Santa Cruz or Audigy for sub-$100 sound card?
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donovansmith

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I bought a SoundBlaster Live! 5.1 sound card a few months back to replace my Aureal Vortex SQ1500 which was suffering from bad drivers in Windows 2000, and with my upgrade to Windows XP would be supported by even worse drivers. I noticed that the SBLive didn't sound quite as good as the old card for music, but I got used to it. At the time I thought the SBLive was suppossed to be one of the best cards out there, and I thought the SB Audigy wouldn't bring any real improvements but now I am thinking it might. I have been reading a lot about the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz card and the opinions on it seem to be very favorable. I am starting to lean towards the latter card, especially since I think Creative has rather poor drivers for the SB Live and have read many negative things about the Audigy drivers. But if it sounds really good, I'll be willing to give it a shot. To me, the SB Live sound is rather dull, and actually gets fatiging (sp?) after an hour or so for music listening.
 
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Nick Dangerous

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www.newegg.com

Has the Santa Cruz for $59. I'm going to get one soon...
 
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radrd

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The Turtle Beach Santa Cruz is a great sound card, especially for the price. The sound quality is way above the Audigy.

There are better (professional/audiophile) sound cards, but they cost more, and they aren't very good for gaming like the TBSC.

Finally, Turtle Beach actually does an outstanding job with their drivers. Creative, on the other hand, has **** for drivers.

Go TBSC.
 
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LarryS

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I just installed the TB Santa Cruz last night, replacing an old Xitel Storm VX sound card (late 1998 vintage).

Installation was a snap, & the new sound control panel software is nice. Speaker settings (4 speaker vs 2 speaker vs headphone, etc) can be changed from the control panel with a click. You can create different saved sound settings/profiles too.

There's a bunch of utilities, but I haven't had time to play with them all yet.

Soundwise, the difference was day & night while playing MP3's. With vocals I could now hear that little echo off the walls that was not there before. Highs & lows were *much* better. My daughter said the PC now had better sound than her PCD player (but she has crap headphones....uh oh...I did say I would order her a pair of KSC35's...better go to e-bay after this).

The headphones I use on the PC are a pair of HD 570's. The prior sound card, & also the current sound card do not put out enough power to drive these headphones to a very loud volume. It's loud enough, but a headbanger would need some headphones that are easier to drive for the PC.

I also loaded up Unreal, which uses A3d (3 dimensional positioning)...& WOW! I'll say it again.. *W*O*W*!!! *Every* *single* sound had changed from pre-a3d. It was a whole new experience in deathmatching
It's like finding unreal all over again (I referring here to the original unreal - Yah!, not UT, boo!!)

The sound card also provides legacy support for dos games.

I did not have a chance to play any CD's yet. The sound card does have a socket for a 2-pin digital cable to take a digital feed directly from the CD player, if the CD player provides that. Otherwise you hook it up with the analog connectors.

I am quite the happy camper with the new sound card.
 
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Duncan

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Quote:

Originally posted by LarryS
...I did not have a chance to play any CD's yet. The sound card does have a socket for a 2-pin digital cable to take a digital feed directly from the CD player, if the CD player provides that. Otherwise you hook it up with the analog connectors...


Not by any means picking on you LarryS, but I do find it unfortunate the amount of misconceptions that there are regarding how CD-Rom sound is sent to the soundcard...

In DOS, the two or three pin cables ARE required for the CD-Rom audio to be heard, this has something to do with poor drivers for DOS, i'm not too hot on the reasoning... but so far, things are correct...

BUT, within Windows the audio information is passed to the computer through the IDE cable!!

A very quick and practical experiment for those people who dabble with the insides of their PCs... next time you have one open, with it powered up and a CD playing, disconnect the audio cable from the soundcard... I'd pretty much guarantee it that the audio will still play!!

This COULD be because of Windows Media Player, when it requests digital sound playback... the software itself doesn't know squat about what cables you have running out of the back of your CD-Rom, so... where can it find digital, raw data from... guaranteed? Yup... you've got it, through the IDE Cable...

This in turn brings your processor, and your computer in general into question for CD quality within a PC setup... I've mentioned more than once here that since my CPU upgrade from my Athlon 900 to my XP2000+ that the audio sounds a lot richer, and cleaner even through my heavily discredited SBLive!... coincidentally, the new processor cruises where the older one was straining, and there are more multi-media functions on the newer generation CPUs....
 
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LarryS

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Duncan,

Thanks for the additional info. I was aware that the signal can be passed through the internal circuits of the PC, where supported by the hardware & software, but it was not my intent to get that nitty gritty (not that I could have as well as you
)

Since I do not like the idea of electrical interference with the audio signal (something we all try to avoid) I prefer to use a cable to go directly from the CD to the sound card, and therefore did not even think of mentioning any alternative. It may not make any audible difference if it's digital information & not analog, but it makes me feel better
 
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Duncan

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Larry,

On that note, I'd like to know if its possible to disable the internal (IDE) data that is transferred...

I have a Philips CD-Rom with a play button on it, and if I play a CD that way, the information DOES pass through the audio cable... but I'm unaware of a way to defeat the IDE inter[ference]face when you use software to play your CDs

I personally agree with you wholeheartedly, if you could remove the CPU, RAM and suchlike out of the equation that the signal should be a lot clearer... but how?

