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Integrated audio

Last response: in Home Audio
July 29, 2008 3:10:19 PM

I have a question directly for Tom’s hardware guide and to all who know ANYTHING about this:


Integrated audio. Realtek chips. I’d imagine that 95% of world computer population is using one integrated audio solution or another. Why are there no reviews of them? Is no one really interested?


We have thermal paste reviews for crying out loud. How many % of computer users are interested in that? And how many do you think care if their new motherboard will be better if they got one with better integrated audio. 99% motherboards today (say intel p35/ p45) are so similar you’d need a magnifying glass to tell them apart. All overclock well, all support everything, and some have more stuff than no one cares about, so they cost more…

But the difference between one 100$ motherboard and one costing 1000$, when you are an average user, you simply don’t care about the rest of the crap built in. But I’d like to know more about my integrated audio. I’m going to need that. I wont care if I have 16 usb ports or 8, since I’m only going to be using 2. I don’t care if I can attach 32 hdd drives or 16, I’m going to be using one- maybe two. How about PCIE 1 or 2? Can any of the current graphic cards utilize PCIE 2 bandwidth? No. So why the bleep should I care if it has PCIE 1 or 2!?

Single GPU is enough. All games (save crisis) play extremely smooth on most newer graphic cards with all IQ turned to max on 22” monitor. Most play well on 24” monitor. What % of population has more than 24” monitor? Ok, all 2000 of them is going to need sli/crossfire, what about the rest of us, counting millions?

So with that out of the way, we know most users won’t be able to tell the difference between 100$ and 1000$ motherboard, save for the price. What they might find interesting is audio built in them. Does the 1000$ motherboard have better audio? Is it worth 900$? How about discrete audio cards cards? Are they worse than this 900$ audio integrated?

If you ever tried newer realtek chips, you'd know that they are good. Very good actually. But how good? Which one is better? How do they compare to Creative and other discrete cards? How do they perform in games, etc…

So, how come there are no reviews? Is there some great conspiracy against audio reviews? Does no one really care? I mean, I haven’t been able to find not one site on the whole wide internet with reviews on the matter. To be fair, I found one old German site, it was useful, but the info there is 2 years old- and I cant find it again. And besides, there are new audio chips out.

Personally, I want to know how much realtek ALC 889a (expensiveier gigabyte boards) is better than ALC 888 (low end gigabyte boards), and how does ALC 1200 (new Asus p45 boards) compare to these.

Difference between these alone will probably make up my mind when purchasing my next motherboard. I had ASUS P5K-E. It had the worst integrated crap - azalia something. My old low-end AC ‘97 was better than this - not to mention the better ac 97 variants. Crackling noise, horrible driver implementation. And not one word in the reviews about it. And don’t tell me that all integrated realtek stuff do it- because they don’t. Most of them (like 99%) work at least decent, more much better than just decent. Heck, that low-end AC 97 is almost decent. And I have some variants of it that actually are pretty decent for everyday use.

I’d appreciate any insight into this mystery.
Thank you

More about : integrated audio

July 30, 2008 9:27:24 AM

some review sites do look at the onboard sound but generally thats when they review the board its on , mine came with berstien audio (realteks) which was rated as one of the best onboard solutions (Lanparty UT x48 T2R) but it isnt a patch on the Asus Xonar i recently installed , simple fact is onboard sound is a minimal solution which is more than enough for alot of people , but if your fussy like me then a seperate sound card is the only way to go.
July 30, 2008 2:15:17 PM


Thank you for your reply. The thing is,

I’m not that picky about sound- even though it might appear from the post above that I am.

I’m trying to cut the cost of the system because I’m SURE that some new realtek chips have everything I need. Simple fact is, that I have 2.1 speakers. My 4 years old nforce 2 NF-7(non S) Abit motherboard has crystal clear sound. Thats all i want in a new motherboard- in a nutshell.
Unlike my 3.5 years old Abit IC-7 based on intel 478 CPU, which is fine, but you can hear the low noise coming out of speakers when there should be only silence. The effect is even more pronounced when you wear headphones.

