Recommend me a Sound Card

The place to sound off on all things related to audio, from sound cards to speakers.

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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:43 am

I have no current problems with the onboard audio and it sounds fine to my ears, however I have been told a good sound card will sound like night and day.

That depends on whether you're upgrading from a bad soundcard. I remember some onboard audio solutions in the late 90s and early 00s that had DACs so terrible you could hear the "essss" on raspy female vocals being distorted by some double-digit percentage, in which case there was no question that the sound quality was junk. Now, these sorts of problems have generally disappeared, and the biggest upgrade advantage is that component soundcards can have better grounding and shielding, which may improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

Rather many other claims made about hair-splitting quality differences in audio arise for the same reason that most people think an $80 bottle of wine tastes amazing: you just spent $80 on something ephemeral, so it had sure better. IMO what this means for your soundcard choice is that if you need an expensive hobby, buy the pricier unit and tinker away. If you don't, go with the less-pricey card. It will be better than your onboard solution in the ways that definitely matter, and meanwhile there are a lot of other ways to spend that $100.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:15 am

chµck wrote:Playback at anything more than 16/44.1k is a waste.
http://www.head-fi.org/t/415361/24bit-v ... h-exploded

From your article:

So, 24bit does add more 'resolution' compared to 16bit but this added resolution doesn't mean higher quality, it just means we can encode a larger dynamic range.
So, can you actually hear any benefits of the larger (48dB) dynamic range offered by 24bit? Unfortunately, no you can't.

Yes I can.
The difference between the Striker I had and my Claro is quite remarkable.
For those that can't, onboard should do you just fine.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:33 pm

Although it might just not be as clearcut as that. Are you sure the Striker was as good as it could on those 16/48 compared to the Claro. Was the source material the best it could at that... Just by shifting device you might have had differences that arent related to the 16/48 vs. 24/96.What do you use for source and is the source of your sound also 24/96. Have you tried using 24/96 material downmixed to 16/48 by the soundcard, or tested using the F/E method since sound and double blind testing sometimes is notorisouly difficult to get objectivity out of.

That said, I've had much better luck with 24/96 capable card and usually do run with 24/96 myself. Went from a Terratec to my current line of Asus Xonar cards that I'm pretty happy with.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:53 pm

There are a lot of suggestions here and I think they are all valid. When it comes to audio, the best way to make a decision is to try it for yourself.
Find someone that has an Asus/HT Omega soundcard or whatever you have in mind and give it spin. Some will think the sound quality difference might not be worth spending the extra money, some will hear a big difference. It all comes down to the individual.

For me, there was definitely a night and day difference when comparing onboard sound vs my Claro Halo / eClaro. When my friend demoed my setup, although he heard a difference; He didn't care much for it and was perfectly happy with his onboard. :wink:
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:55 pm

vandy wrote: When it comes to audio, the best way to make a decision is to try it for yourself.

Very good advice, especially considering that the "placebo effect" works differently on different people :wink:
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Mon Jul 02, 2012 5:37 pm

IAmGhostDog wrote:
chµck wrote:Playback at anything more than 16/44.1k is a waste.
http://www.head-fi.org/t/415361/24bit-v ... h-exploded

From your article:

So, 24bit does add more 'resolution' compared to 16bit but this added resolution doesn't mean higher quality, it just means we can encode a larger dynamic range.
So, can you actually hear any benefits of the larger (48dB) dynamic range offered by 24bit? Unfortunately, no you can't.

Yes I can.
The difference between the Striker I had and my Claro is quite remarkable.
For those that can't, onboard should do you just fine.

Two different cards, two different sounds. Different DACs, opamps, even different capacitors give different sound (yes it's a physical fact).
Listening to the same sound file on your phone will sound different than on your computer.
You may be able to detect a difference, but different doesn't mean better, it probably means worse since you will lose bits while downsampling and upsampling between devices (sampling rate, not bit depth).

