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Old 2008-05-13, 00:47   Link #21
Synria_
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I thought a soundcard will always be better than onboard. My tech friend told me that instead of the cpu processing all the signals, it will now go to the soundcard and straight to your audio device (so you free up some cpu usage there). I myself was looking into a soundcard, particularly the Asus Xonar DX ($90), and then later buying some headphones. Right now I have a 2.1 setup (altec lansing) hooked up the onboard and I must say it is not that bad... so I don't know if I really need one. I'm not sure if spending another 90 will improve anything really, as everything seems fine. But the fact that I CAN and USE a soundcard makes me want to just get one...

Make sure you give us an update after installing everything. I want to know if you notice any difference.

Edit: Can anyone tell me whether HT Omega Striker or Xonar DX is better?
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Last edited by Synria_; 2008-05-13 at 18:26.
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Old 2008-05-15, 06:10   Link #22
p997tt
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I never believe that source is important, until I decided to spend some big money on upgrading my source.

I have spent quite a bit of money on my headphone setup and have gone through many upgrades. There was an obvious improvement in sound quality as I upgrade each component, but the biggest improvement by far was when I upgraded from a soundcard (E-MU 1212m) to an external DAC (CIAudio VDA2 + VAC1 power supply). Prior to this upgrade, I have tried changing headphones, amps, cables, but I was never too happy even when I end up with the US$700 Grado RS1 and a Singlepower tube amp. So I decided to trust "team source first" for once, and spend the most money on the source (was thinking of getting either the Benchmark DAC1, Lavry DA10 or CIAudio...since the CIAudio was the cheapest so I went with that)...and for the first time, I was actually happy with my setup and told myself that I should have changed the source first before wasting my time and money on other parts.

So since that time, I have become a believer that source is very important. My E-MU soundcard, which is considered to be one of the best cards for music, already gives a big improvement over the onboard sound, and this improvement can be heard even with my cheap 2.1 PC speakers (one must be deaf to not hear any difference). But if you have decent headphones, then even the best sound cards aren't going to cut it.

To answer the original question "Spend more on a sound card than headphones?", if I change sound card to source, then my answer to the question would be yes. You will get better sounds by upgrading headphones, but to get the most out of the headphones you will need a source (and an amp) that can bring out their true potential, and this source can often cost more than the headphones themselves.
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Old 2008-05-15, 10:37   Link #23
hobbes_fan
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Late response, I've started Uni again

To
When we mean source it has nothing to do with hardware. It is the source ie the CD, DVD or file. An Amp is part of the processing/output chain of the equation. If you play back a file at 8khz bitrate using a lossy codec ie MP3 vs a 192khz lossless codec ie FLAC through the most expensive sound system in a acoustically designed isolation chamber the 8khz MP3 will still sound horrendous. IMO it will sound even worse. The more responsive speakers/amplifiers will highlight every recording flaw there is on the source material.

You can't polish a turd, it just gets messy. It doesn't work like that. Tube amps are great provided a) you are willing to wait for the power tube section to warm up in around 15 mins b) you're after a more organic ambience instead of the clinical precision of solid state amplifiers.

For example
Solid State, Note the pint around 2 mins it sounds like a cat's fart, no depth no body no bite, Brittle and sterile sounding
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZBv6...eature=related
Analog note around the 2min mark more depth more body, smoother not as brittle
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh4w4NGE7oM

Granted these are guitar amps and are extreme examples but the principle is the same in analog vs digital amps in hifi amplification. Note IMO the clean undistorted sound of the Solid state is much nicer sounding over the analog amp, but that may be because of the reverb and other effects he's running into the amp

To Synria:

Xonar DX vs Ht Omega Striker - it depends features are about the same. So it boils down to hardware. Specifically the OPAMP components, the HT Omega is a PCI card with CMI8770 opamps which are pretty good. (CMI8788 is pretty much the gold standard) The Xonar DX is a PCIE x1card, so if you don't have that port forget it. I have been unable to find any hardware details on this card. So in light of this I'll recommend what I know the HT Omega.

There was a time when soundcards offered better performance because it freed the cpu from tasks but we're talking about 386 and 486 era of computing. The only reason things sound like ass before on onboard audio was the substandard audio chipsets/hardware attached to motherboards. Nowadays it's a big selling point so in all reality they're quite good. Souncards still (generally) offer superior hardware mainly the opamps but not to the point where they blow the doors off the onboard audio as they used to. But with all things I've said trust your ear. If you can't find anything wrong with what you hear why bother. Because it sounds like you're not too sure what you're looking for and are fairly satisfied with what you hear.

