still need a separate sound card?

Kryogen

Gawd
Joined
Feb 3, 2002
Messages
937
I see that asus is advertising good audio for its z270 prime board. Do I still need a separate sound card to get better audio for music and games, or it's just not needed? Nothing audiophile, but still, I don't like crappy popping sound.
 

criccio

Fully Equipped
Joined
Mar 26, 2008
Messages
12,647
A dedicated sound card hasn't been needed in many years. Especially if you have to ask...

That being said, some specific use cases require the use of one. For example, for my last rig I had a set of Sennheiser PC350's with a 150Ohm impedance so I bought an Asus Xonar Essence STX to properly drive them.
 

Kryogen

Gawd
Joined
Feb 3, 2002
Messages
937
so you dont need a sound blaster to game anymore, or listen to decent music, right?
 

cyclone3d

[H]ardForum Junkie
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Messages
13,274
so you dont need a sound blaster to game anymore, or listen to decent music, right?
It depends. Before deciding on a motherboard, look up that specific motherboard and see if anybody says anything bad about the sound. Yes, even in this day and age, there are still boards with supposedly good sound that have issues with popping/crackling due to bad design and/or buggy drivers.

That being said, I will not be beholden to onboard sound. A good sound card is much, much better than any onboard sound.
 

IdiotInCharge

[H]ardForum Junkie
Joined
Jun 13, 2003
Messages
13,265
I see that asus is advertising good audio for its z270 prime board. Do I still need a separate sound card to get better audio for music and games, or it's just not needed? Nothing audiophile, but still, I don't like crappy popping sound.
I have one of their Z170 boards, and even with my current set of 300Ohm HD600 cans, it worked very well.

If you're not getting into higher-end audio, you really do not need anything beyond what ASUS has provided, unless you are running into audio difficulties (noise, can't get loud enough, etc.), and that would largely be based on the headphones/headset you're using.


(when it comes to surround processing, Asus has a solution for that, and you can get solutions from Razer and others that can properly take a 7.1 mix from a game and present it to your headphones)
 

ZLoth

Gawd
Joined
Apr 13, 2010
Messages
854
I'm sure there are specific use cases for a sound card. Having said that, I've had good luck with onboard sound, and haven't used a sound card in ages.
 

GotNoRice

[H]ardForum Junkie
Joined
Jul 11, 2001
Messages
9,352
There are two main things that you have to consider.

-Functionality
-DAC

Functionality refers to any features on the card that you might make use of. Stuff like Virtual surround sound that can either downmix 7.1 down to 2 for great headphone surround, or upmix stereo content into 7.1 for a multi-channel setup. There are many examples, and plenty of people make use of those features, but they are all optional and you will never "need" anything more than onboard.

The DAC is where the analog audio signal is actually created, so this has a huge impact on the sound. Anything that already outputs analog audio already has a DAC, but there are many possibilities where you can upgrade to a better DAC. This does not have to be directly related to which features you need. If you have a soundcard and you like it's features for example, you can use the DAC on the soundcard or you can use a different DAC instead by simply running a digital cable from your soundcard to an external DAC. Some external DACs can plug into a computer via USB basically making them an external soundcard (and bypassing any other sound device you already have).

Point is, if you are happy with both the functionality and DAC quality of your onboard, then you are good to go. If you want more in either of these areas, you have options.
 

thesmokingman

[H]ardness Supreme
Joined
Nov 22, 2008
Messages
5,712
I see that asus is advertising good audio for its z270 prime board. Do I still need a separate sound card to get better audio for music and games, or it's just not needed? Nothing audiophile, but still, I don't like crappy popping sound.
so you dont need a sound blaster to game anymore, or listen to decent music, right?
No and no.

I have a ZXR with Sparkos Labs SS opamps that I used to use with x79 RIVE btw. Since moving to a Z170 Formula, I've not really needed it. I use a heavily modded set of Sony MDR Z7 and Hifiman 400i as my two main cans and a custom 3 way speaker setup with AJ sub and receiver. What are these pops and popping sound? Is that still a thing with MB's? lol, I kid...

One thing I still use from the ZXR is the ACM module, fucking love that thing. It is a volume control with headphone/mic inputs, as well as comprising a double mic setup. It plugs right into the Z170 Soundblaster onboard sound setup too, awesome.
 

