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Best soundcard for under $200 and under.

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by jaredudu, May 20, 2011.

  1. Velvet Wafer

    Velvet Wafer New Member

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    I think i already know what i need, but thanks youre trying to reprogram me there:D
    Didnt worked tho, i still would love some actual charts... everyone can throw statements in the air, whether its you, or me;)

    Have you tested that with rightmark audio analyzer? do you still have the screens of the benches? And how does it differ? just in muddyness, or is there indeed much added range, and juicyness to the sound?
    "Better sound quality" seems such a vague phrase;)

    My Setup looks like this:
    PC - SB850 > Yamaha RX-V357 > 5xYamaha NX E-130 (Center,Rear,Front)+ 2x MBquart QL C104 (in paralell with the left and right front out), SW-P130
    (much too strong,despite it not even havin 100W.... on 50% its deeptone is so loud, it will drown out any other sound. I use it on 10% of the max)
     
  2. Wile E

    Wile E Power User

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    Rightmark in that situation would call for a better mic and better capture gear than I have available.

    Better as in less compression artifacts, better dynamic range (tho that is heavily source dependent. Many 24bit recordings are just wasting space on the extra bit depth), and some more clarity in the worst case scenarios.

    Now, note that I never said it makes a difference in all scenarios. In 16 bit compressed multichannel, and 2.0 tracks, there is no discernible difference.

    The reason you can't hear a difference is A.) You have no sound card to test with, and B.) your speakers are a bottleneck.

    But because you cannot hear the difference, does not mean there is no difference. That's the same as trying to claim 320kb mp3 sounds the same as flac. On some tracks, sure, it does, but not on tracks from good sources.

    Head over to AVSforums if you want more info on this type of stuff. They have more people that have the means to test this stuff for numbers.
     
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  3. Velvet Wafer

    Velvet Wafer New Member

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    Ah, alright... sad.:( i would have loved to see that statement actually proven, would have been pretty unusual and interesting in my opinion...

    Yeah, what you say is true, of course a bad source file cant be improved much by a good sound system... since i went digital,and can actually enjoy high quality audio, i instantly recognize, when something sounds trashy, and muddy (mostly those crappy ripped MP3 files on Youtube for example)... before that i hardly had an understanding of how good sound can be:laugh:

    Youre right, i have no soundcard to test with, but i asked one of our fellow Members, Kiex, what he says sounds better on his receiver (he also has quite a nice setup there, and also a dedicated Soundcard)
    and according to him, the Digital sounds way better, than his Analogue... I believe him there. He is quite an able Member of TPU, and surely should have a clue about its own stuff;)
    Regarding Speakers, i also dont think, im bottlenecked...have you actually looked at the specs of them? especially the MBquart are of pretty high quality, with titanium tweeters (theyre a bit older, but also, they were about 900 german mark a piece, when they were new, a few years ago)

    Were we, again, come to the same conclusion... the most important about audio, is not the medium its transmitted over... its rather the quality of the source file itself, because without that, even a few thousand dollar sound system, will sound like crap:D

    Thanks for the Info, i might give it a look if i find time for it, and actual need... i bet there will be a time, when i want even better audio :)
     
  4. Wile E

    Wile E Power User

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    Oooops, forgot about the MB Quarts. Your main channels are good, from what I can tell, but I can't find any specs on them. I have had very good experiences with MB Quart in the past.

    And I looked up the Yamaha's specs. Specs don't tell the whole truth about a speaker's capabilities. I guarantee they are a bottleneck for trying to discern between 24bit tracks like that. Not that they are bad in any way; your setup certainly blows away any off the shelf computer speakers out there, but when moving up to an even higher speaker, you'll start noticing a lot of stuff you previously missed, even in stuff you are very familiar with. This, I also learned from first hand experience. I had Onkyo speakers from a HTIB kit that were speced very nicely and sounded really good, but were nothing compared to my current setup.
     
  5. meran New Member

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  6. theJesus

    theJesus

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    Looks like a darn good card to me.

    edit: Uh-oh, some of the customer reviews on Newegg make me worry about reliability and drivers, etc.
     
