To soundcard, or not to soundcard

  Esc4p3 14:49 03 Jun 2014
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Answered

Hi there

I am looking to buy a new PC soon, which will have multiple uses. 1. General 'office' type use (Word, Excel, Outlook etc.) 2. Playing music 3. Gaming 4. Recording music (mainly via a USB interface, a Roland Keyboard and sometimes the line-in)

I have mostly narrowed down my specs along with a budget of £1,000 or so just for the base unit. Along the lines of i5 4670k, 8/16 Gb ram, GTX770 as the foundation of the system. But what I can't make my mind up about is whether to include a soundcard or not. Clearly I wouldn't need one for items 1 and 2, opinion seems mixed about needing one for 3. My current PC (7 year old Evesham) has a Creative X-Fi Extreme Audio card that does all of the above tasks pretty well, and I know on-board sound has come on in the last few years. Looking at various sites, Creative still seems to be an option along with various Asus Xonar cards. I have a set of 5.1 speakers already.

What do you think, get a soundcard or stick with on-board sound?

  Ian in Northampton 15:51 03 Jun 2014

The answer is, of course - it entirely depends on your ears... :-) You're right that onboard sound has come a long way since the early days to the point where, IMHO, you need to be a fairly committed audiophile to justify a separate sound card. Personally, I couldn't - but then, my hearing is pretty non-discriminatory. (Although, that said, I added a soundbar to my TV and the difference is amazing - but then, flat screen TV sound is notoriously poor.) For the PC on which I mostly play music, I just use its onboard sound - but I've matched that up with a decent Creative 2.1 set-up which delivers a quality of sound that absolutely meets my needs. However, as I say - you may be more discriminating. If you do decide to go for a 'real' sound card, I'd certainly stick with Creative - I've been a fan of theirs for ages, and haven't yet found anything (sound cards or speakers) that I think is better value.

  bumpkin 16:13 03 Jun 2014

Ian " I'd certainly stick with Creative - I've been a fan of theirs for ages, and haven't yet found anything (sound cards or speakers) that I think is better value."

I totally agree, I have Creative speakers on my PC and one of my TV's. To my hearing it is as good as my Bose Hifi unless I want to blast the house down then it starts to fail badly. Great value for the normal listener in my opinion.

  bumpkin 16:16 03 Jun 2014

Bose if you are planning a street party:-)

  Esc4p3 17:15 03 Jun 2014

Thanks both - as it happens my speakers are Creative as well :-)

Certainly apart from a few issues early on with drivers (resolved with some "Daniel K" drivers), I've had no problems with the Creative soundcard I've got. I guess the main bit I was worried about was the music recording, but then again when recording via USB, my Roland Keyboard is acting as an external soundcard anyway....so perhaps I am worrying unnecessarily....!

  wee eddie 17:45 03 Jun 2014
Answer

Sound Card or not. It doesn't matter at the moment.

Start off with no Sound Card and, if the results are adequate, you've saved some money. After all, most Sound Cards are targeted at the Reproduction of Music as opposed to the Recording of it.

However, if you find that your new Recording Software requires specific inputs or facilities beyond USB, then it should be no problem to add a suitable card at a later date.

  Esc4p3 17:51 03 Jun 2014

Yes, that's sound (ahem) advice, thanks wee eddie. I think I will go with that unless the PC I end up going for happens to be bundled with a card of some sort....

  Ian in Northampton 20:43 03 Jun 2014

ßeta: slightly off topic, but I'm no big Bose fan either. For hi-fi, give me JBL or KEF very time. (I still have a pair of KEFs from 30 years ago and have never found anything that sounds better. Mind you, I'm old enough to remember when every boy's dream was a Garrard SP25, a Sinclair amp and a pair of Wharfedales...)

  Ian in Northampton 20:46 03 Jun 2014

... and while we're in an acronym kind of mood... I was always led to believe, back in the mainframe era, that IBM stood for "It's better manually". Then there are airline favourites. "Always late in the air, late in arriving", "Such a bloody experience, never again" and, of course, "Bloody awful".

  Esc4p3 15:42 10 Jul 2014

Just to update this topic, I am picking the new PC up on Saturday.....with no soundcard! Went for a clearance PC from Novatech (i7, GTX780, 16Gb RAM) and will see how I go without soundcard.

Something that only occurred yesterday was that I could keep the soundcard from the current PC rather than sell it on when the time comes to ditch the old (current) PC.

Stupidly excited about picking the new machine up to be honest #BoysToys !!

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