Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:01 am

Captain Ned wrote:Both devices were measured at the same relative level to their maximum digital output, i.e. at a level of -90.31 dBFS. This has been a standard measurement level from Stereophile (and the rest of the audio commentariat) since they got their first digital analyzer. The levels seen in the graphs are not directly convertible to analog output levels.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DBFS

Ah, makes sense.


On another note, my beloved Harmon Kardon receiver has started cutting out the left and right channels seemingly at random (and when they do play, they're a bit noisier than normal). Hitting it brings them back...but after dismantling it and checking over every connection I can imagine I've determined there's a cold solder joint somewhere that I'm not very inclined to track down.


Sooo...suggestions on a good stereo receiver (though I'll go surround if I have to...the extra channels will be unused though) with digital inputs and a subwoofer pre-out?
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 2:32 pm

I'd grab a surround one just so it'd have HDMI. Makes life so much easier; you can just tell Windows what to send it.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 3:49 pm

Waco wrote:
Captain Ned wrote:Both devices were measured at the same relative level to their maximum digital output, i.e. at a level of -90.31 dBFS. This has been a standard measurement level from Stereophile (and the rest of the audio commentariat) since they got their first digital analyzer. The levels seen in the graphs are not directly convertible to analog output levels.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DBFS

Ah, makes sense.


On another note, my beloved Harmon Kardon receiver has started cutting out the left and right channels seemingly at random (and when they do play, they're a bit noisier than normal). Hitting it brings them back...but after dismantling it and checking over every connection I can imagine I've determined there's a cold solder joint somewhere that I'm not very inclined to track down.

An old trick, I've used it a few times with good results. Take it apart and then turn off all the lights and let your eyes get somewhat accustomed to the dark. Turn it on. Watch for tiny sparks ... that's your cold solder joint.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 4:05 pm

Airmantharp wrote:I'd grab a surround one just so it'd have HDMI. Makes life so much easier; you can just tell Windows what to send it.


yeah, I'm running a cheap HDMI, Home-Theatre-in-a-box thing and having HDMI is wonderfully convenient.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 4:28 pm

Waco wrote:
Sooo...suggestions on a good stereo receiver (though I'll go surround if I have to...the extra channels will be unused though) with digital inputs and a subwoofer pre-out?



Emotiva is currently having a sale.. Maybe it's time for separates?

Here's one of their budget oriented stereo amps for $300

Pair with this DAC/Preamp. The only downside is no radio receiver.

If you want a bit more power, upgraded components and the ability to run balanced from the preamp/DAC to the amplifier, then upgrade to this amplifier
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 4:47 pm

Waco wrote:Sooo...suggestions on a good stereo receiver (though I'll go surround if I have to...the extra channels will be unused though) with digital inputs and a subwoofer pre-out?

NAD C-715 @$499.95. NAD has a long history (like back to the 1970s) of providing more bang than the bucks involved.

http://www.audioadvisor.com/prodinfo.asp?number=NAC715
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 5:42 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
Waco wrote:Sooo...suggestions on a good stereo receiver (though I'll go surround if I have to...the extra channels will be unused though) with digital inputs and a subwoofer pre-out?

NAD C-715 @$499.95. NAD has a long history (like back to the 1970s) of providing more bang than the bucks involved.

http://www.audioadvisor.com/prodinfo.asp?number=NAC715


NAD has had some great stuff, but that's more like a mini-system as it includes a CD player and produces less than 20W/channel into 8 ohms...

If you really want an all-in-on receiver and don't like the idea of separates, and want something better than they have at your local box store, then maybe this Outlaw? However, if not interested in radio and phono input (ie, primarily interest in digital input), I think I'd prefer the Emotiva combo. The Outlaw linked here does have a subwoofer pre out. The Emotiva DAC I linked to above does not. For that, from Emotiva, you'd need to go with the [url]USP-1[/url] for $50 more than the XDA-2 DAC/Preamp above and in that case, there'd be no point in going with the more expensive amplifier I linked above (XPA-200). However, subwoofer pre-out lacking aside, the XDA-2 DAC is preferable as it offers balanced out, USB in. There are ways around the lack of a sub pre out if your sub accepts line-level input or Speaker inputs. The more expensive XPA-200 amp even has speaker level outputs.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:34 pm

I only use the on-board audio for what's usually called "business" audio. For anything I want to enjoy, I most often play WMA lossless rips of my CD collection through an Asus Xonar Essence-XTS through Sennheiser 650's.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:36 pm

Haven't used onboard for at least a decade. The incremental cost of a decent gaming soundcard is worth it; if you have $700 of graphics cards (or even $300), it seems kind of silly to compromise the sound for $50-$100. But then I'm a gamer, and only a gamer at home (aside from the addiction to all things hardware).