  7. meran New Member

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  8. theJesus

    theJesus

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    Yeah, like I said, it looks like a really great card. I'm just a little worried about the people that say it died and had a hard time getting support. Granted, I usually ignore those sort of reviews for my own purchases :laugh:
     
  9. meran New Member

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    haha i see allot of them on new egg i don't believe in them unless i get one:D
     
  10. meran New Member

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    any way i see u putting digital audio when did you skip analogue i have my creative g500 speakers with s700 sattelites and i just love them
     
  11. RejZoR

    RejZoR

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    Sorry but you don't know what you're talking about (like unfortunately most of ppl). Yeah yeah, ppl are constantly screaming EAX 5.0 is dead blablabla. Why is EAX 5.0 always the first thing ppl poke at. Have you ever heard of CMSS-3D, MacroFX or ElevationFilter? I bet you'll say that CMSS-3D is a crappy upmixer but it's not in the Gaming mode. That only applies to Entertainment mode where it just mocks up the sound into fake surround. In Gaming mode it provides advanced HRTF technology which was developed by Creative alone and also "licensed" from several worlds best companies that developed such tech (Sensaura and Aureal for example). Sounds that are in various directions from the head sound different and this is what it processes them. Especially sounds behind you always sound different than those in front of you. The same in games like it does in real world. You can experiment that yourself if you want. MacroFX is an extension of HRTF and gives incredibly precise sound positioning and perception of sounds very close to the player. In racing games you can hear where are other racers trying to get past you without looking at the rear mirror. Or when a rocket flies half a meter past your head. You'll hear it coming, passing and going away with dead on precision so you can spot the enemy direction by just listening to the how and from where the rocket came. ElevationFilter as the name suggests provides proper perceiving of sounds above, on the same level or below. Again, just like with regular HRTF algorithms, this one provides further filtering to make such sounds more clear and precise and you'll always know exactly if enemy is running one floor above you, below you or that he is right behind you. And this is what most of other soundcards simply don't have or they do it very badly. They do have one or another HRTF technology but none of them have as good as X-Fi soundcards. Only one from the past that did this well was NVIDIA Soundstorm/NVIDIA nforce 2 APU which was one of the best integrated solutions at that time and also provided very good 3D positioning.

    If you're a gamer you don't want to hear sounds from 3 floors above in a way like it's just 1 floor below or god no, 1 floor below. Or that it sounds near than it actually is or further away when it's in fact very close. That's how ASUS Xonar Essence STX sounded like. Where with X-Fi (and also Audigy 2 cards before), sound positioning was always dead on precise. So precise i was accused of wallhacking in games several times where i have just taken advantage of the existing sound by simply listening to it. That's one of the reasons why i keep on sticking with Creative solutions, because they are just the best all around. They are superior in games and they can still handle music and movies just fine like any other high end soundcard.

    This is what i keep on explaining to ppl over and over and until they'll know to appreciate the sound properly it's like talking to a brick wall. You have to learn to appreciate sound in games, learn it and take advantage of it. Because most of the ppl just hear the sound, but they don't listen to it.

    Oh and considering i'm on Creative soundcards since the Soundblaster 128 (i also had Diamond Monster II after that), owned SB Live! 5.1, Audigy 2 Value, Creative X-Fi Xtreme Gamer, and now X-Fi Forte and i haven't experienced a single BSOD with either of them on WinXP, Vista and Win7. 32bit and 64bit versions. Only time that i had a real problem was a dramatic slowdown in FEAR Combat when using HW 3D sound with EAX. But they fixed that very soon. Where with ASUS Essence STX, well i had few BSOD's, few times when sound just stopped working until reboot, several game crashes because of GX mode, broken control panel controls etc. Far from stellar performance if you ask me. Sound was good, i can't deny that but software was just as rubbish as some ppl are describing Creative drivers...
     
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  12. theJesus

    theJesus

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    I skipped analog when I got my receiver and realized it didn't have analog inputs for surround sound :laugh:
    At first I just used S/PDIF until I actually bought the rest of my speakers and wondered why I was only getting surround sound in movies, so I researched and figured out that I either needed HDMI audio or a sound card that would encode DTS or Dolby. Since I wanted a new video card anyways, I opted for HDMI. Really, I like being able to use just one cable for all the channels.

    edit: Also, HDMI is cheaper than analog since you've already got a video card that supports it.
     
