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Is a sound card worth it? What type?

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April 14, 2012 3:43:16 PM

Hello,

I just built my first gaming PC (specs in signature). I want to know if its worth investing in a sound card and if YES then what kind? I know my mobo (Asus p8z68 pro/gen3) has Realtek HD audio management. I use my rig mainly for GAMING and for watching videos. I use the following hardware:

-Logitech LS21 2.1 Stereo Speakers - 2.1 Channels, 7-Watts RMS, 2" High-excursion Metallic Drivers, 4" 4-Watts RMS Max-X High-excursion Subwoofer

-StarCraft II Razer Banshee Headphones

Thanks!!

More about : sound card worth type

April 14, 2012 5:29:20 PM

the onboard is pretty decent on that board. its fine for what you want to do with it
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April 14, 2012 5:41:46 PM

These days, sound cards are like NIC cards. Most people don't buy one till the integrated one fails.
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April 14, 2012 6:13:18 PM

I always use a dedicated sound card. In my opinion is always better than any integrated sound "option". With that said, it is important to understand that a good sound card alone can't provide good sound. They need to be paired with an equally good set of speakers.

I use the creative SB X-Fi paired with Logitech Z-5500 speakers, connected with an optical cable. (cable not included) *cable is cheap but it makes a huge difference vs "normal" speaker cable setup*

Sound is immersive whether I'm on a Game, TV, Movie or Music.

Note: you could also try to simply get a better set of speakers and connected them with an optical cable. This might be enough for you.

Speaker specs: 550 Watts total
speakers Fl / FR / RL / RR 62 Watts each - center speaker 69 Watts - sub woofer 188 Watts
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April 14, 2012 6:41:54 PM

When you experience a good sound card then it all makes perfect sense ALL ON BOARD SOUND IS GARBAGE
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April 14, 2012 7:07:32 PM

MMO Fan said:
When you experience a good sound card then it all makes perfect sense ALL ON BOARD SOUND IS GARBAGE


only with decent headphones/speakers


i know my tv speakers are absolute garbage and a £5 set of earphones from shop are better


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a c 204 4 Gaming
April 14, 2012 7:29:02 PM

Given your Logitech LS21 2.1 Stereo Speakers - 2.1 Channels, 7-Watts RMS, simply put, you don't have the equipment necessary to discern any difference in sound quality between on board and dedicated sound card.

I have 4 machines here with Logitech Z-5500 speakers and I am hard pressed to tell the difference between on board and dedicated sound card sound with them.

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-THX-Certified-Digital-Su...

By way of reference the Infinity Reference Beta Series speakers is what I use to evaluate sound quality when modding hi end audio equipment.

http://www.bobbyshred.com/infinity.html
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April 14, 2012 7:48:50 PM

For gaming a sound card might make a difference, there are also some nice options with dedicated sound cards. If you do get a sound card maybe you'll maybe want to upgrade your speakers to something like Klipsch pro media 2.1 speakers.
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April 14, 2012 7:52:18 PM

I agree with neon neophte. The Onboard audio is very good and you don't need one. I have the same MOBO, but not the GEN 3 version ( that thing came out right after I finished my build ).
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April 14, 2012 8:14:09 PM

shanky887614 said:
only with decent headphones/speakers


i know my tv speakers are absolute garbage and a £5 set of earphones from shop are better

even then it is all relative no offense to you or disrespect but what you posted is a false dichotomy.
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April 14, 2012 8:15:04 PM

JackNaylorPE said:
Given your Logitech LS21 2.1 Stereo Speakers - 2.1 Channels, 7-Watts RMS, simply put, you don't have the equipment necessary to discern any difference in sound quality between on board and dedicated sound card.

I have 4 machines here with Logitech Z-5500 speakers and I am hard pressed to tell the difference between on board and dedicated sound card sound with them.

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-THX-Certified-Digital-Su...

