I personally have pondered many times whether or not a sound card is actually a justifiable investment in my otherwise pristine computer.
I am willing to spend at least a couple hundred on a reasonable sized good looking monitor, almost as much or more on a video card to play on that monitor, and at least double that on a system to power those two.
How much do we really pay attention to the sound reproduction of our standard-issue built-in amplifiers? I know my car stereo has a head unit, sure, but it needs a good amplifier powered by quite a bit of extra wattage, up to and above 500 watts of pure sonic power.
Now I know some of us, me included, have a home theatre amplifying our sound, but, what about the ones that are using gaming headsets & headphones?
This has me interested. If I ever post a thread on here, or somewhere else, asking if I need a sound card for my computer, the general consensus is that if you have to ask, you probably don't.... hmm.
What if the answer was if you have to ask, you probably do?
If somebody is asking this may be in the position to improve their audio experience, probably not the ones with a home entertainment system hooked up to their PC.
I know my higher-end headphones & earbuds would benifit from a sound card other than the built in for the mere fact that I need amplification. Looks like I need a dedicated sound card, no?
Better-quality soundcards provide this, no?
Why is it that no sound card manufacturers list the power output of their headphone jack? Curious!
think about what the average user connects to a computer.
-usb gaming mic
computer speakers are powered perfectly fine by onboard soundcards.
usb gaming mics arent connected up to your soundcard at all.
most headphones are powered fine by integrated headphones.
unless you are an audiophile and expect the best in sound quality, you need more speaker ports, running serious headphones or lack integrated sound then buying a soundcard is not required.
the improvment in sound quality from upgrading is often very marginal. often just buying better speakers is a better choice.
if you are one of the few people who uses studio headphones or other high power headphones then yes, you could benefit from a soundcard. the one that comes to mind is the xonar model with an amped 3.5mm headphone plug. however, you could also just buy a portable or desk mount amp and accomplish the same thing for less money.
with that said... my integrated sound (on a high end motherboard) can perfectly power my 35ohm studio headphones. i could benefit from an amplifier but even without the sound is great. with an amp sound is better but not by a huge percentage.
if you have higher resistance headphones then perhaps you will not get the same results....