Differences between sound cards

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

Moderator: Captain Ned

Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:13 pm

Note from admin: Split from this thread --JBI

It doesn't work that way. Simple tests can be done that completely throw out the whole notion of your computer simply outputting a pure sound. Adjusting volume on a digital stream itself is processing. How a sound card and its drivers decide how to change the volume levels itself is processing. Upmixing from a stereo output to surround sound is processing. Going from surround sound with 7.1 or 5.1 to headphones is processing.

IF a computer functioned as pass through without any adjustments to the sound stream all sound cards would sound identical. But you can even get modified versions of Creative drivers that make things sound different (not an adjusted EQ). How the sound card interprets and decides to output content is processing in and of itself and they all aren't the same. I went out of my way to test that and even wrote about those experiences in the Titanium HD thread.

Drivers are software, they also determine how computer hardware is used. It's entirely possible for drivers to process some of the above in hardware. It doesn't need EAX or OpenAL. Nvidia and AMD do the same exact thing. There is more then one layer to software.


It is entirely possible to do direct output for a DVD or such with the help of codecs like AC3filter, which allows you to setup a passthrough, but in a computers native condition it does not function simply as a passthrough for sound.
Bensam123
Gerbil Elite
 
Posts: 952
Joined: Wed May 29, 2002 12:19 pm

Re: Video card with header to accept HDMI audio from sound c

Postposted on Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:44 pm

Bensam123 wrote:It doesn't work that way. Simple tests can be done that completely throw out the whole notion of your computer simply outputting a pure sound. Adjusting volume on a digital stream itself is processing. How a sound card and its drivers decide how to change the volume levels itself is processing. Upmixing from a stereo output to surround sound is processing. Going from surround sound with 7.1 or 5.1 to headphones is processing.

IF a computer functioned as pass through without any adjustments to the sound stream all sound cards would sound identical. But you can even get modified versions of Creative drivers that make things sound different (not an adjusted EQ). How the sound card interprets and decides to output content is processing in and of itself and they all aren't the same. I went out of my way to test that and even wrote about those experiences in the Titanium HD thread.

Drivers are software, they also determine how computer hardware is used. It's entirely possible for drivers to process some of the above in hardware. It doesn't need EAX or OpenAL. Nvidia and AMD do the same exact thing. There is more then one layer to software.


It is entirely possible to do direct output for a DVD or such with the help of codecs like AC3filter, which allows you to setup a passthrough, but in a computers native condition it does not function simply as a passthrough for sound.


WHY are you still arguing this. I didn't dispute that there isn't processing- it just comes from the application in question, whatever that may be. The audio stack obviously has control over volume, and drivers are part of the audio stack; now how is that a revelation?

And again, there is no hardware sound. Anything that is 'processed' on the card is done so at the analog level.

This is why no sound card is needed for HDMI. Do I need to start drawing maps?!?
Canon 6D|24-105/4L 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|24/2.8 IS USM|
Canon EOS-M|11-22/4-5.6 IS STM|22/2 STM|EF-M 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS STM|
Airmantharp
Gerbil Elder
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 5130
Joined: Fri Oct 15, 2004 10:41 pm

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:14 am

While there can certainly be minor differences in how the digital processing in the driver is done, I agree that in the past few years the trend has been to move more of the processing out of the hardware, and into the OS's audio stack. This is even more pronounced in the Linux world where an entire family of audio chipsets will typically share a single common generic driver, and card vendors do not provide custom or semi-custom drivers specific to a particular model.

As long as we're not talking about gimmicky features (like Creative's "Crystalizer"), or DDL encoding (which can be offered only on products where the manufacturer pays a per-unit royalty to Dolby), the digital outputs of different cards should all be very similar in quality.

Analog outputs are another story, of course -- fidelity is highly dependent on quality of components and implementation of the analog section of the design.
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 38089
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:20 am

It's not just Linux.

Vista introduced a universal driver model call UAA (Universal Audio Architecture). This driver standard works on 6.x Kernel family of Windows on the client and server (if for some strange reason you turned sound on for a server).

Creative and all the on board audio vendors have designed their solutions to support UAA in addition to their own drivers. I stopped using vendor audio drivers more than five years ago. I don't buy products that lack UAA support.
"Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. We're so glad you could attend. Come inside! Come inside!"
Ryu Connor
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 3598
Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2001 7:00 pm
Location: Marietta, GA

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:27 am

At this point the only real differentiation between sound cards is the quality & fidelity of their analog outputs for those of us still firmly ensconced in the analog world.

