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Last post Author Topic: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?  (Read 14809 times)

mouser

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Any thoughts on this issue?
I have a 1yt old motherboard with built-in sound, and a 5-10 yr old pci creativelabs lowend sound card.
Which is likely to be better?

tinjaw

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2006, 12:49:32 PM »
It depends on the sound chips involved. The one on the mobo is probably just as good if not better.

vegas

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2006, 02:36:19 PM »
Instinct would say the newer onboard sound is better.  But you could just install them both (without conflict hopefully) and see which one sounds better.

f0dder

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2006, 09:19:48 AM »
Onboard sound seems to have become pretty nice in the recent years - intel seems to have been doing a lot of nice work there.

Main problem with onboard sound is that it can be pretty noisy because of EMI... dunno if they've been able to fix that. I wouldn't mind getting rid of my Audigy next time I upgrade, creative aren't known for doing the best drivers in the world...

perhaps I shoudl just get a decent DAC and use digital out from my mobo, no noise there :)
- carpe noctem

Josh

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2006, 09:26:24 AM »
What sound card do you have to throw in there and what is the onboard audio that is on the board? It all depends. I have an on-board audio chipset that rivals my SB Audigy 2 ZS. The quality, at least to me, is unnoticably different

superticker

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2006, 10:41:03 AM »
For generic stereo sound, the sound on the motherboard may be the best choice from a high-speed interface design prospective.  The "internal" PCI bus on the motherboard can have better throughput (perhaps even be 66 MHz instead of 33 MHz) than going through an actual PCI connector.  Also, the more cards you plug into the PCI bus, the more you digitally load that bus (which also increases the noise generated on the bus).

When laying out the motherboard, routing restrictions are placed on the analog/linear signal traces so they aren't running parallel to any digital traces.  That's why all the linear chips are grouped away from the digital chips.  I would agree some noise does creep in, but a real effort is made to minimize this with appropriate routing and layout.

In commercial instrumentation (such as the VXI instrument bus), the entire analog portion of the card is shielded with aluminum housing.  But VXI cards cost $2000 each and the digital noise must be kept to a minimum.  In the National Instruments SCIX bus, we place the analog cards (carrying mV signals) in an entirely separate subchassis from the host (digital) computer, which is the best solution.

If you're assembling a home entertainment center with 5.1 channels of sound, then you'll need a separate sound card.  In this case, try plugging the sound card as far away as possible from the other digital cards.  Use common sense when arranging the cards in your computer.  Your high speed DMA cards (SATA, SCSI, etc interfaces) should be placed in the fastest PCI slots closest to the RAM chips.  Any analog/linear cards should be placed as far away as possible from these high-speed cards to reduce switching noise from creeping into them.

Also remember, the filter capacitors in your power supply aren't getting any bigger as you add more cards to your computer.  As you load the power supply, its ability to filter noise will be reduced unless you install a bigger supply (with bigger capacitors).
« Last Edit: November 05, 2006, 10:58:43 AM by superticker »

dk70

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2006, 01:32:54 PM »
I think card should be placed in the slot which suits motherboard the best. Even if irq sharing is less a problem today you cant always pick and chose.

Anyway, when I had Realtek 650 onboard plus SBlive I had both enabled and in games there were not so much difference. With music SBlive were clearly better. Probably also in games but depends on setup. Some games might give problems with cpu use for onboard. Since Realtek 650 is kind of old, yours could be newer and so likely better, and your Creative card is ancient, SB10?, then I would put money on onboard being the better choice.

A really good onboard chip running as hardware not software is Creative Live! 24-bit chip. Why I bought my particular motherboard. I also have Audigy 2, very hard to give thumbs up or down to any of them. Audigy have better drivers for newer games though. That Live chip also comes on external card which should be cheap and may be worth to consider if you have sensitive ears/good speakers and onboard dissapoints.

mouser

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2006, 01:43:20 PM »
i really appreciate all the replies!   :up: :up: :up:
i learned some interesting stuff too.  i guess all things considered i'll just leave it with the onboard sound unless it comes up particularly noisy for some task.

i thought i was going to get a reply saying that the onboard sound is a big cpu drain and so for games and stuff i should avoid it at all costs.  it's nice to know they've improved onboard sound to the point where it's not such a big deal anymore.

dk70

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2006, 01:52:19 PM »
They still can be - depends on each game and drivers and also on how much you ask. Even my old Realtek could imitate EAX, yeah right.. Worked much better with simple 2 speaker and no effects. I doubt any onboard can compete with latest higher end audio cards - not in combination with good speakers and latest games. Could be whatever dusty onboard is "ok" at a higher level than you expected. Equalizer can do wonders. If you have Creative SB10 onboard got to be better, SBlive is way better.

f0dder

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2006, 03:11:54 PM »
Thanks for the in-depth info, superticker!