I have used onboard audio more recently on someone else's computer, and was not impressed with the clarity or the positional audio. I've seen so many people accuse others of cheating in FPS games because they can't hear the things that people with discrete audio can, and thus assume they have to be cheating.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:51 pm

Thanks for all of the suggestions!

I do want to retain the "receiver like" qualities even if I'm only using it in stereo mode. I'm driving a pair of decently-sized towers (12" drivers, extend down to 40 Hz and I use that a lot since my sub is crossed over at 50 Hz) and would like at least 80 watts or so per channel (in stereo).

It's temping to do another stereo amp (I have a Hafler DH-220/DH-110 pair running my subwoofer) but the convenience of digital input and a remote control is hard to pass up...and unless I'm totally out of touch I don't think there are any affordable preamps with digital inputs, remote control, and hot outputs.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Wed Dec 18, 2013 8:16 am

Chrispy_ wrote:
AbRASiON wrote:95% of people need better speakers, 5% of people need better soundcards.


I think even my old BX8 speakers (which are probably better than what 95% of people are using) are still the limiting factor on the Realtek codec I now use.

Waco wrote:
AbRASiON wrote:Speakers, speakers, speakers, speakers
(dances around stage)
Speakers, speakers, speakers, speakers
(dances around stage)
....... and so on.

95% of people need better speakers, 5% of people need better soundcards.

Also, this. There's a reason most of my money has gone towards a good set of towers and a bigass self-built subwoofer. It always makes me cringe seeing a $1000+ receiver or amp hooked up to a $300 set of crappy speakers.


Where are you guys when I say this on the TR quarterly hardware reports and they recommend blowing $30 on a soundcard on a $600 machine. That might be the difference between 4 or 6 USB ports on a board or 1 / 2 gb of ram on a video card. It might add a "K" to a CPU model number or take a machine from 1TB HDD to 128gb boot SSD
I'll continue complaining about the soundcards in the hardware guides as long as they include them on anything but the "stupid expensive" machine.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Wed Dec 18, 2013 9:36 am

Well...

Decent sounding headphones can cost a lot less than decent sounding speakers. If someone listens to a lot of music via headphones, the discrete soundcard may be worth the investment even on a budget system; so there is actually a use case where it may make sense.

That said, the fidelity of onboard audio has indeed gotten a lot better. I agree that for most people who are building a system on a budget, the money is probably best spent elsewhere.

Oh, and nice thread necro there. :-?
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Wed Dec 18, 2013 10:30 am

AbRASiON wrote:Where are you guys when I say this on the TR quarterly hardware reports and they recommend blowing $30 on a soundcard on a $600 machine. That might be the difference between 4 or 6 USB ports on a board or 1 / 2 gb of ram on a video card. It might add a "K" to a CPU model number or take a machine from 1TB HDD to 128gb boot SSD
I'll continue complaining about the soundcards in the hardware guides as long as they include them on anything but the "stupid expensive" machine.

Strongly disagree. The nice thing about a soundcard is that it's removable. I bought an Audigy 2 ZS in 2002 for $90, and I used it until late 2010. That's 8 years and at least 3 builds. I've been using my Xonar Essence STX for 3 years now, and plan to use it for many more.

So I think your anti-soundcard efforts are misguided. It's not like you throw the card in the garbage after each build.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Dec 22, 2013 4:01 am

The Egg wrote:Strongly disagree. The nice thing about a soundcard is that it's removable. I bought an Audigy 2 ZS in 2002 for $90, and I used it until late 2010. That's 8 years and at least 3 builds. I've been using my Xonar Essence STX for 3 years now, and plan to use it for many more.

So I think your anti-soundcard efforts are misguided. It's not like you throw the card in the garbage after each build.


I agree a sound card is a good long-term investment if you want good sound, but it really does depend on your priorities and what speakers/headphones you'll be using. Buying a $100 sound card to use with some crappy $10-20 computer speakers is a waste, and you'd be much better off buying some better speakers/headphones first (which should also last many years)

You'd be surprised just how many people are using very low quality speakers/headphones with their PC, even among hardware enthusiasts and gamers.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Dec 22, 2013 4:20 am

Realistically, enthusiasts should either get a decent USB headset, or a sound card and a decent set of cans. Plug a decent headset into crappy onboard sound... well, you're getting a lot less audio quality than you paid for :D.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Dec 22, 2013 8:34 am

Yeah, good speakers and sound card dacs are important for quality.

