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Discrete vs Integrated Sound: Latency

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Hi TPU, been a long time since I posted here. I'm not much into computers and tech any more but do still game once in a while, and in a gaming forum I frequent, the superiority of sound cards over motherboard-integrated sound was brought up. This was specifically in regards to sound quality. But what about latency?

What I mean is this: if you are playing a fast-paced multiplayer FPS game, and another player makes a sound, will that sound make it to your speakers a little faster or slower based on whether you have discrete or integrated sound? Much in the same way that one might ask which monitor has more input lag, I'm asking which type of audio device introduces more latency, because the human brain processes audio more quickly than it processes visual signals, making any latency in the audio stream undesirable.

My thinking is that it will probably depend on architecture and bus (is the posited sound card connected via PCI, PCI Express, maybe even USB?—let's stick to internal sound cards for this discussion). But it seems to me that there'd be a tendency for integrated sound to be lower-latency in most modern systems. Am I wrong?

I'm also thinking the difference is probably inconsequential. This is primarily a theoretical discussion about latency, but it would be more practical if anyone could put into perspective just how big the latency difference, if any, might be. Bear in mind that the focus here is on latency, independent of other aspects of sound (e.g. sound "quality" and CPU usage). I don't mind if this goes off-topic but would like to talk about latency above all.

Thanks!
 
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I think a bigger difference will be on whether the audio makes its way through the standard windows audio path, or if you your application (or game) can interface directly with the sound device via ASIO or WASAPI.

From what I understand, windows audio takes in all audio streams, converts them to 32-bit (384 khz?) in order to do volume and mixing before finally outputting to the sound device. All this processing can add a significant amount of latency. OTOH, data sent over via ASIO more or less gets directly to the device.
 
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The discussion that originally made me wonder this was about CoD4 which I suppose does goes through Windows audio. I'm using Windows 7 and integrated Realtek sound and when I go to the Windows mixer I can set CoD4 levels. This brings up another question: does using Realtek "enhancements" like Loudness Equalization and Bass Management add significant latency?
 

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For general use/playback I can't imagine it being a tangible difference, no matter how fast the game is. We're talking milliseconds.

For recording however, it matters a lot.
 

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Like Frick said, the speed will be an inconsequential difference between discrete or integrated. The primary difference, IF you use a quality soundcard, would be the clarity of the sound and boosted sound levels. At least that's always been my experience. It's really an individual preference.
 
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