Dedicated sound card or onboard sound

Dedicated sound card or onboard sound

  • Dedicated sound card

    Votes: 25 42.4%
  • onboard sound

    Votes: 14 23.7%
  • something else

    Votes: 20 33.9%

  • Total voters
    59

xDiVolatilX

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jul 24, 2021
Messages
342
It's very simple, it was Windows 10 update that kept on installing the wrong driver after I installed the creative drivers. The problem wasn't with Creative, it was Windows 10 and their forced updates in the beginning, I don't know the percentage of people affected by this but I was one of them. Creative put out updated drivers that listed this problem in their list of fixes.

View attachment 395077
Interesting I have the Zx also.

Which one of the problems did you have on the what's new section?
 

killroy67

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Oct 16, 2006
Messages
1,274
Interesting I have the Zx also.

Which one of the problems did you have on the what's new section?
Fixes Sound Blaster Z incorrectly being detected as Sound Blaster Recon3D........I would install the Creative driver and it would be fine, but eventually Windows 10 would update it to the Recon3D driver, hosing the whole thing.
 

flyingears

Weaksauce
Joined
May 13, 2011
Messages
104
An external usb dac is generally the way to go for high resolution audio.

Optical can't keep up with usb bitrate wise and most well measuring and affordable external dacs use usb.
 

MaZa

2[H]4U
Joined
Sep 21, 2008
Messages
3,383
External DAC (Stello DA100) -> headphone amp (Stello HP100). DAC is either through optical or USB depending on need at the time. Soundcard is almost unnecessary these days.
 

MaZa

2[H]4U
Joined
Sep 21, 2008
Messages
3,383
Fixes Sound Blaster Z incorrectly being detected as Sound Blaster Recon3D........I would install the Creative driver and it would be fine, but eventually Windows 10 would update it to the Recon3D driver, hosing the whole thing.

Just disable the updating of drivers through internet. You can do it from Windows settings.

https://techcult.com/stop-automatic-driver-downloads-on-windows-10/

Method 1. This is the very first thing I do whenever I install a new windows. I want my devices use the drivers I want, not what Windows thinks I want.
 
Last edited:

XoR_

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
1,245
Xonar STX with Burson V5 buffer + 2x Burson V6 Vivid in I/V
As far as internal sound card go this would be the best setup possible. Maybe STX II would be better than STX, not sure.

Have two move V5 and 2x V6 Classic for some tweaking potential. From time to time I like to switch them but V5 + V6 Vivid is imho the best. Before Burson's I used OPA627AU and 2x LME49722 out from countless combinations of IC op-amps which all sounded differently. Burson op-amps are however the best quality by far. Like getting new sound card at which point improvement becomes unimaginable. And because it is unimaginable I do not feel the need to improve it.

Comparing this sound card setup to on-board sound is like comparing Bugatti Chiron to Fiat 500 :)
The on-board sound cards cannot even compare to something like Audigy SE let alone anything actually high-end.

The good solution today is dedicated DAC. It has also this advantage that it can be used with more devices than main desktop PC. Quality-wise like everything they will be a hit or miss. Compared to integrated sound card everything will be better. My phone has better sound (it is actually pretty good, LG V20 and if they put setups like this on motherboards I would change my opinion on on-board sound... but no, they still use the same Realtek, just now with NE5532 op-amp to solve one of countless issues of these codecs)
 

B00nie

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Nov 1, 2012
Messages
9,287
Xonar STX with Burson V5 buffer + 2x Burson V6 Vivid in I/V
As far as internal sound card go this would be the best setup possible. Maybe STX II would be better than STX, not sure.

Have two move V5 and 2x V6 Classic for some tweaking potential. From time to time I like to switch them but V5 + V6 Vivid is imho the best. Before Burson's I used OPA627AU and 2x LME49722 out from countless combinations of IC op-amps which all sounded differently. Burson op-amps are however the best quality by far. Like getting new sound card at which point improvement becomes unimaginable. And because it is unimaginable I do not feel the need to improve it.