If I could, I’d take the integrated audio from my NF-7 motherboard into the new one. Since this is not possible, and likely wasteful, as the new chips SHOULD be better- I just want to pick the motherboard that has the BEST integrated audio today. I know good integrated audio is possible since I own one nearly 5 years old.

Now, while I don’t need any better, I certainly don’t want any worse (like my new P35 Asus P5K-E azalia audio).

And while picking a good integrated sound, I might as well pick the best one, since as explained above, the rest of the motherboard parts means very little to me.

There is another reason for all this. I’d never go with non Creative discrete card. Like Intel and Microsoft, Creative “is compatible with itself” (and its EAX standard). Others have to try to get close (AMD/Linux…)

If I was to get another discrete card, I’d get a replacement for my Soundblaster Live!. I read that new XFI cards have Vista driver issues, and the only reason I’d get a dedicated sound is to speed up my dx10 games- ie Vista games. If XFI does a poor job there, whey the bleep would I pay more money for their card over the integrated chip if they perform the same? I sure as heck wont hear any difference. (assuming the card is low/high/whiny/other crap/cracking free- like my NF 7 integrated sound is, for instance -- and my P5K-E isn’t, for another instance)

I hope that makes sense. And I want integrated sound chip reviews. No reason NOT to have them. Right? Or is Creative afraid? 5 years after NF-7 was released, it should be. (NF-7 audio is identical in EAX support and sound I hear to SB Live!. Only difference is in 3D mark test, where SB Live! gets couple of ~3 fps more than the integrated one (~33fps vs ~30 fps)).
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July 30, 2008 10:32:04 PM

eodeo said:
I read that new XFI cards have Vista driver issues

The only Vista/Creative issue I've had is no midi support, but that's no biggie, at least to me.

I also have a Abit board and the realtek on it is fine. But, I did notice a difference going to a SB card in 5.1 gaming, especially FPS, but as you said you have 2.1, so stick with the on board.
July 31, 2008 12:50:10 AM

The only Vista/Creative issue I've had is no midi support, but that's no biggie, at least to me.


I play older games. In fact I’m plying open transport tycoon deluxe at the moment. Than I could probably play that with winamp in background like I am now :)  Or just play it in winXP.

What I read about XFI cards and Vista is that Vista changed how DirectSound works and thus there is no way to enable EAX acceleration in it. I didn’t mean that they have poor sound quality or anything like that. Sux that they dont have midi support(?) too...

So, if they don’t have EAX acceleration they’re as fast as the integrated card. And, as I said earlier, there is no way for me the actually hear the difference, so no speed= no need for it.

but as you said you have 2.1, so stick with the on board.

exactly my line of thoughts. now if there were only reviews for me to know which board/chip to pick...
August 1, 2008 4:04:58 PM

Not exactly integrated audio comparison, but it does compare high-end(?) gigabyte realtek chop ALC 889a and compares the “free” chip to ~200$ cards.

Please look at the quake wars at the very bottom of the page. No wonder there are no more reviews of the integrated audio. Who’d buy the bloatware of the audio industry then? Like the very fine XFI creative series...
August 2, 2008 8:30:11 PM

best mobo imo then is the one i got , DFI lanparty ut x48 t2r (or the t3r for ddr3) comes with a very good bernstien audio riser card which reviewers rated well. but i am bias for DFI and i did rip it out to replace with a xonar DX lol , but i got the xonar for a bargian on ebay otherwise i wouldnt of bought it.
August 5, 2008 12:29:34 PM

eodeo said:

So, if they don’t have EAX acceleration they’re as fast as the integrated card. And, as I said earlier, there is no way for me the actually hear the difference, so no speed= no need for it.

Under Vista X-Fi lets you have all EAX done in hardware too.
Need to install driver plugin called ALchemy, all explained here: