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Tristan

join:2006-09-10
Nepean, ON
Reviews:
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reply to Krisnatharok

Re: Is on-board RealTek audio really that bad?

said by Krisnatharok:

What's your background? Are you an audiophile/audio enthusiast, or professional musician? While I 'm sure everything you claim about the Saffire Pro is true, recommending a component that is the cost of a cheap computer for simply audio is going to fall outside the budget of the vast majority of PC users.

The motherboard I bought took some steps to improve the integrated Realtek audio, and some version even came with the external ThunderFX module. I opted against the version with the external module, and now I'm wondering if I shouldn't have.

What would you recommend for people who are looking for better audio over integrated, but don't have $500 to put down on the Saffire Pro? Is there a decent middle ground for $100-150/200?

I am an audiophile, and an aspiring musician. I've been down this street before, spending good money on hardware, only to be disappointed with the results, then upgrading to the next thing people recommend, only to be disappointed some more. In the long run, spending more money on cheap, low-end soundcards, than if I just bought one good professional audio interface.

The interface I purchased was pricey ($530 + tax at the time, can be found for $300 or less on the used market), but that's just one example. There are many lower-cost high-quality interfaces on the market, people just have to open their eyes, look around, read independent reviews, speak with people who are in the business of making music, you know, get back to old-fashioned research. I was turned on to Focusrite by a guy I've grown to trust at Long & McQuade, but I still had to read a lot, including reviews by professional musicians and recording studios before making my decision.

The Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 for $299.99, can be found used for less.
»global.focusrite.com/firewire-au···o-24-dsp
»www.long-mcquade.com/products/88···re_s.htm

I usually focus on Focusrite Firewire audio interfaces, but there are also USB audio interfaces, and other companies that produce pro audio interfaces. Here's one more, the Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 USB audio interface
»global.focusrite.com/usb-audio-i···lett-8i6
»www.long-mcquade.com/products/13···face.htm

I try to keep in mind that people are looking for a minimum of 5.1 audio, and require 6 ch output. If people only want really good 2ch audio, more money can be saved.

People think nothing of spending $150, $300, and recently up to $1000 per graphics card, $300 or more on SSD's, $200 on processors, and $150-$300 on PSU's. Big systems are still in-vogue where I live, and shelling out $500 for a pro audio interface doesn't really seem like much.

At the end of the day, when I crank my music, I'm not disappointed in the sound when the hard drive activity increases, and I don't hear all the horrible noises induced by the system.

One of the other things people have to wrestle with is ground loops, causing 60 cycle hum (60hz in Canada + US + other places, 50hz in the UK + other places) in the audio path. The presence of ground-loop induced hum certainly show inexperience. They are relatively easy to cure, once you understand it, but can be more challenging to diagnose as the number of connections you make increase.

At the end of the day, hopefully people find this educational. There are some good soundcards out there, and I like to think of the Asus Xonar series as being right up there, but they will always be low-end crap that introduce far more noise than we'd like. Pro audio interfaces are of a higher echelon, and better match people's expectation for pristine audio. It still requires a computer which is properly set up, and following the essential guidelines: disabling speedstep, getting a handle on DPC latency, and making sure your system is properly tuned up (current drivers, respectful drivers, fewer-to-zero resource hogs, etc.).

Tristan

join:2006-09-10
Nepean, ON

And most definitely, Asus sound drivers are crap. Almost as bad as their wireless NIC drivers.



Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
reply to Tristan

Would you ever consider writing a guide on audio solutions for home PCs, perhaps by price-point? This is all fantastic information and probably new for many of us.

If you like, I can assist with any research or formatting, but it would be a big help to the forum(s) when recommending builds to people if you had a guide we could get stickied.
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.


Tristan

join:2006-09-10
Nepean, ON
Reviews:
·Start Communicat..
·Rogers Hi-Speed
·Bell Sympatico
·TekSavvy Cable

said by Krisnatharok:

Would you ever consider writing a guide on audio solutions for home PCs, perhaps by price-point? This is all fantastic information and probably new for many of us.

