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How much difference does a good soundcard really make?

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by The_Ish, Jan 25, 2011.

  1. The_Ish

    The_Ish New Member

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    I used to use my Razer AC-1 soundcard, but after switching to the onboard a week ago just to hear the difference, I can only conclude that the onboard chip is better by a great margin.

    What made me wonder was a review I saw of the PC360's on youtube where the reviewer basically said "don't bother buying them if you have a low end soundcard". So can I expect even better sound with a soundblaster card? And which one should I get in that case?
    I don't use speakers, but I have Sennheiser PC350s.

    Rock on! :rockout:
  2. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff

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    Tjenare,

    I got an HT Omega Claro Halo with my AudioTechnica ATH A700s and I have to say I love the combination. Bad Company 2 shakes my head. And .flac and .wav music has never sounded so good. I'll never go back to onboard sound. I'll sacrifice crossfire or SLI to keep my audio. I used to not care about sound until I got my AT's then I could tell when I was listening to low bitrate music. Then I had to pair it with a good card.

    You could also try the ASUS Xonar. I've heard good things about them. Just get a good set of headphones to really let the card breathe.

    Lycka till!
  3. The_Ish

    The_Ish New Member

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    Tack för svar ;) Swedish? :p

    Hmm, Asus aren't exactly known for their soundcards.. And I've never heard of the other stuff :p
  4. Cybrnook

    Cybrnook

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    Well, a good soundcard makes a great difference (Currently using the Azuntec Bravuria 7.1). But the sound card is only have of the picture, you also need a set of good speakers. Perhaps even a nice amplifier you and sending the signal too.

    A pair of 2.1 desktop speakers cant really do enough justice to get a nice card. But if you invest in a nice speaker/amplifier setup, you can really get some great sound.
  5. FordGT90Concept

    FordGT90Concept "I go fast!1!11!1!"

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    You can find out on 3D Mark 01. It has benchmarks with and without sound. Comparing Audigy 2 ZS to onboard Realtek, it was about 10% more FPS on the Audigy.


    Edit: In terms of fidelity, integrated can't go as high as most cards can without getting distortion. Even the best integrated audio chips can't do much better than 100dB SNR. Professional audio cards can do 115dB+ SNR. If you are using headphones, 100 dB is going to be painful/damaging to your ears. Personally, I'd never buy an audio card just to drive a set if headphones.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2011
    Crunching for Team TPU
  6. The_Ish

    The_Ish New Member

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    I will use speakers when I can afford something I want though.

    It's just that I've heard the PC350's pretty much need a good card to deliver what it's supposed to deliver. I was suprised at the increase of quality as well as bass, by simply switching to the onboard chip. This leads me to believe there is untapped potential, I just need a good card to go with it :)
  7. majestic12

    majestic12

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    If you have the option and want better quality sound from your computer, investing in a sound card and/or external DAC/amp is a must. The Xonar Essesnce XT/XTS cards are fairly popular and have really good reputations for their sound quality.
  8. LAN_deRf_HA

    LAN_deRf_HA

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    About as much as you can hear.
  9. pantherx12

    pantherx12 New Member

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    Depends on your ears, some people notice no difference at all.

    Got given a soundcard for free recently, normally I don't buy them as I find the difference not worth the price. (i.e I still enjoy music and games without) and the things I notice are.

    Sound is crisper.

    Less hiss.

    Bass much more responsive, no longer muddy and long low tones no longer sound like crap.


    My last board though p5q3 onboard vs £60 quid soundcard there wasn't much of a difference. + my onboard could do 24bit 192000 vs 16bit 44000 or what ever it is.

    Creative SB audigy 2 zs ( was in an agp board, no idea how old this thing is lol)
  10. IndigoGoose New Member

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    You should defiently get 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. After buying a new sound card head phones just aren't the same :p
    I have the Logitech X560 only 5.1 but gaming with them, watching films and listening to music is just supurb. Their quite well priced as well. :cool:

    These are the Logitech X560 trust me they are amazing :D
    [​IMG]
    Can be wall mouted as well which i've done :)
  11. Bo$$

    Bo$$ Lab Extraordinaire

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    Im not trying to hijack this thread but how much better are the modern sound cards to the Audigy 2 ZS?
  12. robal

    robal

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    Good thread. I was always wondering that myself.

    While I consider to be more sensitive for audio quality than an average Joe... I don't consider myself to be an audiophile.

