Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

Is a soundcard necessary?

Last response: in Components
Share
September 5, 2012 2:32:52 PM

I'm planning to upgrade my audio but I'm not sure if buying a soundcard is worth it. Currently i'm using a MSI 870A-G54 mobo http://www.msi.com/product/mb/870A-G54.html#/?div=Detail which has Realtek ALC892 onboard audio. According to specs it's sample rate is 192kHz/24bit and SNR is 109 dB. These specs are quite similar to the soundcards which I'm considering:

Club 3D Theatron Agrippa DTS http://www.club-3d.com/index.php/products/reader.en/product/theatron-agrippa-dts-71.html

Asus Xonar DX http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_D1/#specifications

The soundcard would be used in a stereo set-up with a Yamaha A-1 amp http://www.thevintageknob.org/yamaha-A-1.html mainly for listening to music.

So the question is: would one of these soundcards make a noticable improvement in analog audio output?

More about : soundcard

September 5, 2012 2:43:40 PM

Cool amp.

You have to remember decibel is a logarithmic scale, and a couple of dB is actually a huge difference. I'm not sure if it's meaningful to your listening experience, though. Is there currently something you find lacking about your audio reproduction?
September 5, 2012 2:58:21 PM

Well, if you are going to be connecting to an Amp (SPDIF, I assume?), then there really is no reason to a soundcard. Digital is digital, and the soundcards driver layer isn't going to have that much of an impact.
Related resources
September 5, 2012 2:59:13 PM

Thnx. The audio seems a little.. well.. 'cold' at the moment. I'd like to add a little more definition to the high and low frequencies. I was also thinking the onboard audio apart from a lesser SNR (compared to the xonar) might have a little more distortion (THD) in it than a soundcard would have because it's integrated in the mobo. But I can't find any specs on this subject.
September 5, 2012 3:04:41 PM

@gamerk316 I'm using analog, the amp is from '79 ;) 
September 5, 2012 6:57:50 PM

bazkeau said:
@gamerk316 I'm using analog, the amp is from '79 ;) 


Ah, OK then. I would imagine the DX would be a significant upgrade.

Wouldn't bother with the other recommend cards; Club 3D isn't a major brand, and Auzentechs older cards are more or less obsolete at this stage. Under $100, the DX is king. Cheaper options are the DG(X)/DS(X) though, if you don't want to spend the ~$70 on the DX. DG has the benefit of a built in amp, so you could give that a go as a potential replacement amp (not sure on your full audio setup, but worth a mention).
September 6, 2012 8:58:01 AM

I'm using the amp mentioned before with Jamo J-121 passive monitors, it's a kind of vintage set-up. I really like the character it has but with some kinds of music you can hear that the signal from the onboard isn't perfect, especially with lower frequencies. Reading the reviews Dingo07 posted and gamerk316's reply it seems the Club 3D is the worst option with bass drop-outs and a terrible SNR of 96 dB http://uk.hardware.info/productinfo/2127/club-3d-theatron-agrippa-dts#tab:testresults. So Xonar is the way to go. I wouldn't know what benefit a built in amp would have. Would it work as a pre-amp? Directly connecting speakers doesn't seem likely because of the 80 Watt RMS minimum power requirement, at least I don't think a soundcard would deliver something like that? Apart from that I'm not planning to fit 3,5 mm jacks to my speakers and I would like to keep using my current Amp, it sounds awesome.

So much thanks for narrowing down the choice to Xonar! Only question remains is what would be the benefit of a built-in amp in the soundcard?
September 6, 2012 9:12:19 AM

No it's certainly not meant to drive speakers like yours. I think the soundcard amplifier is meant for headphones.
September 6, 2012 11:24:43 AM

Offcourse, that makes a lot more sense.

I ordered the DX, I'll report back tomorrow after a good listening session :) 
September 6, 2012 11:48:36 AM

No, you Definitely Don't want a built in amp, all you want to do is process because you already have the amp stage.

I suggest you go one step further than the gaming card and get this one with balanced outputs - http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_Essenc...
if you want to be able to change the Op-Amp, this one comes with a kit - http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_Essenc...

then you use one of these to switch back from balanced to go into your amp - http://rane.com/bb22.html#gpm1_1
or you can use the terminal model like this - http://rane.com/lt22.html

this a definite read to make sure you have the correct cabling throughout the system - http://rane.com/note110.html
September 6, 2012 12:35:33 PM

dingo07 said:
No, you Definitely Don't want a built in amp, all you want to do is process because you already have the amp stage.

I suggest you go one step further than the gaming card and get this one with balanced outputs - http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_Essenc...
if you want to be able to change the Op-Amp, this one comes with a kit - http://www.asus.com/Multimedia/Audio_Cards/Xonar_Essenc...

then you use one of these to switch back from balanced to go into your amp - http://rane.com/bb22.html#gpm1_1
or you can use the terminal model like this - http://rane.com/lt22.html

this a definite read to make sure you have the correct cabling throughout the system - http://rane.com/note110.html


I've been staring and drewling at that unit for quite some time but decided it was too expensive (around $500). Awesome device though and it already has an unbalanced output, would the balance buddy still be necessary?

Besides, I already ordered the DX. You'll be hearing soon if it's any better, otherwise I'll just have to spend a little more I guess ;) 
September 6, 2012 12:47:06 PM

depending on how far your computer is away from your amp, you may still want to invest in a pair of balance buddy's - let's say they are 35 feet apart - that's a terribly long way for an analog signal to go and most definitely will be noisy. Use 1 BB22 connected to the the computer with a 1 foot pigtail (3.5mm to RCA) - XLR cable across the room and through walls to the other BB22 and gets connected with a short 1 foot RCA cable to the amp

again, if you want NO HUM or NOISE, the Only way is balanced - but that doesn't include noise that is part of the original signal, nothing will help that except changing hardware
September 7, 2012 5:11:26 PM

Had a few hours of listening to the DX and it makes quite some difference. Sounds a lot sharper! Seems the specs of the onboard are a little higher than it's actual performance. Thanks for all the help!


PS. The amp is very near to my comp, so I don't think much can be gained from going to balanced. But thanks for the suggestion.
September 7, 2012 6:22:30 PM

Happy to hear - enjoy!
!