If you like, I can assist with any research or formatting, but it would be a big help to the forum(s) when recommending builds to people if you had a guide we could get stickied.

Let me mull it over. I have to consider the free time I have. I have a baby due for first light early July, and I'm in the middle of renovating the bathroom and kitchen, then have to start on the baby's room. I might be able to do something in the evening when I can't sleep.

I love this stuff, and can probably do something. I would certainly need help, because there are probably people a lot more knowledgeable in knocking down audio issues than myself.

sk1939
Premium
join:2010-10-23
Mclean, VA
kudos:10
Reviews:
·T-Mobile US
·Verizon FiOS

I can contribute some information as well, I've invested quite a bit into my desktop audio system I'm an attempt to get it to sound as good as possible.

External DACs are better than external audio interfaces for those not recording, less components equals less noise in the signal chain. The other issue is the lack of a volume control with studio monitors. The windows volume control is very lossy digitally, so you would need to find a dac with a volume control for example.



Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12

If you guys could put something together focusing on a couple different pricepoints (i.e. under $200, $200-500, and over $500) with a couple recommended products, differentiating what is ideal for a headphones-based setup, and then what is ideal for a 2.1 and then a 5.1-or-greater setup... that would pretty much take care of it.
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.



Cthen

join:2004-08-01
Detroit, MI
Reviews:
·Verizon Wireless..
reply to Tristan

said by Tristan:

And most definitely, Asus sound drivers are crap. Almost as bad as their wireless NIC drivers.

I have to agree there and throw in a tip. I use the drivers available at Windows Update for the Xonar cards (I have 2 of them in different machines). Oddly enough, they work a whole lot better than the driver set on the ASUS website.
--
"I like to refer to myself as an Adult Film Efficienato." - Stuart Bondek

Tristan

join:2006-09-10
Nepean, ON
Reviews:
·Start Communicat..
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reply to sk1939

My audio interface has a volume control, and its own mixer. I only use the Windows mixer for mixing the various non-ASIO stuff - Windows sounds, WinAMP sound streams, CD sound streams, etc.

My audio interface's volume can be controlled either on-screen, or through the volume control on its front panel, depending on how I have it set.


Tristan

join:2006-09-10
Nepean, ON
Reviews:
·Start Communicat..
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·Bell Sympatico
·TekSavvy Cable
reply to Cthen

said by Cthen:

said by Tristan:

And most definitely, Asus sound drivers are crap. Almost as bad as their wireless NIC drivers.

I have to agree there and throw in a tip. I use the drivers available at Windows Update for the Xonar cards (I have 2 of them in different machines). Oddly enough, they work a whole lot better than the driver set on the ASUS website.

It's funny you should say that. I decided to go that way with my son's system. Rather than install the stupid Asus specific drivers and control panel interface, I just went with what Windows provided. For his needs, it was good.

It's too bad this card isn't compatible with the kXaudio driver project. I used to use that with my SB Live card, and it worked much better than Creative's own crappy high-latency drivers. Creative didn't even want to support ASIO on this card, so it was either use kXaudio, or ASIO4ALL which wasn't very good for providing true low latency.

sk1939
Premium
join:2010-10-23
Mclean, VA
kudos:10
Reviews:
·T-Mobile US
·Verizon FiOS
reply to Tristan

said by Tristan:

My audio interface has a volume control, and its own mixer. I only use the Windows mixer for mixing the various non-ASIO stuff - Windows sounds, WinAMP sound streams, CD sound streams, etc.

My audio interface's volume can be controlled either on-screen, or through the volume control on its front panel, depending on how I have it set.

It's also a professional recording interface with way more capability than most people need. For those starting out, something like an Audioengine D1 would be best, followed by the Matrix Mini-i, and the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus.