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Lately, I read several discussions about ... is a sound card needed or is it better than on-board sound.
Was inspired to test my headphones on my 2 computers: on-board sound vs sound card.

Test setup 1:
windows 7
Asus p5k premium wifi-ap with Analog Devices AD1988B (on-board audio)
Logitech Z3 desktop speakers.
Beyerdynamic DT 880 (250 ohm) connected to headphone out on Logitech Z3

Test setup 2:
windows 7
Asus P7H55 with disabled on-board sound
Creative X-Fi Titanium HD (stock)
Beyerdynamic DT 880 (250 ohm) connected to headphone out on Titanium HD

Disabled all special sound effects which means flat EQ, no bass boost, no surround sound, no crystalizer.
In VLC player, re-played the same 320kbps mp3 track, several times, on both AD1988B and Creative Titanium HD.
Same headphones in both test setups.

Conclusion:
In music, I estimate Titanium HD has approximately 10-15% better sound quality than the AD1988B.
10-15% is my subjective opinion. It is hard to quantify.
It's not a night vs day difference. It's a dawn vs day difference.
It's only a small difference, but after I hear better sound, I dont want to return to worse sound.
AD1988B sounds like a less clear (slightly muddy) version of the Titanium HD.

In case you are interested, AD1988B with Logitech Z3 speakers (no headphones) has even muddier sound, especially bass.

As for gaming, I don't understand why any serious gamer would be satisfied with on-board audio.
To my ears, in-game audio is significantly more 3D after a game (both EAX and non-EAX games) is enabled in Creative Alchemy.

I will be adding all my games into Alchemy. Wish I knew good alchemy settings (buffers,duration) for various games.
Edited by Partol - 10/29/11 at 4:55pm
     
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CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Athlon II X4 750k Asus F2A85-V MSI GTX 750 Ti Team 2x2GB 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Kingston SSD V300 120GB Zalman CNPS5X performa + Arctic MX-4 Windows 7 64-bit Asus VW222 22" LCD 1680x1050 
PowerCase
FSP 460W Foxconn TSAA-426 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Pentium G3258 @ 4.4 GHz ~1.38Vcore ~1.9Vccin Ri... MSI H81M-P33 Asus GTX 750 Ti OC + Thermalright HR-11 backsid... Transcend 2x2GB @ 1400MHz (5-7-5-18) ~1.62V 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Intel SSD 330 240GB ZM CNPS5X (not performa) + 120mm fan (push) Windows 7 64bit Acer GD245HQ - 1920x1080 120Hz - Nvidia 3D Vision 
PowerCaseAudio
FSP 500W Enermax Phoenix Neo + 220mm Globefan (side) Creative Titanium HD + Beyer DT 880 - 250 ohm 
  hide details  
Reply