I can spend up to around $200US on a new sound card. I want to know what is the best sound card in this price range for a gamer who wants 3D sound, and to plug in my guitar and make multi-track recordings.

I have an Athlon XP1800+
Abit KR7A 133 DDR
2x256M sticks of Crucial PC2100
etc... etc...
Klipsch ProMedia 4.1 speakers that break leases and windows and kill small animals. They really are silly-loud. I don't care about the center channel, I'm happy with high-quality quadriphonic.

BTW, I have a bachelor's in music and a discerning ear. I'll want to plug in my 4-track, so connectivity is also a priority. And don't forget compatiblilty with all the games I play (too numerous to list). But first and foremost PRICE! Maximum $200US.

Any thoughts? Opinions?

-Never argue with an idiot, they'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
23 answers Last reply
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  1. M-Audio Revolution 7.1 with 24bit/192KHz. USD$99 retail. Does this good enough?
    And, I like your signature a lot :)

    You never know how stupid you are until you have done something stupid enough for you to realize it.
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  2. Umm, no. The Revolution is a good card for playback purposes but NOT for recording stuff.
  3. I am thinking about getting M-Audio Revolution. Can you tell me why it is not good for recording? Thanks.
  4. I would recommend something by Terratec, if you need good recording quality. Their DMX XFire is a very nice card, as is their Aureon series. However, you're going to pay for the quality and performance. The XFire goes for about $130, while the Aureon's go as high as $200+ or so.

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  5. Thanks for the recommendations. I did some research and thought I would share my results (at least my impressions).

    The Revolution 7.1 looks like it's a great part for watching DVD's and listening to music, but it doesn't support DirectSound or DirectSound 3D (it offloads it to the CPU - hurts performace) so a great all-around gaming card it is not.

    The DMX XFire is a 4.1 part and looks like it might be the best sound card on the market for the money ($50US). It supports all common standards (DS, DS3D, A3D, EAX 1 and 2, and a whole lot more)and comes with rock solid drivers and a comprehensive software bundle. It can also make high quality recordings, just like the Revolution 7.1. The Aureons offer more output channels and more software for more money (up to 7.1 for around $200US).

    The thing that I'm stuck on is the connectivity. When I saw the Audigy 2 Platinum's 5.25' drive part I was impressed. I like the idea of a mic input with a gain control. I like the 1/4 inch jacks for mic and headphones. I like the RCA inputs. I also like that it comes with a couple of A-list games.

    The only real negative I can think of is that it's a little pricey, but I already decided to spend that much.

    Show me another card or package that can do all this stuff for $200US and I'll buy it.

    -Confucius say: A closed mouth gathers no feet.
  6. At $250, I wholeheartedly recommend Terratec's DMX-6Fire 24/96. Sound like the best choice for your needs. Guru of 3d had a recent article highly praising it as did Tech-report in two of their latest reviews. Both sites say they haven't heard a better sounding PC sound card EVER. Summary: Best sound quality for the price, breakout box with multiple in/outs (with gain control, even having a peak indicator, something Creative cards lack), 24-bit/96KHz everything, 5.1, nice (if not top-class) gaming performance, blah blah blah

    Audigy2 Platinum and Platinum eX aren't bad choices either although probably not coming close to something like DMX-6Fire or a Delta66 from M-Audio which is a true home studio sound card with multiple inputs and outputs. BTW the Audigy2 Platinum eX is better than the Platinum because it can do ASIO 2.0 multi-track recording at 24-bit/96KHz (Platinum can do the same at 16-bit/48KHz, remember that normal recording is still 24/96 so check your needs). The eX goes for (IIRC) ~$250. Ah, and the Audigy2 line have better MIDI support than other cards at that price range (if it's important to you that is).

    About the Revolution 7.1: Putting aside the fact that it doesn't have any input jack other than an analog one at the back of the card, I have read in many forums that this card cannot work well with PVR hardware (like the All-in-Wonder or other TV tuner cards) because it cannot do real-time monitoring on its [only] line-in jack (line in jack apparently has no pass through to output meaning it can't be monitored in real time. From what I've heard, you can open the control panel and check the "enable monitoring" box, but that introduces significant delay i.e. your audio will be out of sync). This (apparently hardware) problem has frustrated quite a few HTPC owners that bought the Revo for its nice analog sound quality and thought it was just like every other card in input monitoring. e.g. at the same price point the vanilla Audigy2 doesn't suffer from the same problem and it has multiple analog and digital connectors onboard (those used for CD inputs for example).
  7. Latest research puts the Terratec DMX 6Fire at $229US from <A HREF="" target="_new">jdsound</A> and the Audigy 2 Platinum for $167US at <A HREF="" target="_new">newegg</A>(for whatever that's worth).