Comparing this sound card setup to on-board sound is like comparing Bugatti Chiron to Fiat 500 :)
The on-board sound cards cannot even compare to something like Audigy SE let alone anything actually high-end.

The good solution today is dedicated DAC. It has also this advantage that it can be used with more devices than main desktop PC. Quality-wise like everything they will be a hit or miss. Compared to integrated sound card everything will be better. My phone has better sound (it is actually pretty good, LG V20 and if they put setups like this on motherboards I would change my opinion on on-board sound... but no, they still use the same Realtek, just now with NE5532 op-amp to solve one of countless issues of these codecs)
For about 99% of people the real limiting factor is speakers, not the front end. People have really crude speaker setups and as what goes for headphones, well, they're a niche in serious listening. It's pointless to tinker around with tiny tiny differences in front end when you have a 6-20db nonlinearity and phase issues in your speakers and your amps have 30-60db worse signal to noise compared to the sound card lol.

You probably have a nice setup like high end headphones or JBL / Genelec master reference monitors so you can hear some benefit from swapping op amps. Most users however would not hear a difference simply because their bottom end masks it through noise and nonlinearity.

40 dollar sound card: 120db signal to noise
5000 dollar high end amp: 80db signal to noise

mlp%C3%A41.jpg
 
Last edited:

XoR_

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
1,245
For about 99% of people the real limiting factor is speakers, not the front end. People have really crude speaker setups and headphones, well, they're a niche in serious listening. It's pointless to tinker around with tiny tiny differences in front end when you have a 6-20db nonlinearity and phase issues in your speakers and your amps have 30-60db worse signal to noise compared to the sound card lol.
I am not trying to convince anyone they should get or not get a sound card.
My post was about what I use these days and what I think about its quality.
 

B00nie

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Nov 1, 2012
Messages
9,287
I am not trying to convince anyone they should get or not get a sound card.
My post was about what I use these days and what I think about its quality.
My point was that people should pay more attention to what they listen with than where the sound comes from. In majority of cases the source is actually the highest quality link in the audio chain. Simply because it's extremely cheap to produce a very high quality DA conversion and preamp stage, but anything after that goes analog and expensive.
 

GotNoRice

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Jul 11, 2001
Messages
10,532
Xonar STX with Burson V5 buffer + 2x Burson V6 Vivid in I/V
As far as internal sound card go this would be the best setup possible. Maybe STX II would be better than STX, not sure.

Have two move V5 and 2x V6 Classic for some tweaking potential. From time to time I like to switch them but V5 + V6 Vivid is imho the best. Before Burson's I used OPA627AU and 2x LME49722 out from countless combinations of IC op-amps which all sounded differently. Burson op-amps are however the best quality by far. Like getting new sound card at which point improvement becomes unimaginable. And because it is unimaginable I do not feel the need to improve it.

I thought that my X-Fi Titanium HD benefited a lot from Burson opamps also. I found a mix of V6 vivids and classics worked quite well. https://hardforum.com/threads/breat...-soundcard-creative-x-fi-titanium-hd.2003840/ I still use it in the computer that is the main source for my dedicated music system. I've tried a few external DACs and I didn't notice any improvement. When I had the Titanium HD in my gaming computer though, I could not ever completely eliminate background noise. Thankfully the computer in my music system has a very spartan internal layout, only using integrated video, etc, so the X-Fi Titanium HD doesn't have any background noise issues in that computer. In my gaming system, switching to a regular X-Fi Titanium connected to an external DAC via optical was a huge upgrade simply due to the elimination of the background noise - pure silence now when nothing is playing. I think that for most people, especially with an electrically noisy gaming system with a beefy GPU and an overclocked CPU, the elimination of background noise is going to be the largest benefit from using an external DAC.

