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Soundcard or onboard?

Discussion in 'Sound City' started by chrislip, Aug 13, 2018.

  1. chrislip


    Joined: Dec 27, 2002

    Posts: 121

    Location: Worcestershire

    I am starting to look at upgrading my old 2500K system, maybe go to an 8700K or the like. One thing I have always moved over is my sound card (an old SB XFi Fatality) which is a PCI based card with an 5.25" front connection bay. With the move to a new MB I realise this won't fit anymore, and to be honest it is old and I don't think the Windows 10 drivers are too good. I have always shyed away from using the onboard sound but believe that they have vastly improved. DO you recommend I get a sound card, or just use the onboard? I am prepared to pay a bit more for a board with good onboard sound if it means that I don't need a new soundcard. I just use my PC for gaming (Diablo III, ElderScrolls online, Skyrim so nothing majorly taxing) and listening to music. I am by no means an audiophile but I obvioulsy don't want to make an obvious downshift when upgrading


  2. PapaLazaru


    Joined: Dec 23, 2009

    Posts: 17,136

    Entirely depends on what you are plugging into it and how good they are.
  3. Stoner81

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jul 8, 2010

    Posts: 2,231

    Location: Derbyshire

    Based on what you have said then on board audio should be good enough, like you said it has gotten a LOT better over the years to the point that unless you are an audiophile I don't see the point in sound cards.

  4. hornetstinger


    Joined: Sep 6, 2016

    Posts: 5,486

    Depends on what you plug it in, crap pc speakers or a £5000 stereo system.
  5. Midlife Crisis

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Aug 1, 2009

    Posts: 1,451

    I have been rockin the same sound card as you for years, now it will not fit in the mobo in the new set up so its getting retired.
    Going to try onboard and see how I get on. Like others have said onboard sound is leaps and bounds better than it was when this sound card was first launched
  6. benjii


    Joined: Apr 26, 2013

    Posts: 3,287

    Location: Plymouth

    If you have half decent headphones or plan on upgrading, then an external solution may interest you. You could get an external amp and DAC or a combined one. They're vastly superior to anything you could get inside your PC and the entry prices are very competitive. That being said, you would only get stereo sound, so if you use surround sound headphones then it's a no go.
  7. EsaT


    Joined: Jun 6, 2008

    Posts: 4,792

    Location: Finland

    If you're using speakers then sound cards really don't have anything special.
    Assuming its implementation on motherboard avoids interference best Realtek chips have really respectable D/A converters.

    For headphone gaming sound cards again have advantage over most integrated ones:
    Binaural sound simulation.
    We hear in 3D with two ears because head and outer ears cause direction dependant changes to signal received by ears from sound source.
    Besides dummy head recording, those binaural cues can be simulated mathematically from surround sound source.
    If shape of your head is close enough to average and headphones are actually good, it can give really nice directionality and even feel of distance.
    That's something fashion DACs don't give.

    As interesting development Creative has been developing tech they've named Super X-Fi, which uses customizable HRTF for more accurate binaural cues.
  8. JasonM

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jun 19, 2009

    Posts: 2,194

    I have a Gigabyte Intel Z370 HD3P, I never intended to use the onboard sound as I have an Asus Essence ST, however I tested the on-board out of curiosity and it's terrible.

    I built my PC's in my lounge and in my lounge I have a separates system with what should of been around £800 retail of Yamaha speakers, as this new build was so close I plugged the on-board into my amp. Where to start, Amstrad in the 80's probably made CD players that's sounded better. It's like having a new pair of black Levi Jeans then accidentally washing them with daz at 95c then wondering why your new jeans are now grey, this is what listening to music to the onboard sound is like, all the soul and depth washed out of it. Then to make it worse it has shocking background interference, the inference is more like those 8bit Creative cards from the 90's, not even close to HiFi quality, when my HDD's spin I can hear waves of interference. And it's not interference from a dodgy PSU as i'm using a Seasonic P760 in the machine, the board is getting quality power.

    I'm a busy person, however if enough people argue with me about above i'll make a youtube video taking the output of the gigabyte on-board into a quality DAC, then while i'm at it i'll do exactly the same with the Asus Essence ST, I promise you will fall of your chairs when you hear the difference.

    Other then that the Gigabyte z370 HD3P is a great board and it's working faultless, but however when the designers came to the audio they must have had a late night drinking session the night before or something.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2018
  9. mistersprinkles

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Apr 21, 2016

    Posts: 1,972

    Location: Oh Canada!

    There is low end onboard and there is high end onboard. If you get a board that has a high end onboard sound, such as Realtek ALC1150 or better, with a good DAC and good capacitors, then you're going to get about the same quality your current soundcard is giving you. We've moved away from sound cards and more towards external units for most people who want to have good sound. There are products such as, for example, the ARCAM rPAC, which is a stereo USB DAC and headphone amp that has an amplified front headphone port and stereo out at the rear for speakers. The benefit of these USB units is that most of them require no software or drivers and they are universally compatible for MAC and PC and will work for years to come. Again though, you probably don't need it. Good quality modern onboard is so good that only if you were running 400+ squid worth of studio monitors would you consider going up to an external DAC.

    I suggest you sell your soundcard along to somebody who is still rocking a PCI slot and maybe windows 7 who can appreciate it.
  10. Rroff

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 13, 2006

    Posts: 59,676

    Can't say I entirely agree with that - until quite recently when I think some of the caps had basically had their day my ancient X-Fi XtremeMusic sounded more detailed and "tighter" than any onboard implementation I've heard and I have motherboards here with the latest ALC codecs and Nichicon caps and all that - not to say they are bad not at all but they just sound bland. Then there is the AE-5 which is just in another league again to any onboard I've experienced and even made my X-Fi sound warm and fuzzy in comparison.
  11. Shocky-FM


    Joined: Nov 13, 2005

    Posts: 3,194

    You should be able to get away with onboard these days, that's not to say sound cards are not better but unless you're quite demanding you won't notice much difference.

    I'm still using an x-fi Fatal1ty card from 2011, as bad as creatives drivers were meant to be, it still works perfectly fine. :)
  12. Dave Burton


    Joined: May 8, 2018

    Posts: 55

    I use on-board on a Z97 MSI Mortar, and via my Logitech Z-5500's the sound is amazing though I suspect that this is largely due to the speakers. So, as other have said, it depends on what it's going in to :)
  13. Monster ninja


    Joined: Apr 8, 2009

    Posts: 722

    Location: Tavistock,Devon,England

    I find the main difference between my onboard sound and my Xonar STX is the ability to drive higher impedance headphones (like my 600ohm DT770 pros or my HD600 300ohms) and the useful ability for shortcuts change outputs between my headphones and studio monitors...