It's 2015: Why does Onboard audio STILL suck?

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StrangerGuy

Diamond Member
May 9, 2004
8,443
124
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Because the DAC's SNR (like the ALC1150's 115db) only represents the digital filter. It's easy to slap on a decent DAC chip and call it a high quality sound solution but the truth is the most important part is the analog stage and in that the ALC1150 measures like a $10 portable CD player. And the reason it's that bad is because everybody is trying to find places to cut costs when inflation is cutting into your profits.
All the specs of the DAC chip itself while accurate per se by its own is meaningless in reality if the implementation on the mobo is done half-assed like virtually all the mobos out there. Add to the fact that one need a 5-digit dedicated audio analyzer to even properly test audio I/O specs accurately and you can see why nobody bothers to objectively review PC audio. (This also explains all perpetration of the audiophile woo-woo sighted bias-laden nonsense like op-amp replacements)
 

CP5670

Diamond Member
Jun 24, 2004
5,082
318
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Note that since the technology matured a long time ago, a good sound card can last for many years, through numerous upgrades. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, my X-fi is 10 years old and still much better than any motherboard audio due to the global effects. I run a 32ohm DT990 out of it directly at about 25% volume, where it's easily loud enough.

While Creative's drivers were buggy garbage in the past, a lot of their issues had to do with EAX and hardware audio. With that gone, their Windows 7/8 drivers have been reasonably good for me.
 

Lorne

Senior member
Feb 5, 2001
874
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Funny,, I have read the various audio hardware test and told my friends about them, A day later after he read them he called BS.
I told him to turn off the reverb/echo affects, He said no because it sound like onboard audio.
Then asked him if he tried to turn on the same affects for the on board audio, He claimed yes but could not find them.
Knowing him, I think he was just to lazy to try and just likes that Creat/SB defaults it on.
And some just being old fanboy.

I do know that MB MFG don't put a lot of effort into the audio GUI and control, I have found even in some cases one MB MFG on there low end MB to have a great GUI for controlling a lot of features on there Realtek audio that was fantastic yet on one of there high end gaming MB there were no features at all.
But used the same hardware, And I have used that same audio set up from that POS MB on modern MB to enable the features that other MB MFG and even Realtek don't offer.

I have used both Creative and onboard and notice no real difference in quality in the micro studios I have used or for games, When there set up correctly of course.
I personally have found that speakers alone make the bigger difference compare to the hardware producing it.
 

RampantAndroid

Diamond Member
Jun 27, 2004
6,591
3
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Funny,, I have read the various audio hardware test and told my friends about them, A day later after he read them he called BS.
I told him to turn off the reverb/echo affects, He said no because it sound like onboard audio.
Then asked him if he tried to turn on the same affects for the on board audio, He claimed yes but could not find them.
Knowing him, I think he was just to lazy to try and just likes that Creat/SB defaults it on.
And some just being old fanboy.

I do know that MB MFG don't put a lot of effort into the audio GUI and control, I have found even in some cases one MB MFG on there low end MB to have a great GUI for controlling a lot of features on there Realtek audio that was fantastic yet on one of there high end gaming MB there were no features at all.
But used the same hardware, And I have used that same audio set up from that POS MB on modern MB to enable the features that other MB MFG and even Realtek don't offer.

I have used both Creative and onboard and notice no real difference in quality in the micro studios I have used or for games, When there set up correctly of course.
I personally have found that speakers alone make the bigger difference compare to the hardware producing it.
To date I have never come across onboard audio that sounds as good as a well made DAC. I stand by that, using my IEMs.
 

