still need a separate sound card?

RPGWiZaRD

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I've been very happy with Realtek ALC1150 and ALC1220 on Intel Z270 and Ryzen motherboards seems a further significant upgrade.

Different manufacturers picks different onboard amps so the result can vary, I remember I wasn't that convinced with an ASUS ROG motherboard with ALC1150 (sounded a bit muffled, too warm with slightly smoothed out highs with an over emphasization of bass frequencies, even stronger bass than on a ZxR!) but my ASRock motherboard using Texas NI5532 sounded wonderfully to me, so much I ditched the SoundBlaster ZxR and ASUS Essence STX II or SoundBlaster G5 that still all measures technically better but subjectively I preferred the sound of the onboard. I pick ASRock also as my next board for the sound alone as I know their config works well. :) Loudness wise the onboard soundcards when driven out of the amped output should be able to drive even 300 ohm headphones like Sennheiser HD650.

As long as you're using 5.1 speaker setting, the virtual surround is pretty decent without any audio quality hits (more the opposite, improvement in soundstaging) and that tends to be my preferred config so far, SBX, dolby headphone, Razer etc virtual surround processings didn't convince me that the audio quality impact was worth it, I rather take 25% improvement to surround processing without any audio quality impacts/artificial side effects than 50% improvement but with 25% audio quality hits.

This comes from a headphone enthusiast and hobby mastering engineer for newcomer producers (over 700 tracks mastered).
 
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rezerekted

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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.
You never stated your budget, just said "affordable". Can't buy much with $50.00 and the one I listed is only $100. Try m-audio and fiio.

https://www.amazon.com/Digital-Anal...rd_wg=Oygkw&psc=1&refRID=NXP3GCC7RG1QHPHRQHNX <<<<<<<<<<THIS IS THE DAC FOR YOU AND ONLY $24.99


Look into Behringer too for affordable DAC
 
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GodOfGaming

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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.
I've done quite a lot of resarch into this and as it turns out all sound blasters after X-Fi series, including the ZxR, handle ALchemy in a different way than older sound blasters up to and including the X-Fi, resulting in EAX not sounding quite as good. So if you are a gamer and care about old games that support EAX, X-Fi is still the ultimate sound card. Also the CMSS-3D virtual surround function of the X-Fi is superior to the newer, what was it called, SBX or whatever in the new cards. With that said, ZxR definitely has better sound quality than even the best X-Fi models, so it is better for music, but as far as gaming is concerned, X-Fi for the win :)
 

RPGWiZaRD

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^ Depends what you mean by best, as long as you don't care about audio quality as that's where CMSS-3D sounds the worst of the bunch but it's in the very upper-tier on positioning still though. I personally couldn't stand the CMSS-3D audio quality even for gaming.

Sennheiser GSX 1000 is appearently good when it comes to surround sound and also sounds very good (natural/neutral setting doesn't change the sound a whole lot) but it's rather expensive and all features are controlled from the device itself can be both a pro and con in terms of functionality vs convenience. Would personally prefer more advanced configurability software-wise.
 
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GodOfGaming

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well, the thing is CMSS-3D can do HRTF in supported games (most DirectSound3D / OpenAL games) which is much better than any surround, virtual or real, and do normal 7.1 virtual surround in everything else, while the new SBX thingy can only do virtual surround, no HRTF. And as I said EAX itself sounds better on the X-Fi, at least for games that require ALchemy to use EAX, and while audio quality itself cant match the ZxR, it can still be pretty good with one of the better X-Fi models (the Titanium HD or the Auzen variants, or hell, the Onkyo WAVIO SE-300PCIE if you can find one). Which is why X-Fi is my top choice for modern gaming builds (Aureal Vortex 2 for win98 builds)
 

DuronBurgerMan

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I'm a DJ and Producer, and quite honestly... onboard audio is fine for casual listening, at least if you're talking a good quality motherboard. The quality of onboard audio has really gone up in recent years.

I still use my Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 for serious production work, and I use the Traktor S4's built-in sound for DJing, but it's not so much because of the sound quality, per se, it's because of all the inputs/outputs, and the routing configurations I can do with them. Last time I bought a dedicated board (an Auzentech Prelude), but this new build I just did, I didn't even bother. I use the onboard for just regular use, and the professional stuff for mixing/producing.
 

bleagh

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Stick with the motherboard's onboard sound. For $50 you are not likely to get anything that is any better.

