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How to Pick a Good Sound Card

post #1 of 51
Thread Starter 
Hello, I'm a newbie in terms of Audio (I don't even know how to compare a fake Beats Studio and the ATH-M30) but I know the M30's are better than the Beats. Anyway, how do you pick a good sound card? I will use the sound card for gaming and listening music but most of the time are listening music.
post #2 of 51

I personally have an ASUS Xonar Essense STX but I stopped using it after I bought the Burson Audio 160D.

Why don't you buy a USB amp/dac? they are about the same price as soundcards but they have better sound since they are outside the computer.

post #3 of 51

Picking a soundcard depends on what you listen to. For instance, if you do more than casual gaming, then going with a X-Fi powered card is a good decision, with the Creative X-Fi Titanium being a good entry level soundcard, the Auzentech X-Fi Forte has better components that result in overall better output quality, and the Creative X-Fi Titanium HD improves further on that through the use of a high quality DAC and components, which gives it a high quality output, and due to the X-Fi chip, it also has optimal game audio performance.

 

About external DACs being better than soundcards, it depends on the external DAC and the soundcard. Both the Titanium HD and the Essence STX are better than all similarly priced external DAC, and for one to get better quality than what's found on any of those internal soundcards, it's required to spend more than twice their price.

 

Also, external DACs have little to no gaming audio support.

post #4 of 51
Thread Starter 
I'm gonna buy a PCI orUSB sound card/amp with the budget of $50-$70. What do you guys prefer in that price range? I saw an Asus Xonar DS 7.1 card that is about $42. Is that a good sound card?
post #5 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by allen21 View Post

I'm gonna buy a PCI orUSB sound card/amp with the budget of $50-$70. What do you guys prefer in that price range? I saw an Asus Xonar DS 7.1 card that is about $42. Is that a good sound card?

The Xonar DS is DTS audio only, no Dolby and no headphone amplifier.

 

Just get the Asus Xonar DG ($25, PCI) or DGX ($40, PCI-E) sound card.

Comes with a head amp and Dolby Headphone 5.1.

post #6 of 51
Thread Starter 
Um, sorry but what is DTS?
post #7 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by allen21 View Post

Um, sorry but what is DTS?

I guess you could say that DTS is Dolby's competitors.

DTS-HD Master Audio seems to be the preferred audio tracks used on Blu-ray disks.

http://www.dts.com/


Edited by PurpleAngel - 12/14/12 at 4:34pm
post #8 of 51
Thread Starter 
What's the difference between 5.1 and 7.1 sound card?
What do you prefer for a sound card that a 6.3 mm connection?
post #9 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by allen21 View Post

I'm gonna buy a PCI orUSB sound card/amp with the budget of $50-$70. What do you guys prefer in that price range? I saw an Asus Xonar DS 7.1 card that is about $42. Is that a good sound card?

 

For the headphones you have, and considering you do gaming, I'd recommend a refurbished Creative X-Fi Titanium (non-HD) for $44.99. It has full gaming audio support, while Asus cards only have partial gaming audio support.

 

However, if you do casual gaming (read, Flash gaming), then the Asus Xonar DG will be enough, and will come with an entry-level headphone amp.

post #10 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roller View Post

 

For the headphones you have, and considering you do gaming, I'd recommend a refurbished Creative X-Fi Titanium (non-HD) for $44.99. It has full gaming audio support, while Asus cards only have partial gaming audio support.

 

However, if you do casual gaming (read, Flash gaming), then the Asus Xonar DG will be enough, and will come with an entry-level headphone amp.


I had a quick quick look at Nameless thread, but still I don't get the differences between a Creative X-FI Titanium (HD or not) and an Asus Xonar (D1 for instance).
Could you please explain or maybe just point me to a thread/guide to help me understand the whole situation better?

On a different thread I started PurpleAngel gave me the good suggestion to get a Xonar DG. His tip was, I belive, to point me to an easy and affordable entry level card.
While the X-Fi Titanium HD might be a bit too expensive for me at the moment, I'd like to understand what I'd miss with a simple Xonar DG or if I should maybe spend a bit more for the non-HD Titanium/Xonar D1.

post #11 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by mechchimp View Post


I had a quick quick look at Nameless thread, but still I don't get the differences between a Creative X-FI Titanium (HD or not) and an Asus Xonar (D1 for instance).
Could you please explain or maybe just point me to a thread/guide to help me understand the whole situation better?

On a different thread I started PurpleAngel gave me the good suggestion to get a Xonar DG. His tip was, I belive, to point me to an easy and affordable entry level card.
While the X-Fi Titanium HD might be a bit too expensive for me at the moment, I'd like to understand what I'd miss with a simple Xonar DG or if I should maybe spend a bit more for the non-HD Titanium/Xonar D1.

 

A Xonar DG and a refurbished X-Fi Titanium should be very close in price.

