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Hi, please help me solve my Soundblaster Z noise problems!

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hi, I'll begin saying that I'm not an audiophile but just a normal guy who wants a good audio quality.

I'm having a lot of noise issues with my Soundblaster Z card, expecially after I've bought a GTX970.

 

I've done lots of testing and experiments to try to get rid of the noise but it just won't go away, but at least I've identified the various interferences:

 

1) Microphone interference: I've ALWAYS had this interference on the mic input, even before I got the soundcard (that btw I didn't buy, I won it with a Soundblaster wallpaper contest) but it didn't solve with the Soundlaster. I was quite happy when I got it because I though it would have solved all my noise problems...
The noise is quite low at 100% mic volume and 0 boost but the microphone is just too feeble to be heard, so I need to set it at least to 20db and the noise gets terribly amplified. To remove the noise I need the noise reducion tool from soundblaster driver but then I have to turn the "smart volume" feature and voice quality gets simply terrible.
I've been trying to understand what could be the problem for ages but it never goes away, and it also affects front connectors no matter if they are plugged into the Mb or into the soundcard.

Description of the problem would suggest some sort of ground loop but it doesn't sound like that. 

2) GPU interference: that's unfortunately a new one, apparently my  new GPU has terrible EMI shielding (and so does the soundcard unfortunately...) and every time it gets used I hear this chirping/buzzing sound in both the headphones and the microphone input (even if the 2 are not related). For example, i start a game and the noise starts.

This interference is kinda weird because it doesn't get amplified by changing audio volume, it's constant no matter if the headphone volume is 0 or 100.

 

That's a video so you can understand better what I'm saying: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/98051460/Sundblaster%20audio%20noise.mp4


Things I've already tried:

 

- Change Pci slot, it just changes a bit the amount of GPU interference

- Change power supply

- Changing headphones

- Unplugging things to avoid ground loops

- Every BIOS setting that could affect audio

- Changing microphone, even plugging an adapter or headphones into the mic has the same noise.

- Turn off mobo integrated soundcard

- Various mobo drivers

- Moving PSU out of the case (it's actually on the floor now).

- Changing GPU only solves GPU interference, mic is unaffected.



Now, I guess a solution would be to buy a DAC or an external soundcard, but I'd like to know if there was a way to solve the problems and to ensure that they won't happen even with external audio (I guess not, but I'd like to be sure...).

You know, this pisses me off because, GPU noise apart, the audio quality is really great for the price, expecially with my Sony MDR-XB30EX, I know it isn't a premium setup but it sounds really good and I'd like to keep the same quality!

 

Hope you can help me, thanks!

post #2 of 16

Leave on-board audio disabled.

 

FiiO E17 DAC/amp, connect it to the optical port on the SB-Z.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/171728033880?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

As I said, I've already disabled mobo soundcard but it didn't change anything!

post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by V0ldy View Post

Now, I guess a solution would be to buy a DAC or an external soundcard, but I'd like to know if there was a way to solve the problems and to ensure that they won't happen even with external audio (I guess not, but I'd like to be sure...).
You know, this pisses me off because, GPU noise apart, the audio quality is really great for the price, expecially with my Sony MDR-XB30EX, I know it isn't a premium setup but it sounds really good and I'd like to keep the same quality!

Unfortunately, some PC builds are just plagued by noise issues, whether its from groundloop, GPU, PSU, motherboard, driver conflicts, or some combination of the above.

Using an optical DAC like PurpleAngel recommended can bypass EMI problems. If you don't need the virtual surround features of your soundblaster, you could even hook it directly to the optical out on your onboard audio (if it has that). But this won't solve your microphone input issue. Just sound output for speakers/headphones.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

Using an optical DAC like PurpleAngel recommended can bypass EMI problems. If you don't need the virtual surround features of your soundblaster, you could even hook it directly to the optical out on your onboard audio (if it has that). But this won't solve your microphone input issue. Just sound output for speakers/headphones.

 

I was looking at DAC even before posting here but I'm quite "noob" with audio stuff.

I don't need the surround features because I always use stereo headphones or speakers, but as you said it wouldn't fix the microphone, I'd need another DAC only for that, so I was kinda skeptical about it.
 

