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Is Soundcards Dead For Music and/or Gaming?

I've been looking around on forums for an answer to this: is soundcards dead for music and gaming? Have motherboards and headsets gotten so good that you dont need a PCIe soundcard or similar anymore? Or is it still good/an upgrade if you want better gaming audio, etc? Say: using a DT990 headset. No surround so or anything, would it be necessary? 

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Gaming audio? Not really needed, unless you want a theatrical experience.

For listening to music (and by music I do not mean YouTube, I mean *.flac files etc.), soundcards are definitely better than on-board audio.

But if you were serious about sound you would probably want to invest in DAC/AMPs.

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Its not really necessary but if you want one then theres no real harm in getting one. Just that onboard audio is decent enough 

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Sound cards have always been dead from a quality audio perspective. Putting sensitive audio electrical components inside an PC with a ton of EMI is a recipe  for disaster. External DAC/Amps however are still very much a thing and used for many headphones in the audiophile space.

 

Also BTW if you are thinking of buying DT990s don't. DT880 are far better.

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I'm no sound expert, but dedicated sound cards were a necessity back in the day when boards did not have onboard audio...back then no sound card = no sound. I think this was the glory days of sound cards.

 

These days, if you are a sound enthusiast sure an onboard card with an expensive dac and expensive cans are the way to go.

 

But for me, I do gaming and general music listening. I do have a nice set of Sennheiser cans that set me back a bit.

 

But most of all I found that using a software EQ program can really bring out the best of onboard sound. You can tweak it just perfect no matter the setup you are running.

Thanks!

 

Chris R.

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I'd say 99% of the time, don't get a soundcard. As others have stated, external DACs and AMPs are the way to go, but at this point it's just like building a PC. You can "game just fine" on a $800 PC, but some people are enthusiasts and would rather get the best or the best or really customize the look of the system.

 

When it comes to audio, the onboard audio is fine but you can shell out some extra cash for higher quality trinkets.

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Most motherboards $100 USD and higher already have pretty good onboard audio, making a soundcard not necessary, unless you're either a pro gamer, or a total audiophile. 

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Sound cards certainly aren't the necessity they used to be with most motherboards having pretty good sound processors now.  A good quality card still has an edge, but you have to have good enough speakers or headphones (and a good ear) to hear the difference.  I'll be using my Asus Xonar DS on my main PC until it's burned out, and I don't see that happening anytime soon. :) 

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Most Mainboards these days have a pretty good soundcard onboard.

Maybe you can hear some interferences by the graphics-card or something - then it would be a good idea to invest into an external solution.

 

But if your headphones get loud enough and you don't hear anything but silence when no music or game is running... it's just a waste of money. Most people can't hear the difference between their onboard-audio and a external DAC.

 

If you're running headphones with high Ohm, then you could just use a headphone-amplifier. 

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On 1/17/2019 at 4:33 PM, Luddy † said:

I've been looking around on forums for an answer to this: is soundcards dead for music and gaming? Have motherboards and headsets gotten so good that you dont need a PCIe soundcard or similar anymore? Or is it still good/an upgrade if you want better gaming audio, etc? Say: using a DT990 headset. No surround so or anything, would it be necessary? 

Gaming? Maybe.. But for audiophiles like me, an external soundcard such as the Sound blaster x-fi pro are not. miles better than any onboard audio. But internal sound cards are so prone to interference, also they are not dead if your motherboard doesnt support the format you want, such as it only has 2 channel stereo out but you want to connect a small 5.1 system such as the logitech z506

If you have any questions about ultra high end audio (Or any speakers or audio gear!), don't be afraid to shoot me a message, or mention me.

 

Spent over 960k on audio gear, still trying to increase sound quality.

 

Why 44.1kHz is all you need: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyquist–Shannon_sampling_theorem

 

How loud should you listen?: http://dangerousdecibels.org/education/information-center/decibel-exposure-time-guidelines/

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On 1/17/2019 at 5:42 PM, Max_Settings said:

Putting sensitive audio electrical components inside an PC with a ton of EMI is a recipe  for disaster.

