Sound cards of today

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Mumm
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Sound cards of today

Post by Mumm » Sat May 03, 2008 10:02 am

With all that has been happening with Creative as of I late I have been wondering... What would I use if I needed to replace my old Audigy Platnium? I went around a bit on the net to see what info I could find on compeditors cards and as you may have guessed there is little to see. Even fewer sites do reviews on non Creative built cards.

The way I see it the 2 most common types of users either:

a. Don't care enough about the sound beyond the onboard stuff.

b. Those that do focus on quality or function.

If you are even looking at getting a sound card I think that means you do care for more then the offering onboard stuff brings. Which leads me to also wonder why would a company even bother making a cheap sound card? If you can't beat the quality or functions that onboard gives it seems pretty pointless to even waste the time. You just won't get your moneys worth out of a sub $50 card. But how do the cards made with those chips stack up to Creatives stuff? I know its got to be hard to judge something and explaining it with data that is hard to quantify. You can't just measure it.

I'm not sure how sites like Legit Reviews pick what parts they do articles on but I know I would really love to see a sound card round up of mostly non Creative products. With maybe the price points of $50-$150 and $151 - $250.

To those of you who run non Creative stuff how have thay done for you? In terms of drivers, quality, connections, ect... I know many people who run Vistax64 would really like to see the next best thing. I personally am looking to replace my card but I do not want to line Creative's pockets with the shoddy support they give. Reminds me of the old ATI days when none of their drivers worked worth a crap.
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Alathald » Sat May 03, 2008 11:17 am

I run onboard RealTek AC97 and really don't see a need for a separate sound card anymore. I'm rather particular about sound and I CAN see why sound cards were so important a few years ago but now CPUs are more than powerful enough to handle onboard sound while gaming. Hell, I have 7.1 surround with the onboard sound and it sounds good to me so...I really no longer see the need for a separate sound card. Just my humble opinion though.
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Foxtrot » Sat May 03, 2008 1:32 pm

From what I have read in the mobo tests, not all onboard sound systems are created equal. For example, ALC 889 in Gigabyte P35 boards is supposed to be good while ALC 883 in Asus P35 boards do worse.

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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Mumm » Sat May 03, 2008 2:34 pm

I have never heard an onboard sound set up that was ever good enough for me. One of the first things I do when setting up a machine for myself is to disable it. Like I was saying though, for some its ok. For others its not, and need more. I was able to find a really a good review done on the three major offerings ASUS has. Here are the players I have run across sofar.

ASUS

XONAR D2\PM (PCI)
http://usa.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=25 ... odelmenu=1

XONAR DX (PCIe)
http://usa.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=25 ... odelmenu=1
Review: http://techreport.com/articles.x/14500/1

XONAR D2X (PCIe)
http://usa.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=25 ... odelmenu=1
Review: http://techreport.com/articles.x/13874

Auzentech

Auzen X-FI™ Prelude 7.1(PCI)
http://www.auzentech.com/site/products/x-fi_prelude.php

HT Omega

Claro Plus (PCI)
http://www.htomega.com/claroplus.html
http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?o ... 7&Itemid=1

Claro (PCI)
http://www.htomega.com/claro.html

Striker 7.1 (PCI)
http://www.htomega.com/striker.html

Audio Benchmarking Tools:

http://www.passmark.com/products/soundcheck.htm
http://audio.rightmark.org/index_new.shtml
Last edited by Mumm on Fri May 09, 2008 6:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by ibleet » Sat May 03, 2008 7:23 pm

I fall into category A. I don't care about sound beyond the on-board stuff. The last 3 rigs I built all had onboard sound and they all sounded very good.

Most good motherboards of today, actually have pretty decent on-board sound.

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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by geokilla » Sat May 03, 2008 11:16 pm

Foxtrot wrote:From what I have read in the mobo tests, not all onboard sound systems are created equal. For example, ALC 889 in Gigabyte P35 boards is supposed to be good while ALC 883 in Asus P35 boards do worse.
That's because ALC 889 is better than ALC 883.
Alathald wrote:I run onboard RealTek AC97 and really don't see a need for a separate sound card anymore. I'm rather particular about sound and I CAN see why sound cards were so important a few years ago but now CPUs are more than powerful enough to handle onboard sound while gaming. Hell, I have 7.1 surround with the onboard sound and it sounds good to me so...I really no longer see the need for a separate sound card. Just my humble opinion though.
I'm in the same boat as you. I recently got a free Audigy 2 and I can't spot any differences between the Audigy 2 and the SoundMAX onboard audio I was using. Maybe it's cus my speakers are a couple of years old so they're at their limit or something.

