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A/V Will a sound card sound better than integrated audio?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by robotguy9000, 2 Aug 2008.

  1. robotguy9000

    robotguy9000 What's a Dremel?

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    I'm no audiophile, but I do appreciate solid audio quality. I have a set of Klipsch THX 2.1 speakers that sound great, but I currently have them connected to my motherboard's internal audio card. Will an upgraded sound card make a big audible difference? If so, could you recommend one that just sounds great- I don't need 7.1 audio or any features at all. Just solid 2.1 audio.

    Thanks!
     
  2. chrisb2e9

    chrisb2e9 Dont do that...

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    do you hear any poping or crackling right now? if not then I would say save your money. The only reason I still use a sound card and not onboard sound is that I find the onboard sound pops a lot.
     
  3. GoodBytes

    GoodBytes How many wifi's does it have?

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    Dedicated sound cards are better. They have a lower level of interference and static, and uses less your CPU (uses it's own processor). In addition is contains everything you need to actually give you a better sound quality. However you can have the best sound card in the universe and you might not hear any difference. It depends on your speakers and yourself (how develop your hearing is). If you don't listen music too often or never cared about anything then those low end speakers, then forget it. However, if you do then it might be worth while, but usually you will be a point where you'll go "OMG the sound is terrible!!!! I can't stand it." Like myself when I hear sound coming out of some onboard sound cards with low end speakers.

    If you do go with a dedicated sound card, then the speakers comes to play. Depending on what you are looking for in your music, the genre of music you listen, environment (wall structure, surrounding sounds/objecs....), locations of speakers in that environment, and your preference of sound.
    This is why sound cards are very hard to review... All a review site can do, is make sure it's not worst then onboard sound cards and other sound cards in the context of level of static and interference, build quality, specs on paper, does it do what the package says, what it comes with, drivers.. well everything except how it sounds, as again it varies too much.
    Also, speakers sound better in one sound card then another, problem... and now it starts to get complicated, that is surpasses my interest. I do enjoy music in high quality, but I am not an audiophile.
     
  4. getzephyr

    getzephyr What's a Dremel?

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    I felt sound cards are better, sound cards usually feature a digital-to-analog converter, that converts recorded or generated digital data into an analog format. The output signal is connected to an amplifier, headphones, or external device using standard interconnects, such as a TRS connector or an RCA connector.
     
  5. Techno-Dann

    Techno-Dann Disgruntled kumquat

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    You're going to hate this, but it depends entirely on which onboard sound you have, and which sound card you're looking at.

    In my opinion (both personal and professional), there's really not much of a difference between good onboard sound and a low-end sound card. I worked on an answer for pretty much the same question for an article for another site (not going to link here to avoid spam), and the onboard sound chip (Realtek something or another that comes on the 680i reference board) really sounded no worse than the lower end sound card tested (ASUS D2). Higher-end sound cards did make a noticeable difference, though - the ASUS D2X and higher-end X-Fi were noticeably better sounding through even a relatively inexpensive set of speakers ($80, compared to $200 or $300 for the card).

    Please note, however, that I'm a sound tech who works with pretty major equipment and bands at my university. Your Results May Vary.

    (and getzephyr, you've just described what any sound chip, either onboard or on a card, does. Your post, while informative, really doesn't help answer the question.)
     
  6. mansueto

    mansueto Too broke to mod

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    Onboard is decent until you start to get louder. My onboard is great, until i get my speakers to about 1/2 to max, then it starts to crackle, and i know it's not my speakers as it doesn't do it when i had a sound card in my old rig with the same speakers.
     
  7. GoodBytes

    GoodBytes How many wifi's does it have?

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    In my case, my onboard sound card sounds like if it was Transformers that talk.... it's cool for a few hours... but it get annoying, and that is why I got a dedicated sound card. Moreover, I like to have a sound with no interference (I don't want static sound coming out every time my HDD is active or my optical drive is at work). That was my primary reason why I got a dedicated sound card. Now, again as it was mentioned, it's depends on your onboard sound card. If you have a good one well design that doesn't give you any issues, then a dedicated sound card is not needed.
     