To Potatochobit
Yes prologic 2 is backwards compatible with mono, stereo, prologic1 and dolby digital. Whatever you feed into it it should come out prologic2. I also don't believe that I've never seen a prologic rig with only two speaker outs. It defies the whole prologic2 5.1 concept to have only two speaker outs. If you can post a pic or pm a photo of the rear panel of the amp or pm me a make and model I'll look into it for you.

Prologic2 is surround sound, however Dolby Digital is as well, they just do it differently. However with the way DD is encoded and transmitted it's just not possible to do so over a pair of RCA input jacks, you can use digital coaxial (looks like an rca but it's got bigger bandwidth equivalent to 6 RCA jacks) or Toslink (optical) both are called S/PDIF connections.

best concise explanation I can find of prologic1 & 2 vs DD
http://www.5dot1.com/articles/pro_lo...o_logic_2.html
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Old 2008-05-15, 10:55   Link #24
Synria_
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I'm really edging towards HT Omega. Now i'm in a dilemma if the difference in chipsets is worth the cost. C-Media CMI8770 or the higher end C-Media CMI8788. I mean I have read reports that 8770 gives good sound already, but the 8788 gives even better (or so it is reported). Budget is not really a problem, but if I'm going to spend, I might as well get what's the best so I don't have regrets in the future. All I know is between the Striker and the Claro, the Claro has extra music production capabilities (I think), besides a better chipset, which I don't know how much of a factor this plays into the overall sound.

If it helps, I use my computer as a HTPC, mainly watching DVD's, animes, and listening to music. Gaming is less frequent, and definitely not the determining factor in looking for a soundcard.

Do you think going for the higher end soundcard/chipset is worth it as far as getting better overall sound or is the difference negligible (and not worth double the price)?
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Old 2008-05-15, 11:35   Link #25
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A lot of the Claro/Claro+(I use this for both my gaming PC and HTPC) features are more to do on the recording end, which I use. Also a 2.1 setup isn't going to really give you "proper" surround sound. Depending if you are actually connected to a big screen TV, I'd say get a nice 5.1 setup a HTIB (Home Theater in a Box) would be much better in representing the surround sound depth and the Striker. That should be a significant and reasonable upgrade. Note I'll say it once and I'll say it again, modest level Home theater stuff is 95% of the time superior to expensive PC speakers

But you have to decide what's best in the long run. I run my gear into a Denon AVR 2807 reciever and wharfedale 7.1 setup so I want to make use of the responsiveness. I don't mean to knock your gear or anything, but you have to consider what you're pairing it with on the output end. If you want to really make a difference you have to consider your speakers as well. It'For surround 5.1 is superior to 2.1, but only if you can tell and only if you can position the speakers appropriately. As stated IMO 25% of the sound quality equation is a byproduct of speaker and amplification quality. (75% being source) Most audiophiles will use a 60/40 ratio or 50/50 ratio. But I use my ears and that just my opinion.
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Old 2008-05-15, 22:03   Link #26
Potatochobit
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Ok, after playing with the setup for a day or so, here is what I'm leaning towards

onboard -> sound card -> nice headphones

sound card should be upgraded first.

if you plan to use the onboard audio and are wondering if a great pair of headphones are worth it, I would say no, as long as you currently have a decent set of headphones or desk top speakers. (i.e. no dollar market items, decent as in 40$-ish, good amplified desk top speakers)

with the new headphones, I did test them using the onboard sound first. there was a difference, but it was modest when comparing it to my older headset. (panasonic Rp-ht355, which is quite old and junky as of current) I would say the 120$ cost of the new headphones would not have been justifiable, at least to me. I chickened out and didnt also order the koss headset, but if they are decent I can understand why they were recommended with a sound card.

now, with the new sound card. yes, even grandma will be able to tell the difference. she may not like it though.

its not really advertised but the HT omega striker uses EAX2. now, I dont have a game that makes good use of sound, but I could tell a difference, and it was making my ears bleed (game programmers fault, not the card.) with the desktop speakers you can hear a distinct improvement while playing all media. It was a pleasant surprise, I was not expecting it.

after the sound card was installed, did the headphone test again. this time the old headphones still sound acceptable, but the new ones really start to shine. messing with the equalizer and presets you can hear a huge difference in sound. (to be honest, I never really messed around much with the realtek equalizer) is the whole package worth 200$+? hmm, can't say, I was hoping not to spend that much, but I am satisfied, thats for sure.

what I would recommend for people who are unsure about buying a sound card is maybe to play with the realtek equalizer some, or a free program similar to Audio Sandbox, first.

