In the wake of the argument over my last Dr. Damage asks
episode about integrated audio vs. PCI, I resolved to reassemble the Shuttle AV32
-based system and do some audio testing. I wanted to establish two things:
- Does Via's integrated AC'97 audio sound as good as a decent PCI sound card?
- How does the Via match up to the PCI card in terms of CPU utilization?
I hooked the system up to some moderately decent speakers with both the Via audio and an SBLive! Platinum card enabled and installed, then used the Windows control panel (and my hands) to switch between the two devices. I fired up an MP3 player and listened. It took all of about 60 seconds for me to come to two conclusions:
Now, I've heard Guillemot's $25 MUSE card back-to-back with the Creative, and I think the MUSE sounds a little cripser. The Live's audio has a warmer, richer feel to it, which some may prefer, but I have no illusions about the Creative card's relative merits. Thing is, it doesn't matter. Integrated audioat least in the latest incarnation from Viais the PC speaker of the 21st century: good enough for system bells, bleeps, and bloops, but not up to snuff otherwise.