  8. ShredMachine

    ShredMachine What's a Dremel?

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    It makes a vast difference. Anyone who claims different is listening through crappy speakers or has tin ears.

    Its also worth noting that most small 'pc speakers' are a pile of plastic ****. I personally listen to my auzentech soundcard through a pair of Grado SR60's (£80) and the difference is immense. When I need more volume or some in room sound, I put it through a REAL stereo system using a 3.5mm to RCA jack.


    Case in point, I can hear EMI buzzing through my realtek soundcard on board. My auzentech has no such buzzing. And I know its the computers onboard sound picking up interference from other traces, because when I move the mouse over things and click things I can hear the buzzing change tone!
     
  9. Kierax

    Kierax What's a Dremel?

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    I use the onboard on my Abit IP35Pro, due to a few reasons

    1) Creative had awful support so I gave my X-Fi away.

    2) Lack of decent soundcards for reasonable cash

    3) After pairing my pc with my Marantz amplifier and some acoustic solutions floorstanders the sound is enough for me to be happy, and if I want uber quality I listen on headphones.

    Suits me for now until I have the moneys for a better setup.

    Comes down to what do YOU want, not what impresses everyone else.
     
  10. azrael-

    azrael- I'm special...

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    In general dedicated sound cards give you better audio than an on-board solution, even though on-board audio is getting better and better.

    There's another big factor though, and that's which OS you're using/going to use. I'm almost afraid to state this, since someone here is going to be very offended, but our good chum Vista has more or less made dedicated sound cards obsolete. Why? Because all audio processing in Vista is mandatorily software-processed. DirectSound, which allowed for hardware processing (and made things like EAX possible), has been dropped by Microsoft, because hardware-processed audio is not under OS control, which again means that it can't be "protected" (from you thieving lot, that is :)).

    All in all, a dedicated sound card may still give you better audio than on-board, but much of the incentive is gone.
     
  11. johnnyboy700

    johnnyboy700 Minimodder

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    Yep, I'll go with the flow here, on board is getting better but if you want the best then nothing will beat a dedicated sound card. Personally I love my X-Fi, its always been just fine for me.
     
  12. Techno-Dann

    Techno-Dann Disgruntled kumquat

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    I beg to differ. There are cheap sound cards that use the exact same (or even poorer quality) hardware than onboard sound, and have the exact same problems with EMI, buzz, cross-talk, and all that. At the same time, onboard sound on some motherboards is really quite good - you really can't say that onboard is always worse than a sound card, it's not that simple. My onboard sound does not buzz or hiss, and while I could spend $200 on a new sound card for a noticeable difference, I don't think that difference is worth $200.

    I agree with you completely on speakers, though. Cheap PC speakers aren't worth the plastic they're made with, in most cases. I got a good set (for the money), but for real critical listening, you need serious speakers. There's absolutely no point in having a $300 sound card for a $20 pair of 2.0 speakers.

    (and, for the record, I did the testing I mentioned earlier with the Logitech Z-5500 set. I doubt those are "crappy". As for the "tin ears" accusation... I'm a sound tech. I've mixed monitors for Eve6, and will most likely be mixing monitors for the John Butler Trio and Flogging Molly when they come to the university this fall. Draw your own conclusion.)
     
  13. Mister_Tad

    Mister_Tad Will work for nuts Super Moderator

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    For stereo, you're far better off with an external DAC - something like a Beresford or Behringer SRC for a similar cost to high-end gaming cards. I've used an E-Mu 1212M, an ESI Julia@, a Behringer DEQ (same DACs as the SRC but with added EQ) and a Beresford and the latter two clearly outgun the internal cards (even with the two internal cards being vastly superior to "gaming" cards like X-Fi, Auzentech et al)

    With PC speakers you may or may not hear a huge difference but when you start connecting it up to a hifi or monitors the difference is truly marked. On the Kilpsch 2.1s I'm sure you would hear the difference, but only you can decide if its worth the cash - do you enjoy listening to the music now?

    and the Z5500s are actually kinda crappy for music :worried:
     
    Last edited: 2 Aug 2008
  14. GoodBytes

    GoodBytes How many wifi's does it have?

