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Should I Get a Sound card, Educate Me

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December 23, 2012 9:17:57 PM

Hello All. So, I am going to be hooking up a pair of TriTrix speakers (big ones) as well as two BIC America Venturi bookshelf speakers behind me on the other side of the room. I will be powering the speakers with a stereo receiver hooked up to my computer. I am wondering: would investing in a sound card benefit me? I'd like to consider myself a junior audiophile, I can tell the difference between $100 and $400 headphones, I also listen to a lot of music, and I can't manage to listen to a song that crackles. I will be doing a fair amount of recording for vocals and vocal percussion. If I were to get a sound card, how would I hook it up, just with the standard Green 3.5mm jack or using multiple outputs? I'd have probably $40 to spend tops because I'd like to save the rest of my money for something non-computer related (I have a $100 Visa gift card). Thanks everyone!

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December 23, 2012 11:59:21 PM
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Before you spend money on a sound card, check the motherboard sound. In my case I installed a Creative sound card and later discovered that my on-board sound was just as good. I uninstalled the sound card. So check first.
December 24, 2012 1:45:28 AM

Will do, I'll hook up my receiver (hopefully tomorrow night or Christmas morning) and return to the post.
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December 24, 2012 9:42:17 AM

Yes, on-board sound is surprisingly good on most high end motherboards.

I have Bose Desktop speakers connected to my X58 on-board sound (after I got rid of the Creative X Fi sound card) and they work great.

Keep in mind that this is a computer system that we are dealing with, and do not compare or expect stereo sound from a high end stereo system with a high powered amp.

You can always add a good sound card later and you will be quite happy with your decision because you have checked out the on-board sound alternative.

Next week I am putting together an EVGA Z77 with an i7 3770K CPU and I plan on using the on-board sound.
December 24, 2012 9:44:44 AM

I would say in general that if you're running hi-fi gear and listening to flac music and films, most of the time the compression will do more to spoil the sound than the sound stage of most motherboards.
December 24, 2012 11:58:40 AM

Alright I understand. Just as a point of reference, what would you guys think my best option would be for a card in the 40-50 dollar range. I know it's not a ton but like I said, I've got so much money invested in the rest of my setup, I don't need the best of the best for this.
December 24, 2012 12:04:32 PM

That budget is too low for a high quality sound card.
December 24, 2012 12:33:46 PM

Well, back when I had my Pentium 4 system only a year ago, i couldn't stand the onboard sound with my 2.1 speaker system, Creative T3130... bass was muddy, highs hurt my ears, it was torture... so I just went out to the stores and grabbed a Creative sound card for $30... and my my did it turn things around, such a joy listening to music now.

I hear a lot of folks here on the forums talking about the ASUS Xonar, relatively inexpensive sound card, popular and a lot for the money. You should look into that.
December 24, 2012 12:55:42 PM

Forde3654Eire said:
Well, back when I had my Pentium 4 system only a year ago

In the P4 days, on-board audio was using the AC97 spec and most implementations were passable. The AC97 signaling spec had a huge problem with it in the form of using single-ended signaling and 0-padding of unused fields which contributed significantly to "digital noise" on so-so designed AC97 solutions. I had a P4 too and the AC97 audio on it did suck so I got an Audigy2.

With LGA775/Core2, Intel switched to HDAudio spec which addressed AC97's obvious shortcomings and makes it much more difficult for motherboard manufacturers to produce a board with horrible on-board audio so average on-board quality with HDAudio is much better than AC97. The HDAudio on my P5Q was good enough for me not to bother reusing the Audigy2, same goes with my current P8H77.

If I had a digital receiver, I'd simply use the HD2500's HDMI Audio.
December 24, 2012 1:13:03 PM

Still, would modern onboard sound be better than a dedicated sound card? I recently built myself a new PC on the LGA 1155 socket, however, I didn't bother trying the onboard sound as I already have my dedicated sound card.
December 24, 2012 2:24:55 PM

Forde3654Eire said:
Still, would modern onboard sound be better than a dedicated sound card?

Unlikely.

AC97 was good enough for people who want sound but otherwise didn't care much about quality.
HDAudio is good enough for most people not to bother with add-in audio.

AIB audio is for people who still aren't satisfied with HDA either due to bad board design, bad HDA chip, insufficient IOs or really want/need the AIB's features... or just don't like the idea of relying on on-board audio for whatever arbitrary reason. In your case, that reason would be that you just happened to carry-over an existing board without considering the on-board audio.
December 24, 2012 3:12:41 PM

If you're going for a soundcard, a cheap one probably own't be a vast immprovement. Nothing wrong with trying on-board before splashing the cash!
December 31, 2012 9:01:25 PM

mclovits said:
Hello All. So, I am going to be hooking up a pair of TriTrix speakers (big ones) as well as two BIC America Venturi bookshelf speakers behind me on the other side of the room. I will be powering the speakers with a stereo receiver hooked up to my computer. I am wondering: would investing in a sound card benefit me? I'd like to consider myself a junior audiophile, I can tell the difference between $100 and $400 headphones, I also listen to a lot of music, and I can't manage to listen to a song that crackles. I will be doing a fair amount of recording for vocals and vocal percussion. If I were to get a sound card, how would I hook it up, just with the standard Green 3.5mm jack or using multiple outputs? I'd have probably $40 to spend tops because I'd like to save the rest of my money for something non-computer related (I have a $100 Visa gift card). Thanks everyone!



I went down the path of connecting a sound card to stereo components not to long ago. It is actually a bit of a challenge to keep the sound card in play.

I cannot imagine a $40 sound card is going to be able to do anything better than what you find with onboard sound these days. You are better off connecting (via Toslink) the onboard to your receiver and letting your receiver manage the sound.

The main reason I went through the hassle of connecting a sound card was the ability to control everything through Windows. However, to get sound to my speakers I needed both a pre-amp and amp to ensure the card maintained control of processing the sound. I am using a higher end sound card (HT Omega eClaro, $180). There are better cards for the jr audiophiles out there (http://audiostateofmind.com/2012/sound-card-shootout), but past this point you should be looking at a DAC.

J
January 1, 2013 1:52:59 AM

Alright, hooked up the system and it sounds really good. If I develop the need for a sound card in the future I might commit, but I'm content for right now. Thanks for all the responses you guys, I wish I could choose more than one best answer, that's the only flaw with this website! Going to give it to Ubrales because he answered first though. Thanks again guys!
January 1, 2013 1:54:27 AM

Best answer selected by mclovits.
January 1, 2013 12:13:14 PM

Thank you!
!