That is, until you strap magic rocks on the cables which will obviously fix everything xD

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15 minutes ago, Lathlaer said:

That is, until you strap magic rocks on the cables which will obviously fix everything xD

Nope not at all.

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Internal Sound Cards are dead. 
For audio improvements id say Amplifier is most important especially on power hungry headphones ( you don't really need a DAC ). 

I would suggest to get a DAC if you have noise/interference issues, but in terms of audio quality it wont do much, for example if you can't score HERE 6/6 or in general ure not sure which one is which then most likely you won't notice any difference between decent DAC and onboard DAC, because i think its harder to tell the difference between DAC's than between mp3 vs hifi FLAC. Maybe its different when it comes to something like 20$ DAC vs 1500$ DAC, but i kinda doubt it would still make much difference. Correct me if im wrong.

For example im unable to tell difference between FiiO E10K DAC and DAC of this motherboard ( both was connected to FiiO K5 Amplifier and during A/B both sounded same ).

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My opinion is always against the grain on this one, but I've been doing this "sound" thing probably longer than a lot of you have even been alive. ?

 

With respect to gaming: I think it depends a lot on the style of games you play.  If you're playing a lot of competitive/PvP FPS games, then a good sound card will trump anything Realtrash can make.  Yes, the DAC, DSP, and maybe even the amp and on your motherboard are likely made by Realtrash and they live up to the company's name.  Real trash.

 

With that, you'll have to pry my ZxR out of my "cold dead... PC?"  No way will I give it up.  I've tried running games through both a Schiit DAC (lives up to its name) and the DAC in my Sennheiser HDV820 amp.  In both cases: bleah!  The sound was clean and crisp, but a bit too sanitized and the directional location of enemies was absolutely awful in comparison to the discrete Sound Blaster.  It was noticeable almost from the moment I started playing.

 

No thanks.  I love my ZxR and I'm going to keep using it until Creative cooks up their next high-end card.

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I've been using my Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme for years. When I built a new machine in 2011 I noticed the intro logo video for Arkham City was stuttering and the sound was popping, using my onboard audio. I put my soundcard in from the previous build and it went away.

 

I also continue to use it because it takes all the sound processing off the CPU. Having an i7 9700k might make that a silly point, but it's habit. Oblivion would have issues with onboard audio affecting performance (mods came out that removed footstep sounds, for example).

 

Also note that I'm just using a stereo speaker setup, 2.1 creative speakers that use a single audio jack.

Edited by Richard Webster
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3 hours ago, Max_Settings said:

Nope not at all.

Just so there is no misunderstanding here, I was being sarcastic ?

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I personally use a soundcard as a toslink source.

 

But for music, you probably want a high quality usb dac. For gaming, the good thing about a soundcard is that the audio effects like eq and virtual surround sound can be done in hardware and use no cpu. But with coffee lake and ryzen giving people so many cpu cores nowadays, it's not a big deal to do that stuff on the cpu.

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It's funny that we tend talk about soundcards and DACs as if they're separate classes of hardware when in reality they're exactly the same.  A soundcard still has a DAC and amplifier circuit on it, it just interfaces over PCI or PCIe instead of USB.  A soundcard generally comes with more in terms of drivers and software features, there is sometimes a DSP chip that can do hardware level filtering but other than that there is no difference from a technical perspective.

I used HT Omega Claro+ soundcards for a long time, they have quality AKM DACS and a solid front channel.  The downside of using an internal sound device is that it's a noisy environment, the other downside, depending on placement, it can obscure air flow, which for me was obstructing a graphics card.

In general, audio devices are getting much more compact and lower power and it's easier to get good audio than it ever was.  Hell, USB-C audio fits an entire DAC and amplifier into the type C connector which is ridiculous if you think about it.  Many solutions sold these days are very similar now.  Pick one of many excellent DACs and pair it with a headphone driver IC.  Some of the power conditioning circuitry around it or I/O changes but a lot of it is modular.

Soundcard or "DAC", doesn't matter.  Pick internal or external and the range of I/O based on your needs. :)

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