If you do want something better, I would recomment getting the Schiit Modi 2 which is priced at $99.
 
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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).

Pardon my ignorance, but the latter is something I never understood. How can audio travel via USB? (And bypass your onboard audio, no less) I mean, isn't all audio ouput generated by your (onboard) audio card? I was thinking of maybe getting a https://www.schiit.com/products/modi-1 for a Sennheiser HD 660S I plan to buy, but wouldn't any audio coming from USB be utter crap?!
 

IdiotInCharge

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How can audio travel via USB?
Digitally.

isn't all audio ouput generated by your (onboard) audio card?
Nope. There's audio in digital streams going here and there, but it isn't 'generated' until it hits a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). A 'USB soundcard' or 'USB DAC' is just that, including the Modi, as well as say USB Soundblasters, USB headsets, and even in displays these days.

By using an external DAC, be it USB, SP/DIF, or say a receiver over HDMI, you get that first analog stage out of the PC. This means less potential noise, which may matter.

And it may not.
 
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Digitally.



Nope. There's audio in digital streams going here and there, but it isn't 'generated' until it hits a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). A 'USB soundcard' or 'USB DAC' is just that, including the Modi, as well as say USB Soundblasters, USB headsets, and even in displays these days.

By using an external DAC, be it USB, SP/DIF, or say a receiver over HDMI, you get that first analog stage out of the PC. This means less potential noise, which may matter.

And it may not.

Okay, thanks for that explanation! It kinda leaves me wondering what the (onboard) audio card really does then, aside from being a glorified DAC. :) And does USB onky support stereo?

I also have an SPDIF on my mobo (ALC1150). I'd like to get a dedicated card, but I'm hearing very bad things about crappy drivers (Windows 10), so I'll need to look into that further. But would you recommend SPDIF over USB? (I believe a modi can take both).
 

IdiotInCharge

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Well, it's a DAC. That's basically all anything that does sound output does these days. The DACs are actually pretty good onboard, the bigger issue is the environment of the implementation. Motherboard manufacturers tend to take shortcuts. When they don't, stuff works pretty well.

You want to be sure, you put the stuff outside. Not that big of a deal? Plug it into the board.

Ran a pair of 300Ohm HD600's off of onboard for a bit. Main reason I went for more was to run other stuff- but it's hard to recommend keeping it simple if you can.
 

andrehe

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Well, it's a DAC. That's basically all anything that does sound output does these days. The DACs are actually pretty good onboard, the bigger issue is the environment of the implementation. Motherboard manufacturers tend to take shortcuts. When they don't, stuff works pretty well.

You want to be sure, you put the stuff outside. Not that big of a deal? Plug it into the board.
The environment indeed can be disturbing and lower the signal quality significantly, for example a graphics card under load. It depends on shielding on the mainboard which costs money and is often left out. High-end soundcards normally have shielding which can be seen easily and adds to the weight of the card significantly. Nowadays usually only IC names are advertized (RTL1220, ESS...), no word on shielding. Personally, I have an Asus Xonar Xense (CMI8788) which I use for headphone output and input from mic preamp DBX 286S (both 6.3mm jack). It does not have a support page on the Asus website anymore. I would recommend using the Realtek onboard for digital out (SPDIF) and a USB audio interface like Steinberg UR12 or Scarlet Focusrite for headphone/mic.
 

XoR_

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Sound cards like Xonar STX are pretty cheap when you consider how long those won't need replacing and quality they offer.
Using on-board audio is degrading to ones soul :(
 

B00nie

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Sound cards like Xonar STX are pretty cheap when you consider how long those won't need replacing and quality they offer.
Using on-board audio is degrading to ones soul :(
Not necessarily. My onboard audio is physically isolated from the motherboard and it has the Creative 3D chip most new Creative cards have.
 

