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Subject: PC Building: Sound Card rss

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I have never bought a sound card when building a PC.
What am I missing out on? I primarily listen to music on my PC.
Would I be better off putting that money into speakers?
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Xander Fulton
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Depends. What speakers/headphones do you have, now?

Onboard audio is pretty decent, lately, and it takes some effort to really improve on it.

But if you DO have good speakers/headphones...AND well sourced audio*...you'll notice the difference.

* For example, if you are using just Dolby Digital audio off of DVDs or iTunes downloads - onboard is fine. Even with mind-blowingly-awesome speakers, the source format limits what you'll get to the point that onboard DACs aren't going to harm it. If you are looking at something like DTS (for DVDs) or the various Blu-Ray audio formats...and your music is CDs encoding in Apple Lossless/FLAC/etc formats...

Well, then, yeah...you'll want a dedicated soundcard.

(Note that the *primary* reason people bought soundcards for decades - Creative's EAX API extensions for PC games - is simply no longer a factor. With Windows 7, Microsoft intentionally broke the low-level access that OS drivers had to the audio hardware, rendering much of what Creative had put together meaningless. It's possible to work around, to some extent, with OpenAL extensions, but...few enough games support it, that it isn't really worth worrying about. Once Microsoft did that, game devs just fled from EAX like rats from a sinking ship - it isn't used anywhere, now.)
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Blorb Plorbst
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XanderF wrote:
Depends. What speakers/headphones do you have, now?

Onboard audio is pretty decent, lately, and it takes some effort to really improve on it.

But if you DO have good speakers/headphones...AND well sourced audio*...you'll notice the difference.

* For example, if you are using just Dolby Digital audio off of DVDs or iTunes downloads - onboard is fine. Even with mind-blowingly-awesome speakers, the source format limits what you'll get to the point that onboard DACs aren't going to harm it. If you are looking at something like DTS (for DVDs) or the various Blu-Ray audio formats...and your music is CDs encoding in Apple Lossless/FLAC/etc formats...

Well, then, yeah...you'll want a dedicated soundcard.

(Note that the *primary* reason people bought soundcards for decades - Creative's EAX API extensions for PC games - is simply no longer a factor. With Windows 7, Microsoft intentionally broke the low-level access that OS drivers had to the audio hardware, rendering much of what Creative had put together meaningless. It's possible to work around, to some extent, with OpenAL extensions, but...few enough games support it, that it isn't really worth worrying about. Once Microsoft did that, game devs just fled from EAX like rats from a sinking ship - it isn't used anywhere, now.)

The other reason to get a sound card is if you intend to do some recording.

Otherwise, does onboard quality meet your needs? If not, get a sound card.
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George Kinney
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If you are using your PC for something where the audio is really important (like a home theater system), or where having different outputs (like optical) matters, then you would benefit from a sound card.

It might help if the on board audio is noisy and that bothers you. (some people don't notice) Personally that's why I use an external DAC for listening to music on my PC, but I'm a bit anal about sound quality for tunes.
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Key Locks
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I've heard that nowadays if you're not careful you can actually get worse sound with a sound card than with onboard sound. I'm going to buy a new comp soon and I probably won't be buying a sound card. But I'm not too picky.
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