I have uninstalled speaker setup thingy because it messed up sound stage through line out when using headphones. Without it all is fine. Since I will use SBX only in Skyrim, this works well enough (and I use only line out). I highly prefer how OpenAL games sound through line out vs. headphone out (even in stereo mode with SBX disabled - it adds proper HRTF anyway in OpenAL). Spacious yet still accurate, great positioning behind too vs. all in your head muddy.
I too preferred line-out HRTF wise with speaker setup thing not installed, headphone jack just sounds too much in-your-head. It sounded pretty decent like that. :) (still I returned in the end to the audio solution on ALC1150 which just sounds suprisingly good on the ASRock Extreme6 mobo, you'd be suprised, it's more of a analytical/detail sound than "fun", all my headphones plugged in sounds waaaaaaaaay better than last onboard chip, almost like night and day difference). For the suprisingly small difference SQ-wise and even better marginally better "out-of-your-head" soundstage experience with onboard, I just have a hardtime to justify the cost of ZxR in my case.
So how does ASRock Extreme6's ALC1150 with onboard TI NE5532 opamps sound in comparision to ZxR;
- Tiiiny bit less bass
- Mids are very slightly less "thick" / fullbodied / warm, the ALC1150 still has very nice mids though
- Highs are slightly less "raspy/rough". There's a very tiiiiny bit excess of roughness to the highs to my ears on ZxR but it only shows up here and there, most of the time it's just fine. The onboard solution on the ASRock mobo has pretty much equal presence overall, it's just that tiny bit less roughness, never coming out as too rough in the texture.
- If using certain settings, the soundstage can be sliiightly more expansive on the onboard (blame it on the Creative software / drivers)
For me and my headphones I prefer the bass, highs and soundstage of onboard but the mids of ZxR. I've also briefly tested an ASUS VI Gene which also features ALC1150 but different caps + opamp but it cannot compare to the ASRock one, seems like they've used too many caps or the opamp doesn't work too well. The caps are actually marketed as "filtering out some high frequency peaks in order to optimize bass". Well guess they went a bit overboard with that as Gene is veeeeeeerryyy bassy, even more so than ZxR and lacks mids and highs detail & presence, the ASRock sounds so much more "pure" in comparison, more unmodified along the way so don't expect all ALC1150 solutions to sound great because the ASUS one didn't come near enough to the ASRock or ZxR, it was the quite typical "muffled" onboard sound, weird! In measurements I've seen so far the ASRock also seem to have the highest dynamic range between ALC1150 equipped mobos but it does have some slight issues with noise that it's not properly excluded/shielded but for me the sound quality makes up for it (turning down the amp volume slightly removes it).
This is probably the last post about onboard vs ZxR but I just find it so fascinating that I sell a 200 EUR flagship Creative card in favor for onboard. I don't mind paying for a decent source but what to do if paying for it doesn't grant you satisfaction? :(
Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 8/12/13 at 11:02pm