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    Surprise Suprise... guess who replies..
    I have to agree, actually!. OMG GOD!, Bytes said something bad about VISTA!!!! HOLY ****!

    This is 100% true about Vista. However, I just did the test, and my onboard sound card sounds just as crappy as it did under XP as it does under Vista, and my X-Fi sounds just as good under XP as in Vista. The reason for this change was because from what I was told, the sound system used by many companies like CREATIVE, created this big mess which ended up with conflicts and complication (I don't know the details). So Microsoft decided to clean it all up, and of course add DRM support so that users that have Blu-ray player for their computer, can well use it. Again, the DRM system is JUST to allow you to have sound from Blu-ray it doesn't do anything else. You can bypass DRM'ed music the same way you did with XP. Was it smart from Microsoft to do this system with the sound... probably not. Although I am not knowledgeable about this field, I think that better solutions could have been made.

    As for EAX not working, that is just plain old creative that made a bad system in the first place, and developed upon it. I already tried EAX under XP, and I was not impressed, because when you disable it, it uses another technology or it's own. So it's the same. The only thing you gain is 1-2% of CPU power. I our day in age, CPU resource is not important as it was back in the old days, where people was jumping on any dedicated sound card just to have reduce the CPU load and have proper frame rates in games. But now, no one gives a dam, as it's virtually useless for this purpose.
     
  15. Mister_Tad

    Mister_Tad Will work for nuts Super Moderator

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    You can always use ASIO or kernel streaming to skip out Vista's (or XP's) jiggery-pokery with sound.
     
  16. wolfticket

    wolfticket Downwind from the bloodhounds

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    A usb dac is the way to go for decent 2 channel audio. The inside of a computer case really isn't an environment conducive to good quality digital analogue conversion.
    http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f46/ is a good place to start, but:
    Is good advice.
     
  17. ShredMachine

    ShredMachine What's a Dremel?

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    Theres a large, noticable buzz on the onboard on my mobo. Buying a £60 Auzentech soundcard didn't break the bank and improved the sound quality IMMENSELY, getting rid of the buzz and resolving much more detail in the music than was previously evident.

    And I know its not the speakers or anything else, because I have a pair of Heybrook HB1 speakers hooked up through my amp, and right now I'm listening through my Grado Sr60s. The difference is night and day and always had been for me.

    Maybe you can't hear the difference in sound quality. In my experience, a soundcard improves sound quality in any PC. And that includes those stupid X-Fi equipped motherboards.

    As for the logitech speakers...those are far from high end audio. Plastic casings, small drivers, and a subwoofer that is mainly handling upper bass and low mids. And if you're going to bring the THZX thing into this, I've spoken a few times with the main product managers for Cambridge Audio. No cambridge audio product is THX certified because its frankly a load of crap, amounting to 'pay george lucas this much, and make sure your product meets these fairly lax specifications, and we will allow you to say its THX certified. They don't even listen to the final result.

    And if we're bringing all this pedigree of education crap into this, don't bother. It holds no water to me whether you have one thing or the other on a bit of paper or not. I can hear the difference and I believe I know my **** enough to say that difference exists. Whether you want to hold a pissing contest over qualification to say that is irrelevant.

    And Flogging molly suck.
    ----------------
    Now playing: Chromeo - Mercury tears
    via FoxyTunes
     
  18. GoodBytes

    GoodBytes How many wifi's does it have?

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    Logitech speaker are great speakers.... FOR COMPUTERS. Remember that.
    For sure, I can get a McIntosh app and ban & Olfenson speakers, and they be a million time better then the Logitech, but they are NOT computer speakers. They are big and bulky for a normal size desk. And now we fall on to the same strange problem as LCD and CRT's. The last generation of high end CRTs are killer (meaning superb). LCD sucks compare to it, even the extreme high ends is no match for a CRT. However because it's lighter (so bigger sizes can be made) and because it's smaller on the desk, it wins. Also don't think that JBL or AltecLancing computer speakers are any good. They worst then Logitech. as they basically sell you speakers (which probably they don't make0 with the name on as they are considered too low-end, and it's probably not their field.
     

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