Integrated vs Dedicated audio

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Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 6:58 am

Hi :wink:

I'm thinking about acquiring an Asus Sonar DG for a better sound quality... against the Realtek® ALC892 of my motherboard. You guys thing I'll notice a major difference, using a basic set of 2.1 speakers and headphones?

Thanks for the input :wink:
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:05 am

I'm in the same boat with this decision: Re-use an SB X-Fi Gamer or see how the Realtek 889 onboard sounds. I'd say the lower end speakers won't give you a noticeable difference as much as the headphones, where the audio quality is amplified by being so close to your ears. The onboard setups have advanced quite a bit, but it really comes down to what you expect to hear. A tin ear covers a lot of audio imperfections too.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:43 am

Hi there, from what I know there is certainly nothing wrong with the Asus card, but I can add this for you to help confuse you,lol.

I just got an HT Omega sound card along with these speakers, and I am actually blown away at the difference in sound quality, if your going to get a sound card I would absolutely recommend any of the HT Omega cards.

What I was using before was the above mentioned X-Fi Extreme Gamer card with the Pax drivers.

http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829271007


http://www.edifier.ca/products/edifier-multimedia/s330-s330d.html


I got the card on sale last week for $184 taxes in and shipped in Canada:)
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:55 am

It depends a lot on the motherboard, the quality of the speakers/headphones, and how picky you are about sound quality.

Sound on most recent motherboards from reputable manufacturers is "good enough" unless you're really picky; a discrete card will likely be an incremental improvement but not a huge one. OTOH if you've got noticeable issues like lack of bass response, audible distortion, or buzzing/crackling noises due to poor onboard sound implementation, a discrete card should take care of that.

@credible - Given that you changed the speakers at the same time, there's no way to know whether the improvement was due to the HT Omega or the speakers. My money's on the speakers being mostly responsible... the X-Fi you were using is a reasonably good card.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:49 am

just brew it! wrote:@credible - Given that you changed the speakers at the same time, there's no way to know whether the improvement was due to the HT Omega or the speakers. My money's on the speakers being mostly responsible... the X-Fi you were using is a reasonably good card.

I have to disagree.
While the speakers did play a part, the HT|Omega is a huge upgrade over the 5 year old long in tooth X-Fi Extreme Gamer.
Comparing the specs will show that the X-Fi can't hold a candle to the Omega
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And doesn't it say something about Creative that in order to use their cards, you have to use 3rd party drivers?
Shouldn't be that way.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:57 am

IAmGhostDog wrote:
just brew it! wrote:@credible - Given that you changed the speakers at the same time, there's no way to know whether the improvement was due to the HT Omega or the speakers. My money's on the speakers being mostly responsible... the X-Fi you were using is a reasonably good card.

I have to disagree.
While the speakers did play a part, the HT|Omega is a huge upgrade over the 5 year old long in tooth X-Fi Extreme Gamer.
Comparing the specs will show that the X-Fi can't hold a candle to the Omega
X-Fi XtremeGamer
HT | OMEGA CLARO II
And doesn't it say something about Creative that in order to use their cards, you have to use 3rd party drivers?
Shouldn't be that way.

I agree the situation with Creative's drivers sucks, and I tend to avoid Creative these days for that reason.

However, if you really want to look at technical specs, the differences are going to be inaudible to most people. Even people with "golden" ears are likely going to be capable of noticing a difference only on very high end speakers/headphones. The Creative card (109db S/N and 96 kHz sampling rate) is already overkill for all but the most demanding applications.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 1:26 pm

I have Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speaker setup and I am perfectly happy with using on-board sound (using whatever "default" drivers that Win7 installed during fresh installation)... Can't even remember last time I've used the dedicated sound card. If you have extra $$$ to throw away on hardware and want to improve sound quality - get a better speakers/headphones instead.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 1:33 pm

I can notice an audible difference between the onboard sound I'm using now and a discrete card, but imho it's worth a bit less hassle over drivers and a bit less money to use onboard.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 1:37 pm

The quality of on-board audio varies from motherboard to motherboard, but I'd say the one thing you're most likely to notice is interference from other devices. With most on-board codecs I can hear interference from either keyboard or mouse input if nothing else is playing.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 1:41 pm

just brew it! wrote:However, if you really want to look at technical specs, the differences are going to be inaudible to most people

You are greatly underestimating the "placebo effect" :wink:
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 2:08 pm

My simple rule of thumb:

If you're using analog output use a discrete card, if you're using digital output (to an external DAC of swome type) use onboard.

