Decent sound card under $100?

Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by vbetts, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. vbetts

    vbetts Don Vincenzo Staff Member

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    I have not gotten a dedicated sound card in years, so I would like to know what is a decent to get under $100? Only thing I use for audio for my computer is my Logitech G230 headset.
     
  2. GenClaymore

    GenClaymore Ancient Guru

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    If you look around ebay you can some times find an Asus strix soar and even some times the sound blaster Z for around $60-70 Both are good choices, and either one would be an good choice. The only thing the soar has over the Z besides an stronger hp amp which wouldn't benefit your Logitech G230 is the op-amp socket.

    Do you know the type of sound signature that you're looking for since this is also important.
     
  3. RealNC

    RealNC Ancient Guru

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    Xonar DX is very decent. I use it for its Dolby Headphone function which is pretty awesome. I use the Uni Xonar drivers for it.
     
  4. nhlkoho

    nhlkoho Ancient Guru

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    OEM versions of the Sound Blaster Z can be found for around $60. The only difference between OEM and retail is the red shield and the microphone.
    Sounds good to me for that price.
     

  5. sverek

    sverek Ancient Guru

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    Xonar DX is really good start. You got some tools to play with and experience Dolby Headphone.
    Common problem with low price sound cards is noise. So it's not suitable if you want to enjoy music.

    If you don't need sound card as a toy, get standalone DAC. It will provide clean stereo sound.
     
  6. RealNC

    RealNC Ancient Guru

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    The Xonar DX is excellent for music. No noise issues.

    There's real reviews out there for the DX ("real" meaning actual tests, not "sounds good to me" kind of "reviews.") Crystal-clear sound, no distortion, no noise, very accurate.
     
  7. sverek

    sverek Ancient Guru

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    There are issues. We talking electric interference with other PC parts (GPU, CPU, Fans, etc...).
    I don't know if it caused by age, but my 6 years old XonarDG does generate noise. It's not noticeable when other sounds playing, but its there.

    I can hear static noise by raising volume ( up to 100%) without any sound playing. You might also notice it this way.

    Anyway, this is why higher end sound card has shields on them as a desperate attempt to protect them from electric interference. Those shields are not only for looks.

    Meanwhile, headphone DAC is outside of PC and placed in box that prevents electric interference. That why standalone DAC will 99% will have less noise than soundcard.

    Not to mention headphone DAC will have better components comparing to soundcard, due to less functions and features.
     
  8. vbetts

    vbetts Don Vincenzo Staff Member

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    Truth be told I'm not all that sure, I did think about getting a higher powered headset if I got a new Sound card though. I just want something loud, clear, but still good on bass lol.
     
  9. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    You will hear noise if you crank up any source, you are pushing the circuit and you can hear the noise floor. Usually with cards picking up noise, it can also be a noisy bus....sometimes it is as easy as swapping slots, muting all inputs you are not using. Some drivers leave these on and floating which makes the entire circuit quite sensitive to noise in the PC -to which there is alot. I wouldn't say a standalone will have 99% less noise. I have heard some quiet cards and some noisy DAC's as it depends on other aspects such as how clean the power circuitry it, proper shielding. Hope that helps.
     
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  10. sverek

    sverek Ancient Guru

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    Thanks for reply. Yeah, generally moving soundcard away from GPU (further away slot) seems like a good idea. Not sure if moving too close to PSU will make things worse again.

    And I miss-typed regarding 99% less noise. I meant standalone DAC in 99% case would have less noise than soundcard, but that still might not be true.

    Post more, ROBSCIX. We (plebs) need more of your insight! :)
     

  11. RealNC

    RealNC Ancient Guru

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    The noise when cranking up volume to 100 is usually coming from the speaker system, not from the sound card ;-)

    Cranking up headphones to 100% for example results in complete silence (if the headphones aren't crap, that is.)

    You can verify by unplugging the speakers. If you still get noise at max volume, then obviously the sound card is innocent.

    Also, the DG is different than the DX. It's a cheaper model with different stats.
     
  12. sykozis

    sykozis Ancient Guru

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    FiiO K1.... Granted, it's not really a sound card. It's a USB amplifier/dac. Runs about $40 on Amazon and for the price and size, sounds better than my SB-Z.... unless you need a bunch of features that most people never touch.

    I used a set of Superlux HD681 headphones to compare the K1 to the SB-Z
     
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  13. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    DAC vs soundcards....it really depends because DAC's have their own set of issues. I would check everything out and try and find where the noise is coming from.
    Another idea is to try and keep your audio signal as high and clean as possible until the last volume control.

    Sometimes, people leave their player software..etc set on low level and use the last volume source to makeup for it. This give you a much higher SNR out of your system. Double check your signal and fader/slider levels starting with your player/software and working through until the master volume.

    This is another reason many choose to use ASIO, KS...etc to bypass most of the chain and tends to offer a cleaner sound over all because it is direct with less places for degradation.
    ...and make sure there is NO input left floating.

    Soundcard or DAC-etc, it is all about getting the best sound out of what you have to work with.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  14. sverek

    sverek Ancient Guru

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    Thank you very much for the reply. The noise I mentioned was caused by the pre-main amp (AMP that takes analog signal as input and amplifies it) which I used for speakers. It had headphone jack, so I used it for headphones. Didn't expect it cause so much noise.

    Once I connected headphones directly to soundcard, noise was gone.
    Guess I blamed soundcards for nothing...
     
  15. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    With Windows 10, DirectSound is no longer mangled by resampling kernals, and is bitperfect output. The necessity of using low-latency channels such as ASIO, WASAPI, or Kernal Streaming is no longer applicable. DS is quite capable of streaming encoded streams such as AC3 or DTS just fine. (especially in exclusive mode)

    DS will attenuate output with a limiter if the scale goes beyond fullscale, however, but this avoided with ReplayGain, and doesn't affect encoded streams.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2017

  16. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    You might have a ground loop going on....they can cause noise in a signal chain. Some consumer gear is noisy also when cranked, hard to know without seeing the gear and hearing it....anyway, glad ya got it figured out.
     
  17. Hammie

    Hammie Banned

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    Grab a ASUS DX 7.1 ........ Creative is a jokoe, they make toy speakers. thx
     
  18. nhlkoho

    nhlkoho Ancient Guru

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    Good thing we aren't talking about speakers.

    SB-Z is still a good card for the money
     
  19. RzrTrek

    RzrTrek Ancient Guru

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    Stay away from ASUS sound cards (at least the Xonar DSX) have killed two cards in nine months, both popped, not to mention the buggy Windows 10 drivers being crap and causing blue screens.
     
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  20. nz3777

    nz3777 Ancient Guru

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    Yup soundblaster Z is the answer- I paid $30 bucks for mine Refurb from Micro center still going strong after 4+ years.I will say this much about new motherboards match and sometimes exceed dedicated soundcards unless of course you are running a POS board like mine Asus M5A780L.
     
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