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Are Sound Cards Still Needed?

Outsiders

1 month ago

I've noticed that majority of builds I see either on websites or YouTube don't include a sound card. Are sound cards really not needed anymore for computer builds?

I'm asking because I'm putting together a new build and from my last build, I'm want to use my Logitech THX Z-5300e 5.1 Speakers for my new Gigabyte Z390 AORUS ULTRA Motherboard.

I was thinking of getting a Creative Labs Sound Blaster Zx 24-bit 192 kHz Sound Card but how much of a tight fit it would be against a GPU with this Motherboard.

So would I have any problems with the Motheboard and the Speakers if I skip the sound card or should I still get the card?

I wanted to add if I would have problems if I tried to use the Logitech Z906 500 W 5.1 Channel Speakers without a Sound Card?

Comments

  • 1 month ago
  • 3 points

Internal soundcards are becoming obsolete for the average user. For those who need a more professional solution, external soundcards (read: external DACs) are preferable as they minimize electromagnetic interference by being external to the case.

  • 1 month ago
  • 2 points

Get an external DAC if you’re an audiophile. Honestly, even if you’re not, you’ll be one after getting better sound quality. I don’t personally own a DAC yet and I wouldn’t consider myself an audio enthusiast, but I think anyone who likes good music or who has any kind of musical training will notice the quality difference immediately.

External DACs also have the advantage of being something you can throw in your bag and use elsewhere.

  • 1 month ago
  • 2 points

That's because of a few factors:

  • Let's be real, the majority of viewers are below average intelligence

  • OpenAL drastically reduced the dependency for basic audio support, admittedly

  • You have to have a use case where upgrading the audio make sense to you

  • You're able to fit one

Let's be real, the majority of people are idiots and tone-deaf, and likely using $5 usb powered speakers with their stuff or maybe $10 headphones. They aren't going to sound like triple-digit reference monitors, cans, or anything approaching a 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos arrangement, no matter how much sound hardware you put behind it. So of course they think the $2 Realtek trash on most sounds fine. Yes, I'm salty. Deal with it.

As I referenced earlier, you need a use case where having better audio makes sense for you. Do you play legacy games at all? Do you do streaming with commentary ? Though, to be fair... for the speakers that you did select there, it would not be unreasonable to upgrade your audio just on that factor alone.

If I may, I'll share my own use case. Even with my current beefy main PC, I still happily spin up old games that were made when EAX was still the predominant audio format. And what most people seem to fail to grasp, is that the whole interface of how DirectX would scale graphics fidelity up/down also applied to audio, too. So it doesn't matter how capable Realtek claims their ****** $2 audio chip is. If it isn't reporting that capability to the game, it won't matter what Realtek claims it does. And realtek is especially guilty of this because they won't even try to provide any avenue or recourse to support these games even on Windows XP, let alone anything after it where such support was needed. Basically, as of Windows Vista, Microsoft tried to break Creative's monopoly hold via EAX by adopting OpenAL as the de-facto audio interface for Windows. Not knocking that decision, because it greatly opened up the ability for more to run modern games with the proper audio fidelity. The problem, is that Microsoft provided no form of backward compatibility layer to smooth over the transition. As of right now, the only companies providing anything (to my knowledge) to handle that, would be Asus with their GX program for their Xonar based sound cards, and Creative, with ALchemy for their modern Sound Blaster products. And for complete EAX support, you're still stuck with needing a Creative Sound Blaster sound card. Despite Creative obviously licensing access to third parties, Realtek simply goes "nope" and is too cheap to offer it. So yeah, theirs makes games sound hollow and trashy, in my opinion.

The good thing is that a sound card won't really need a high bandwidth PCI-E lane at present. So you shouldn't need to put it so close to a GPU unless your other slots are going to be occupied for some reason. If you want to talk tight spacing, you should see my mATX build, where I have an X-Fi OEM basically butting up against the GPU in it... there is a PCI-E x1 slot, under the cooler, which I basically can't use as a result. ):

Even if you don't play legacy games, I also mention streaming with Commentary, because even the YouTube channel Tech Deals noticed a considerable improvement on audio fidelity, in recording and production when they dropped in a sound card to use in place of the onboard audio of their board. So if being able to record your vocals clearly is a thing that you care about and you find the onboard isn't cutting it, then that's also another valid reason to use a sound card.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Are sound cards really not needed anymore for computer builds?

