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Do games still benefit from Sound Cards (vs a USB DAC/Amp) on Win Vista+

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

I wanted to go to a external USB DAC/Amp for my headphones as every time I've used an expensive soundcard with games on my various PC's over the years, I've always had noise from the PSU that would increase along with the load on the graphics card.

 

I know when windows Vista came out it changed how Sound Cards could be accessed, kind of killing EAX. Games can still access the hardware directly with OpenAL but that doesn't seem to be as popular. Is there any real reason to have a soundcard anymore?

 

When games (Like ones by Blizzard) have a Sound Quality slider and a Sound Channel selection (24 to 128 channels) does that even use the cards sound processor or is it all done on the CPU anyway with Windows Vista-8.1?

 

When I search I see most people answering these questions the same way they did when Windows XP was in use, saying that You need a Sound card for the higher sound channels, and that only newer Creative cards can support 128 sound channels, but from my understanding, this shouldn't make a difference anymore as it most likely is all processed on the CPU (Warcraft for example has a Sound hardware acceleration option, but it cant be enabled on windows vista+ even if your using something like Alchemy since it has a OS check that disables it).

 

Anyone have any information that will clear this up for me? I have been wondering about it for a while and would like to know for sure before I invest in a nice DAC/Amp just to have it be worse for games.

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 2
Usually, if you see sound quality and channel adjustments in a recent game, that's fmod EX software mixing at work.

The X-Fi DSP has a total polyphony of 128 channels in hardware, but that only matters if it's the DSP doing the mixing like in the old days and not the CPU.

As for the topic question, a USB DAC is still disadvantaged not just in lacking anything like ALchemy for older games, but also not offering virtual surround mixing for headphones. Software-mixed games generally don't offer that and thus sound flat and one-dimensional over headphones.

You could fiddle with Razer Surround, but CMSS-3D Headphone and Dolby Headphone both blow it away in my experience. Much clearer positional cues with those two...and you're going to need a sound card (even a USB sound "card" of the sorts Creative and Asus sell) to use them.
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