Commander Shepard

[H]ardness Supreme
Joined
Apr 12, 2016
Messages
4,114
I stopped buying sound cards when I started using receiver/amps and speakers for PC audio. Now, I just run an optical cable from the mobo to my DAC.
 

B00nie

[H]ardness Supreme
Joined
Nov 1, 2012
Messages
8,172
I stopped buying sound cards when I started using receiver/amps and speakers for PC audio. Now, I just run an optical cable from the mobo to my DAC.
This is by far the best way to do it - unless you want surround sound which makes it a bit more complicated.
 

IdiotInCharge

[H]ardForum Junkie
Joined
Jun 13, 2003
Messages
13,265
This is by far the best way to do it - unless you want surround sound which makes it a bit more complicated.
Well, then you just use HDMI and get unmolested 7.1- I assume that's what you mean by 'complicated', if your video output isn't HDMI, and it very likely isn't.

(unless you're rolling a hodgepodge of stuff like I am, but I only use headphones)
 

B00nie

[H]ardness Supreme
Joined
Nov 1, 2012
Messages
8,172
Well, then you just use HDMI and get unmolested 7.1- I assume that's what you mean by 'complicated', if your video output isn't HDMI, and it very likely isn't.

(unless you're rolling a hodgepodge of stuff like I am, but I only use headphones)
No I meant you have to encapsulate the optical output to pass through surround. By standard the SP/DIF optical interface supports stereo only - but there's a workaround. HDMI is not as good as optical because it doesn't galvanically isolate the systems. Ground loop or other nasties can occur (and often will).
 

IdiotInCharge

[H]ardForum Junkie
Joined
Jun 13, 2003
Messages
13,265
No I meant you have to encapsulate the optical output to pass through surround. By standard the SP/DIF optical interface supports stereo only - but there's a workaround. HDMI is not as good as optical because it doesn't galvanically isolate the systems. Ground loop or other nasties can occur (and often will).
By encapsulate do you mean compress it into a lossy DD/DTS stream? This is what HDMI avoids, and could be worth working through other issues.
 

Kryogen

Gawd
Joined
Feb 3, 2002
Messages
937
I have an amp and speakers, but it's got analog in only, so I rely on the DAC....

I had an auzentech prelude xfi card, but it wont fit anymore because its PCI
 

criccio

Fully Equipped
Joined
Mar 26, 2008
Messages
12,647
Ya'll completely missed the question he asked.. Does he NEED one. Absolutely not....

Popping and otherwise crappy audio just isn't a thing these days.... The Realtek chip on my H97i-Plus sounds great with my Swan M200MKII's.

Not a single difference from my old Xonar Essence STX which is a pretty damn good card. (Went mITX so it no longer fits)

The guy is just trying to play games with normal, clean audio. Let's not overcomplicate this for him or lead him to believe something that just isn't true.
 
Last edited:

cyclone3d

[H]ardForum Junkie
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Messages
13,274
I have an amp and speakers, but it's got analog in only, so I rely on the DAC....

I had an auzentech prelude xfi card, but it wont fit anymore because its PCI
PCIe to PCI adapter would fix that for you. You just have to find somewhere to mount it.
 

Kryogen

Gawd
Joined
Feb 3, 2002
Messages
937
Oh, nice with the adapter, but at 60$ if asus makes a nice integrated audio, I guess it's just not worth it, and if I dislike the sound, maybe I should just get an external DAC before my amp I guess. ?

Its just that "onboard audio" was considered crap before, but if it's as decent a a normal sound card now, my understanding is that I don't need one anymore. Thanks guys.
 

GotNoRice

[H]ardForum Junkie
Joined
Jul 11, 2001
Messages
9,352
Ya'll completely missed the question he asked.. Does he NEED one. Absolutely not....

Popping and otherwise crappy audio just isn't a thing these days.... The Realtek chip on my H97i-Plus sounds great with my Swan M200MKII's.

Not a single difference from my old Xonar Essence STX which is a pretty damn good card. (Went mITX so it no longer fits)

The guy is just trying to play games with normal, clean audio. Let's not overcomplicate this for him or lead him to believe something that just isn't true.
I encounter computers with shitty audio implementations every day. I'm not sure how you can generalize and say that they are all good now just because you are satisfied with the audio on one specific motherboard that you have. Also, feel free to point out where anyone in this thread has been leading the OP to believe things that aren't true, because i'm not seeing it. OP clearly asked about music also.