No I am not a crazy audiophile who spends hundreds on USB cables or power cords. I have a very modest setup.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:27 pm

Oh one other thing.... If you are talking about outputting to a crappy set of $39.95 Logitech speakers, then forget about the quality of the sound card, you'll never notice it. I recommended the Xonar DX because I have it setup to do pass-through for 5.1 sound over TOS-LINK to my Yamaha RX-V467 receiver and Klipsch 5.1 speaker seutp. The receiver can decode DTS and Dolby Digital from the TOS-LINK source, otherwise it's only stereo. You need to have the whole solution to really get an improvement in audio.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:54 pm

Two different cards, two different sounds. Different DACs, opamps, even different capacitors give different sound (yes it's a physical fact).

A physical fact that tends to disappear in double-blind testing, demonstrating that most differences in perception are not electrical, but psychoacoustic. If a person's brain wants to hear an improvement, it does. Poor SNRs, and THDs of several percent or more, are indisputably audible. Beyond that, any difference in ordinary playback invariably comes down to the speaker drivers and room placement. Beyond that, we find ourselves on the dance floor of Club Pin, attempting to count the angels.

Also, if you're using TOS-LINK, you're grabbing a PCM digital signal, which completely bypasses most of the soundcard downstream of the digital audio processor regardless.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:30 pm

chuckula wrote:Oh one other thing.... If you are talking about outputting to a crappy set of $39.95 Logitech speakers, then forget about the quality of the sound card, you'll never notice it. I recommended the Xonar DX because I have it setup to do pass-through for 5.1 sound over TOS-LINK to my Yamaha RX-V467 receiver and Klipsch 5.1 speaker seutp. The receiver can decode DTS and Dolby Digital from the TOS-LINK source, otherwise it's only stereo. You need to have the whole solution to really get an improvement in audio.

One can always upgrade output devices some time down the road.

ludi wrote:
Two different cards, two different sounds. Different DACs, opamps, even different capacitors give different sound (yes it's a physical fact).

A physical fact that tends to disappear in double-blind testing, demonstrating that most differences in perception are not electrical, but psychoacoustic.

I would argue that it largely depends on the placement of the capacitor (input/output, power, bypass, filter).

I'm by no means an engineer/physicist, I'm actually a biology major. I just like audio.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:09 am

chuckula wrote:Oh one other thing.... If you are talking about outputting to a crappy set of $39.95 Logitech speakers, then forget about the quality of the sound card, you'll never notice it. I recommended the Xonar DX because I have it setup to do pass-through for 5.1 sound over TOS-LINK to my Yamaha RX-V467 receiver and Klipsch 5.1 speaker seutp. The receiver can decode DTS and Dolby Digital from the TOS-LINK source, otherwise it's only stereo. You need to have the whole solution to really get an improvement in audio.

This ^

No matter if you run analogue or use Toslink with DD/DTS, there is a whole lot to say about how you actually listen to the music after the soundcard has done it's job. I actually have both the Toslink and the Analogue separate channels hocked up so I can switch between them. The other reasonable way is to use a good pair of headphones of course, which is usually much cheaper compared to a full blown amp+speakers of the same end quality.

I run my Xonar Xense setup from my comp with a Yamaha RX-V2600, a pair of B&W 685 fronts, and some Energy center + surrounds. unfortunately, my B&W ASW750 sub gave up on me a couple of weeks ago, but the 685's is decent enough so getting another sub is pretty much unneeded for most parts. The sub though, was gorgous in games like Battlefield 3 when tanks and even normal gunshots gave a good pounding you wouldnt even hear on most lesser system. Lot's of low end there on certain rifles and especially the tanks.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:03 am

Aphasia wrote:Although it might just not be as clearcut as that. Are you sure the Striker was as good as it could on those 16/48 compared to the Claro. Was the source material the best it could at that... Just by shifting device you might have had differences that arent related to the 16/48 vs. 24/96.What do you use for source and is the source of your sound also 24/96. Have you tried using 24/96 material downmixed to 16/48 by the soundcard, or tested using the F/E method since sound and double blind testing sometimes is notorisouly difficult to get objectivity out of.

