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Motherboard Audio vs Dedicated Soundcard

Discussion in 'PC Audio' started by ausduckz, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. ausduckz

    ausduckz Member

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    Hello everyone,

    Just a quick question that I'm hoping some people with a bit more knowledgeable then myself can answer.

    I'm looking at piecing together a new PC build sometime in the not too distant future, and after looking at the motherboards that are on offer these days, they all seem to have fairly decent onboard sound (Crystal Sound 3, SupremeFX etc.) Are these just marketing tactics to upsell their boards?

    I've currently got a Asus Xonar Essence ST and Asus Xonar H6 7.1 breakout card, which I'm wondering if I should re-use in a new build. Would this be better then any onboard sound available? Just need to know so I can narrow down a board which has a PCI socket.
     
  2. samo

    samo Member

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    Yes, objectively the Asus cards will be a better solution. Subjectively, whether or not you can hear the difference is another matter.
     
  3. Tarkhein

    Tarkhein Member

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    Those are marketing names for, primarily, implementations of Realtek ALC1150. Gigabyte for example tends to use Creative chips instead for their 'superior' audio. They are good enough for most purposes. The Asus sound cards you have are better than those onboard solutions but you probably won't hear the difference unless something horrible went wrong.
     
  4. OP
    OP
    ausduckz

    ausduckz Member

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    So to further elaborate, I also have a set of Audio-Technica ATH-AD900, which when I purchased them and plugged them into my soundcard, immediately I could hear sounds from music tracks that I never new were in there. Whether or not that is to do with the soundstaging of the cans or the soundcard or both, I don't know, but I can definitely hear the difference that my current setup produces.

    It's used for all round purposes... gaming, music, video etc.
     
  5. mr626

    mr626 Member

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    The Xonar will be better, but whether you will hear a different or not will depend on:

    -Your equipment
    -The source
    -Your own hearing

    If you are plugging in crap speakers / headphones to listen to low bitrate mp3s...probably no difference :p
     
  6. power

    power Member

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    onboard sound sucks, still.
     
  7. sammy_b0i

    sammy_b0i Laugh it up, fuzzball!

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    I used to use a sound card.. Had some X-Fi's, some Xonar's, etc. But I went to a build with a Z97 ROG board and the onboard sound seemed just as good on the Microlab speakers I've got. Realised that I didn't really miss it now that I'm back on 1155.

    Maybe a USB DAC would be a good option?
     
  8. sTeeLzor

    sTeeLzor Member

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    I can answer this for you. I went from a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic. It was about 5 years old on a system. I swapped to using the MSI Z170 Gaming M5 with some Nahmic special support for high impedance headphones on the below chipset

    Audio

    • Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
    - 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
    - Supports S/PDIF output

    I use a pair of Audio Technica ATH-AD700 to listen.

    I can say objectively and subjectively that it sounds moderately worse. Music definitely does not have the same punch. Games are adequate as opposed to astounding. I will be adding in a replacement card as soon as I have the time to go to a PC store.
     
  9. Idryss

    Idryss Member

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    To anyone, anywhere who believes onboard audio is 'good enough', you should pair that onboard with a pair of $5 ear buds, because then it won't be the onboard that destroys any sound quality.

    Onboard has come a long way, but add in cards, or even a good DAC (running from onboard), so I have been told, will still sound better every single time.

    Unless you have hearing damage, stick with the Asus Xonar.
     
  10. Linkin

    Linkin Member

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    Ever since I switched from onboard to an X-Hi Xtreme Music card, the lowest of the low when it comes to add in audio cards, the difference was still big.

    From there I worked my way up to an STX and now an STX II. Paired with Beyerdynamic DT880 (250 ohm) you get awesome quality and a neutral sound (read: accurate)

    If you don't have any lossless music to compare against MP3's and the like, try a game that doesn't use mp3 audio itself (looking at you, far cry 3)
     
  11. deluxe

    deluxe Member

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    The better onboards with decent SNR are actually quite good. You wouldn't call it top tier compared to the nicer standalones and dacs available, but it's certainly palatable with revealing cans or speakers.
     
  12. lithos

    lithos Member

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    I'd keep the ST if at all possible.

    However, I wouldn't trade it for a good mobo: if the only mobos you can find that still have PCI are shitbox cheap ones, then it isn't worth crippling your whole system.