XoR_

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Not necessarily. My onboard audio is physically isolated from the motherboard and it has the Creative 3D chip most new Creative cards have.
This is still Realtek ALC sound codec and Creative stuff is software-only.
My mobo have high end ALC chip also with some crazy SNR rating and it sounds exactly like all Realtek ALC implementations. It is just like much more refined version with noise pushed somewhat further into higher frequencies and better power output allowing headphones to not choke themselves, but all in all it sounds very similar as eg. ALC650 from way back.

Realtek uses 1-bit ΔΣ modulation in all of its audio products and this tech have specific unmistakable sound signature, especially if filtering is not done correctly and switching frequency is not high enough.

On my smartphone (Meizu MX4 Pro) I have far better sound than from my motherboard on-board audio chip. It also uses 1-bit chip but one build for actual quality in mind and is used on some high-end audio equipment.

One could buy Asus Xonar DX with proper D/A IC more than decade ago and still use it to this day and for foreseeable future (probably more than decade into the future as PCI-E is pretty refined technology which won't need replacing anytime soon) and with that what is the point to listening on-board audio? No point at all.
If PCI-E is a problem then there are PCI-E solutions available, some pretty cheap yet still sound very good.

Mind you we are not talking about some audio-voodoo stuff here or having to spend terrible amounts of money. We are talking about getting cheap dedicated hardware that does the thing it was designed for properly or choosing instead some integrated solution that was from the start made to be as cheap as possible and just produce audible sound, nothing more.
 
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deaedius

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While I did not read all the responses.
In midrange to high end motherboards have discrete circuitry and swapable components that allow onboard to rival some dedicated sound cards.
Now if you are looking for sound production or use high end headphones or similar then dedicated DAC amps/preamps may be your route.

Personally I have had no problems with the performance of onboard sound for a good while now.
 

B00nie

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While I did not read all the responses.
In midrange to high end motherboards have discrete circuitry and swapable components that allow onboard to rival some dedicated sound cards.
Now if you are looking for sound production or use high end headphones or similar then dedicated DAC amps/preamps may be your route.

Personally I have had no problems with the performance of onboard sound for a good while now.
My current motherboards onboard sound is physically separated from the rest of the motherboard and it uses the same Creative chip Soundblaster cards used at that time (perhaps even currently). I'm willing to bet that many of the problems people associate with onboard sound stem from unearthed wall sockets, dirty mains power and/or broken power supplies. Most computer power supplies are junk by audio standards.
 

IdiotInCharge

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My current motherboards onboard sound is physically separated from the rest of the motherboard and it uses the same Creative chip Soundblaster cards used at that time (perhaps even currently). I'm willing to bet that many of the problems people associate with onboard sound stem from unearthed wall sockets, dirty mains power and/or broken power supplies. Most computer power supplies are junk by audio standards.
All of the above, plus corners cut by board makers themselves.

That said, still have a Z170-A doing server duty (ASUS) and it drove my HD600 at 300Ω and DT880 at 250Ω both quite well. Not the best sounding output mind you, but the power was there and the noise was more than acceptable.
 

IdiotInCharge

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Mind you we are not talking about some audio-voodoo stuff here or having to spend terrible amounts of money. We are talking about getting cheap dedicated hardware that does the thing it was designed for properly or choosing instead some integrated solution that was from the start made to be as cheap as possible and just produce audible sound, nothing more.
To address the 'audio voodoo', above say ~US$200 for DAC and Amp, which is what good sound cards generally go for, you're paying for flexibility, features, and perhaps niche levels of power output / super low noise for using less common headphones / IEMs.

The very best I'd recommend for pure desktop use + gaming would be the US$269 Mayflower Arc MK2, and you're paying a bit more for features: in this case, you're paying for a standard-setting headphone output with the best mic input on the market bar nicer audio interfaces, all in a compact, driverless, USB-powered package:

 

DoubleTap

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To address the 'audio voodoo', above say ~US$200 for DAC and Amp, which is what good sound cards generally go for, you're paying for flexibility, features, and perhaps niche levels of power output / super low noise for using less common headphones / IEMs.

The very best I'd recommend for pure desktop use + gaming would be the US$269 Mayflower Arc MK2, and you're paying a bit more for features: in this case, you're paying for a standard-setting headphone output with the best mic input on the market bar nicer audio interfaces, all in a compact, driverless, USB-powered package:

I feel like USB powered devices (excluding maybe USB C devices that draw more power) don't necessarily have the juice for a good HP amp.