By way of reference the Infinity Reference Beta Series speakers is what I use to evaluate sound quality when modding hi end audio equipment.

http://www.bobbyshred.com/infinity.html

z5500 are lame muddy speakers you opinion is moot therefor.
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April 14, 2012 8:18:03 PM

coastie65 said:
I agree with neon neophte. The Onboard audio is very good and you don't need one. I have the same MOBO, but not the GEN 3 version ( that thing came out right after I finished my build ).

maybe on a ultra high end expensive mobos with a built in dedicated sound card the sound would be average but in a world where most think the ipod sounds good well whats the point in trying to beat a dead horse all on board sound sucks.
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April 14, 2012 8:24:41 PM

MMO Fan said:
maybe on a ultra high end expensive mobos with a built in dedicated sound card the sound would be average but in a world where most think the ipod sounds good well whats the point in trying to beat a dead horse all on board sound sucks.



not always true

you dont need to get an ultra high end motherboard to get good sound built in


obviously they wont be as good as a lot of sound cards
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April 14, 2012 9:12:04 PM

shanky887614 said:
not always true

you dont need to get an ultra high end motherboard to get good sound built in


obviously they wont be as good as a lot of sound cards

I guess IMHO we could come to an agreement and say sound quality is a very highly subjective opinion based issue IMO
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April 14, 2012 11:52:40 PM

MMO Fan said:
z5500 are lame muddy speakers you opinion is moot therefor.


What are you talking about?
I have the Logitech Z5500 and they are the absolute best PC speakers that I have experience!

My entire room shakes at mid volume .... it feels like I'm in the middle of the action!

Therefore YOUR opinion is moot.

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April 14, 2012 11:58:32 PM

drwho1 said:
What are you talking about?
I have the Logitech Z5500 and they are the absolute best PC speakers that I have experience!

My entire room shakes at mid volume .... it feels like I'm in the middle of the action!

Therefore YOUR opinion is moot.

Wow you perceive muddy booming bass as quality sound. ipod and Mcdonalds gen much.
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April 15, 2012 1:21:21 AM

a dedicated audio card is next to useless with the speakers the op has. best just use the onboard if not going to invest in better speakers
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April 15, 2012 1:39:23 AM

OP a dedicated sound card will bring out the best of any set of speakers of course it will never make up for the lack of Tweeter on your speakers so the high end will never be real good no matter. Creative makes good cards and what I like about them is the Crystallizer feature which is excellent at cleaning up todays highly compressed digital media and makes it sound much better than it is. I also here great things of the Asus xonar line of sound cards as well but I have never used one so i can't comment.
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April 15, 2012 1:47:57 AM

Audiophiles use xonar and dont like creative from what ive read. I have both creative xi-fi and some pretty decent onboard with my asrock extreme 4. I found Crystallizer useful for simulating treble on a bass heavy system.
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a b 4 Gaming
April 15, 2012 2:30:14 AM

The total harmonic distortion of the Logitech LS21 2.1 is 10%, I don't think it really matters whether you use dedicated sound card or onboard.
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April 15, 2012 2:39:37 AM

Pyree said:
The total harmonic distortion of the Logitech LS21 2.1 is 10%, I don't think it really matters whether you use dedicated sound card or onboard.

I don't know if it will work that way as far as the specs they will still pick up on the motherboard built in sound cards crackling background noise and dull muddy unseparated sound spectrum. I know this from experience from ownership of the same speakers as OP albeit without the sub.
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April 15, 2012 2:50:03 AM

In analogy, this is like arguing whether putting premium petrol in a Honda Civic is worth the money.

Supporting it or against it is a difference of opinion. We all made our suggests to the OP and we will let the OP decide.
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April 15, 2012 2:58:03 AM

Pyree said:
In analogy, this is like arguing whether putting premium petrol in a Honda Civic is worth the money.


Sorry I will just leave it at sound color and quality is among one of the most subjective and personal realms of a PC IMO.
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April 15, 2012 3:54:33 AM

MMO Fan said:
Sorry I will just leave it at sound color and quality is among one of the most subjective and personal realms of a PC IMO.

We agree on this.
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April 15, 2012 5:05:30 AM

I tested several audio cards in various motherboards as a builder. Here are my conclusions:

1) There are $50 sound cards which have much better sound than most onboard audio with rare exceptions

2) A sound card will make little difference with cheap speakers

3) I recommend spending between $80 to $200 on 2.0 (stereo speakers)

4) I recommend spending between $150 and $300 on 2.1 (stereo + subwoofer)

5) I recommend spending $50 to $200 on a sound card (depending on need)

6) 4.1+ systems are a pain to setup due to the rear speaker wires and placement

7) 2.1 is generally ideal, however the SUBWOOFER vibration may be an issue for others in the house (especially below)

8) 2.0 (stereo) has the advantage of minimal noise leakage (to other rooms) and can give excellent sound with large drivers (such as the AV40 speakers)

9) make sure the amplifier off switch is easy to get to (NOT on the subwoofer)

10) a 3.5mm auxiliary input is nice to use the speakers standalone (i.e. with an iPod)

11) You may wish to ensure that your audio card supports BOTH the speakers AND your headphones via analog/analog or digital/analog.

