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Onboard Versus PCI Sound Card

Last response: in Components
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July 2, 2012 10:14:30 PM

Hi.
As i have very little experience with audio cards i was hoping for some help.

I heard people say.
"Wow after i bought a PCI audio card I got a lot better music quality, and my sub is on a totally new level.

Asking because I'm buying a new rig now very soon, with the Asus z77 Sabertooth and with it the LOGITECH Z-906 5.1 THX.
So was wondering would i get better quality getting an audio card?
Or will the Asus sabertooth be enough?

Currently running with an old 7.1 Creativ set plugged in to the motherboard and i think it sounds rather ok.

July 2, 2012 10:17:28 PM

aleksanderdev said:
Hi.
As i have very little experience with audio cards i was hoping for some help.

I heard people say.
"Wow after i bought a PCI audio card I got a lot better music quality, and my sub is on a totally new level.

Asking because I'm buying a new rig now very soon, with the Asus z77 Sabertooth and with it the LOGITECH Z-906 5.1 THX.
So was wondering would i get better quality getting an audio card?
Or will the Asus sabertooth be enough?

Currently running with an old 7.1 Creativ set plugged in to the motherboard and i think it sounds rather ok.


To be honest, I doubt there would be a considerable difference unless you compared them side-to-side. I've used onboard sound forever and it sounds fine to me. If I were you, I'd use the money for a better cpu, more ram or better video card instead.
July 2, 2012 10:24:28 PM

Hehe was hoping for such an answer :p 


Any one else that can confirm this aswell?
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July 2, 2012 10:47:12 PM

Modern motherboards, including yours have pretty good capabilities now, and also a new driver just came out for your audio chipset that's supposed to be better.
July 2, 2012 11:12:29 PM

The advantages of a discrete sound card are best noticed when mixing signal configurations. For example, converting a stereo source (such as an audio CD) to a 5.1 speaker system. Onboard audio codecs do a pretty piss poor job of resampling and mixing audio. They're decent at driving audio which has the same source format as the system's speaker configuration but that's it. If you get a discrete sound card you will notice the difference if you have a high quality speaker setup such as a 5.1/7.1 surround or a 5.1/7.1 analog headset (none of that cheap USB crap).
July 3, 2012 8:08:04 AM

Ill just go with my Sabertooth than :p 
Thx for the replays.
July 3, 2012 8:11:26 AM

aleksanderness said:
Ill just go with my Sabertooth than :p 
Thx for the replays.


I highly recommend getting an Creative Labs XFi Titanium sound card for that speaker system. Your onboard one will not do it justice. The bass boost alone will make you crap yourself while playing BF3
July 3, 2012 9:19:50 AM

Guys above is he correct?
Some say i wont hear any difference at all whole pinhedd says it gives major sub boost?
July 3, 2012 10:17:44 AM

aleksanderness said:
Guys above is he correct?
Some say i wont hear any difference at all whole pinhedd says it gives major sub boost?


It's a bit more than that, let me elaborate.

There are at least two processes which may be involved in converting audio from a source format to the PCM bitstreams used to drive channels.

First is resampling. Resampling is where a source that is stored in one digital sample format is converted into another. For example, CD audio is recorded at 44.1Khz (44,100 samples per second) and 16 bits per sample; Most PC games use WAV files sampled at 48Khz and 16 bits per sample. Studio quality audio can go as high as 96Khz and 24 bits per sample. Downsampling 96/24 to 48/16 is quite easy, downsampling 48/16 to 44.1/16 is not. It can be done crudely, or it can be done properly. Creative Labs spent a lot of time reworking their DSP just to do this properly and trust me when I say that the audio quality difference is noticeable when listening to music that has a source format of 44.1Khz.

Second is remixing. Anyone who is using a stereo sound setup will not notice the effects of remixing because they're only ever experiencing downmixing. Downmixing is where a surround source such as 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS audio from a DVD is converted into a stereo audio signal for playback through only two speakers. Downmixing is trivial and most stereo setups are crummy enough as is that its not possible to notice the difference.

Upmixing on the other hand is quite difficult. Upmixing is where a stereo source is converted into a surround source by doing some very complex signal processing. The part that most DSPs do very very poorly at is removing the low frequency sound components and sending them to the LFE channel (AKA subwoofer, AKA the .1 in x.1 setups). This is very easily noticed in any youtube video with a heavy basstrack. Using an onboard Realtek audio codec (Asus just rebrands these) you'll hear a ton of bass clipping with even the best subwoofer. It's not your sound system's fault, the DSP just isn't handling those low frequency components correctly and/or its not amplifying them sufficiently. The XFI card on the other hand does an absolutely beautiful job of upsampling. This nifty little feature is called LFE Crossover and is usually absent or poorly implemented.

The other half of upmixing is 3D positioning. Most audio drivers have some sort of rudimentary Stereo envelopment but like LFE crossover they can be crummy. The Creative Labs cards have X-Fi CMSS-3D which allows for the stereo channels to be properly balanced between front/center/side/rear channels automatically so that it isn't possible to pinpoint exactly where the sound is coming from. It's quite nice if I may say so myself.

You don't have to buy a sound card, but I suggest that you do.
July 3, 2012 12:25:56 PM

I think i understand :p 
And i definitely understand that upmixing is hard xD
I have an older 7.1 Creativ set with a decoder and its supposed to up mix to 7.1 from 5.1 but never worked properly. Thers way to many combinations on the bass and the decoder box to be able to figure it out.

Thx a lot for awesome explanation
!