Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Motherboard Audio Comes Of Age 367

darth_silliarse writes "ExtremeTech have thankfully confirmed that I am not completely deaf - onboard m/b sound is not as bad as it sounds. Is onboard sound for the poor, needy or completely bone idle? What are other peoples opinions of m/b sound? If nothing else, it frees up a PCI or ISA slot... ;o)"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Motherboard Audio Comes Of Age

Comments Filter:
  • by freeio ( 527954 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @07:50AM (#6376405) Homepage
    I spent so many years with no audio on any system, that the first hardware that had it was a shock: KDE starts with a bongo riff?!

    All those years I thought those gears made a different sound.
    • It didn't used to. That's new as of KDE 3.0. I don't think it used to have a default startup sound in 1.x. 2.x had a startup sound, but I've forgotten what it is. It was't the same as it is now.

    • by Compact Dick ( 518888 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @09:10AM (#6376605) Homepage
      is that you got audio working on Linux.
      • by freeio ( 527954 )
        You know, that is the funny part. This system is a picture editing system which spends most of its time running Adobe Photoshop on Windows, but which I used to test a recent distribution (SuSE 8.2) as a dual-boot. The SuSE installer found _everything_ in the way of hardware and configured it to work fine on the first try. Even the SanDisk flash-card reader works. Life is good!

        This system is based on a Gigabyte GA-7DXR+, and yes, the sound is on board - a Creative CT5880 chip. Perfect? Well no, but ce
  • Good Enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KingJoshi ( 615691 ) <> on Sunday July 06, 2003 @07:50AM (#6376408) Homepage
    I may be deaf, but I don't think most people are audiophiles. So motherboard sound is good enough. I think nvidia2 graphics cards are good enough for the masses because they don't play the latest and greatest games.

    BTW, how many slots do we really need? With so many USB peripherals, PCI and especially ISA slots aren't the important resources they once were.

    • Re:Good Enough (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kilogram ( 520192 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:04AM (#6376448) Homepage
      As a part-time DJ, running audio through computers and MP3 most of the time; on-board audio is good enough. The slightly degraded quality of the MP3s make it impossible to hear a difference between a onboard chip and a Sound Blaster Audigy, which we recently upgraded to. The difference is that the Audigy is capable of doing proper surround (which is not normally a concern at a disco, but we use it to separate speaker and headphone sound coming from the same computer, and thus reducing delay coming from using two separate soundcards).

      The onboard sound is quite good enough, you have to have a heck of a stereo to think it is "unusable", which I've heard a few people say IRL. As long as you are playing MP3s/OGG/, this will be the degrading you hear, not the onboard chip.
      • Re:Good Enough (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:44AM (#6376538)

        I have to respectfully disagree. With you being a DJ, I don't doubt you know good sound when you hear it, but...

        As a comparison, I played the same tracks through a VIA Eden M6000 with onboard sound, and an M-Audio Revolution in the PCI slot. It was chalk and cheese, and this was just using some pretty average Creative/Cambridge SoundWorks 2.1 speakers. The purist in me prefers FLACC, but even with MP3 or Ogg at (around) 256 bitrate, I can hear a big difference. Maybe a lot depends on the individual mainboard and PSU etc, but in this instance the sub-$100 M-Audio card kicked it's ass.

        • Re:Good Enough (Score:2, Informative)

          by gilesjuk ( 604902 )
          I would agree, DJs often spend a lot of time in clubs with loud PA. Unless you wear ear plugs you can damage your hearing (your top end tends to go)
      • Just to backup what the above says, I can tell the difference as well. My mobo has a generic AC 97 audio(MSI K7TPro2). Anyway that's what I started with when I built my PC a few years ago and left my SB Live out. All of my mp3's sounded really dull. Switching in the SB Live made a huge improvement. I also have Cambridge speakers as well :)

        I have no doubt that some of the current crop of motherboards have on board sound that would work just as well for me, but I'd also bet that's not the case for all of the
      • As a full time radio engineer, I agree. We run dozens of workstations as newsroom audio editors and as machines are replaced are migrating to on-board audio, mostly Realtek's ACL650. It's cheaper and avoids Creative's nasty drivers (though I haven't tried an Audigy 2.) Our in-house measurements also show the Realtek on an Asus board performs much better than Extremetech's results, probably because ET's measurements are limited by the output tube and we (properly) short unused inputs before measuring.
    • I have an ASUS A7V333 with the C-Media chip on it. It seems to do a fine job, I honestly don't have many (any?) problems with it.

