Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › Do I need a sound card?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Do I need a sound card?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I just built a new rig and I have a Gigabyte GA-Z77Z-UD3H motherboard. It has VIA VT2021 on board audio. Stats are 7.1+2 Channel, 192/24 capable, 110s/n. I would use it for gaming and music both and my considerations for headphones are Sennheiser 598, Denon AHD200, maybe a few others.

 

Would a sound card help at all?

post #2 of 17

Of course but get one that is better than onboard and perhaps with a headphone amp?

post #3 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohiojosh78 View Post

I just built a new rig and I have a Gigabyte GA-Z77Z-UD3H motherboard. It has VIA VT2021 on board audio. Stats are 7.1+2 Channel, 192/24 capable, 110s/n. I would use it for gaming and music both and my considerations for headphones are Sennheiser 598, Denon AHD200, maybe a few others.

 

Would a sound card help at all?

A used Xonar DX or D1 sound card ($55)

The Xonar DX & D1 are good sound cards, except they are poor at drving headphones.

 

SMSL SAP-100 headphone amp. ($65), eBay

post #4 of 17

You could always just get a USB Dac instead and bypass the soundcard altogether.  Most dacs nowadays will do up to 24bit/96hz playback over usb. 

post #5 of 17

USB is nice, but optical S/PDIF is nicer. If you have any kind of Macbook and are looking to get an external headphone amp/DAC, get one with an S/PDIF input for sure. Your data travels by light! You'll also probably need TOSLink adapters. Not a big investment. This would also make a soundcard unnecessary, I believe.

post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

So you guys are saying that a sound card will sound better than my onboard? Anyone disagree with this statement? Just from specs alone the onboard seems to have the same or higher than a sound card. What am I missing here?

post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohiojosh78 View Post

So you guys are saying that a sound card will sound better than my onboard? Anyone disagree with this statement? Just from specs alone the onboard seems to have the same or higher than a sound card. What am I missing here?

It's believed that motherboards ship with low cost DACs (Digital to Analog Converters).

It's usually true that add-on sound cards (& DAC/Amps) come with a better DAC then what motherboards come with.

It's also true that motherboards built in audio has improved over the past few years.

For a lot of computer gaming types, it's kind of automatic to suggest to add a sound card to a PC computer.

post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by rahzim View Post

You could always just get a USB Dac instead and bypass the soundcard altogether.  Most dacs nowadays will do up to 24bit/96hz playback over usb. 

 

That would be a viable option...except the OP mentioned gaming, for which USB DACs lack the DSP features often found in internal sound cards.

 

Anyway, to the OP: What games do you play, new and old alike? That'll help me make sound card recommendations.

post #9 of 17

To the OP:

If you want Games/Speaker Options -> Sound Card. Some will also have a dedicated amp.

If you want music only -> USB DAC + Amp.

post #10 of 17

If you just want to get surround sound for most games, just use the analog outputs on the motherboard and hook that up to a bundled surround multimedia speaker system - Logitech, etc. Then use either the digital output or USB to a DAC with a headphone amplifier for better quality 2ch audio.

If you really want really good surround SQ and have the space for it, skip paying $200 or so for a soundcard and pick up something like the Harman Kardon AVR1565 (around $199 for sale in Fry's, etc; usually $249 or $299 I think, just wait for the sale prices) or Marantz NR1403 ($399, but in a smaller chassis), then get matching efficient speakers (maybe 4" to 5" midrange driver, plus a tweeter) and a compact 8" sub. Or if you can, get drivers (plus maybe enclosures) from PartsExpress.com and build speakers/assemble them yourself. I've been meaning to do this but grad school's keeping me busy; even my car's system hasn't been finished and I'm already about to get a new one. It sure sucks when you have neither the cash to get others to do this or the time for DIY, no matter how much fun it is :P

post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

If you just want to get surround sound for most games, just use the analog outputs on the motherboard and hook that up to a bundled surround multimedia speaker system - Logitech, etc. Then use either the digital output or USB to a DAC with a headphone amplifier for better quality 2ch audio.

 

That would mean no CMSS-3D Headphone or Dolby Headphone, though (barring a select few motherboards like Gigabyte's G1 line). That means one-dimensional left-to-right panning in games, with no sense of front and rear whatsoever, since that's how games mix pure stereo for headphones.