Arguably no. I haven't bothered with a sound card since my Core 2 Q6600 and even then I think I had one because it was traditional. If you're just running some entry level/midrange speakers or midrange headphones a dedicated sound card certainly isn't necessary.

There's a bit of history to this: For a big part of the 2000's (and the prior decade) dedicated sound cards were desirable because onboard sound at the time used enough CPU (single core pentium 3's, pentium 4's Athlon's, etc) power where you'd see a measurable performance loss in games ~5-15%. So a sound card would directly increase performance, and you know how people like performance. $40 would cover you in most cases, and easy sell for an extra 5-15% in performance, in games.

But modern multi-core CPU's have power to spare and onboard sound solutions have improved as well. And I don't think the processing demands for sound have increased at anywhere near the same pace. In short sound processing is trivial for general use/gaming, so any thing works. And unless you've got specific needs/wants in the sound department there's not much incentive for an extra bit of hardware.

I'm asking because I'm putting together a new build and from my last build, I'm want to use my Logitech THX Z-5300e 5.1 Speakers for my new Gigabyte Z390 AORUS ULTRA Motherboard.

$200 5.1 Speakers don't scream, "needs a dedicated sound card" to me. And most onboard sound solutions in this decade will support 5.1 and probably 7.1

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Well now modern motherboards with built on audio has their own audio chipset for the processing much like how the older sound cards did so even though the CPU has FAR more resources now than back then the CPU load would be the same no matter if it is onboard audio or PCIe audio. As miniscule load as it is for today's CPUs anyhow.

Though I totally agree that unless you have actual high end speakers/headsets that can benefit from a good external DAC then there is no reason not to use the onboard audio. I got a nice set of 5.1 surround sound speakers, sure they are not high end ones but they do have decent sound to me. I run them fine off my onboard audio to the point where I don't see any value in buying a sound card or DAC for them. Though I am no audiophile I still like having a nice set of speakers.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

Yes, I wasn't to sure about the specifics of current audio chipsets. And seeing as how the demands of audio haven't really increased the amount of processing power required would seem to be trivial to include on modern onboard solutions. Although I'm not exactly clear when they made the switch from CPU resources to internal resources either. But one way or the other yes, currently, they're fine for most people.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

I always have the belief that the less the mother board has to do the better. I paid twice as much for my sound card then my video card.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

I've been doing some reading about external DACs and I don't think I want to spend a $1,000 dollars or more for my sound output. I'm sure if I was into the audio/music field than it would definitely be worth it. Spending $150 dollars for a sound card might be a better substitute but if a sound card is not needed than I can skip on getting one.

I am curious... Will the onboard sound ports be OK to use if I ever decide to Twitch or post videos on YouTube or will there be problems?

Thanks again for all the help!

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

It's very simple leave off the sound card and build your PC. If your don't like the quality of the sound order a sound card.

  • 1 month ago
  • 1 point

I just got a set of Logitech Z506 for my PC, which was top level for me as I don't do any sound stuff on my PC and rarely watch video or play music. My last PC did have usb speakers and yes they are basic. But I wanted something, and at least 4 speakers+sub for games, this 5.1 seemed like the best deal so when it went on sale I bought. Its cheaper because its not digital, even though this Asus has optical out. I have an Asus x470 prime with "Realtek® S1220A 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC featuring Crystal Sound 3" It plugged right in (3 cables) and I have to say it sounds better than I thought for music, works great on games. No its not home theater sound but for little PC speakers it kills IMO. My car with 1kw and t/a and comps and 15s sounds better but all depends on what you are doing. I do have a 5.1 on the tv but really I don't have time to listen to music at home these days and not that many movies. If you are doing something with sound I can see it but my MB has more capability than I will use on this PC. I spent more on the MB to get more features and future use out of it, it could become a htpc or something. Have to say they don't go as loud as my far more expensive samsung soudbar and wireless sub on another tv, but the quality is much better figure that out. Audio quality seems like a thing of the past these days. My android phone has no EQ on it, I don't even know how you explain that. My old apple ipod didn't either. Worthless. All these little BT speakers suck I've heard. Recording clean sound is a great thing but few seem to care on the other end. Oh wait my new android phone can't even block a call like the old one, so why would I expect anything. So I'd say this MB is one of the few things I've seen get much better related to sound equipment.

  • 1 month ago
  • 0 points

The majority of modern motherboards have built-in speaker ports that will do just fine. A sound card will, generally, provide better audio than on-board, but they're not necessary.

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