Sound card still relevant ?

I have this laying around in my stash, I think I picked it up at a garage sale a few years ago. Never opened.

Does anyone think it’s worthwhile to install it in my new Windows 10 machine with Realtek onboard sound ? MB below. I just use sound for games, music, tv … occasionally with headphones, usually with 5.1, rarely for microphone.

Well as usual it depends on your setup.

If you’re outputting via optical S/PDIF to a home theatre setup like I am then yes, something like the Xonar is kind of essential. It will encode your audio to Dolby and allow multi-channel sound, otherwise you’re stuck with 2 channel PCM audio. It’s pretty rare for onboard audio to have licensed the Dolby encoding like the add-on cards have.

If you’re outputting the audio using HDMI like most people, then it probably won’t matter much if you use the Realtek, as HDMI supports multi-channel fine. Maybe others could comment on that.

Nope, I’m just using a 10-year-old Logitech Z-5500 5.1 speaker system on one PC. I figure there’s no need to install this.

If you’re getting any kind of electrical interference or humming from the onboard (esp. noticeable when under load), you could try then.

But otherwise probably not worth bothering, no. I doubt you’d notice much difference.

The Xonar D2X has one cool feature: It’ll do a 2X speed recording of protected music playback. I used to use that to get my Rhapsody tunes on my iPod in MP3. (I maintained an active Rhapsody subscription at the time, so while it might technically have been a DMCA decription violation, I was paying for the rights to the IP playback – I was just using it for compatibility reasons, since Apple had no music service in the day.)

However, that feature required XP, so I had to maintain dual boot on my gaming PC just for music transcoding. :) Not worth the hassle nowadays with Spotify, etc.

This is only relevant for content that has actual multi-channel audio, right? If the source content is already digital Dolby/DTS, etc, then digital (S/PDIF/coax) is pure pass-through and card does not matter in the slightest, your amp will do the decoding in a HT set-up. Presume this is also true for the more modern surround protocols that use S/PDIF/coax as medium.

If you want to multi-channel out of your PC in a HT set-up, without using HDMI, then a sound card can be essential, since DAC’s will be far superior (presuming source not just multi-PCM), but the blocker is usually whether you have an amp with pre-ins.

I guess where your content only has multi-channel audio and your amp does not have pre-ins, then you will need a sound card with licensed Dolby, etc to encode on the fly over S/PDIF, but that seems like a pretty narrow use case, since any such content is likely to also have a native Dolby et al stream.

Has all this changed in the HT space in recent years? The consensus for HT before multi-PCM used to be no dedicated sound card required, since digital multi would be pure pass-through and presumed everyone had an amp that would decode all the relevant digital protocols.

For all the other use cases it could well be worth throwing in, since anything that requires a sound cards DAC is going to benefit from the Xonar. Headphone use as well as the Xonar’s headphone stage and output is probably going to be quite superior to the onboard. Dedicated cards can also supposedly save you some CPU cycles during gaming, but YMMV.

Yeah if the source content like movies/tv shows is already encoded with Dolby/DTS then you can use pass-through, as you say.

But I’m referring more to games. Even when they do provide native Dolby audio (on console version), invariably it doesn’t work on PC over S/PDIF and you’re stuck with 2 channels (unless you use the card’s on-the-fly encoding).

And yes, it is still a pretty narrow use case, the PC hooked up to a home theatre system. It seemed like a good idea at the time! :)

Not sure if I can insert a poll, but IMHO, the answer is pretty much that discrete sound cards are a thing of the past. This article inspired the thread necromancy… probably an apt title given that IMHO, discrete sound cards are about as dead as payphones:

does anyone still have a discrete sound card they use for gaming?

The on-board sound on my previous PC had issues. Random pops. I have misophonia so I’m super sensitive to sounds. So I bought this - Creative Sound BlasterX G5 7.1 Headphone Surround HD Audio External Sound Card with Headphone Amplifier for Windows PC / Mac / PS4 / and Other Consoles: Computers & Accessories

I’ve also tried this one. Sound quality was fine but the built-in MIC stopped working - Creative Sound Blaster Omni Surround 5.1 USB Sound Card with High Performance Headphone Amp and Integrated Beam Forming Microphone: Computers & Accessories

Note - do NOT buy a cheap USB sound card if you care about quality. They are bad.

I have a Sound Blaster Z. Worked great for me for nine years and counting. Hell, Creative still drops driver updates for it every now and then.

Last time I bought a sound card it borked itself after a few months. Luckily the motherboard had an onboard one, and it worked fine, not that many bells and whistles, 3D sound positioning and the like, but was fine.

Every PC I’ve had since 1994 has had a Sound Blaster in it and I don’t see that changing.

No, I no longer use a separate sound card. I have an old Turtle Beach card lying around from at least a decade ago (I think)…

Been using HDMI to the receiver lately, and I’m thinking about putting the Sound Blaster Z back in and using S/PDIF again. The problem with HDMI is that it takes 2-3 seconds to ‘wake up’ every time audio starts playing, which really annoys me.

I bought a Sounds Blaster AE-5 Plus after having random interference issues with the onboard sound on my previous motherboard. Very happy with the sound quality of the AE-5 and I can’t imagine going back to onboard sound again. It’s not like the AE-5 is going to be outdated in a year or two either (like a graphics card could), so I consider it a good investment.

I don’t even have a compatible slot in my current motherboard, so no. I haven’t used a discrete sound card probably since my Athlon64 system however many years ago that was. That had an Audigy that I’ve been using for 20 years or so. Onboard audio back in the day used to be complete and utter shit, but seems to be more than adequate now. I haven’t had too many issues to speak of (apart from a noisy input that I had to mute, otherwise I could literally hear my mouse moving), and I was under the impression that EAX and A3D and all those fancy virtualization middlewares are long since dead and not even supported by Windows anymore, let alone any new games.

I have six audio options currently attached to troubleshoot some iffy headsets as outputs on my system so that’s a bit overkill. Astro MixAmp, Logitech G933 headset, onboard Realtek audio output, headphone DAC and two Creative X-Fi USB things. One the small USB flash drive one and one the Recon3D thing that I had attached to Xbox 360/PS3 as well.

The Recon3D allows me to use OpenAL/EAX Alchemy support for legacy games but increasingly I can’t find any good reason to keep that along with each subsequent upgrade of my PC.

HDMI audio to the TV, then eARC to the receiver.

Sound cards are relevant if you have a cheap motherboard to avoid outright static and interference. Or if you use a non-USB microphone they are very helpful. In terms of listening quality, when I’m looking at systems I just aim for Tier B or higher integrated audio on the motherboard:

  • Tier S = Realtek 1220 + built in DAC or headphone amp.
  • Tier A = Realtek 1220, No DAC
  • Tier B = Realtek 1200
  • Tier C = Realtek 892 or 897
  • Tier D = Realtek 887

Most widely recommended motherboards will already by Tier B or higher so you probably get ‘good enough’ sound as long as don’t literally buy the cheapest possible thing.

My rig is about 6.5 years old and I do have a soundcard. I think it’s a Sound Blaster Z, not sure – it’s red and glows. :P

I don’t plan on including it in my next build. It doesn’t seem necessary unless you are actually doing specific audio/music\mixing stuff.