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So i'm planning for a new PC build soon and i realise i have to get rid of my old soundcard :(

lukilladog

Member
There is nothing wrong with the quality of most onboard audio solutions these days, if you can hear a difference it is because your soundcard is sweetened, get the peace equalizer to tweak onboard if you like audio to be like that. I just ditched my xonar card btw, tested two alder Lake motherboards, an asus and one gigabyte with monitor sennheiser hd headphones, no need for a new card at all.
 
Here's another issue i have...

With the Audigy and the fully working driver, i get this option in the speaker settings:



My speakers are pretty solid, an older Logitech 5.1 z5400 set, but they do need a small push with the higher frequencies. And that particular Treble Balance setting you see in the pic, makes the sound crystal clear.

I can't have the same result with anything else like player equalizers, for instance. Plus, this panel fixes the sound across every program, media player or game.

I couldn't find this option with the Omni. Not sure if it exists with the SoundBlaster Z.

Does anyone else use a device that gives them this particular panel?
Dude I found you, my internet twin! I've been using an X-Fi Titanium PCI-E for the last 13+ years and this sound panel option, to boost the Treble, is a MUST for my Logitech Z-5500s 5.1 surround sound system. I always crank that Treble Balance to the max +12.0 dB and it has a huge impact on the quality of sound coming out my speakers. About 5+ years ago, when I upgraded to my current system a 7700k and Asus Maximus IX Hero Z270 board, I decided to try messing with the Realtek onboard sound drivers to see if I could replicate the same exact audio quality and Treble boost + equalizer options with the onboard sound. I found out that technically it can do something that's functionally identical, however there's a catch: it only enables the equalizer and Treble boost IF a supported program is running and emitting audio. The simplest case was Windows Media Player, had to be running and playing sound for the driver to apply the tweaks. There was no way to force it to just apply the settings at all times globally for all programs and games. What a pain in the ass. So here I am in 2022 still using my Creative X-Fi Titanium and Logitech Z-5500 setup and I refuse to change sound cards. I got super scared a few years ago when Windows 10 1903 came out and completely broke the X-Fi audio drivers, making it not work at all. It was a miracle that Creative came out and released an updated driver for us, the final one, to fix this problem. May Microsoft not break our drivers again for a long, long time to come, so we can continue using these classic beast audio cards that still deliver the best user experience and sound quality to this day.
 

nkarafo

Member
Dude I found you, my internet twin! I've been using an X-Fi Titanium PCI-E for the last 13+ years and this sound panel option, to boost the Treble, is a MUST for my Logitech Z-5500s 5.1 surround sound system. I always crank that Treble Balance to the max +12.0 dB and it has a huge impact on the quality of sound coming out my speakers. About 5+ years ago, when I upgraded to my current system a 7700k and Asus Maximus IX Hero Z270 board, I decided to try messing with the Realtek onboard sound drivers to see if I could replicate the same exact audio quality and Treble boost + equalizer options with the onboard sound. I found out that technically it can do something that's functionally identical, however there's a catch: it only enables the equalizer and Treble boost IF a supported program is running and emitting audio. The simplest case was Windows Media Player, had to be running and playing sound for the driver to apply the tweaks. There was no way to force it to just apply the settings at all times globally for all programs and games. What a pain in the ass. So here I am in 2022 still using my Creative X-Fi Titanium and Logitech Z-5500 setup and I refuse to change sound cards. I got super scared a few years ago when Windows 10 1903 came out and completely broke the X-Fi audio drivers, making it not work at all. It was a miracle that Creative came out and released an updated driver for us, the final one, to fix this problem. May Microsoft not break our drivers again for a long, long time to come, so we can continue using these classic beast audio cards that still deliver the best user experience and sound quality to this day.
And i thought i was the only one!

True, the Logitech z Series were great speakers with great bass but they needed that tone/treble boost. I don't actually set it to max though, that's too much. But i do set it a couple of notches higher.

Have you ever tried any community drivers for your card? Thank god for those because my Audigy 2 would only work as a generic card with the official drivers in Windows 7 and 10. No EAX panels, no nothing. XP was the last OS supported officially, lol. I wonder if it will work with Windows 11.


You should be able to connect it to a pciex slot, it should go into compatibility mode automatically. I use a xonar essence stx, but that is pciex already
But how? It doesn't even fit, the PCIe slot is tiny. Do you mean the Graphics card slot? Or something else i'm not getting?