On Amazon I've found a couple of external sound cards:

http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Sound-Blaster-System-Preamp/dp/B004275EO4/ref=pd_sim_pc_6?ie=UTF8&refRID=0XQTNMBQC16BTTZD7QHP

http://www.amazon.com/ASUS-Xonar-U7-Sound-Card/dp/B00E7QA9E0/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1427391316&sr=1-1&keywords=asus+xonar+u7

 

I think they would fit perfectly my necessities but they probably aren't as good as my Soundblaster (noise apart), isn't there anything else in that price range that would allow me to attach microphone and headphones, maybe from some "serious" hifi producer? 

post #6 of 16
DAC stands for digital to analog converter. A mic doesn't use a dac because it is doing the opposite. You might consider a separate USB mic as another option since they don't need a soundcard to connect to.
Edited by cel4145 - 3/26/15 at 11:36pm
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

DAC stands for digital to analog converter. A mic doesn't use a dac because it is doing the opposite. You might consider a separate USB mic as another option since they don't need a soundcard to connect to.


Well that does make sense, I guess what I need for the microphone would be called ADC :)

However; the question is the same: is there anything comparable to the Creative X-Fi HD and Asus U7 but from "serious" audio gear manufacturer?

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by V0ldy View Post

However; the question is the same: is there anything comparable to the Creative X-Fi HD and Asus U7 but from "serious" audio gear manufacturer?

Well, Asus and Creative are "serious" companies, just aimed more at the gaming industry. But I think I know what you mean smily_headphones1.gif

Audiophiles aren't usually interested in using headsets, but just regular headphones. So I don't know of any.
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

Guess in the end I'll either have to get  X-Fi/U7 or a DAC + USB microphone...

 

...was looking at this http://www.amazon.com/D3-Digital-Converter-Optical-Toslink/dp/B005K2TXMO/ref=sr_1_6?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1427391787&sr=1-6&keywords=microphone+dac


I'd like to understand a thing, since as I said I'm quite noob in this field:

What I would need to (hopefully) get rid of noises in the headphones is:
 

USB/Optical output -> DAC -> Eventually an AMP.
Now the question is, since the otput from the PC is digital is there any difference between the integrated soundcard signal and the SBZ digital signal?

 

 

For the mic so far I've only found professional solutions like Focusrite that use "pro" balanced connectors, totally overkill for what I need, guess it would be stupid to buy something like that to use it with a cheap microphone since buying a decent USB mic would sound better anyway :)

post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by V0ldy View Post

Now the question is, since the otput from the PC is digital is there any difference between the integrated soundcard signal and the SBZ digital signal?

You mean for the purpose of using an external DAC with optical? Only the DSP features the Soundblaster has that your onboard audio does not, such as virtual surround. Otherwise, it makes no difference.
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post


You mean for the purpose of using an external DAC with optical? Only the DSP features the Soundblaster has that your onboard audio does not, such as virtual surround. Otherwise, it makes no difference.

 

Exactly what I meant.

Only one last thing now: do I need an amplifier with the DAC if I'm just using IEMs?

post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by V0ldy View Post
 

 

Exactly what I meant.

Only one last thing now: do I need an amplifier with the DAC if I'm just using IEMs?

 

The line-output signal coming out of the DAC should easily be able to drive IEMs.

But it's not the best way for driving headphones/IEMs, impedance issues might give the IEMs a bloated (louder, less detailed) bass.

Typically the line-output signal coming from a DAC is really meant to feed into a line-input on anther device (like an amplifier). 

So at least something like a FiiO E11K headphone amplifier ($60) would deliver power to headphones/IEMs in a more constructive way.

post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 

Well my budget is quite limited atm so I'll probably buy the DAC only for now and I'll check how the sound is, my earbuds have 32Ohm impedence so I hope it will be good enough and if it won't I'll just buy a decent Amp too ;)

 

post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 

Uff, I was really inspired by the Schiit Fulla but it's quite complicated to buy it from Italy... for some reason I can't find a way to sign up into Schiit website and the only authorized italian importer has really high prices and not even a normal online shop... they ask orders via email -.-

 

They have the E10K on Amazon but I'm not fully convinced, any other reasonably priced DAC + amp combo (if they are separeted for me it's ok, maybe even better since it would allow future upgrades)!

post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 

Little bump, found an Audioengine D1 at 129€ shipped, does it seem worth to you? I have a pair of "big" speakers too that I usually drive with an old Technics amplifier connected via the 3,5mm  jack to RCA (I switched the headphones jack with the 3,5/RCA jack) but I can probably bypass it with the D1, I don't really care too much about the speaker quality since they are cheap but a better amp would help I guess...

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