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HELP!! for $50-$120 what's the most bang-for-buck sound card today?
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penguin1
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Smile HELP!! for $50-$120 what's the most bang-for-buck sound card today? - 03-23-2017, 08:00 | posts: 9

Hi guys.

Have been a regular visitor to guru3D but am new here in the forums section, quite surprised to find that there's still a dedicated 'Soundcards' sub-forum ! So I thought I might have a chance getting the answer I seek here!


Have to admit I am way out of touch on the Sound Card department. Currently I am using the onboard sound on my latest Set-up.

Think is, I am beginning to think its not quite good enough for me. At the beginning, I was quite impressed and satisfied with what it had to offer, but now I just miss the top-notch sound quality that the onboard chip just couldn't muster.. you know, that extra omph in movies and games, and the clarity of dialogues and production of finer sounds in the backgrounds from various source and distances..


From my limited understanding, the lower end/grade sound cards are not quite worth the $$ that you pay for them. Is this true? also the good ones that are even worth your considering cost an arm and a leg, they are also designed to be optimized more for games. But I tend to watch more HD movies than game now these days .



Nevertheless, I am hell-bent on -hopefully finding- a suitable PCI-E x1 sound card around my budget of about $50-$120
.


A little backgound!

I used to own a Creative Audigy 2 ZS Gold (rather badass back in the day) and later upgraded to a X-Fi Platinum 7.1, this card then went thru 2 system updates/changes with me.

Those were the Golden era of Creative and Sound Cards.. and I also remembered when ASUS first came out with their XONAR sound cards and shook up the industy. When I was building my PC back then, Creative was already slowly on their decline and losing their mojo, I considered the XONAR but there were only 2 or 3 models to choose from at their release and they were well over $200 a card even for the cheapest one. That was how I decided to go onboard and hold off for a better cost-value sound card, but Creative continued to disappoint... and so till today, I still haven't got anything new yet.. until now perhaps? haha



Are Creative and ASUS still the only major Sound Card players these days?


Once again, I am looking for a relatively new and the most bang-for-buck all around the $100ish price point for a PCI-E x1 soundcard. What would you recommend me? : )


I appreciate your sharing and inputs. & also hope this might turn up an interesting discussion with lots of nostalgia too, haha! Thanks peeps!

Last edited by penguin1; 05-18-2017 at 16:48.
   
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sverek
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Default 03-23-2017, 10:15 | posts: 2,866 | Location: Ibaraki, Japan

What is your audio setup for soundcard? Speakers, headphones...

People with proper setup tend to stay away from soundcards and purchase standalone Dac/Amp, like Schiit Fula 2.

Problems of soundcards is cheaper dac/amp components, driver dependance and noise inteferance, comparing to standalone dac/amp.
The only reasons to get soundcard is for having features like Dolby Headphones, dynamic volume, EQ and other crap. If all you need is clean stereo signal, get dac/amp.


   
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mbk1969
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Default 03-23-2017, 10:34 | posts: 3,535 | Location: Moscow, Russia

Quote:
Originally Posted by sverek View Post
People with proper setup tend to stay away from soundcards and purchase standalone Dac/Amp, like Schiit Fula 2.
...or Aune T1
   
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kastriot
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Videocard: Z-AMP.extr-GTX980 1.5GHz
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Soundcard: Sound Blaster Z
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Default 03-23-2017, 10:52 | posts: 761 | Location: Kosovo/Pristina

Well for that price only Sound Blaster Z since you want pci-express there is no better alternative for that sound quality i use it with Akg 240 MK II and no problems to drive them but again that's me and my opinion..
   
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Sabbath
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Lightbulb 03-23-2017, 13:26 | posts: 908 | Location: Ontario, CAN

Hi penguin1,
First welcome too the forum's. Check these out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iueTVM3xfFM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vd94WYRkaj4
   
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GenClaymore
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Soundcard: AE-5>Jot> BAL>JBL305/R70x
PSU: Cosair RM850
Default 03-23-2017, 19:33 | posts: 5,921 | Location: Southfield,MI

If you lucky you may find an used Sound blaster ZXR on ebay around 120ish like I have. Since you didnt mention your usage, if you're using stereo speakers or just headphones only, depending on the headphones, you could get an schiit fulla 2, unless the headphones in question is higher impedance and req a lot of power.

Another good choice is the Asus Strix soar which goes around 79-99 on ebay which has an stronger headphone amp Since it uses the same headphone amp IC that the ZXR and STX II uses, besides having an option to change it sound signature by op-amp socket like both cards.

But really it depends on what gear you are right now, if you use 5.1 speakers then your only choice is an sound card. If you use stereo speakers or just headphones and you feel you don't need the functions or software suite of an sound card, then go to an external dac/amp route such as an Fulla 2 or even the Monoprice External Dac amp that goes between 69-99$, i usually see it on ebay for around $69 and it's hp amp section is stronger then the Fulla's.