      However ... another system has an older Sound Blaster PCI 64 card in it. This card is considerably meatier. The C-Media chip records music well, but can't record it at as high a volume as the SB PCI64 does. Similarly, the C-Media chip can't drive the speakers anywhere near as loud as the SB PCI64 does.

      Luckily, the C-Media chip's maximum capture volume is virtually perfect fo
    • To you maybe...

      a) Some mobos have one PCI slot. I'd call that a scarce resource.

      b) Would you like to use a USB gigabit ethernet interface? RAID card, SCSI card, second video card. There's tons of stuff that needs a free slot.

      They're always important resources. Sometimes they aren't needed, but it's good when they're free.
      • I'd like a USB gigabit ethernet interface -- where can I get one? Last I checked USB didn't have that much bandwidth...
      • Re:Good Enough (Score:3, Informative)

        by gooberguy ( 453295 )
        Most motherboards that have 1 PCI slot (like my FV25) have everything you need for a normal computer (video, tv out, audio, LAN, USB, FireWire, etc.) built into them. This allows you to upgrade a single aspect of the computer to specialize its use. I upgraded the video on mine for a better gaming experience. This is an effective way to save money without sacrificing performance, but getting rid of upgradability. Motherboards with more slots on them are more expensive than an integrated motherboard, because
    • On board audio often only need to be adequate since PC speakers are nearly all junk (many of them have plastic casing doh). If you connect your PC to a proper Amp and speakers (or headphones) then you start to hear the difference.

      Compared to my better Yamaha sound cards the AC97 on my motherboard sounds a little rough in the treble department and lacking bass. But it's good enough for MP3 and watching DVD.
  • by Anoraknid the Sartor ( 9334 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @07:50AM (#6376409) Homepage
    Try the following:

    1) play mp3 through decent stereo straight from (Quicksilver) Mac.

    2) Burn same Mp3 to CD and play through same stereo.

    from CD is quite a lot better.....

    • I'll bite

      That isn't true at all. They sound identical. I don't know what kind of eqiptment equipment you're using or at what settings but in iTunes with Sound Check, Sound Enhancer and EQs all off they sound perfectly identical coming from my Quicksilver of straight from my Receiver (which is hooked up to Edirol Monitors).

      As an additional note it also sounds the same as if I port it through the UA-700 or if I play the MP3's through Peak instead of iTunes.
      • by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:50AM (#6376549)
        Not necessarily. If the signal path from the Mac into the stereo amp is electrically noisier than the signal path from the stereo's CD player to the amp, it could easily sound worse from the Mac. The source signal would be very much the same, but it's getting fux0red along the way.
        • You won't know that without measuring. Tests I've done on some on-board audio solutions showed signal to noise levels close to the theoretical minimum for 16 bit sound. A cheap CD player might not be any better than a good sound card.
    • I would check your cable if I were you, its possible your using some crappy 50p one and running it alongside your powercable.
      *THAT* would explain the difference more than anything.
    • What are you smoking? Apple *sold* microsoft the sound technology that's in there, anything else is hardware and there's not likely to be anything serious on the motherboard due to 1) price 2) noise. Now if there was a shielded tube amp pci card I'd be there!
    • 3) Then try a double blind A-B test.

      They sound the same.
    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @10:18AM (#6376841) Journal
      First of all, an MP3 is not a good test. MP3s sound bad even at 320Kbps, because the algorithm simply does not scale beyond about 160Kbps. Vorbis and AAC are a whole lot better, but if you are on decent quality hardware then the artifacts are noticable.

      The reason that your example sounds better when burned to a CD is due to electrical noise. The inside of a computer case is an incredibly noisy environment (in both acoustic and EM specra). Converting the digital signal to analogue inside the case is going to sound bad. If you want decent sound from a computer then keep the signal 100% digital until after it has left the case. Keep the amplifier away from sources of EM noise (like, for example a computer).

      The question of whether onboard audio is adequate is quite stupid. There is no difference in quality between (for example) a SB PCI128 in a PCI slot, or one soldered onto the motherboard. They are both in the case, on the PCI side of the south-bridge. I consider onboard sound to be adequate for going 'pling', game sound effect, and music that I'm not really listening to. For anything else there is far too much noise, and this can only really be solved by using an external DAC, either in the form of a SPDIF output from a computer or a USB/FireWire external card. And ideally putting the computer in the next room, so you don't hear the fan noise.