Cons: somethings I don't like about the setup. there is no in line volume switch on the headphones. good thing my keyboard also has audio controls on the right next to the mouse. you also need to keep the sound options open to get the most out of the card. since I switch media alot, u have to constanly change settings to what you are watching at the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobbes
The Xonar DX is a PCIE x1card, so if you don't have that port forget it.
Don't forget, any decent PC is going to have a graphics card there also.
something you might also want to consider, is the striker is 2 years old now? not sure if a new model is in the works, but I'm sure something new will come out at the end of the year/next year.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobbes
I've never seen a prologic rig with only two speaker outs
my fault, I meant it only has RCA/composite inputs, the standard red and white L/R. it does have 5 speakers coming out of the reciever/amplifier. the reason is because it's an old shelf system, not an actual stereo receiver. at least I think so, i'll have to dig it out of the closet. (I'm banned from playing loud music in the house, i.e. need for headphones )

so now If i want to hook up my nintendo wii to the sound card, I use the stereo output and then get a 3.5mm converter into the sound card? I don't think they make a digital out for the wii.
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Last edited by Potatochobit; 2008-05-15 at 23:10.
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Old 2008-05-16, 01:25   Link #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Potatochobit View Post
Don't forget, any decent PC is going to have a graphics card there also.
Graphics card use PCIE x16 (the longer one, x1 is the short one). But if you have HUGE graphic card with 2 slot usage, make sure your PCIE x1 slot is still usable (not covered by your gpu's fan), since there's some mobos that if you plug in a huge gpu, your PCIE x1 slot is not even visible. This more often happen in CrossFire/SLI setup...
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Old 2008-05-16, 05:27   Link #28
p997tt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hobbes_fan View Post
When we mean source it has nothing to do with hardware. [/url]
Well I guess your source means "source formats", and when I said source, I meant "source components". Both terms have the word source in it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Synria_ View Post
Budget is not really a problem, but if I'm going to spend, I might as well get what's the best so I don't have regrets in the future.
To anyone who says budget isn't a problem and only use stereo sound from their PC, just go straight to an external stereo DAC and get a cheap sound card that can do bit-perfect output. An entry level audiophile DAC like the US$1000 Benchmark DAC1 (or other DACs in the DAC1 class) is a very popular choice for computer audio and it will eat any sound card for breakfast. You might not hear much difference with PC speakers, but once you start using other audiophile components, you will notice the improvement a good DAC can bring. (this is only for people who wants to spend a lot of money on audio equipments )
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Old 2008-05-16, 08:37   Link #29
hobbes_fan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by p997tt View Post
Well I guess your source means "source formats", and when I said source, I meant "source components". Both terms have the word source in it.



To anyone who says budget isn't a problem and only use stereo sound from their PC, just go straight to an external stereo DAC and get a cheap sound card that can do bit-perfect output. An entry level audiophile DAC like the US$1000 Benchmark DAC1 (or other DACs in the DAC1 class) is a very popular choice for computer audio and it will eat any sound card for breakfast. You might not hear much difference with PC speakers, but once you start using other audiophile components, you will notice the improvement a good DAC can bring. (this is only for people who wants to spend a lot of money on audio equipments )
It might be an idea to read the entire thread. Context helps before advice. But yes you're correct.
My problem with this point is you're not considering the user. What is he using it for? fansubs/dvd's,Cd's. AAC, MP3, WAV. running into a 2.1 Altec Lansing rig. Instantly he's no audiophile YET. He's already umm and ahhing about $200 soundcards. IE he doesn't know what he's looking for. I can recommend a$10,000 rig plus another $5,000 to remodel the room but I guarantee he's not going to appreciate the difference in relation to the price spent and it wouldn't be money well spent. It's a pointless exercise to spend thousands on audio gear and then not put in a room that's not suitable.

Sorry, I don't mean to pick on you but it's one of my pet peeves when someone recommends hi fi equipment it's straightaway $1000+. Having audiophile gear isn't what defines an audiophile. Far too often I walk into "audiophile" houses but the 7.1 speakers are placed horrendously. all next to each other and not in the appropriate positions. Centre sitting on top of the sub etc etc and more often than not they can't tell the diff between prologicII and DD/DTS. The discretion to diagnose what you hear, to appreciate what you hear is what makes an audiophile. I consider myself an amateur audiophile, my experience is from doing live pa mixing for bands, doing work in a recording studio and recording live. He needs to learn what he wants to hear, what he needs to improve sound. Sound is about what is pleasurable to the person's ear. There is no set formula, if he doesn't know yet I don't feel chucking $1000's at the problem is a good idea. Sure, he did open the door for that response but is it really appropriate advice?
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Last edited by hobbes_fan; 2008-05-16 at 08:53.
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