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  13. Swamp Monster

    Swamp Monster

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    I haven't had any blue screens too, and I've had SB audigy 2 NX and X-FI Platinum. I agree with RejZor, There are other great features, not only EAX.
     
  14. meran New Member

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    only one problem with this card it has no game mode!! also no xram there is forte but

    u see no xram means no game mod!! but this is the best music /movie card for its price
    http://www.auzentech.com/site/products/x-fi_hometheater_hd.php
    this thing is expensive

    http://www.auzentech.com/site/products/x-fi_bravura.php

    http://www.auzentech.com/site/products/x-fi_forte.php
     
  15. Dent1

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    RejZoR,

    There is no need to tell me about CMSS-3D because I have a X-Fi Forte and I use this upmixing feature as standard on my Pioneer receiver to expand stereo to 5.1, and I love the sound of CMSS-3D produces.

    EAX 5.0 is a different technology, it's just "sound effects" i.e environmental, voice enhancements, reverb and occlusion effects etc. My argument is that EAX 5.0 is a redunant technology because since Direct Sound 3D and Vista shake up many years ago and game developers haven't since touched EAX 5.0 - You'd struggle to find a list of 5 games between 2010 and 2011 which support it! The positional sound is more to do with the game's sound engine rather than EAX. I get rockets flying pass my ear all the time and it's dead precise too. It's probably because I have better speakers than you and I don't use analogue, but opt for Dolby Digital Live Encoding 5.1 to my receiver.

    If you haven't experience BSOD or crashing with Creative count yourself lucky. I would say lately Creatives drivers are most of the time are no better or worse than any other soundcard manufacturers drivers as I've had very few serious problems over the many years of using Creative. However you'd only need to do a quick search of this forum or any other forum or Google to realise that Creatives drivers can be problematic. I just don't like how you bash Asus's drivers in your earlier post when Creatives drivers are often worse.

    Edit:

    The concept of EAX 5.0 has been dead for many years, you will not be compromising anything. Xram will not help performance in the realms of quad core processors and 4GB+ being standard in today's gaming rigs.

    If you're using analogue, the oamps will produce better clarity, so the Bravura if it has better oamps. The Bravura is newer so hopefully it's driver revision will be more frequent and with better support.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2011
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  16. meran New Member

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    so what you think going forte and compromise some sound quality

    or going bravura and compromise eax5.0 and gaming mod and xram but with better oamps and sound quality??
     
  17. theJesus

    theJesus

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    What do you need a specific "game mode" for?
     
  18. LAN_deRf_HA

    LAN_deRf_HA

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    I really don't see the point to mode switching on a x-fi based card. I messed around with it a few times on my fatality but really the best settings were the ones that worked good for movies and music anyways. If you're worried about the forte sound quality you can just upgrade with oamps from the auzentech store.
     
  19. RejZoR

    RejZoR

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    Well apparently i have to because you're again spreading wrong info.

    If you consider just "sound effects" as unimportant, then what is sound occlusion, reflection, reverberation? It's like saying well ok, we have realistic Earth like ragdoll physics, everything else can just float around like it's on the moon because we don't care about that. It's the same with sound. The sound also reverberates, reflects or occludes from surfaces. Except that in real world sound vibrates in a different way from wood, concrete or metal, but since all games are made just out of polygons you have to tell the sound engine what's metal, what's wood or a soft carpet, if there is an obstruction or an opening, how big is the room etc. That was the whole point of EAX. There have been many software versions incorporated into the game sound engine but quite frankly they all sound like crap. If you have ever played System Shock 2 using Creative soundcard and with EAX enabled, you'll know what i'm talking about. Because all the software solutions are just a rubbish imitation which sounds fake and unnatural and i don't like it at all.
    And in the end it doesn't all boils down to the sound engine. Game sound engine does designate where the sound comes from but soundcard then process it through HRTF so that you actually hear it in real world the way it was suppose to be heard (from speakers to your ear). It's something you simply have to study it to understand how it works. It's related to human head and ear anatomy, the way how sound travels and reflects from surfaces. And HRTF is designed for an average head shape of every human. You can place both hands behind your ears to form a "mouse like" ears and turn to some noise source like PC fans noise. Then remove the hands. And place them back. Then move the head around. You'll hear things you can't hear otherwise but your field of hearing will be much more narrow. This is a more exaggerated example but human ears work like that and not every soundcard will be able to produce this good 3D positioning

    Bravura is using X-Fi Xtreme Audio chip which is rubbish chip surrounded by excellent analogue components. Not sure why would anyone want that.
    EAX 5.0 is not just fancy reverberation but since you think it is then so be it. I can't seem to change your mind no matter what i say.