My old rig has a Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2G PCI only. Went through the same motions to figure out if I could use it with a 2019 rig somehow. I eventually ruled out PCIE adapters just from concerns with quality. Any noise introduced via shitty adapter components/shielding would entirely undermine the point of having the sound card rather than using onboard.
That PCIE to USB to PCI with SATA power seems like a nightmare situation for me. That said reviews mention positive experiences for soundcards specifically so maybe it is worth a go?

I guess it won't hurt to try. It's cheap enough so not a huge risk even if it won't work.

I do like this particular adapter because the PCI board part is lose and seperated from the adapter part that goes to the Motherboard. So i can secure the card at the bottom of the case and it should hold the board with it. It's also down below so it will probably help with any interference? In my current setup the card is much closer to other components and i don't have such issues. I can even set the card in front of the case or even outside of it if i want, it's only the USB and the PSU cable that connects the card to the system. Which is neat. Maybe i could make a custom external box for it.

Not sure about any extra noise from the PCI board itself though. Doesn't seem to have many components on it so i think it should be fine. I just hope i won't get any compatibility issues with the adapter, that's all.
 
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BlackTron

Member
Have you tried making a virtual PC with Windows XP? Have the card as a generic one on the main OS and see if it works properly on the guest OS.

Also, have you tried the drivers in the link i posted in this thread? The Audigy works 100% with those, i know you said you tried some custom drivers but have you yried those?

I used custom drivers in the distant past for the 5.1, through a confluence of factors I just moved on. The USB device I have is a good enough instant fix, and putting something in my only PCI slot would have it sit right against the bulky video card for a bad cooling arrangement. It was never as good as the original Creative software's EQ and presets anyway.

I still have the board of my old XP build stored away though, along with all the other random PC accumulation like the antistatic bag of bunched up RAM sticks where you're pretty sure half of them are bad and a few might be from the 90s...one day maybe I will work up enough gumption to put back on my super patient nerd hat and make sense of it all and hopefully result in something that runs lol...
 

SScorpio

Member
Many modern mid range MBs have isolated audio sections with high quality caps, and their own routed power lines. At least give it a chance before buying something else.

Windows 10/11 has a large number of audio effects you can apply. And Realtek drivers include room enhancement which can provide that fuller 3d feel.
 
Question for the PC audiophiles:
Is a setup using optical / toslink still subject to audio quality issues from EMI if the motherboard or internal sound card is used, as opposed to an external DAC? I wouldn't expect so since the signal is all digital right until it leaves the PC.
Obviously, getting 5.1 out of that setup requires compression into Dolby Digital or DTS, though I must admit I don't hear a difference.
 

Cyberpunkd

Gold Member
Man, the late 1990s is where I saw lots of advertisement for the sound cards - Thief just came out and people were really emphasising the importance of sound there.
Shame this market didn’t develop, likewise with quality desktop speakers. Music is also glanced over most of the time in the reviews.
 

nkarafo

Member
Many modern mid range MBs have isolated audio sections with high quality caps, and their own routed power lines. At least give it a chance before buying something else.

Windows 10/11 has a large number of audio effects you can apply. And Realtek drivers include room enhancement which can provide that fuller 3d feel.

How many chances i have to give, before i give up on Motherboards completely? The last 15 years i must have tried a large enough amount i think. It's not like people buy sound cards anymore. Every PC that ends up on me to fix or build from scratch, 100% of them, use the MB for sound. I never came across a single one that sounds as good as the Audigy 2 or the Soundblaster Z.

Or, you could be more specific than "many modern mid range MBs". Quite a few posters seem to defend MB audio but nobody posted a single specific model for me to focus on and try myself. To me that looks like most are just speculating or don't really care that much. I mean i get it, it's more convenient how sound cards aren't a thing anymore, that would be another headache, right? People already have to spend energy trying to decide what CPU and Graphics card they need to buy. So motherboard having good enough sound is easier.

You say i should give it a chance but that seems even harder because there are way more Motherboards out there than sound cards, not to mention the motherboard pretty much dictates what CPU you have to buy so it's a bit more risky to get out and buy a Motherboard to test it's sound based on a tell. It's not like "doing my research" will help much either since no Motherboard review ever focuses on audio, nor any reviewer seems to care enough. And, to be frank, i don't trust many people regarding this topic, i think it's obvious from my posts.

Also, Realtek for sound is bad. It's the bottom of the barrel for me based on my experience and many samples. Unless, ofc, you talk about a specific motherboard that i might have missed. And i also know about audio effects. I'm not looking for that, i'm looking for actual sound quality. How deep/powerful the sound is, how clean, how instruments separate, etc.