Any ideas anyone? (Sorry if i'm drifting too far off topic here... but I think its related?!)
 
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Chastity

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TIME OUT!

Let's get some clues here first:

There are 3 ways to play CD Audio from a CD-Rom to the soundcard

1) Analog Out - The most antiquidated method, this option uses the Digital to Analog Converters (DACs) on the CD-Rom drive, which are notorious for being, well, cheap. Also, computer noise (rfi's) can be introduced via this method. This uses that 4-pic cable that runs to the CD-In port on soundcards.

2) SPDIF-Out - This option uses a 2-pin cable that connects to the soundcard, and uses a Digital signal which is then decoded on the Soundcard's DACs, or if using Digital Out, on the DACs on the Speakers or Component Amp/Receiver. (I have to assume there are some people using Home Theatre gear here for their computer.) Being a digital signal, rfi's are not an issue.

3) Digital Audio Extraction - DAE uses the IDE cable to transfer a Digital signal to the soundcard. No additional cables are required, and sounds just as clear as SPDIF. If you do get pops and noise, it's from an overburdened PCI Bus and bad drivers, which should be fixed anyway. (VIA chip users know this as the evil Latency issue, as well as some other users.) Once again, this is digital audio, and computer noise is not an issue.

Is SPDIF better than DAE? Not really. Just remember that on consumer grade soundcards, all sound data is resampled to 16bit/48K Hz for AC97 compliance, which means it is internally resampled in software and hardware level for CD Audio, which is natively 16/44.1

If you wish to minimalize this, that is a whole different discussion.
 
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LarryS

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Duncan,

I'm not sure if this is a satisfactory answer for you or not


According to Turtle Beach:
{
Santa Cruz: CD-Digital input setup

The Santa Cruz CD-Digital input works both for Playback of audio CDs and Recording to your PC's hard drive from an audio CD in your CD-ROM drive.

Instructions for setting up the CD-Digital Input on the Santa Cruz:

1. Make sure you connect the 2 pin CD-Audio cable to the Santa Cruz 2 pin connector labeled "CD SPDIF IN". The other end connects to your CD-ROM's Digital CD connector
2. In the Santa Cruz Control Panel, select the Mixer tab
3. Click the Advanced button located under the Compact Disc fader. This button is marked […]
4. In the Advanced Controls pop-up menu, select On/Digital from the Digital CD drop-down menu.
5. Click the Close button
}

My intepretation from the above description and the setting made in item 4, is that the sound card drivers only accept CD playback via the digital cable. So it should not matter if any other signal is still being sent via the ribbon.

I guess this would only apply to the TB Santa Cruz, but I would hope that other sound cards with digital support would act similarly.

Hope this makes sense
 
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Duncan

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Thanks for clearing that up Chastity & LarryS


Now i'm more confused than ever as to why my setup sounds better since my CPU upgrade... but... that isn't for this thread
 
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Chastity

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That option in the TBSC control panel is to enable CD Digital In via the SPDIF cable from a CD Drive. It is NOT required to be enabled for DAE, tho it doesn't matter if it is or isn't if you are using DAE.

Also, in the lastest drivers, that option has been moved to the Other tab in the Control Panel, so those instructions are outdated.

(I have both TBSC and Audigy in my Win XP Pro Box)

If you use WinAmp as your player, you will need to use the updated Cd In plugin (which is currently 1.95) for DAE to function, and it's a better one anyway than NullSofts. Otherwise, you should use teh SPDIF cable and enable the option in the Control Panel.
 
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SumB

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Quote:

I also loaded up Unreal, which uses A3d (3 dimensional positioning)...& WOW! I'll say it again.. *W*O*W*!!! *Every* *single* sound had changed from pre-a3d. It was a whole new experience in deathmatching It's like finding unreal all over again (I referring here to the original unreal - Yah!, not UT, boo!!)


The game defaults to EAX on hardware incapable of A3D 2.0 (as is the case with the Santa Cruz).
 
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Neruda

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$59 for the santa cruz? hm...intewesting...
 
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Taphil

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DAE for CD playback is WMP option, and also a Windows option for each CD drive if digital speakers are connected. Winamp, for example, doesn't play CD's digitally unless it's enabled in Windows' hardware properties for each CD drive.

An easier test to see if it's reading digital or analog is to just plug some headphone's into the CD drive headphone jack. If you can hear music, then it's analog playback.
 
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donovansmith

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Thanks all for the suggestions. I read a little more on the topic, and it definately seems the Santa Cruz is the way to go.

And on to the digital vs. analog playback through the soundcard for CDs, I haven't connected an audio cable to my optical drives for almost 2 years. I just have to set up the drives in Windows for digital playback. Even before I had that setup, WMP played back my CDs digitally by default.

Duncan, have you checked your DMA settings for your CD-ROM drive? If a CD upgrade actually made it sound better it may be that your drive is stuck in PIO-only mode. PIO mode is much more CPU intensive than DMA mode, and DMA mode is always faster, especially for DAE. I would think that the audio extracted from the CD would be exactly what's on there regardless, but it may be possible that Windows tries to cut down on CPU use by transferring a little less of that data to the sound card. And the Pentium III-like SIMD instructions on your Athlon XP may have exploited an extra capability in WMP.
 
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