Sound: Onboard Realtek ALC1150 vs. Creative Sound Blaster Zx


#1

So, for the first time in, well, ever, I’m considering leaving out a sound card and sticking with the onboard audio on my new GA-Z97X-UD5H Gigabyte mobo. It has the Realtek ALC1150 codec vs. the Creative Sound Blaster Zx sound card that I can move from my old system. I’m no audiophile, so I honestly don’t know if I’d be missing out on anything grand by not bringing the Zx along, although the occasional snapping/popping/static won’t be missed if I can leave it behind. Is onboard audio of a quality, particularly for gaming, that it is better or worse than the sound card? I use a decent set of Sennheiser headphones only, no speaker setup, if that matters.

I know there’s a lot of hate for Creative out there, but I’ve used the cards going back a long way and haven’t felt let down by the experience, so reputation is not a driving factor for me. It’s all about the experience. However, I don’t have any experience with the onboard audio of any mobo ever so can’t make a judgement. I’ve been of the mind that dedicated is better, but perhaps that’s not the case anymore (or hasn’t been for a long while when it comes to audio).

Thoughts to help make a decision would be appreciated.


#2

Use the onboard and add the card if you don’t like it ?


#3

Do you drive the phones from the analogue out of the soundcard?

General rule of thumb is you are using digital out (fibre, coax, HDMI), on-board sound is fine as the signal is generally only pass-through anyway (ie no signal processing).

If you are using the analogue outs, there is still value in a 3rd party soundcard as they will usually use better DACs and have better electrical isolation. Most of the cards also come with Dolby Headphone, which some people seem to like.

If you have a card you can bring with you, Creative are still supporting it and you drive your gear from the analogues, I’d put it in.


#4

sharaleo, no, it won’t use any of the digital connections (at least not right now), so thanks for the info. The headphones are using the analog (mic/headphone) connectors and I had those attached to the Zx’s ACM flowing through to the rear jacks. That’s a pretty clear vote for moving the card over.

Alistair, yeah, I had thought of just testing it out for a bit. Knowing me, though, I’d probably think it was okay in terms of sound quality and I’d not know enough to avoid possible pitfalls down the road. Since I already have the card, if it’s the better choice, I definitely want to use it (and likewise with the onboard sound).


#5

I have tried onboard sound and even an alternate sound card a few times, and in all cases I went back to a discrete Creative card.

I’d move the card over, especially since you already have it.


#6

My experience is that onboard sound sounds fine, until you install a discrete soundcard. Then you realize that it sounded like crap all along.


#7

Keep the Zx.

I use a Z, personally. 5.1 speaker setup.

To elaborate, I used to have nightmares with the old X-Fi cards. BSODs left and right. Then Microsoft finally got sick and tired of all the telemetry from all those BSODs being caused by shitty sound drivers, so they kicked the audio stack out of the kernel, and Creative’s hardware-accelerated sound cards went the way of the dodo. The good news is that the Zs and their drivers are incredibly stable compared to earlier Creative boards, and Creative has had to focus on providing better sound quality through better DACs and better signal-to-noise ratios and such. You will also notice that the Z boards have the EMI shielding around them, to block out interference that can come from the PC itself. Stuff like that.


#8

Nice tips/votes for the Zx. Thanks all. Definitely going to pull the card from the old system tomorrow and slot it in.


#9

The headphone amp on the Creative will make a huge difference, assuming you use headphones. The bass will be clearer and have more weight to it. The cleaner sound should help the high end as well. If you’re using crappy headphones or speakers then it won’t make a difference of course.


#12

I noticed static concurrent with the lan led blinks. Obvious cross talk between the lan and the audio. Yuk. got a SB-1550 to fix it.
Must disable on-board chip to use it.


#13

Wow, that’s some high class spam.