5000 dollar high end amp: 80db signal to noise

mlp%C3%A41.jpg

I'm not sure what amp you are talking about exactly, but 80dB SNR does seem a bit on the low side especially for an expensive boutique amp. My best amp is a Yamaha M-2, and an identical M-2 was measured earlier this year as having a 95.5dB SNR, despite the amp being over 40 years old at this point.
https://www.hifinews.com/content/yamaha-c-2am-2-prepower-amplifier-lab-report
 

B00nie

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Nov 1, 2012
Messages
9,287
I'm not sure what amp you are talking about exactly, but 80dB SNR does seem a bit on the low side especially for an expensive boutique amp. My best amp is a Yamaha M-2, and an identical M-2 was measured earlier this year as having a 95.5dB SNR, despite the amp being over 40 years old at this point.
https://www.hifinews.com/content/yamaha-c-2am-2-prepower-amplifier-lab-report
Well you're welcome to check the specs on the Mark Levinson amp lol. And I'm fairly sure the ML is higher regarded sound quality wise than the Yamaha M-2. I'm not saying the M-2 is a bad amp (my friend actually had one) but that's just the way it is. It just shows that focusing on single measurements such as S/N have no meaning in the overall picture. It's almost like stating that a car that has 255/35/20 tire size is better on track than one with 235/45/17 .

The audio chain is called a chain for a reason. Like all chains, it's only as strong as the weakest link. You can make the first shackle out of diamond coated graphene and the chain will still fail if it has a one single loop of plastic in it. By the way, quite often the weak link is already the recording stage. It's amazing how big a difference the master technicians can do if they know their stuff. The better your sound system is, the better you hear differences in recordings. When the resolution is high enough, it gets actually even annoying to realize that some recordings are just pure junk even when the music is good.

One should also remember that certain parts of the chain are technically way simpler to produce than others. For example it's absolutely trivial and cheap to produce a good measuring op-amp or a DA chip. It's absolutely trivial to make a well measuring interconnect cable or a speaker cable. Then things get harder. It's not trivially easy to make a good preamp or headphone stage, simply because you cannot predefine what power amp stage or headphone gets connected to them so you have to make your electronics work on a gazillion different devices. Same goes for power amps, they need to be able to handle a gazillion different preamps and a gazillion different speakers. And speakers need to be able to handle a gazillion different rooms and be a reasonable load to the power amp so it won't break. The first and the last link in the chain are absolutely the most difficult parts to get right because they both deal with room acoustics. The placement of the microphone matters a huge deal, often a change of a few inches changes the sound considerably (anyone who tried to record their own voice knows this intimately). So does the type used and how they're arranged. Similar problem exists with speakers and some of the best speakers are engineered to either ignore the room as much as possible or at least try to spread the sound as evenly as possible despite the inherent technical limitations the laws physics places on speakers.
 
Last edited:

OFaceSIG

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 31, 2009
Messages
2,924
I've used audio other than the motherboard in nearly every primary and gaming build I've ever done. We're talking about 30 years of builds. This time around I decided to try motherboard audio and was disappointed. The onboard AMP on my b550 tomahawk is weakAF. I had to crank the volume on the same cans I've had for a while. Wasn't happy with that. I found the Creative X3 refurbed by creative on their site for $80 shipped. Amp is much stronger and I'm happier with the results.

I do miss realtek's "plug in detection" feature, but that's not enough.
 

pendragon1

Extremely [H]
Joined
Oct 7, 2000
Messages
34,088
I've used audio other than the motherboard in nearly every primary and gaming build I've ever done. We're talking about 30 years of builds. This time around I decided to try motherboard audio and was disappointed. The onboard AMP on my b550 tomahawk is weakAF. I had to crank the volume on the same cans I've had for a while. Wasn't happy with that. I found the Creative X3 refurbed by creative on their site for $80 shipped. Amp is much stronger and I'm happier with the results.

