Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Jun 09, 2013 8:01 pm

Which is why I'll never own a pair of Wilson speakers and drive them from onboard audio (or anything else). :lol:
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Jun 09, 2013 8:40 pm

yammerpickle2 wrote:In my previous XP build I has creative X-Fi extreme. I love the positioning and clarity. With my current Win 7 64-bit pro I tried to reuse the board, but the driver nightmares made me pull the card, and use the on board. My Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD7-B3 is not bad. It has Realtek ALC889 codec, supports 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel, Dolby® Home Theater, and I use the S/PDIF Out to my Onkyo 7.1 receiver to Polk Monitors, and Definitive Supercube sub. I have Wennheiser P-360 headphones. However, I miss the clarity and positioning I had with a dedicated card. I'm torn between letting Creative drivers bite me again and go for the Sound Blaster ZxR, or go with the Asus ROG Xonar Phoebus, or possibly the Xonar Essence One. I use my system for gaming, and sometimes for work. I'm open to your suggestions and recommendations.


I am quite happy with this card, read a lot about it before I bought it, just be sure to have a good set of speakers, as with any good sound card its needed to appreciate the card properly.


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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Jun 09, 2013 9:07 pm

I have an HT Omega Claro Halo and find it pretty great for music from a PC sound card. That Claro II looks like a newer offering. I wonder why they stuck with PCI instead of PCIe, given that less and less new motherboards even have PCI...
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Jun 09, 2013 9:23 pm

cynan wrote:I have an HT Omega Claro Halo and find it pretty great for music from a PC sound card. That Claro II looks like a newer offering. I wonder why they stuck with PCI instead of PCIe, given that less and less new motherboards even have PCI...


Yeah, IMHO, unless you really want a particular card, I don't think it makes sense to invest in a PCI sound card these days. Sound cards should survive a few upgrade cycles so it's quite probable that any PCI sound card you buy today won't be supported by your next motherboard, given how board makers have been phasing out PCI for a while now. An Asus Xonar Essence STX would, IMHO, be a great alternative, as well as Creative's latest Z cards.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Sun Jun 09, 2013 11:21 pm

ronch wrote:
cynan wrote: I wonder why they stuck with PCI instead of PCIe, given that less and less new motherboards even have PCI...
Yeah, IMHO, unless you really want a particular card, I don't think it makes sense to invest in a PCI sound card these days. Sound cards should survive a few upgrade cycles so it's quite probable that any PCI sound card you buy today won't be supported by your next motherboard, given how board makers have been phasing out PCI for a while now.
There's been no reason to buy a PCI sound card in the past 5 years. Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium was PCIe in 2008.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 3:51 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:
ronch wrote:
cynan wrote: I wonder why they stuck with PCI instead of PCIe, given that less and less new motherboards even have PCI...
Yeah, IMHO, unless you really want a particular card, I don't think it makes sense to invest in a PCI sound card these days. Sound cards should survive a few upgrade cycles so it's quite probable that any PCI sound card you buy today won't be supported by your next motherboard, given how board makers have been phasing out PCI for a while now.
There's been no reason to buy a PCI sound card in the past 5 years. Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium was PCIe in 2008.


And yet they continue to be sold. I'd understand if they're just old stock, or if their manufacturers only continue to produce them for those who'd need a cheap sound card to fill the role of a busted onboard audio chip, but for more expensive cards such as the Claro, I'm not sure. It's not like those looking for a replacement for busted onboard audio will buy them, and it's not like those rich enough to even consider buying a $200 sound card will still be using an old machine that doesn't have PCIe slots. Of course there are exceptions, but they must be a very small group within an already very small sound card industry. Besides, as we've said, anyone looking for a long term sound card investment will probably be shopping for one that uses PCIe, a bus connector which is found even in ~5-year old systems, and which will likely be around for the next century or so.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 5:53 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:
ronch wrote:
cynan wrote: I wonder why they stuck with PCI instead of PCIe, given that less and less new motherboards even have PCI...
Yeah, IMHO, unless you really want a particular card, I don't think it makes sense to invest in a PCI sound card these days. Sound cards should survive a few upgrade cycles so it's quite probable that any PCI sound card you buy today won't be supported by your next motherboard, given how board makers have been phasing out PCI for a while now.
There's been no reason to buy a PCI sound card in the past 5 years. Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium was PCIe in 2008.


