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$50 Sound Cards Impress Versus Integrated Audio 245

crookedvulture writes "Most PCs have audio integrated right on the motherboard. There's much to be gained from upgrading to a discrete sound card, though. This look at a couple of sub-$50 sound cards from Asus explores what can be found at the budget end of the spectrum. In blind listening tests, both cards produced better sound than an integrated solution. They also offered superior signal quality, but neither had an impact on gaming performance. The days of hardware-accelerated game audio seem to be behind us, with developers handling positional audio processing in software."
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$50 Sound Cards Impress Versus Integrated Audio

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  • by itamblyn ( 867415 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:32PM (#40954505) Homepage
    Most of the improvement is likely due to increased distance between the amplification circuits and the noisy AC/DC power supply.
  • by ChrisMP1 ( 1130781 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:37PM (#40954541)
    A decent ATX power supply really isn't bad. Distance from the noisy digital circuitry on the motherboard is important, though.
  • by slackware 3.6 ( 2524328 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:38PM (#40954545)
    it would be on a cheap video card before a sound card. I never bought any sound cards after they started puting them on the mobo. Sure the sound could be better but I have a stereo for playing tunes and if i'm playing games at night I'm using headphones anyway. A better soundcard is a non-issue for most users.
  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday August 10, 2012 @11:39PM (#40954559)

    sometimes the circuit (board) does this work.

    case in point, ESI juli@ (hate the at-sign. how stupid!)

    this card is lab grade (test gear quality) in its a/d and d/a. some people use it for RMAA audio gear testing. not kidding! this is a low noise floor that you won't normally find on internals cards, yet it IS AN INTERNAL card! blows my mind ;)

    also supports balanced and unbal i/o as well as 'easy' i2s and very easy coax spdif i/o.

    it needs a full height slot and generally is pci-only even though some new pci-e version is supposed to be out soon.

    keep it in mind: if you find yourself needing to test audio amps, preamps, dacs, etc - the ESI julia card is about as good as it gets for under $1k or even higher. amazing for audio guys. stupid for gamers but we are not talking about gaming at all.

  • by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <> on Saturday August 11, 2012 @12:31AM (#40954797) Journal

    I'll reply to you.

    In Personal Computing in the true sense of Personal and not corp-crap or netbooks or whatever, if you're gonna buy a goddamn comp, spend a few hundred bucks to do it right. No one except the media wins with these "budget parts" stories.

    So forget the $50 sound card. What can you get with $80?
    Forget the $50 video card. What can you get with $80?
    Spend an extra $20 on the fan. Spend an extra $20 on a key cable. Spend an extra $60 on a better HD that has capacity to better meet your growth.
    Spend an extra $40 on a better casing. I added a special extra chip for data conversion like Audacity Sound Processing 30% faster.

    So yes, it adds a few bucks cumulatively. But you help mitigate stupid "cheap crap failures" that risks years of useful life. 6 years later into my op life I think I have a medium grade HD problem, but it's still ticking, so I have some time. Not like a total crash yet when some dumb part blows the whole board.

  • by spauldo ( 118058 ) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @01:17AM (#40954937)

    Just a guess, but I'd say it's because there's stories just like yours for every manufacturer out there*.

    Case in point: hard drives. Ask 20 people what hard drives they've had trouble with, and you'll find they pretty much average out as all of the companies having issues. I use Seagate, but you'll find a lot of people here who swear they're the worst drives on the market.

    Another example: T-Mobile. I had nothing but trouble with them. They would, for no reason, forgo the automatic draft from my Visa and then shut me off for non-payment. Their customer service was horrible. When I called them at the end of my contract and told them I wanted my service cut as soon as the contract was over, the sales drone threatened me that if I didn't pay the final bill, they'd sue me. I hadn't said anything about it up to then, so this was just out of the blue. (Of course, I knew he was full of shit, and intentionally didn't pay my final bill because of it.)

    With all that, T-Mobile has an excellent reputation for customer service and very few people I know have issues with them. Go figure.

    The article was about the difference between soundcards and integrated sound, and just happened to use Asus cards for the testing. Your last paragraph was on topic, but the rest of your post wasn't.

    * There are a few manufacturers that have earned widespread derision, like PC Chips for its fake cache chips or SCO for judicial douchebaggery. Asus isn't anywhere near that level.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 11, 2012 @03:50AM (#40955349)

    [Citation needed]. Seriously.

  • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 ) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @04:17AM (#40955417) Journal

    Actually their RightMark audio analysis's don't show this at all, frequency response, THD, noise, are all so close between devices that a human wouldn't be able to tell the difference between them, the ignoramuses at TechReport however don't know how to read the graphs/understand the limit of human hearing and came to erroneous conclusions.

    Their section on different peoples opinion of the various audio devices does not state the result of the blind listening test and so is useless, why even bother with tests that are not blind?

  • by gazbo ( 517111 ) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @04:43AM (#40955487)
    I think what's most telling about their analysis is on the 96kHz plots. The Realtek consistently drops to nothing around 20kHz, and yet apparently that didn't mean anything to them other than "look how well these results fit with out hypothesis". Anyone who actually knew something about didgital audio would think "either I've set this up wrong or the drivers/hardware are bust, because this thing is blatantly stuck at 44.1kHz".

    The only other thing to be gleaned from the graphs is that running at 96kHz is pointless because the supposedly better cards' performance FUCKING SUCKS past 20kHz.

  • by makomk ( 752139 ) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @05:14AM (#40955577) Journal

    Anyone who actually knew something about didgital audio would think "either I've set this up wrong or the drivers/hardware are bust, because this thing is blatantly stuck at 44.1kHz".

    Or it's just got a low-pass filter with the cutoff set at 20 kHz which can't be disabled. You need one for proper signal reconstruction at the 44.1kHz sample rate, and it's not like most people are going to notice that their onboard sound can't actually output frequencies above 20 kHz in its 96kHz sampling mode.

  • by ChrisMP1 ( 1130781 ) on Saturday August 11, 2012 @10:51AM (#40957121)
    As we all know, "audiophiles with trained ears" are not at all prone to misinformed bullshit regurgitation, confirmation bias, and elitism.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.