12) Speakers may have a headphone jack but if it requires the amplifier to be ON that's useless IMO (amplifiers should be OFF when not used as they can add a lot of heat)

13) It's a BETTER VALUE to buy 2.0 speakers for the same price as cheap 2.1's (such as $50).

Examples of setups:
1) AV40 M-Audio (stereo) speakers + Auzentech X-Fi Forte
2) AV30 M-Audio (stereo) speakers + Asus Xonar DS 7.1
3) Edifier S330D + ...
etc...

If someone was on a budget I'd likely recommend the M-Audio AV30's and an inexpensive Asus card if I didn't have any other specifics to go by (such as whether headphones would be used).

*Definitely look for reviews comparing newer audio chips and current sound cards as it's always possible I'm incorrect.
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April 15, 2012 5:09:17 AM

The NCIX Canada site is well organized and has comments. Even if you don't buy there it's a good link.

Speakers: http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?minorcatid=103

Sound Cards: http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?minorcatid=1007

*OTHER POINT:
Built-in audio will have BOTH a rear output AND a front output for headphones, whereas an addon sound card might only connect to a single device (cheaper cards) and will NOT connect to the case front output.
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April 15, 2012 2:42:06 PM

photonboy said:
The NCIX Canada site is well organized and has comments. Even if you don't buy there it's a good link.

Speakers: http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?minorcatid=103

Sound Cards: http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?minorcatid=1007

*OTHER POINT:
Built-in audio will have BOTH a rear output AND a front output for headphones, whereas an addon sound card might only connect to a single device (cheaper cards) and will NOT connect to the case front output.


Some excellent sound cards that are dirt cheap you failed to mention are -

ASUS Xonar DG 5.1 Channel PCI Sound Card 24BIT Dolby Digital DTS 105DB SNR ((( W/ Headphone AMP ))) $20
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=56330&vpn=XONAR%20DG&...

ASUS Xonar U3 External USB 7.1 Channel Sound Card $38
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=62228&vpn=XONAR%20U3&...

ASUS Xonar DS 7.1 Channel PCI Sound Card 24BIT DTS SPDIF W/ Low Profile Bracket $40
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=46389&vpn=Xonar%20DS&...

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy SE PCI 7.1 Surround Sound Card $34
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=17424&vpn=30SB0570000...

Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-FI Xtreme Audio 24BIT Sound Card 7.1 PCI $44
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=23248&vpn=70SB0790000...







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April 16, 2012 12:51:40 AM

I have a Creative X fi titanium that i got for 50 dollars and it's nice. After installing it I heard sounds in my games that i had not heard with integrated audio, games like crysis and BFBC 2. Sad to see the X fi chip go away in creative's line up.

Xonar is also good, but I've heard it's only in music and not games.

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April 16, 2012 1:11:47 AM

Plasmid said:
I have a Creative X fi titanium that i got for 50 dollars and it's nice. After installing it I heard sounds in my games that i had not heard with integrated audio, games like crysis and BFBC 2. Sad to see the X fi chip go away in creative's line up.

Xonar is also good, but I've heard it's only in music and not games.

Any good sound card will make games, music, movies sound better but I am sad to see EAX get retired (Environmental Audio Extensions)
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April 16, 2012 4:07:58 AM

drwho1 said:
What are you talking about?
I have the Logitech Z5500 and they are the absolute best PC speakers that I have experience!

My entire room shakes at mid volume .... it feels like I'm in the middle of the action!

Therefore YOUR opinion is moot.


The Z-5500's are *ok* at best. Nowhere near the high end. Problem these days is that PC speakers generally stink because they are all created for optimum use with an onboard chipset. A decent pair of stereo speakers combined with even a mid-tier soundcard [ASUS Xonar DX, for instance] will offer a significantly different audio quality then using onboard. And using a decent headset, the difference is even bigger.
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April 16, 2012 6:02:50 AM

gamerk316 said:
The Z-5500's are *ok* at best. Nowhere near the high end. Problem these days is that PC speakers generally stink because they are all created for optimum use with an onboard chipset. A decent pair of stereo speakers combined with even a mid-tier soundcard [ASUS Xonar DX, for instance] will offer a significantly different audio quality then using onboard. And using a decent headset, the difference is even bigger.

