I just bought a xonar essence st to replace my onboard alc889 and the difference is almost non existent. I am using hd555 headphones going into the cards headphone amp and the driver settings are setup correctly. Do I need better headphones or is my hearing just bad?
The ALC889 isn't bad to begin with, but the advantage from using a dedicated soundcard is that you don't have any background noise from the motherboard. It should also give better performance, but I'm not sure if that would be noticeable on headphones, although the HD 555 are pretty good headphones.
Hopefully someone else can explain the benefits better for you, or give some advice on how to bring out the full potential of the card.
Did you remember to disable your on-board audio in the Bios settings? Good headphones help, but the Xonar essence should perfect most common headsets. Try not to use earbuds, it tends to conduct electric shocks easily. Also that small black knob looking thing is a converter for a SPDIF wire, which is worth the Dolby Digital Surround Sound Quality. Makes me miss my Xonar Essence but that was for my cousin who is a musician.
Install the software and play around with the settings, you can also push the quality of your sound to the max in the properties now.
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