do I really need a sound card?
I have a pair of M audio Studiophile AV 40 speakers.
Just casual music listening and light gaming that seems to sound pretty good. Would a sound card make a big difference?
AsRock x58-xtreme mobo
7.1 CH Windows vista Premium level HD Audio
(DAC with 110dB dynamic range (ALC890 Audio Codec)
Intel Core i7 930 Mhz
CM 690 case
CM 750 watt ps
CM Hyper N520
Powercolor radeon 5850 gpu
Asus CD ROM
M audio Studiophile AV 40 speakers
Onboard has cheaper pre-amps so that means it will start distorting at an earlier level than a decent sound card. Most soundcards will have a gain >1Vrms before the onset of the distortion peak. Onboard typically will have lower total gain as well as power threshold before the onset of distortion (<1Vrms).
However, if you leave the master volume at 50% or below and just drive up the volume on the speakers it will be pretty difficult to tell the differences. Within the operating limits (say 500mV rms) sound card and onboard should have very similar performance characteristics.
The main difference between a soundcard will be higher gain (Vrms) and clean output at the peak gain levels--which is why I recommended to leave the master volume lower.
Thanks guys, you answered my question. A sound card might improve a little but like gamerk said and I thought this was the case " onboard already has 110dB, which is automatically better then any Creative sound card on the market". So I will remain a happy camper. My first built it works fine and I feel good. Thanks for your time, much appreciated.