Puffnstuff

Lifer
Mar 9, 2005
15,555
4,262
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In all of my years of using pc's I've never heard an on board audio solution that even begins to approach the quality of a third party sound card. When my asus xonar d2x dies I know that I'm in trouble because nobody really makes anything comparable these days and this card has the best audio quality of any sound card that I've ever used.
 

loimlo

Junior Member
Aug 4, 2007
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I've been using S520 speaker, Usher 7500 Amp, SE-90 audio card combination for at least 5 years.
It's a lot better than my mid-range ASRock 970 Extreme3 on-board ALC892 solution in terms of analog audio quality. I definitely can hear the DIFFERENCE between SE-90 and ALC892.

That said, even SE-90 cost me the same amount of money as 970 Extreme3. Not to mention remaining audio gears.

Btw, I've had used VIA VT1705 solution for a short amount of time. Its analog sound quality was worse than Xonar DG. One can definitely tell the DIFFERENCE with a quality 2ch speaker like T20.
 
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manderson

Member
May 15, 2010
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0
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I wonder if I would be able to hear a difference between running audio through my USB sound mixer (Steinberg CI2) or running audio through my onboard (ALC892).
The Steinberg unit should do very well. I'll go off track and say if you are really serious about audio, just forget onboard devices. Disable them in the BIOS and get a decent external audio interface. Plenty of them out there at reasonable prices; FocusRite, Steinberg, and many others. Behringer U-CONTROL UCA222 does a darn good job for $30.00
 

Ronin13

Senior member
Aug 5, 2001
374
0
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One person's experience:

I'd never before considered on-board audio a viable alternative to a discrete card, going back 20 years to a SB16 (IIRC).

But now, with a new build I just finished, I started out with the on-board audio on the ASUS Z97-AR (ALC892), as I've seen many suggestions that on-board has matured to at least 'good enough'.

Well, for my uses (which aren't overly taxing: 320Kbps music files and some gaming on an old but still decent sounding Boston Acoustics MicroMedia 2.1 System) it really wasn't.

So today I installed the 10 years old X-Fi Xtreme Gamer (the low profile one) from my old rig. *Very* noticeable improvement, both with music and gaming (tested with Mass Effect 2).

The newest driver from Creative seems to run without issues on Win 7 too.
 

Dahak

Diamond Member
Mar 2, 2000
3,752
25
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One person's experience:

I'd never before considered on-board audio a viable alternative to a discrete card, going back 20 years to a SB16 (IIRC).

But now, with a new build I just finished, I started out with the on-board audio on the ASUS Z97-AR (ALC892), as I've seen many suggestions that on-board has matured to at least 'good enough'.

Well, for my uses (which aren't overly taxing: 320Kbps music files and some gaming on an old but still decent sounding Boston Acoustics MicroMedia 2.1 System) it really wasn't.

So today I installed the 10 years old X-Fi Xtreme Gamer (the low profile one) from my old rig. *Very* noticeable improvement, both with music and gaming (tested with Mass Effect 2).

The newest driver from Creative seems to run without issues on Win 7 too.
Hmm.... almost makes me want to dig up my old X-FI Platinum card, I used to have two of them floating around here somewhere

Currently using as similar realtek ALC892 with a logitech 2.1 speaker set
 

Ronin13

Senior member
Aug 5, 2001
374
0
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Well, for me it was definitely worth it.

Quick question: What is 'shared mode' and does it matter what 'Default Format' I set in this setting? With a fresh driver install, it was set to '24 Bit, 48000 Hz' with two higher settings possible (and a lot of lower ones).

Change or leave alone?
 

RampantAndroid

Diamond Member
Jun 27, 2004
6,591
3
81
The problem with these higher bit depths (NOT rate) is nothing uses them (without some extra work, Windows can't output more than 16bit/44.1khz last I knew - you need an ASIO driver and player capable of the higher bit depth and sample rates.) Now, if it's actually upsampling the audio, that can be good (it more or less smooths the audio out, by going from 16bit depth/44.1khz sample rate to something a bit higher.)

But I have no idea if they're upsampling, and how.

I'll again stress that honestly, onboard audio quality hinges on the quality of the analog section and how well it is shielded/filtered....which is never enough. On a mainboard the goal is to pack as much in a small space as they can.
 