    The only thing that always bothered me with onboard audio was background noise from GPU and HDD activity. It was always there.
    Discrete sound card seems to be more resistant to this.
  13. caleb

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    Was always more about drivers not the soundcard itself. Nowday's when nobody cares about EAX anymore just listen to it and if it doesn't transmit buzzing static computer noises your good to go with BF BC2 :)
  14. mauriek

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    i suggest to keep your headphone, for the same price range your headphone is better than any speaker. for entry level i suggest soundcard with envy24 chip such Terratec Aureon Space, or go with Asus Sonar or Auzentech if you got more money, those soundcard are good companion for your Sennheiser 350 and will get the best potential of your headphone.
    Crunching for Team TPU
  15. Anisotonic New Member

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    as a professional sound technician, and hobbyist electronic music producer, I can affirm that comparing any onboard sound card, to, for example, my auzentech forté is like vhs vs blu-ray.
    figuratively, my old creative x-fi was 100x better than onboard sound. my current forté is another 10x better. naturally, if your speakers or headphones aren't any good, you won't notice. also I have a friend who has an asus card, he regrets it. it's nothing special at all in terms of sound quality, doesn't support more than the bare minimum of gaming protocols and he gets lots of glitches using the winamp asio plugin due to a bad driver (I have 4 different devices in that plugin and they all work fine). never get asus if you can find a good auzentech.

    I'd sell the sennheisers and get surround headphones if you're serious about gaming though
  16. D4S4

    D4S4

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    you got it wrong. SNR is the difference between the highest (loudest) signal value (0dB) and noise (in this case, the noise will have a value of -115dB). so, bigger SNR = less (quieter) noise.

    this has nothing to do with speaker/headphone loudness, that depends on the amp and drivers.
  17. Reventon

    Reventon New Member

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    A good soundcard only makes a big difference with good speakers.

    But soundcards make a huge difference, essentially.
  18. The_Ish

    The_Ish New Member

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    I'm not the selling type. I just shelve it and let it rot lol :p
    The only surround headphones I've ever owned were Razer ones, which, like anything else Razer makes is just stomped shit, really. Define serious? The type of gaming I do does not require 360 perfect situational awerness at all times. I'm happy with the 350.
  19. Swamp Monster

    Swamp Monster

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    It's weird, because I tought that Razer AC-1 is considered a good soundcard. I don't really know, because I have used only Creative.
    When going from my old onboard Realtek ac97 to Audigy 2 NX I heard great difference even with cheap headphones - no hissing, sounds from mouse movement:), sound was crystal clear, bass was more articulated. Then I changed it with X-Fi Platinum (because of hassle with SPDIF out) and bought Sennheiser HD 280 Pro. Sound was even better (maybe because of new headphones, but I still think that bass is deeper and treble is more clear than with Audigy 2 NX).
    Game effects is something to talk about too! I remember when I first played F.E.A.R. Demo from creative showcase disc, I shot enemy and as he was falling down from third floor on ventilation schafts, I heard every time when he bumped on to something, like it was hapening in real life.:respect:
    I can only recommend creative X-FI, and I hope that you will hear great difference with it, like I did.
  20. MikeJeng

    MikeJeng New Member

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    This may sound stupid but if I connect my headset to the ports on my z-5500 (or a keyboard) instead of directly to the sound card, could it affect the sound?
  21. Mussels

    Mussels Moderprator Staff Member

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    yes. it usually sounds a lot worse.



    as to the original question:

    Dont bother with a soundblaster. the affordable ones are pretty poor and dont sound any better than onboard. Look to auzentech or the asus xonars.

    With something like cheap speakers or generic no name headphones: no, no difference.
    Using digital audio (and some kind of encoding to get more than stereo sound): No difference

    With decent headphones or high end analogue speakers: huge difference.


    I've tested with sennheiser HD202's, HD555's and CX300 precision II's and all three headphones sound muddy and far less detailed on all my onboards (mostly realteks on current gen boards) compared to my years old auzentech X-Mystique (which going by specs should be inferior, since it only does 16 bit audio vs the realteks 24 bit)
  22. johnspack

    johnspack

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    I agree, the speakers or headphones can make more of a difference. But for sound quality, I'd say X-fi Titanium might be bottom of high end, xonar a bit higher, azentech better yet, m-audio higher than that. I'm poor, so I run a titanium, but now think I should have gone xonar. Now I need to find an affordable heatset.....
  23. Mussels

    Mussels Moderprator Staff Member

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    you should seriously look into the auzentechs. their analogue quality is fantastic, without any of the driver issues creative cards suffer from.
  24. johnspack

    johnspack

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    Yes, a mistake I regret, I had a nice auzentech offered to me, and I got the titanium instead. Stupid,,,, stupid.....
  25. cyberloner

    cyberloner New Member

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    titanium is a damn good sound card ... my bro

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