Shame this market didn’t develop, likewise with quality desktop speakers. Music is also glanced over most of the time in the reviews.

SFX too. And it's not like most developers care about that either. Most just use stock/generic sounds that "do the job". When was the last time you played a game and got impressed by it's sound effects? For me it was Inside. And before that Half-Life 2. When was the last time you saw a topic about sound effects? When was the last time you discussed about sound effects in a game with your friends?
 
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Cyberpunkd

Gold Member
SFX too. And it's not like most developers care about that either. Most just use stock/generic sounds that "do the job". When was the last time you played a game and got impressed by its sound effects? For me it was Inside. And before that Half-Life 2. When was the last time you saw a topic about sound effects? When was the last time you discussed about sound effects in a game with your friends?
Getting Steam Deck in a week, can you recommend some PC games that have great music and sounds?
 

CuNi

Member
I'm not here to shit on anyone, but saying there is a night and day difference is only when you buy low-tier MBs with shit audio chips on them.
I have a friend who bought one sound card for around 50€ and my onboard Audio chip not only can power higher impedance with good quality which his sound card can't, it even has a better SNR than his card.
Many people also never realize that you can bump the resolution to 24 bits on most motherboards by now too to actually take advantage of MP3-320 or WAV/FLAC etc. file formats. Hell, mine even supports 32-Bits resolution, which some Audio Cards out there don't even support because that's literally overkill.

And to prove my Point even further, I once too thought that there surely must be a big difference, so I bought myself a Shiit stack of a DAC and a headphone pre-amp and after switching back and forth, the difference was placebo at best.
The biggest jump you'll get in audio quality is buying good headphones / speakers. If you can deliver 24-bit 192kHz Signals to them noise free, you're set.

tl;dr
There is no real reason to buy sound cards in today's time and age because the price point where it would make actual sense to invest in those products, it's already more efficient to invest into external DAC's, Amp's and speakers, that only take the PC as an input and do all the work themselves. On top of that, seeing how GPUs are starting to take over the literal complete lower half of MBs, I could see them strip away PCIe ports in the near future because why use resources if you can't ever use it anyway. Fuck those 4 Slot monster cards.
 
I feel you. Happened to me between Vista and Windows 7. I was still using a sblive. That card rocked. I remember when I installed it years ago on my imitation Pentium 2 (cyrix chip) and then Pentium 3 and getting 15-20fps boost out of games. Why, because this sound card, unlike motherboard cards, or normal sound blaster cards, did all the processing on chip. This freed up tons of cpu resources. Back in the day, you needed every bit you could get. On my fake Pentium, it had a bad math coprocessor (FPU) so it was horrible at 3d games, even though I had it paired with a voodoo 3 card at the time. Going anywhere outside would drop fps like a rock. SBlive fixed that and let the cpu do more.
The Pentium 3 helped, but the sblive still helped at that time.

On top of the fps boost, the cards sounded better, like you said about your audigy. Real 3d sound is way different then cpu simulated. Games used to have hardware3d sound built into directX that took advantage of this, as well as EAX. Games like thief splinter cell, and other games like Battlefield 2/vietnam etc... had options for it. It was night and day difference, especially with 4.1 surround sound (or even without). You could tell where sound was coming from, footsteps would become closer and everything sounded distinct, not garbled as it was all on separate channels.

When Windows Vista dropped support, I was pissed. My card was working fine in XP. I probably would still be using it today or a newer model if MS didn't screw over sound card makers. They single handedly ruined an entire business.
No longer would EAX work and games stopped supporting it. Motherboard sound is weak. I know they still have sound cards today, but they aren't as prominent and game companies don't support them with cool new features like back in the day. It was night and day difference between an sblive and a motherboard chip. I miss it and having games that took advantage of true 3d sound.

As for your issue, others have already mentioned, pci-pcie adapter. Should be cheap on amazon or newegg.
I am sure you already got this, seeing as it is a necro of a 2021 post....oh well, Sound card discussions are always warranted.
 
I'm not here to shit on anyone, but saying there is a night and day difference is only when you buy low-tier MBs with shit audio chips on them.
I have a friend who bought one sound card for around 50€ and my onboard Audio chip not only can power higher impedance with good quality which his sound card can't, it even has a better SNR than his card.
Many people also never realize that you can bump the resolution to 24 bits on most motherboards by now too to actually take advantage of MP3-320 or WAV/FLAC etc. file formats. Hell, mine even supports 32-Bits resolution, which some Audio Cards out there don't even support because that's literally overkill.