 

The main differences between both cards go through the X-Fi Titanium having hardware EAX up to version 5 (Xonar DG has hardware EAX up to version 2 and can't emulate higher versions), having hardware OpenAL (Xonar DG has software OpenAL that isn't recognized by supporting games and tends to be slightly lower quality), having positional cue improvement algorithms (no Asus models have it) and the overall games' audio renderers are for the most part issue free, while Asus cards still have plenty of compatibility issues. Now, that's not to say the Xonar DG is a bad card, because it isn't, its output quality is quite decent for its price point, it's just that it lacks advanced gaming audio features and the ones it has aren't of as high quality as what's found on X-Fi based cards (be it from Creative or Auzentech).

 

What kind of gaming do you do, competitive, immersive or casual?

post #12 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by allen21 View Post

What's the difference between 5.1 and 7.1 sound card?
What do you prefer for a sound card that a 6.3 mm connection?

Some FPS gaming should be able to take advantage of 7.1 over 5.1 and maybe a few Blu-ray movies, but i would not think it's a big deal.

 

Technically there is really no difference sound quality wise between 6.35 mm (1/4") jack and the 3.5mm (1/8") mini-jack.

In the past the 1/4 jack was the standard and I believe the 3.5mm was invented (By Sony?) for portables.

So I think the 1/4 jack stays around because it's more rugged, better choice for professionals.


Edited by PurpleAngel - 12/14/12 at 4:35pm
post #13 of 51

@Roller

 

For quick reference, on the Italian market:


Xonar DG and DGX€ 24
Xonar DX and D1€ 58

X-Fi Titanium€ 58

X-Fi Titanium HD: € 130 (cheapest if bought directly from Creative website).

 

On my side of gaming:

Using your categories, I'd rate myslef as an "immersive gamer". The only game I play sort of competitevely is Dota 2 (which I don't consider very audio-positional-sensitive). On top of that I do play some multiplayer FPS but in a more casual fashion.
The other games I play are more on the single-player/stroy-driven side of the spectrum (thus the immersion).


From my understanding, Xonar cards provide a decent internal amp. What about the X-Fi Titaniums?

Sorry to hijack the topic. I think I'll buy the DT990 Premium 250 ohms (pretty cheap) and I think I'd need an Amp to drive them.

post #14 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by mechchimp View Post

@Roller

 

For quick reference, on the Italian market:


Xonar DG and DGX€ 24
Xonar DX and D1€ 58

X-Fi Titanium€ 58

X-Fi Titanium HD: € 130 (cheapest if bought directly from Creative website).

 

On my side of gaming:

Using your categories, I'd rate myslef as an "immersive gamer". The only game I play sort of competitevely is Dota 2 (which I don't consider very audio-positional-sensitive). On top of that I do play some multiplayer FPS but in a more casual fashion.
The other games I play are more on the single-player/stroy-driven side of the spectrum (thus the immersion).


From my understanding, Xonar cards provide a decent internal amp. What about the X-Fi Titaniums?

Sorry to hijack the topic. I think I'll buy the DT990 Premium 250 ohms (pretty cheap) and I think I'd need an Amp to drive them.

 

Well, then it will depend on your planned upgrade path.

 

You could get a Xonar DG for now and later on upgrade to a X-Fi Titanium HD. Gaming wise, the difference would be much bigger than going from a regular Titanium to a Titanium HD.

 

Creative X-Fi cards (without bay drives or external cards) have amped outputs, however I do recommend getting a headphone amp for headphones like the DT990 250 Ohm. The Xonar DG integrated amp can help drive more demanding headphones but it mostly allows for louder outputs rather than driving them properly, which is why I would recommend adding a headphone amp to that card as well, considering your headphones choice.

post #15 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by mechchimp View Post

@Roller

 

For quick reference, on the Italian market:


Xonar DG and DGX€ 24
Xonar DX and D1€ 58

X-Fi Titanium€ 58

X-Fi Titanium HD: € 130 (cheapest if bought directly from Creative website).

 

On my side of gaming:

Using your categories, I'd rate myslef as an "immersive gamer". The only game I play sort of competitevely is Dota 2 (which I don't consider very audio-positional-sensitive). On top of that I do play some multiplayer FPS but in a more casual fashion.
The other games I play are more on the single-player/stroy-driven side of the spectrum (thus the immersion).


From my understanding, Xonar cards provide a decent internal amp. What about the X-Fi Titaniums?

Sorry to hijack the topic. I think I'll buy the DT990 Premium 250 ohms (pretty cheap) and I think I'd need an Amp to drive them.

The Xonar DG & DGX do come with a half-way decent headphone amplifier, that can barely drive 250-Ohm headphones, with the Xonar DG/DGX volume control maxed out.

The DX and D1 (& Titanium (non-HD)) do not come with a headphone amplifier.

The Titanium HD does not come with a true headphone amplifier, but the headphone jack puts out a fair amount of voltage for driving headphones, about roughly equal to the DG/DGX.

Never hurts to use a dedicated external headphone amplifier with the Titanium HD.

The Titanium (non-HD) and Xonar DX & D1 can easily be paired with an external headphone amplifier.

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