I do miss realtek's "plug in detection" feature, but that's not enough.
high end "cans" always have issue with onboard unless it has a specialty amp, which is few and far between.
 

Nenu

[H]ardened
Joined
Apr 28, 2007
Messages
19,910
high end "cans" always have issue with onboard unless it has a specialty amp, which is few and far between.
Some high end cans are 300 to 600 ohm which as you point out can be tough to drive enough current into, but not all are.
My Empyrean are 32ohm and can be driven well enough from onboard.
Mind you I use £6K worth of DAC and amp with them lol.
 

B00nie

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Nov 1, 2012
Messages
9,287
Some high end cans are 300 to 600 ohm which as you point out can be tough to drive enough current into, but not all are.
My Empyrean are 32ohm and can be driven well enough from onboard.
Mind you I use £6K worth of DAC and amp with them lol.
Some onboard solutions are galvanically isolated from the rest of the board and contain a proper headphone amp. They're not all crap.
 

jeffreyp

n00b
Joined
Oct 4, 2021
Messages
9
Im just curious what people use these days, myself Im from the days of the early SoundBlaster cards. My first computer was a 486/66 with a dedicated SoundBlaster card, and ever since I have used SoundBlaster which is currently a AE-5.
Im just curious what people use these days, myself Im from the days of the early SoundBlaster cards. My first computer was a 486/66 with a dedicated SoundBlaster card, and ever since I have used SoundBlaster which is curren
Im just curious what people use these days, myself Im from the days of the early SoundBlaster cards. My first computer was a 486/66 with a dedicated SoundBlaster card, and ever since I have used SoundBlaster which is currently a AE-5.
Sound cards are still very useful for people like me who need an input. HDMI does not do that. You are locked to R&R if you live by HDMI. I use both but truth be known you only need HDMI bandwidth for certain audio outputs. Optical has beautiful sound. I convert vinyl, CD's and other audio to digital. HDMI leaves you out in the cold but you only need one cable.. LoL.... Brrrr
 

GotNoRice

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Jul 11, 2001
Messages
10,532
I convert vinyl, CD's and other audio to digital.

I agree that the inputs are useful. I have the Tape recording output on my preamp going to the audio inputs on my X-Fi Titanium HD and it makes recording things easy.

With that said, I hope that part in your post part about using the analog inputs to record CDs to digital was a typo on your part, because that would be pretty silly. You would be much better off simply ripping the digital files directly from the CD as opposed to unnecessary Digital to Analog and Analog to Digital conversions just to create a different digital file.
 

jeffreyp

n00b
Joined
Oct 4, 2021
Messages
9
I agree that the inputs are useful. I have the Tape recording output on my preamp going to the audio inputs on my X-Fi Titanium HD and it makes recording things easy.

With that said, I hope that part in your post part about using the analog inputs to record CDs to digital was a typo on your part, because that would be pretty silly. You would be much better off simply ripping the digital files directly from the CD as opposed to unnecessary Digital to Analog and Analog to Digital conversions just to create a different digital file.
Haha, I have a Z SE in my main unit and a X-FI Titanium HD in the old 4790k rig.
I use Audacity for audio conversion to FLAC. Load all my devices or stream. I do both.
 

B00nie

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Nov 1, 2012
Messages
9,287
Sound cards are still very useful for people like me who need an input. HDMI does not do that. You are locked to R&R if you live by HDMI. I use both but truth be known you only need HDMI bandwidth for certain audio outputs. Optical has beautiful sound. I convert vinyl, CD's and other audio to digital. HDMI leaves you out in the cold but you only need one cable.. LoL.... Brrrr
Technically speaking HDMI does not leave you out cold, it has the audio return channel. You just need a device capable of receiving and sending it.
 

