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

Let's talk sound cards

Who has one? How much do you have to spend to get a recognizable advantage/difference over integrated sound?

I am in the market, as they say...
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

graniterock
Premium
join:2003-03-14
London, ON
Reviews:
·WIND Mobile
·TekSavvy Cable
My minimal amount of research has lead me to believe that the integrated surround sound is good enough for most people. I guess it depends what you want to use the sound card for? Music, games? What type of speakers do you use? That may make more of a difference than anything else.

n_w95482
Premium
join:2005-08-03
Ukiah, CA
reply to Krisnatharok
I'm running an X-Fi Titanium that I bought in late 2008. Before that, I had an Audigy 2 ZS, Audigy 2 Value, and I think a regular Audigy. For me (headphone user), all of them sounded better than the equivalent onboard solutions in the PCs I used the cards in, especially with bass. The onboard sound seemed rather flat in comparison.

On the other hand, with my friend's Creative 2.1 set, it sounded about the same to me with both the Audigy 2 ZS and the onboard sound.

There are other options as well, such as Asus' Xonar cards, Auzentech, etc. Just a warning though, all of them seem to have their share of driver hell.

The X-Fi was the most expensive out of all of the ones I got (~$80). The others were either cheap to begin with, or were on clearance at stupid low prices (Audigy 2 ZS). The only reason why I got the X-Fi was that the ZS nearly blocked off the fan on my Radeon 4870's heatsink when I installed both in my new i7 machine (the card idled at 94 C). The Titanium is PCIe so it allowed me to move it to a different slot.

I have an extra OEM X-Fi Xtreme Music that was given to me. I have no use for it. If you got room for a PCI card, you can have it.
--
KI6RIT


C0deZer0
Oc'D To Rhythm And Police
Premium
join:2001-10-03
Tempe, AZ
reply to Krisnatharok
A lot of people are tone deaf these days... what with the amount of "dubz" and listening to stuff like Bieber and 1D. It's depressing.

On-board audio is only really good at playing the mp3's on the ultra-shitty speakers that manufacturers put out nowadays and that's really about it.

The problem is that by the same design that Direct X & OpenGL won't bother rendering graphic effects that your hardware can't support, so does Direct X, Direct Sound, and Open-AL 'ignore' things beyond the capabilities of the sound hardware you use. And by that note, the overwhelming majority of on-board audio solutions out there are flat out horrible. And even if there is one that is halfway decent on paper, the fact of the matter is that the driver and software portions won't take advantage of it at all, putting the burden of everything on your CPU core(s) to handle, much like those dreaded win-modems of old.

Seriously, the last on-board audio solution I'd seen that was even halfway "good", was the soundstorm on old nforce2 motherboards... which was more than a decade ago.

Granted, you don't need to upgrade sound cards nearly as often as one would a video card. Usually a good one bought when new will last till even several months after the manufacturer stops supporting it with drivers. But even so, if you're in the market, might as well get the best you can.

That said, there is a bit of a paradox at this point. See, when Microsoft went to Vista, they tried moving the sound processing on windows to software mode to break the DirectSound/SoundBlaster 'monopoly', since it really wasn't fair that only Creative was allowed to support EAX levels that weren't outmoded even a decade before Vista came out. Problem is, by default the sound stack then disables support for any such EAX effects, even should the onboard audio be capable of processing them. It takes something like ALchemy that can convert these calls and also report more correctly the capabilities to these games... as well as provide a wrapper for those old games that still used DirectSound (pre DX10) sound calls to get the appropriate amount of audio channels and effects support. Problem is, for at least a good year, the only thing that supported all this was Creative's newest card(s). So, if you wanted fool-proof compatibility with older games on the new OS (Vista and forward), you were rather stuck with getting an X-Fi or newer for a while. I'd seen Asus offer something similar for their XonarDG card, but no reviews of whether or not it actually worked.