This assumes using half-decent speakers or headphones of course.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 6:36 pm

IAmGhostDog wrote:And doesn't it say something about Creative that in order to use their cards, you have to use 3rd party drivers?
Shouldn't be that way.

You can also substitute 'Asus' into that sentence and it works just as well. It's the curse of consumer sound card drivers (I'd classify the HT cards are more prosumer).

Here's hoping Asus doesn't drag their feet like usual in coming up with fully working Win8 drivers (latest official drivers can be installed using Win7 compability mode - it won't install otherwise - but don't have full functionality)
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:09 pm

I upgraded from onboard ALC1200 to a DG. I'm running good studio headphones via a dedicated amp and the difference is very subtle, at best.

The only concrete point to the DG is that I have to turn my amp up to 5/10 to bring out the background hiss which was apparent on the Realtek source around 2.5/10. Since I actually listen around 1-1.5/10 this is of little practical value.

In hindsight I wouldn't bother to do it again, I'm not convinced the slight improvement I noticed with cans isn't psychological and it certainly isn't anything that could be discerned on speakers.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:30 pm

Jon1984 wrote:Hi :wink:

I'm thinking about acquiring an Asus Sonar DG for a better sound quality... against the Realtek® ALC892 of my motherboard. You guys thing I'll notice a major difference, using a basic set of 2.1 speakers and headphones?

Thanks for the input :wink:


Basic headphones and speakers, probably not. I would get a decent set of speakers first, then soundcard, then headphones.

I have a HT Claro+ feeding my Speedlink Medusa cans, can't have speakers (loud noise) due to neighbors.

BUT I am considering these speakers for future.

http://www.amazon.com/M-Audio-Studiophi ... B000MUXJCO
and/or these
http://audioengineusa.com/Store/Audioengine-5-Plus
Quite a price difference, have to do more research to see if the A5's are worth over double the price vs the AV40's or not.

As for cans, a lot of people like the sennheiser HD555's or 515 (open) or the HD280 pro's (closed)
http://www.sennheiser.ca/live/senn/produit/en/104/160
http://www.sennheiser.ca/live/senn/produit/en/275/13
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:14 pm

Based on my experience a sound card is mostly a waste of money if your onboard is anything from ALC889. Unless you have some hard to drive headphones(my K702 for example), but if that's the case you'd be better off getting an external headphone amp anyway. This is looking from a purely sound quality perspective, not considering various effects or surround emulation.

OP, just for reference, I'm pretty sure the sound quality of even the ALC889 onboard audio of some older boards is better than that of the Xonar DG, but the DG has a "better" integrated headphone amp.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 9:40 pm

It's not like the DG is a terrible waste of money or anything. It's a good bang-for-the-buck upgrade, regardless whether you've purchased better speakers or headphones yet. Ultimately, that's a better place to start -- but I say get it and see what happens. If it were $80, then I'd say pass and get better speakers or cans first. For the low asking price of the DG you're not breaking the bank.

I like Asus's audio gear, though I've not used the DG.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Sun Mar 04, 2012 11:53 pm

While the codec implemeted might be all fine by itself, the implementation as a whole might be lacking in various ways, all from being prone to pick up EMI from other parts of the comp, to not being able to drive the amp/headphones well enough, etc.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:20 am

anotherengineer wrote:BUT I am considering these speakers for future.

http://www.amazon.com/M-Audio-Studiophi ... B000MUXJCO
and/or these
http://audioengineusa.com/Store/Audioengine-5-Plus
Quite a price difference, have to do more research to see if the A5's are worth over double the price vs the AV40's or not.

As for cans, a lot of people like the sennheiser HD555's or 515 (open) or the HD280 pro's (closed)
http://www.sennheiser.ca/live/senn/produit/en/104/160
http://www.sennheiser.ca/live/senn/produit/en/275/13


I have the AV40s and the HD558s ... be wary of the AV40s. They have build quality issues - mine still work fine and I haven't really had a problem with them, but others have had problems with overheating, the volume knob wearing out prematurely, the jacks breaking or sinking in to the body of the speaker due to mechanical stress, and so on. They sound good, but from all the failures stories I've heard I don't know if I'd buy them again. Don't take my word for it, go check out the M-Audio forums.

The 558s are pretty good ... I'm happy with them, but I got them at a great price when Future Shop cleared out all their online inventory. The clamping force was pretty strong at first, to the point of getting a headache. I can hear a lot more detail than the headphones I moved up from (Sony MDR-XD200) but I still hold that the Sonys were incredible value. I got a Grado 1/4 to 1/8" adapter to reduce the stress on the headphone jack of the AV40s, the monster adapter they came with looks like a great way to break anything you plug it into. :P
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:31 am

TwistedKestrel wrote:The quality of on-board audio varies from motherboard to motherboard, but I'd say the one thing you're most likely to notice is interference from other devices. With most on-board codecs I can hear interference from either keyboard or mouse input if nothing else is playing.

