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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.