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Other Soundcards - can anyone recommend one?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by CCA, 27 Dec 2010.

  1. CCA

    CCA What's a Dremel?

    27 Dec 2010
    Likes Received:
    Hi all.

    After a series of problems, I am looking to replace my current soundcard (X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Champion) with a better one (read: one that does not cease to function for a seemingly inexplicable reason), with better driver support (is that even possible?).

    Originally I was looking at the ASUS Xonar DX or D2X, however, after reading through the official ASUS forums, it seems that those cards suffer the same problem in one respect that the Creative cards do - seriously poor official driver support to the extent that a user can do a better job than the company. They also seemed to have plenty of problems as well, whether driver or card related. Whilst I understand that there might always be a problem somewhere, it seems to me that many of these problems could be avoidable. So, can anyone advise me on a manufacturer that provides a quality sound card (for gaming, music and high-def movie playback - i.e. blu-ray along with standard DVD), with good support?

    My current specs (* symbol indicates a potential change, with the change in parentheses):

    Rampage II Extreme motherboard
    3x 1GB DDR3 Corsair Dominator RAM (*3x 2GB DDR3 Crucial Ballistic)
    2x 280GTX, currently without the SLI bridge connected (*1x 580GTX)
    Vista Ultimate 32-bit (*Win7 64-bit)

    Another company I looked at was Auzentech, but they only seem to do repackaged Creative cards, and their official forums were dead.

    Basically, I'm pretty fed-up with my current sound-card, and Creative. If anyone is interested in the problems that I have had, I will post the report I made for the tech support guy I gave the computer to (he has thankfully saved the system by the sounds of things). It may not be that the sound-card is not primarily to fault, but it isn't the first time I had issue with it. Anyway, here is the report for those interested:

    The first issue I noticed was late September, early-October time, and that was a single line (dark blue) around 1-2 pixels wide stretching from the top to the bottom of the monitor (located on the centre-left of the screen, to the left of the Windows Sidebar (not taksbar) which usually appeared at the logon screen, (almost never before, and of the times it did, I think it appeared once or twice, and that only happened early-to-mid November) and remained for a few minutes after the computer had logged-on and gone through the start-up processes. At this time, I paid little attention to it until other problems started occurring.

    The next problem was the significant increase in the number of "Blue screens of death" that were occurring (I think I went for nearly 1 year, maybe a little more, without any, or perhaps just one, during that time), I seemed to feel that I was getting perhaps 1 or 2 a week at this stage, and I couldn't find the root cause.

    Throughout the time I've had the computer, it has sometimes failed to boot up, and when I've done a hard-poweroff, and restarted it, it mentioned that it was unable to overclock the system, and whether I want to load the default values, or try again. I usually ignored this message, went into the BIOS setup, exited without changing anything (I was unsure whether I might aggravate the problem), and the computer booted up fine, and ran fine for the duration.

    It was around mid-late October that the screen problem worsened - the main line widened to 3-4 pixels (I'm estimating, as I cannot be certain, but the widening was noticeable), and a 2nd line appeared to the left of the main one. Same traits - that is they disappeared after a while (1-10minutes). It was at this point I was getting more concerned, fearing that one, or both, of the graphics cards were beginning to fail. I believe I updated the drivers at this stage, to try and rectify the problem - it persisted.

    The next issue, which started around later-October, early-November, and persisted until the end, was that the sound card started to become non-functional at seemingly random intervals. It would just cease to function during a film, game, or simply during the normal use of the computer. I checked to see with it was a codec issue, by uninstalling VLC (which I had recently updated and re-installed), and this made no difference. When the sound card stopped working, the speakers produced a muffled sound, something like interference, or a quiet crackle, and then nothing. At this point, my media players ceased to function (VLC, Cyberpower, WinAmp), and Windows Media Player did not seem to work at all, even when the others would (I put that down to maybe a codec issue, but I was at a loss).

    It was at this point where I uninstalled both the GFX and sound-card drivers, all related Creative and nVidia software, restarted, and then used DriverCleaner (from Guru3D) and removed any files that remained. I then proceeded to reinstall the GFX drivers (v260.69 I think), along with the latest, Creative compiled, sound drivers. Unfortunately this did not fix either the monitor, or the sound card issue. The next step, was that I uninstalled the sound-card drivers again, sweeped the folders, and physically removed the sound card from the motherboard. I restarted the computer, and used it for a time without the sound card present. (The monitor line issue still persisted). I shut down the computer, put the sound card back in, reinstalled the drivers, this time using a custom compiled installation disc for the this series of sound cards, compiled by a daniel_k (I think? A well known user on the Creative forums, and famous for apparently releasing better drivers than Creative have). The sound-card seemed to last longer than previous attempts, but it again failed (and at this point, the front panel with the master volume control had been non-functional for a while, before installation of these drivers). At some point along the line, I had removed the SLI bridge from the GFX cards, to see if this would change anything, which it did not.

    My next step was to power down the entire computer, remove the two GFX cards, the sound card, replace one of the two GFX cards, and noticing another blue-coloured slot (which had the same config as the sound card), I placed the sound card in that slot, too see if that would make a difference. The computer booted up, with sound, the display was fine at first (iirc), however another problem was encountered every time after a few minutes - that it the screen went blank, either green, yellow, purple, and the computer became no-responsive. I tried troubleshooting this for a while, however gave up, and replaced all of the cards in their original configuration. (I lost two of the screws somewhere here, and they are somewhere at the bottom of the case). After booting up again, and there being no sound, I proceeded to remove the sound card again, as more than half the time, I would boot up the computer, and the sound card would not even be recognised, even though the glowing X-Fi symbol was on (the computer was also unstable with the soundcard in I seem to recall), and just used the computer without a soundcard for a few days, until the computer had a series of failed attempts at overclocking.

    When I went into the BIOS at this point, and browsed through all the menus, and noticed on the voltage checker page, that two voltages (the 3V, and 12V I think) were in the red. Assuming that this was a bad thing, and recalling that the computer seemed to be more stable when it was "factory clocked", I fiddled around with the overclocking settings, to try and disable the overclocking. I think I may have had one successful boot attempt, with the CPU around 3.33Ghz, and the RAM around 1200MHz (I think), but after that, and a series of failed attempts at adjusting the overclocking, I left the computer alone, as it was failing to boot up anyway. (it must be said that by the stage where I was adjusting these settings, I believed that if there was a power distribution issue, that this may account for the sound-card being non functional, and that either way, this problem was most likely beyond my abilities to fix, so I was trying everything that came into my head).

    After a time, I went back and pressed the 'reset' button on the motherboard, and it managed to boot up successfully - once. I then pressed I think it was the button with the circle on it (either by accident, or in exasperation), and powered-off. After powering on again, the fans whirred to life intermittently, along with the rest of the hardware, but no boot-screen appeared. It was then that I recalled that one of the technicians/builders advised me not to press that button, as it wiped the BIOS (or something). So, the computer is now able to power-on, along with all of the hardware, but it will not boot.

    This is not the first time I've had issues with the sound-card, which leads me to believe that there is a flaw in this model of sound-cards (despite the other problems this time, which did not occur the last time I had a sound-card issue - well, apart from the occasional inability to overclock the system).

    So, to reiterate my question: can anyone offer advice as to which manufacturer, and which soundcard, to go for as a replacement?
    Last edited: 28 Dec 2010

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