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Old April 17, 2012, 10:36 PM
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Default Are sound cards going obsolete?

I bought an Asus Xonar Essense ST (PCI version) about 2 years ago. I recently decided I'll be upgrading my motherboard to the ASUS ROG Z77 when it comes out. I noticed it does not have a PCI slot so that I may have to switch to the STX version of the Asus Xonar Essense. During my search, I realized that there hasn't really been any "high end" sound cards released for a while. Is onboard audio getting very good these days or something? I know sound cards won't actually go obsolete so I guess my question is, if onboard audio on higher end / newer model motherboards is getting on par in performance and quality, and if anyone can see Sound cards going obsolete completely in the next 3-5 years?
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Old April 17, 2012, 10:39 PM
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No..onboard is meh at best if you care about the sound. Problem is most people don't...

The market for niche soundcards is small. Plus it's quite difficult to improve upon what's already available for the consumers without hiking up the price.

Another point is that quite a bit of people are moving onto external DAC units
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Old April 17, 2012, 11:01 PM
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more like pci slots are becoming obsolete, I agree with what the above person says, if I have no slot for a sound card I will find a dac, small tube amp, reciever etc to drive my cans and deliver the sound quality I desire
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Old April 17, 2012, 11:25 PM
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For most setups, on-board is fine. If you have a pair of quality stereo headphones, monitors, etc. then the sound-quality of add-ins becomes apparent over on-board. Even then, however, most people wouldn't really care--it's up to the ear-of-the-beholder. Then again, those that don't really care probably aren't sporting $150+ stereo headphones, monitors, etc.
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Old April 18, 2012, 08:44 AM
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I use onboard, but only to feed the audio signal via optical to my receiver that does all the audio processing itself.
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Old April 18, 2012, 10:57 AM
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The only sound cards I recommend are the ones that have a built in 600ohms headphone amp. those are worth the money. If you are willing to drop 200+ dollars on a sound card the money would be better spent on a dac/amp like this A-H01 | Consumer Electronics | Reference Series or something else along those lines.
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Old April 18, 2012, 01:41 PM
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I have been hearing quite a bit about these Dac units from a friend. I will have to look into it. I also agree that the average person doesn't care about the quality of sound as long as they have sound in general. However, I also desire quality sound when it comes to enjoying my music and games. I am not the type to go spend 20k on a sound system like some obsessed audiophiles, but I do own a good pair of headphones (Sennheiser HD 598) Which in my opinion, are a solid pair of Headphones when bought at whole sale as I did (259.99) and paired up to my ST I find the sound quality quite amazing, or at least good enough for me since sound quality is very subjective and I am sure everyone has their opinion. The ST is a 2.1 card, which I like because I find 5.1 pretty useless when listening to music, and games sound just fine on 2.1 as well. I also own the Corsair SP2500 2.1 speakers that compliment my sound card as well.

I appreciate all the comments, I will probably look into Dacs for my future build when it comes to sound and maybe avoid getting the STX.
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Old April 18, 2012, 01:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tianfeng View Post
The only sound cards I recommend are the ones that have a built in 600ohms headphone amp.

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Old April 18, 2012, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tianfeng View Post
The only sound cards I recommend are the ones that have a built in 600ohms headphone amp. those are worth the money. If you are willing to drop 200+ dollars on a sound card the money would be better spent on a dac/amp like this A-H01 | Consumer Electronics | Reference Series or something else along those lines.
I looked into the specs.

ASUS Xonar Essence ST 7.1 Channel PCI Sound Card 24BIT Headphone AMP 124DB SNR - ASUS - Xonar Essence ST

Output Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted):
124dB for Front-out,117dB for Headphone-out (600ohms) dB

So I guess it does have a 600ohms headphone amp. In the software settings for the sound card I get the option to choose from 3 different settings to add DB(ohms).

When using speakers I set it to the 2nd option and only put the volume at around 45 % and that's very loud. I don't know why anyone would ever want to go higher than the 2nd option of High Gain. With headphones however I keep the volume at around 80%. I would never use Extra High Gain. That would make my ears bleed.
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Old April 18, 2012, 04:07 PM
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In case you missed the giant facepalm...the entire 600ohm headphone amp expression does not make any sense.

One measure of amplifier performance is internal impedance, or called amplifier output impedance. Amplifier Output Impedance

What the specification on the ASUS card tells you is the SNR when used WITH a 600ohm pair of headphones.

I use a pair of 600ohm DT880s with my Xonar STX, and there's no way in hell am I going to be satisfied with the way it sounds straight out of the card. It's not powerful enough. That's why I have a line-out from the STX to a Schiit Asgard for properly amplification.

Also regarding gain levels. As you go higher you will lose dynamic range..so keep it as low as you can
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