Any number of modern, high end, motherboards have a PCI slot. I am happy about that because I use the one on mine for my 29160 SCSI controller (£9) for attaching my StorageWorks DAT 72 tape drive (£22).

Why use up PCIe lanes for a sound card which really doesn't need more I/O than a PCI slot delivers?

And yes I do find it unfortunate that many boards place the PCI slot in the most stupid place possible with regard to SLI or CrossFire.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:13 am

@NEC_V20:

Not sure about modern, high end boards having PCI slots. AFAIK Intel itself has practically stopped supporting PCI for a while now. In fact, to support PCI, board makers are having to resort to third-party PCI bus chips to, er, provide the PCI bus.

And on the contrary, the boards that still support PCI are not the high end ones with the latest chipsets. Those that have PCI slots are te cheaper ones, which probably aren't gonna last much longer on store shelves either.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:51 am

The P8P67-M Pro motherboard that I purchased January 8, 2011 had zero PCI slots.
The last PCI card that I ever purchased was a Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS in 2003.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:16 am

ronch wrote:@NEC_V20:

Not sure about modern, high end boards having PCI slots. AFAIK Intel itself has practically stopped supporting PCI for a while now. In fact, to support PCI, board makers are having to resort to third-party PCI bus chips to, er, provide the PCI bus.

And on the contrary, the boards that still support PCI are not the high end ones with the latest chipsets. Those that have PCI slots are te cheaper ones, which probably aren't gonna last much longer on store shelves either.


If you only consider boards made for gaming to be "high end" then I would concede your point.

Just look at the Gigabyte site for instance, even on their 2011 board G1.Assassin 2 there is one PCI slot, or the ASUS SABERTOOTH X79 - but I suppose those are obsolete boards.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:37 am

It's like the ISA slot - definitely time to let those PCI slots go. I have an Audigy 2 ZS but no slot to plug it into. Guess I ought to toss it.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:49 am

Given Intel's love for new sockets, LGA 2011 may not be long for this world.

And if you look at the mainstream LGA 1150, Asus put PCI slots on only 5 of its 18 Z87 boards. Other makers are more conservative, but both Gigabyte and AsRock offer PCI-less boards in Z87.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:20 pm

Yep. ISA, EISA, MCA, VL-Bus, CNR, etc.... Next on the chopping block is..

Speaking of expansion slots, I just remembered what a huge connector VL-Bus had. Good thing PCI came along, but I digress...
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:06 pm

The interesting thing is that HT Omega's second most recent sound card prior to the Claro II, is the eClaro, which is a smaller PCIe offering, for the same price.

The specs across both are similar (same CMedia processor, same DAC, same power capacitors). Main difference is that the eClaro has less connectivity - no digital input and no coaxial output. You can buy a brakeout cable add on for the eClaro to give you 8 channel analog out. Also, I think the eClaro has lower quality opamps than the Claro II, but the main stereo opamp is user replaceable. On the Claro II, they're not.

So the question remains, why offer an updated version of the Claro with PCI, when you already have a very similar card with PCIe... Maybe they got a good deal on PCI PCBs...

BTW, I still think the best HT Omega card for music was the Claro Halo. It has proper stereo RCA interconnections, integrated headphone amp, and better opamp processing for the analog stage. It uses 4 opamps. One for each polarity (+ve/-ve) for each left and right channel. All are user replaceable. The eClaro uses a single opamp for both channel. But of course, the Claro Halo is PCI. I'm hopping that HT Omega sees fit to release a card with as good specs as the Claro Halo for PCIe...
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:01 pm

UltimateImperative wrote:
Unlike the CPU/GPU performance chain, every step along the audio path degrades the signal so it's important for every single step to be at least of decent enough quality.