    You're right, r2k, from what I've seen the 6Fire looks like a clearly superior part. It's all 24bit/96kHz, it has BETTER connectivity, better frequency response, better signal-to-noise ratio, all around better. My only gripe is the lack of a DSP. Real time reverb, chorus, delay, etc would be nice, but I can get a stand-alone DSP from the guitar store with much better performance for the price. It lags behind the Audigy 2 a bit in game performance, but I get the idea that the Audigy 2's edge in gaming is somewhat negligible (e.g. 64.3 fps instead of 65.6 in quake3 at 800x600 32bits).

    What's really selling me on the 6Fire is when I think, "Two years down the road, when I want to upgrade, what will I have to buy?" If I get the Audigy 2 Platinum my upgrade might have to be a new sound card. I don't think that will be the case if I get the Terratec.

    Sound like I'm talking myself into it?

    Anyone else have a sound card for me to get all excited about?

    -Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein

    <P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by confoundicator on 04/13/03 01:27 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
  8. Some minor points:

    I just remembered that the Audigy cards have Firewire ports if it's of any use.

    Odd thing you mention there comparing the number of connectors on the Platinum and the 6Fire. I could've sworn the Audigy2 had more although you've probably counted them yourself ;) And also consider that how many of those jacks are actually useful to you (e.g. you may have no need for more than one digital input). Finally, if you need remote control (albeit one that only works with Creative software it seems) the Platinum is your only choice.

    About the DSP and the effects, the Audigy1/2 have some good predefined guitar effects in their drivers (effects are limited to 16-bit/48KHz). One that might prove useful is the one that slows down playback without changing the pitch of the music meaning you can easily practice and learn hard guitar passages (I don't play guitar though so it may be a moot point). I'm listing some others here (by looking at my Audigy surround mixer application). Remember that you can add and customize as much as you want, the customization is actually quite sophisticated in the case of equalizer presets:

    Guitar auto tremolo
    Guitar auto Wah
    Guitar flanger
    Guitar grunge
    Guitar major 3rd harmony
    Guitar minor 3rd harmony
    Guitar overdrive
    blah blah blah (at least 12-15 others)...

    The upgrade worry is a valid point IMHO. The Delta series from M-Audio is now, what, 3-4 years old and still top-of-the-line!
  9. -My apologies to Mr. Einstein who actually said *insanity* is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
  10. I need more information. I've combed the reviews and seen a lot of comparisons between the DMX 6Fire and the Audigy Platinum. I know that the 6Fire mixes internally at 24/96 (as well as DAC and ADC). I know that the Audigy Platinum has a 24/96 DAC, but it mixes internally at 16/48 and it's ADC is 16/48. But I'm looking at an Audigy *2* Platinum and I can't find all of that information. I read that it has a 24/96 ADC and DAC. It didn't say what it uses to mix internally (or I'm a retard). Now is the whole damn card 24/96 or what? They never come right out and say it is.

    -Today I will talk as fast as possible so that I can feel superior when people miss something. -"Daily Affirmations for the Cynic"
  11. Here's the lowdown on Audigy and Audigy2:

    Audigy: 16-bit/48KHz DSP, 24-bit/96KHz DAC, 24-bit/96KHz digital output, 24-bit/48KHz ADC, 16-bit/48KHz ASIO 2.0 multi-track recording with low-latency. Capable of playback of 64 Directsound and 32 DirectSound3D voices simultaneously.

    Audigy2: 24-bit/96KHz DSP (only the effects engine is at 16-bit/48KHz), 24-bit/192KHz DAC, 24-bit/96KHz (or 192KHz I'm not sure) digital output, 24-bit/96KHz ADC. OEM, vanilla and Platinum can do ASIO 2.0 multi-track recording at 16/48 and the Platinum eX can do it at 24/96. Capable of playback of 64 Directsound and 64 (double the standard Audigy) DirectSound3D voices simultaneously. Audigy2 can play back DVD-Audio at 24/96 multi-channel or 24/192 stereo.

    Both versions have an internal clock of 48KHz so everything under that (e.g. 44.1KHz of CD-Audio) will be upsampled to 48KHz (a sign that these are really consumer cards after all that are adapted to [semi]-pro use). As you see, you want to avoid the Audigy1. Audigy2 is a starting point.

