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Onboard Sound Vs. Add in Sound Card
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ROBSCIX
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Default Onboard Sound Vs. Add in Sound Card - 03-10-2006, 22:56 | posts: 16,175 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Onboard Sound Vs. Add in Sound Card

By ROBSCIX


This is one of the most prevalent questions asked in this forum. I figured I would put all the info in this thread so members can find it quickly and easily. Everytime the questions is asked it will fuel a debate always ending with the same conclusion.

Why should I get a soundcard when my Motherboard has onboard sound?

I would say onboard sound is basically a marketing tactic used by motherboard manufacturers to sell an all-in-one solution. These soundchips undoubtedly have come along way since the first onboards, and would be fine for a basic office or home PC, but they still do not stand up to a quality add-in PCI card for many reasons.

Onboard sound chips need to use CPU cycles to process sound. This robs your sytem of performance. If your sound chip has EAX which alot of them do these days the issue is compounded usually degrading your performance somewhere in the area of 5-15 FPS in games. This is usually the reported number of FPS that users report getting when then install a PCI sound solution. This is not the worst issue though.

But ROBSCIX my onboard sounds fine to me?

Of course if a user has been using their soundchips for quite a while, the ear gets used to the less than stellar sound quality boasted by onboard sound chips. When a user installs a PCI solution they are literally blown away by the sound quality. They report hearing things in games and music that previously was not noticable. Once a user is used to a PCI sound card they can hear the deficiencies inherent to onboard sound chips and will never use one again. They sound very cold and sterile. DSP effects are usually overwhelming and washed out. These chips have no qualities usually associated with good sound, so alot of times the user will not know what they are missing until they hear it. You will need a set of decent speakers to be able to hear the difference however. $10 speakers won't cut it.

Now over the years various companies have released onboard sound chips that have tried to get over these issues. Connecting to the bus in different ways so they don't use CPU cycles etc. In terms of sound quality they are still lacking. All in all that's what we all want, I could care less about other things as long as I have great sound quality. People spend so much time building up there video subsystems, studying and reading about the best video components, but then they have an older onboard sound card connected to small multimedia speakers. Very sad indeed. If they invested half the time researching audio as they spent on video they wouldn't be using onboard sound. They would be using at least an entry level soundcard with surround sound speakers. Modern games are productional masterpieces with equal attention paid to audio as well as video. Without this hardware you're only getting half of what the game developers wanted you to experience. Sound is definitely an important part of all modern games. Indeed most new games contain EAX, surround sound support and directional audio, all used to make your game more enjoyable. Unfortunately all are limited by the sound hardware you have.

So the choice is up to you, and the question becomes:

Why wouldn't you replace your onboard with a quality PCI sound card?

Last edited by ROBSCIX; 03-12-2006 at 22:23.
   
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alanm
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Default 03-11-2006, 16:19 | posts: 5,641

Thanks, good one. Hopefully that will be the end of the weekly onboard vs soundcard thread.
   
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S_Kinton
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Default 03-11-2006, 19:00 | posts: 1,884 | Location: Leeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by alanm
Thanks, good one. Hopefully that will be the end of the weekly onboard vs soundcard thread.
Hopefully...but some people seem to loose their eye sight and ignore stickies!!

I would mention though that my motherboard has onboard soundblaster Live! 24-bit, which is one of the best onboard solutions ive come across, but my Audigy 4 still provides a noticeable difference, never bothered to check fps tho.

Also, the MSI diamond and diamond plus have Audigy and Audigy 2 sound oboard respectively - Very good solutions if you cant afford a sound card, although the boards themselves are pretty expensive as motherboards go....
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 03-11-2006, 19:07 | posts: 16,175 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

They still suffer from the same ill's that plague all onboards, performance degradation...etc. I never said there aren't decent onboards. I did say they can't compete with a decent Add in..

Last edited by ROBSCIX; 03-11-2006 at 19:10.
   
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S_Kinton
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Default 03-11-2006, 21:30 | posts: 1,884 | Location: Leeds

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX
They still suffer from the same ill's that plague all onboards, performance degradation...etc. I never said there aren't decent onboards. I did say they can't compete with a decent Add in..
All very true, was just saying that the onboard options have had alot of improvements, but still cant beat a seperate card, as you said
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 03-11-2006, 23:25 | posts: 16,175 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Your absolutley right that they have come a very long way. I didn't know certain mobos had A1, A2 Chips installed..I wonder how the would compare to a dedicated PCI card of the same name...Intel has the HD audio mobos. Onboard has come a long way for sure I don;t think it will ever get to the point that addin soundcards will be obsolete...SAme as onboard video sure it's "good' light years ahead of what it used to be, but it can't compare to a decent addin GFX card either. These mobo manufacturers build these all-in-one solutions so OEM'S can just buy the mobo and have to add a minimum of other hardware..it'll do the trick for public schools or grandmas email, but for guys like us it's pretty mickey mouse the GFX or the Audio...it all has to go..

