View Full Version : How good is the on-board sound in today's mobos?
I mean, I read lots of reviews about motherboards and they usually only talk a little bit about the integrated sound (usually the codec used and the number of channels it has). But what I'd like to know is how are they performance-wise and quality-wise in comparison to most 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 add-on cards?
I mean, should I drop my Audigy in favour of my MSI K8N Neo Platinum on-board sound?
Are there any reviews covering this?
I have a few opinions on on-board sound and a great wad of benchmarks I have done with sound cards and on-board chips, but not with me here.
In the past, onboard sound was generally complete crap. Sounded bad, used loads of CPU time, unstable drivers.
Now, all of the above is still somewhat true, but some of the recent chips like the Realtek 650 series sound good, still use 1-10% CPU time and have stable drivers. The nForce2 boards had an excellent chip, that suffered from noise interferrance, but used amost no CPU time and performed excellently.
You will find that most of the current add-on sound boards with the exception of Creative and old Turtle Beach use the same chips and DACs as on-board sound solutions and do not provide a significant advantage.
I would personally never buy another Creative Labs product again. The short summary is 'Great Hardware, Really Crap and Unstable Drivers'. Their driver team should not be executed, they should be torchered a bit first as an example. There is no point owning wonderfully featured hardware if you get blue screen crashes during games. Ditching my Creative Labs Sound Blasters, Web Cam and other creative products ellminated instability in my systems. I can't stress enough how pathetic Creative Labs is at supporting their products in software.
The bottom line is, current on-board sound can be quite okay. We may not see anything as good as the nForce2 sound solution again for a while (sniff), but I would think twice before purchasing an add-on board unless you own a mother board with bad audio. Get yourself a fast CPU and some good speakers!
After that long rant I didn't even answer your question, but maybe something I said will help your choice.
08-24-04, 01:31 AM
God my Soundblaster Live was a mess.
On-board sound is fine quality/speed, but you're not going to get cool EAX stuff or surround sound.
Realtek ALC850 is good for onboard sound, I'm using it and am quite happy. And in this thread (http://www.nvnews.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=30147), JuiceZ compared the Realtek ALC850 with the Audigy2 and found them to have nearly on par performance and quality.
Onboard audio is safe to use, provided your CPU is powerful enough like the Athlon64. You'll lose some fps, we're only talking 5 at most.
Well, from all you guys told me, I think I'll keep my Audigy (since it brings me no trouble at all - at least for now - and the on-board sound is, at most, as good as it is, and I still get to use EAX and the likes), but in the future maybe I'll refrain from buying another add-on card or at least consider it thoughtfully...
I still think it's a shame reviewers don't go deeper on the analysis of the sound capabilities of mobos and add-on cards, quality- and performance-wise. And I think that's why CL has such crappy drivers (as Greg said) and why they sell so much: it's all based on marketing and, where I live, there aren't many alternatives in add-on cards to what CL sells. It's very much either CL or on-board as far as choices go.
Thanks for the insight.
08-24-04, 11:50 AM
When my K8N Neo2 Platinum and 3500+ CPU arrive I'm going to give the onboard audio a shot in an effort to minimize the use of my PCI slots. That said, I've never had a problem with any Creative product and I've owned a Live, Audigy and Audigy 2 ZS. I think a major part of the backlash of 'crappy' Creative drivers relates more to all the extra software they want you to install. On my Creative cards, all I install are the drivers. I don't use the EAX console or any of that other crap, and the card has been perfectly stable. It performs great in all my applications and games. I'm hoping the Realtek audio offers me comparable sound quality so I can ultimately sell the A2 ZS.
I've never had a problem with any Creative product and I've owned a Live, Audigy and Audigy 2 ZS. I think a major part of the backlash of 'crappy' Creative drivers relates more to all the extra software they want you to install. On my Creative cards, all I install are the drivers. I don't use the EAX console or any of that other crap, and the card has been perfectly stable.
That's probably it, since all I install (ever since I bought my SB Live) is the drivers. My main concern is performance while using EAX and hardware acceleration, and that's my main question when looking at on-board sound solutions: how well do they do when using it, in comparison with CL solutions?
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