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Good sound card to buy?

by drmusic45 / August 13, 2007 7:34 PM PDT

I have an ABIT mobo with onboard sound, but I find it to be very noisy, and it's increasingly frustrating. I was thinking of getting a good sound card for my PC, which is primarily for gaming, and I was wondering what some good recommendations would be. I had a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Platinum a good while back, but it was the absolute worst sound card experience of my life. Has Creative straightened out their driver situation any in the past few years? Or might there be another brand to consider (not holding my breath on that one >_<)? Thanks much!


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what was the problem with your audigy?
by ramarc / August 14, 2007 12:23 AM PDT

they're generally considered the best sound card for gaming use. if you still have it, get the latest drivers and reinstall it without the creative software suite.

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While I had an issue with my old Audigy it was not Creative
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 14, 2007 1:46 AM PDT

The issue I had was not because of creative but a bug in the machine's motherboard chipset driver package. But you still found posts slamming creative for a problem that they didn't own.

What card would I buy? -> Creative Labs.


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by drmusic45 / August 14, 2007 12:38 PM PDT

Thanks for the advice, I'll look into this further, though I will probably settle for a Creative card--they get pretty good reviews, generally. My Audigy 2 of old may have just not wanted to play nice with that particular motherboard (which was a POS to begin with >_<).

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I wouldn't...
by ozos / August 14, 2007 4:33 AM PDT

neccisarily bother with Creative, yes they may have a nice marketing campaign, but generally their products are subpar in terms of audio quality and the like, I'd look at Turtle Beach, M-Audio, Auzentech, or Chaintech (if they still make their sound card, it was considered an excellent value).

As far as Creative fixing their driver situation, wouldn't say much in their favor, I've tried various driver revisions from Creative, all of them have similar problems (even with YEARS between them) after enough time, and no it isn't a motherboard driver gone awry, it is Creative's fault on this.

I'd suggest looking at:
Turtle Beach's Riviera 5.1 - ~$30
M-Audio's Revolution 5.1 - ~$100
Auzentech's X-Plosion - ~$100
and Chaintech's AV-710. - ~$20 (like I said, a good value)

Granted, these cards don't have EAX 5 (or whatever revision Creative is up to) however most games don't support it, and disabling EAX in a game in favor of traditional H/W 3D mixing doesn't have hardly any effect on quality of 3D sound (DirectSound is actually capable enough of surround mixing).

If you're wondering why the Turtle Beach and Chaintech boards are cheaper, they don't feature onboard DSPs, which doesn't really mean anything (it saves you money, and increases CPU use by something like 1%, don't believe Creative's marketing)

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that's ridiculous
by ramarc / August 14, 2007 9:17 AM PDT
In reply to: I wouldn't...

creative cards have better in game sound and faster acceleration resulting in faster framerates than any other brand of sound card. benchmarks on the audigy 2 and later series have proven this.

turtle beach is an ok card but won't produce the same framerates. m-audio's revolution has better sound quality than an audigy 2 for music/dvd, but can't match the audigy's game performance. and an $80 x-fi will match the m-audio's sound. http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/08/18/creative_x/page20.html

and EAX 3+ is much better at positioning than direct sound. the difference is so dramatic that anyone can tell the difference.

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ok, well
by ozos / August 15, 2007 3:40 AM PDT
In reply to: that's ridiculous

I see that marketing has done its job for you, audio processors DO NOT and WILL NOT increase game performance, and I don't give a hoot what Anand or creative's marketing literature tells us, you may see a marked performance increase of something like 4 FPS, which in real world means nothing to anyone

The reason one purchases a sound card is to increase audio quality, not for gaming, and Creative dearly lacks audio quality

The Audigy 2 is, compared to the Revolution, Riviera, or X-Plosion, a joke of a card, and while EAX 3+ may be "oh so cool", name more than 10 games that can use it, that are presently on the market, have shipped any signifigant number of units, etc

FEAR doesn't
Doom 3 doesn't
Half-Life 2 doesn't
Oblivion doesn't
FarCry doesn't
Starcraft doesn't
Warcraft III doesn't
World of Warcraft doesn't
Total Annihilation doesn't
Everquest doesn't
Counter-Strike/Counter-Strike: Source don't
Unreal 2003/2004 don't

thats more or less the biggest games of the last 5 to 10 years right there, the boards I reccomended all feature better quality, better prices, and for the naysayers, at minimum EAX 2 capability, yes, paying $200 for a Creative board just to get Creative's highly proprietary and buggy EAX platform for 3D gaming may be neat, but when we're talking drivers that will break at the drop of a hat, barely official Vista compatability, horrible Vista audio support, questionable XP stability, and a lock in to proprietary hardware and software...and we're paying $200 for this, NO THANK YOU

