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Realtek ALC892 vs discrete sound for surround sound performance

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I was thinking of adding a discrete audio card - maybe in the $80-$120 range - to my gaming rig. Currently I have the Sabertooth X58 motherboard that uses the Realtek ALC892 audio chipset to drive the analog outputs. The speaker system I use is the Logitech x-540 set (kind of a budget set, I know). Now I know many people say that these days a sound card is getting less and less important (especially if you're using low-end speakers), but my issue is that I want better surround sound realism. Right now in the multi-channel audio games I play (like Skyrim and Fable III), the surround sound effects like the birds\nature and enemies sneaking up behind me are often very quiet\underappreciated and trying to balance the back speakers with the front ones introduces distortion. Since the front and back speakers are positioned the exact same way and have all the same specifications, I know the speakers are not to blame.

So in summary, I'm simply asking if buying a discreet audio card will give me better surround sound over using the ALC892 chipset that's built into my motherboard.

I've also heard that sound cards have a dedicated audio processor and therefore don't need to use the CPU for processing audio (thereby offloading the CPU and giving better performance in games). I'd like to ask if the real-world performance gain by doing this is actually noticeable at all, especially since I'm running a Core i7 950.

If you do think an audio card would be worth it for me, please recommend me something (I like the look of the Asus cards so far). I need something that's $80-$120, high-quality, and supports 5.1 or 7.1 channel analog outputs.

Thanks for being patient with me.
post #2 of 26
My suggestion is to not spend $120 for a sound card to power $80 speakers - invest in some good speakers (or headphones) and then worry about getting a better sound card thumb.gif
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post #3 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simek View Post

Hi all,

I was thinking of adding a discrete audio card - maybe in the $80-$120 range - to my gaming rig. Currently I have the Sabertooth X58 motherboard that uses the Realtek ALC892 audio chipset to drive the analog outputs. The speaker system I use is the Logitech x-540 set (kind of a budget set, I know). Now I know many people say that these days a sound card is getting less and less important (especially if you're using low-end speakers), but my issue is that I want better surround sound realism. Right now in the multi-channel audio games I play (like Skyrim and Fable III), the surround sound effects like the birds\nature and enemies sneaking up behind me are often very quiet\underappreciated and trying to balance the back speakers with the front ones introduces distortion. Since the front and back speakers are positioned the exact same way and have all the same specifications, I know the speakers are not to blame.

So in summary, I'm simply asking if buying a discreet audio card will give me better surround sound over using the ALC892 chipset that's built into my motherboard.

I've also heard that sound cards have a dedicated audio processor and therefore don't need to use the CPU for processing audio (thereby offloading the CPU and giving better performance in games). I'd like to ask if the real-world performance gain by doing this is actually noticeable at all, especially since I'm running a Core i7 950.

If you do think an audio card would be worth it for me, please recommend me something (I like the look of the Asus cards so far). I need something that's $80-$120, high-quality, and supports 5.1 or 7.1 channel analog outputs.

Thanks for being patient with me.



Hello and welcome to OCN smile.gif

Let me start off by saying your speakers aren't too bad at all. Granted they aren't the greatest in terms of audio quality, but they should work fairly well for gaming. The question is if they will benefit from a high end sound card. Now I have not listened to these speakers in particular, but generally speaking logitech speakers only seem to benefit from various software apps within the sound card software and they do not improve in terms for sound quality from the hard ware. Meaning that as long as you have good software with a sound card, I barely notice a difference from a 30 dollar sound card and a 200 sound card. With other speakers I do, and you speakers could very well be an exception. What I would recommend is that you get a sound card from best buy (I hate sending people there), and buy a maybe 50 dollar sound card. Take it home and try it out. Listen to your speakers for a day, then switch to the sound card for a day, then switch back to no sound card. If you notice a pretty big difference, then get the sound card I am about to recommend in a moment, and return the best buy sound card. If not then just go with the asus DGX just in case you get some better speakers later on.

Now for your questions

Will buying a discrete sound card help?

Yes and no. 99 times out of 100 it definitely makes a difference, but like I said above, logitech speakers really don't respond to well in my personal opinion. I would still say it is worth it though because even a cheap sound card (50 bucks or so) would be an improvement if you get other audio stuff later down the road.

Will a sound card give you a gaming boost. ?

Ehhhhhhhh not really. I have NEVER seen sound card improve games more than 3 FPS. What it has helped with is sometimes games will just dip randomly in FPS when there is a crap ton of sound trying to be produced, and sound cards can help prevent those random dips. Even then, I have only seen that type of issue be problematic with socket 775 CPUs and low end AMD phenom chips. Your i7 950 is probably going to be just fine.

Recommend you a sound card:

The asus stuff is better for music and audiophiles. Gaming wise I think creative sound cards are much better in terms of accuracy and positioning. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102048 this is a really nice 5.1 card. It has a bunch of software that will allow you to sort of manipulate your surround sound experience. It is not the best sound card for music, but it does a LOT better than on board.