$60 creative T10 2.0 speakers and a $30 creative sound blaster audigy SE sound card have far crisper and more accurate sound than do the z5500s problem is when most people hear large booming bass hey think it means powerful and good quality LOL noobs. Another thing that never fails to amaze me is how a marketed as "HIGH END" and I use that term very loosely set of PC speaker such as the z 5500s fail to have dedicated proper Tweeters instead they have some half assed all for one mid range drivers with a built in pseudo tweeter thats not even a tweeter LOL guess that explains the muddy sound. What a GIMMICK the z5500s by Logitec is maybe they should just stick to what there good at building mice because they have no business ripping off unassuming PC users with sub par grossly over priced blah fart cans.
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April 16, 2012 11:06:25 PM

MMO Fan said:
Some excellent sound cards that are dirt cheap you failed to mention are -

ASUS Xonar DG 5.1 Channel PCI Sound Card 24BIT Dolby Digital DTS 105DB SNR ((( W/ Headphone AMP ))) $20
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=56330&vpn=XONAR%20DG&...

ASUS Xonar U3 External USB 7.1 Channel Sound Card $38
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=62228&vpn=XONAR%20U3&...

ASUS Xonar DS 7.1 Channel PCI Sound Card 24BIT DTS SPDIF W/ Low Profile Bracket $40
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=46389&vpn=Xonar%20DS&...

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy SE PCI 7.1 Surround Sound Card $34
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=17424&vpn=30SB0570000...

Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-FI Xtreme Audio 24BIT Sound Card 7.1 PCI $44
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=23248&vpn=70SB0790000...


I'm not sure how I "failed" to mention them when I provided links to the same page you reference above.

Anyway, I'm not fan of USB unless it's for upgrading a laptop. Every card has its PROS and CONS which is why I spent more time on a list of things to look for instead of just listing products.
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April 17, 2012 1:00:42 AM

photonboy said:
I'm not sure how I "failed" to mention them when I provided links to the same page you reference above.

Anyway, I'm not fan of USB unless it's for upgrading a laptop. Every card has its PROS and CONS which is why I spent more time on a list of things to look for instead of just listing products.

Sorry you didn't fail i worded it wrong so I failed LOL. The USB sound card really impressed the hell out of me and for sub $40 they are excellent and I am an PC audio snob so thats high praise.
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April 17, 2012 4:14:14 AM

gamerk316 said:
The Z-5500's are *ok* at best. Nowhere near the high end. Problem these days is that PC speakers generally stink because they are all created for optimum use with an onboard chipset. A decent pair of stereo speakers combined with even a mid-tier soundcard [ASUS Xonar DX, for instance] will offer a significantly different audio quality then using onboard. And using a decent headset, the difference is even bigger.
MMO Fan said:
$60 creative T10 2.0 speakers and a $30 creative sound blaster audigy SE sound card have far crisper and more accurate sound than do the z5500s problem is when most people hear large booming bass hey think it means powerful and good quality LOL noobs. Another thing that never fails to amaze me is how a marketed as "HIGH END" and I use that term very loosely set of PC speaker such as the z 5500s fail to have dedicated proper Tweeters instead they have some half assed all for one mid range drivers with a built in pseudo tweeter thats not even a tweeter LOL guess that explains the muddy sound. What a GIMMICK the z5500s by Logitec is maybe they should just stick to what there good at building mice because they have no business ripping off unassuming PC users with sub par grossly over priced blah fart cans.

Agreed!!!!


I made the mistake of buying the Logitech Z-5500 and while I'm not looking to get into a pissing match with anybody about them in my opinion for audio (music) reproduction they are absolute crap! Here is a link to my newegg review entitled "Stunned and Amazed" under the same user name that I use here.
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April 17, 2012 3:27:18 PM

Idonno said:
Agreed!!!!


I made the mistake of buying the Logitech Z-5500 and while I'm not looking to get into a pissing match with anybody about them in my opinion for audio (music) reproduction they are absolute crap! Here is a link to my newegg review entitled "Stunned and Amazed" under the same user name that I use here.

Totally agreed with your commentary on Newegg 100% however I am pretty sure that the z5500s were marketed to the yuppie ipod generation whom like you say think 128kb bit rate music is quality sounding but FLAC for me please. Oh and the Klipsh Pro Media 2.1 wiped the floor with my friends z5500s in EVERY aspect especially clarity.
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April 17, 2012 4:11:01 PM

Erwinna,
I haven't heard much. Are you satisfied? If so, maybe close out the thread?

I do advise you copy over my long list above, it's pretty useful for reference.
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April 17, 2012 4:15:06 PM

photonboy said:
Erwinna,
I haven't heard much. Are you satisfied? If so, maybe close out the thread?

