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To sound card or not to sound card?

Last response: in Home Audio
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August 9, 2010 9:38:49 PM

So I'm running a pretty decent rig now as you can see in my sig. I also have a 20year old very very high end speaker system it's 3.0 and very good. Overall I'm relatively satisfied with my onboard sound but I haven't anything to compare it to so it's hard to ell really.

So should I buy a sound card?

I've heard many contradicting statements concerning this topic. Some say I won't hear the difference and others say onboard sound sucks like it ain't even funny. Any opinions from some experienced audiophiles?

Thanks in advance

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August 10, 2010 12:43:17 AM

If your onborad sound chip uses c-media chip then in my experience, it's better than realtek chip. Sounds warmer than realtek, if that's how you like your sounds be? Another exception if you have one of the older AOpen or Via motherbord that uses tube amp.

The best way to compare the sound chip is if you set all the enhancement OFF.
August 10, 2010 9:35:32 AM

I have Realtek ALC889 chip in my motherboard. Which you say is bad right? And well how I like my sound to be: I like it to distinguishable. As in I seperate every sound from the other instead of them being a large mix of sounds. If you know what I mean? but I suppose that's simply the difference between bad sound and good sound.

And then you got me confused lol.


rexter said:
Another exception if you have one of the older AOpen or Via motherbord that uses tube amp.

The best way to compare the sound chip is if you set all the enhancement OFF.


I don't have a clue what you mean by the first sentence(sorry for my lack of understanding). And about the audio enhancement. What do you mean I'll be able to compare the sound chip? And how do I turn audio enhancement off?

BTW: your help is very much appreciated :D 
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August 10, 2010 3:33:02 PM

First time I see a spammer on toms.

BTW: I have a high end CD player would that be a good thing to compare my onboard sound to?
August 10, 2010 4:40:33 PM

I have not done much research on this topic. But in my point you either have to have quite expensive mobo to guaranty that it has good chip setup and amplifiers, or you go to mid-high range sound card.
I am not saying that some of the cheaper mobos do not have good sound, but then you have to do research to understand exactly what each mobo do. However, I am not sure that information is available on internet, and that such things like linearity, harmonic distortions are tested for mobos.
Usually, high quality sound, is not goal of the mobo manufacturer, while it is for sound card manufacturer. This is why I think usually sound card would do better job.
Again, this are just my thoughts, it is not easy to find relevant information on internet about this.
August 11, 2010 7:46:28 PM

so from comparing my 20year old CD player to my onboard alc 889. I've come to the conclusion that my onboard is useless. So I'm not really prepared to spend more than a 100 on a sound card although I might if given a good reason. Which one would be a good choice?
August 12, 2010 2:30:13 AM

What I do to compare is to just use the CD player and the amp connected to speaker. Then connect the computer playing the same music (not compressed) to the amp. When I said no enhancement, I mean the equalizer or bass boost or other programs that change the sounds from its original setting must be set off or to 0 (Zero)... I'm 99% that your Home Audio system will sound better than the one on computer without the enhancement. But I guess you already did that?

If you like to get yourself an audio card. The Auzen X-Plosion would be good choice for music and movies. Of course, there's no substitute for professional cards.

http://www.auzentech.com/site/products/x-plosion_cinema...

"Another exception if you have one of the older AOpen or Via motherboard that uses tube amp." - AOpen and Via use to have motherboard with tube amp for audio instead of silicon, which is better than silicon's onboard sound chip. I thought maybe you had one of those.

http://ixbtlabs.com/articles2/roundupmobo/aopen-ax4b-53...

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/hammer-board-hits-t...
August 12, 2010 3:21:09 AM

I personally use the HDMI port on my video card for sound--although I have the ATI 5000 series, which is HDMI 1.3 compliant. Nvidia doesn't really appeal to the audio crowd so as far as I know you don't have the same options for sound. I have it hooked up to a decent setup, Revel Gem2 bookshelf speakers and a JL Fathom F113 subwoofer on the way.

In your position I would check to see if you have a digital optical port on your onboard and connect it to a receiver, and allow all the digital to analog conversion and voltage gain to be set on the receiver end. Since optical ports did not show up until the mid-90s, I'm not sure if your receiver has it. If not I would strongly consider buying a new receiver and not have to buy a new sound card.
August 12, 2010 11:07:46 AM

This sound card appeals to me a lot. The RCA connections and headphone amp is exactly what I wanted.

http://www.amazon.de/Essence-interne-Fidelity-Soundkart...

The price is a little less appealing however.

What is uncompressed music? Music ripped from a CD is uncompressed right?

I have a ga x58a ud5 so I suppose that uses silicon.

And I never turned on any audio enhancement so I suppose there isn't any on right?

The problem I have with buying a reciever is I don't really need a reciever an amp serves me just fine. And well that's also very expensive. Are their any advantages to a reciever as opposed to a high end sound card like I listed above? And can I connect microphone and headphone to a reciever?

btw I moved the discussion to a new thread in the sound card section

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/287909-10-which-100...
August 13, 2010 6:11:10 AM

Since you're thinking about higher sound quality, you might want to check the E-mu product, link below.

http://www.amazon.de/Creative-E-MU-0404-Audio-Interface...

The one you mentioned and this one are similar to what you wanted but feature difference. Check what applies to you best.
August 13, 2010 8:05:46 AM

Oh wait, is this "very high end" speaker system inherited? I thought you had enough money to purchase something like an av receiver and just didn't want to buy a sound card for some reason. If that's the wrong impression then I apologize. You said "very very high end" so I assumed you had a fairly flexible budget.
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