      By the way, my onboard audio chip on a 2 year old motherboard has a perfectly acceptable digital output...

    • by f97tosc ( 578893 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @10:22AM (#6376856)
      Try the following:
      1) play mp3 through decent stereo straight from (Quicksilver) Mac.
      2) Burn same Mp3 to CD and play through same stereo.

      Now try the above but have a friend randomly switch sound sources while you look the other way. No trolling, but can you still sense the difference?

      There is a _lot_ of psychology in sound systems; oftentimes even the true audiophiles fail blind tests between pieces of equipment of which they have very different opinions.

  • by Munelight ( 192694 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @07:51AM (#6376413)
    "onboard m/b sound is not as bad as it sounds"

    Oh, and buy this monitor too... I know it's scratched and can't seem to show the colour blue... But trust me, the picture's not as bad as it looks.
    • "I know it's scratched and can't seem to show the colour blue..."

      I'll buy it, I'd love to see Windows crash and get a random color besides blue for once.

      Not that there's anything wrong with blue! But just think about it... Apple brought us those fruity iMac's, why not have the "Yellow Screen `O Death" or "Green Screen `O Death" for once? C'mon Microsoft, this is your chance to innovate!!

      • Three words: themeable crash screens!

      • I saw instructions on how to change the colors somewhere once... anyone know how to do this? I thought it was in the registry.

        On a related note, there is a book called "windows 95 annoyances" that gives instructions on how to change the "start" button text. I found that flipping through the book at a bookstore once.

  • must be a PC thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @07:51AM (#6376414) Homepage Journal
    My comps have always had good onboard sound. I never understood why anyone would make a motherboard without it in the first place. I realize some of today's really high quality sound cards have some things you just wouldn't find on a built-on, but there's really no excuse for lack of at least basic audio support.
    • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:13AM (#6376473)
      Look at the THD numbers and you will understand why discrete components are better. In fact doing the A/D conversion outside the RF noisy PC case is even better, which is why Pro and semi-pro boards have the adac's on breakout boards and just do the DSP stuff in the case.
    • by jstockdale ( 258118 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:27AM (#6376503) Homepage Journal
      for quite some time now and I mean I've sure found the same thing. I can't seem to hear the difference between audio out and the rest of the hardware plugged into my stereo. Seems like 5.1 onboard is coming of age being analog^W digital and all ... erm ...

      ... nevermind

    • by trompete ( 651953 )
      Onboard Audio is good AS LONG AS you can disable it if you want to. I know a bunch of people whose boards came with it but have it disabled for some sort of other audio card (myself included).
      If they start making drive bay extensions for onboard audio like my SBLive Platinum has, I'm game. Until then.....bios->advanced settings->Onboard Audio=off.
      On another topic: Onboard LAN is fantastic!!!
    • by Daemonik ( 171801 )
      In my experience, I've had 6 or 7 motherboards with on-board sound and all of them developed problems over time that required me to disable them and add a PCI sound card.

      To me, the trend to condense all the peripherals onto the motherboard means that eventually everything will be like the notebooks. Integrated, oem supplier only parts that are totally non-upgradeable and useless if one component fails.

      Give me the freedom of PCI slots and add-on cards anyday.
    • For one thing "good" is a relative term.

      Part of it is a regulatory and standards compliance thing. As motherboards changed much quicker than peripheral components, it was cheaper to qualify some parts that could be added on, some of those designs have twice as long of a production life cycle.

      Another thing is the stigma of onboard not being as good, often cheaper parts were used and other compromises made in board layout that might reduce sound quality. Such was the nature of the market.

      As PCs have ofte
  • by russx2 ( 572301 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @07:54AM (#6376420)
    As far as I'm concerned, it makes no odds these days whether you have the latest soundblaster or some cheapo onboard beast. Unless you have high quality speakers (which I imagine the average computer user doesn't) the difference is neglibile.

    Of course, I can't tell the difference between a 128 and a 160 mp3, so who am I to speak? :-)
    • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:17AM (#6376484)
      And much better than speakers is a decent set of headphones. Cans will beat speakers costing several times as much. Get a pair of cheaper Sennheisers (HD487's) or Grado's (SR 60's) which come in well under the $100 mark but will just blow you away with their awsome sound quality if you are used to anything but an audiophile setup. From there you might get into some of the more expensive models but these are great for me and I'm used to studio monitors.
  • Weeeellll...according to the article, the overall quality still cannot match an expensive external card. Me, I wouldn't know the difference. And as such, I've already welcomed onboard audio into my life.

