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Internal vs External Sound Card benefits?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
What are the benefits of an internal sound card vs one that is external?
I've read that an internal sound card is susceptible to EMI/RF computer noise and the power from the computer's psu may not be as clean which would benefit using a pci interface card connected to an external sound card box. Would using the extra interface cable and external box to DAC increase greater jitter and noise oppose to just an internal sound card to DAC setup? Jitter and noise is what I'm most worried about for a s/pdif->dac->amp-> headphone setup.
post #2 of 15
This is a can of worms and you will read A LOT of bull from people who haven't tried things for themselves.

I suggest having a strictly enforced rule if you want to really learn something - unless you have heard a wide range of both internal and external solutions, do not post! Second-hand 'I've read EMI this, jitter this or noise that' does more harm then helps.

I don't cover this topic at all in my primer, but I suggest glancing at it to at least know exactly what roles are involved in a digital system.
post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by FallenAngel View Post
This is a can of worms and you will read A LOT of bull from people who haven't tried things for themselves.

I suggest having a strictly enforced rule if you want to really learn something - unless you have heard a wide range of both internal and external solutions, do not post! Second-hand 'I've read EMI this, jitter this or noise that' does more harm then helps.

I don't cover this topic at all in my primer, but I suggest glancing at it to at least know exactly what roles are involved in a digital system.
its about that time of month FA, you get the goat, I'll get the axe
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
I don't really want to learn all the specifics but just get some straight forward knowledge and answers/testimonies enough to satisfy my curiosity. Any little information helps.
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by lag0a View Post
I don't really want to learn all the specifics but just get some straight forward knowledge and answers/testimonies enough to satisfy my curiosity. Any little information helps.
in other words "hey guys, I refuse to read a one page article that answers my question and many subsequent questions in an objective manner, so if you could just spoon feed me, that'd be great!"

sorry, can't really help you if you're unwilling to read, as I'm sure as hell not paid enough to be your teacher
post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by lag0a View Post
I don't really want to learn all the specifics but just get some straight forward knowledge and answers/testimonies enough to satisfy my curiosity. Any little information helps.
Ok, here's a simple testimonial - I use a $75 modified EMU 0404 PCI to feed a $800 headphone setup at work and use a $50 modified X-Fi XtremeMusic to feed my $5000+ headphone and speaker setup at home. Though I am looking at getting a slightly better I2S source, but getting it configured with my DAC at the moment is a serious "work in progress"; check back in a few months and I'll tell you how I got everything solved.

As pure transport, there are lots of good, super low jitter, perfectly timed, bit-perfect, pulse transformer-coupled sound cards (such as EMU 0404 PCI, ESI Juli@ and with a little modding, most X-Fi cards for that matter). I've compared about 10 sound cards so far and my conclusion has been that I prefer coax over optical and that pulse transformer coupled sounds best.

Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post
its about that time of month FA, you get the goat, I'll get the axe
LOL! Something makes me thing tha lag0a should run fast, looks like you already have his head lined up for the chopping block! Not for any unjust reason by the way; lag0a - you want to learn a little the nature of what you're asking about before asking incredibly vague and over-simplified questions or you won't understand the response and basically make it hard to answer your question. Here's a good analogy - I'm sure you know a little about cars so what's better, a Hummer or a Ferrari? I'm sure you'll give me a blank stare and ask "in which way?" on-road or off-road, in terms of towing capacity and room or aerodynamics and probably another thousand factors to judge by. Well, you just asked the same thing in terms of audio.

There is no such thing (as far as I know and this may be arguable) as an "external sound card", but there are DACs that have "plug and play" functionality with common computer operating systems. I'd also swear that none of them have the same capabilities as internal soundcards, just look at the X-Fi engine for gaming effects.
post #7 of 15
Saves space, cables, and probably some $$. That's about it...
post #8 of 15
so you're saying that taking a digital signal from a motherboard and putting it through a PCI slot and then out the back of your computer will have less "noise" than putting it through the motherboard and then directly out of your computer?? Yeah the facts are that some motherboard sound cards are really crappy but is your power supply really corrupting a digital signal? Can someone tell me if this is even possible?
post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sweetpremium View Post
so you're saying that taking a digital signal from a motherboard and putting it through a PCI slot and then out the back of your computer will have less "noise" than putting it through the motherboard and then directly out of your computer?? Yeah the facts are that some motherboard sound cards are really crappy but is your power supply really corrupting a digital signal?
um, you're confusing this