If the ALC892 datasheet is correct, it should be decent enough: THD+N is at approx. 0.006% (-84 dB), vs. 0.003 % (-90 dB) for the ALC889. The distortion introduced by any speaker outside of insane servo-controlled speakers will dwarf that.


Like I mentioned, those distortions aren't a floor, they are added one on top of the other. The on-board sound might introduce noise to -90dB, but after that the amp might has its own noise, let's say again to -90dB, and again another -70dB from the speakers. After all those steps, the final sound you get is far removed from the original 120dB dynamic range that might be offered by a 24/96 FLAC source. This is why you want every step to be as good as possible. The fact that most speakers are only good for a certain dynamic range is all the more reason to make sure as much of the original detail is preserved on the way to the speakers.

Also It's not just the THD or SNR. Far more important is the quality of the reproduced wave. This is not easily quantified by metrics like THD or SNR, but better explained by looking at a wave reproduced by the equipment. The following measurements are from ASUS's excellent Xonar Essence ST/STX, as measured by Stereophile magazine:

Image
16bit

Image
24bit

and compare that to the Audioquest Dragonfly, also tested by Stereophile:

Image
16bit

Image\
24bit

Now all four sine waves are to -90dB, and if you only look at the THDs and SNRs the two DACs are just as good as identical, but a look at the detailed sine waves shows the Xonar does a much better job at staying true to the music's detail.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:35 pm

So the Audioquest has a noise floor that is pretty close to swamping out any added advantage from going from 16 to 24 bits. Looks like there may be some non-linearities in those lowest order bits as well, but it is hard to tell with the signal riding on top of that much noise.

OTOH, at -90dB the difference is probably going to be inaudible unless you've got the volume really cranked, and your source material has the dynamic range to actually take advantage of that extra 8 bits of detail. Think in terms of the racket of a jackhammer at close range, followed by the rustling of leaves in the wind.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:42 pm

Looks like the filter also has trouble controlling the ringing at the voltage translation points.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 3:18 pm

The output levels are drastically different though - what does the second DAC look like when driven to the same levels (forgive me if this was covered in the article)?


Also - I'd be wary of assigning a SNR to a set of speakers...technically any non-powered speaker has an infinite signal to noise ratio (since the noise floor is pure silence).

That is unless I'm horribly misinterpreting the dynamic range comments above in reference to speakers. Sure, some drivers are more "dynamic" in terms of transient response, but I don't think saying that a certain speaker lacks dynamic range is saying anything other than it can't exceed a certain output level without "too much" distortion.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 4:44 pm

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
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 5:55 pm

Ahh, OK. I've been pondering the difference in output levels since it was pointed out (I did not notice it at first). It is pretty clear that we're looking at only the 2 least significant bits in both of the 16-bit charts. So yeah, it makes sense that the different scale is due entirely to different line out levels from the two cards.

IOW, it *is* an apples-to-apples comparison of noise and distortion, in spite of the scale discrepancy.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 5:58 pm

just brew it! wrote:IOW, it *is* an apples-to-apples comparison of noise and distortion, in spite of the scale discrepancy.

It was the source of much conflab in the Stereophile letters section until everyone finally grokked what was going on. Some DACs drive more voltage than others, all of which gets sugared out in the analog output section of the DAC to conform to the standard max analog voltage of 2V. Each DAC designer has their own pet theory on how best to get the conversion "right" and voltage levels in the digital side of the house are part of those theories.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:19 pm

Captain Ned wrote:Looks like the filter also has trouble controlling the ringing at the voltage translation points.

That was my initial reaction as well, but after looking at it again I think it is digital noise -- transients from a nearby clock/data bus or power plane noise being picked up by something in the analog section. If it was ringing, the amplitude of the unwanted signal would have gone down significantly between the 16- and 24-bit charts since the magnitude of the voltage transitions triggering the ringing would've been much smaller.

