Ready To Upgrade Onboard Audio: Need Some Advice
Nov 10, 2008 at 9:50 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 3

AZ Greg

New Head-Fier
Nov 10, 2008
Basically, I'm looking to upgrade my sound card in order to take advantage of quality headphones and my source material (music and movies).

I'm on a relatively new Dell I purchased during the Summer. At the time, I outfitted it for gaming (E8400 and 8800GT), but I skimped out on sound and took the included free "Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio" by Realtek. Here are my questions:

- My computer is a Vostro 400. It has a PCIe x16, PCIe x1 and 2 PCI slots in it. The PCIe x16 slot is occupied by my 8800GT so only the PCIe x1 and 2 PCI slots are available. Please keep that in mind when making suggestions. What would be the best bang for up to $100?
- The two upgrades Dell offered were: Sound Blaster Audigy SE 7.1 Channel 24-bit PCI Sound Card for about $34 and Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio Sound Card for about $61. I'm sure I can find both cheaper on Amazon. Is the $61 card my best option or is there something better between it and $100?
- Will those two cards or whatever one you all suggest provide a noticeable improvement worthy of the upgrade considering I have decent headphones and decent source material?
- A little off-topic, but thanks to this form I was introduced to USB DACs/USB sound cards. These would take over sound duties from my integrated sound card correct? If my primary use is movies and music, would one of those be a better choice than a PCI sound card upgrade? Or with a $100 budget would I be better off upgrading the sound card?

Thanks for all of your help!
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Nov 10, 2008 at 11:20 PM Post #2 of 3


New Head-Fier
Nov 2, 2008
I'm looking to upgrade my audio source as well, I have a creative x-fi xtreme notebook card. From my research here I would definately go with a usb DAC. I am looking at the e-mu 0404 and the e-mu 0202. The e-mu 0202 is in your budget at ~$100 on ebay and use live cash to get $25 back to bring it to $75.

Other options you have would be a cheap dac(alien or other), but I believe that the e-mu 0202 is the best option in this price range.
Nov 10, 2008 at 11:28 PM Post #3 of 3

Vitor Machado

100+ Head-Fier
Dec 5, 2006
What is your sound gear?

Do you play games with some surround equipment?
If you do, you might want to have a soundcard that can do EAX effects.

If not, well there are basically two paths:

- You could buy a soundcard and an amp: the good thing about this, is that you can use the amp with other types of sources. But depending on what you do below, you might be able to do that too (if you get a separate DAC and amp).
You have the disadvantage of possible RF. interf. noise from other components inside the PC, like the HDD or VGA...

- You could buy an external DAC/amp, but it could be...
-- USB: This is cool since it's very pratical, and just like the next option, is supposed to give you little RF. interference noise, since the DAC is outside the PC case and USB is a digital transport.
-- Digital out: This option, of course, would require you to buy a DAC/amp that supports digital out. There are some that support both USB and Digital Out.

As soon as possible, I'll be going myself the USB DAC/amp route.

Some posts to help you decide in case you go this route too:
Need Cheap USB DAC advice
Help with decision

And do a Search to find an infinity of threads about these stuff...

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