Oh, nice with the adapter, but at 60$ if asus makes a nice integrated audio, I guess it's just not worth it, and if I dislike the sound, maybe I should just get an external DAC before my amp I guess. ?

Its just that "onboard audio" was considered crap before, but if it's as decent a a normal sound card now, my understanding is that I don't need one anymore. Thanks guys.
You would be better off not generalizing. You can't lump all onboard audio into one single category and call it good or bad. It comes down to how it is implemented on each board. I think that onboard these days can be good, but in the end you have to test it yourself and see if it is good enough for you.
 

criccio

Fully Equipped
Joined
Mar 26, 2008
Messages
12,647
We're talking about a new Asus Z270 board. You're telling me you expect it to have crappy cracking audio?

I'm looking at this situation for what it is, not what we want to make it.

His question was about that board and the potential NEED for a dedicated sound card.

I'm answering his question directly and saying no.


For the record, this is the blurb from Asus regarding that specific audio implementation:

Crystal Sound 3

  • Realtek®S1220A
  • Impedance sense for headphone outputs
  • 120dB SNR stereo playback output & 110dB SNR input (line-in) support
  • Power pre-regulator
  • EMI protection cover
  • Audio shielding
  • De-pop circuit
  • Different layer for left/right track
  • Japan-made audio capacitors
I just can't tell this guy that he's going to NEED another soundcard in good faith...
 

ashmelev75

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Nov 29, 2007
Messages
1,583
We're talking about a new Asus Z270 board. You're telling me you expect it to have crappy cracking audio?
It has a Realtek codec, so in case of DPC latency issues the cracking audio is possible.
That's why HDMI receiver is a superb solution to PC audio.
 

Kryogen

Gawd
Joined
Feb 3, 2002
Messages
937
um, I got the asus rog hero board, and imo, the sound is clearly not as good as my auzentech x fi prelude 7.1.
It's decent sound, but it's not that good.

Should I buy a pcie adapter and reuse the auzen card, or should I just buy an external dac and use optical out?
 

DeathFromBelow

[H]ardness Supreme
Joined
Jul 15, 2005
Messages
7,316
I've never heard an onboard analog solution that sounded good amped. For just plugging in your headphones directly most modern solutions are bearable but they still suck.

I'm personally using a sound blaster z, I use the Dolby Digital encoder to send 5.1 audio to my amp over toslink. If all you want is a DAC for your headphones I'd get a USB Schiit Modi.
 

Kryogen

Gawd
Joined
Feb 3, 2002
Messages
937
I have an amp with 2 speakers on my desk, so i either need a good dac in between the onboard and the amp, or an adapter to reinstall my x fi prelude which was quite good at feeding the amp as is.
 
Joined
Jul 7, 2016
Messages
53
I would not recommend using a dedicated sound card unless you have very specific needs, such as professional audio development.

If you want better sound quality or a good headphone amp you should get an external device or device(s). They will almost always give you better sound quality.

Connect it to your pc using either usb or the onboard sound's SPDIF digital outputs.
 

BIGGRIMTIM

Gawd
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
905
I Love my Soundblaster Z. It has a decent headphone amp and sounds way better than the onboard sound on my board.
 

adobian

Limp Gawd
Joined
May 21, 2007
Messages
268
I was going to ask the the Forum how good the Realtek ALC1220 is. I guess it is pretty good from what I could see here.


Is that true ? 120db is supposed to be awesome right ?
 

cyclone3d

[H]ardForum Junkie
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Messages
13,274
In what way? Saying "much, much better" seems to be an exaggeration to me.
1. Current card is a Sound Blaster ZxR - still supports Alchemy for EAX on older games.. even in Windows 10.
2. SNR is better - Motherboard Realtek ALC1150 115dB - ZxR 124dB
3. Headphone amp that actually can power real headphones
4. Dedicated headphone plug - able to change between speakers and headphones without unplugging/plugging in cables or using a switch box

I'm sure there is more, but that is all I am using at the moment.
 

rezerekted

2[H]4U
Joined
Apr 6, 2015
Messages
3,043
1. Current card is a Sound Blaster ZxR - still supports Alchemy for EAX on older games.. even in Windows 10.
2. SNR is better - Motherboard Realtek ALC1150 115dB - ZxR 124dB
3. Headphone amp that actually can power real headphones
4. Dedicated headphone plug - able to change between speakers and headphones without unplugging/plugging in cables or using a switch box

I'm sure there is more, but that is all I am using at the moment.
That's a negligible difference, IMO. The amps built onto soundcards are not very powerful, somewhere around 60mw. I had a tube headphone amp that was 220mw.
 