I wonder how the (recent) onboard sound chipsets handle things like EAX effects. Certainly wasn't good some years back, I got BSODs if I enabled EAX in some games with onboard sound (and my terratec xfire had buggy drivers as well). It sounds like intel takes onboard sound pretty seriously.
- carpe noctem

dk70

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2006, 05:53:38 PM »
Nvidia Soundstorm was very very good and yet they took it out for some reasons not known to normal humans/buyers. Were there not talk about Nvidia getting into sound card market? Soundstorm just too good, several years old now. Big mistake to think we get the best of what is available.

I read a review of Intels HD audio, more or less concluded it was about marketing with higher numbers than before. Not really that relevant to majority of users. But worked as promised. Think they rated it on level with Audigy not Audigy 2 - not too bad for something you get for free. Or will there be premium price for HD audio? If thrown around like cheap Realtek chips product is very nice no matter marketing. Creative still score many points thanks to game developers who optimize for their drivers. Will be hard to beat as long as they rule market.

Groetje

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2006, 11:39:08 AM »
I have considered ditching add-on sound card but sound quality in games deteriorates with onboard audio even with basic EAX 2.0 standard. Actually this is for sure the case with HD Audio from Realtec according to some research done by company called Analog Devices as reported by Techreport:
http://www.techrepor...ard-eax/index.x?pg=1


mouser

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2006, 11:46:14 AM »
thanks for the great link Groetje, that's very useful.

Lashiec

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2006, 11:52:06 AM »
Yes, if you're a bit of an audiophile or a gamer, a separate card is always better. With the onboard sound chips you're playing the Russian roulette, you can have good results or you can end with a terrible sound as it happened to a couple of friends.

f0dder

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2006, 05:05:53 PM »
Yes, if you're a bit of an audiophile or a gamer, a separate card is always better. With the onboard sound chips you're playing the Russian roulette, you can have good results or you can end with a terrible sound as it happened to a couple of friends.

Are you sure that goes for an audiophile with Intel HD audio? I've only read the specs, but those do seem pretty good (8 channels at 192KHz/32bit, Dolby Pro Logic IIx...). Might not have super EAX support for the gamerz, but (at least on paper  :-\ ) it seems decent enough.
- carpe noctem

superboyac

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #15 on: November 06, 2006, 06:06:47 PM »
In recent years, I've always noticed that the built-in motherboard sound is pretty good.  I'm a musician, so I have different needs, namely, ASIO support (for those that are familiar).  I actually have two pci soundcards on my computer, the turtle beach for regular stuff, and the ASIO one for pro-level musician stuff.  What I like about this setup is that I can control the volume from my mixer rack separately...so mp3's and internet audio won't affect the settings on my keyboard playback sounds.  Actually, I think that with some better equipment, you can control all volumes with a single soundcard, but I'm not that sophisticated.

So, to answer your question, the motherboard is probably fine.

PS  Remember back in the day (early 90's) when there was a huge difference between onboard sounds and sound blaster sound?  My parents never let me get a soundcard, but a family friend snuck one to me once...and I was blown away by the difference, it was crazy!  The kids these days, they don't appreciate what they have.  sigh.

f0dder

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #16 on: November 06, 2006, 06:16:17 PM »
I have owned a full-length gravis ultrasound (max? can't remember) - not when it was new and fancy, though. Biggest ISA card I've ever seen. Was a pretty damn cool card, in comparison the SB16 sounds pretty bleep-blop :)

- carpe noctem

superticker

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #17 on: November 06, 2006, 07:02:41 PM »
... [3D] sound quality in games deteriorates with on-board audio even with basic EAX 2.0 standard. This is for sure ... from Realtek according to ... Analog Devices as reported by Techreport:  http://www.techrepor...ard-eax/index.x?pg=1
Gee, I didn't even know what EAX-2.0 3D sound was until I read that very interesting article.  Your ears do tell you direction.  For example, if you're out hunting, and you hear a shot, you know which direction it came from if you were paying attention.

As the article points out, though, they can't say whether the failure of the Realtek-based solutions to support EAX occlusions and obstructions correctly is the fault of the Realtek sound chip or its driver.  (EAX occlusion effect is where the sound of a source in the 3D field diminishes when another 3D object passes in from of it.)  My guess is that this is a problem with its driver.  The driver isn't scheduling service of all the 3D effects as it should.

If you have a motherboard with a Realtek sound chip, I would go to their website and download their latest driver if your 3D game isn't behaving right.  Understand, manufactures are under pressure to get their latest technology out the door, so PC hardware typically ships with partially functioning drivers.  I think this audience already knows that.

Yes, if you're a bit of an audiophile or a gamer, a separate card is always better.  With the on-board sound chips you're playing the Russian roulette, you can have good results or you can end with a terrible sound ...
Are you sure that goes for an audiophile with Intel HD audio? I've only read the specs, but those do seem pretty good (8 channels at 192KHz/32bit, Dolby Pro Logic IIx...). Might not have super EAX support for the gamerz, but it seems decent enough.