jeffreyp

n00b
Joined
Oct 4, 2021
Messages
9
Technically speaking HDMI does not leave you out cold, it has the audio return channel. You just need a device capable of receiving and sending it.
Bi-directional devices would be nice but until then... :)
 

jeffreyp

n00b
Joined
Oct 4, 2021
Messages
9
My Denon AV amp has ARC. Handy with other devices.
Anyway, for what I am doing and spending under $100.00 USD for a decent sound card is a deal and a half. That was my initial point. Show me a bi-directional HDMI sound card. Sure I use DAC for the input.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Nov 13, 2006
Messages
3,272
I've got an external USB DAC/AMP combo (O2/Objective Amp) - really prefer it over mb sound or an add-on internal sound card. If I'm breaking out the high-end IEMs or cans for some critical listening though, I'm switching over to my standalone music DAP... Hard to beat a distortion value of 0.005%, dynamic range of 133dB and a SNR of 130dB with anything connected to or driven via a PC.
 

jeffreyp

n00b
Joined
Oct 4, 2021
Messages
9
I've got an external USB DAC/AMP combo (O2/Objective Amp) - really prefer it over mb sound or an add-on internal sound card. If I'm breaking out the high-end IEMs or cans for some critical listening though, I'm switching over to my standalone music DAP... Hard to beat a distortion value of 0.005%, dynamic range of 133dB and a SNR of 130dB with anything connected to or driven via a PC.
Onboard sound seems to be AOK with avid gamers. Simplicity rules...
 

Kerby1280

n00b
Joined
Aug 18, 2006
Messages
48
Currently using an ASUS STXII with upgraded OpAmps for my desktop. I use a SoundBlaster X3 with my gaming laptop on the go. I've always been a proponent of soundcards. I was pleasantly surprised by the X3 for it's price point. I ordered a Sennheiser GSX1000 to compare to the X3 and hands down the X3 sounds better to my ears at half the cost.
 

GotNoRice

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Jul 11, 2001
Messages
10,532
I think that this is really one of those situations where generalizations can cause some problems. Onboard Sound, Internal Soundcards, and External DACs are all just DACs that are located in different places. Some have potential advantages such as the External DAC having the best potential isolation. Sound cards usually have more inputs and software options. Onboard sound... costs less. Regardless of where your DAC is located, that doesn't guarantee that it will be "good" or "bad". I've seen good and bad implementations of all three.

Onboard sound seems to be AOK with avid gamers. Simplicity rules...

I'm not sure what qualifies as an "avid gamer", but many gamers use USB headsets which basically have a DAC built into the headset and will completely bypass the onboard sound hardware.
 

daglesj

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
May 7, 2005
Messages
5,450
Just got a Topping E30 for my other half's PC. Replacing a X-Fi Fatality card that has given sterling service for 15+ years. Sounds great for the money, plenty of oomph into the speakers. However, the old £25 Fiio Taishan DAC I had for my rig till recently, sound pretty good too.
 

B00nie

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Nov 1, 2012
Messages
9,287
Anyway, for what I am doing and spending under $100.00 USD for a decent sound card is a deal and a half. That was my initial point. Show me a bi-directional HDMI sound card. Sure I use DAC for the input.
Sound cards do not have HDMI. Graphics card have HDMI audio and yes, they support ARC.

One typical use case for ARC is when you connect your AV amplifier to your smart tv and want to play back the sound of the smart tv application with your AV receiver. Normally the receiver sends the image and audio to the tv set but with ARC you can have the app in the tv set send the signal 'back' to the AV receiver in order to hear tne builtin app sounds.
 

yapchagi

Limp Gawd
Joined
Sep 7, 2012
Messages
438
Anyone using Sound BlasterX AE-5 connected to PC 5.1 surround sound here? Was wondering if I could feel any difference in audio quality and/or loudness upgrading from sound blaster Z. I recently upgraded my PC to Alder Lake CPU and my motherboard onboard sound has 32-bit audio but I still think sound blaster Z provides better sound especially for gaming.
 
Top