    We're so happy together...

  • Price (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jnguy ( 683993 )
    Not only can you save a pci card, it is also cheaper and less of a hassle a lot of times. Some motherboards have excellent on board audio, such as the P4S8X [] I think it really depends on if you think its worth it. I can do fine with just the bios speaker going beep beep beep.
    • Especially true with some of the nForce2 motherboards with the SoundStorm audio solution. While the motherboards may seem expensive ($120-$140), it ends up saving you some cash because you don't need to buy a sound card for excellent audio quality.
    • The main advantage of a pro card is that the DAC is no inside the case, where it will be subject to all of the EM noise emenating from the high frequency components. If you want good sound at a relatively low price, then get some decent speakers with an amp which has a digital input. Since most onboard audio chips now have digital output you should get good quality sound from this kind of setup (unless you do a lot of DSP-intensive stuff)
  • My Experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EpsCylonB ( 307640 ) <eps AT epscylonb DOT com> on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:00AM (#6376434) Homepage
    I built myself a new pc about 6 months ago, after doing some research I went for an NForce 2 based board with on board sound and could not be happier with it. I'm not an audiophile (deaf in one ear) but I do use it for games, music and for watching telly and movies.

    My previous pc's soundcard was a soundblaster pci 128, and it doesn't compare well. The NForce 2 on board sound worked flawlessly as soon as I installed the driver. The pci 128 had very picky drivers, some of which needed to be installed in a certain order, if not it wouldn't work with my tv card. It was always a bit flaky but that could just have been my card.

    As for bad things about the NForce 2 sound, well I haven't tried setting up 5.1 because I don't need it (and don't have the speaker equipment to support it). I'm glad tho because after reading the mobo manual it looks very complicated. I reckon this is where seperate sound cards have an advantage over on board.
    • Re:My Experience (Score:5, Informative)

      by bigman2003 ( 671309 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @09:03AM (#6376580) Homepage

      I was wondering when/if someone was going to mention Nforce 2.

      Here is a page with good info about the sound on an Nforce 2 motherboard. .htm []

      All of that looks impressive for ON BOARD sound, and I really think that 99.9% of the people out there would find that this is good enough.

      • I run an Nforce2 based card (Asus A7N8X-DX Deluxe) and I was blown away by the quality of the onboard audio. I had heard motherboards with onboard sound before, and they weren't all that good. I'm glad I held off buying a separate soundcard and tried the onboard audio first. CD audio and surround is as good as my home stereo (which cost a heck of alot more than my motherboard :P). So I totally agree with your statement that 99.9% of the people would find that it's more than good enough.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It was good enough when I was a kid, and it's good enough now!
    • I remember hearing this little program that someone wrote that played the star trek next generation theme through the PC speaker. I sounded tinny, but other than that it sounded exactly like the full orchestral version.

      I have a sneaking suspicion that if sound cards had never been invented programmers would eventually have gotten the PC speakers to sound a lot better (though they'd still bad). Since you could play just about any note, and at any speed, you can do a fair amount with them.

      We now close
      • I remember back in my XT as well as the 486 before I had a SB pro that there were a couple of games that sounded decent, i.e some golf game where you could hear birds and clapping. Tried it on a later model and the sounds was not quite right. I think they have reduced the dynamic range on the pc speaker to making beeps since it is unheard of not having a sound card in some form if you want sound.

        What I would really like is to have found software that would take PC Speaker output and force it through the so
  • I have a mobo with the CMedia chip on it and it does sound just fine. Previously I had a SB128 PCI, and the onboard does a better job than that old card did... That said, sure, you'll have better sound out of an Audigy card or the like, but then it's a question of whether or not you really have to have top-notch sound.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Try telling that to a Mac user... that'd be fun...
  • The main issue with on-board sound is not the sound quality (nowadays, even cheap hardware sounds good enough for games and Oggs) but the possible lack of drivers. Does Linux have free drivers for most onboard sound chipsets?
  • by MikShapi ( 681808 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:04AM (#6376447) Journal
    THG did a nice rundown [] a while ago on (still-)existing audio chipsets on Mobos and sound cards, comparing bells&whistles, CPU usage and IIRC quality.

