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Can someone explain sound cards to me?

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January 27, 2013 2:19:50 AM

These are the terms I really need help with:

SNR- I know this is sound to noise ratio, and a higher ratio means clear sound (courtesy of Wikipedia). But how does this translate to dB? More dB is clearer? Or less?

Sample Rate- I have no idea what this is.

Channels: What do the numbers 2, 4, 5, 5.1, and 7.1 mean, and what is the difference?

Digital Audio: What is the difference between 16 bit and 24 bit?

Also, what your recommendation for me? I will gaming with my PC, and I use Turtle Beach X11's, but I can upgrade to a better pair if it provides a substantial upgrade. I liked my Turtle Beaches on my Xbox 360 for Call of Duty, and I could hear footsteps great.

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January 27, 2013 2:26:03 AM

2.0 = 2 speakers
2.1 = 2 speakers with a woofer
4.1 = 4 speakers with a woofer
5.1 = 5 speakers with a woofer
7.1 = 7 speakers with a woofer

16 bit is less good quality than 24bit.

whats ur pc specs.

January 27, 2013 2:37:00 AM

I've haven't built my PC yet, still deciding on components, including sound card.

Here is what I have so far:

Well, actually I still have three of each at this stage. But here are my options:

CPU-AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition or AMD FX-4170 Zambezi or AMD FX-6300

RAM-Mushkin Enhanced Radioactive 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)

Storage-OCZ Vertex 2 OCZSSD3-2VTX240G 3.5" 240GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive or OCZ Vertex 2 OCZSSD2-2VTXE240G 2.5" 240GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive or OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-240G 2.5" 240GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive plus 250 GB HDD

GPU- Maybe a Radeon 7970

Or that's what I hope to have. Still haven't dedided on Mother Board or Case.
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January 27, 2013 3:36:20 PM

ClockWork1236 said:
These are the terms I really need help with:

SNR- I know this is sound to noise ratio, and a higher ratio means clear sound (courtesy of Wikipedia). But how does this translate to dB? More dB is clearer? Or less?

Sample Rate- I have no idea what this is.

Channels: What do the numbers 2, 4, 5, 5.1, and 7.1 mean, and what is the difference?

Digital Audio: What is the difference between 16 bit and 24 bit?

Also, what your recommendation for me? I will gaming with my PC, and I use Turtle Beach X11's, but I can upgrade to a better pair if it provides a substantial upgrade. I liked my Turtle Beaches on my Xbox 360 for Call of Duty, and I could hear footsteps great.


DB is how loud something can get, it has little to do with clarity. A jet engine has a much higher DB noise level then a moped engine for example.

the channels represent how many speakers can be supported by the card. the first number are for "full range" speakers while the " .1" stands for one low frequency channel (aka the sub woofer).

Bit depth is the amount of bits in a given cross-section of digital audio. CDs and MP3's use 16bit while 24 bit offers an even higher quality of playback.

January 27, 2013 3:37:18 PM

whats ur budget for ur build and country of origin?

January 29, 2013 11:55:35 PM

I think I've decided on my soundcard:

http://www.asus.com/Sound_Cards_and_DigitaltoAnalog_Con...

Is this good for my gaming needs? I wan't good surround sound to here footsteps and good audio effect overall, like the afterburners in a combat flight sim, or the chatter of a machine gun, and especially the bass of an explosion. I know for the best effects, I should use speakers and a sub, but I can only use headphones. By the way, do you have any recommendations for gaming headsets?
January 30, 2013 12:05:07 AM

well theres alot better for the price, whats ur budget for sound-card+headset?

January 30, 2013 12:38:26 AM

I'm interested to hear what sound cards are considered better than the Xonar DSX in the same price range; it generally is considered a good card, and a decent upgrade over the built in sound on your motherboard. Not that you necessarily need it - some good headsets are usb based, and thus are essentially a sound card + headset in one.
Edit to add, DGX and DSX review:
http://techreport.com/review/23358/asus-budget-xonar-dg...
January 30, 2013 1:15:40 AM

its an alright sound-card but its worth investing 100$ for a higher end one tho.