And to prove my Point even further, I once too thought that there surely must be a big difference, so I bought myself a Shiit stack of a DAC and a headphone pre-amp and after switching back and forth, the difference was placebo at best.
The biggest jump you'll get in audio quality is buying good headphones / speakers. If you can deliver 24-bit 192kHz Signals to them noise free, you're set.

tl;dr
There is no real reason to buy sound cards in today's time and age because the price point where it would make actual sense to invest in those products, it's already more efficient to invest into external DAC's, Amp's and speakers, that only take the PC as an input and do all the work themselves. On top of that, seeing how GPUs are starting to take over the literal complete lower half of MBs, I could see them strip away PCIe ports in the near future because why use resources if you can't ever use it anyway. Fuck those 4 Slot monster cards.
Old sound blaster live /audigy cards weren't just about better quality sound, although that was part of it. It was real hardware support for 3d sound, taking over sound processing from the cpu, and eax effects. Games were programmed to take advantage of 3d sound and eax. There were toggles for this. It was night and day different. It also gave fps boosts back in the late 90s and early 00s.

Perhaps you are right though, without the game companies providing support to these features, it would be only what the card offered by default and that would be just better sound quality. In that case a good mb chip may be able to reach or exceed, but if they went back and did true hardware sound again it would be a totally different thing. Hardware based 3d audio, and eax was amazing in so many genres.
 

CuNi

Member
Old sound blaster live /audigy cards weren't just about better quality sound, although that was part of it. It was real hardware support for 3d sound, taking over sound processing from the cpu, and eax effects. Games were programmed to take advantage of 3d sound and eax. There were toggles for this. It was night and day different. It also gave fps boosts back in the late 90s and early 00s.

Perhaps you are right though, without the game companies providing support to these features, it would be only what the card offered by default and that would be just better sound quality. In that case a good mb chip may be able to reach or exceed, but if they went back and did true hardware sound again it would be a totally different thing. Hardware based 3d audio, and eax was amazing in so many genres.
Oh no, back in the day, you were totally right!
When they started popping up, it WAS night and day and an FPS boost on top, just like you said!
I even remember the times when games sounded different depending on what sound card you had! The first Doom is the most known one I think back from those times.
Crazy to think back and see how far we've come.
 

nkarafo

Member
I'm not here to shit on anyone, but saying there is a night and day difference is only when you buy low-tier MBs with shit audio chips on them.

Again, do you have a specific MB model that has better audio quality that a 50$ card?

I don't know what cards you heard and what kind of settings you used. I wish you could hear my setup, with my settings and custom presets, and compare it to the sound from the MB you are talking about.

No really, i'm curious myself because i never came across a motherboard that can come even remotely close to that. And no, i'm not talking about "low-tier" MBs, whatever that means. I assume you mean MBs below 100$? Mine was around 130 euros in 2015, a Gigabyte Z97 something and the sound chip is nowhere near as good as the Audigy 2 or the SB Z. Ofc, i tested more MBs than that, newer or older, cheaper or more expensive, with similar results.


Getting Steam Deck in a week, can you recommend some PC games that have great music and sounds?

Sadly, not much to recommend other than older games maybe.
 
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CuNi

Member
Again, do you have a specific MB model that has better audio quality that a 50$ card?

I don't know what cards you heard and what kind of settings you used. I wish you could hear my setup, with my settings and custom presets, and compare it to the sound from the MB you are talking about.

No really, i'm curious myself because i never came across a motherboard that can come even remotely close to that.




Sadly, not much to recommend other than much older games maybe.

Since you're talking about "your settings" and "your custom presets".
Sound is a very subjective thing.
My father has an old but still very good Audio Setup with a pair of stereo tower-speakers but pushes treble which to me just sounds wrong.
I prefer bass, so I tend to boost lower frequencies on my devices, to which my father and mother say "it just sounds like a long fart".

I don't know if any other Sound cards give you more settings, so you can maybe tweak it closer to your desired sound or more effects to add the sound.

I have a ASUS ROG STRIX X570-E board. Before that PC, I had a Shiit stack of the Modi as the DAC and then the Magni to help it power my Beyer dynamic 770's.
I felt like it sounded better back then, but after I got me new PC with the X570 I tried a back and forth with and without the Modi while listening to FLAC's of some of my favorite game OST's and I couldn't hear a difference. (Edit: PC Sound was set to 24-Bit @ 192kHz to provide some settings, funnily I sometimes had to drop it to 48kHz because some games like Tales of Zestiria just don't do well with 192kHz.)
Ended up getting rid of the Modi and bought myself a pair of 990's to be able to use the 770's for gaming when competitive games and the 990's for single player games and listening to music.