  • I bought the new MSI 865 NEO2 FSIR board, which includes the wonders of 6-channel sound, Optical in/out, Coax in/out, and pin headers so I can plug the front audio ports in too. I bought my Audigy when I was using the Abit TH7II which only had pretty basic sound. Now the Audigy seems a bit excessive. I do use the Audigy Drive a lot though, mainly for music recording. But I do that so rarely its not all that much of a concern.

    As for quality, onboard sound is pretty good these days. I've not tested the on
  • Good enough (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) * on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:13AM (#6376475) Homepage
    I bought my first motherboard with onboard sound recently, ECS K7SOM+ (it's also got onboard networking, graphics and even a built-in AMD processor that's soldered in (only on some of these boards... the k7som is also available as a normal motherboard) because I want a cheapo one faster than my current P233 (go on... laugh... it runs Dreamweaver, Word, Paint Shop Pro, Counterstrike and everything else along those lines so I don't care) that I can upgrade later.

    I was impressed with the onboard audio, given that I am still a SoundBlaster fan. The only problems I have are driver problems with some ancient games (i.e. ones where you still have to SET BLASTER=). Can you believe that I can't get the original Syndicate running with sound? Disgusting. :-)

    Given that I'm used to running P233 / P500's with decent VooDoo's, the built-in sis740 3D graphics also impressed me, the sheer brute force of a 1.2GHz processor means I can run games that the P500 with Voodoo 3500 can't handle as well.

    I see built-in audio & networking as identical to the convential... after all, audio cards are just fairly low speed Digital-Analog or Analog-Digital convertors. Built-in video is good enough for business/office use, as far as I can see but for HalfLife 2 I can of course see that you're gonna need a decent, up-to-date, DX9 card.

    My next upgrade to this computer will be to remove the motherboard and make a router out of it, buy one that has built-in audio + networking + an AGP slot + 6 PCI slots and put in the fastest processor I can afford. That way, I can use all of my existing bits from this computer.

    Finding a MB with that many PCI slots isn't hard but it isn't every board that has it. Considering that I need to continue to use my existing 2 PCI network cards (Intel EtherExpress Pro's), at least one PCI RAID card (onboard RAID would be used as well), possibly a PCI TV card, I wouldn't want to have to use up another for a Soundblaster card when I can just use the onboard audio.

    If you're a serious audio user (i.e. work in a recording studio), I can see that onboard audio is like telling a photographer to use a disposable camera. Otherwise, I really don't see the point.
    • Old Games (Score:2, Informative)

      If you have problems with sound in old games, go follow this link

      The program allows you to emulate sound for older dos games that you would like to play under Win2k or XP. I use it for playing some old Space Quest games. The driver works so I have no need to go get a newer version of the game. (I am using the origional .exe)

      I appoligize for not putting in a proper link, but it is 9:05 AM on sunday morning, my hands don't want to work that hard, off to get some

    • Considering that I need to continue to use my existing 2 PCI network cards (Intel EtherExpress Pro's), at least one PCI RAID card (onboard RAID would be used as well), possibly a PCI TV card, I wouldn't want to have to use up another for a Soundblaster card when I can just use the onboard audio.

      You would be much better off with a motherboard that had a built-in Ethernet controller so that you only needed a single PCI network card. That has the added advantage of giving you different hardware for each net
  • by nut ( 19435 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:14AM (#6376478) Homepage
    One of the biggest things I like about modern PC's is that they're just like lego. You can buy the motherboard, CPU, sound card, video card, etc... you want, stick them all together, and hey presto! It works! And more importantly it gives me choice.

    Motherboards should have nothing on them except lots of slots. I like my computers modular.
    • by tunah ( 530328 ) <> on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:35AM (#6376515) Homepage

      So you'll pay $20 or whatever for a sound card, and would prefer them *not* to put in a 20 cent onboard chip?

