Is a sound card worth it? What type?

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erwinna

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Hello,

I just built my first gaming PC (specs in signature). I want to know if its worth investing in a sound card and if YES then what kind? I know my mobo (Asus p8z68 pro/gen3) has Realtek HD audio management. I use my rig mainly for GAMING and for watching videos. I use the following hardware:

-Logitech LS21 2.1 Stereo Speakers - 2.1 Channels, 7-Watts RMS, 2" High-excursion Metallic Drivers, 4" 4-Watts RMS Max-X High-excursion Subwoofer

-StarCraft II Razer Banshee Headphones

Thanks!!
 
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I always use a dedicated sound card. In my opinion is always better than any integrated sound "option". With that said, it is important to understand that a good sound card alone can't provide good sound. They need to be paired with an equally good set of speakers.

I use the creative SB X-Fi paired with Logitech Z-5500 speakers, connected with an optical cable. (cable not included) *cable is cheap but it makes a huge difference vs "normal" speaker cable setup*

Sound is immersive whether I'm on a Game, TV, Movie or Music.

Note: you could also try to simply get a better set of speakers and connected them with an optical cable. This might be enough for you.

Speaker specs: 550 Watts total
speakers Fl / FR / RL / RR 62 Watts each -...

drwho1

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I always use a dedicated sound card. In my opinion is always better than any integrated sound "option". With that said, it is important to understand that a good sound card alone can't provide good sound. They need to be paired with an equally good set of speakers.

I use the creative SB X-Fi paired with Logitech Z-5500 speakers, connected with an optical cable. (cable not included) *cable is cheap but it makes a huge difference vs "normal" speaker cable setup*

Sound is immersive whether I'm on a Game, TV, Movie or Music.

Note: you could also try to simply get a better set of speakers and connected them with an optical cable. This might be enough for you.

Speaker specs: 550 Watts total
speakers Fl / FR / RL / RR 62 Watts each - center speaker 69 Watts - sub woofer 188 Watts
 
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shanky887614

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only with decent headphones/speakers


i know my tv speakers are absolute garbage and a £5 set of earphones from shop are better


 
Given your Logitech LS21 2.1 Stereo Speakers - 2.1 Channels, 7-Watts RMS, simply put, you don't have the equipment necessary to discern any difference in sound quality between on board and dedicated sound card.

I have 4 machines here with Logitech Z-5500 speakers and I am hard pressed to tell the difference between on board and dedicated sound card sound with them.

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-THX-Certified-Digital-Surround-Speaker/dp/B0002WPSBC

By way of reference the Infinity Reference Beta Series speakers is what I use to evaluate sound quality when modding hi end audio equipment.

http://www.bobbyshred.com/infinity.html
 

Plasmid

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For gaming a sound card might make a difference, there are also some nice options with dedicated sound cards. If you do get a sound card maybe you'll maybe want to upgrade your speakers to something like Klipsch pro media 2.1 speakers.
 

MMO Fan

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even then it is all relative no offense to you or disrespect but what you posted is a false dichotomy.
 

MMO Fan

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z5500 are lame muddy speakers you opinion is moot therefor.
 

MMO Fan

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maybe on a ultra high end expensive mobos with a built in dedicated sound card the sound would be average but in a world where most think the ipod sounds good well whats the point in trying to beat a dead horse all on board sound sucks.
 

shanky887614

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not always true

you dont need to get an ultra high end motherboard to get good sound built in


obviously they wont be as good as a lot of sound cards
 

MMO Fan

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I guess IMHO we could come to an agreement and say sound quality is a very highly subjective opinion based issue IMO
 

drwho1

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What are you talking about?
I have the Logitech Z5500 and they are the absolute best PC speakers that I have experience!

My entire room shakes at mid volume .... it feels like I'm in the middle of the action!

Therefore YOUR opinion is moot.

 

MMO Fan

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Wow you perceive muddy booming bass as quality sound. ipod and Mcdonalds gen much.
 

MMO Fan

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OP a dedicated sound card will bring out the best of any set of speakers of course it will never make up for the lack of Tweeter on your speakers so the high end will never be real good no matter. Creative makes good cards and what I like about them is the Crystallizer feature which is excellent at cleaning up todays highly compressed digital media and makes it sound much better than it is. I also here great things of the Asus xonar line of sound cards as well but I have never used one so i can't comment.
 

MMO Fan

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I don't know if it will work that way as far as the specs they will still pick up on the motherboard built in sound cards crackling background noise and dull muddy unseparated sound spectrum. I know this from experience from ownership of the same speakers as OP albeit without the sub.
 

MMO Fan

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Sorry I will just leave it at sound color and quality is among one of the most subjective and personal realms of a PC IMO.
 
I tested several audio cards in various motherboards as a builder. Here are my conclusions:

1) There are $50 sound cards which have much better sound than most onboard audio with rare exceptions

2) A sound card will make little difference with cheap speakers

3) I recommend spending between $80 to $200 on 2.0 (stereo speakers)

4) I recommend spending between $150 and $300 on 2.1 (stereo + subwoofer)

5) I recommend spending $50 to $200 on a sound card (depending on need)

6) 4.1+ systems are a pain to setup due to the rear speaker wires and placement

7) 2.1 is generally ideal, however the SUBWOOFER vibration may be an issue for others in the house (especially below)

8) 2.0 (stereo) has the advantage of minimal noise leakage (to other rooms) and can give excellent sound with large drivers (such as the AV40 speakers)

9) make sure the amplifier off switch is easy to get to (NOT on the subwoofer)

10) a 3.5mm auxiliary input is nice to use the speakers standalone (i.e. with an iPod)

11) You may wish to ensure that your audio card supports BOTH the speakers AND your headphones via analog/analog or digital/analog.

12) Speakers may have a headphone jack but if it requires the amplifier to be ON that's useless IMO (amplifiers should be OFF when not used as they can add a lot of heat)

13) It's a BETTER VALUE to buy 2.0 speakers for the same price as cheap 2.1's (such as $50).

Examples of setups:
1) AV40 M-Audio (stereo) speakers + Auzentech X-Fi Forte
2) AV30 M-Audio (stereo) speakers + Asus Xonar DS 7.1
3) Edifier S330D + ...
etc...

If someone was on a budget I'd likely recommend the M-Audio AV30's and an inexpensive Asus card if I didn't have any other specifics to go by (such as whether headphones would be used).

*Definitely look for reviews comparing newer audio chips and current sound cards as it's always possible I'm incorrect.
 
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