To be fair, I also didn't really hear a big difference in most games, since most use cheap sound effects and badly compressed audio anyway, but in the few games that still but work into sound, the headphones did the biggest difference, at least to me. If you google discussion about on board vs external, 95% of the threads are from 2011 where it most likely still had a difference that was easy to notice, but I'd say since 2018 especially in "high end" MB's the sound processors are way beyond good enough for gaming and casual Hi-Fi listening. If you want to truly get the best out of gaming/music/movies, then you're looking at a fully dedicated setup with like A/V, DAC, Amps and Speakers anyway that will cost you at the very least as much as an upcoming 4090 as an entry price.
 
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nkarafo

Member
Since you're talking about "your settings" and "your custom presets".
Sound is a very subjective thing.

Yeah, maybe that's my issue.

It's the specific combination of Sound card (Audigy 2), settings available for the card (hardware tone/treble, EAX EQ, etc), my speakers (Z5400) and my own presets. I managed to achieve the kind of sound that feels good to me (which was an evolution of what i had done with my SB Live! 5.1 before that) and i find it very hard to get something similar (let alone better) from other cards or MBs, etc. Even the SB Z, which is probably a better sound card than the Audigy falls a bit behind IMO in my ears.

I would describe the sound as "rich" and "powerful" with strong bass and very clear high frequencies. The sound i get from MBs (even after a lot of tweaking) don't have as crystal clear high frequencies, the sound isn't as "strong" and i always feel like it's a bit muffled, something i can't get rid off.

Now, while anecdotal, i have to also mention that a lot of my friends or other people that were interested in this agree with me, after they heard my setup. So it's not just me. But i do agree that there is no other way for someone to be able to tell unless they hear themselves and compare different setups. Reading words in a forum doesn't really cut it.
 

CuNi

Member
Yeah, maybe that's my issue.

It's the specific combination of Sound card (Audigy 2), settings available for the card (hardware tone/treble, EAX EQ, etc), my speakers (Z5400) and my own presets. I managed to achieve the kind of sound that feels good to me (which was an evolution of what i had done with my SB Live! 5.1 before that) and i find it very hard to get something similar (let alone better) from other cards or MBs, etc. Even the SB Z, which is probably a better sound card than the Audigy falls a bit behind IMO in my ears.

I would describe the sound as "rich" and "powerful" with strong bass and very clear high frequencies. The sound i get from MBs (even after a lot of tweaking) don't have as crystal clear high frequencies, the sound isn't as "strong" and i always feel like it's a bit muffled, something i can't get rid off.

Now, while anecdotal, i have to also mention that a lot of my friends or other people that were interested in this agree with me, after they heard my setup. So it's not just me. But i do agree that there is no other way for someone to be able to tell unless they hear themselves and compare different setups. Reading words in a forum doesn't really cut it.

I'm glad to hear that you found your personal perfect audio setup (at least currently, who knows what the future holds for your audio endeavors) and am equally sorry for the problem you have that it seems like you have to get rid of said card. I understand the frustration of fighting an uphill battle just to keep your favorite hardware working.

I think this is a two-sided issue we have with how fast technology is advancing, where on the one hand we have insane feats just leapfrogging themselves like GPUs and CPUs since 1990s till now, or Sound chips and onboard audio since then, which even todays cheapest on board audio is worlds apart from the very first on board audio chips. But also because this advancement tech becomes obsolete and unsupported rapidly (Phones only getting 1-3 years security updates, devices being left unsupported once the next gen releases or in your case your sound card.)

Also, since you also said it yourself, it is anecdotal.
I don't imply that you are lying and very much believe you that your friends said this, but I think such subjective things are very hard to pinpoint to one component.
We're here debating over the stage sound gets generated in, but what if the difference actually happens in the headphones or any other part of the chain? Headphones also have different levels of sensitivity and can reproduce different frequencies better, which is why there are some better suited for bass-heavy songs, others for rock, mastering headphones try to be as neutral as possible but afaik to get really close to neutral one has to sell a kidney or more.
So maybe your setup does generate a hearable difference, but for someone with different headphones there would be none? My "evidence" is also only anecdotal. I very well could just have a "taste" in music that I could reproduce easily between the Modi and my onboard audio chip.

The only fact that I can present is, that as of today, external and internal sound cards aren't apart as big as they were in the 2010's and earlier. I won't deny that cards produce better signals if you measure them, but from a technical standpoint, both are already very close to each other on paper, so if there indeed are night and day difference, it lets me assume it's not just one component but a multitude that harmonizes and skews the results one way or the other.