soundcard route (hella simplified edition, because bob is tired):

magical unicorn land -> PCI -> audio card -> analog/digital I/O

"external better ultra good" route (hella simplified edition, because again, bob is tired):

magical unicorn land -> USB -> audio card -> analog/digital I/O

PSU affects all voltage internally including how reference voltages are generated, due to providing all voltage internally, this influences USB as well as PCI, PCIe, etc

onboard is heavily influenced as its generated from southbridge, which also controls disk access, I/O, and other features, so leakage happens (and heat builds up, which is baaad)

so yes, poopoo power supply -> poopoo signals

and no, there isn't a real "ultimate isolation benefit" to your USB dreams, because it only works like you've described in fairytale land (because the mainboard doesn't generate the digital audio signals in either of your scenarios)
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post
um, you're confusing this

soundcard route (hella simplified edition, because bob is tired):

magical unicorn land -> PCI -> audio card -> analog/digital I/O

"external better ultra good" route (hella simplified edition, because again, bob is tired):

magical unicorn land -> USB -> audio card -> analog/digital I/O

PSU affects all voltage internally including how reference voltages are generated, due to providing all voltage internally, this influences USB as well as PCI, PCIe, etc

onboard is heavily influenced as its generated from southbridge, which also controls disk access, I/O, and other features, so leakage happens (and heat builds up, which is baaad)

so yes, poopoo power supply -> poopoo signals

and no, there isn't a real "ultimate isolation benefit" to your USB dreams, because it only works like you've described in fairytale land (because the mainboard doesn't generate the digital audio signals in either of your scenarios)
the main board is generating the digital audio signal in one of his scenarios. edit: correction, I read it wrong , he said "internal" i thought he meant "integrated"
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sweetpremium View Post
the main board is generating the digital audio signal in one of his scenarios. edit: correction, I read it wrong , he said "internal" i thought he meant "integrated"
in neither of my scenarios does the mainboard generate digital audio, only in integrated signals could the mainboard be argued to generate the signal
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post
in neither of my scenarios does the mainboard generate digital audio, only in integrated signals could the mainboard be argued to generate the signal
ah i didnt quote the correct person. sorry. either way it doesnt matter.
post #13 of 15
I have heard EMI interferece from the onboard audio my PC at work, where I wear IEMs or earbuds rather than full sized headphones. Only heard it when I went from cheap Philips earbuds to s-Jays, which are much more detailed. It sounds like a ZX spectrum loading.

At first I thought it might be the cable but I tested with another source next to the computer. The interference only occurs when plugged in directly.

Same earphones with an Asus Xonar D2 at home give no such interference, so I'd say the problem is with poorly sheilded internal sound components, particularly motherboard audio, rather than internal sound components per se. Never heard it on my home PC through 6 internal sound cards, 1 USB soundcard and about 8 different sets of headphones or earphones.
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ear8dmg View Post
I have heard EMI interferece from the onboard audio my PC at work, where I wear IEMs or earbuds rather than full sized headphones. Only heard it when I went from cheap Philips earbuds to s-Jays, which are much more detailed. It sounds like a ZX spectrum loading.

At first I thought it might be the cable but I tested with another source next to the computer. The interference only occurs when plugged in directly.

Same earphones with an Asus Xonar D2 at home give no such interference, so I'd say the problem is with poorly sheilded internal sound components, particularly motherboard audio, rather than internal sound components per se. Never heard it on my home PC through 6 internal sound cards, 1 USB soundcard and about 8 different sets of headphones or earphones.
QFT
but nobody will listen to, believe, or otherwise accredit this kind of information, and will just keep crying about RFI

one thing I'm surprised at, you don't have any hiss on IEMs in any of those setups (or are you just able to tune it out?)
post #15 of 15
The IEMs are a relatively recent addition. They're the first set I've owned apart from the ones that came free with my w850i phone. Only I only tried the s-Jays with the xonar to see if there was any EMI after experiencing it at work. I mainly use full size headphones at home.

Fairly sure that if they hiss, it will be less than my Goldring NS1000 noise reduction phones (in active mode), which is noticeable but doesn't bother me too much, as it's quieter than the ambient noise that's being reduced.
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