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A/V Is a discrete sound card still worth it?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by sjhujh, 18 Dec 2017.

  1. sjhujh

    sjhujh Member

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    So as part of my PhD I did a bit of lecturing and was gifted some coin by the university. I was thinking of maybe spending the money on a sound card. However I then got to thinking, is it even worth getting a discrete sound card anymore?

    I have a Asus Maximus VII Ranger, I'm using the built in sound from it. I think over the years i've become used to onboard sound and no longer really have a point of reference for what I may gain from getting a discrete sound card.

    My reason for considering this is I recently smashed my phone in a kack handed incident involving a sizable drop and solid concrete floor. This led me to buy a HTC with a high quality DAC in it. The sound from this is leagues above my Nexus 5. So I thought would I see a similar quality increase going to a discrete Sound card on my PC. I do after all like listening to music.....

    As always input is highly appreciated....
     
  2. spolsh

    spolsh Active Member

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    What would the sound card be driving ? For a lot of things eg. headphones , you'd maybe better off with a stand alone DAC & Amp ?
     
  3. silk186

    silk186 Derp

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    I think the general answer is that onboard has improved enough that it is not worth it. If you have headphones get a DAC & Amp. If you want big sound get a receiver and surround sound. If you want better sound from computer speakers, upgrade the speakers. Some also recommend external USB options like the Sound Blaster X7.
     
  4. sjhujh

    sjhujh Member

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    hmm, perhaps the money would be better spent on an ssd then... The card would be used to drive a set of gigaworks T40 series II's while at uni and a set of logitech Z-2300 while at home. so nothing amazingly high end.
     
  5. Omnislip

    Omnislip Member

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    Dragonfly Black/Red gets a good write up, but to be honest I can't really tell the difference to my onboard sound (whoops!). It's pretty versatile though with regards to different devices, which is a big plus.
     
  6. bawjaws

    bawjaws Well-Known Member

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    Onboard sound is more than adequate for gaming, watching films and TV, or background music through a half-decent set of speakers like yours. As others have said, If you're a headphone purist then you'd want a DAC and amp.

    I think discrete sound cards aren't really worth it these days, personally.
     
  7. sjhujh

    sjhujh Member

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    I think the consensus is that it would basically be a waste of money....

    So I think I might use the money to buy an SSD as I'm kinda running out of space for games.... MOAR GAMES!
     
  8. Arboreal

    Arboreal Well-Known Member

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    OK, I have a cheap board with a VIA audio chipset that I'm not sure about.
    Is it worth spending £25 on a Xonar DGX for gaming? This looks to be the minimum 'decent' option.
     
    Last edited: 19 Dec 2017
  9. sjhujh

    sjhujh Member

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    So this was for me the reason why I was wondering if it would be useful for me to get a sound card.... I do like music and generally I listen with a good set of mid range in ear phones.

    So it got me thinking is it worth dropping some dolla on a sound card... However thinking in terms of where I would see the greatest long term benefit to my system and taking into account what has been said here. I feel maybe it's not a worth while investment? At home I would be listening with the speakers. Now the Z2300 ones I have at my parents are significantly better then the T40's I use at uni but due to space constraints I don't want to have to make room for a sub in my room... And I'm not keen on spending 300 odd pounds on quality bookshelf speakers when I may end up moving or something and run the risk of damaging them....
     
  10. sjhujh

    sjhujh Member

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    Sorry for the steam of consciousness...... :)
     
  11. Arboreal

    Arboreal Well-Known Member

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    Thanks JRS, I'll try it and see how I get on; it would be a secondary rig anyway.
    I worry that I've been spoiled by the Supreme FX 'discrete' audio in my Maximus VI Impact...
    @sjhujh If I had the time to sit down and listen to music like I used to (kids etc.) I'd go for an external USB DAC, headphone amp and decent cans. All my CDs are sitting in FLAC form, but rarely get a listen, it's mostly Spotify or CDs in the car these days.
    #ImissmyLinnkit
     
  12. Gunsmith

    Gunsmith Maximum Win

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    You'd have to kill me to get me to give up my essence stx. Onboard is akin to someone farting through a rolled up newspaper by comparison.
     
  13. sjhujh

    sjhujh Member

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    In keeping with your analogy surely the quality of the rolled up newspaper that the fart is conveyed through will have an affect on the sound? Maybe up to a point the quality of said newspaper is actually going to have a bigger effect on the sound of the fart?

    My take home so far has been if the quality of your speakers is in the mid to low range you'll probably not really hear or perceive a difference in sound quality with a discrete sound card. However if you have a set up involving a quality set of high end speakers then you would benefit from a discrete sound card...
     
  14. Vault-Tec

    Vault-Tec Green Plastic Watering Can

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    I don't even have a set of speakers any more. I have the 'tweeters' in my monitor and a sub running from a Chinese amp. Most people who use any sort of sound device on a PC do so with headphones. Crap sound cards are far more noticeable when the sound is an inch or so away from your ear drum.

    If I go away to my mother's house I use a set of Beats Studio on the Macbook air I have. Believe me, when I return home and connect my Grado RS2E to my BeyerDynamic A2 clone with my home made valve pre amp I notice an enormous difference. Now obviously it's more than just one of those items making it sound better but I also have three sound devices running in the PC ATM and I can also immediately tell when it is the D2X I am using.

    Most onboard sound devices sound OK, they just lack amplification of any sort. Now with certain headphones you will get away with that, but not with more unforgiving ones. My Hifiman are incredibly difficult to drive (that was why I built the pre amp in the first place).

    So yeah, like many have said best DAC/amp combo in your price range. I have an Aune T1 MK2 (cost around £130 IIRC) and it is a fantastic all rounder. Being USB it is also very easy to connect it to anything, without having to worry about drivers, having the correct cables and so on. What is also fantastic about it is I do not get the hiss I get with every sound card in my PC (not noticeable as soon as the music starts, but annoying) and with "sound cards" I get a horrible coil buzzing sound going through all of my equipment when gaming with headphones on. This is almost unbearable. Thankfully because the T1 has a proper ground and is not reliant on the PC it suffers no such ills.
     

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