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Will having a sound card make a difference in game Performance?

Black Panther

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#1
Not asking about sound quality because that'd be obvious, but about the game quality/performance.

The reasoning is that onboard sound will be generated through cpu/motherboard and hence 'rob' those resources from the game?

What I mean (sorry I can't explain myself well today :banghead: ) is for a game like Oblivion will it run better with a soundcard because that pcb will be taking care of the sound? In the same way that a game would run better with a video card because the video card's gpu and ram would be used instead of other resources?

Or wouldn't it make a significant/noticeable difference?
 

DanTheBanjoman

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#2
Could make a slight difference depending on what card and which on board solution. Of course current CPU load matters as well. Personally I don't bother with sound cards, I like my on board card.
 

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#3
You won't notice any difference in performance, AT ALL. The only thing thats different is the quality. for example on my one computer, it has onboard 4.1 (i think) and I put in a soundcard (8.1) and I noticed ZERO PERFORMANCE INCREASE!
 
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#4
Games with EAX could run a few frames faster.
 

DanTheBanjoman

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#5
You won't notice any difference in performance, AT ALL. The only thing thats different is the quality. for example on my one computer, it has onboard 4.1 (i think) and I put in a soundcard (8.1) and I noticed ZERO PERFORMANCE INCREASE!
4.1 and 8.1 have nothing to do with performance. So if you replace your on board card with some PCI software solution you get the same performance yes. Besides that if the CPU isn't the bottleneck you won't notice much of an increase since the CPU could handle it just as fast as the card. You will be able to notice the difference in benchmarks though (if they use sound).
 

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#6
On average there is little to no perfomance increase. Hardware solutions such as the Audigy line did improve things, at one point i recall a 20% FPS gain in a quake 3 or UT 2003 benchmark, comparing an onboard AC97 to one of the audigy line - but i THINK that was with EAX enabled.

A real soundcard CAN improve performance, but its not an overall statement - it entirely depends on the two cards in question. (An Nvidia soundstorm onboard would perform better than a generic realtek PCI audio card, and an Audigy4 would perform better than onboard AC97)


Edit: here is an (oldish) link showing more realistic performance differences between sound cards.
Notice that these are all 'decent' PCI Cards, so a cheap onboard solution could be even slower.
http://www.guru3d.com/article/sound/120/6/


Edit: 2 - this is why most games have a few audio options in them, if 'low' settings made no speed difference, no one would bother adding them to their games ;)
 
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#7
If you use the latest soundmax drivers I doubt you will see much of a diff in games, maybe 5-8fps.
 
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#8
I know having a sound card is supposed to take a bit of work off the CPU to give you back a few more FPS.
In my case it was so marginal that I couldn't see the difference in gaming.

The only thing I noticed was sound clarity being much better compared to my onboard sound.
 

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#9
Sound quality is very dependent on what onboard solution you have and speakers you use. Although it was problematic in the beginning, the ADI1988B codec asus use on most of their boards now is very, very good. Its sound quality really is something to be admired. Its worth noting as well that quality speakers will almost always bring a far more dramatic improvement to sound quality than replacing a sound solution with another.
 
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#10
You won't notice any real improvement from a sound card in fps unless you enable EAX. Having eax and using hardware acceleration on something like an Audigy or X-fi and you will notice a huge difference. However, just basic hardware acceleration with no EAX will not show a big improvement.
 
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#11
1-5 FPS's will be gained, so unless you have an awesome THX system and are an absolute audiophile/uses EAX and such there is not much point.
 
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#12
It depends on the game...Games that support OPENAL along with EAX etc etc etc will benefit from an Sound Card not only with an performance boost ( slight however ) but also quality. Meanwhile games like BF2142 that support the X-Fi cards get much higher audio quality.
 

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#14
Thank you for the replies.

I need to google EAX, THX and OPENAL and whether Oblivion (which I'll be getting soon) utilises any of these. Lol not being a native English speaker doesn't help much with the jargon! :eek:

Maybe I'm guessing - if the CPU is powerful enough and not running near 100% then it wouldn't be making much difference whether I get a sound card or not (apart from audio quality)?

If it's only audio quality that I'd be improving I will wait because financially I'm not that ready to splurge more on my rig.