 

Needless to say, if you want that sense of surround out of the headphones and not speakers, that setup isn't going to work out unless you replace the motherboard sound codec with a dedicated sound card, or the only games you play happen to all use OpenAL (which is very, VERY unlikely) so that you can just use Rapture3D on all of them.

 

Also, there are EAX reverb/chorus/occlusion/etc. effects in older games (usually 2006 and prior, mostly the stuff you'd find on GOG.com nowadays) that go entirely missing if the hardware can't process them. USB DACs fare even worse than a typical Realtek audio codec there, since they don't even support EAX 1/2 or have any means of wrapping DirectSound3D API calls into OpenAL to process them. (Realtek at least has 3DSoundBack, or if you're willing to fiddle around with those X-Fi MB2 software packages, ALchemy.) You could use SniperCzar's Windows 7 trick with a USB DAC (set sound device with EAX support as primary, then set its Stereo Mix/"What U Hear" recording input to playback through the USB DAC through the Listen tab in its Properties window), but this is said to add some slight latency, and I don't know about how good the actual audio quality will turn out.

post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the replies.

I would only be playing newer games and while I appreciate the opinions I'm strictly talking headphones here. I have some Klipsch 2.1 speakers that are nice but I'm not concerned about them. I just basically wanted to know if I would benefit from having a sound card over the on board seeing that, to me, the on board seems to have good specs.
post #13 of 17

I don't want to create a similar thread so I would like to post here.

 

Since I am going to upgrade my PC soon I was wondering if:

 

1 Should get a better sound card then integrated 7.1 with WAVE MAXXAudio 4 with H77 chipset motherboard or go for Sound Blaster® XFi™ Titanium or Xonar DX if I get Nuforce Icon HDP desktop amp (then connect it via optical to better soundcard or USB to bypass SC entirely). 

 

2 Get Xonar Essence STX (It was my original choice, however after reading the thread about random noise problem with windows 7 I am reluctant to get)

I am going to get Sennheiser HD 650 in the future so will need a good amp

post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Agarvaen View Post

I don't want to create a similar thread so I would like to post here.

 

Since I am going to upgrade my PC soon I was wondering if:

 

1 Should get a better sound card then integrated 7.1 with WAVE MAXXAudio 4 with H77 chipset motherboard or go for Sound Blaster® XFi™ Titanium or Xonar DX if I get Nuforce Icon HDP desktop amp (then connect it via optical to better soundcard or USB to bypass SC entirely). 

I am going to get Sennheiser HD 650 in the future so will need a good amp

FYI,

     

     If you connect your HDP via optical your not using the soundcard anymore, its just a transport.  Also, the Icon HDP is an integrated Amp/Dac, so your not really using your soundcard for anything but sending a digital signal over coax/optical.  Optical out (from a soundcard) will send the digital output to the HDP for digital-analog conversion.  The advantage of optical out is the higher sample rates of 24/196 playback.  USB max rate is 24/96 over usb2.0. 

 

       With the HDP you'd have a more portable option for music playback, but you'd lose some gaming capabilities built into the soundcards for pc's. If music playback is most important to you, to get the most out of your 650's go with the HDP as it's more portable and can be used with any laptop or pc.  You wouldn't need a soundcard at all, just hook up the HDP with usb to the MB and your set.  For gaming you could just use the MB integrated sound.

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Agarvaen View Post

I don't want to create a similar thread so I would like to post here.

Since I am going to upgrade my PC soon I was wondering if:

1 Should get a better sound card then integrated 7.1 with WAVE MAXXAudio 4 with H77 chipset motherboard or go for Sound Blaster® XFi™ Titanium or Xonar DX if I get Nuforce Icon HDP desktop amp (then connect it via optical to better soundcard or USB to bypass SC entirely). 

2 Get Xonar Essence STX (It was my original choice, however after reading the thread about random noise problem with windows 7 I am reluctant to get)

I am going to get Sennheiser HD 650 in the future so will need a good amp

I personally do not have any random noise problem with my Essence STX (Win 7 64-bit).

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Computer Audio
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › Do I need a sound card?