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Thread: PCI-E Soundcard & why is onboard sound still so poor (generally)?

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    PCI-E Soundcard & why is onboard sound still so poor (generally)?

    I have recently upgraded my rig from a Q6600 (w/ 5570) to a i5 3570k (OC 4.2), MSI Z77A GD55 and a 6870. Sufficed to say my games (Skyrim, ME3, TF2) run a lot better but it seems I have taken a step down on the sound front (its just a bit flat, too quiet, no punch in games and dull in music).

    My old system used a PCI X-Fi Gamer card (a fairly cheap thing < £50) but since the new board has no PCI slots just PCI-E I thought I would just use the on-board audio. My thinking here way it has been about 6 years since I last used on-board sound (my old mb was P965) so no doubt on-board cards will be perfectly adequate by now (perhaps even better than my 5yr old X-Fi Gamer). Alas, I was wrong, the on-board sound is about as good as it was in 2000 so can someone suggest a good PCI-E sound card ~£50 that you have experience with. The Asus Sonar DX and X-Fi seem to be the most common but there is also a Recon3D from creative but the only reviews I find are for a Fatal1ty version which i am not interested in, any suggestions? It is mainly for games but I do use occasionally for music and movies too.

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    Re: PCI-E Soundcard & why is onboard sound still so poor (generally)?

    Are you using a decent amp and speakers with optical input ?

    That is your best option really.

    Im sure others will come along and suggest SC options too.

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    Re: PCI-E Soundcard & why is onboard sound still so poor (generally)?

    I'd echo what G8ia said.... oh .. no need.. he echoed

    Onboard sound is average to good.. a good PCI/PCI Express sound card is often far superior.

    no different to onboard graphics...

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    Re: PCI-E Soundcard & why is onboard sound still so poor (generally)?

    In my general opinion for games go with Creative, for music/films go with Asus. That's obviously a massive generalisation, but it captures the characteristics at the same price points.

    Onboard sound varies a fair bit depending on the chip and what you've got downstream - my wife's setup has a relatively good onboard chip and is perfectly suited to it (cheapish 2.1 system). Music is bad, but games are pretty good and have plenty of clarity/presence.

    Personally I have a decent Xonar and 2.0 speakers/OK headphones and music/films are excellent. But you'd probably find games sounding too flat because it's a balanced sound stage rather than accentuating the highs and lows.

    So from what I can briefly tell from your tastes, go for a cheap X-Fi. You haven't mentioned any downstream equipment so I presume it's nothing special, so wouldn't benefit from anything more than a cheap card.

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    Re: PCI-E Soundcard & why is onboard sound still so poor (generally)?

    Umm as realtek is the most commonly use onboard sound chip, you do realise there's a software EQ in the realtek sound manager which you can use to tweak the sound?
    Yes it's not the same thing as some of the sound processing tweaks (eg EAX) but it can stop the "flat" sound

    A lot will depend on your sound kit as well as the games played, no point spending money on a sound card with cheap speakers
    If you're using a digital output it becomes less important too.

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    Re: PCI-E Soundcard & why is onboard sound still so poor (generally)?

    I'm using onboard on my PC at present, and I really don't think it's all that bad. It's an expensive board, granted, and they go on about X-Fi support, but as far as I can gather it's still a typical Realtek chip.

    If I was going to invest any money in my PC's sound, I'd be using the onboard optical out and sending that to a proper amp.

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    Re: PCI-E Soundcard & why is onboard sound still so poor (generally)?

    Thanks for all the advise, i have tweaked the software EQ to get the best but it still is not as good as my previous X-Fi. The equipment is definitely low-grade, I used to have a fairly nice Marantz amp set-up with the optical but I moved it to another room so it is now just using a standard Logitech Z323(? i think) but for gaming i generally use my headphones (CX500).

    I think i will move my amplifier back through to the PC for a while and have a wee play with using the optical to see how it improves before buying a XFi PCI-E card. Thanks for all the advise

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    Re: PCI-E Soundcard & why is onboard sound still so poor (generally)?

    I don't think you can beat optical to amp. There are a few DAC/AMPS on the market which work well for this kind of application.

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    Re: PCI-E Soundcard & why is onboard sound still so poor (generally)?

    The quality of the electronics in onboard sound is pretty crap really and suffers a lot of interference.

    The x-fi titanium HD I am told is a very competent card and will work very well for games, video and music. If you are using headphones I would highly recommend using the cmss virtual headphone.

    Using the optical out from the motherboard is viable and a good idea for stereo music but if you want the benefits of virtual surround etc I would recommend the xfi. The asus equivalent would be fine too, although the consensus is that for gaming cmss beats dolby heaphone.

    I'd be wary of the dac market, it's a new fad with a lot of overpriced stuff in there. The dac in the xfi titanium hd and xonar stx are very good and if you want less boxes will do the job well.

    Also there's no reason why a separate amp and speaker is any better than a good pair of active speakers, my audioengine a2 speakers pack some serious punch for their teeny size, however if you do need a desktop amp I highly recommend this http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Mini-T-T-A...item27c71e8d74

    I've been driving some kef speakers with it and it's great.

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