What are the benefits of a dedicated sound card?

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Kieran
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So, eventually, i'm going to be building a new computer, my current one has no dedicated sound card, and i was wondering, what are the benefits of getting a dedicated sound card, and if it's worth getting?

thanks

EDIT:
i should also mention that i only use high-end headphones, no speakers

Razear
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It will give you better overall sound quality when compared to onboard but only if you have the audio equipment to match. It will also use less system resources since it's discrete from the motherboard.

noir2525
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There are 2 types of sound cards USB and Internal each has there own benifits.

Internal
-less clutter around ur desk
-lower latency
-less audio hiss
-less cpu load

USB
-little higher latency
-no audio hiss
-easy swap between rigs
-a little load to cpu

Both will give u excellent audio quality, you may hear things in song that you never heard before. Most on board audio has audio hiss which is the hissing sound u hear when u raise the volume with nothing playing.

I recommend the Creative Titanium HD or the ASUS Essence Audio. Both are good but its ur pick, depend which brand u favor. Creative uses higher end chips than Asus, if u read review between the 2 of them they sound about the same in audio creative slightly better. Asus has better headphone AMPs 600ohms, creative's one is 300ohms, but both can be swapped out for better ones.

Any sound card is better than none at all, if u spend $$$ on speakers or high end headphones get a sound card.

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Nightingale
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NO point in getting a sound card if you are gonna use a USB headset.
If you plan to connect your headset via 3.5mm jacks then a sound card will be amazing on a good headset. Having one for a cheap stereo iTunes pair would not be worth it.
Also getting one with HDMI input/output or DTS or NeoCinema surround sound would be useless.

hnkftalnot
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The difference will not be night and day, onboard sound chips aren't that bad, so don't expect too much from it. But high-end headphones will surely benefit from a good soundcard, whereas on a pc speakerset you will not hear a difference at all, apart from maybe no background noise from the motherboard if that was present in the first place.

If you have high quality source files, like the original CDs or lossless rips, a good soundcard will compliment your setup depending on how good your headphones are. Or in other words, then it only depends on the headphones how good the sound will be in the end. It's like a chain and if two pieces are weak (your source or speakers) then don't bother getting a rock-solid middle link (an expensive soundcard).

I think with your interests in high-end headphones it will be worth it for you, but again don't expect the world from it.

GraysonPeddie
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My SoundBlaster X-Fi ExtremeGamer outputs higher volume compared to an onboard sound card since I went from 3 plugs from my X-Fi sound card to my Sony STR-DE898 home theater receiver.
Nightingale wrote:Also getting one with HDMI input/output or DTS or NeoCinema surround sound would be useless.
Why would a sound card with HDMI input/output be useless with a receiver that has support for LPCM 5.1/7.1 coming from a sound card?

Do you have any sources to back up your claim?

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Nightingale
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GraysonPeddie wrote:Nightingale wrote:Also getting one with HDMI input/output or DTS or NeoCinema surround sound would be useless.
Why would a sound card with HDMI input/output be useless with a receiver that has support for LPCM 5.1/7.1 coming from a sound card?

Do you have any sources to back up your claim?

I was talking about if he just had stereo headsets.

dustyschaffner
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Well, being an owner of vintage Hi-Fi audio and professional audio, I will tell you that an aftermarket sound card will give you a difference beyond night and day. But, that is only if you have a sound system that can actually pick up the difference. Otherwise you won't get a whole lot from it. (Still some though.)

One benefit is called sound stage. WITHOUT a good sound card and a good sound system, all you will hear is gunshots. Pretty typical and boring sound effect. Now, if you have a good sound card and a good sound system, you will hear people sneaking around, and you will be able to hear a pin drop, knowing exactly where it hit in reference to where you are. The beauty of high definition sound can mean the difference between winning the game in first place or loosing completely. It can be that serious.

Furthermore, nothing beats the sensation that not one person can sneak up on you and live to tell the story. Being called a hacker because you are "too good" is also a bonus that these cards can provide.

Deezed
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If you looking for a audio solution for gaming i would suggest saving some money and just going for a high quality USB headset such as a Razer Megadolon (what im using currently) or the Steelseries 7H USB. These kind of headsets provide really good sound quality for a gaming environment, especially if you are playing FPS games. This kind of a solution is a much more affordable way to get good audio. If your more into music and HD movies, I would defiantly go for a dedicated sound card, with some high end DJ headphones. Asus has some great sound cards, and for headphones i would get something from Sennheiser, they have some excellent audio equipment.

GraysonPeddie
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Deezed wrote:For headphones, if you looking for a audio solution for gaming i would suggest saving some money and just going for a high quality USB headset such as a Razer Megadolon (what im using currently) or the Steelseries 7H USB. These kind of headsets provide really good sound quality for a gaming environment, especially if you are playing FPS games. This kind of a solution is a much more affordable way to get good audio. If your more into music and HD movies, I would defiantly go for a dedicated sound card, with some high end DJ headphones. Asus has some great sound cards, and for headphones i would get something from Sennheiser, they have some excellent audio equipment.
Fixed.

HTPC: AMD Athlon X2 4050e CPU with 780G ATX motherboard running Windows 8 DP (4GB) and Ubuntu; Server: AMD AII X2 240e CPU with 880G-based ATX motherboard running Ubuntu Server 10.04 LTS (8GB)

2 pairs of Insignia NS-B2111s (front/rear), Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker, and 12" Velodyne Sub

Just ordered HP Pavilion dv7-6165us from QVC. Will have it by next Friday.