      At least you're supporting the local economy.
    • Well this concept assumes that you have a good size case. A lot of the systems with integrated sound and video and everything thing else under the sun. Also have tiny cases that have room for 2 or 3 expansion slots which is enough for any new card that might come out that they might need. Also most people don't like their PC cluttered and this integrated stuff helps improve airflow in the system. Also it can help to keep the cabling fairly neat. Also for people who are building a PC (especially for the fir
  • Sound cards (Score:5, Funny)

    by nother_nix_hacker ( 596961 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:17AM (#6376483)
    If nothing else, it frees up a PCI or ISA slot... ;o)"
    If you push hard enough an SB live will fit into the AGP slot and still work on Linux! :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It is nice to see these kinds of reviews being made. Personally I am feed up with reviews of processors, mainboard and graphic cards and would rather see reviews of other hardware components. Ideas:
    • What USB controller are the fastest/have the lowest CPU overhead.
    • Same for Network chips
    • ...Serial ATA controllers? Some of us
      probably need an adapter in the near future.
    • What about tests of serverboards instead of mainstream boards. Focusing on reliability and maintainability instead of quake3 scores
  • Performance hit? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:27AM (#6376504) Homepage
    There were some articles on Tom's Hardware a while back (can't find them now) which gave anything up to an 18% performance hit (frame rate wise) for onboard sound with EAX enabled.

    Turning on EAX with my audigy or SB live platinum makes 1-2% difference.

    Presumably the onboard sound chips are using the CPU for a lot more of the grunt work - not a great thing for a gamer, or indeed for a Linux user* unless they are _sure_ that there will be (good) drivers for that chip.

    *Yes, yes, you can be a gamer _and_ a Linux user you know.
    • That was back in the day. Check these numbers out.

      I built a system for a friend with a nForce1 mobo, the sound is great, and before I gave it to him I ran a few tests with the sound enabled and disabled in Windows XP. Games ran practically the same. This is me just watching the FPS while playing instead of running an actual benchmark. So, my numbers might be a lil skewed, but my point is that the onboard audio didn't kill the performance.
    • The Nforce 2 on board sound is very efficient when it comes to cpu clock cycles.
    • Re:Performance hit? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shadow99_1 ( 86250 )
      Actually that is only the case when using software sound support (what commonly is refered to simply as AC 97 sound support when looking at PC specs). Onboard hardware sound chips are getting more common and don't have such issues. Cmedia seemed to be the first, but it's now been eclipsed by the Nforce 1 & 2 onboard hardware sound chips...

      Those hardware solutions offer comparable performance to most internal soundcards...
  • Noisey Anyway (Score:5, Informative)

    by Book16 ( 608718 ) <> on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:39AM (#6376525)
    In most situations I don't think it actually matters. A computer produces so much EMI which in turn creates noise in the audio regardless of whether you are running on-board sound or otherwise. Unless you are getting the signal out of the computer digitally, there is going to be noise. The only real reason I can think of for buying a high-end peripheral sound-card is if you need it for use as part of a digital audio workstation (high smaple-rates, resolution etc... or because you want multi-channel surround. -- Book
    • Could you explain this? I have a high-end microphone [okay, signal in, not signal out], and it looks to me like its cable is thick enough that it's heavily shielded.

      It then goes into a plug [again, probably shielded], and straight into the sound card [short wires, so inductive noise should be minimal, and card, so capacitive noise should be minimal].

      Can you tell me where, exactly, that electrical noise gets in?

  • The article doesn't seem to mention that soundfont capability is a good feature to have.
    I know soundfonts might be a proprietary thing, but for many musicians, they constitute a must-have.
  • by clifgriffin ( 676199 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:47AM (#6376541) Homepage
    Telling your friends you have a "Sound Blaster Audigy 2 with Inspire 6.1" speakers is more impressive then preaching about the quality of an on board card.

    MSI actually has a few boards with high quality 5.1 surround sound cards on board.

    For 75% of users on board is going to be just fine...they won't even notice the difference.

    I've built 10+ PCs for people around town, but I can't say that I have defaulted to onboard audio more then just a couple of times. I don't know why, just seemed like such a cheap way to go. My users wouldn't have ever known the difference though.

    For the 25% of us who are music enthusiasts or at least wannabes, we can spend ridiculous amounts of money on better equipment...and there is always the added bonus of bragging rights.

    You hear that you stupid on board audio users?! My sound card is freaking better then your crap.

    Ahh..that felt good.

  • speakers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Pompatus ( 642396 )
    I think onboard sound is adequate because most people plug in cheap speakers that aren't able to take advantage of any recent technilogical advances in audio

    Audio has reached a point where cheap is good enough for most people. (sorry for bad grammer or bad spelling but it's 7:49 am, I haven't slept yet, and I'm quite drunk)
  • by gTsiros ( 205624 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @08:55AM (#6376562)
    Both things are ICs. Chips that do some work. Mobos these days have an AC97 chip on board (it's just a mixer and ADC/DAC. It's not that bad tho. 18bits...) What if it was an SB audigy 2 on board? Or

    Doesn't matter where it is located.