Last edited by ROBSCIX; 03-22-2006 at 19:19.
   
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Default 03-16-2006, 23:47 | posts: 108 | Location: newfoundland

I was a strong supporter of onboard sound ( Sound Storm ) ,and I still thinks it is great but I just bought a X-Fi xtreme music - The difference should be illegal , I could not believe how much sharper and crisper everything is . Update just played BF2 and CS:S (with headphones ) the sound is great the 3d imaging made a huge difference and I heard things I never did before. I'm sold .

Last edited by kansei; 03-17-2006 at 19:45.
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 03-17-2006, 18:24 | posts: 16,175 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Yeah, it's a brave new word...lol. I had to use onboard for a little while you can get it to sound "tolerable" if set right..but there is no comparison to a PCI sound solution...they are alot better sounding...
   
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Default 03-24-2006, 16:14 | posts: 308

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX
Yeah, it's a brave new word...lol. I had to use onboard for a little while you can get it to sound "tolerable" if set right..but there is no comparison to a PCI sound solution...they are alot better sounding...
However, SoundMAX onboard audio solutions have much better quality than other onboard solutions. My SoundMAX sounds at least as good as my SBLive! 24-bit in music and games (though SBLive has the edge since it can do EAX 3), and its also comparable to a VIA Envy24 quality-wise.

Read the reviews of the SoundMAX on the net if you do not believe me.
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 03-24-2006, 19:28 | posts: 16,175 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Still suffer from the same issues all sound chips have. Your correct Soundmax is one of the better onboards but it is still just that. SO it'll take CPU cycles to process sound.-kill performance. If you want advice Get a quality add-in sound card instead of trying to justify reasons to keep a Microchip that probably cost 10 cents to employ. The thread wasn't about to argue which are better which are worse that's not the point. BTW a SB live! 24 bit is not considered a good card either. If you enjoy the sound great. Your missing alot in terms of sound quality.
   
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AcceleratorX
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Default 03-24-2006, 22:48 | posts: 308

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX
Still suffer from the same issues all sound chips have. Your correct Soundmax is one of the better onboards but it is still just that. SO it'll take CPU cycles to process sound.-kill performance. If you want advice Get a quality add-in sound card instead of trying to justify reasons to keep a Microchip that probably cost 10 cents to employ. The thread wasn't about to argue which are better which are worse that's not the point. BTW a SB live! 24 bit is not considered a good card either. If you enjoy the sound great. Your missing alot in terms of sound quality.
The problem is, I have no idea of a good soundcard for an analog speaker system. Most reviewers do thier reviews with digital speakers. I would appreciate it if you can help me in this regard. I am on a budget, though, so I'm not looking for the absolute top-of-the-line one. Thanks.

EDIT:- BTW, are the VIA Envy24 based solutions OK?

Last edited by AcceleratorX; 03-24-2006 at 22:52.
   
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Default 03-24-2006, 23:51 | posts: 13,699 | Location: Devon, In A Little Town.

a add in card such as a creative x-fi will improve fps in games as off loads work from the cpu
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 03-25-2006, 00:15 | posts: 16,175 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Post out in the main thread.
   
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Default 05-15-2006, 10:54 | posts: 1

i will like to no u
   
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Default 05-15-2006, 11:46 | posts: 2,565 | Location: UK

Ive just set up a media center pc in my front room, its using most of my old stuff like 9700pro and Socket A cpu with my DFI Nforce2 ultra board, now ive currently got my old SBlive retail installed, but my MOBO has the Nvidia onboard sound,

Is the PCI SBLive the better choice or is the Nvidia onboard better?
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 05-15-2006, 18:30 | posts: 16,175 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

It would depend if you had a Soundstorm or not, if the onboard was a soundstorm then it is pretty good as far as onboards go..if it's not then the SB Live is better especially if you use KX drivers...
   