If you stick with ALchemy route for your older games, best advice would be to see if you can still find a proper X-Fi, or get a newer SoundBlaster Z/* line... Skip the Recon3D; seriously. Whether the Asus Xonar's are really up to snuff for games new and old, I can't really say firsthand.
--
Because, f*ck Sony


Cthen

join:2004-08-01
Detroit, MI
Reviews:
·Verizon Wireless..
reply to Krisnatharok
Asus makes great sound cards these days. Even the lower priced Xonar series will blow away any on board and most other cards out now.

How much to spend to get better than on board?

Hell, even the $20 budget name brand cards (Creative, Asus, etc.) can do much better than on board.

Now if your big gamer and need a mic too, I would recommend a good 7.1 headset over using a card. I use a Logitech G35 headset on my gaming rig while using a Asus Xonar D1 on my multimedia rig that uses Logitech Z-5300e speakers.
--
"I like to refer to myself as an Adult Film Efficienato." - Stuart Bondek


Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
I jumped to a Razer Tiamat headset (7.1 connectors) with a passthrough to the Klipsch 2.1 ProMedia speakers. Both have decent capabilities, but even the sound on my Maximus V Formula mobo, which is upgraded and fine-tuned by Asus (SupremeFX branding), is starting to sound flat through both.

That said, I am running two 2.5 slot graphics cards, so the only expansion slot I have available is a PCIe x4 slot.

I'm not sure how that limits my choices.
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.


Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
reply to C0deZer0
Can you break down in non audiophile terms the difference between these two cards? Both are 7.1 channels, 192KHz sample rate, 24-bit digital audio... what makes one more than twice expensive as the other?

»www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a···29132006

»www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a···29132010
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.


boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1
the built in headphone amp and higher SNR(sound to noise ratio)


Dissembled

join:2008-01-23
Indianapolis, IN
reply to Krisnatharok
I'm not an audio guy AT ALL. If I have a pair of Corsair Vengeance 1500, 7.1 headphones (USB connection), I wouldn't get any benefit from a sound card. Is that correct?


Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
That's what I understand, and why I replaced my Logitech G930 USB headphones with the Razer Tiamat 7.1 headset. The USB plug is only used for powering the headset, it has five analog sound plugs to use on the mobo or a soundcard. It also has passthrough for up to (I believe) a 5.1 external sound system, and a single button redirects the signal to the speakers and shuts off the headset.

I was setting myself up to get a sound card, which is why I got this specific headset.
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.


Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
reply to boogi man
Thoughts on this card? It is going on Shellshocker later today for about $20 off ($69 I believe). Some of the reviewers are extremely enthusiastic about it.

»www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a···29102054
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.


Dissembled

join:2008-01-23
Indianapolis, IN
reply to Krisnatharok
said by Krisnatharok:

I jumped to a Razer Tiamat headset

How do you like those so far Kris? Comfort? Build quality? Sound?

I'm happy with the quality of build and sound of the Vengeance, but they are so incredibly uncomfortable, I'm about ready to spend big money just to be happily comfortable again.


C0deZer0
Oc'D To Rhythm And Police
Premium
join:2001-10-03
Tempe, AZ
reply to Krisnatharok
said by Krisnatharok:

Can you break down in non audiophile terms the difference between these two cards? Both are 7.1 channels, 192KHz sample rate, 24-bit digital audio... what makes one more than twice expensive as the other?

»www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a···29132006

»www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a···29132010

The DX is better suited for a surround sound setup with analog speakers, up to a 7.1 configuration. At the least, it does a true surround sound setup, because it has the necessary connections for the requisite amount of speakers.

The STX does a 'virtual' surround, which on principle bugs the hell out of me. It is also preconfigured for stereo headphones, instead faking 7.1 support. IIRC, the Tiamat has a full set of analog connectors, so you would be better served with the DX of the two. The reason some buy an STX over a DX in this case is because they only ever use headphones, and op-amps for stuff can really jump in price. And the higher SNR might be better suited if you really like to play with the volume turned way up. I just personally prefer having a good, clean sound from stuff... and I got spoiled by having actual surround sound.

Also, if you play any older games, please let me know how well that GX 2.5 software works.. I honestly don't know if it would be a viable alternative to Creative's ALchemy.