That said, I've had much better luck with 24/96 capable card and usually do run with 24/96 myself. Went from a Terratec to my current line of Asus Xonar cards that I'm pretty happy with.

The source material was the same.
It was either store bought CD's or vinyl. (No rips. Original source)
Vinyl > Technics SL-1210 MKll w/ Stanton 681EEE MKlll > Esoteric Sounds Rek-O-Kut Professional Phono Preamp MKII > Striker/Claro > Klipsch Pro Media v4.1 or Sennheiser HD 580 Precision
CD's > Striker/Claro > Klipsch Pro Media v4.1 or Sennheiser HD 580 Precision
I stand by my original statements:
The difference between the Striker and Claro is quite remarkable and yes I can hear the difference between 16/48 and 24/96.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:33 am

I would recommend looking at the speakers and headphones first before venturing into getting a discrete sound cards.

You get far better mileage with your audio experience. Don't go too crazy or fall into audiophile "traps". You can quality sound without spending several grand on placebo "audiophile" non-sense.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:43 am

I've got to say that the Creative hate is based on their drivers from years ago, unless you choose to install all the crap. You can install just the drivers, and if you game at all, they're still basically the card to have.

There was a time when I hated Creative for their drivers, but they've been the de facto gamer's sound card for a long time. If you're not into gaming, I think you can get a better price/performance ratio though.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Tue Jul 03, 2012 1:13 pm

IAmGhostDog wrote:
Aphasia wrote:Although it might just not be as clearcut as that. Are you sure the Striker was as good as it could on those 16/48 compared to the Claro. Was the source material the best it could at that... Just by shifting device you might have had differences that arent related to the 16/48 vs. 24/96.What do you use for source and is the source of your sound also 24/96. Have you tried using 24/96 material downmixed to 16/48 by the soundcard, or tested using the F/E method since sound and double blind testing sometimes is notorisouly difficult to get objectivity out of.

That said, I've had much better luck with 24/96 capable card and usually do run with 24/96 myself. Went from a Terratec to my current line of Asus Xonar cards that I'm pretty happy with.

The source material was the same.
It was either store bought CD's or vinyl. (No rips. Original source)
Vinyl > Technics SL-1210 MKll w/ Stanton 681EEE MKlll > Esoteric Sounds Rek-O-Kut Professional Phono Preamp MKII > Striker/Claro > Klipsch Pro Media v4.1 or Sennheiser HD 580 Precision
CD's > Striker/Claro > Klipsch Pro Media v4.1 or Sennheiser HD 580 Precision
I stand by my original statements:
The difference between the Striker and Claro is quite remarkable and yes I can hear the difference between 16/48 and 24/96.


Vinyl has an equivalent bit depth of about 15 bits.
CD audio is 16/44.1.
Any difference you hear between 16/44.1 and 24/96 is from filters done in your sound cards, not because there is an audible difference between the two formats.
Anyone who's heard of/used the X-fi crystalizer would see this. You're only hearing the effects of a better sound card and it's processing.

That said, I think the CD audio standard should be moved up to 16/88.2

EDIT: fixed diction
Last edited by chµck on Wed Jul 04, 2012 12:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 9:29 am

chµck wrote:
Any difference you hear between 16/44.1 and 24/96 is from filters done in your sound cards, not because there is an audible difference between the two settings.
Anyone who's heard of/used the X-fi crystalizer would see this. You're only hearing the effects of a better sound card and it's processing.


Not sure you're getting it chuck.
Let me simplify it for you.
The Claro is a better card than the Striker.
The Claro can "process" @ 24/96 while the Striker can't.
There are no "filters" involved.
There is an audible difference between 16/48 and 24/96.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:14 am

IAmGhostDog wrote:There is an audible difference between 16/48 and 24/96.