    You could always put the card up for sale, and either put that towards a new sound card, or maybe find a mobo an excellent onboard solution. Or relegate it to being a really, really awesome HTPC sound solution.

    As others have said, mobos are getting really good with sound - a lot of GBs have basically fully-fledge Soundblasters on them, with actual Soundblaster hardware on them (not just a Realtek chip with fancy drivers). And the analogue stages are even pretty awesome, with high-powered headphone amps, good shielding, and great DACs.
     
  13. BlueRaven

    BlueRaven Brute force & optimism

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    I hope OP doesn't mind me crapping in his thread, but he has had plenty of useful responses/opinions and I thought people posting in thread might get a laugh out of this...

    So here's an interesting question: when is an external USB DAC a much worse option than either a dedicated soundcard OR onboard audio?
    Answer: when it's one of these.

    I bought it for a client whose office PC is hardwired to his home theatre system via good quality analog line-level cable and a VGA-over-Cat5 extender, so he can watch home movies (*cough cough*) on his big screen... don't judge me, we wired his house about 10 years ago and the solution suited current tech/budget/available AVR inputs.
    His onboard audio has thrown a wobbly and is outputting a ton of hum and noise, so I'm hoping this will do the trick for the right price.

    I just pulled it apart for a look-see, it's a Cmedia CM6206-LX with a PLL crystal and some RC networks for the I/O. Maybe a couple of bucks worth of parts, max.
    There's the usual loose component placement/alignment that's typical of this sort of cheaply made thing, and the board is covered in what looks like flux paste that wasn't washed off properly.
    The extruded aluminium case is anodised in a snazzy blue colour, but unfortunately this unit doesn't have the awesome "5.1 SOUND" logo as pictured on the WES page. :(
    However, the package does include a Micro-USB cable and one of those dinky little driver CD's that features a picture of a stoned panda bear (or maybe he's just sad, for obvious reasons) and the warning "Do Not Put Indirect Sunlight For A Prolonged Period".

    I'm about to hook it up to my fairly nice Aussie-made active studio monitors and compare it to the "Quantum Wave" onboard audio from my MSI Big Bang X-Power X58 board
    (which I got all excited about before I discovered that it's just a Realtek ALC with some Creative Labs software on top, stuck on a PCIe x1 card because they didn't have any room left on the board).

    This is one case where I'm expecting the onboard sound to far outshine the "external USB audio solution". :lol:
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2015
  14. lithos

    lithos Member

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    Well, when the components are as bad as a cheap mobo, but even more shittily implemented...

    At least you got a cool case out of it (that was cut from a bar of extruded aluminium in Shenzhen...)

    Asus and Creative both do excellent little break-out sound cards like that...get what you pay for, mate ;).
     
  15. Quelch

    Quelch Member

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    After much research, I bought myself a Fulla Schiit headphone DAC/Amp
    http://schiit.com/products/fulla
    I mostly use it with Xiaomi Piston 2.1 in ear monitors, sometimes with Ultrasone headphones or Sennheiser headphones
    The Fulla with the Xiaomi in ear monitors must be the cheapest high quality audio ever

    When not using headphones I have a Topping TP20 amp driving Mission Cyrus speakers
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2015
  16. sammy_b0i

    sammy_b0i Laugh it up, fuzzball!

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    What is shipping like from Schiit?

    Edit: Hmm. Liked the look of the Modi2.. but when you add the $40 USD shipping, you're looking at a total of $200 AUD to get one here. Meh.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2015
  17. cdtoaster

    cdtoaster Member

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    Are those names supposed to be puns?
     
  18. sammy_b0i

    sammy_b0i Laugh it up, fuzzball!

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    Yes. USA company. :thumbup:
     
  19. sammy_b0i

    sammy_b0i Laugh it up, fuzzball!

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    I'd love to know about any kind of lesser known audio companies that I could get a DAC from for cheap. Just something simple to put between the PC and speakers. Speakers have their own volume control, so don't need a headphone amp or any knobs on the unit itself. The Schiit Modi2 looks great, but surely better options for $200 landed.

    http://schiit.com/products/modi-2

    Something that looks like that. Simple, good components, but cheaper.
     
  20. Spork!

    Spork! Member

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