I read that some people using high-end speakers such as a Logitech Z-5500 MUST use a sound card because they are that much better than onboard audio. I'm guessing what speakers you have play an important factor in deciding whether you need to use a sound card or just stick with onboard.
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Mumm » Sun May 04, 2008 7:34 am

geokilla wrote:I'm guessing what speakers you have play an important factor in deciding whether you need to use a sound card or just stick with onboard.
This is very true that it is an important factor. I personally use Klipsch Promedia 5.1 and Bose. I'm also a former sound engineer. Spent many summers running sound for bands at live events and doing recording work on the side in my small studio. After awhile you begin to hear all kinds of limitations from various setups. In some ways its been very helpful but far more demanding.

On a side nore. I could be wrong but it was my understanding that all sound that isn't run at the card is offloaded to the CPU. Much like video or RAID controlers. Thus if you do use onboard its 100% offloaded. From a performance standpoint its better to use a quality card to take that load off the CPU. Granted its probably not much.

Never the less I was hoping to see if others had any experience with some of the cards I had listed above.
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Alathald » Sun May 04, 2008 9:26 am

I fancy myself an audiophile but perhaps to a lesser degree (I was never a sound engineer for a living 8-[ ). I'm just a lowly college student so I've only got a pair of Grado SR60 Headphones which sound fine to me (admittedly, not tops but still really good). I've yet to hear my onboard sound through a full setup like it was made to do so I may change my mind but I doubt it.

And yes, while onboard does offload 100% to the cpu, cpus are powerful enough that it's like throwing a pebble in a canyon, it'll take up some resources but not much (a SLVR phone can do it with a 50Hz cpu, admittedly, my SLVR sounds like crap).

Also remember LR has never reviewed a sound card (to my knowledge) and has never review a pair of headphones much more than $100 :mrgreen: . Give onboard another chance, it's come a good ways (just remember what fox and geo said, some are better than others).
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Zertz » Sun May 04, 2008 3:48 pm


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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by bandieramonte » Wed May 07, 2008 9:59 am

Well, I just purchased an XtremeGamer Creative Sound Card for two reasons that I believed that were enough:

1) I have a Creative 7.1 sound system and I was not sure whether if an integrated sound card could handle 8 channels properly.

2) I researched and found out that this sound card (as well as many others) can throttle up the performance in demanding games up to 15%. I'm not sure if this is true either. I play demanding games as WiC to its maximum detail and I don't really know if my performance is being boosted to up a 15%. (in fact, how may I know this?) I would have to remove my sound card and bench there.... Also, the Creative Driver has a feature that says to configure the sound card in a way to attain maximum sound quality in games, and again, I don't know if this means more quality that an integrated sound card.

I'm no expert on this sound stuff, but I acquired the card because Creative did admit that it boosts gaming performance up to 15%, I don't think they would lie.

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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by ibleet » Wed May 07, 2008 2:27 pm

bandieramonte wrote: I'm no expert on this sound stuff, but I acquired the card because Creative did admit that it boosts gaming performance up to 15%, I don't think they would lie.
I don't believe that for a second! Upgrading a video card, or a GPU, yes, but getting a 15% performance boost from a sound card...preposterous! :roll:

I may be wrong, but I still don't think this has any basis behind it.

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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by smack323 » Wed May 07, 2008 2:52 pm

I also have a XtremeGamer Creative Sound Card -when using the onboard sound my mic input was very low- so i wasnt able to use it. i got the card to fix that problem and for the supposed great X-Fi feature. i'll admit in BF2142 the game sounds so much better - you get much better depth of sounds - you can hear tools on your belt jingling when you walk --every thing just sounds flat out better.. untll the arty drops on you and you get a horrible crackle noise and your system crashes. so i use non X-fi sound in game anyway. As far as performance increase i would say its negligible
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by bandieramonte » Wed May 07, 2008 4:11 pm

ibleet wrote:
bandieramonte wrote: I'm no expert on this sound stuff, but I acquired the card because Creative did admit that it boosts gaming performance up to 15%, I don't think they would lie.
I don't believe that for a second! Upgrading a video card, or a GPU, yes, but getting a 15% performance boost from a sound card...preposterous! :roll:

I may be wrong, but I still don't think this has any basis behind it.
That sounds logical enough, to boost performance with a sound card is rather doubtful.
This is an extract of the specifications of the XtremeGamer sound card, from newegg: (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6829102006)
Get the speed you need when every second counts
Win big with a powerful audio processing engine that boosts real game performance by up to 15% over motherboard audio and still gives you the fullest audio effects possible!
The sound card is supposed to free the CPU from processing the sounds special effects in games, hence leaving more room for the CPU to process the rest of the gaming instructions. But this sounds strange to me. Well..

