just brew it! wrote:
As for soundcard quality, a lot of problems with the onboard realtek implementations stem from poor grounding and EM interference from other stuff in the PC. You will notice a significant improvement in SNR levels and general quality by just switching to a $10 USB DAC or using the built-in DAC of your monitor, assuming it has speakers/headphone-out.
While this was generally true in the "bad old days", things have improved quite a bit. I'd say the onboard audio on contemporary motherboards from the better manufacturers is generally on par with most discrete solutions from ~15 years ago. These days, noise pickup is as likely to be from a poorly shielded front panel audio wiring harness as it is to be from the motherboard.
I'm not sure if motherboard designers have gotten better at doing audio, or if the move to more motherboard PCB layers is responsible for the improvement. Probably some of both.
Yep, I think it's even simpler than that;
If your motherboard has isolated PCB area for audio, it's going to be as good as any sub-$50 DAC. At 100% windows volume, the SNR levels of these solutions are more than adequate for my unashamedly-modest audiophile tastes.
Sadly, plenty of modern motherboards from 'the better manufacturers' limit these isolated audio solutions to their overpriced, over-blinged G4M3RZ range. Here's a popular B250 board from Asrock
that's notable for being a decent, affordable, feature-rich way to get all the Covfefe-Lake benefits without splurging silly money on RGBLED controllers or cosmetic bling like TUF armour and anodised slabs of logo
Should you be in the unfortunate position of needing to use analogue audio out from the motherboard in this instance, you'd be better off buying one of these
. In hindsight, it would have been better to spend the extra $15 up front to buy a board with isolated audio traces on the PCB, but nobody is going to rebuild their entire PC just for that, and at $6 you can just plug in a C-Media DAC that's good enough for Xonar sound cards, so it's not going to be the weakest link in most audio chains.