On Creative's side, Soundblaster Z would be at least where I would be looking. Personally annoyed that it's only 5.1 instead of 7.1 like the X-Fi before it; however, it's still far better than the Recon3D that precedes it. The basic silicon at the center of both lines might be the same, but the Recon3D simply does not accelerate anything, and is functionally the same as all the crappy onboard audio out there. At the least they managed to fix that to some degree with the SB "Z" line.
--
Because, f*ck Sony


boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1
reply to Krisnatharok
You have 7.1 headphones I'd stick with a 7.1 card. Given that the headphones you've linked are 32ohm it really would be a better deal to get an amplified card. in particular the Asus Xonar STX Essence you linked. You asked for not technical jargon, let's just say that by the numbers/specs should be eargasim worthy esp with compared to integrated and with the headphones you've mentioned owning.


boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1
I retract that statement based on further research that indicates it's not got full connections I just assumed it did and got all excited about the burrbrowns and op amps.


boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1
reply to Krisnatharok
Ok, I'm not much of a fan of CL and thusly can't recommend them(will not side track the thread with the why's)

ROG Xonar Phoebus Solo

seems to be a good choice.

Doesn't have the burrbrowns or the op amps of the other Asus unit you'd looked at but is a full on 7.1 channel card with otherwise rather impressive features such as the emi shielding, additional grounding paths and selectable amp gain based on your needs.


ekster
Hi there
Premium
join:2010-07-16
Lachine, QC
kudos:3
Reviews:
·FreePhoneLine
reply to Krisnatharok
My main use of a sound card is for connecting my synth to the PC, so I don't use it for surround sound... but my experience with Creative Sound wasn't that good of late. And the overall opinion of their sound cards has also been going down when I was last looking at sound cards (about 2 years ago). Some people were getting weird interference and lag... but that was more on the input side of things, so I am not sure how different it is with the output part.


Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
reply to boogi man
said by boogi man:

Ok, I'm not much of a fan of CL and thusly can't recommend them(will not side track the thread with the why's)

ROG Xonar Phoebus Solo

seems to be a good choice.

Doesn't have the burrbrowns or the op amps of the other Asus unit you'd looked at but is a full on 7.1 channel card with otherwise rather impressive features such as the emi shielding, additional grounding paths and selectable amp gain based on your needs.

OK, so in either technical or dummy language, can you explain why the Phoebus is a better choice over the ASUS Xonar Essence STX? There's a $30 difference--is it just gaming branding or are there technical differences?
--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.


boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1

1 recommendation

the Xonar Essence STX while a fine stereo only card does the 'virtual' surround by phase shifting and manipulation. the Phoebus is a true surround sound with separate amps for each channel and thus true surround sound capable. which would better match your Tiamt 7.1 headset in that it has the 5x 3.5mm connectors plus usb for power so the 10 different drivers can get what the need without being manipulated which adds delay and introduces more noise.


Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
Awesome explanation, thanks!


boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1
glad I stumbled into this thread.


El Quintron
Resident Mouth Breather
Premium
join:2008-04-28
Etobicoke, ON
kudos:4
Reviews:
·TekSavvy Cable
·TekSavvy DSL
reply to Krisnatharok
One thing I'd like to bring up:

I used to run my sound through an Asus Xonar DG when I had a single card setup, a bit later on when I went SLI I noticed significant degradation in the performance of one GPU due to PCI lane sharing.

So before you shell out for a fancy sound card, make sure you have a free PCI/PCIe lane that isn't shared with your CF'd 7970, because you'll take a significant hit on the GPUs to power your sound card.

EQ
--
Support Bacteria -- It's the Only Culture Some People Have


Savious
Premium
join:2012-03-05
Belgrade, MT
kudos:4
reply to Krisnatharok
Hey, I havent had a sound card since... 2001?

I got a free copy of Quake 3 with my Creative Labs Sound Blaster 64!

Anyways, I was hoping I could get some information on two things. One, does anyone have any experience with wireless headphones and speakers?