    It DOES matter tho, if the DAC/ADC circuits are isolated.

    so onboard DSP processing with external (or at least very well isolated DAC/ADC) is the best deal.

    However, do note some people like to listen to their computer working... (you can hear all those funny noises in the electrical circuits due to resonance. It's very interesting.)
  • You can get direct hardware acceleration in OpenAL under Linux with an emu10k1 class card. I don't know if that justifies the purchase but it sounds good to me.
  • If your not getting noise from the CPU or other devices, then onboard is fine for listening to music.

    If you are are a musician doing recordings, spend some dough and get a high quality external sound D/A converter.

    There really is not difference between pci sound cards and onboard sound. External sound is where the real difference is made.
  • I'm running onboard audio and video. I'm not a gamer, I don't even play solitare on this machine, it's strictly web/email and video editing. I've got a new Abit mainboard with the nVidia chipset. I have no problems with it. I did throw a demo of a 3D game on it, and it looked pretty cool. Played it for 5 minutes then wiped it.

    I see people making blanket statements like "on-board audio is not good enough" - I'd have to believe that there is a WIDE range of quality in on-board audio. After all, there's
  • Audio is always put down near the bottom of the list in most applications, usually just a few pegs above MIDI which is always one of the lowest ranking features to improve or add to a program (unless you are talking about Cubase/Logic Audio etc). One reason for this is that our ears are not as sensitive as our eyes. Most people cannot discern between a high quality sound and a really high quality sound, our ears just don't need to be that precise. There are some of us though who train our ears to hear such
  • Not all that bad... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I am a pretty serious audiophile. I have a high quality surround sound system in a home theater and decent quality pc speakers. I often connect my PC to my sound system for parties and the like. I use my pc as a jukebox and I listen to music 24/7.

    I have always used Creative sound products because back in the day they were consistantly better than everything else available. I still use a Soundblaster Live 5.1 in my PC, but my latest motherboard (ASUS P4PE) came a pretty serious audio system on board. I have
  • For the past 18 months, I've been making the same argument that onboard audio is as good as an SBLive or Audigy. On a gamers hardware forum though I've lately got a lot of response suggesting that Audigy2 has made big strides with EAX2 and 6.1 support. The idea is that if you've got the full surround speaker setup, the Audigy2 is head and shoulders above most onboard sound, for games. Now I'm married and can't game with anything but headphones if I want to stay that way. Are there any slashdotters who a
  • If your sound card/motherboard sound is bad, try turning down the mixer levels on the computer, and turn up the speaker volume to compensate. Some simply can't cope with the levels set to 100% and distort badly - I suspect this is due to poor audio circuitry, but it may be a limitation of the mixer chip. Experiment to see whether turning down the master volume and/or source level controls give the best results.
  • by LeoDV ( 653216 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @09:34AM (#6376673) Journal
    My home-built system is running an Asus A7N8X Deluxe, which handles 5.1 on hardware. If I wanted to turn my computer into a home cinema or have surround sound for my games, I wouldn't even *need* one of them there fancy sound cards.

    MB audio really depends on what mb you have, but these days they manage to cram so much on motherboards it's insane... Back in my days you didn't have motherboards! You just had boards of woods and you madez furniture out of them!
    • My home-built system is running an Asus A7N8X Deluxe, which handles 5.1 on hardware. If I wanted to turn my computer into a home cinema or have surround sound for my games, I wouldn't even *need* one of them there fancy sound cards.

      It's interesting that you've been succesful building a home cinema machine (DivX box/whatever) using onboard motherboard sound.

      I would be the first to admit that my home audio setup isn't going to win any THX awards any time soon, but I like to get decent audio out of the mea
      • It's interesting that you've been succesful building a home cinema machine (DivX box/whatever) using onboard motherboard sound.

        I was using conditional, I haven't. But I'm pretty sure I could, effortlessly. If I wanted a media center I'd rather build a system for that purpose, probably a Shuttle because it's tiny and beautiful, but with a good nForce 2 and a 2800+ I bet I could handle video and audio effortlessly without additional hardware.
  • On my normal browser window size (probably about 800 pixel high) each of the pages in the article was a least three and a half 'screens' long, even for pages which only held two paragraphs of text.

