Question Is a sound card worth it for gaming?

rds1220

Splendid
Do you guys think it is worth getting a sound card for gaming? With a good pair of headphones will it make a real/noticeable difference over the motherboard sound chip? If I were to get a sound card what features should I be looking for? I really don't know much about them.
 
This is slightly difficult as motherboard sound has improved especially if you have a decent newish motherboard...On the other hand if you have a good set of headphones then a sound card or external DAC will make a big difference.

I can only talk to my experience and I have the Sound Blaster AE5 which has a 32 Bit DAC and it is fantastic with my speaker setup and my Beyerdymanic DT770 Pro headphones. The soundcard can handle up to 600 Ohm headphones and the sound quality to my ears is immense...

I should mention that most sound cards will have all the standard features and connections and a good external DAC will be the same in terms of connectivity.
 
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OllympianGamer

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This is slightly difficult as motherboard sound has improved especially if you have a decent newish motherboard...On the other hand if you have a good set of headphones then a sound card or external DAC will make a big difference.

I can only talk to my experience and I have the Sound Blaster AE5 which has a 32 Bit DAC and it is fantastic with my speaker setup and my Beyerdymanic DT770 Pro headphones. The soundcard can handle up to 600 Ohm headphones and the sound quality to my ears is immense...

I should mention that most sound cards will have all the standard features and connections and a good external DAC will be the same in terms of connectivity.
Not to hijack the thread or anything but I've never considered buying a sound card before, I figured with digital signals the only important part was the end point, so like an expensive pair of headphones was all you need for decent audio. I am interested though what the differences between using your headphones through the sound card or directly though the motherboard are if you've tried it that is? I want to buy some new headphones soon and I might actually get a sound card as well if they are worth the extra cost.
 

rds1220

Splendid
Not to hijack the thread or anything but I've never considered buying a sound card before, I figured with digital signals the only important part was the end point, so like an expensive pair of headphones was all you need for decent audio. I am interested though what the differences between using your headphones through the sound card or directly though the motherboard are if you've tried it that is? I want to buy some new headphones soon and I might actually get a sound card as well if they are worth the extra cost.
It is similar to on board graphics vs a discrete video card. I discrete video card is more powerful then the on board graphics and can do more. Pretty much the same with a sound card, a discrete sound card is more powerful and can give you better sound then the on board graphics but it depends on the motherboard as vMax said.
 
Not to hijack the thread or anything but I've never considered buying a sound card before, I figured with digital signals the only important part was the end point, so like an expensive pair of headphones was all you need for decent audio.
For a USB headset, that's largely true, as the headset contains its own hardware for converting a digital signal to analog, so additional sound hardware is not needed, though you are dependent on whatever hardware they managed to cram inside the headset. And in the case of a wireless headset, the digital signal may be compressed prior to transmission, potentially reducing its quality in the process.

For a headset with 3.5mm jacks though, the signal is getting converted by the computer's sound hardware, whether that is onboard audio on the motherboard, or a dedicated card.

Also, it used to be that offloading 3D sound processing tasks to dedicated hardware on the card could reduce processing load on the CPU, though that was more relevant back when CPUs were slower and had only one or two cores to work with. I believe most games do their sound processing in software these days.

I have a Creative card in my current system, but it's an older model, and has recently started experiencing "crackling" at times that requires a reboot to correct. I intend to build a new system soon, and will probably try going without a sound card, seeing as onboard audio has seemingly improved in recent years.

As for whether it's "worth getting a sound card for gaming", I would say that at this point, it's probably only worth considering if you don't have something better to spend that money on, or have some specific need for one. For someone with high-end components like an i7-8700K and an RTX 2080, along with higher-end audio equipment, spending $150 on a higher-end sound card like a SoundBlaster AE-5 might be considered reasonable to get a little more out of the system. For a more mid-range setup though, you would probably be far better off putting that money toward other hardware, like a better graphics card, or a better monitor or something. In the mid-range, putting an extra $150 toward a graphics card is likely to get you substantially higher frame rates, whereas putting that toward a sound card might get you slightly better audio quality. So I wouldn't really say it's like the difference between onboard and dedicated graphics, since onboard graphics tend to barely be able to run modern games at playable frame rates at the lowest settings, whereas onboard audio tends to come relatively close to what the dedicated cards are doing.
 
Reactions: vMax
Onboard audio has come to the point where it is more than good enough for most people. The only people that need a separate DAC+AMP or soundcard are people with very expensive speakers/headphones and specific needs like music creators and audio enthusiasts.

Your motherboard utilizes a Realtek ALC1220 DAC, which is actually an upscale model compared to the ALC8xx series found on budget boards.

For just gaming, you are not going to miss out on anything because you are using onboard audio.
 

USAFRet

Titan
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It is similar to on board graphics vs a discrete video card. I discrete video card is more powerful then the on board graphics and can do more. Pretty much the same with a sound card, a discrete sound card is more powerful and can give you better sound then the on board graphics but it depends on the motherboard as vMax said.
No, not quite the same. With graphics, the onboard iGPU is pretty basic. Not suitable for any real gaming.

The onboard sound is just fine for the vast majority.
If you are deeply into music production, and have the speakers and room acoustics to tell the difference....then an external soundcard can be worth it.
 
As has been said, if you are using either USB or generic 3.5mm headphones/speakers, there really isn't any benefit to a soundcard as onboard is "good enough".

However, if you have higher end headphones or speakers, a soundcard makes a large (albiet subjective) improvement to audio quality.

There are a few cheap options worth considering; the ASUS Xonar DGX is a decent upgrade and has a powered headphone amp, and can be found for <$40 or so. The Creative Soundblaster Z is a bit more upscale (~$99), and more then enough for anyone not using super high-end headphones.
 
I have the same motherboard as you the Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard.
Yep it is a great motherboard that has allowed me to overclock to 4.9GHz on my 8700K at 1.278v...I can go to 5GHz but the vcore jumps to 1.325v which I am not to comfortable with.

On the onboard audio for the Gaming 7, it is very good indeed with a built in ESS Sabre DAC that is at the top tier for onboard sound. I would agree with a lot of comments on here as unless you really are looking for high end audio matched to high end speakers and headphones then you money is much better spent in other areas as the sound on the Gaming 7 is top notch...
 

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