That said, we've totally reached diminishing returns and modern pc users have turned into wood knob / vacuum tube audiophiles who have no clue about what we really need for good sound, and they destroyed the 3d sound market for gaming. Consoles have dedicated 3d sound hardware, and now offer far better sound that their PC port equivalents. Sad, really. The onboard fetish, and severely misplaced creative bashfest, along with MS's new audio stack have completely destroyed 3d sound in pc games.

As for listening to music, we're still stuck with poorly mastered 16-bit stereo cds, as the superior 24-bit dvd surround audio format never caught on. Is fancy stereo equipment really that important when the source material is so limited? No. It's a total joke, much like 5.1 audio headsets, which are only popular because good HRTF doesn't exist anymore. Yeah, 5.1 headsets are a gimmick, but they offer more depth than a stereo set since audio positioning technology has regressed back to the DOS era.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Dec 22, 2013 10:32 am

l33t-g4m3r wrote:As for listening to music, we're still stuck with poorly mastered 16-bit stereo cds, as the superior 24-bit dvd surround audio format never caught on. Is fancy stereo equipment really that important when the source material is so limited? No. It's a total joke, much like 5.1 audio headsets, which are only popular because good HRTF doesn't exist anymore. Yeah, 5.1 headsets are a gimmick, but they offer more depth than a stereo set since audio positioning technology has regressed back to the DOS era.


There's been a resurgence in "listening-quality" mastering of late. By "listening-quality", I mean the type of mastering that is geared toward the listener who is sitting in front of the stereo, and doing nothing but listening to the music... no earbuds, no distractions. Sometimes, when an album is released, a vinyl version is also made available, and that has a different mastering with more DR. You could also check out HDTracks, they have higher-quality, more dynamic issues of some albums.

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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Dec 22, 2013 12:19 pm

l33t-g4m3r wrote:Yeah, good speakers and sound card dacs are important for quality.

That said, we've totally reached diminishing returns and modern pc users have turned into wood knob / vacuum tube audiophiles who have no clue about what we really need for good sound, and they destroyed the 3d sound market for gaming. Consoles have dedicated 3d sound hardware, and now offer far better sound that their PC port equivalents. Sad, really. The onboard fetish, and severely misplaced creative bashfest, along with MS's new audio stack have completely destroyed 3d sound in pc games.

With modern multi-core CPUs you've typically got one or more cores sitting idle when gaming; a modern CPU core is more than adequate for the DSP algorithms to provide 3D positional audio. So blame the developers of the game engines for not including decent 3D positional audio algorithms directly in the game engines. It makes a lot more sense for it to be in the game engine anyway, since that way it can theoretically give substantially the same experience for everyone regardless of soundcard brand or OS.

OpenAL (generic platform/vendor agnostic 3D sound API) was definitely a positive step. However, Creative has opted to fork it so now there are two versions of OpenAL (the Open Source one and the proprietary Creative one), so the 3D audio API mess is likely to continue.

Yeats wrote:
l33t-g4m3r wrote:As for listening to music, we're still stuck with poorly mastered 16-bit stereo cds, as the superior 24-bit dvd surround audio format never caught on. Is fancy stereo equipment really that important when the source material is so limited? No. It's a total joke, much like 5.1 audio headsets, which are only popular because good HRTF doesn't exist anymore. Yeah, 5.1 headsets are a gimmick, but they offer more depth than a stereo set since audio positioning technology has regressed back to the DOS era.

There's been a resurgence in "listening-quality" mastering of late. By "listening-quality", I mean the type of mastering that is geared toward the listener who is sitting in front of the stereo, and doing nothing but listening to the music... no earbuds, no distractions. Sometimes, when an album is released, a vinyl version is also made available, and that has a different mastering with more DR. You could also check out HDTracks, they have higher-quality, more dynamic issues of some albums.

Anything Steven Wilson is attached to lately is pure gold.