However if a sound card might mean an extra average 5-8 fps on Oblivion I'd surely be thinking it over... (ummm finances? Anyone mentioned finances? :D )
 
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#15
8fps ? I doubt it.....2-3 sure :)
 
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#17
We have an NIC review here in the forums but for 250$ the 5-10% increase in Games suggests that one should spend that money to get a better GPU...For example someone that wants an X2900XT with 350$ can spend another 250$ and get an 8800GTX or even an X2900XT with 1GB DDR4 :)
 
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#18
I'm cheap, so I use on-board sound, with crappy, almost generic speakers. Gotta say, works fine for me, but if I had the money to buy great speakers and a soundcard to match, I'd turn up amount of voices, turn on EAX, and all other enhancements that the card can handle.
Upon doing this, performance may actually go up, but maybe not enough.
If audio quality to you isn't as important as having money at the end of the month, I'd forgo the expensive audio equipment. You don't miss what you don't have, I guess kinda applies here a little.
 

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#19
Mid-range is the best, i got an audigy 4 (non-pro) for $90, its an awesome improvement in audio quality even over the newer 'High-def' my mobo has, and performance is up a little too.

My best thing would be - base it on what you have. If you have a surround sound system (4.0, 5.1, 7.1) - buy a real card. If its a cheap pair of headphones, stay onboard.

Myself, i use a pair of sennheiser headphones and a set of logitech speakers, and god, the onboard sounds horrible compared to the audigy.

http://www.guru3d.com/article/sound/246/13/
Nice review. Also, by using good NIC, you can increase some FPS in games. So there are lot more ways how to increase FPS, not just by cpu or gpu upgrade.
Thats pretty similar to what i linked to earlier (and most people ignored) - a 10% gain for games that support the hardware, is no big surprise. at 100FPS who cares, at 30FPS - you want every frame you get.
 

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#20
Mid-range is the best, i got an audigy 4 (non-pro) for $90, its an awesome improvement in audio quality even over the newer 'High-def' my mobo has, and performance is up a little too.

My best thing would be - base it on what you have. If you have a surround sound system (4.0, 5.1, 7.1) - buy a real card. If its a cheap pair of headphones, stay onboard.

Myself, i use a pair of sennheiser headphones and a set of logitech speakers, and god, the onboard sounds horrible compared to the audigy.



Thats pretty similar to what i linked to earlier (and most people ignored) - a 10% gain for games that support the hardware, is no big surprise. at 100FPS who cares, at 30FPS - you want every frame you get.

Thanks for the feedback. I understand nothing about the quality of onboard sound vs that of a real card because the last sound card I had was when I had my 386... or P1 I don't remember. :eek:

've got the Z5500 surround system, and my motherboard's a P5B supporting 7.1 (probably yours does too being the P5B-E). I didn't bother with 7.1 speakers since the room's small and it'd be too much. Now I'm thinking that probably I'm not enjoying my sound to the full having onboard.

Does having a sound card improve also sound quality of music and dvd movies, or does it only improve the sound quality of games (like a gpu does)?

A 10% increase in game performance with a sound card worth only $90 is very appealing!
 

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#21

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#22
Does having a sound card improve also sound quality of music and dvd movies, or does it only improve the sound quality of games (like a gpu does)?

A 10% increase in game performance with a sound card worth only $90 is very appealing!
Anything involving bass is a LOT clearer compared to my onboard, basically the louder you get, the better it is - onboard will distort a lot earlier. Also, the audigy has far better bass/treble control, so you can tune it in properly (the onboard one has an equalizer, but adjusting it makes the sound worse, not better)

The catch with the hardware acceleration is that EAX was dropped in vista. So the future of that is uncertain, since only X-fi based cards will get EAX in vista via the Alchemy project.
 

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#23
Thanks for the feedback. I understand nothing about the quality of onboard sound vs that of a real card because the last sound card I had was when I had my 386... or P1 I don't remember. :eek:

've got the Z5500 surround system, and my motherboard's a P5B supporting 7.1 (probably yours does too being the P5B-E). I didn't bother with 7.1 speakers since the room's small and it'd be too much. Now I'm thinking that probably I'm not enjoying my sound to the full having onboard.

Does having a sound card improve also sound quality of music and dvd movies, or does it only improve the sound quality of games (like a gpu does)?

A 10% increase in game performance with a sound card worth only $90 is very appealing!


not only will you see a /hear better sound ,,but your fps will increase in some games,if not all,as the onboard audio has to be processed by your cpu..:((
 

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#24
The performance boost in games also depends on the card you buy. Even some high quality sound cards still use the cpu to do the processing. Like those from Auzentech or Turtle Beach that feature C-Media sound chips.

The only cards I have found that actually have an onboard sound processor are from Creative, and the soon to be released Auzentach that uses the X-Fi chip :drool:

(I have my sights set on that Auzentech X-Fi)