None of the Asus mobos I've owned over the past ~10 years have had this issue (yet another reason I tend to prefer Asus these days), and other brands (MSI, etc.) have generally gotten a lot better as well.

If you're using front audio jacks the cable between the mobo and the front panel will tend to pick up interference; but this is the fault of the case (poorly shielded front panel audio cable), not the motherboard.

JohnC wrote:
just brew it! wrote:However, if you really want to look at technical specs, the differences are going to be inaudible to most people

You are greatly underestimating the "placebo effect" :wink:

I guess I should've qualified that statement with "in a properly conducted double-blind listening test". :lol:

insulin_junkie72 wrote:
IAmGhostDog wrote:And doesn't it say something about Creative that in order to use their cards, you have to use 3rd party drivers?
Shouldn't be that way.

You can also substitute 'Asus' into that sentence and it works just as well. It's the curse of consumer sound card drivers (I'd classify the HT cards are more prosumer).

Here's hoping Asus doesn't drag their feet like usual in coming up with fully working Win8 drivers (latest official drivers can be installed using Win7 compability mode - it won't install otherwise - but don't have full functionality)

Being a Linux user, my driver issues are slightly different. Creative was problematic for years since they tended to not release hardware specs to the Open Source community. Other chipsets (Realtek, VIA, etc.) are generally supported fairly well, but through a generic driver that isn't always aware of the details of how a particular motherboard/soundcard vendor has implemented things. So (for example) the 8-channel VIA codec on my Asus M3A78-CM works with Linux out-of-the-box, but only in 4-channel mode; the driver "sees" the center/sub/side channels too but sending output to them produces no sound. (This isn't a problem for me since I don't actually *need* 8-channel audio; I only tried to get the other outputs working because I was curious.)

anotherengineer wrote:
Jon1984 wrote:Hi :wink:

I'm thinking about acquiring an Asus Sonar DG for a better sound quality... against the Realtek® ALC892 of my motherboard. You guys thing I'll notice a major difference, using a basic set of 2.1 speakers and headphones?

Thanks for the input :wink:

Basic headphones and speakers, probably not. I would get a decent set of speakers first, then soundcard, then headphones.

I would flip the last two and put the soundcard last. Unless the OP has a really sucky onboard implementation the speakers and headphones are almost certainly the weak link in the audio chain.

Compton wrote:It's not like the DG is a terrible waste of money or anything. It's a good bang-for-the-buck upgrade, regardless whether you've purchased better speakers or headphones yet. Ultimately, that's a better place to start -- but I say get it and see what happens. If it were $80, then I'd say pass and get better speakers or cans first. For the low asking price of the DG you're not breaking the bank.

Yes, that's a valid point. It's cheap enough that it's almost lost in the noise compared to the total cost of a system; and until PCI slots go away for good you can carry it forward to future builds. I still think in terms of bang-for-the-buck you're better off upgrading the speakers though.

Aphasia wrote:While the codec implemeted might be all fine by itself, the implementation as a whole might be lacking in various ways, all from being prone to pick up EMI from other parts of the comp, to not being able to drive the amp/headphones well enough, etc.

Agreed. Fortunately mobo makers seem to be getting better at doing onboard audio; but that still doesn't rule out the possibility of getting one where they've screwed things up in some way. A lot of MSI's boards circa early 2000s seemed to have a problem with lack of bass response when driving headphones, for example.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:14 pm

I actually tried using the built-in codec on my Asus p8p67 deluxe when it was new and my Xonar had some issues with the power relay clicking, but it didnt take long until I got myself a new xonar. Although it was the combo Xense package, because I also needed a gaming headset. Now after also having moved in my B&W speakers, an energy center + surrounds and my B&W 12" sub into my comb room, the difference is even more proncounable then with my old system. Dont know if its the codec, the drivers, or Asus implementation, but there is a experienced difference with the Xonar compared to built in.
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Re: Integrated vs Dedicated audio

Postposted on Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:37 pm

Although I'm not 100% sure I believe these are my headphones:

http://www.sennheiser.com/sennheiser/home_en.nsf/root/private_headphones_hifi_wired-headphones_504007

and my speakers:

http://www.logitech.com/en-roeu/speakers-audio/home-pc-speakers/devices/4251

Pretty simple :roll: Guess an upgrade to the sound card isn't ideal with this hardware... Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)
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