Even if you did need creative's virtual headphone tech, creative does have software that gives you it which works with any source any way, if you do still want to have that.

Last edited by GenClaymore; 03-23-2017 at 19:35.
   
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penguin1
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Videocard: MSI 670GTX
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Soundcard:
PSU: Corsair CX600M
Default 05-18-2017, 17:27 | posts: 9

Quote:
Originally Posted by sverek View Post
What is your audio setup for soundcard? Speakers, headphones...

People with proper setup tend to stay away from soundcards and purchase standalone Dac/Amp, like Schiit Fula 2.

Problems of soundcards is cheaper dac/amp components, driver dependance and noise inteferance, comparing to standalone dac/amp.
The only reasons to get soundcard is for having features like Dolby Headphones, dynamic volume, EQ and other crap. If all you need is clean stereo signal, get dac/amp.
Hi Sverek, I am using a THX certified 2.1 Speaker. nothing fancy, it does allow for changing of the speaker cable though, I am thinking if changing the L/R cables would help the sound quality as well. Maybe I can make a trip down an audiophile shop. It looks like this:




will changing to a better and/or shorter cable help? the current one I am using and that it came bundled with is so long! about 3m. it seems to be the standard copper?? wire.




Quote:
Originally Posted by GenClaymore View Post
If you lucky you may find an used Sound blaster ZXR on ebay around 120ish like I have. Since you didnt mention your usage, if you're using stereo speakers or just headphones only, depending on the headphones, you could get an schiit fulla 2, unless the headphones in question is higher impedance and req a lot of power.

Another good choice is the Asus Strix soar which goes around 79-99 on ebay which has an stronger headphone amp Since it uses the same headphone amp IC that the ZXR and STX II uses, besides having an option to change it sound signature by op-amp socket like both cards.

But really it depends on what gear you are right now, if you use 5.1 speakers then your only choice is an sound card. If you use stereo speakers or just headphones and you feel you don't need the functions or software suite of an sound card, then go to an external dac/amp route such as an Fulla 2 or even the Monoprice External Dac amp that goes between 69-99$, i usually see it on ebay for around $69 and it's hp amp section is stronger then the Fulla's.

Even if you did need creative's virtual headphone tech, creative does have software that gives you it which works with any source any way, if you do still want to have that.
Hey! the schiit fulla 2 seems like a popular DAC! Intially I wanted an internal sound card as I thought it could save some clutter and cable on the desk. but this DAC is pretty small. hmmm.. haha!

I don't normally use the functions in the software and only mess around with EQ when I really have issues with dialogues on shows and movies etc. but that's about it. most of the time it might not even be an issue with the sound card/processor but instead the source file. Though I am sure it would not sound as muffled/be as bad if the hardware was better.

Thanks for sharing. I did not know creative software works with any source!
   
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nhlkoho
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Videocard: EVGA 980ti sc+
Processor: i7 4770k
Mainboard: Asus Z87 Plus
Memory: Veng. Pro 16GB DDR3-1866
Soundcard: Soundblaster Z
PSU: EVGA 750G2
Default 05-18-2017, 17:57 | posts: 7,097 | Location: Washington DC

Sound Blaster Z. You can find the OEM model without the shield and microphone for about $70-$80
   
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GenClaymore
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Videocard: GTX 1080 FE @ 2ghz
Processor: I7 3930k @ 4.6ghz @ 1.4v
Mainboard: Asus X79 Sabertooth
Memory: G-skill 4x4GB @2133
Soundcard: AE-5>Jot> BAL>JBL305/R70x
PSU: Cosair RM850
Default 05-18-2017, 22:31 | posts: 5,921 | Location: Southfield,MI

Quote:
Originally Posted by penguin1 View Post
Hi Sverek, I am using a THX certified 2.1 Speaker. nothing fancy, it does allow for changing of the speaker cable though, I am thinking if changing the L/R cables would help the sound quality as well. Maybe I can make a trip down an audiophile shop. It looks like this:




will changing to a better and/or shorter cable help? the current one I am using and that it came bundled with is so long! about 3m. it seems to be the standard copper?? wire.






Hey! the schiit fulla 2 seems like a popular DAC! Intially I wanted an internal sound card as I thought it could save some clutter and cable on the desk. but this DAC is pretty small. hmmm.. haha!

I don't normally use the functions in the software and only mess around with EQ when I really have issues with dialogues on shows and movies etc. but that's about it. most of the time it might not even be an issue with the sound card/processor but instead the source file. Though I am sure it would not sound as muffled/be as bad if the hardware was better.

Thanks for sharing. I did not know creative software works with any source!
I realize that I forgot to mention the name of the software, its called SB blaster X lite. It won't be the same as SBX on the Z series due to not being able to config the speaker settings in the windows panel.
   
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