Trackr

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Feb 10, 2011
Messages
1,775
I was going to create my own thread, but this thread is just so fitting.

I'm wondering how much 'better' the ASUS Xonar DSX is over the ALC892.

I'm looking at getting a more affordable board and the DSX or a more expensive board that has the ALC892.

A lot of people are saying it's a huge difference.

I used to have an X-Fi card and loved it, but they're selling for a higher price than they did 10 years ago for some reason.
 
Joined
Jul 7, 2016
Messages
53
In my opinion, for a high end audio setup the only thing your on-board soundcard should do is provide digital out. All analog conversions and amplification should be done via external components which will do it better than a soundcard ever could.

The ideal setup is something like this going into a DAC.

https://www.rme-audio.de/en/products/hdspe_aio.php
 

rezerekted

2[H]4U
Joined
Apr 6, 2015
Messages
3,043
If you are going to get an external DAC do not waste your money on a soundcard too. Just use optical out from the onboard soundcard to the DAC.

People recommend these guys for affordable DAC.

http://schiit.com/

But you want a headphone amp too, right? You could buy the Magni2 amp and Modi2 DAC for $200.00.

There are other choices, of course, but need to know your budget and the above selection is good.
 

jevans64

Gawd
Joined
Jan 26, 2015
Messages
796
Can you recommend an affordable DAC?
If your budget is $500, I'd recommend the Emotiva DC-1 DAC. The things it has going for it over the " Schiit Stack aka. Magni2 + Modi2 " are size and flexibility. it is more compact than something like the Schiit Jotunheim. The DC-1 is fully balanced with both XLR and RCA analog outputs, which I use for a set of powered monitors and an SVS SB16-Ultra sub. It is also a USB DAC and can support up to 24bit/192kHz input using UAC 2.0 drivers for PC. It also has AES, CoAx, TosLink, and BNC digital inputs. Yes. You CAN connect SIX digital sources to the DC-1 and select between them with the included remote. It even has a line-level analog input to connect a PC to it with normal analog output or a turn-table or tape deck. There is an expansion unit available that increases the analog inputs to 3 line-level and one phono-level for high-end turntables. DC-1 has a precision analog gain control with ±-.25 dB precision. As far as headphone amps, you get TWO of them capable of powering planar-magnetic cans. Only real negative is that they use 3.5mm jacks instead of the standard 1/4" jacks. Using an adapter, IMO, puts too much stress on the jacks and you have to be careful not to pull on the headphone cord. It is a plus if your cans have a 3.5mm jack though. My Sennheiser HD 650 cans came with a short cord-type adapter, which works better than those plug-type adapters. The DC-1 doesn't support anything higher than 24bit/192kHz and it doesn't support 1-bit, like DSD. You'll probably want to look at Oppo HA-1 or Sonica for 32bit and DSD support.
 

Trackr

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Feb 10, 2011
Messages
1,775
I'm talking about buying a $50 sound card and you guys are recommending a $500 alternative.

Am I being trolled?

I'm just looking for something equivalent to my XtremeGamer.
 
  • Like
Reactions: travm
like this

tungt88

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jan 14, 2008
Messages
2,017
I'm talking about buying a $50 sound card and you guys are recommending a $500 alternative.

Am I being trolled?

I'm just looking for something equivalent to my XtremeGamer.
In that case, a good (and cheap) upgrade to your X-Fi XtremeGamer would be a used Sound Blaster Z sound card. They can go as low as $50 (sometimes even less) on Ebay, Craigslist, and the FS forum here. Creative's Sound Blaster website also has some really good sales from time to time (usually during the holiday season). I had an XtremeGamer, and upgraded to a Sound Blaster Z several years ago -- it was a very big (and very noticeable) upgrade.
You can also try some of the cheaper USB DAC/AMP alternatives from FiiO (E10K Olympus 2 for $65+ was what I had in mind; maybe even the Q1 -- if you want to put it to desktop use), and pair that with the (free) Razer surround software.

Those options are about as "bang for the buck" as you can get, off the top of my head.
 
Last edited:
Top