The Mayflower unit looks like one of the better ones, but I don't know why you would limit your power budget like that.
 

IdiotInCharge

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I feel like USB powered devices (excluding maybe USB C devices that draw more power) don't necessarily have the juice for a good HP amp.

The Mayflower unit looks like one of the better ones, but I don't know why you would limit your power budget like that.
Well, you'd typically supply >10 watts through a USB port, and the Arc MK2 is pushing 1 watt into 32Ω. Even raising the impedance to 300Ω, or using spectacularly inefficient headphones, that's still deafening. For the best gaming headsets, you're looking at maybe no more than 1/3rd on the volume dial being the top end of what you could bear.

I did ask myself the same question, but really, I don't see an issue here. Newer amp designs can be pretty efficient, and USB power has come a long way. Most of your audio interfaces have no trouble supporting several mic inputs with phantom power and a headphone output and balanced monitor outputs all on USB power.
 

XoR_

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USB is more than enough for DAC with headphone amp
I can charge Meizu MX4 Pro while playing Sennheiser HD545 (and even more so HD600 for that matter) at full power while it plays Tidal at highest quality over Wifi and I use phone at the same time.
And let me be clear, Meizu MX4 Pro is as strong as anyone will ever need need to listen to music. Most people will need to lower volume because 100% is near pain threshold. Xonar STX at full power out of its headphone amp is pretty much comparable in power.

My current motherboards onboard sound is physically separated from the rest of the motherboard and it uses the same Creative chip Soundblaster cards used at that time (perhaps even currently). I'm willing to bet that many of the problems people associate with onboard sound stem from unearthed wall sockets, dirty mains power and/or broken power supplies. Most computer power supplies are junk by audio standards.
Your motherboard uses Realtek ALC1150 as D/A chip.
Soundblaster cards use proper D/A chips. Even very cheap Audigy SE uses very good Wolfson WM8768 and PCI-E iterations of this card use similar D/A.
Soundblaster AE-5 uses ESS ES9016K2M, which is brother/sister of D/A chip that my Meizu phone uses.
Soundblaster ZXR uses TI PCM1794 which is brother/sister to D/A chips that Xonar STX and Tempotec Serenade use.
Soundblaster Z/ZX uses Cirrus Logic CS4398-CZZ

Asus SupermeFX from Z97-Pro Gamer uses Realtek ALC1150 which to my knowledge no Creative card ever used. They did not fall so low...
 

B00nie

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USB is more than enough for DAC with headphone amp
I can charge Meizu MX4 Pro while playing Sennheiser HD545 (and even more so HD600 for that matter) at full power while it plays Tidal at highest quality over Wifi and I use phone at the same time.
And let me be clear, Meizu MX4 Pro is as strong as anyone will ever need need to listen to music. Most people will need to lower volume because 100% is near pain threshold. Xonar STX at full power out of its headphone amp is pretty much comparable in power.


Your motherboard uses Realtek ALC1150 as D/A chip.
Soundblaster cards use proper D/A chips. Even very cheap Audigy SE uses very good Wolfson WM8768 and PCI-E iterations of this card use similar D/A.
Soundblaster AE-5 uses ESS ES9016K2M, which is brother/sister of D/A chip that my Meizu phone uses.
Soundblaster ZXR uses TI PCM1794 which is brother/sister to D/A chips that Xonar STX and Tempotec Serenade use.
Soundblaster Z/ZX uses Cirrus Logic CS4398-CZZ

Asus SupermeFX from Z97-Pro Gamer uses Realtek ALC1150 which to my knowledge no Creative card ever used. They did not fall so low...
Actually you're correct. I remembered wrong, probably confused it with the motherboard my sons machine has. It had the Creative 3D chip (and used to be my computer). I use an USB headset for gaming anyway so the quality of the onboard audio does not concern me. Most people do not have good enough speakers/amps connected to their computers to really need to be concerned about differences with DACs.

It's funny to see people picker about 110db S/N vs 115db of DACs while they use amps that have 98db or less S/N and listen to recordings made on analog masters that have a 70-75db S/N
 
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My two cents. I got creative AE-9 (swappable op amps) but Evga has Nu Pro Audio card if you want 7.1 (swapable ops as well). Always Asus Stx II sound ard as well for 7.1.
 