    What is this idiocy? Okay, I can understand the ad in the middle and the banner ad, but they've got just *so* much shite around the sides - only about 20% of the page is the article itself.

    Oh, and just to stay on-topic, I've got an IWILL motherboard with C-Media onboard sound on my home PC, and it sounds fine to
  • FOr me on board sound is not going to work. I have a 1000+ CD collection and have ripped many cd and songs to MP3. All my ripps are digitial extrationsand encoding. Compare a analog ripped song to one that has be ripped digitally you will notice the sound difference. FOr those rare ocasions that is becoming more common with each cd released. The software can't do a digital rip/ or the cd won't play in the computer. I play the CD in one of my home stereo CD players (most are over 6 years old and use the di
  • I've never had issues with onboard sound quality issues. Granted, my motherboard has an SB128 onboard...

    of course the thing (embarrasingly enough) doesn't hardly work under windows so I had to get an SBLive to get rid of the crackle...(The card worked frone on Linux 2.4.17/18/19/20 from day one)

    The real problem with onboard is those AC97 chips that (like a winmodem) depend on CPU cycles to do their work for them. Whether quality is good or bad, you don't want CPU load determining whether sound is working
  • I'm using an old AOpen MX3L mobo that can only handle up to 600 mhz (currently using a 366 mhz I OC'ed to 548 mhz at the moment)... It has on-board sound, it's ok I guess but it lacks one thing, upgradability... If you want better sound, you need to disable the on-board and use up a PCI slot (not so bad I guess). What stinks about the on-board though is that it can't handle twin output simultaneously (WAV sound effects at same time as MP3 playback) like all my friends have... Oh well, sue me for being stuck
  • I tend to (dis)like anything onboard as much as the next slashdotter, but I've tried many soundcards, on and offboard (PC only, dunno about Macs), and the sound difference I feel is tiny enough to say that 90% of all regular PC users wouldn't even know the difference.

    I would say that the big difference to sound quality lies on the amplifiers, and of course, on the speakers.

    Myself, I use a Delta44 into an Alesis RA-100 which provides very low noise, and JBL speakers. Sound is as close to perfect as I would
  • The number one reason is being able to play multiple wave files at once without pieces of crap like arts or esd. Hopefully there are some onboard sound cards these days that fix this issue.

    The second is I have found that it is normally tougher to get a working linux driver for my onboard sound card. When I first got my current motherboard the driver was in the kernel but failed to work. It required hunting for a patch from Alan Cox.

    Currently I have a SB Live! MP3+ in both my computers, and I am happy with
  • It's the same situation as onboard video: onboard sound is now good enough for most basic PC uses. Reality check- if you're happy using two small beige plastic no-name PC speakers powered by a tiny wall-wart, you will not be disappointed by onboard sound.

    However, for anything that involves doing alot of audio playback (jukebox, DJ/broadcast, audio/video editing, theatre FX, intense gaming) you will very likely appreciate the quality of a better audio card.

    On my PC I run two soundcards - a SB Live Value in
  • by GreenKiwi ( 221281 ) on Sunday July 06, 2003 @11:35AM (#6377146)
    If you're looking to get sound, then MB sound is just fine. I use it for filler/background noise all the time and love it.

    If you're looking for music, they still have miles and miles to go before they will compete. Check out products by Lynx [],M-Audio [],,RME [] and Digital Audio Labs []

    Also check out this thread in a forum for a list of just some of the cards that are worth looking at.
    HiFi Sound Cards []

    And don't be fooled by statistics and numbers, even the best DAC in the world can get messed up by some 2bit clown laying it down with the wrong analog circuitry to support it.

    I'm not saying that the people who lay out all these cards are 2bit clowns, just that people look at the numbers and don't use their ears all too often.

    The most important thing is do you like the sound that comes out of the system. If yes, then who cares what else is out there. Be happy with it.
  • Because if you're serious about audio then just about any sound card will disappoint you, onboard or no. It's about whether or not it's a pain in the ass. A PC doesn't usually need studio-quality audio, when it does you can get 24kz/96bit or what have you, you can do digital, which oddly enough my c-media onboard sound (Asus A7S333) has. In fact you can get a breakout for this board that will do optical and coaxial both.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.