Hopefully this helps thumb.gif
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post #4 of 26
I have a creative card, it's great. I bought it because I needed certain features like the extra inputs. I didn't think I needed it for sounds quality because I use headphones primarily. But I compared it to onboard one day just for kicks, and the difference was immediate. Even with headphones, the virtual stereo surround was a huge difference. If you don't want to spend as much as Angel's recommendation, you can go for a titanium like I have.
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post #5 of 26
I would sell your motherboard and get one that has better sound drivers. I have an ASUS z77 board and the sound drivers are great and have awesome capabilities. This option however involves selling your current rig and purchasing a new one which may be too much of a hassle.
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post #6 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by drnilly007 View Post

I would sell your motherboard and get one that has better sound drivers. I have an ASUS z77 board and the sound drivers are great and have awesome capabilities. This option however involves selling your current rig and purchasing a new one which may be too much of a hassle.
Or for less money buy a soundcard :/
post #7 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:

Hello and welcome to OCN smile.gif

Let me start off by saying your speakers aren't too bad at all. Granted they aren't the greatest in terms of audio quality, but they should work fairly well for gaming. The question is if they will benefit from a high end sound card. Now I have not listened to these speakers in particular, but generally speaking logitech speakers only seem to benefit from various software apps within the sound card software and they do not improve in terms for sound quality from the hard ware. Meaning that as long as you have good software with a sound card, I barely notice a difference from a 30 dollar sound card and a 200 sound card. With other speakers I do, and you speakers could very well be an exception. What I would recommend is that you get a sound card from best buy (I hate sending people there), and buy a maybe 50 dollar sound card. Take it home and try it out. Listen to your speakers for a day, then switch to the sound card for a day, then switch back to no sound card. If you notice a pretty big difference, then get the sound card I am about to recommend in a moment, and return the best buy sound card. If not then just go with the asus DGX just in case you get some better speakers later on.

Now for your questions

Will buying a discrete sound card help?

Yes and no. 99 times out of 100 it definitely makes a difference, but like I said above, logitech speakers really don't respond to well in my personal opinion. I would still say it is worth it though because even a cheap sound card (50 bucks or so) would be an improvement if you get other audio stuff later down the road.

Will a sound card give you a gaming boost. ?

Ehhhhhhhh not really. I have NEVER seen sound card improve games more than 3 FPS. What it has helped with is sometimes games will just dip randomly in FPS when there is a crap ton of sound trying to be produced, and sound cards can help prevent those random dips. Even then, I have only seen that type of issue be problematic with socket 775 CPUs and low end AMD phenom chips. Your i7 950 is probably going to be just fine.

Recommend you a sound card:

The asus stuff is better for music and audiophiles. Gaming wise I think creative sound cards are much better in terms of accuracy and positioning. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102048 this is a really nice 5.1 card. It has a bunch of software that will allow you to sort of manipulate your surround sound experience. It is not the best sound card for music, but it does a LOT better than on board.

Hopefully this helps

Wow, thanks man! That answered all of my questions except one.

I'm still just wondering about the surround sound performance. Since you recommended Creative cards for Gamers, I'll probably end up getting a Creative card. Although better sound in general is obviously nice, the main reason I'd be buying a sound card is for better surround sound in my games. I don't think the Realtek onboard audio is great for surround sound, but I don't own a sound card right now so I can't answer that for sure. Would the surround sound effects (birds, sneaking up enemies, ect) be noticeably louder\fuller\better on a proper gaming sound card than on the Realtek chipset?

EDIT: Heh, more replies made while I was writing this post. Nice active forum!
Edited by Simek - 1/23/13 at 11:18am
post #8 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simek View Post

Wow, thanks man! That answered all of my questions except one.

I'm still just wondering about the surround sound performance. Since you recommended Creative cards for Gamers, I'll probably end up getting a Creative card. Although better sound in general is obviously nice, the main reason I'd be buying a sound card is for better surround sound in my games. I don't think the Realtek onboard audio is great for surround sound, but I don't own a sound card right now so I can't answer that for sure. Would the surround sound effects (birds, sneaking up enemies, ect) be noticeably louder\fuller\better on a proper gaming sound card than on the Realtek chipset?

EDIT: Heh, more replies made while I was writing this post. Nice active forum!
Grab the asus xonar DX it doesn't do bad in games except I found it that it kind of sucks in Frostbyte engine games such as bf3 but other then that it was fine.
post #9 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by drnilly007 View Post

I would sell your motherboard and get one that has better sound drivers. I have an ASUS z77 board and the sound drivers are great and have awesome capabilities. This option however involves selling your current rig and purchasing a new one which may be too much of a hassle.

Well, I wish I had that much time and money, but unfortunately I don't. I actually also want a motherboard with the PCI Express x16 slots further apart (top card gets hot), but that's a dream for me right now too.
post #10 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eagle1337 View Post

Grab the asus xonar DX it doesn't do bad in games except I found it that it kind of sucks in Frostbyte engine games such as bf3 but other then that it was fine.

I'll look into that card. Thanks!
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