To not escalated too much into theoretical subjects, I would like to end this with the fact that I think everything that plays with anything that we as humans perceive, be it smell, hearing, vision or anything else, is inherently subjective.
We can compare all the "technical" aspects like SNR, dB etc. all we want. Maybe the very best of the best DAC's out there would sound bad to you, and I mean that would be a fact for you. It wouldn't matter that every engineer on earth would disagree with you. It would still sound bad to you and at the end of the day, how it sounds to you is all that matters.
 

SScorpio

Member
Or, you could be more specific than "many modern mid range MBs". Quite a few posters seem to defend MB audio but nobody posted a single specific model for me to focus on and try myself. To me that looks like most are just speculating or don't really care that much. I mean i get it, it's more convenient how sound cards aren't a thing anymore, that would be another headache, right? People already have to spend energy trying to decide what CPU and Graphics card they need to buy. So motherboard having good enough sound is easier.
I can't comment on MiniITX boards as many of them have covers hiding the PCBs. But look at literally any ATX or MicroATX modern motherboard and you'll see the bottom corner has all the audio hardware, and the outputs from it are kept isolated from the power rails and any other IO lines on the boards. Gone are the days when an audio chip is dropped down in the middle of the board with random line routing going everywhere.

If your Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sounds great to you, awesome. But that was released 20 years ago. We've peaked at audio reproduction capabilities. Your speakers, headphones, or earbuds are where the limits really are nowadays. Any nostalgia for that era of old sound cards sounding better is down to hidden filters and tweaked EQ levels. With some time doing calibration, you can achieve that sound on modern hardware. In the early days when you had the Yamaha OPL2/3 chips, the GUS, or various MIDI devices would give you different sounds for the game music. But now everything is based on samples or just playing back recorded audio.

Old sound cards used to be noisy. On my X570 with a dreaded Realtek chip, I'm using the analog outs into my good ol' Z-5500s and I can crank the volume to 100% with nothing playing and there is nothing but silence.

So use whatever works for you, but personally, I stay away from Sound Blaster hardware as it doesn't give you anything over onboard. I used them in the past, but fuck Creative. They sued Aureal into bankruptcy, so even though Aureal won their cases. They were driven out of business, and Creative swooped in and bought up the patents and sat on them. I had my Aureal Vortex 2, and the wave traced audio was amazing 24 years ago, and the PS5 is now finally advancing sound past where we had gotten.
 

nkarafo

Member
I can't comment on MiniITX boards as many of them have covers hiding the PCBs. But look at literally any ATX or MicroATX modern motherboard and you'll see the bottom corner has all the audio hardware, and the outputs from it are kept isolated from the power rails and any other IO lines on the boards. Gone are the days when an audio chip is dropped down in the middle of the board with random line routing going everywhere..

OK so MB sound hardware is isolated now? Is that what's all about?

Not enough unfortunately. I'm more interested in the hardware itself being good, not if it's isolated or not.


If your Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sounds great to you, awesome. But that was released 20 years ago. We've peaked at audio reproduction capabilities. Your speakers, headphones, or earbuds are where the limits really are nowadays. Any nostalgia for that era of old sound cards sounding better is down to hidden filters and tweaked EQ levels.

Maybe it's the filters and settings as you say but it's not "nostalgia". It really sounds better for me. I wouldn't want to go through all the trouble just for the nostalgia. If so, i could just keep the card in an older PC (i have two and building a third one with a 3DFX card for the nostalgia as you say). I want good sound on my main PC though.

But it's not just the settings either. Like i mentioned, i used the same ones on the Audigy Rx, a newer generation card of the Audigy line. And it couldn't handle them without some audible distortion. And it would also sound a bit more muffled. So the actual hardware does matter and it's better on the older Audigy 2.


In the early days when you had the Yamaha OPL2/3 chips, the GUS, or various MIDI devices would give you different sounds for the game music. But now everything is based on samples or just playing back recorded audio.

Different issue. Modern hardware also supports midi like the older cards and you can even emulate the different sound chips if you want, even OPL1.

But here i'm talking about sound quality. Between two OPL2 midi cards, which one sounds better? That's my issue.


Old sound cards used to be noisy. On my X570 with a dreaded Realtek chip, I'm using the analog outs into my good ol' Z-5500s and I can crank the volume to 100% with nothing playing and there is nothing but silence.