The thing that really pisses me off about this is that modern mastering techniques used for a lot of rock/mainstream releases don't come anywhere near taking full advantage of the fidelity possible with even lossy compressed formats, let alone 16-bit CDs or 24-bit. I have tracks I've ripped myself from old vinyl, that I've compressed to 160 kbit OGG (yes I keep the original WAV/FLAC files too...) to listen to at work and in my car. Even these sound better than the crappy mastering on much of the material released on CD these days. All that dynamic-range-compression-loudness-wars nonsense can DIAF.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Dec 22, 2013 8:22 pm

just brew it! wrote:The thing that really pisses me off about this is that modern mastering techniques used for a lot of rock/mainstream releases don't come anywhere near taking full advantage of the fidelity possible with even lossy compressed formats, let alone 16-bit CDs or 24-bit. I have tracks I've ripped myself from old vinyl, that I've compressed to 160 kbit OGG (yes I keep the original WAV/FLAC files too...) to listen to at work and in my car. Even these sound better than the crappy mastering on much of the material released on CD these days. All that dynamic-range-compression-loudness-wars nonsense can DIAF.


I agree, that's why I'll buy the HDTracks versions if possible, like the latest Dream Theater album. It's a different master, quieter with more dynamic range, lets the music breathe a bit.

That said, I seldom let a poor (IMO) master ruin the music for me. The only album I couldn't stand was Rush's Vapor Trails. The remaster is better, and even though I'm not a big fan of an album, at least I can listen to it without getting a headache.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Dec 23, 2013 3:56 am

I'll pose a question then... who makes a hi-fi sound card with drivers as flexible and durable as Realtek's? Onboard audio may not be as good, but I can easily say that Realtek designs much better drivers than ASUS does for the Xonar DX. I get better quality mic output, more mic adjustment options, the ability to switch and move jack outputs between jacks via software, and I've never experienced sound distortion with some high-fidelity blu-ray files with it.

With the Xonar I have to micro-manage the # of channels regardless of what sort of speaker config I'm running, that makes no sense to me as it's a non-issue with Realtek drivers. With the Xonar I also get bass distortion in movies which doesn't occur with onboard sound. And frankly, the Xonar drivers are never updated (2+ years barring a recent minor update) but they will break all the time. I frequently have to disable and re-enable the speakers to bring back sounds. Does anyone actually make drivers for a discrete sound card that are on par with Realteks, and that actually gets updates?
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Dec 23, 2013 4:15 am

No one makes decent drivers because hardly anyone buys sound cards at all. What small market there was outside of professionals dried up. Professionals have always had to pay more, so they continue to. Professionals by and large do not need multi-channel the way "home" users do so their drivers are just enough to make sure they are properly exposed to the professional audio apps.

Ultimately Intel HD Audio killed the sound cards.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Dec 23, 2013 9:31 am

Kougar wrote:I'll pose a question then... who makes a hi-fi sound card with drivers as flexible and durable as Realtek's?

My, my, how the world has changed. A few years ago nobody would've thought to utter the words "flexible" or "durable" in connection with Realtek's drivers! :lol:

I have to agree though, in general their stuff "just works" these days, even on Linux. The only exception I've hit is trying to use a new-ish Realtek audio chip with an older Linux kernel that doesn't natively support it; at that point you descend into the first circle of Hell with Realtek's downloadable Linux driver source package, which wants to replace the entire damn ALSA audio stack with Realtek's version. :-?
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Dec 23, 2013 10:42 am

Realtek and Creative fully support UAA.

You don't even need their drivers unless you're after niche audio features of the card.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Dec 23, 2013 12:51 pm

One of my biggest disappointments with audio cards is their digital output options. For instance, my Xonar Essence has "Dolby Digital Live" and "Dolby Pro Logic II" output, but I'm pretty sure this is re-encoded from the source format. That means quality loss and probably problems with proper channeling. Who would even want that? What I really want is Dolby Digital and DTS passthrough, so I can send the signal unaltered to my stereo. Maybe I'm just confused.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Dec 23, 2013 1:58 pm

I haven't bought a motherboard for quite some time, but based on past experience, onboard audio is generally very good. The only problem is that I seem to always buy motherboards with onboard audio made by someone who inevitably decides to get out of the sound chip business and abandon their products. My tower computer, which has an Asus P5B-E motherboard and SoundMAX HD audio chip still works great but the sound chip has not been supported for a long time time and the current drivers are very old. This is okay though since it just serves as my retro gaming box at this point. I think if I was to ever buy another tower computer again that I would get something with a Realtek chip because they have been around for ages.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Dec 23, 2013 2:14 pm

HDMI from my r9 290 straight to my receiver. Take sound cards out of the equation all together!
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Dec 24, 2013 9:45 pm

Well a lot of people love to recommend Xonar sounds cards, and I used to myself. But it dawned on me recently just how many software bugs I've been tolerating with them... that combined with the dearth of any updates (despite nearly identical card launches not that long ago) I just can't bring myself to recommend ASUS anymore. Another bug I get daily is the windows volume mixer... sometimes the individual program sliders break completely. Meaning I can't turn down a loud program or mute something else.

just brew it! wrote:
Kougar wrote:I'll pose a question then... who makes a hi-fi sound card with drivers as flexible and durable as Realtek's?