    Terratec's DMX-6Fire has the option to change the master clock frequency 'in the drivers' no less (thus it won't internally resample anything if set up right), it's 24/96 from top to bottom. It can handle a maximum of 32 DirectSound and 16 DirectSound3D voices but has no effects processor whatever.
  12. Thanks for the info. If you know all of that stuff off the top of your head I'm a little scared. I decided on the Audigy 2 Platinum. It's cheaper, it's the better gaming card, it has a DSP, it has more MIDI functionality, and it just seems to be a better multi-purpose, all-in-one sound card. Not saying that the DMX 6Fire isn't better at what it does, becuase it is. Just seems like the Audigy 2 is better at more things overall.

    peace and out,
  13. Congrats on your new sound card. Share your experience with us when you get it!
  14. Well I got my sound card yesterday and I have to say that my first impressions were somewhat mixed. I recently replaced all of my IDE cables with CoolerMaster round cables, and what does this thing come with? A big fat ribbon cable. It took me about half an hour to clean all of the stuff out of my desktop and startup that the installation dropped, but there doesn't seem to be any adverse after-effects. I haven't had any trouble getting all four speakers working, or with any other driver issues I see ppl posting, and the sound quality is truly superior. It came with another AOL coaster too!

    -Never argue with an idiot, they'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
  15. The saga continues...
    I got an RMA number from Newegg today for the Audigy 2 Platinum. It's just not the quality peice of equipment I was expecting. I mean the sound quality is great for games and music, but with the recording and mixing it just seems like I'm fighting the thing all the way. A DSP isn't much good if you can't get a recording to process. So I said f*** that, tore the thing out of my computer, and threw the old SB Live! Value back in. I'm not gonna piss away $170 for a product with which I'm not completely happy. They're not getting their AOL disc back, though - I have this nasty habit of destroying them:) Here's to you, Creative Labs!! .i..

    -I'll let you know how I like the DMX 6Fire in a couple of weeks.
  16. I could've told you that. But what's done is done. Get a Guillemot or M-Audio card, and this won't be a problem anymore.

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  17. I recently purchased the Audigy 2 Platinum EX and I have to say that there isn't a better all around card out their if you want to record, play games, watch DVD's, and do anything with MIDI. It's too bad you tried the regular instead of the EX. By the way, I use Cakewalk Sonar 2.0 XL, and it loves my EX. However, if I just wanted to do recording, I wouldn't recomend this card. Their are other cards out their for simply recording, and they are a lot cheaper. Check out the Delta Audiophile 2496. You won't find a better recording card for the price.
  18. I got the regular (Audigy 2 Platinum) instead of the EX because I want the breakout box in a 5.25" bay and not an extra box sitting on my desk. I think the Terratec DMX 6Fire is the best choice now. I'm gonna wait for my refund from Newegg before ordering anything else, so you guys have a week or so to talk me into something else;)

    -A sig is a sig is a sig.
  19. I'd definently recommend a Sound Blaser Audigy 2 Platinum EX. It's only a ten buck difference between the EX and non-ex. You can buy a boxed one (so with software and all the goodies for 189 bucks at <A HREF="http:// " target="_new">http:// </A>
    That's the sound card I have, and I do a lot of recording using Pro Tools and Reason 2 and couldn't be more pleased.
  20. My mistake, when I bought it it was 189 bucks, Creative Raise prices? But either way, if you can spend the extra 20 bucks for an EX, I'd do it. Either way get an Audigy 2 platinum.
  21. What exactly went wrong when recording? Was it high latency when doing multi-track recording? Bad recorded quality? Did you record at 24-bit (44.1 or 96) or 16-bit?
  22. First of all, I took a look at how much it's going to cost to return the Audigy and get a different card and I decided I've already spent enough money, so I'm keeping this thing after all. If the part is faulty I can just get it replaced.

    What went wrong is I can't get the RCA inputs in the breakout box to work. I get no signal at all. I've checked to make sure that nothing is muted in Windows' sound properties and double-checked the connection between the sound card and the breakout box. I can record just fine by plugging into the line-in on the card, and other connectors in the breakout box work (so far I've tested the mic-input and headphones jack). All drivers are updated, including BIOS. Any clue?

    My rig:
    Athlon XP 1800+
    Abit KR7A mobo with Via KT266A chipset
    512MB of PC 2100
    GeForce4 Ti4200 64MB
    Windows XP Pro with SP1 and all critical updates

    -A sig is a sig is a sig.
  23. Have you checked the breakout box itself?

    If the RCAs go to the line in on your sound card, they have to be running at line level (.707v rms, 1 vpeak) to give you much of a result. Also the input impedence there is rather low (about 10k) so some sources may not be able to drive it well.

    For example... you should be able to record from the line out or tape out on a stereo. But you won't be able to record directly from a turntable, for that you will need a magnetic phono preamplifier.

    Many mic mixers also give lousy performance with sound cards. The cheap ones do not provide line level outputs, but simply attenuate the mics providing an extremely low output level (-30 to -40db).

    --->It ain't better if it don't work<---
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