Fair enough. I have similar speakers, the Z-5400, that are a tiny bit smaller than the 5500. I also don't hear any hissing unless i go up to the 2 last digits, which i don't think i ever did while something is playing, my ears can't take it, lol. So i don't mind that. It's a very minor issue, a non-issue really, over the sound quality i'm getting from this. And i care more about how it sounds while something is playing 🤷‍♂️
 
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lukilladog

Member
Again, do you have a specific MB model that has better audio quality that a 50$ card?

The gigabyte h610-m and Asus b660m's sound just as good or better than a Xonar dx, now of course you are gonna notice how much boost there is on the low and high frecuencies of a Xonar, and other sound cards (which used to review excellently everywhere on the technical aspects of audio), but then you realize that the onboard is better balanced and allows you to appreciate mid frequency effects much better. Now, I also tend to prefer a bit of boost on highs and lows, but the APO equalizer paired with the Peace interface takes care of that (these are very complete programs, leagues beyond any manufacturer software).

Ps.- You said you were using max trebble on a creative card? :messenger_astonished:... maybe your tweeters are not in good shape if you can stand that.
 
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SScorpio

Member
Fair enough. I have similar speakers, the Z-5400, that are a tiny bit smaller than the 5500. I also don't hear any hissing unless i go up to the 2 last digits, which i don't think i ever did while something is playing, my ears can't take it, lol. So i don't mind that. It's a very minor issue, a non-issue really, over the sound quality i'm getting from this. And i care more about how it sounds while something is playing 🤷‍♂️
With modern audio chips, you can output 32bit 192Khz. It wasn't until the Sound Blaster X-Fi that creative cards could handle 16bit with 44Khz/48Khz conversion not causing audio artifacts, so your Audigy 2 has these problems.

This is very different from the MIDI and OPL example. Unless you are loading custom stuff, any MIDI playback on Windows XP+ uses Microsoft GS MIDI Synth which is lower quality samples from a Sound Canvas SC-55. Anything modern takes digitally recorded sound and plays it back. The old DOS era stuff had onboard synths creating the music on the fly. The Audigy 2 was from later than that era and everything is sample-based, with DOS and OPL compatibility falling back to software running in the drivers. And let's face it was the same as what was on the SB Live and Audigy 1 and OPL sounded horrible. But most DOS games people played at the time supported MIDI or CD Audio for music. And the Audigy either used Microsoft GS Synth or it loaded higher quality Soundfonts.

Modern sound output is extremely clean, and balanced in that you can connect the onboard analog outputs of a $130 motherboard to studio monitor speakers or headphones and have excellent sound extremely close to how the recording engineers heard and mixed the audio. But older sound hardware would mess with levels raising the bass or treble to create something that still sounds great, but had a feeling of this is from hardware "xyz".

Modern sound cards you buy will be using either C-Media or Realtek chips anyways. The exact same ones which are being placed on motherboards.

Sound is a personal thing so do use whatever sounds best to you, but try and tweak the different options that are available.

And a comic that's stuck with me went "In 150 years people will look back and wonder why society let Audiophiles spend hundred to thousands of dollars on a cable to get 'better' sound versus getting them the mental help they desperately need".
 

lukilladog

Member
With modern audio chips, you can output 32bit 192Khz. It wasn't until the Sound Blaster X-Fi that creative cards could handle 16bit with 44Khz/48Khz conversion not causing audio artifacts, so your Audigy 2 has these problems.

This is very different from the MIDI and OPL example. Unless you are loading custom stuff, any MIDI playback on Windows XP+ uses Microsoft GS MIDI Synth which is lower quality samples from a Sound Canvas SC-55. Anything modern takes digitally recorded sound and plays it back. The old DOS era stuff had onboard synths creating the music on the fly. The Audigy 2 was from later than that era and everything is sample-based, with DOS and OPL compatibility falling back to software running in the drivers. And let's face it was the same as what was on the SB Live and Audigy 1 and OPL sounded horrible. But most DOS games people played at the time supported MIDI or CD Audio for music. And the Audigy either used Microsoft GS Synth or it loaded higher quality Soundfonts.

Modern sound output is extremely clean, and balanced in that you can connect the onboard analog outputs of a $130 motherboard to studio monitor speakers or headphones and have excellent sound extremely close to how the recording engineers heard and mixed the audio. But older sound hardware would mess with levels raising the bass or treble to create something that still sounds great, but had a feeling of this is from hardware "xyz".

Modern sound cards you buy will be using either C-Media or Realtek chips anyways. The exact same ones which are being placed on motherboards.

Sound is a personal thing so do use whatever sounds best to you, but try and tweak the different options that are available.