My, my, how the world has changed. A few years ago nobody would've thought to utter the words "flexible" or "durable" in connection with Realtek's drivers! :lol:

I have to agree though, in general their stuff "just works" these days, even on Linux. The only exception I've hit is trying to use a new-ish Realtek audio chip with an older Linux kernel that doesn't natively support it; at that point you descend into the first circle of Hell with Realtek's downloadable Linux driver source package, which wants to replace the entire damn ALSA audio stack with Realtek's version. :-?


I used onboard sound back in 2003 with my first mainboard purchase, the Abit IS7. With hindsight I can truly say today that the quality was terrible, but hey it at least worked. Since around the Core 2 Duo era in 2006 I've alternated between the Xonar and onboard, and if it wasn't for the better audio quality that I can hear via my AudioEngine 5+s I'd go back to realtek in a heartbeat. If Windows can run for months between a reboot, why can't ASUS's sound drivers work for one week without breaking? :P

Regarding the Linux stuff, that sounds fairly typical and one reason I avoid the OS. I just want things to just work. Great to hear that the newer chips are working out though. I shudder to imagine Xonar drivers under Linux given their state under Windows 7.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Dec 24, 2013 10:13 pm

Kougar wrote:I used onboard sound back in 2003 with my first mainboard purchase, the Abit IS7. With hindsight I can truly say today that the quality was terrible, but hey it at least worked. Since around the Core 2 Duo era in 2006 I've alternated between the Xonar and onboard, and if it wasn't for the better audio quality that I can hear via my AudioEngine 5+s I'd go back to realtek in a heartbeat.

Yeah, seems like it was 2005 or thereabouts that the top-tier motherboard makers started to get a clue regarding how to get reasonable S/N out of their onboard audio implementations.

Kougar wrote:Regarding the Linux stuff, that sounds fairly typical and one reason I avoid the OS. I just want things to just work. Great to hear that the newer chips are working out though. I shudder to imagine Xonar drivers under Linux given their state under Windows 7.

The general rule of thumb with Linux is that if a hardware vendor doesn't have their act together on Linux drivers and/or refuses to publish register-level hardware specs, new hardware will be poorly supported (if at all) upon release. OTOH older hardware is sometimes *better* supported on Linux than on Windows, as the hardware vendors stop updating their drivers to support new Windows versions.

I've not tried using the Xonar on Linux myself, but IIRC they use an off-the-shelf C-Media codec. Provided that the generic C-Media drivers in Linux are up to snuff, it may actually work quite well. Although drivers can sometimes be a sore spot in Linux, the upside is that drivers are typically keyed to the underlying chipsets rather than being specific to the manufacturer of a card; so as long as there's a decent generic driver available in your distro it doesn't matter how well (or poorly) the card OEM supports Linux.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Dec 24, 2013 11:59 pm

Kougar wrote:Well a lot of people love to recommend Xonar sounds cards, and I used to myself. But it dawned on me recently just how many software bugs I've been tolerating with them... that combined with the dearth of any updates (despite nearly identical card launches not that long ago) I just can't bring myself to recommend ASUS anymore. Another bug I get daily is the windows volume mixer... sometimes the individual program sliders break completely. Meaning I can't turn down a loud program or mute something else......
If Windows can run for months between a reboot, why can't ASUS's sound drivers work for one week without breaking? :P

Hmm.....I agree with you that Asus is very slow to update drivers and they leave a bit to be desired, but so far I've seen none of the crashing/breaking that you're experiencing. Which Xonar card do you have, and what sort of sound config are you running? I suppose it helps that I just run 2-channel PCM stereo out through the headphone jack with no DSP. I also generally only adjust the master volume.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Wed Dec 25, 2013 12:10 am

just brew it! wrote:I've not tried using the Xonar on Linux myself, but IIRC they use an off-the-shelf C-Media codec. Provided that the generic C-Media drivers in Linux are up to snuff, it may actually work quite well.


The Xonar DX does work well enough in Linux, but you don't seem to get extras like Dolby Headphone and various DSP presets as in Windows.
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