January 30, 2013 10:56:10 AM

it's actually better then "alright" and "worth" is up to the end user but $100 is pushing it for a sound card if you are not an audiophile or professional. especially if you plan to use a headset, although turtle beach does make some fine head sets.
January 30, 2013 12:54:56 PM

actually its decent, for me alright means passable, 100$ sound-card makes the difference, i suggested a 100$ sound-card not an obligation, i just now going from a xonar to my creative fatality championship xfi card was night and day, talking from personal experience, u dont have to be an audiofile to enjoy great music, games and movies, everything does sound better, just goes to show most people know nothing about the benefits of a good add-in card, the xonar is good yes but nothing compared to a 100$ card.

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January 30, 2013 1:16:54 PM
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ClockWork1236 said:
SNR- I know this is sound to noise ratio, and a higher ratio means clear sound (courtesy of Wikipedia). But how does this translate to dB? More dB is clearer? Or less?


SnR has nothing to do with dB. dB is a function of the output power of the jack and the sensitivity of the speakers/headphones.

In regards to output power:

Ohms Law: V=IR
Power Law: P = VI

These two laws describe the output power coming out from the source (in this case, the soundcard). In short: You can either use high amounts of voltage and have a low current (typical for amps), or low output voltage and high current (typical for normal output jacks). A higher voltage is required when using high impedance (resistance) headphones, hence why Amps are sometimes needed.

A speakers/headphones sensitivity, combined with the Power output of the jack, results in the maximum volume (Power) that can be outputted. In short: A higher sensitivity headphone would result in more volume.

SnR is simply the ratio to the output signal power to the output noise power. The higher the number, the less noise is in the background. [Whether you can HEAR this is dependent on your equipment, however.]

Quote:

Sample Rate- I have no idea what this is.


Essentially, audio on a PC is in digital format, and it has to be converted back to analog at some point in the audio chain. To do that, you take the discrete points at a certain time interval, and attempt to accurately recreate the analog signal.



The higher your sample rate, the more accurate you can make the analog signal.

Note the Sample Rate setting for a soundcard ONLY affects the output from the card; if the source file has a lower sample rate then is selected, there is no extra performance benefit to setting a higher sample rate [you would essentially sample blanks]. Most audio is sampled at either 44.1 or 48KHz. Some codecs allow for 96KHz sample rates, and 192Khz is very, very rare.

Quote:

Channels: What do the numbers 2, 4, 5, 5.1, and 7.1 mean, and what is the difference?


The first number denotes the number of speakers. The second denotes the number of LFEs (Subwoofers).

Quote:

Digital Audio: What is the difference between 16 bit and 24 bit?


The more bits are used for digital encoding, the more resolution you have. In short: The more bits, the higher your possible maximum SnR when decoding the digital file into an analog signal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/24-bit_audio


Quote:
Also, what your recommendation for me? I will gaming with my PC, and I use Turtle Beach X11's, but I can upgrade to a better pair if it provides a substantial upgrade. I liked my Turtle Beaches on my Xbox 360 for Call of Duty, and I could hear footsteps great.


On the soundcard front, without breaking the $100 barrier, the ASUS Xonar DG(X), ASUS Xonar DX, and Creative Soundblaster Z are the only real contenders. Headset wise, I typically recommend an audiophile headphone paired with a clip-on mic, since the majority of gaming headsets are not very high quality spec wise. [I LOVE my ATH-M50's].
January 30, 2013 1:20:42 PM

very nice complicated explanation of whats sound-cards, ur better knowledged than me in audio lol, +1
January 30, 2013 6:16:36 PM

^^ The sad part was I was in a hurry to write that, and I could have done a LOT better.

*And yes, one day, sometime after hell freezes over, I WILL put out that audio guide. Maybe...*
January 30, 2013 10:12:33 PM

Quote:
SnR has nothing to do with dB.


Now I'm confused. The product specifications on Newegg for the ASUS Xonar DSX 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Express x1 Interface Audio Card (what a mouthful!) says:

SNR: Up to 107 dB

What is that supposed to mean?
February 2, 2013 9:40:41 AM

it probably means someone didn't edit properly
!