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Need A New Sound Card


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#1 Archmage Silver

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Posted 23 February 2010 - 04:46 PM

Ok, so my 2003 vintage Sound Blaster Audigy 2 card is finally starting to break down - sound fading back and forth from stereo to mono on headphones, crackling on my 5.1 set & randomly changing volume levels.

And yes, I always skipped upgrading my sound card when upgrading the rest of my system, I'm cheap that way.

Now I have to upgrade into something more fancy than my half-fried rusty vintage model, but I'm completely out of the loop when it comes to sound cards.

What I'm looking for is optimal audio for headphones & 5.1 speakers, and a good quality-price ratio. Maybe something new from Creative?

#2 Archmage Silver

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Posted 23 February 2010 - 05:52 PM

Great, now I have to use onboard audio, the card's kicked it.

#3 Qwinn

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Posted 24 February 2010 - 07:43 AM

Honestly, after reading the first post, I was gonna say... it surprised me, but apparently sound cards have become a thing of the past. Even on power-gaming high-end forums like Ars Technica, no one suggests getting a dedicated sound card anymore. Everyone just says go with onboard audio. So don't feel too bad.

I know this because I just assembled a new system from scratch (the POS I got from Best Buy last week is getting returned today). And *man* is it sweet. And yeah, I'm using onboard audio and it doesn't sound any different than the sound I got with the sound card in my old rig.

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#4 cmorgan

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Posted 24 February 2010 - 01:56 PM

I hate to say it, but unless you are using the soundcard with Sibelius or Finale, or using your computer as a composition workstation and need the sound processing capabilities, I think I am going to have to go with Qwinn.

On Win 7 x64 pro, my X-Fi is having troubles with a number of new games. Disabling back to the RealTek onboard is working better than having a soundcard installed and enabled. Creative has dropped the ball several times on driver support, for whatever reason (I suspect it is less their fault than it is a dedicated move by other companies to cut them out of a profit loop, but that is sheer uninformed speculation on my part). It has gotten bad enough that I am thinking of building an older machine designed as a Sibelius workstation with a decent keyboard, and gaming on the big rig.

EDIT: By the way, opening CoH and playing under Vista x64 or win 7 with or without Alchemy enabled = "crackling on my 5.1 set & randomly changing volume levels" from me, too with a 1 year old Creative X-Fi. So you just saved some cash. So far, months of looking around have popped up arcane stuff like latency issues and such.

Edited by cmorgan, 24 February 2010 - 02:00 PM.


#5 Archmage Silver

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Posted 24 February 2010 - 10:22 PM

Well, I managed to get the card working half-way (still switches to mono after a while) by tinkering with the wiring, but when I compared the sound to my onboard audio, there was a distinct advantage to Sound Blaster Audigy 2 over Realtek AC'97.

Based on your comments, I don't really know what to do exactly, but I certainly can't take the sound of my onboard audio, it just sucks. I wonder if there are any Audigy 2 cards in unopened packages still... I could probably get one for spare change now.

Any more opinions in the light of these facts?

#6 theacefes

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Posted 25 February 2010 - 12:09 AM

I've always preferred a dedicated card, but then again I do audio creation so that may not be your best choice. :)
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#7 cmorgan

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Posted 26 February 2010 - 08:20 PM

Yep, Ace, you *have* to have one - you are doing composition and post-processing, so not having one would really, really stink!

Archmage Silver, if you go for a dedicated card, I agree on going midline and going Creative old school, because of Alchemy. With that, you can get older games with positional audio and EAX working on most cards.

#8 Archmage Silver

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Posted 26 February 2010 - 10:19 PM

Well, after reading several reviews, I decided to go for a Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Gamer 7.1 - the cost is affordable enough, and it seems to have exactly the features I'm looking for.

As an additional note, I'm still running Windows XP Pro SP3, so any issues with later operating systems aren't an issue for me yet.

Edited by Archmage Silver, 26 February 2010 - 10:21 PM.


#9 theacefes

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 02:59 PM

I like that one. :) Nice choice.
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#10 cmorgan

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 03:09 PM

Good one, and I have the same card - it ran great when I was running XP (including XP SP3).

#11 Archmage Silver

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 01:20 PM

Well, I've just finished installing it now... the sound is certainly sharper and richer, although I keep the X-Fi CMSS-3D and Crystalizer disabled, because they just garble up the sound in my opinion. I'll have to do some more testing, but it seems to be an ok replacement card.

Edited by Archmage Silver, 04 March 2010 - 01:21 PM.


#12 Archmage Silver

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 03:11 PM

It takes an annoying amount of tweaking to get decent volume levels for general purpose music listening (and the Master Volume resets to 45% when you switch modes)... good thing games have in game sliders for volume, saves me a headache trying to find the optimum volume setting. I guess I'm still getting used to the new sound quality, but hopefully I'll stop noticing the difference in a while.

#13 Archmage Silver

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 04:25 PM

After having checked the new volume levels for Icewind Dale, Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2, I decided to turn the X-Fi CMSS-3D back on, it sounds great in games. Yeah, I know, my opinions regarding this sound card's features change very quickly.

I also opted to skip changing the sound mode from Gaming to Entertainment altogether, so that the Master Volume doesn't reset etc. Music sounds pretty much the same in Game mode anyway, and gaming is what I do more than listening to music, so that mode serves me best with the least hassle.

Did I ever mention I hate upgrading hardware? I always spend a ridiculous amount of time on calibrating it and making sure it works like it should.

Edited by Archmage Silver, 18 March 2010 - 12:51 PM.


#14 Archmage Silver

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 06:02 AM

I'm listening to Masters of Chant Chapter VII by Gregorian at the moment, and I can really spot the (positive) difference here with this card. It's especially noticeable when listening to "Arrival" from the same album.

Overall Grade: A-

Good purchase for me.

Edited by Archmage Silver, 08 March 2010 - 06:03 AM.


#15 Archmage Silver

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 12:54 PM

I've just began to use the unofficial X-Fi Mode Changer and it rocks, you guys should definitely get it if you don't have it already. It has quite a few features, plus you can even set up an application profile for each sound mode! Spiffy.

#16 rtr86

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Posted 03 April 2010 - 09:21 AM

I'm going to go against the masses here and say a sound-card is far superior to any on-board one....

I recently went from on-board to an Asus Xonar DX with a pair of HD555 headphones. The quality is incredible and adds so much to the immersion of games I wish I would of upgraded years ago. I could not go back.

Edited by rtr86, 03 April 2010 - 09:22 AM.


#17 Qwinn

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 03:21 PM

Looks like I'm going to need to get a sound card so I can play with the DA:O sound files. I currently can't because Audacity and Windows 7 aren't playing well to recognize any input devices. I'm hoping that a new video card using different drivers would help Windows 7 report the input devices properly. Can anyone confirm that Windows 7 and Audacity and the card AS suggested (or any other, if necessary) all work well together?

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#18 Qwinn

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 08:43 AM

Gah, $33 off promo on the card AS got expires tomorrow, so my question is unfortunately time sensitive. Does anyone have *any* solution to being able to record and mix from Windows Media Player in Windows 7? It doesn't have to be Audacity, but it does need to be free... I'm willing to pay for a sound card but not several hundred for a mixing package, not when at least Audacity is available for free.

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