I do advise you copy over my long list above, it's pretty useful for reference.

How about we keep th lines of communication open on this one.
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April 17, 2012 4:43:45 PM

MMO Fan said:
How about we keep th lines of communication open on this one.


Threads should be closed if the purpose has been served. If you wish to open your own thread, feel free.
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April 17, 2012 4:54:55 PM

I just recently bought the auzentech X-Meridian 2G and noticed no difference from my onboard ACL889, i switched between them cause i had both running, everything sounded exactly the same to me.

Ive always thought sound cards are a bit pointless but i decided to buy one myself to see what im missing (apparently). The only difference i noticed was the sound card is louder at the same volumes as onboard, and it doesnt cause as much noise when the speakers are on full with nothing playing.
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April 17, 2012 5:08:11 PM

MadCatz900 said:
I just recently bought the auzentech X-Meridian 2G and noticed no difference from my onboard ACL889, i switched between them cause i had both running, everything sounded exactly the same to me.

Ive always thought sound cards are a bit pointless but i decided to buy one myself to see what im missing (apparently). The only difference i noticed was the sound card is louder at the same volumes as onboard, and it doesnt cause as much noise when the speakers are on full with nothing playing.


What speakers? They matter too. I went from my old Sennheiser PC350's to a pair of DT 770's, and they have TOTALLY different signatures. The output at the other end matters just as much as the soundcard.

Then of course, the source matters just as much. There isn't much you can do to boost the quality of, say, an MP3 file...
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April 17, 2012 5:14:23 PM

gamerk316 said:
What speakers? They matter too. I went from my old Sennheiser PC350's to a pair of DT 770's, and they have TOTALLY different signatures. The output at the other end matters just as much as the soundcard.

Then of course, the source matters just as much. There isn't much you can do to boost the quality of, say, an MP3 file...


I am using Corsair sp2500 speakers, and i tried all kinds of mp3/flac files. When i went back to onboard i didnt find myself saying "this is awful" like others say they do. I think some people want to believe that sound cards are better so they just stick with it.
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April 17, 2012 5:34:41 PM

MadCatz900 said:
I just recently bought the auzentech X-Meridian 2G and noticed no difference from my onboard ACL889, i switched between them cause i had both running, everything sounded exactly the same to me.

Ive always thought sound cards are a bit pointless but i decided to buy one myself to see what im missing (apparently). The only difference i noticed was the sound card is louder at the same volumes as onboard, and it doesnt cause as much noise when the speakers are on full with nothing playing.


I noticed a HUGE difference between my onboard Realtek 889 and my Auzentech X-Fi Forte sound card, when paired with the M-Audio AV40 speakers.

There were times that it wasn't obvious, but others were the difference was INCREDIBLE.

The AV40's have 4" drivers so they have awesome BASS for stereo speakers so any music or movie sounded way better when there was a lot of bass.

Even classical music sounded far better.

Basically if the quality wasn't there, such as anything on the internet it didn't sound much different than onboard with $20 speakers.
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April 17, 2012 11:27:19 PM

MadCatz900 said:
I am using Corsair sp2500 speakers, and i tried all kinds of mp3/flac files. When i went back to onboard i didnt find myself saying "this is awful" like others say they do. I think some people want to believe that sound cards are better so they just stick with it.

Some people would not notice the difference between an 9800GTX GPU and an GTX 460 GPU same goes for sound quality.
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April 18, 2012 2:48:20 PM

MadCatz900 said:
I am using Corsair sp2500 speakers, and i tried all kinds of mp3/flac files. When i went back to onboard i didnt find myself saying "this is awful" like others say they do.

Well, I won't say your wrong because (for you) your not. But some people would think your video card is unnecessary or overkill without much benefit. Some would also think that about extreme PC's, cars, sports equipment, tools, photography equipment, etc, etc, etc......... Just because it's something you aren't really into or you can tell little to no difference doesn't mean that someone that's really into it can't.
For instance just because I can't tell the difference between a Stradivarius and a much cheaper violin doesn't mean no one else can and its not worth it! All that means is I can't and it's not worth it to me!

So whereas you think sound cards don't offer much benefit, I don't understand the general decline in the importance of sound quality in the PC industry.

Each to there own. The quality/performance cost ratio has always been and will always be subjective.
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April 23, 2012 3:37:59 PM

Best answer selected by Erwinna.
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April 23, 2012 3:38:19 PM

This topic has been closed by Pyree
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