    And for god sake ppl stop throwing in DirectSound3D and Vista because you again don't know a thing. This only matters up to EAX 3.0. EAX 4.0 and 5.0 have always been running on OpenAL which is available on Vista and above and is not limiting anything. It has been this way for years but ppl are again sticking all over the place not knowing how things really work. Even on WinXP where you have DirectSound3D available in HW form, you still need OpenAL API for EAX 4.0 or above to work.

    Not sure why should i consider myself lucky if i haven't had any problems with 5 of their cards on 3 different OS's using very different hardware. That's more like a pattern than a real problem. Only problem was with certain nForce 4 boards in the past. I've had nForce 2 and it worked just fine. You can look up for ASUS as well if you want and you'll see it's not brilliant at all. Plus they don't even support their soundcards officially. Go to support site and you won't be able to find soundcard category on it...
     
  20. RejZoR

    RejZoR

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    In theory and practical use you don't. But CMSS-3D works in a different way in Entertainment or Gaming mode. I mostly use Gaming mode all the time since CMSS-3D doesn't upmix the audio into fake surround but i still don't have to switch it for games.
     
  21. Dent1

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    Never said sound effects are unimportant. I'm just saying that EAX sound effects have had limited support in the last few years. I was actually an advocate for EAX almost a decade back when EAX had a big game library of support but that isnt so today.


    I agree, software EAX never sounded great. Creative's supported soundcards with EAX was significantly better when it had a library of supported games. But in general Bioshock 2'S positional sound and sound effects where fine on my rig because a.) My hi-fi setup is better than most gamer's b.) Bioshock 2 has 5 audio streams so DTS encoding was what I used! - I would go as far as saying Bioshock 2 is one of the more appealing sounding games on my rig.

    That sounds like a pitch from a Creative rep or from a Creative advert.


    Whether EAX is fancy revert or not. The bottom line is EAX 5.0s support is gimped. Give me an extensive list of games that support EAX 5.0 and i'll happy agree EAX 5.0 alone makes purchasing a specific card on that basis worth it.


    Likewise, many people havent had any problems with 5 of their cards on 3 different OS's using very different hardware on a Asus brand soundcard aswell. - Your negative view of Asus's driver's is based on your negative experience only. I'm sure many people have had issues with Asus's drivers too, but Asus is relatively new to the audio game, Creative have been in the audio business for over 2 decades and their drivers are still not upto par.

    To the OP. Look up the Auzentech X-meridian. The oamps will blow away most traditional Creative's oamps, it has lightweight drivers, huge C-media driver support and ironed out issues.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2011
  22. puma99dk|

    puma99dk|

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  23. RejZoR

    RejZoR

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    I wasn't talking about sofware EAX, i was talking about software reverberations, occlusions etc engine done by game engine itself. They all sounded dull and flat even though there was clearly a reverberation applied to the audio. And i wouldn't count Bioshock 2 as something impressive. The game was badly buggy and the sound was nothing to brag about really. If anything Bioshock 1 had better sound if you ask me despite sharing the same game engine.
     
  24. Velvet Wafer

    Velvet Wafer New Member

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    Its true, my MBquart sound quite better then these Satellite Speakers. I can already feel the difference there, but sadly, my financial situation forbids me, to exchange them to something better :( Maybe, one day i gonna find a good deal on a set of speakers, who knows?;)
    thanks for the tip too, i will keep that in mind:)
     
  25. Wile E

    Wile E Power User

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    Again, Asus cards are not any better in driver quality, and Creative has massively cleaned up their driver mess. I have had less problems with both my Audigy 2ZS and Forte combined than with my Asus card, all in the same systems.

    Sure, there haven't been a lot of driver updates for the Forte, but it hasn't really needed them.

    2 decades of driver coding is only relevant if the hardware you are getting the driver for is 2 decades old. Creative didn't have issues until the Vista switch, and now most of those issues are ironed out. Why are you still going on about it? For the last time, Asus drivers are no better.
     

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