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escrow4

Diamond Member
Feb 4, 2013
3,339
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The H81M-S2H I have actually has separated PCB layers for L/R and audio caps attached to ALC 887. Sounds fine through my cheapo $10 headphones. :whiste:
 

Fox5

Diamond Member
Jan 31, 2005
5,957
7
81
One person's experience:

I'd never before considered on-board audio a viable alternative to a discrete card, going back 20 years to a SB16 (IIRC).

But now, with a new build I just finished, I started out with the on-board audio on the ASUS Z97-AR (ALC892), as I've seen many suggestions that on-board has matured to at least 'good enough'.

Well, for my uses (which aren't overly taxing: 320Kbps music files and some gaming on an old but still decent sounding Boston Acoustics MicroMedia 2.1 System) it really wasn't.

So today I installed the 10 years old X-Fi Xtreme Gamer (the low profile one) from my old rig. *Very* noticeable improvement, both with music and gaming (tested with Mass Effect 2).

The newest driver from Creative seems to run without issues on Win 7 too.
Mass Effect 2 is probably close to a best case for Creative cards. It was an Creative audio effects enabled game, and couldn't even do surround sound without one.
 

Ronin13

Senior member
Aug 5, 2001
374
0
76
Well, I did also test if with the very demanding Heroes of Might & Magic II ;-)

But something's happened. The bass from my sub (which never was set very high, usually dialed in to about 1/3 of max on the sub itself), has started to distort rather heavily.

(This even with the master PC volume set to 50% and in both Entertainment, Game and Creation modes, with the speakers set to Full Range or not.)

It definitely didn't do this when I first installed it, so I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the driver, but the distortion remains.

Do any of you with X-Fi Xtreme cards (on Win 7) have experience with this?

UPDATE:

Trying to troubleshoot the above, I also tried installing Daniel K's XFI Support Pack, but couldn't as my anti virus ate one of the files.

And then I re-enabled the on-board audio and realised that the bass distortion wasn't restricted to the X-Fi. So apparently my sub chose to crap out very shortly after installing the X-Fi (as The Knife's Silent Shout with its deep bass was sure to point out).

Good to know, as I was ready to go out and get a Soundblaster Z (going back to the onboard was a very noticeable reduction in quality, distortion aside - which is only from the sub). So it seems I need new speakers instead.
 
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john3850

Golden Member
Oct 19, 2002
1,429
19
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Would the use of case and cpu fans running off the mb headers add to the electrical noise of most onboard audio chips.
 

Cerb

Elite Member
Aug 26, 2000
17,484
33
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Would the use of case and cpu fans running off the mb headers add to the electrical noise of most onboard audio chips.
It should be insignificant, unless the audio shares a low frequency ground path with a fan header.
 

RampantAndroid

Diamond Member
Jun 27, 2004
6,591
3
81
It should be insignificant, unless the audio shares a low frequency ground path with a fan header.
Should be...but probably not. Like I've said in this or another thread - the onboard audio I have at work (some ASUS 2600 board, I forget the model) you can hear noise in the audio when you move the mouse for crying out loud.
 

john3850

Golden Member
Oct 19, 2002
1,429
19
81
Only in games on a cheap asrock extreme4 I get noise with a wired Logitech mouse at times moving the usb port helps.
I never knew what caused that noise till now.
 

Cerb

Elite Member
Aug 26, 2000
17,484
33
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Should be...but probably not. Like I've said in this or another thread - the onboard audio I have at work (some ASUS 2600 board, I forget the model) you can hear noise in the audio when you move the mouse for crying out loud.
Low frequency noise is going to follow the least resistive path. Give audio it's own traces from a ground point, and the current loop(s) used by things like fans, which are mostly DC, won't make enough difference to worry about. Plus, it should be set up to filter out most low supersonic noise.