There's nothing wrong with the specs.  In fact, the spec are soooo good that engineers laugh at them.  Think about 32-bit sound for a moment.  10*log10(2^32)= 96 dB.  Ha, ha, now tell us your $4000 sound system can reproduce 96 dB correctly.  I would be impressed if it could reproduce 50 dB successfully (30 dB would be more realistic).  An analog FM radio station is limited to 15 dB per channel by the FCC; otherwise, it hogs the broadcast spectrum.

What the specs don't tell you about the motherboard (or daughter sound card)--and perhaps they should--is how much of that 96 dB is digital noise from the host computer.  If your motherboard's audio circuits are laid out correctly, noise won't appear until the 50 dB level, and your 30 dB sound system won't know the difference.  If the audio circuits are laid out poorly, noise might appear at the 30 dB level and a $2000 sound system will hear that.

When you build your system, always shoot for a balanced design.  If you spent thousands on your audio system, then why do any A/D conversion inside the host computer?  Will you hear a difference if you take the audio conversion outside "the box"?  Probably not, but your ears might be better than mine.  It's really about doing a balanced design; remember a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2006, 07:35:23 PM by superticker »

cranioscopical

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #18 on: November 06, 2006, 09:02:28 PM »
Quote
The kids these days, they don't appreciate what they have.
And those damned policemen keep getting younger, too!
I'm using on-board sound with the machine I'm running now.  It's the first time I've not installed a separate sound card:
C-Media CMI9880 High Definition Audio solution with
7.1-channel CODEC
1 x Coaxial S/PDIF out port
1 x Optical S/PDIF out port
Supports Dolby® Digital Live™ Technology
Suits me fine for sound from a computer. Game sound is satisfactory. If I want to sit and really listen to music there are other systems for that. 

f0dder

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2006, 08:56:15 AM »
superticker: remember that digital output is supported; I doubt that you'd get much surround sound without digital out anyway? The amount of noise on analog out is still interesting though, for hooking up headphones without a long cable going next room to the amp :)

For the Realtek chips, the EAX stuff is very likely solved in driver software, since it seems to be a pretty dumb chip. Would be nice knowing if the intel HD audio supports EAX, how well it supports it, and if it's done in hardware or software.

My next system will most likely be core2duo based, with intel HD audio - and it would be nice knowing if I can scrap my Audigy card and use onboard, or if I'll just do as usual and disable onboard audio.
- carpe noctem

Carol Haynes

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2006, 09:30:25 AM »
My next system will most likely be core2duo based, with intel HD audio - and it would be nice knowing if I can scrap my Audigy card and use onboard, or if I'll just do as usual and disable onboard audio.

You can always use both and have 14.2 surround sound ;)

skywalka

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #21 on: November 09, 2006, 11:07:45 AM »
Onboard sound is more prone to stuttering when the CPU is busy.  I've managed to improve performance on one motherboard by downloading a driver from the chip manufacturer, even though the MB manufacturer still provides new drivers.

Onboard sound is so common that U will probably have to get it anyway.  If you are not satisfied, then, you can worry about getting a card.

superticker

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #22 on: November 09, 2006, 12:02:19 PM »
On-board sound is more prone to stuttering when the CPU is busy.
Whether your sound stutters or not has little to do with the hardware and everything to do the how the sound driver schedules its completion routines (driver scheduling).  Remember, Windows is not a real-time OS (RTOS); therefore, it lacks the proper multi-tiered driver model of a regular RTOS such as VxWorks, Nucules, MQX, etc.  To get around this shortcoming, Windows has a special encoder/decoder driver-level process for the real-time post-processing of the video and audio stream.  If you have stuttering and jitter, start by deleting the codecs you don't need or update them.  Chances are your codec mix is incompatible and/or their relative priorities are set wrong.  Set their priorities such that the fastest and most robust ones get chosen first.

If you have an early version of your sound driver, you should also update it.

skywalka

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #23 on: November 09, 2006, 04:34:06 PM »
OK, I've reread your post a couple dozen times & I'm beginning to understand... ;D

Thanx superticker.  Do you know how to set these priorities?

f0dder

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Re: What's better: modern built-in motherboard sound chip or old sound card?
« Reply #24 on: November 09, 2006, 05:22:19 PM »
superticker: I'd say that hardware has a good deal to do with it, once we deal with stuff more advanced that dumb raw audio playback (and even there, issues like IRQ/DMA effiency and DMA buffer sizes might say a tiny bit, on older hardware anyway).

But once you start taking audio mixing, effects etc. into account, there's bound to be some difference between (simplistic) onboard audio and a "real" board - how much is done in hardware, how much is done in (possibly CPU-expensive?) driver software, etc...
- carpe noctem