PC Hardware forum


What advantage is there in getting a sound card?

by Kyle_Brandtjen / November 14, 2014 6:04 AM PST

I have Realtek High Definition audio (from my motherboard) and I am just wondering what type of advantage I will see in games like Rome Total War II, or listening to music videos on youtube or watching DVD's. Even though my Realtek High Definition audio is set to 5.1 dolby digital speaker. (I have 2 front speakers 2 rear speakers a center speaker and a subwoofer) but rome total war will not allow me to use the surround sound option. What are all of the benefits of getting a good sound card?

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All Answers

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Very little. Read this link.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 14, 2014 6:09 AM PST
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Good read
by W N W / November 15, 2014 5:11 AM PST

This was a good article. Some of the items metioned within are a good ways out of my current price range, but it was a pretty good read. Thanks for posting!

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Using your post below, no reason to get a card.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 15, 2014 5:15 AM PST
In reply to: Good read

For example a PC that sends it's audio over HDMI would fail to use the sound card at all. One could pull the sound card, disable onboard sound and it will make sound over HDMI without any change. There is no advantage at all to getting a sound card.

The article used some very high end headphones and is a great read about how far onboard audio has come. If there is some gain to be had, it's no longer in the card.

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Better is the Enemy of Good Enough
by MightyDrakeC / November 14, 2014 6:34 PM PST

For the vast majority of people, listening to most audio through moderately-priced speakers, in an average home environment, the difference would be imperceptible.

An audiophile will come up with a dozen reasons why it sounds like total crap. But, mostly they're picking theoretical nits that nobody can actually hear in the real world.

I used to buy dedicated sound cards because I'm a gamer. Up until about five years ago, games would lose 20+% of their framerate when some motherboards handled the audio. Today, it's well under 1%. And, the quality of the analog signal is probably within a tiny fraction of a percent of what a dedicated sound card can do.

In my minuscule opinion, unless you're doing high end audio engineering, or some other task where absolute fidelity is a deal-breaker requirement, I think the motherboard audio is plenty Good Enough.

On the surround sound issue, does that game support that at all? Have you tried looking for newer drivers? If other apps support surround sound, then you know that the hardware supports it and the drivers expose it. So, maybe that game just doesn't.

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No, if it goes to a receiver
by Iwantitall / November 15, 2014 5:02 AM PST

If connected to a SS 5.1 receiver then a sound card is not needed. I used to have sound cards (Creative sound blaster, Asus Xonar STX) in the past. I found that if you do a 'SPDIF pass through' to a receiver or pre/pro, the card is bypassed. What you do need is an HDMI or optical connection to get 5.1 surround. In order to get DTS HD MA or DD TrueHD, the HDMI connection must be version 1.4. HDMI 1.2 or optical will support DTS and DD and stereo at 24/96 (it is a bit rate thing). A good video card can be used for the audio output via HDMI. I recently upgraded my video card from a Geforce GTX 560 to a Geforce GTX 760 just to upgrade the HDMI from 1.2 to 1.4. I can play 5.1 Surround Sound at 24/96 via DTS MA HD or LPCM with HDMI from my video card.

If you use headphones or powered speakers from your computer, then a good sound card will improve the signal. Not sure if your MB sound outputs support SS 5.1, but the ASUS Xonar STX sound card will.

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