And a comic that's stuck with me went "In 150 years people will look back and wonder why society let Audiophiles spend hundred to thousands of dollars on a cable to get 'better' sound versus getting them the mental help they desperately need".

Why are you so set on 192 khz anyway?. Have you done some software-based ABX testing?, I think it´s useless.
 

dcx4610

Member
Even though you don't technically need sound cards these days if you have a good motherboard, I still prefer a Sound Blaster for dedicated hardware and it's extra software features. It's not cheap ($349) but the latest Sound Blaster AE-9 is awesome and worth it if you want dedicated sound.

It's a solid upgrade over the Audigy and probably the the most audiophile-ish card Creative has ever released - https://us.creative.com/p/sound-blaster/sound-blaster-ae-9
 

nkarafo

Member
With modern audio chips, you can output 32bit 192Khz. It wasn't until the Sound Blaster X-Fi that creative cards could handle 16bit with 44Khz/48Khz conversion not causing audio artifacts, so your Audigy 2 has these problems.
The Audigy 2 can handle 24bit/96Khz with no problems at all



I can tell the difference from 16/44 and i don't hear any artifacts or distortion. I do with the Rx though, even though it's a newer card.

The Audigy 2 was just a very good card, what else can i say? That's why i still want to use it.


Modern sound cards you buy will be using either C-Media or Realtek chips anyways. The exact same ones which are being placed on motherboards.
Maybe that's why the Audigy Rx is noticeable worse than the Audigy 2 then, despite being a couple of generations newer?

Again, that's what this whole thread is about. Me wanting to use an older, better card. I don't doubt newer cards at the same price range are worse now.


Sound is a personal thing so do use whatever sounds best to you, but try and tweak the different options that are available.
You can't say i didn't try. I mean, knowing the new MB won't be able to support my old card, you would think i would try everything i can.

I tried with my current Motherboard (thinking the next MB will probably be similar) and the best i could get isn't even half as good as my current Audigy 2 setup.

I tried with the Rx. Tried with the Omni. Both are noticeably worse.

I tried the Z. This one comes close but i still miss a couple of things. If the adapter doesn't work, i'll use that. Obviously, i will try the new Motherboard before that as well.

I wish i had more stuff to test. But i can't just buy another card, i already bought the Z and Rx (the Omni belongs to a friend).
 
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SScorpio

Member
You can't say i didn't try. I mean, knowing the new MB won't be able to support my old card, you would think i would try everything i can.

I tried with my current Motherboard (thinking the next MB will probably be similar) and the best i could get isn't even half as good as my current Audigy 2 setup.

I tried with the Rx. Tried with the Omni. Both are noticeably worse.

I tried the Z. This one comes close but i still miss a couple of things. If the adapter doesn't work, i'll use that. Obviously, i will try the new Motherboard before that as well.

I wish i had more stuff to test. But i can't just buy another card, i already bought the Z and Rx (the Omni belongs to a friend).
This current Motherboard is one that still has the PCI slot? If so I'm guessing it's probably at least 8 years old though very likely older. Things have changed since then, go ahead and just build your new system and try what's on board. If you don't like it you can purchase something better. It honestly just sounds like you are trying to rationalize your bias and the money you spent on other old sound cards.

That Sound Blaster Z came out in 2012, Audigy Rx in 2013, and the Omni in 2014. A lot has changed since then. Put together a budget and do your new build, give yourself time to adjust and tweak. If you end up not liking the on board, put aside some money and buy something else, just make your purchases from somewhere with an return policy so you can get a refund when it still doesn't sound exactly like you want.
 

nkarafo

Member
That Sound Blaster Z came out in 2012, Audigy Rx in 2013, and the Omni in 2014. A lot has changed since then.
Sound cards don't get better with time, i think i can say that for sure myself. The Audigy 2 came out 10 years before the Rx and it's demonstrably better. Sound cards are not like graphics cards that get better and better. They reached the point where they can produce real sound instead of chip/midi sound and after that it's just a matter of component quality and features. The Rx has obviously worse components even though it's newer.

And i don't see where you got any bias from my posts. I already said all these cards i tried are worse than my current one and they don't solve my problem. You mean i'm trying to justify the price of the Audigy? Come on, i bought this card like 20 years ago. I'm more than ready to replace it but i have to find something at least as good first.

Sure, i hope the new motherboard has the right components and all the features i need to achieve similar or better audio. But so far i haven't found one. So that will be a first for me if it happens.

I'm still going to get the adapter though regardless, since it's cheap. This way i can have both sound devices (MB and card) and make comparisons easier by swapping them in the "Select playback device" window.
 
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