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GAMING Audio: Gigabtye GA-970A-UD3P On-board problem. Solution: buy a Soundcard or external device?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hello all, first time posting but I've stumbled upon head-fi for a long time.

 

 

First off, I am using on board sound right now on my Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3P, I haven't really cared about sound quality as long as it just worked. I recently got a Sennheiser PC 350 headset as a gift and I noticed some things right away. The positional audio is working for the front L/R and rear L/R but the "center channel" is either very low in comparison to the others or non-functional. in Battlefield 4, my gun sounds disconnected/muffled as it sounds like the "source" is actually being virtualized through Front Land R mixing but not the center. This problem is also effecting Dialogue in cinematic cut scenes.

 

I've downloaded drivers from Gigabyte, I've checked the playback device options in Windows and it's correct. I've tried adjusting EQ using the motherboards proprietary audio suite with no luck.

 

I wasn't aware of this problem with my crummy Creative Fatal1ty headset everything seemed to function fine until I switched to the Sennheiser PC 350, and because of that fact it lead me to believe the problem is insufficient amplification to drive the Sennheisers with their "150" ohm impedance. Now, I have noticed an improvement even with this issue when it comes to game soundtracks and menu music, I can actually hear notes that I couldn't before that were very subtle.

 

Which leads me to seeking recommendations for a sound card or an external setup. Now, I have read/heard discussions about Electromagnetic Interference and that some believe that internal sound cards are inherently bad because of the "noise" inside computer cases from all the fans and electronic components. However my gut tells me the audio waves from the components really won't effect the sound card. The notion that the electromagnetic fields inside the case do effect the card sounds correct to me though. Another area of concern for me is the audio signal input resistance though I personally am not even sure if I will be able to tell the difference and my gut says I won't however that could change with more amplification which is my next area of concern. That concern is having a internal sound card like the Asus Xonar DS with the built-in amp. In discussions I've heard/read, the heart of the issue is that the EMI in the case and the quality of the DAC can be the source of hissing and popping and when you increase amplification you increase the raw volume of any hissing and popping that is present. This also seems correct to me.

 

I'm really not sure how much of this info is true and how much of it is BS, but I could really go either way on it at this point. On the one hand I think an internal sound card will still be a step up and EMI may not be a factor for me on the other it seems like an imperfect solution so I've also been looking at external options. Relying on each individual game to virtualize 3D audio sounds like a bad idea in general so I *think* I want some other virtualization such as Dolby Headphone or CMSS 3D. Now I've listened to demos and I like CMSS 3D more because of inherent reverb in Dolby Headphone. However, the bigger problem seems to be the lack of options as well me being uniformed on the quality of DAC's used in certain products. Specifally I'm looking at products such as:

 

the Sound Blaster Omni http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Blaster-Surround-External-SB1560/dp/B00EZT7RE4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403952126&sr=8-1&keywords=sound+blaster+omni

 

the Astro A40 mixamp http://www.amazon.com/ASTRO-Gaming-MixAmp-Pro-Xbox-360/dp/B004L6C6BK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403952372&sr=8-1&keywords=mixamp

 

the Sound Blaster X-FI HD http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102032&cm_re=Sound_Blaster_X-Fi_HD-_-29-102-032-_-Product

 

in comparison to the Xonar DS or Sound Blaster Z

 

 

So it comes down to which is actually better, an external mixer+amp or an internal Soundcard vs cost. I don't want to spend money on an overpriced unit with a crummy audio processor/DAC but I want to spend enough to get unit with a good processor/DAC without paying a lot more for diminishing returns. For example, if the Omni only costs 46% of the price of the price Astro Mixamp but gives me 80%-95%(just a made up estimation for this example) of the quality of the Astro Mixamp, it makes no sense to pay 54% more for marginally better 5-20% improved quality/performance. That would be bad value making the Omni the "sweet spot" or alternatively if an internal sound card like the Asus Xonar can be had for less money and give me the same as or even better quality than the Omni, then the Omni doesn't make sense either. Now, if a sound card is effectively junk, and the processor in the mixamp is significantly better than the one in the Omni, then we can start justifying paying more.

 

Bottom line:

 

1. Which is better for gaming, an external mixer+headphone AMP or an internal sound card?

2. if the external mixer+amp is better, which would be recommended?

3. How much better really would one be over the other when considering performance vs cost?

 

Right now I don't know 100% if an internal card or an external mixer+amp is the best solution, I'm leaning toward the USB Sound Blaster X-FI HD, unless there's better external surround sound mixer or an internal card is actually the best way to go. Music is NOT a concern for this, I will probably buy a separate dedicated DAC+AMP specifically for music.

 

Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 3
Your PC 350 is a stereo headset. To use it with your computer, you need to have Windows configured for stereo sound *unless* you have a soundcard (or onboard audio processing) that converts multichannel input to stereo (e.g., Dolby Headphone). Otherwise, if you have Windows set to 5.1 and you are using the PC 350s, you are not actually getting the center channel (or rear surround) channel at all.

I'm fairly certain that the Xonar DS does not have an internal headphone amp. So skip that.

The Soundblaster Z is considered by many head-fiers to be one of the best choices for the money for a sound card. I would go with it.

If you go with the Soundblaster Z, then later on if you get an external DAC/headphone amp with optical input, you can bypass the electronics in the Soundlbaster Z, but still get the virtual surround effects, and thus eliminate EMI problems, should you have any.
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

I did actually solve the problem just a bit ago, it was a driver issue with drivers from gigabytes website. I uninstalled those and got the drivers from the chipset manufacturer, in this case Via. However, I'm still interested in discrete audio, I'm not impressed with the on-board. As far as the Xonar DS, apparently it can be amped with an op-amp upgrade kit but that's neither here nor there.

 

I haven't heard any hissing or popping but that may change with an amp. After looking more at the various mixers, it seems they're actually meant to be an alternative to improve Laptop audio where options are limited. So it does appear a sound card is the way to go.

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