• Welcome to Overclockers Forums! Join us to reply in threads, receive reduced ads, and to customize your site experience!

Do people still buy pc sound cards for gaming

Overclockers is supported by our readers. When you click a link to make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn More.

mjw21a

Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2004
Hey guys, I was wondering whether people still use sound cards for gaming?

I've found I get far better sound quality running USB out into an SMSL DAC/headphone amp. Surround effects are taken care of my Razer Surround sound emulation in games. It seems to work well both with my headphones or through my little class D amp into bookshelf speakers. Sound quality completely destroys what I could achieve with my old Asus Xonar DX.

I look forward to your responses.
 

NiHaoMike

dBa Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2013
Sound cards are mostly for recording stuff nowadays. Most users (who care about good audio) use HDMI or S/PDIF to a digital amplifier.

As for headphones, the traditional way is a DAC/amp unit, but there seems to be shift towards a chip scale digital amplifier. The stock USB-C to 3.5mm converter included with my Le Pro 3 almost manages to match my OpenDAC HD for audio quality. Considering that the much praised PCM1792A is built on an antiquated 180nm or 250nm process while the chip in the LeEco converter probably uses 65nm or newer, it's no surprise that more advanced logic can be crammed into such a tiny converter. Instead of using opamps to drive the output, there's just a CMOS output stage switching between two positive and negative rails at 6MHz or so, with a tiny LC filter finishing the conversion to analog exactly like a scaled down version of a digital speaker amplifier.

In summary, it looks like the traditional DAC is on its way out even for headphones. With USB-C smartphones creating a demand for high quality, low power USB DAC chips, the chip designers find it easier to use more sophisticated logic than to try to redesign precision analog circuits to make them work on smaller processes.

That shortcut doesn't work for converting analog to digital, however, so preamps and ADCs are here to stay. Along with the sound cards that use them.
 

don256us

Uber Folding Senior
Joined
Jul 17, 2003
In the old days, people bought sound cards to unload the processing from the CPU to the add-on card. Later, you could only get surround sound if you went to an add-in card. Once Motherboards went to 5.1/7.1 and that the sound took almost nothing from the CPU, people lost interest in sound cards. Today, some motherboards tout shielded traces on the motherboard to isolate electrical noise from the on board sound.
 

EarthDog

Gulper Nozzle Co-Owner
Joined
Dec 15, 2008
Location
Buckeyes!
They still do sure... however on board sound has improved greatly over time. To make external solutions really worth it, you need a good set of cans/speakers to get the most out of a discrete sound card.
 

wingman99

Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2003
The first thing thing to look for when looking for a good sound Chip for gaming whether it is on the motherboard or sound card, is the DAC (Digital to analog conversion). My old sound card DAC from Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS year 2004 Signal-to-noise ratio 108 dB, Then my GA Z170 HD3 sound Realtek ALC887 year 2008 codec DACs with 97dB SNR. Higher SNR is better less white noise coming out of the speakers. With everything being being digital folks would be hard pressed to hear back ground noise like the old days with cassette tapes.

Second thing to look for is capacitors and sound isolation on the motherboard is very important in limiting white noise.

Digital signals
When a measurement is digitized, the number of bits used to represent the measurement determines the maximum possible signal-to-noise ratio. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal-to-noise_ratio

585px-Zeroorderhold.signal.svg.png https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital-to-analog_converter
 
Last edited:

RJARRRPCGP

Member
Joined
May 30, 2004
Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS year 2004

Nice XP-era sound card there... That would be good for EAX in Halo CE on XP, which is Halo 1.x

The SoundBlaster ZXR (mine looks like it was made in 2013) has EAX support, too... I play Halo CE regularly and EAX helps...

Yeah, of course that don't matter for future games... Halo Online, being based on a much more recent Halo, probably don't use EAX... In fact, it likely requires at least Vista, if not 7 or later...
 
Last edited:

Theocnoob

Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2007
Location
Near Toronto Canada
Sound cards are mostly for recording stuff nowadays. Most users (who care about good audio) use HDMI or S/PDIF to a digital amplifier.

As for headphones, the traditional way is a DAC/amp unit, but there seems to be shift towards a chip scale digital amplifier. The stock USB-C to 3.5mm converter included with my Le Pro 3 almost manages to match my OpenDAC HD for audio quality. Considering that the much praised PCM1792A is built on an antiquated 180nm or 250nm process while the chip in the LeEco converter probably uses 65nm or newer, it's no surprise that more advanced logic can be crammed into such a tiny converter. Instead of using opamps to drive the output, there's just a CMOS output stage switching between two positive and negative rails at 6MHz or so, with a tiny LC filter finishing the conversion to analog exactly like a scaled down version of a digital speaker amplifier.

In summary, it looks like the traditional DAC is on its way out even for headphones. With USB-C smartphones creating a demand for high quality, low power USB DAC chips, the chip designers find it easier to use more sophisticated logic than to try to redesign precision analog circuits to make them work on smaller processes.

That shortcut doesn't work for converting analog to digital, however, so preamps and ADCs are here to stay. Along with the sound cards that use them.

This didn't just go over my head, it went over my building.
What-Meme-13.jpg
 
Last edited:

NiHaoMike

dBa Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2013
In simple terms, there will be a lot of new USB DAC chips showing up thanks to the demand from USB-C smartphones.
 
OP
mjw21a

mjw21a

Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2004
Yes, I'm finding the SMSL M3 is fantastic, getting both signal and power from a single USB port. Likewise the Razer Surround software emulation works well with it as opposed to running fibre to my previous SMSL SD793ii.