[/gazes over at big round black thing spinning slowly]
Life is hard; but it's harder if you're stupid. Big Al.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20638
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:31 am

Captain Ned wrote:At this point the only real differentiation between sound cards is the quality & fidelity of their analog outputs for those of us still firmly ensconced in the analog world.

[/gazes over at big round black thing spinning slowly]

Well, that and whether the card vendor has paid the DDL royalty (if you care about integrated DDL capability). Edit: Assuming you even care about DDL, what with it being digital and all. :lol:
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 38089
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:56 pm

Captain Ned wrote:At this point the only real differentiation between sound cards is the quality & fidelity of their analog outputs for those of us still firmly ensconced in the analog world.

[/gazes over at big round black thing spinning slowly]


Most of the best monitors/speakers still only have analog inputs, so those analog outputs on the sound card or external DAC are still pretty important, even for people who have their audio in digital formats.
2500K @ 4.5ghz || ASUS P8Z68-V LX || Crucial Ballistix DDR1600 16GB || EVGA GTX660 SC 2GB ||
EVGA Supernova 750W G2 || M-AUDIO BX5a || Dell U2312HM || Acer H213H || ASUS Xonar DG ||
WDBlack1TB || WDBlack640GB || 2x WDGreen 2TB || Crucial M4 128GB ||
travbrad
Gerbil Team Leader
 
Posts: 204
Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2008 5:39 pm

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:18 pm

travbrad wrote:Most of the best monitors/speakers still only have analog inputs, so those analog outputs on the sound card or external DAC are still pretty important, even for people who have their audio in digital formats.

And the recognized quality of the Xonar's analog section is why I have one.

[/pines for the lamented TBSC]
Life is hard; but it's harder if you're stupid. Big Al.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20638
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:20 pm

If bitstreaming (ie, outputing an audio track encoded in dolby digital/dts) there should be no processing whatsoever by the computer. This is why if bitstreaming, say, a DTS signal to a receiver, the volume and EQ adjustments, whether native to the OS, in a media player or software driver will have no effect. If converting to PCM first, then all bets are off as software volume and EQ settings (processing) then affect the signal. This is the same with stand-alone media players (ie, DVD players)

This is precisely why DTS/Dobly formats exist: So the audio track will be as conserved as possible across a large variety of sources.

However, I would agree that in most usages, even a digital PCM signal, due to reasons already discussed in this thread, should not sound very different (if at all) from one sound card to the next.

However, to those that take stock in things like jitter and the merits of asynchronus vs synchronus USB connections (ie, to an external sound card), and think that things like minor fluctuations in USB power supply can significantly impact the sonic signature, all bets are off.

And yes, analogue stages, primarily due to output stage amplification and the power supply for this purpose, can vary quite a bit from one sound card to the next.
cynan
Gerbil Elite
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 844
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2004 2:30 pm

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:28 pm

travbrad wrote:Most of the best monitors/speakers still only have analog inputs, so those analog outputs on the sound card or external DAC are still pretty important, even for people who have their audio in digital formats.


And this is how it will always be because speakers are, by necessity, analog devices. In the high-end, a speaker with a built in DAC and amplifier will always be viewed as inferior, or at least suboptimal. People with expensive hifi systems will generally always prefer the freedom to pick and choose the DAC and amplifier separately from the speakers for a variety of reasons.
cynan
Gerbil Elite
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 844
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2004 2:30 pm

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:49 pm

Captain Ned wrote:[/pines for the lamented TBSC]

I bet it still works in Linux. :wink: (Support for legacy devices is one of the upsides of community-maintained drivers... but of course you have the inverse effect as well, namely poor-to-nonexistent support for bleeding-edge devices.)
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 38089
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:53 pm

just brew it! wrote:
Captain Ned wrote:[/pines for the lamented TBSC]
I bet it still works in Linux. :wink: (Support for legacy devices is one of the upsides of community-maintained drivers... but of course you have the inverse effect as well, namely poor-to-nonexistent support for bleeding-edge devices.)

I know it works in Linux, as the last time I booted a Live CD with the TBSC on-board it happily saw it and had a driver ready to go. She's still in the spares bin.
Life is hard; but it's harder if you're stupid. Big Al.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20638
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: Differences between sound cards

Postposted on Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:56 pm

cynan wrote:People with expensive hifi systems will generally always prefer the freedom to pick and choose the DAC and amplifier separately from the speakers for a variety of reasons.

When we move into that price range audiophilia nervosa takes over and people buy $100K three-box CD players/external DACs. Spend some time reading Stereophile and you'll see it (though they do some good work on "reasonable" computer-based stuff).
Life is hard; but it's harder if you're stupid. Big Al.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20638
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA


Return to Echo Vale

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests