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Do you use an on-board audio solution?

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64 (55%)
Total votes: 116
Gerbil In Training
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On Board Audio Vs. Discreet

Sun Jan 07, 2007 12:44 pm

Hi Guys & Gals,

I'm a regular reader of the forums here, as there seem to be a lot of people who know what they're talking about, but I have a question that hopefully someone can help me out with...

I'm upgrading in a few days to an Core2 Duo setup, using a Gigabyte GA-965P-DS4 MoBo, which has a RealTek ALC883 audio chip on-board. In my old system is an old SoundBlaster Live! PCI, which I'm considering moving accross. I can't find any benchmarks out there that measure which of these would give more of a FPS performance hit. I know the SBL! is old, but it being discreet would make a big difference... or would it?

I'm not going to be buying any other sound card for the forseeable future, so hass anyone done any benchmarking on these things?


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Sun Jan 07, 2007 12:51 pm

I am using SB Audigy I - and really no complaints whatsoever. It's sounds much better that onboard sound, hands-down.

It looks like there's no much new development on the PC sound - so unless I will have PCI slot to plug it to, I will stick with it for a some time to come.
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Sun Jan 07, 2007 12:51 pm

Just put your old soundcard in your new system. Onboard sucks.
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Sun Jan 07, 2007 12:57 pm

The Live! is pretty old tech, but for gaming almost anything Soundblaster will give you better performance in games than onboard.

As far as audio quality goes, onboard audio ranges from absolutely dismal to OK. Most onboard audio solutions will sound worse than a SB Live!; the best ones are probably on par with it.
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Sun Jan 07, 2007 12:59 pm

I can't claim to speak with any authority on the subject, but I seem to recall seeing some benches that showed your typical on-board solution taking on the order of 8% of the CPU for full EAX acceleration, whereas Audigy-level hardware knocks this down to 2-3%. Again, these numbers are sketchy, but there's definitely an advantage to using Creative's hardware to accelerate Creative's 3D algorithms. Big surprise there, I'm sure.

Now, this data was taken on a mainstream CPU from a few years back. Given a similar workload, a new C2D-level processor may only take a 4% hit for supporting on-board codecs, compared to a 1-2% hit for a Creative hardware-accelerated setup. Speculation, take it for it's worth.

There are other factors consider, of course. Some Creative drivers can be buggy, bloated, and annoying in some ways that a basic board's (Chaintech AV-710) may not. I'm a notorious Creative hater, so I'll stop here before sowing seeds of a thread drift.
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Sun Jan 07, 2007 1:05 pm

My gut feeling is that Intel HDA has improved on-board sound to the level of the SB Audigy. On the other hand your SB Live would offer better frames in gaming with its support for EAX.

HD Audio on Digit-Life wrote:
HD Audio Realtek ALC880 demonstrates rather good audio quality for integrated audio. It sounds very much like Creative Audigy. If you strain your ears to hear the fragment details, you may notice the slightest difference (a bit better transparency at high frequencies for Audigy). However, if you extend the interval between HD Audio and Creative Audigy auditions to five minutes, it will be impossible to hear the difference.

Comparing the audio quality of HD Audio Realtek ALC880 with that of Live!5.1, the superiority of Realtek ALC880 is obvious: better-balanced and smoother playback without the abrupt, rough tones. Note that the difference between ALC880 and Live!5.1 is much more pronounced than with Audigy. While Audigy and Realtek ALC880 sound almost alike, the Live!5.1 playback differs even in tembre of some instruments.
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Sun Jan 07, 2007 1:19 pm

Personally I'm just not interested in fancy 3D effects in games or have my PC connected up to a super expensive hifi so I'm perfectly happy with onboard sound.

I also hate Creative's drivers, yuck!
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Sun Jan 07, 2007 2:10 pm

I use discrete audio and onboard, at the same time.

My 5.1 speakers are hooked up to my Audigy, and my headset is hooked up to my onboard audio. This way I can get all my voice comms apps (Source games, TeamSpeak, Skype, etc.) to output to the headset, and my music and game sounds to the speakers, thus eliminating voice echo and keeping my conversations (more) private. :)
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Sun Jan 07, 2007 4:20 pm

If you're going to game, you want a Creative sound card like the X-Fi or Audigy2. The ADI on-board sound that ASUS is using is tolerable, but if you're stuck with Realtek, you're not hearing your games the way that you should. Remember that you can download a driver-only package from Creative if you don't want all of the bundled software.
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Sun Jan 07, 2007 4:34 pm

I'll second that "creative drivers -- yuck!" comment.

Note that if you have plans to install Vista, that Live! isn't going to do you any good. As far as [url=,Kb=ww_english_add,U={B8F60310-DA4F-11D3-94F4-00500463020E},Company={CEAE216D-8719-4C00-AC9F-03BC258F7B70},d=1130251443648,VARSET=ws:,case=14186]Vista drivers[/url] go, Creative has "no development planned" (the Live! 24bit does have a driver in beta). There [url=,Kb=ww_english_add,U={B8F60310-DA4F-11D3-94F4-00500463020E},Company={CEAE216D-8719-4C00-AC9F-03BC258F7B70},d=1130251443648,VARSET=ws:,case=7824]are drivers for XP x64[/url], however.
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Sun Jan 07, 2007 4:51 pm

I'm on an SB Audigy 2 ZS, however my next build will use integrated probably, unless I reuse this card(depends on what I do with this PC).
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Sun Jan 07, 2007 6:09 pm

Onboard audio is pathetic. It's suitable for temporary or infrequent use over horrible speakers.

My opinion may be biased because I have my sound card (whether it be onboard or my X-fi) connected to a headphone amp with Sennhesier HD580 headphones. You can literally HEAR the onboard card making little beeps and boops if you have no sound playing and turn the amp up a bit (among other odd noises). Static and other anomolies in games, etc.

I don't really care for Creative's way of doing things (I wish they had a "super-lite no-bloat" driver package), but their performance in games and signal-to-noise ratio is a considerable improvement in my experience.
Gerbil In Training
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Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:40 am

As it stands, I'm NOT going to be replacing the current sound card, unless I switch to Vista (Thanks UberGerbil). And I don't think the creative drivers are _that_ bad... I've seen worse.

I'm currently hooked up to a Logitech (4.1) speaker setup, the one that DIDN'T buzz, so the sound quality I get is actually quite good.

A part of me wants to use the on-board audio, as plugging in a seven year old PCI card makes me feel dirty (Weird I know!). I'm just worried that it will impact on frame rates.

I'll do some benchmarking with my new system, and post the results up.
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Mon Jan 08, 2007 12:05 pm

X-Fi Platinum here. Can't live with anything onboard. Eww.
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say no to onboard

Mon Jan 08, 2007 12:12 pm

I remember trying to live with onboard sound from a Realtek/VIA sound chip. Compared to the SB Live! 24-bit, the sound was grainy and weak and poorly done overall. If I played games, it would simply be intolerable, as opposed to just plain unacceptable.

If you have a real speaker setup or play games or are a real music aficionado, a discreet sound card is MANDATORY.
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Mon Jan 08, 2007 12:23 pm

After my second Audigy2 ZS died one me (about a month out of warranty of course), I reverted to on-board sound. In this case, it was the Soundmax chip on my Asus P5B. The sound quality was variable. Sometimes you could hear pops and hiss, low frequency audio (like explosions in games or music with heavy bass) was distorted and crackly and other sounds frequently sounded clipped. I got an X-Fi for christmas, it is a massive improvement. I've not been a fan of Creative stuff for a long time but being able to game again without horrible sound was wonderful :)
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Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:34 pm

Sounds like we have a mixed group in here. I'm thinking that the soundblaster live may give you a slight performance boost but nothing significant. So it comes down to this, try listening to a song with a range of tones on both and see what sounds better. :)
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Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:50 pm

i find a huge difference in onboard and discreet. I have a 5.1 sound system and my x-fi card sounds 100 times better than my onboard sound card. I will never use integrated sound cards ever again. There is just too big of a difference.
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Mon Jan 08, 2007 4:10 pm

You can check out a benchmark where the SB Live and integrated sound are both compared. ... dex.x?pg=3

I think you will see better performance with the SB Live in games. But if your onboard sound is an HDA implementation it might well sound better.

Any chance you want to go and test this out since you have the hardware available?
Gerbil In Training
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Mon Jan 08, 2007 5:54 pm

Ah... my suspicions were generally right.

The new on-board audio does support 24/96 audio, whereas the Live! doesn't... which I was leaning that way. But according to those benchmarks, even crappy discreet may be better than good (*cough* don't say anything *cough*) on-board, for acceleration. Maybe not for sound quality though. The Realtek quotes a 95db SNR compared with only 82 for the Live!. I'll have to have a gander.

I'll run them both through some EAX benchmarks and post the results up here.

And I'm going to be looking for an upgrade in the future. I just needed to know which way to go for the time being... the monitor probably needs replacing first...
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Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:16 pm

Keep in mind that Realtek does not even do EAX properly, so any benchmarks of relative EAX performance are completely meaningless: ... dex.x?pg=1
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Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:45 pm

did you already buy the mobo?

idk much about that particular one, but when paired with the right codecs, the p965 chipset can produce very satisfying sound, like what comes out of the asus p5b series, for example.

do some research on that board, and see how it does with utilizing the p965 onboard audio potential.
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Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:38 pm

Onboard ftw!
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Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:47 pm

onboard audio is plain inferior. Myself I like dedicated hardware and frequency response for those low low's. :roll:
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Tue Jan 09, 2007 7:04 pm

Just wanted to point out this link to anyone interested in having some detailed info on Soundcard quality. ... rd101.mspx

And here is some info on the X-Fi:
3. 136dB SNR Processing Quality
The Sound Blaster X-Fi audio processor features an SRC engine that is so precise that any audio resolution is converted to any other resolution at near transparency with 136db SNR (THD+N) - a conversion that's over 300 times higher quality than the previous best (Sound Blaster® Audigy®). This delivers truly incredible quality and audio experience for any audio and frees up the audio creation user from having to think about the final required resolution - record at whatever resolution you want and just SRC to your final requirements.
Last edited by computron9000 on Tue Jan 09, 2007 7:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Tue Jan 09, 2007 7:05 pm

I'm using an on-board, but due to 2 reasons. The first being I don't have any available PCI slots, the second being that my MSI Diamond comes with Creative sound already on it. So I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.
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Tue Jan 09, 2007 7:49 pm

mafropetee wrote:
the p965 chipset can produce very satisfying sound, like what comes out of the asus p5b series, for example.

Intel p965 chipset doesnt have audio. The Asus P5B motherboard uses the SoundMax audio chip (AD1988). Some users experience problems with it; distortions (put global volume to 80% to avoid it) and slower WinXP boot time. I never had problems with it, never was annoyed the 1 sec slower xp boot.

However I bought the SB X-Fi Fatal1ty, my first Creative product in my 16years of PC user career. Have been avoiding that crap.

Reason was its a bit cheaper now and I wanted uber soundcard for upcoming ET:QW and I liked to hear how good Battlefield2 sounds, i play that most. Also wanted to finally have a real EAX soundcard other sound solutions i have had never sounded right or had probs in EAX (Aureal A3D, NForce2 etc.) . SoundMax audio doesnt have OpenAL support while X-Fi does and games like ET:QW (Quake4 engine), Company of Heroes and BF2 uses that.

Result of changing the soundcard so far:
WinXP booting is ~1.5secs faster compred to SoundMax.

BF2 sounds nice with Ultra High quality, very deep bass now (look at the jets flying with afterburner on sky) and much richer sounds. Although I cant hear enemy artillery starting anymore from other side of map. That helped to avoid it quite often but i think that wasnt supposed to be heard anyway.

3Dmark 2003:
SoundMax vs. X-Fi Fatal1ty
Total score 27438 vs. 27576 +0,50%
Sound tests:
no sound fps 141,9 vs. 142,9 +0,70%
24 sounds fps 132,9 vs. 133,4 +0,37%
60 sounds fps n/a vs. 125,1

Not much gains there. And let me remind you that X-Fi drivers uses ridiculous amounts of system memory, at least about 15Mb.

BTW. In Windows Vista it is not anymore possible to use hardware acceleration in 3DDirectSound! Creative has announced that it will do drivers that do it anyway by translating 3DDirectSound commands to OpenAL. Time will tell if thats just marketing hype or are there any gains with it.
Last edited by nanite on Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Tue Jan 09, 2007 9:20 pm

Well here are two facts: a) Onboard audio increases CPU usage usually
b) Sound cards usually give better quality sound than onboard (no mention of margin here, so don't start flaming)

I personally couldn't really take onboard after I broke my x-fi (I took off heatsink). But that's because it was Realtec, which wasn't so good anyway. (The latest one can't emulate sounds correctly, unlike other onboard situiations). However, I beleive that its because of the software and drivers that creative has that makes it so good. Unless, you want to manually tune your onboard, then its hard to get truly good quality [and it's definitely noticable ... well I DO have 7 speakers].
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Tue Jan 09, 2007 9:27 pm

ScythedBlade wrote:
Unless, you want to manually tune your onboard, then its hard to get truly good quality [and it's definitely noticable ... well I DO have 7 speakers].

I have no idea what you mean by "manually tune your onboard".

With a lot of onboard sound implementations, the only way you'd be able to get "truly good quality" is by redesigning the audio circuits and using better DACs... in other words, it just ain't gonna happen.
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Re: On Board Audio Vs. Discreet

Tue Jan 09, 2007 9:46 pm

Monkey1998 wrote:
In my old system is an old SoundBlaster Live! PCI, which I'm considering moving accross.

I have been moving my SB Live from computer to computer, and it consistently beats whatever onboard chips that had been on them. There are utilities that you can use to mod the Audigy drivers to work on the Live.

If you want to ditch Creative drivers, try the kX driver. It does not support EAX, but the sound quality is noticably better if you allow the driver to invert the front and back speakers.

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