- Jan 3, 2001
Flat is your subjective placebo based opinion. The sound is digital and all 1's and 0's. As long as the bit stream isn't missing chunks, it would sound the same regardless of the processing unit. Now the volume level has to deal with amount of current going through the output, but in reality, you shouldn't be relying on a sound card or sound chip for that in the first place.
I think people are under misconceptions when it comes to sound from a computer. It's not analog anymore, and as long as the chips can handle the higher bit stream rates, they are all going to be the same when it comes to the fidelity of the sound. Which is the point of digital sound versus analog.
In the day onboard chips literally couldn't handle the sound well because they weren't powerful enough. There were also driver issues, and issues when it came to communications with other parts of the PC. There were also heat issues. That has pretty much all gone away. For most users the sound processing that is handled by the onbaord processors is more than enough. The amount of channels, and fidelity is more practically on par with the best stand-alone sound cards/devices. Now the power output for power devices will probably suck, but there are ways around that. If you are looking to mix in tons more channels for some other reason such as doing your own music mixing, then a stand-alone device/card made for that would suit that user better.
But if you are just playing games, watching videos, and listening to music then the built on sound cards are more than enough today.
Sound to the speakers is analog (I'm using 1/8" jacks), and "flat" is not subjective. It's kind of like putting a blanket over the speakers when using the onboard sound, and removing it when using the SB Z.