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Windows 7: Are Sound Cards Needed These days?

10 Jun 2013   #11
TwoCables

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by stormy13 View Post
As said digital is digital, and makes no difference whether onboard sound or a card. The preference here comes down to whatever features might be available on a sound card over onboard. After that it doesn't make any difference as it is then the receiver or whatever the digital connection is made to, as it is what is decoding the digital signal to analogue.

Quote:
I would say that the reason so many people are happy with onboard audio is they haven't experienced a good sound card (and by "good, I don't mean a $200 card, or even a $150 card).
You don't even have to spend that much. You can get a Xonar DG/DGX for less than $50 and it sounds better than most (all) onboard sound.

There is also this long ongoing thread about this very subject (started back in 2006, and still going) over at Guru3d,

Onboard Sound Vs. Add in Sound Card - Guru3D.com Forums
Yeah, I think I forgot to finish: it looks to me like I was going to say that a good sound card can be had for under $100 quite easily.

Onboard audio is improving, but even with the latest and best motherboard with the best onboard audio, a good sound card just can't be beat right now, especially for gaming.


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10 Jun 2013   #12
Wishmaster

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
 
 

I think this really depends on the quality of your speakers/headphones for one.
And secondly, your hearing.

Assuming higher end equipment is being used, some will certainly notice the difference between onboard and a decent sound card. If you are one of these people, then the onboard solutions will likely sound muddy in comparison.

Others, will have a hard time telling which is which and will claim there is no difference. OR, they simply do not care as it's not important to them.


IF you know someone who has a setup, go have a listen for yourself. You'll know if it will be a upgrade worthwhile for you or not.
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10 Jun 2013   #13
Solarstarshines

Windows 10 Home Premium 64bit sp1
 
 

It truly depends on what Board you use and the Features it comes with some offer THX surround sound 7.1 analog and digital

some offer similar solutions that sound just as good as a separate card and most gamers these days play with Headphones and Depending on the Model the sound superiority will also be debated so to the average user I would say it doesn't matter unless you are really looking for those little pings and pangs your can hardly tell that are there
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11 Jun 2013   #14
smarteyeball

 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by fireberd View Post

For digital, some PC's will only output two channel stereo, where others will output 5.1 audio. It depends on the hardware. If someone had a PC that only had two channel digtial output and they wanted 5.1 a separate sound card that had that capability would be needed.
I ran out of room and had to remove my soundcard and now I'm back to 2ch stereo with certain apps and 5.1 with others.

With my sound card it was 5.1 via digital across the board. Digital wise the sound quality is comparable between onboard and dedicated. Only those who have decent/great speakers would be able to notice a difference, if any.

I'd prefer my souncard back due to features rather than quality.

Analogue for headphones, I'd give the soundcard the nod due to features rather than quality. Soundstage is similar.
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11 Jun 2013   #15
jimbo45

Linux CENTOS 7 / various Windows OS'es and servers
 
 

Hi there
There are 3 issues here that you need to decide before this question can be answered properly.

1) Source of the original sound --if that's poor then no sound card even if it costs 1,000,000 USD will make an iota's worth of difference

2) Quality of the equipment the sound will be played on --if this is poor then same conclusion as 1) above

3) If the sound source is DIGITAL then the sound card needs to have the BEST POSSIBLE D.A.C (Digital to Analog) converter(s) in it. The Human ear can only hear sounds as a complex combination of analog SINE waves -- so the DAC needs to convert the digital stream into an accurate analog waveform. For the less "Mathematically challenged" designing this stuff accurately requires the gear to be able to handle a load of "Fourier Analysis" which is not easy to do cheaply for Hi-Fi / studio quality results.

For Analog input such as headphone output from an Ipod don't use the MIC or Sound inpu of a computer - just plug directly into the speaker system itself - otherwise you have TWO sets of Analog - Analog amplification -- which degrades the sound -- also MIC input is usually Mono. Even if it's not you want to avoid "Double amplification" anyway.

My own take on a lot of this is that if you are essentially listening to sounds either from compressed MP3 music (ITunes, Spotify etc) or even streamed Internet services then most computers (including laptops) will have an adequate enough sound card in them. Even DVD's / Blue Ray sound can be played decently on a computer with its standard sound card.

Usually the speaker systems designed for computers IMO are terrible - they are usually far to "Bassy" and "Boomy" and are really more for emphasizing sound effects in Games and movies rather than for high quality music listening so again what's the point of an expensive sound card feeding into a really horrible speaker system.

My solution is to STREAM my FLAC (uncompressed) music files or Internet Radio via a Logitech Squeezebox type server into the receiver which has Optical Input - and output that into my expensive Hi Fi set up which has things like state of the art DAC's in it and a nice set of Studio grade Mission Speakers. (There are plenty of other type of music servers around if you don't like the Logitech Squeezebox system).

For passable sound if I just want to play it on a computer I either use a set of Bose headphones or have a small computer Bose audio system - which sounds perfectly fine using the standard Audio found on most computers and laptops - not studio quality but good enough in most cases.

