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Windows 7: Are Sound Cards Needed These days?


10 Jun 2013   #1

Windows 7
 
 
Are Sound Cards Needed These days?

With modern computers are sound cards really needed, is the sound that is generated from the main board enough to suffice everyone? I would have thought that you would only need a sound card if you wanted to connect to a surround sound or create music.

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10 Jun 2013   #2

 

I think that a good sound card still provides a noticeably superior audio quality for everything.
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10 Jun 2013   #3

Windows 7, 64 bit Home SP1, Win 8.1.1 Pro 64 bit
 
 

That is a very debateable question. I have a home recording studio with some high end audio equipment and studio monitor speakers. I had a SoundBlaster Xfi model sound card installed, for PC sound, but ran into some problems with it interferring with my recording audio interface so I had to remove it. Surprisingly, the PC audio did not suffer and the RealTek audio was just as good, for my uses. Both the SoundBlaster and the in-built audio systems have S/PDIF digital audio links.

Others will argue that a separate sound card is a must.
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10 Jun 2013   #4

 

Well, I've been told in spirited arguments that digital is digital and so it doesn't matter. If that's true, then it's no surprise that there was no difference. For analog though, I always notice a difference between a good sound card and even good onboard audio.
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10 Jun 2013   #5

Windows 7, 64 bit Home SP1, Win 8.1.1 Pro 64 bit
 
 

In my case, I was referring to the Analog PC audio.

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.
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10 Jun 2013   #6

Win 7 Pro 64-bit 7601
 
 

For 99% of the users, no.

For those that need to to really really serious HQ audio/video recording/editing with the rig, yes (or buy a high-end gaming board whose integrated audio stuff is pro-level already, see the Gigabyte Sniper G1 and G3 or the ASUS RoG boards).

Anyway, speakers matter much more than that nowadays.

Quote:
digital is digital and so it doesn't matter
That's only for interference from the cable. If the integrated card isn't pro-level it will ad some noise to the sound. Afaik this is detectable only by benchmarking nowadays.
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10 Jun 2013   #7

 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by fireberd View Post
In my case, I was referring to the Analog PC audio.

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.
Which X-Fi card was it?
  1. XtremeMusic
  2. Xtreme Audio
  3. XtremeGamer
  4. Something more expensive than these

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by bobafetthotmail View Post
For 99% of the users, no.

For those that need to to really really serious HQ audio/video recording/editing with the rig, yes (or buy a high-end gaming board whose integrated audio stuff is pro-level already, see the Gigabyte Sniper G1 and G3 or the ASUS RoG boards).

Anyway, speakers matter much more than that nowadays.

Quote:
digital is digital and so it doesn't matter
That's only for interference from the cable. If the integrated card isn't pro-level it will ad some noise to the sound. Afaik this is detectable only by benchmarking nowadays.
I respectfully disagree because I have a sound card and I prefer its audio quality over my motherboard's onboard sound, but I don't need to do "really really serious HQ audio/video recording/editing" . I just prefer and enjoy higher quality audio for everything because I notice the difference.

Yes, speakers are more important because we have better computer speakers available, but I would say that a good sound card can make a noticeable difference that many normal consumers would deeply appreciate.
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10 Jun 2013   #8

Win 7 Pro 64-bit 7601
 
 

Hey I said 99% of the users above. You are one of the 1% of the users that prefer (or can hear the difference of, as hearing isn't the same for everyone) better audio cards, or your integrated audio is crappier than average for that mobo.

I assemble PCs and from experience I can say I make more people happy by spending their cash in good speakers/headphones than buying a dedicated sound card (that would require good speakers anyway). Audiophiles do exist but have always been a minority.

The point is that for bulk of consumers, the integrated sound is pretty up to the task.

Btw, all that "sound card offload the sound tasks from the CPU" is nonsense nowadays. Any quad-core will laugh at that.
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10 Jun 2013   #9

 

Every time I have convinced a normal person to try a sound card, they tell me that it really is noticeably better and that they're certainly nothing close to being an audiophile (and neither am I). I haven't had one single person say that they wasted their money or that they can't hear a difference or anything like that.

In my personal experience, 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). I mean, I feel that it's like with anything. For example: steak. Some grocery stores actually have some very decent steak and lots of people are very happy with it and see no need to try a truly good steak from a local butcher who uses grass-fed beef because they steak they get from the grocery store is quite good in their opinion. Well of course, once they try the better steak, they have a very hard time going back because now they understand what all the fuss is about.
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10 Jun 2013   #10
Microsoft MVP

Win 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

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
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