gxavier38

Honorable
Feb 22, 2012
249
0
10,690
I'm pretty much a newb in sound cards and I'm about to get one. so based on your experience, what are good sound cards for gaming, music and movies? I won't be composing with ProTools or anything like that. Also if you could, what makes it better? Output doesn't matter. I am getting a new speaker after I get the sound card.
Note: I don't think I'm gonna spend $200 on just a sound card. Anything close or under $120 would be reasonable.
 

Stupido

Distinguished
Sep 17, 2008
342
0
18,810
hold your horses...

ALC889 is a very good audio chipset... but good audio to your ears doesn't come only from the chipset but also from the analog part used to tranform the digital data into analog signal; and there is the place where the sound card has the upper hand compared to the on-board audio solutions... it is so, simply because you can cram more analog circuitry on add-on board than you can put into the motherboard... another thing is that manufacturers put just a min setup on the motherboard (cost reasons) just to get to some min level that should be good enough for most of the users.
this also leads to another point - you will need at least mid-range speaker quality to get the difference between on-board and add-on audio.

in short - if you use "el-cheapo" headphones/speakers, save some cost and go with on-board, but if you have some nice audio equipment a add-on card is a must...

I personally feel very big difference between my on-board ALC889 and add-on Creative XtremeGamer (an "el-cheapo" sound card) on several headphones/speakers I have tried...
 

Stupido

Distinguished
Sep 17, 2008
342
0
18,810
MSI BigBang XPower II has the next iteration of the realtek audio processor... typically the difference is in the SW stack (the driver that OS uses - for example some sound features like all those dolby-whatever encodings/decoding, can be done in HW instead of in SW...) but the end output may not differ - again, due to how the digital signals are converted back to the analog ones (because you speakers/headphones are analog devices)... that conversion part differs makes the whole difference - in both cases: in different motherboards and/or different sound cards...
that is why you have so many different sound cards: one is tailored to give better sound when you use it to drive headphones, the other one to be used in media setups with external amplifiers, etc...

while the motherboard audio is the 'general case' that should give good-enough sound...
 
You mentioned gaming, if your gaming experience is only with stereo computer speakers then you do not need a discrete sound card, but if you're using a full surround speaker setup for gaming like 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup.

I recommend Creative Sound Blaster X-FI Titanium Fatal1ty PCI-E, for games like 3D shooters the EAX 5.0 sound effects and the 3D positional effects are fantastic in locating your enemies by sound.

However until you experience it for yourself, it's just talk.