So the main issue here --is the DAC in the standard computer sound card good enough --probably YES for people used to listening to compressed MP3 music on those hideous Bud Earphones - and the rest depends on your external Speaker system.

Cheers
jimbo
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11 Jun 2013   #16
TwoCables

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Wishmaster View Post
I think this really depends on the quality of your speakers/headphones for one.
And secondly, your hearing.

Assuming higher end equipment is being used, some will certainly notice the difference between onboard and a decent sound card. If you are one of these people, then the onboard solutions will likely sound muddy in comparison.

Others, will have a hard time telling which is which and will claim there is no difference. OR, they simply do not care as it's not important to them.


IF you know someone who has a setup, go have a listen for yourself. You'll know if it will be a upgrade worthwhile for you or not.
I've never had high-end speakers, but I still notice a difference - and I'm nowhere near being an audiophile. Here are my current speakers:

ALTEC LANSING VS4121 Speakers - Newegg.com

Altec Lansing considered this system to be a "value" computer speaker system (that's what "VS" means: Value Speakers). They were $79.99 when I bought them. My previous speakers were even worse, but I even noticed a difference with those.

Still, I notice a difference and it seems like a pretty big difference to me and I think I'm more of an average user when it comes to audio. I even noticed a difference when I upgraded from the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS to the XtremeGamer; the XtremeGamer made it sound like I upgraded to a much better speaker system. It's like I'm now finally hearing the true and full potential of my speaker system. The low end is no longer boomy, the highs are much clearer and more realistic, and just generally all of my audio is better.


Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Solarstarshines View Post
It truly depends on what Board you use and the Features it comes with some offer THX surround sound 7.1 analog and digital

some offer similar solutions that sound just as good as a separate card and most gamers these days play with Headphones and Depending on the Model the sound superiority will also be debated so to the average user I would say it doesn't matter unless you are really looking for those little pings and pangs your can hardly tell that are there
I've seen people over on Overclock.net who recently bought a high-end motherboard that has some of the better onboard audio available and they say that they thought it wasn't bad until they upgraded to a decent sound card. The first thing they noticed is that, in games, the positional audio is far superior and much more realistic. Just as it was for me, they're saying that all of their audio is noticeably better. The part that sticks out to me the most is that before getting a sound card, they thought that their audio quality was more than good enough.
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11 Jun 2013   #17
bobafetthotmail

Win 7 Pro 64-bit 7601
 
 

Since we are discussing the matter, has anyone tried usb sound cards?

Quote:
I either use a set of Bose headphones or have a small computer Bose audio system
I always keep hearing that Bose sells overpriced crap, but very few of that rumor comes from actual owners (as I don't know a lot of people that pay 90 euros for a couple earphones) is that stuff worth its price in your opinion? is it better than other stuff?
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11 Jun 2013   #18
Lady Fitzgerald

Win 7 Ultimate 64 bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by bobafetthotmail View Post
Since we are discussing the matter, has anyone tried usb sound cards?

Quote:
I either use a set of Bose headphones or have a small computer Bose audio system
I always keep hearing that Bose sells overpriced crap, but very few of that rumor comes from actual owners (as I don't know a lot of people that pay 90 euros for a couple earphones) is that stuff worth its price in your opinion? is it better than other stuff?
Bose has always had the reputation of putting out high quality sound gear but, anymore now, it's all overpriced for the quality one receives. I went to a store with the intention of buying a Bose 2.1 system for my computer a few years ago, based on the high quality audio from a friend's 2.0 system on her MAC (we have "interesting" discussions on Windows vs. MAC). When I compared the sound from the Bose with other systems, I wound up getting a Logitech 5.1 system that cost less and sounded much better (keep in mind the Logitech system had its speakers all lined up in a row instead surrounding the listener and still sounded better). It appears Bose is trying to justify their present day inflated prices on their past reputation.
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11 Jun 2013   #19
NullSpace

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
 
 

I will throw in a note here about the Xonar DG (Though I've been having some issues with my sound in windows, see my other post). Having a good headphone amp built in is quite nice. It's allowed me to turn down the volume on the headset and thus reduce hum and buzz. That said, maybe because it's a 25-30 dollar card, the actual difference in sound quality seems pretty minor.
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11 Jun 2013   #20
Faladu

Windows 7 Ultimate Retail Box (64-bit installed) + Service Pack 1
 
 

Everyone? Never, but casual audio folks, including me at least with my $200 cost mobo the ALC-889 audio is very good.

I still have old sound cards mainly for the old gamepad port.

I overspent in the past on PCI sound cards, won't any more.

Beware of very cheap cards, read up on issues, I had to return one by Diamond would crash frequently, long forgotten though.

If I had to advise someone, assuming they have PCIe x1 port, I'd look for a sound card using that.
Sound cards don't seem to get rave reviews across the board, unless very expensive class, that audiophiles buy, that's all I have noticed looking at them occasionally, but not bought one in 5 years?
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 Are Sound Cards Needed These days?




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