Asus went the extra mile to make sure their analog section is clean enough that 24-bit actually *means* something. The other vendor did not; in terms of accuracy, their implementation is effectively more like 18- or 19-bit.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:40 pm

JustAnEngineer wrote:The P8P67-M Pro motherboard that I purchased January 8, 2011 had zero PCI slots.
The last PCI card that I ever purchased was a Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS in 2003.



Yet the ASUS P8Z77-V PRO I bought this year had 2,lol, hence why I bought it, though I do agree with you it is very odd to say the least.

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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:53 pm

Seems like for a while it was trendy to go "legacy free" - only one PCI slot, and leave off one (or both) of the PS/2 ports. I think motherboard vendors have figured out that a lot of people still want legacy connectivity.

The last motherboard I bought (Asus M5A97 R2.0) has two PCIs, PS/2 ports for both keyboard and mouse, and an internal header for a legacy COM port (though the bracket to bring the COM port out to the rear panel is not included). I really don't care about the PS/2 ports, since I've finally upgraded my KVM to one that supports USB; but the PCI slots and COM port are nice to have.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:18 pm

just brew it! wrote:Seems like for a while it was trendy to go "legacy free" - only one PCI slot, and leave off one (or both) of the PS/2 ports. I think motherboard vendors have figured out that a lot of people still want legacy connectivity.

It was? Until last week I'd only seen one legacy free mobo (well, with no PS/2 ports anyway...still waiting on boards with no PS/2 or PCI.)

It seems like Windows pre 8 required PCI for some reason I don't know, but then again...I don't know.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:22 pm

Savyg wrote:
just brew it! wrote:Seems like for a while it was trendy to go "legacy free" - only one PCI slot, and leave off one (or both) of the PS/2 ports. I think motherboard vendors have figured out that a lot of people still want legacy connectivity.

It was? Until last week I'd only seen one legacy free mobo (well, with no PS/2 ports anyway...still waiting on boards with no PS/2 or PCI.)

I think I remember seeing a few a couple of years ago, maybe I'm mis-remembering. Quite a few motherboards circa that era definitely had a single "combo" PS/2 port (i.e. you could have a PS/2 keyboard or mouse, but not both), so I was surprised that the M5A97 series has both.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:13 pm

After the aforementioned P8P67-M Pro, I bought a P8Z77-M Pro. After that, I bought a Gryphon Z87. None of 'em have PCI slots. 7 out of 8 micro-ATX Z87 motherboards available at Newegg are PCIe only.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:49 pm

Why has this thread devolved into 'Legacy PCI Slots or Death!'?

My thoughts about onboard audio are this: It's great if it's all you have.

If you actually want to use real headphones, you'll get something that's clean and has a decent amp (which may include some onboard implementations).

If you want to use real speakers, you'll use HDMI and a real receiver for surround, or just get a cheap USB DAC.

It's seriously not that hard. All this talk about 'other' sound cards belies the fact that outside of Creative (I'm bleeding on the inside to say this) sound card drivers suck. Asus, I'm looking at you. And really, if you want a gaming sound card, you get Creative. If you don't, you use something better than a sound card.
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:19 am

Airmantharp wrote:It's seriously not that hard. All this talk about 'other' sound cards belies the fact that outside of Creative (I'm bleeding on the inside to say this) sound card drivers suck.

Sadly, I have to agree. Though I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that Creative's don't suck; they just tend to suck *less*.

And aside from better support for legacy cards (hey, I can still use my TBSC!), things aren't really any better on the Open Source / Linux side of the house. Multiple competing standards have resulted in a confusing mess of partially inter-operable APIs. If you want to (say) do digital audio work *and* have the ability to play Flash videos in your web browser, you need to coax the JACK and PulseAudio audio stacks into peacefully co-existing (easier said than done); both of them are in turn wrappers around the older ALSA audio framework (which still provides the device driver infrastructure).
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Re: Share Your Thoughts about Onboard Audio

Postposted on Tue Jun 11, 2013 1:41 am

Oh dear god JBI, Linux. You can keep it :). Some day I'll have the balls to play with it again, but that day is not today, and I foresee overnighting you a choice brew or so for your advice at some distant point in the future :D.
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