 5.0 with 128 voices for cinematic in-game audio."


    In fact I am installing an update for Windows 7 and a Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic on a machine to re-enable EAX and DirectSound3D on a Windows 7 system right now.

    How many titles out there are not supporting DirectSound3D?

  • All DirectSound3D titles support positional audio if the system has it, they run and sound much better on appropriate accelerated hardware.

    How many titles out there are not supporting OpenAL?

  • All OpenAL titles support EAX if the system has it, they run and sound much better on appropriate accelerated hardware.

    That is the whole point of having a (more) universal API, so that regardless of what the hardware implements the API and drivers can map it to the appropriate features.

    Seriously... pffft.



    400 titles currently available - yeah EAX is dead. :pt1cable: 
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    Best solution

    August 8, 2010 9:12:37 AM

    makua said:
    thanks for the helpful post, scott, Im using windows 7 and I am considering getting the omega CLARO Plus, which I think has the same thing as the x-fi, here is a link to it.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    I found the company website if that helps at all: http://www.htomega.com/claroplus.html

    I've never used a HT | OMEGA product before so I can't really comment on that particular card.

    I can't even tell if it supports Accelerated DirectSound3D or Accelerated OpenAL, or other API's or technologies (such as EAX or A3D). Reading up on the C-Media chipset it uses might shed some light on it.
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    August 8, 2010 6:43:48 PM

    look at this, I think it does

    Quote:
    AD8620BR OPAMP for Front Channel output
    4 pcs 24-bit/192kHz AK4396VF (120dB-part spec.) DACs for 7.1channel
    output. (24-bit/192kHz in 7.1channel playback)
    1 pc 24-bit/192kHz WM8785G (110dB-part spec.) ADC input
    (24-bit/192kHz recording)
    CMI9780 AC'97 2.3 CODEC for AUX input, CD input, MIC input
    (16bit/48kHz playback/recording)
    Integrated up to 192k/24-bit S/PDIF high grade special Optical and Coaxial
    connectors for 44.1kHz,48kHz, 96kHz, 192kHz SPDIF output.
    (work simultaneously)
    Integrated up to 192k/24-bit S/PDIF high grade special Optical receiver SPDIF (PCM) input.
    Supports onboard Coaxial or CD Digital input connector for up to 192kHz SPDIF input. (Optional Cable need for Coaxial input)
    Standard 10PIN Front Panel Audio supports connectivity for stereo audio output and a microphone input from PC case
    DTS Interactive - A real-time 5.1 channel encoder.
    DTS Neo:p C - An upmix matrix technology.
    Dolby Digital Live (DDL) - A real-time 5.1 channel encoding.
    Dolby ProLogic IIx surround processor spreading stereo audio into 7.1 channel surround sound.
    Dolby Headphone technology, conveying 5.1 surround and 3D gaming audio over stereo headphones.
    Dolby Virtual Speaker solution, bringing amazing virtual surround sound fields via general two speakers.
    C-Media FlexBass - LFE channel crossover frequency selectable from range 50 to 250Hz in Small speaker mode and Small/Large speaker selectable.
    C-Media Magic Voice, popular feature for disguising your tone in online chatting.
    C-Media Xear 3D 7.1 Virtual Speaker Shifter technology.
    C-Media's unique Karaoke functions: Microphone Echo, Key-shifting.
    10-band EQ with 27 presets
    Supports most industrial standards of 3D sound for PC gaming, by DirectSound
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    August 8, 2010 6:46:19 PM

    Best answer selected by makua.
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    August 8, 2010 8:50:05 PM

    Scott2010au said:
    EAX is not dead!

    Quote:
    "There are over 400 EAX® games currently available that make optimum use of Sound Blaster® gaming audio technology. The latest games offer direct in-game X-Fi™ support to take gaming to the next level of performance and quality.

    24 times more powerful than the Sound Blaster Audigy®, the revolutionary Sound Blaster X-Fi processor gives you faster frame rates in your games while providing EAX® ADVANCED HD™ 5.0 with 128 voices for cinematic in-game audio."