B00nie

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I'm a DJ and Producer, and quite honestly... onboard audio is fine for casual listening, at least if you're talking a good quality motherboard. The quality of onboard audio has really gone up in recent years.

I still use my Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 for serious production work, and I use the Traktor S4's built-in sound for DJing, but it's not so much because of the sound quality, per se, it's because of all the inputs/outputs, and the routing configurations I can do with them. Last time I bought a dedicated board (an Auzentech Prelude), but this new build I just did, I didn't even bother. I use the onboard for just regular use, and the professional stuff for mixing/producing.
This reminds me of a discussion on Hospital records forum. People were asking for hi-res versions of their Drum&Bass records. LE just commented back that the samples the musicians use for the music are regular mp3:s sometimes ripped from 60 year old records so playing the music back in hires would yield no benefit.

Many people are stuck with formats and stats like S/N without deeper understanding of what's really important.
 

DuronBurgerMan

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This reminds me of a discussion on Hospital records forum. People were asking for hi-res versions of their Drum&Bass records. LE just commented back that the samples the musicians use for the music are regular mp3:s sometimes ripped from 60 year old records so playing the music back in hires would yield no benefit.

Many people are stuck with formats and stats like S/N without deeper understanding of what's really important.
Correct. Playback quality has more or less reached parity with production quality in most cases.

The real reason to justify a discrete sound card purchase is routing configuration not supported by onboard audio. Need XLRs for mic/instrument input? Need phantom power? Need SPDIF or optical output to an older receiver? Need a boatload of RCA and/or 1/4" outputs/inputs for recording/routing? Need phono in? Outputing to studio monitors? Etc... Most of these can be handled by external USB breakout box "sound cards" like the Komplete 6.

S/N ratio can still be important if you're in the business. But mostly irrelevant for listening for most people.
 

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IdiotInCharge

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Most of these can be handled by external USB breakout box "sound cards" like the Komplete 6.
I've been looking closer at the Motu M2, which is near the top of its price class at US$169, but, includes both balanced and single-ended outputs, MIDI passthrough, dual combo XLR / TRS inputs with independent 48V phantom power triggering, and last but not least 32bit float recording for 'gainless' input.

It also looks nice, has a very nice display, has a USB-C connection, and is built with great components all around.

The only place I'm expecting it to be limited is the same as all bus-powered interfaces and most portable recorders, which is the inability to drive higher-impedance headphones. You usually want to stick to less than 50Ω with this class of devices, but generally speaking that's enough. If it's not, you can hook up a balanced headphone amp to it to do that job.
 

DuronBurgerMan

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I've been looking closer at the Motu M2, which is near the top of its price class at US$169, but, includes both balanced and single-ended outputs, MIDI passthrough, dual combo XLR / TRS inputs with independent 48V phantom power triggering, and last but not least 32bit float recording for 'gainless' input.

It also looks nice, has a very nice display, has a USB-C connection, and is built with great components all around.

The only place I'm expecting it to be limited is the same as all bus-powered interfaces and most portable recorders, which is the inability to drive higher-impedance headphones. You usually want to stick to less than 50Ω with this class of devices, but generally speaking that's enough. If it's not, you can hook up a balanced headphone amp to it to do that job.

I tend to prefer Native Instruments for most of my equipment. But this is as much due to the software side of the equation as the hardware side. I use Komplete (still on 11, not 12, because $) and Traktor.
 

IdiotInCharge

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I tend to prefer Native Instruments for most of my equipment. But this is as much due to the software side of the equation as the hardware side. I use Komplete (still on 11, not 12, because $) and Traktor.
Most interfaces seem to be on about the same level with respect to recording quality and hardware arrangement. I mention the Motu stuff mostly because of three features that aren't really common yet, being the 32bit float, independent 48v selectors, and the display.

However, none of that is critical, just nice to have, and I do rather much understand that the hardware is only part of the equation ;).
 