That's going to have nothing to do with other components making interference that may end up received, rectified, and amplified into audio range noise.
 

Puffnstuff

Lifer
Mar 9, 2005
15,555
4,262
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Noise isolation is why Asus has a separate power plug on their audio solutions so it will not draw power from the pcie slot and eliminates the possibility of electrical noise. If onboard audio truly isolated itself and had a separate power solution from the mb such as a molex connector it would go a long way to aid with noise isolation. Onboard sound uses a $2 chip which will never be able to compete with the offerings from cmedia or creative.
 

cholley

Senior member
Feb 16, 2002
725
0
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www.zazzle.com
I got myself a Asus Z87-Pro board which comes with all sorts of stuff I don't even need including wireless, bluetooth and whatnot. The Z87-Pro certainly is not a "cheap" board by any means.

It has a built-in RealTek ALC 1150 sound solution and according to reviews the board has "one of the better onboard sound implementations out there".

While for playback I think the onboard is "ok" I was disappointed because of the extremely poor microphone input. (As opposed to dedicated Creative etc. cards, those onboard solutions lack a mic amp or they have them but they are extremely noisy. For me this is important since I use speech recognition with a dynamic microphone which requires decent input levels and low noise when a mic is plugged in for accuracy).

What really angered me is the fact that an ancient PCI Audigy 2 would be entirely sufficient and it worked beautifully with my older board. Except that on this new board there is no PCI slots anymore so I cannot use the Audigy 2 any longer). Because of the poor mic input and overall "meh-ness" of the built-in Realtek I now got myself a PCIE Soundblaster Z which I hope will have better sound and especially a better mic input.

I am ***ed since I don't understand why in 2014/2015 when people buy "better motherboards" they still have half-assed sound solutions with poor components, DACs and ADCs etc.

I think it's ridiculous we STILL require dedicated sound cards these days. ALL what dedicated sound-cards are is usually single-chip processors anyway with some added circuitry. What's the problem? Why does onboard sound still suck?

it doesn't, thats just your opinion
 

RampantAndroid

Diamond Member
Jun 27, 2004
6,591
3
81
Low frequency noise is going to follow the least resistive path. Give audio it's own traces from a ground point, and the current loop(s) used by things like fans, which are mostly DC, won't make enough difference to worry about. Plus, it should be set up to filter out most low supersonic noise.

That's going to have nothing to do with other components making interference that may end up received, rectified, and amplified into audio range noise.
It isn't about frequency. Also, it's DC power...and I don't think you'll find a rectifier in a regular old audio DAC. And should you rectify an unclean signal (adding a filter cap in there), you'd end up with a clean signal...

Moreover, it isn't amped into audio range noise - it's there or not. Amps generally don't shift frequencies.

You also have EMI concerns in such a small area.
 

Cerb

Elite Member
Aug 26, 2000
17,484
33
86
It isn't about frequency.
Yes, it is. Higher frequencies do not follow the path of least resistance. DC will. A fan should not be doing much in terms of AC, and everything it does should take the 'shortest' paths from power and ground. Meanwhile, your mouse is working at, IIRC, 60MHz.

Also, it's DC power...and I don't think you'll find a rectifier in a regular old audio DAC.
You will in the opamp, which there will be at least two of, if not four (bipolar inputs). Not to mention some chance of antennae being connected.

And should you rectify an unclean signal (adding a filter cap in there), you'd end up with a clean signal...
Not if it contaminates the input.

Moreover, it isn't amped into audio range noise - it's there or not. Amps generally don't shift frequencies.
Explain GSM noise, then, or picking up AM stations, with unshielded opamps (or insufficiently shielded, or unlucky cable lengths). Each follows a different path to just that end result. GSM noise is closer to most of what we can hear from inside our PCs.

You also have EMI concerns in such a small area.
It isn't about frequency.
Which is it? It's change is the fields that can causes noise, not their static state.
 

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