    In fact I am installing an update for Windows 7 and a Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic on a machine to re-enable EAX and DirectSound3D on a Windows 7 system right now.

    How many titles out there are not supporting DirectSound3D?

  • All DirectSound3D titles support positional audio if the system has it, they run and sound much better on appropriate accelerated hardware.

    How many titles out there are not supporting OpenAL?

  • All OpenAL titles support EAX if the system has it, they run and sound much better on appropriate accelerated hardware.

    That is the whole point of having a (more) universal API, so that regardless of what the hardware implements the API and drivers can map it to the appropriate features.

    Seriously... pffft.



    400 titles currently available - yeah EAX is dead. :pt1cable: 


  • Yes, and thats counting EAX 1 and 2, which all soundcards (even some Realtek chipsets) support. Again, no EAX title (aside from Dirt 2) has been released in over 2 years, and even Creative admits that EAX should be considered a dead spec at this point.

    Secondly, EAX was hardly universal, as for years, Creative banned everyone from using it. And when Auzentech started to make better sound cards (X-Meridian and X-Raider, anyone?), Creative offered them the X-fi chipset so they could at least make some money off the competition. EAX was hardly a universal API. The only thing it ever accomplished was to drive everyone else out of the market, as thanks to over-reliance on EAX, only Creative sound cards could do surround sound (as the people who wrote the games used the software engine only for 2.0 output; the Total War series is a good example of this). Thankfully, Dual Core processors overcame any performance limitations, and by 2005, we began to see software surround engines in games again.

    Likewise, most every soundcard supports surround sound, and most every game now has a software surround engine built right in. And lets not forget the various Virtual Surround technologies for the games that don't. Again, part of this is because EAX has faded from the marketplace.

    Also, I know ASUS has a D3D wrapper in its drivers (if for some reason, you are opposed to OpenAL...), and I assume HT Omega, being based on the same C-Media chipset, does as well. Heck, ASUS even put in an EAX 5 wrapper so you can use EAX 5 effects in legacy titles...
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    August 9, 2010 2:56:49 AM

    So since we're talking about the deadedness of EAX...

    These are games I've bought recently but not played because I had (1) crappy pc speakers, (2) a PS3 on a big screen with awesome speakers.

    Do these all fall in the "EAX is dead" category?
    Fallout 3
    Bioshock
    Bioshock 2
    Dead Space
    Left4Dead 1 & 2
    Star Wars Force Unleashed
    Assassin's Creed 1 & 2
    GTA San Andreas and GTA4
    Oblivion (first time through comp. couldn't handle it very well)

    Those are what I've got now that I'm planning to use a new soundcard on. Possibly a few releases after those, but I haven't really seen a lot on the shelves recently. A few of those I played through already, but did so on a laptop with relatively terrible sound, and felt like I was not "getting the experience".

    For me the audio in the game can really make or break it. If none of these titles bothered with EAX, the HT Omega cards are probably the best for me. If there are any EAX 4.0 or 5.0 titles in that batch I'll prolly want the Auzen HomeTheater HD.
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    August 9, 2010 1:19:10 PM

    Bioshock uses some EAX 5.0 effects. I'm enjoying them on my ASUS soundcard [they implemented an EAX 5.0 wrapper some time back]. Game still sounds gorgeous even on standard 7.1 though.

    I know for a fact Oblivion, GTA 4, Assassin's Creed, L4D 1/2, Dead Space, and Fallout 3 do NOT use EAX. I *believe* GTA San Andreas, Bioshock 2, and Star Wars Force Unleashed do not use EAX at all.

    EAX does not *improve* audio quality; it just adds a few extra effects, such as smooth transititions between different areas. Most software engines are fully capable of these same effects now anyways.
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    May 28, 2011 6:06:15 PM

    grafixmonkey said:
    That tech is dead (Creative killed it)


    Take a look at the new sound technology called Rapture 3D (by BlueRippleSound). Basically it's a wrapper that goes on top of OpenAL and it's used in the new DiRT 3. Already around 50 games are supported (with a few manual tweaks to .ini files) and it is a lot better than anything Aureal put out.