PCMusicGuy

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Man, what I'd really love is a proper Elite Pro replacement. I actually use everything on the card and breakout box. The phono in, the HiZ in, the analog 7.1 output and the headphone output were all regularly used. I really like the fact that by default the headphones and the analog 7.1 output would play at the same time too.
 

robinspat

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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.
If you want sound because you actually know what you're hearing - RME pci pcie audio card - other wise - all this is bull - my playback monitors are ADAM a7x for the last few years. Exceptionally good as focused movie stereo speakers. As a side use don't really need centre spkr for speech when using with 42" TV... muting the dreadful tin speakers of TV's... all flat screen TVs are crap without exception including the £10K stupid. Its a TV ffs...

...or my cans Beyer DT150 exceptional good closed back and surprisingly underrated for their fidelity and bottom end (not hyped) ... I do still miss my Senheiser HD550... they were outstanding and only about £100 in 2002... that an arse broke for me...

USE RME if you really have 'ears' -

I record using ASIO low latency, engineer, mix (edit eq etc), produce, arrange... most of you here have no idea if you listening to a WAV file or an Mp3, let alone vinyl... so to the person who asked the question... if your motherboard is reasonable, decent brand, ASUS, Gigabyte etc... it will be fine. Nice to have supposed audio capacitors on the motherboard but... in the last 20 odd years most albums ending up the computer, be it Abbey Road or a basement... did not..

That help to diffuse the BS? ;)
 

robinspat

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Most interfaces seem to be on about the same level with respect to recording quality and hardware arrangement. I mention the Motu stuff mostly because of three features that aren't really common yet, being the 32bit float, independent 48v selectors, and the display.

However, none of that is critical, just nice to have, and I do rather much understand that the hardware is only part of the equation ;).
Plus 1 for MOTU ;) but I like RME
 

XoR_

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Actually you're correct. I remembered wrong, probably confused it with the motherboard my sons machine has. It had the Creative 3D chip (and used to be my computer). I use an USB headset for gaming anyway so the quality of the onboard audio does not concern me. Most people do not have good enough speakers/amps connected to their computers to really need to be concerned about differences with DACs.

It's funny to see people picker about 110db S/N vs 115db of DACs while they use amps that have 98db or less S/N and listen to recordings made on analog masters that have a 70-75db S/N
110dB vs 115dB is not the issue here and never was. Differences between good DACs are minuscule and if anything larger differences can be only heard when plugging headphones directly to DACs due to different analog circuits.

Issue is that these Realteks have nowhere near that despite what marketing materials claim. They did the same care for measurements as people who claimed small computer speakers can get 200W "Maximum POWER!!!"

My Asrock Z390 Extreme4 is supposed to have 120dB S/N and it measures ~80dB in RMAA which confirm exactly what I heard with my ears: it is the same as all other Realtek I heard including one I had before albeit with proper amplification and better filtering. I must say it is able to drive 150ohm Sennheiser HD545 quite well so here it is good. Other that it is the same thing but now with "32bit" slapped to it.

And to be honest, it is pretty usable solution for most people, I will agree here.
I however disagree with people like you trying to sway others from getting proper DAC or sound card with your "integrated audio sounds as good" and "difference cannot be heard" which in this case is simply bullshit.
 

Hielo_loco

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In my opinion as somebody that likes good audio but is not an audiophile, I would say go for a soundcard if you are set with your other devices (GPU, cpu, memory, etc), especially if you have a budget motherboard, which more likely than not will come with unremarkable sound hardware. I have a servicable micro atx board with a crappy realtek chip. My old soundblaster z sounds waaay better... it's great with my 5.1 speaker system.

If you would like to hear what a soundblaster card is capable of, especially with a real 5.1 speaker setup:
1) buy unreal tournament 2004 for a couple of bucks from a steam sale
2) fully update the game, install the soundblaster xfi patch for ut2004 and configure it
3) download the dm-cbp2-tydal and dm-cbp1-arkanos custom maps (free)
4) play and be transported to positional audio nirvana

Man, games used to sound so amazing back then... Nowadays, from the games I've played recently, I find that maybe only Titanfall 2 really uses positional audio as well as those 15 year old fan made maps :grumpy:

EDIT: Also, you'll be able to carry your sound card from system to system for a looong time.
 

XoR_

Gawd
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
862
Yeah, old EAX effects were really nice.
It is a shame sound quality does not get the same kind of attention as graphics in games get.
 
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