I just purchased a new computer that I am going to be using as my entertainment center on my television in my living room. The unfortuante thing is that my livingroom is quite large and set up in a way that I dont think my wife would be too excited about cords running 30 feet to a wall mount by our couch.

I enjoy big booms and deep rumblings when watching a movie or playing a game, so I would like a quality system that doesnt cost an arm and a leg.

At the same time, I am sure my wife doesnt want to hear me cast 3,000 fireballs while playing Path of Exile while she is making dinner or something, so I would love a good set of wireless headphones as well.

I currently have a set of Bose QC15's and Monster (cant remember the model) that cost me $200 a piece, but the sound is exceptional.

5.1 should be fine, I also have a Vizio Sound Bar that my wife purchased for me for Christmas that I wouldnt mind hooking up as well, as it sits on top of my TV mount really well.
--
DSLRs number 1 Diablo 3 revival fan.


C0deZer0
Oc'D To Rhythm And Police
Premium
join:2001-10-03
Tempe, AZ
Depends on the speakers. If they use home theater standard speaker wire, there are wireless 'extenders' that you could then put behind the couch or something and run the wires to the rear speakers that way. It doesn't completely eliminate the need for wires, but it does allow you to keep them away from where people would trip over them, at the very least.

As for headphones, I currently have a set of Turtlebeach x41's... true 5.1, and use an optical audio input. Short of being a battery eater, they work really well... you can tell when they're low on battery when they start to pop and crackle a lot. But that's why I have a set of rechargeable's to rotate in them. I believe the PX5's are a similar set, marketed toward the PS3, but given that they accept optical audio input, just have the audio out from the TV or the receiver (or your PC) feed them.
--
Because, f*ck Sony


cat666

join:2013-04-26
reply to Krisnatharok
I use a soundcard for an extra output port so I can have game sounds through the speakers on the "decent" soundcard and Vent through the onboard on. It's super easy to switch sources when I want to game quietly. In all honesty I can tell no difference between the cards.

My friend has surround speakers in 7.1 and he likes it for gaming, but has to turn it off everytime he comes onto Vent as apparantly it doesn't sound good surround! He also has issues with the drivers crashing forcing a restart, and it not being compatible with all games (older ones more so).


Savious
Premium
join:2012-03-05
Belgrade, MT
kudos:4
reply to C0deZer0
Do you have a recommendation for a descent set of speakers? I see Logitech 5.1's for less than $100, but I have a feeling those are not very good.

Currently using some Altec Lansing 2.1 speakers. I got them at a pawn shop for $20 and they have served their purpose, but they are white and dont mesh very well with the rest of the living room.
--
DSLRs number 1 Diablo 3 revival fan.


TigerLord
UEE Citizen
Premium,Mod
join:2002-06-09
Canada
kudos:8
reply to boogi man
said by boogi man:

glad I stumbled into this thread.

I was once gifted a pair of Westone 4 and it's been somewhat of a revelation to me.

I'm no audiophile but even untrained ears can tell a difference between quality earphones and stock apple earbuds.

Do you work in audio? Thanks for all your explanations. Was very interesting to read.


boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1
Nice find.

I used to be a live and recording professional for a long time in a past life and just have a love for all things audio related and have been itching to get back into it. Funny to me how with so much change and advancements in technology how some things stay the same.


boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1
reply to ekster
M-audio would likely be a decent choice within a reasonable budget.


Krisnatharok
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2009-02-11
Earth Orbit
kudos:12
reply to El Quintron
said by El Quintron:

So before you shell out for a fancy sound card, make sure you have a free PCI/PCIe lane that isn't shared with your CF'd 7970, because you'll take a significant hit on the GPUs to power your sound card.

EQ

So how would that work?

My mobo has

3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8 or x8/x4/x4)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
3 x PCIe 2.0 x1
1 x mini-PCIe 2.0 x1

It appears that the PCIe x16 lanes for the primary GPU(s) is run directly off the CPU, and an additional 8 lanes is run off the Z77 chipset. Does that sound right?

»www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/···set.html

--
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.