And oh I know, the $80 X-Fi, thats a good response because its such a good "value", however it won't post to Creative's performance "level" because it doesn't feature all of the extra garbage that X-Fi ships with (like onboard DRAM (worthless))

Additionally, I would NEVER consider THG a viable source for talking about audio quality, lets consider:

Creative, hated by audiophiles and audio engineers everywhere for poor quality, poor drivers, and poor stability, along with a vastly overpriced and overinflated image of what a sound card should do, and unrealistic performance figures

M-Audio, the industry standard for prosumer recording and playback operations, granted, M-Audio isn't Digidesign or Euphonix (far from it), but for the price nothing can compete with them, the Revolution 5.1 and 7.1 depart to a degree from this studio design basis, however still share some features with the Delta line, such as a commitment to affordable quality audio

I'd say kid, but it would feel out of place, regardless, framerates, contrary to Futuremark's marketing, are far from life, framerates are what marketing execs and dried up husks of tech news websites want us to pay through the teeth for, they don't reflect anything in regards to the hardware. Yeah, an X-Fi Elite [whatever other over the top marketing terms] may get 2 FPS higher than an M-Audio Revolution 7.1, it also costs about thrice as much, you'll never notice or see 2 FPS in the real world, EAX barely works so it isn't a valid competition point, and the M-Audio sports hardware S/PDIF out on the board, as well as 7.1 output, as well as equal DSP quality (or better), less power/heat, and a physically smaller package.

Sorry but Creative's marketing may be good, but isn't good enough to defy the laws of audio quality

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wow, you don't believe benchmarks; how about developers?
by ramarc / August 16, 2007 12:47 AM PDT
In reply to: ok, well

you mentioned that F.E.A.R. doesn't support EAX 3. that's odd because Sierra's game page says different: Recommended Specifications:
? Sound Blaster

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try opening FEAR, and your eyes
by ozos / August 16, 2007 1:00 AM PDT

1) Companies, buy, endorsements, its been happening for years, you'll learn it eventually.

2) FEAR only supports EAX 2.0, in game

3) Refer to 1 and 2 in response to FarCry as well

4) Lets see:

HotHardware, not considered "authority"
HardOCP, the website that doesn't give performance figures in favor of "the feeling of the hardware", also the subject of most enthusiast jokes
Anandtech, HardOCP except the jokes aren't as catchy

Additionally, gamers rarely know a thing about system performance or hardware, they just buy what marketing execs wnat them to buy, along with those websites you've listed being hardware enthusiast websites, not gamer websites

Gaming websites would be:
WoW Forums
Steam Forums
any number of clan forums
and so on

I'm done trying to defend my side to you, I'm guessing in the next 5 to 10 years you'll actually experience the hardware you're defending so valiantly, you'll experience the non-existant customer and software support it ships with, you'll realize that benchmarks aren't anything, and you'll stop following marketing...

...one can only hope

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all i can say is wow again
by ramarc / August 16, 2007 3:08 AM PDT

eax 2.0 is the minimum spec. just like with video cards, dx 9.0b/c my be the minimum spec but the game engine can choose an optimized path for specific hardware (e.g.: different shader model depending on the card). same with eax.

but discussing this with you is pointless since you have your opinion and won't be changing it anytime soon. my only issue is that you just rail on and on with your opinion and don't back it up with any other citations. i don't give an opinion... i give advice and back it up with citations from other sources.

hopefully anyone looking for a sound card (or any other hardware) will make their purchase decision based on information from a variety of sources rather than just a disgruntled opinion.

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I'm not
by ozos / August 16, 2007 4:30 AM PDT

giving an opinion either, I'm giving advice based on years of actual experience with the hardware being talked about, along with experience and advice from other colleagues (who have equally great experience with either the hardware in question, the software in question, or the industry in general), and over the years of dealing with Creative products, the following has been learned:

Their drivers never work as advertised
Only recently have they started to create hardware that doesn't pop or hum when idling (and even then, some of their new hardware still does)
Only recently have they started to create hardware thats worth roughly half what it costs (compared to, oh lets say, AWE32)
EAX is a worthless feature and a relic of a dying age of proprietary formats, and it belongs in the past along with A3D, GLiDE, and other similar APIs

Summarily I can say that while Creative's products do work, they don't work as well as we'd like, and they don't provide the amazing leaps and bounds which their marketing lauds on them, they provide unrealisticly high expectations and rarely (if ever) deliever.

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