If the original content was CD-quality, any difference is imaginary or an add-on to the original data. Expanding digital formats to bit-depths and sampling rates beyond the original file only adds things not in the original file.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 12:18 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
IAmGhostDog wrote:There is an audible difference between 16/48 and 24/96.

If the original content was CD-quality, any difference is imaginary or an add-on to the original data. Expanding digital formats to bit-depths and sampling rates beyond the original file only adds things not in the original file.

Or it might be that the striker is a pos distorting the signal while the Claro dont. But if the source is 16/44.1, the 16/48 or 24/96 should make absolutely no difference unless you have resampling on the card for some reason. The interresting piece here would be to set the Claro to output 16/48 or rather 16/44.1 and compare it to Striker.

And while the HD580 is fine, the Promedia is pretty much, not so good despite being seen as great comp system. My old system I threw out was an old Videologic Sirocco Crossfire, equilent in most regards, surpassing the promedia in others, and even that doesnt stand up to what I have now.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 12:54 pm

IAmGhostDog wrote:The Claro is a better card than the Striker.

I said that:
You're only hearing the effects of a better sound card and it's processing.

IAmGhostDog wrote:The Claro can "process" @ 24/96 while the Striker can't.

So can my cheapo creative sound card, but that doesn't make it sound as good as yours
IAmGhostDog wrote:There are no "filters" involved.

ok
IAmGhostDog wrote:There is an audible difference between 16/48 and 24/96.

Take the original painting of the mona lisa, and blow it up 20 times it's original size. Did you just increase the quality of the painting? No, you either just added space between the paint that was already there, or you took each bit of paint and added some more paint of the same color around it.
How are you not getting this?
I'm not saying that there's not a difference. I said that it was a waste to playback at anything more than 16/44.1 unless your source was recorded and saved at anything higher. So unless you're listening to SACDs or DVD-As on a regular basis, you're wasting bandwidth. If it makes you feel better, fine.

On a side note, the way CDs are currently mastered is a travesty. Look up k2 high definition sound to see how music should be mastered.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 4:28 pm

For me the difference between 24/96 and 16/44 is much greater than the difference between 320kbps mp3 and FLAC/CD. The problem is the vast majority of music isn't available in 24/96.

"Lossless" audio only means it didn't lose anything from the CD, but by that stage a lot of the sound has already been lost (even if the mastering/compression hasn't been completely ruined).
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 5:21 pm

Jason181 wrote:I've got to say that the Creative hate is based on their drivers from years ago, unless you choose to install all the crap. You can install just the drivers, and if you game at all, they're still basically the card to have.

There was a time when I hated Creative for their drivers, but they've been the de facto gamer's sound card for a long time. If you're not into gaming, I think you can get a better price/performance ratio though.


I'll echo this- on my workstation, my X-Fi's software/drivers are seamless. With plenty of CPU and RAM, even if they are a little bloated, it's not like I'd notice, and it's not like I have to go into the settings constantly to change stuff. And hell, it can encode in DTS/DD just as well, and add any effects you may like.

Also, if you're going to get a good set of cans, you don't necessarily have to worry about the the quality of the DACs in an on-board solution- they're good enough- but rather the amplification. If you don't properly drive the cans, they'll sound like crap anyway, and that's your fault.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 5:40 pm

It's all purely academic since most people can't even tell the difference and of those that can many of them would choose lower quality audio for some reason. Personally my hearing isn't amazing and while I can tell the difference if I really concentrate it really doesn't justify me spending a ton of money on audio equipment. I just listen to my 320k mp3s on my Logitech 2500s and when I want to enjoy music even more I strap on a pair of quality headphones. The only reason for buying a sound card for me was to lower the background hissing, and it doesn't even do that so I consider it a waste.