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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Foxtrot » Wed May 07, 2008 5:40 pm

I think it depends on how powerful the processor is - the faster the less relative difference in load caused by sound processing. It's an interesting topic, run a timedemo in some game, write down FPS, disable the external sound card in Windows, run a timedemo again in the same setup but using onboard sound.

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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by bandieramonte » Wed May 07, 2008 5:50 pm

Foxtrot wrote:I think it depends on how powerful the processor is - the faster the less relative difference in load caused by sound processing. It's an interesting topic, run a timedemo in some game, write down FPS, disable the external sound card in Windows, run a timedemo again in the same setup but using onboard sound.
Sure I will post back the results difference between XtremeGamer sound card and the onboard sound card of an Nforce 680i SLI, in World in Conflict. (I'm at work right now)

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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Sovereign » Thu May 08, 2008 11:13 am

I don't want the performance loss associated with onboard audio. Hence, I have an X-Fi, which somehow works in Vista x64 without DK's help, dunno how...
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Alathald » Thu May 08, 2008 11:21 am

bandieramonte wrote:
Foxtrot wrote:I think it depends on how powerful the processor is - the faster the less relative difference in load caused by sound processing. It's an interesting topic, run a timedemo in some game, write down FPS, disable the external sound card in Windows, run a timedemo again in the same setup but using onboard sound.
Sure I will post back the results difference between XtremeGamer sound card and the onboard sound card of an Nforce 680i SLI, in World in Conflict. (I'm at work right now)
I'd love to see what the difference is as well, onboard has always worked fine for me but if there's a significant difference then I may well have to reconsider my sound card options...
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Mumm » Fri May 09, 2008 6:27 am

If you are serious about testing overall performance impact there are a few things to keep in mind. For starters all new X-Fi cards make use of the latest EAX. Creative takes great pride in being the ONLY card maker that has it in its most advanced levels. No onboard chip will ever offer the level of capabilty that thier cards do. Thus the load placed on the cpu from the get go would be smaller if the X-Fi was 100% off loaded. I haven't run any tests but if I were to guess onboard would still lose most of the time. Just not by much in a sythetic benchmark. Where its show massive gains is in audio performance. The comment about the current CPU load and speed was correct. If its not stressed as it is you probably would see much of any difference. Drivers can also play hell on it too.

Wouldn't it be interesting if all of a sudden benchmark tools like PcMark or 3dMark started adding audio performace benchmarking. Testing crosstalk, signal to noise levels, and so on. If Creative gets knocked on its backside here over the next few years I wouldn't be surprized if just such a thing did happen. As of now there hasn't been a need when only 1 manufacturer rules the greatest marketshare (in terms of gaming).

At one point in time I never thought I really needed to spend some crazy amount like $50 on a mouse or a keyboard. But since then I broke down and tried it. After using it for awhile you would have to pry them from my cold dead hands before I'd give them up. Same thing happened for me with audio. Sure I worked (as a hobby) running sound and in the studio and I also carried that over to my gaming rig. Sure enough, after some time hearing all the stuff I never noticed before, I can't give it up. I try not to rag too much on guys who build high end systems only to hear their auido and be totally unimpressed. If you buy high end gear and parts for all other areas like the hard dives, cooling, video, ... yet skimp on sound. Some would say its my background that lets me hear the difference so much. But how it that really any different then seeing the difference in FPS from low to high? To be completely fair though Creative cards are a joke in terms of quality in a studio enviroment.

I also cant stress enough the importance of the speaker system attached. Craptastic speakers will make everything sound like poo. Usually the better the quality the more of a difference you can hear between audio cards. But speakers themselves too can infulence the end result of audio. Some speaker sets have a natural curve they place on the audio while others like reference monitors have more of a flat responce.

On a side note: Tanks to Zertz for the great link. That was a really nice review. Although I wonder about their assessment of crosstalk on the Auzentech X-Fi. Seems not so great to me. Other then that its was one of the better reviews I've read for a gaming card.

As it stands sofar I see no gaming soundcard that totally fits what I'm looking for. Hell. I'd pay $300 for a card if it had all the quality and performace I wanted plus great customer support and drivers. The best thing that could happen to the soundcard market is the downfall of EAX infavor of a standarized format. One multiple software companys can develope for to be used in a number of soundcards from all kinds of manufacturers. We need a market like Nvida vs ATI, Intel vs AMD. ect... If I had to choose today though based on the list I posted above it would be for the ASUS Xonar D2.
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by Mumm » Fri May 09, 2008 6:46 am

*edit : Added info on two more reviews and audio benchmarking software.*
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Re: Sound cards of today

Post by DL126 » Sat May 10, 2008 6:31 am

As a "studio" type of guy ...
I presume you're familiar with these ..
http://www.echoaudio.com

I have personally seen them used in studios before.

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