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Mathijs Kok

Discrete Sound Cards? Are you serious?

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Discrete Sound Cards seems to have been forgotten around 2005 but this week I remembered why they were a good idea. I got a Asus Xonar_DG from a friend who received one to review. As he has the far more expensive brother of this card he swapped it with me for a beer.

Not to be outdone by serious testers I listened serious to my system. Some music, some games (Battlefield 3 has the best sound I ever heard), some sims (they really all sound very crappy btw). Then I inserted the new card, downloaded a small driver and listened again. And I am 101% sure I could hear the difference. Music sounded less sharp, less angular, Battlefield 3 really sounded a lot better, far better placement of effects. Sims still sounded crappy but certainly better. Rise of Flight for sure seemed to be better.

At just $30 (same in Euro it seems) this is one fine sound board for your serious computer. Highly recommended. And yes I was serious.

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Good eve!

...my first pc (around 1995) was "a hell of a machine", an escom pentium 120mhz (don't want to mention the price) and of course I got it with a soundblaster 16. :)

Today I'm still using a pci soundcard, a sb Xtreme Gamer Fatal1ty http://www.techwarel...1TY_sound_card/and it took me a while to find an asus-motherboard with pci slots, but i wanted to keep that soundcard alive :)

You get better framerates, as you said of course better sound and you can use the onboard-sound for the talking with the controllers or commanders (depending on the game;) and the soundcard delivers everything else, no need for an expensive usb-headset :-)

My next PC will have a soundcard again, of course. Let others use computers or more worse note/netbooks with everything build on one chip... :beatcomputer_s: ;)

cheers,

Joerg

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USB, Fiber, CoAxil and FireWire for me. I'm not an audiophile, but it's a tug and war with soundcards, one hand you can have better components but you never actually get rid of the bigger problem which is RF noise from all the other components on the motherboard especially from the cpu and gpu.

Also I stay away from anything that isn't at least CD Quality or 24 bit source. It's shame sound quality can't be as easily perceived as 720/1080P video even though most of the payload on a Bluray or DVD is actually audio content not video.

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Boy I remember the days when you were considered crazy not to have an ISA or PCI based expansion sound card, particularly a sound blaster based chipset one. A bit like having anything but a 3D Voodoo card when they came out.

I got a Asus Xonar_DG from a friend who received one to review.

I've been using a Xonar D2X for quite a while now, after breaking away from Creative due to their ongoing issues with the Vista and then Win 7 platform, and have been extremely happy with it. It's a native PCI-E card and pulls its power direct from the PSU just as most PCI-E video cards do. It certainly suffers none of the popping you traditionally got from the creative cards under Vista and Win 7, and the only real problems I've experienced is when I forget to disable the GX mode after playing an odd game such as Diablo II and a more modern game might get a little out of sorts (Asus's GX mode allows you to replicate the basis of EAX effects within many of those older games designed for the Audigy and X-Fi cards, though these days they are few and far between). I've certainly never ever heard any noticeable earthing style noise you could get at times from the older generation of PCI cards either.

The biggest kicker for me, and one of the largest determining factors for purchasing the card, was that the card comes completely licensed with both the Dolby Digital Live and DTS Interactive live encoding drivers. Which means that I don't need to mess around with a multitude of cables running off to each speaker in a multi speaker system direct from the sound card, I can instead feed the output via coax or optical straight into my receiver (with up to 7.1 reproduction) and the receiver then does the channel decoding, which results in far superior reproduction and also LFE reproduction where it should be (I tested it out for curiosity when I first got it). The process doesn't cost any noticeable resources or invoke any delay at all either, and it takes what ever is going, it's not single application dependant, I can run a game and play music at the same time, and it sends it all through.

The sound card of course has the software based enhancements for specifying things such as your speaker distances around the room, so that you can counter the positional sound delay of the various speakers. However just feeding off to the receiver means you can let it do this itself as well, so if you've calibrated it all yourself, or used the auto calibration feature of modern systems, it will look after all that for you and help you offload that small amount of processing from your computer so it can be put to better use on other things like games. You can of course also feed straight out via S/PDIF if your software already sends native Dolby or DTS audio, though there's not too many games that do this yet, mainly just media players and audio apps. The only thing I normally get the drivers to do is fill out stereo or pro-logic sources into the surround channels (which it does a pretty good job of), so that when I'm doing things like listening to music you get a room full of music instead of just your normal front left and right channels.

The other upside which many will report for FSX, is that if you enable your onboard sound (and it has no issues with drivers etc), you should be able to use your dedicated expansion card to reproduce your environmental sound from FSX, and then route your ATC to a set of headphones or differing set of speakers via the onboard card. Since many motherboards come with sound whether you like it or not, it's a little bonus if you wish to make use of it.

Given how much many other PC components cost, if you're budgeting out a new gaming or media workstation, it can be a worth while investment to just tack on that bit of extra cost to get yourself a dedicated sound card while you're at it. Just be sure to math out your expansion slots on the motherboard, and also the spacing of them, since not all motherboards will happily accomodate a modern PCI-E video card hard up against something like a PCI-E sound card, and you also don't want to go stacking too many heat generating components too close to each other and restricting airflow if you can help it.

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You don't hear the noise because it's masked out....... it's still there and that masking effect actually lowers the bit depth of the device. Most specs are completely bogus on the PC. The industry has gone from using sensors to I.C.s.

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I still use an Creative Audigy soundcard but with Kx Project Drivers. To my ears (and I may have damaged years after too many years on motorcycles and working as a Radio DJ and in Live music environments, it still outperforms even the latest iterations of onboard cards. Next upgrade thought, probably will be Xonar...

Notwithstanding this, it is MOST important for audiophiles to understand and navigate the balance of the whole audio experience, with matched speakers, high quality cables and inputs and a controlled environment for any sub-woofer.

I have eschewed using surround sound in my cubbyhole office where I have the computer installed as the Aft speakers would be mounted too close to the Fore speakers where they create dissonance and interference between the sound sources. I also make minimal use of the woofer as floor-mounted on a none-too-secure wooden floor with little carpet coverage it created vibration, but also unpleasant interactions. That is particularly true in FS with the `distance` between ATC and engine sounds.

The other advantage of distinct sound in FSX is the ability to separate sound sources - driving ATC to headphones via the o/b card, while the Audigy II handles the `bigger` stuff.

Finally, the other major gain is in having immediate backup in case of problems with the primary sound source device. Can be useful for troubleshooting - or even just for a change!

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Definitely agreed with the matched system. Its the exact same reason I use USB headsets. The digital integration definitely is worth more than the sum of its parts whether its digital gain on a microphone or digital filtering to make a cheap speaker sound amazing. But thats not to be confused with bundled analog systems, if it ain't digital I don't think it's possible to get the LFE channel to ever sync properly with the other speakers. You tend to have too littles subs or too much.

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