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Music Hardware Games

Do You Really Need a Discrete Sound Card? 520

Posted by Soulskill
from the either-that-or-you-don't dept.
crookedvulture writes "Integrated audio has become a common freebie on motherboards, causing many to question whether there's any need to have a sound card. Tech Report took a closer look at the issue by testing the latest integrated Realtek codec against a couple of sound cards: Asus' $30 Xonar DG and its considerably more expensive $280 Xense cousin. Everything from gaming performance to signal quality is explored, and it's the blind listening tests that prove most revealing. The integrated solution is obviously flawed, and in a bit of a surprise, the cheaper Xonar is the one most preferred. Discrete sound cards certainly have their benefits, and you don't need to spend a lot to get something that sounds a lot better than the average motherboard."
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Do You Really Need a Discrete Sound Card?

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  • Yes (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, 2010 @05:00PM (#34310316)

    Built in motherboard sound cars always sound horrible.

    Most integrated sound cards broadcast your electricity and network signals over your sound card.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Monday November 22, 2010 @05:05PM (#34310362)

    I don't.

    But I don't do anything that revolves around audio.

    Of course 99.5% of the people who claim to be audiophiles and claim they can 'tell the difference' don't need one either. Its just a different type of epenis.

  • Vinyl (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drumcat (1659893) on Monday November 22, 2010 @05:14PM (#34310466)
    People like vinyl better than digital audio sometimes. This isn't new. Leave discrete cards to us professionals and audiophiles. You iPod earbud wearing types, feel free to use integrated stuff. It's much better than it used to be. It's not external, but anymore it doesn't need to be. It's "good enough". Why is this a debate?
  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by afidel (530433) on Monday November 22, 2010 @05:21PM (#34310536)
    My motherboard has optical SPDIF in and I'd never use a DAC in the PC environment, it's just too noisy. If you need high quality DAC you need to do it in a breakout box so you're either looking at a midlevel USB/Firewire card or a high level PCI(e) card. As to sample rate conversion does SB still incorrectly do automatically upscale on incoming SPDIF?
  • Re:Vinyl (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KiloByte (825081) on Monday November 22, 2010 @05:21PM (#34310540)

    Vinyl is strictly worse than any semi-modern solution when technical merits are concerned. The only reason you can have vinyls that sound better is because of the bastard recording industry and their loudness war [wikipedia.org].

  • by alen (225700) on Monday November 22, 2010 @05:21PM (#34310544)

    used to spend $250 or so on a sound card in the old days but in the last few years the onboard chips have become good enough. the worst part about the old Audigy cards was you had to install all the crappy software that most people didn't use

  • Re:Yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 22, 2010 @05:27PM (#34310604)
    for the average $400 speaker setup?

    are you out of your mind?

    Out of hundreds of people that I interact with during any given week, none of them have $400 speakers hooked up their PEE CEE.

    no wonder this country is going to shit.

  • by residieu (577863) on Monday November 22, 2010 @05:27PM (#34310612)
    I prefer language to be understandable in both its written and spoken forms. Asus' may show the possessive form when written down, but spoken you lose that information. Asus's is clearly possessive in both written and spoken form. I also think Asus's looks better.
  • Re:Vinyl (Score:5, Insightful)

    by radish (98371) on Monday November 22, 2010 @05:29PM (#34310624) Homepage

    Or because people prefer the sound of vinyl, coloration and all. You can measure the performance of a medium and determine which is the most neutral (or the "best" from a technical pov), but that doesn't always equate to the one which people think sounds "best" to their ears. I get into this a lot with audio fans who say that their $xxxx gear sounds "better" than something much cheaper, despite the test results saying the cheaper one is as good or better from a transparency pov - our ears don't always like transparent (tube amps are great evidence of that!).

  • It's the noise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chemisor (97276) on Monday November 22, 2010 @05:29PM (#34310634)

    The main reason to get a discrete card is the noise. Onboard audio always puts out white noise to the speakers, which you really can hear in a quiet environment. My Xonar D2X puts out no noise at all; you can put your ear right to the speaker and hear nothing. This way I can leave the speakers on instead of having to turn them on each time I want to watch a movie and turn them back off again to avoid the damn noise grating on my ears. The card's sound quality is excellent and Linux fully supports it.

  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by robot256 (1635039) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:06PM (#34311098)
    While those kind of people do exist (and thanks for the laugh), the GP is not one of them. He said he could tell the difference--but wanted to reiterate TFA's statement that on-board audio is passable even though it is bested by a low-cost upgrade.
  • Re:Phirst phoast (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aitikin (909209) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:41PM (#34311458)
    And that is why, at a recent AES [aes.org] conference there was a great little speech given about how Audio is the only industry that eats its young. If it doesn't matter to the average consumer how it sounds, than we will progressively get worse and worse quality audio considered passable. It's sad enough that people are preferring the sound of MP3s [slashdot.org] and most have never heard music on anything better than crappy cheap earbuds or, at best, a poorly configured home theater system, yet they claim to love their music.

    If I had a nickel for every time I've sat someone down in front of a decent quality sound system (think $500 system, counting receiver and speakers or receiver and headphones) and played them an album that they, "know inside and out" and they find something new that they've heard before, I would be able to afford the amazing speakers [legacyaudio.com] that a friend works with. Let's be honest, as long as people consider iTunes 128 kbps AAC to be, "High Quality" and 256 kbps AAC to be, "Highest Quality" with 128 MP3 being acceptable, it doesn't matter how expensive your soundcard is, it won't sound good.
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HermMunster (972336) on Monday November 22, 2010 @06:51PM (#34311554)

    No way, I am the type of person that says the $8.00 HDMI is as good as the $120 HDMI from Monster--because it is (www.3dguru.com). I'm the guy that says that the coat hanger sounds as good as the Monster audio cables. I am saying that the on-board sound is good enough for my audio system.

    Don't buy from Monster!!!!

  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ozbird (127571) on Monday November 22, 2010 @07:06PM (#34311746)

    I just don't agree that sound quality is that bad with on-board audio.

    Yes, but what about silence quality? The onboard sound options I've tried over the last few years have all suffered from appalling noise levels. Installing even a basic but quiet sound card can make a big improvement in overall sound quality.

  • by ModelX (182441) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @04:57AM (#34315346)

    PC audio testers always forget to test for the influence of power supply on output noise. I noticed simply changing the power supply makes a big difference to the output noise level. Also some ventilators and other PC components draw current in bursts so there are nice clicks on transitions. This will affect both on-board sound and internal audio cards. I can tolerate a few decibels of white noise, but I don't like to feel like a doctor listening to PC internals. So I'd like to know how an audio component performs in worst case power supply scenario.

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