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Onboard vs Sound Card

Discussion in 'Sound City' started by alan, Apr 22, 2018.

  1. alan

    Gangster

    Joined: Dec 29, 2005

    Posts: 143

    Hi all,

    Just wondering whether I would notice a big difference in sound quality (mainly aimed at gaming - seems I cant hear anything compared to others) with upgrading from my onboard sound vs a dedicated sound card? I use a Creative Fatal1ty headset if that matters too.

    Onboard = Realtek® ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC (on Asus
    p8z68-v pro mobo)

    If there is a significant difference, what are typical recommended sound cards? (without spending a fortune, possibly ~£30-40)

    Thanks in advance
     
  2. Rroff

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 13, 2006

    Posts: 57,380

    At £30-40 you probably won't get better results from a sound card than onboard sound.

    I'm currently using a Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 which is currently £110-120 but it is definitely a step up over any onboard implementation I've used - clearer and punchier sound and has some good features for gaming.
     
  3. Marsman

    Capodecina

    Joined: Oct 18, 2009

    Posts: 10,214

    I'd stick with onboard audio, unless you want Dolby Headphone or SBX prostudio, or find the headset doesn't go loud enough with the onboard audio you have.
     
  4. EsaT

    Mobster

    Joined: Jun 6, 2008

    Posts: 4,284

    Location: Finland

    ALC892 is pretty much bottom of the product barrel codec.
    Even Audigy Fx would be clear step higher in D/A conversion quality.
    Xonar DGX is technically similar, but has that mediocre Dolby Headphone and you don't know when Asus decides it's too old card to get any software support.
    Those are at level of ALC889 tested in this comparison.
    And ~50£ Sound Blaster Z has two steps better DAC.
    (though headphone output is rather standard)

    Anyway algorithms processing sound signal to include cues brain uses to process directions are at lest equally important.
    (and missing from Realteks)
    But as cheap closed design that headset is likely very incapable to any kind binaural sound stage.
    Besides directionality there should be good sense of distance to various gun shots in first minute of this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1_20T8x_OI
    And especially this is really nice with good binaural sound stage headphones:
    https://youtu.be/B8xZp0WPwxs?t=18m51s

    So if you want to really get game immersion to good level you would also need capable (as in no gaming trinket) headphones.
    With best headphones anything better would basically mean game showing locations of sound sources on map.
    And cosed design is huge challenge even for actual audio makers and cheap trinket production gaming garbages are likely at "head in bucket" level in sound stage.

    Not sure about other models of Superlux, but Beyerdynamic copying HD330 does extremely well for its price.
    Though that's still couple steps below best.
     
  5. Calabi

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Mar 7, 2008

    Posts: 2,479

    Location: Kent

    What about noise reduction and shielding?

    On my current motherboard with the onboard audio, I can here a ton of noise from the rest of the computer, beeps and clicking, hissing and whatever else of the computer working away. I've had to use a sound card just to get rid of this noise(and I can even still sometimes here it slightly through it). How are motherboards for this now, I've seen some of them have shielding but is it any good, and is it for only a few motherboards?
     
  6. alan

    Gangster

    Joined: Dec 29, 2005

    Posts: 143

    So basically I need a new sound card and better headset to hear any directionality?
     
  7. EsaT

    Mobster

    Joined: Jun 6, 2008

    Posts: 4,284

    Location: Finland

    Certainly wouldn't expect good directionality from cheap closed headphones.
    You can use those Youtube videos of my previous post for testing it.
    Just disable any effects of Windows/Realtek.
     
  8. V F

    Capodecina

    Joined: Aug 13, 2003

    Posts: 14,561

    Location: UK

    You were hearing white noise?
     
  9. ToTheMax

    Hitman

    Joined: Nov 28, 2012

    Posts: 516

    Are you using the front or rear jack for audio? I've always found the front jack is notoriously bad for picking up electrical noise with on board solutions. I think in most cases the front wiring isn't shielded enough.
     
  10. V F

    Capodecina

    Joined: Aug 13, 2003

    Posts: 14,561

    Location: UK

    Doesn't that depend on how it is routed? I know mine goes across the top of the case to the sound card which is well away from power sources in an inverted setup and picks up zero noise.
     
  11. Calabi

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Mar 7, 2008

    Posts: 2,479

    Location: Kent

    Nope, not white noise clearly discernible sounds, that are really annoying. I can still even hear them through the sound card if I turn the volume up. Like moving the mouse around the desktop makes a sort of whining noise sometimes. I always use the rear jack.
     
  12. EsaT

    Mobster

    Joined: Jun 6, 2008

    Posts: 4,284

    Location: Finland

    That's pretty common interference of badly implemented integrated.
    Separate sound cards avoid those well.
     
  13. JasonM

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jun 19, 2009

    Posts: 2,083

    The best computer audio I've ever had is from a Asus Essence ST, the next closest I've tried is a Creative Titanium HD, but I felt the Essence ST was better.

    Regarding noise, even the Essence ST has some noise, however it will be minor compared to motherboard on-board.

    To put into perspective the noise from the Asus Essence ST.

    Down stairs on the HTPC I have a genuine 120 watt RMS Pioneer 8ohm amp (from the days when 120watt was a proper 120watt), this is feeding 4 x Yamaha NS-F160's at 50 RMS @ 6ohm. If I put the volume on the amp around 60%, and put my head 3 feet away from the speakers I can hear faint background noise from the Asus ST, but bear in mind if music was suddenly playing it would easily be above most normal listening and my head 3 foot away I would eventually have hearing issues! So yes the Asus ST has background noise but you'll only notice it you do tests like I just outlined.

    However I don't use the Asus ST on the HTPC, instead I use the DAC that's integrated inside the Pioneer amp. The integrated DAC amp is remarkably close in terms of sound quality to the Asus ST, however it has around 30% of the background noise of the Asus ST.

    I will summarize the above below.

    Background noise of cheap typical on-board motherboard sound, lets say it's X value.
    Background noise Asus ST sound card, lets say about 25% of above X value.
    Background noise of external Pioneer Amp/DAC, lets say 30% of above Asus ST.

    The lesson here, is if your bothered about background noise, don't even get a sound card, instead just get an external DAC.
     
  14. EsaT

    Mobster

    Joined: Jun 6, 2008

    Posts: 4,284

    Location: Finland

  15. V F

    Capodecina

    Joined: Aug 13, 2003

    Posts: 14,561

    Location: UK

  16. JasonM

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jun 19, 2009

    Posts: 2,083

  17. jcr

    Wise Guy

    Joined: May 29, 2011

    Posts: 1,148

    Location: southampton

    i have the essence card too and love it. paired up with focal xs speakers it gives lovely sound.
     
  18. V F

    Capodecina

    Joined: Aug 13, 2003

    Posts: 14,561

    Location: UK

  19. Rroff

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 13, 2006

    Posts: 57,380

    I actually got an offer from Burson a few days ago that they'd send me some samples including the V5i to review but unfortunately I'm way too busy to do them justice at the moment.
     
  20. V F

    Capodecina

    Joined: Aug 13, 2003

    Posts: 14,561

    Location: UK

    There has been interesting comments on them though. Whether they're worth more than a sound card alone I do not know but damn! They're big.

    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/bur...-opamps-discussion-and-reviews.854912/page-10

    Someone using it with the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude.
    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/bur...sion-and-reviews.854912/page-10#post-13986268