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Default 05-16-2006, 17:53 | posts: 2,565 | Location: UK

Yeah its soundstorm, but at the moment its only coming out of my TV speakers, the speakers sound ok but are nothing special, im acctually thinking more inline with CPU usage rather than sound quality, that is untill i get some new speakers.
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 05-16-2006, 17:58 | posts: 16,175 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Well like I said you can use KX driver with that Live! and get great sound quality and alot of wicked effects if your into music composition and such. You know you can have more that one sound card in a mchine correct? Actually the soundstorms were supposed to be a different type of soundchip that doesn't acces the BUS inthe same way so it doesn't tax the CPU in the same way as a normal soundcard. Now that's the theory of it anyway I have never seen any supporting information. So it may be that whichever card you choose you will get the same performance. So it's kinda a draw?
   
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Default 05-16-2006, 18:07 | posts: 3,470

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX
...When a user installs a PCI solution they are literally blown away by the sound quality. They report hearing things in games and music that previously was not noticable...
I didn't.
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 05-16-2006, 18:37 | posts: 16,175 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

You didn't what?
   
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Default 06-11-2006, 12:03 | posts: 34

Onboard has become better the last few years with options in the back and some doing 7.1

I perfer a add in sound card. Most handle more better and I would think most will notice after addin PCI card a better overall sound.

I went for a small pc theater for nite 24in widescreen

My Logitech Z5500 needs a SPDIF to get the most options

For sound so I went Audigy2 ZS PLT PRO with External hub SPDIF

a few asus ones have used in past for short time and I was thinking for just music maybe.

Last edited by Fle@; 06-11-2006 at 12:06.
   
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Question 06-12-2006, 22:19 | posts: 9 | Location: Portugal

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX
BTW a SB live! 24 bit is not considered a good card either. If you enjoy the sound great. Your missing alot in terms of sound quality.
Hear ya,

But a friend gave me a SB live! 24 Bit, and I was using Soundmax from Asus, it is still better than using onboard right? (considering the fact that it was free... lol)

Behave
   
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ROBSCIX
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Default 06-12-2006, 22:27 | posts: 16,175 | Location: Guru3D Audio Lab

Well the 24 bit Lives! are usually frowned upon to buy but Yes it'll still sound better than a onboard. Do a A/B test install and listen to it if you like it use it if you don't pull it back out..Hope that helps.
   
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Default 06-14-2006, 11:35 | posts: 9 | Location: Portugal

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX
Well the 24 bit Lives! are usually frowned upon to buy but Yes it'll still sound better than a onboard. Do a A/B test install and listen to it if you like it use it if you don't pull it back out..Hope that helps.
First of all thanks for your prompt reply man.

Using the Soundmax onboard had its uses (mainly because of having the headphones in all the time and not having to plug them in and out as in SB Live!'s case (and yes, I have a ear jack in the front of the case but it sucks...), but from reading one of your other posts I think it still eats CPU cycles and SB Live! does not right? So I would benefit performance using SB Live! - I believe not that much more that I had, but still a few CPU cycles. (Until money comes to buy a good sound card...)

Didn't do a 3dmark with it before since I installed my 6800GS at the same time, so the difference was huge from my X700 Pro, but I can tell you that now I can do sound tests in 3dmark 03 that I was not able to, not sure about 3dmark 06 (with Soundmax no for sure) and with 05 I still have to find the CD I have it in so i can compare it to my old setup.

Ah, and the most important thing about soundcards... Sound. - it sounds better than it did with Soundmax, although I have some noise interferences in Mark Ecko's Getting Up, but that is probably because my windows is now a bit messed up from all these different drivers... and that leads me into another question for you... Using 64bit windows should I use soundmax and asus driver for 64 bit or does Creative support older models with 64bit drivers?

Thanks
   
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Default 06-14-2006, 15:20 | posts: 2,150

Im in a similar sitiuation; I dont know whether to use my onboard Azalia HD Audio or add in PCI SB Live! 5.1. The Azalia thing actually sounds pretty good as far as I can tell.

Also, im fairly sure, but please correct me if otherwise, that using normal software sound there would be a very minimal difference between onboard and add in sound, simply because the cpu is still doing the work. Also should mention my Azalia card handles EAX better then my SB Live! does.

Tbh, awesome sound is pretty far down my list in terms of priorities, id rather blow the cash on a faster cpu or better cooling etc. Sound is just so subjective and so influenced by environment etc that getting tangible gains in terms of quality isnt always easy, certainly without spending some serious money.

"That spell is not ready yet!"
"He can't join our group!"
"I need more mana!"

How much quality do I really need to say those eh?
   
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