    BTW, Aureal was bought out by Creative and a lot of the technology from A3D went into the EAX3.0 standard. They actually paid $32,000,000USD back in September 2000 for the technology. Worth noting is how Aureal went down in the first place. They sued Creative for theft of intellectual property back in 1998. They won the case, proving that Creative had indeed stolen the technology, but the cost of the legal battle against Creative was so high that by September 2000 bankruptcy trustees had taken control and sold the assets to the highest bidder.


    grafixmonkey said:
    But maybe things have changed, maybe none of the games released in the last 6 years support positional audio anymore.


    I've taken this quote directly from the OpenAL wiki page..

    The general functionality of OpenAL is encoded in source objects, audio buffers and a single listener. A source object contains a pointer to a buffer, the velocity, position and direction of the sound, and the intensity of the sound. The listener object contains the velocity, position and direction of the listener, and the general gain applied to all sound. Buffers contain audio data in PCM format, either 8- or 16-bit, in either monaural or stereo format. The rendering engine performs all necessary calculations as far as distance attenuation, Doppler effect, etc.

    The net result of all of this for the end user is that in a properly written OpenAL application, sounds behave quite naturally as the user moves through the three-dimensional space of the virtual world. From a programmer's perspective, very little additional work is required to make this happen in an existing OpenGL-based 3D graphical application.

    grafixmonkey said:
    Asus basically re-wrote their own EAX handler to give their cards EAX support when Creative wouldn't play nice and share.

    This snippet of information sourced here..
    To finagle the functionality of Creative's EAX 5.0 from the ASUS AV200 (D2, D2X) and AV100 (DX) audio processors (better known as the C-Media CMI8788 OxygenHD chipset), which rely upon software-based DSP, ASUS reworked the DS3D GX extension set to provide all the functionality of Creative's EAX Advanced HD 5.0 through the DirectSound engine itself - in software. That means 128-voice 3D positional audio and environmental reverberation. ASUS admits that this isn't true 'EAX' - rather an emulation of the functionality of EAX 5.0 through the software driver.

    While ASUS support of EAX 5.0 isn't true "EAX" - they haven't licensed anything from Creative - the DirectSound3D GX 2.0 extension set aims to free the positional 3D audio market from Creative's grip by performing the same functions in EAX 5.0-enabled games.

    Taking another look at the list of EAX versions and their features, however, there are other EAX functions that ASUS does not claim to have matched with the new DS3D GX 2.0 engine. Among them are EAX Environmental Panning, simultaneous environments, flanging, distortion, ring modulation, EAX Voice, and Environment Occlusion.




    Hope that clears up some things :) 
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    June 1, 2011 7:43:54 PM

    There is a lot of number crunching and technical quoting in this thread and nobody is stating that they have actually tried both.

    I have owned an Auzentech X-Fi Forte for about a year and unfortunately had to RMA it as it had the dreaded helicopter thumping sound due to an overheating analog power chip. For 3 weeks I had my x-540’s plugged into my Realtek® ALC889 8-Channel High Definition Audio that came with my Asus P8P67 Deluxe board. I can tell you first hand I noticed a huge difference in sound quality in games like Fallout 3, Dawn of War 2, Mass Effect 2 and City of Heroes. With the Forte, sound was much much richer and bass was much smoother, positional sound was way better too ( like night and day in some fights ).

    When I received my Forte back I ran an intense combat in Mass Effect 2 on my Realtek® ALC889 ( tons of channels and positional sound ) shut down, uninstalled it , turned it off in the bios and installed the Forte. I quickly ran the same combat and was blown away at the difference.

    So all you people quoting web sites and statistics need to actually try both one after the other, then tell me there is no difference.
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    November 12, 2011 10:09:06 PM

    I enjoyed reading the info on this page. I was at best buy looking at the turtle beach 7.1 headsets, but they told me I would need a 3D card. I have the CL X-fi extreme gamer right now and Im running that through a 7.1 CL speaker system thats old and I cant remember the name of it T something or other.
    I was interested in being able to hear people walking up behind me in games like BF3 and while my setup now has been great for many years, I was wondering if its time to do an upgrade. Thanks for the help.
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