Honestly, if you want a sound card I would just get a cheap one with a headphone amp to really push a nice set of cans like a Xonar DGX.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 7:35 pm

I wonder if there's something in your sound settings causing the hissing. My headphones are absolutely silent until I get to 95% volume through a X-fi Titanium's analog outputs (true 5.1 headphones). Maybe your mic is being played through your sound card?
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 8:58 pm

If you go creative buy an Auzentech or the Titanium HD, both use high quality components. Cheap components were likely a factor with the older problems, which weren't consistent, much like nvidia's TDR problems.

2nd the Mic hissing, Mute the mic and it goes away.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 9:50 pm

Vinyl has an equivalent bit depth of about 15 bits.
CD audio is 16/44.1.
Any difference you hear between 16/44.1 and 24/96 is from filters done in your sound cards, not because there is an audible difference between the two formats.
Anyone who's heard of/used the X-fi crystalizer would see this. You're only hearing the effects of a better sound card and it's processing.

That said, I think the CD audio standard should be moved up to 16/88.2

EDIT: fixed diction


A 16 bit word sampled 44,100 a second is a poor standard for anything. CD sound is poor.

It becomes a religious discussion at this point because almost no one has heard decent sound. No Vinyl does not have an equivalent bit depth of 15. It is analog, completely different and the sound on nice machinery, can make any one with ears understand why CD sound is poor.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:32 pm

PenGun wrote: It becomes a religious discussion at this point because almost no one has heard decent sound.

Image
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:57 pm

I have a small collection of DVD-audio and SACD discs. Several of them are terrific, but some of them just reveal the flaws in the source material or editing more clearly.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Thu Jul 05, 2012 12:24 am

I went digging for soundcards, looking specifically for something recent that is PCIe with a dedicated headphone amp and 3.5mm jack for real cans. Result? Absolutely nothing.

I'm looking at USB DACs now. FiiO has their newest E10, and it's the most promising.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Thu Jul 05, 2012 3:39 am

I have these headphones, and they have a usb-powered amp built in. I only use them for gaming, and they sound very good for that; the difference between them and any 2.0 headphones in sound quality and especially spatialization is impressive. I don't use them for anything other than gaming and the occasional netflix movie though.

It seems that most of the content on PC is lower quality and bitrate so music is not something I use my computer for. And yes, I realize there are lossless formats and such, but that requires actual work!

I'm sure there are better sounding cans out there, but I doubt there are better headphones for FPS gaming. I can hear things from way far away and know exactly where it's coming from, and I've owned a lot of 2.0 headsets.
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Thu Jul 05, 2012 2:55 pm

Jason181 wrote:I have these headphones, and they have a usb-powered amp built in. I only use them for gaming, and they sound very good for that; the difference between them and any 2.0 headphones in sound quality and especially spatialization is impressive. I don't use them for anything other than gaming and the occasional netflix movie though.

It seems that most of the content on PC is lower quality and bitrate so music is not something I use my computer for. And yes, I realize there are lossless formats and such, but that requires actual work!

I'm sure there are better sounding cans out there, but I doubt there are better headphones for FPS gaming. I can hear things from way far away and know exactly where it's coming from, and I've owned a lot of 2.0 headsets.


USB gaming headsets are great, simple solutions to this problem, but putting more drivers in a set of cans means each driver must therefore be smaller, and therefore put out lower quality sound. Not saying that the positional stuff doesn't work, but you only have two ears, and positional audio works extremely well on a set of nicely driven stereo hi-fi cans.
Canon 6D||[24-105/4L IS USM|100/2.8L Macro IS USM|70-300/4-5.6 IS USM|40/2.8 STM|50/1.4 USM|85/1.8 USM|Samyang/Bower 14/2.8 Full-Manual Rectilinear Wide-angle|
Canon EOS-M|11-22/4-5.6 IS STM|22/2 STM|EF-M 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS STM|
For sale!|24/2.8 IS USM
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Re: Recommend me a Sound Card

Postposted on Thu Jul 05, 2012 7:15 pm

I am saying that the so-called "5.1 surround" headphone positional stuff is a gimmick that does not work correctly.

You will be much better off with a good set of stereo headphones and setting your game to output sound for stereo headphones.
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