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Soundcard or not?


Camp
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I'm building a new PC and wondered if soundcards are really necessary anymore.

 

It's based on an Intel P4 motherboard that has built-in 6-channel audio. I'll be using the PC with only stereo speakers (Klipsch ProMedia 2.1) as I simply don't want to make room for 5.1 or more speakers.

 

It's my understanding that most soundcards aren't capable of taking 100% of the audio processing work load. They split a good deal of that work load with the CPU and main RAM. I've been told that some of the mAudio cards and some varieties of the Audigy 2 are true audio accellerators, however.

 

I'm not so sure it matters if the CPU gets hit with the audio load or not. I just get the feeling today's 3ghz PCs can more than manage the audio while putting up good frame rates in most games. I'd love to see a frames per second comparison with a true audio accelerator vs. no such PCI card. Anyone out there ever run such a test on your PC??

 

I'm curious to hear thoughts on this.

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I personally prefer a sound card Camp. Simply because to my understanding onboard sound (dependant on the MB) uses far more CPU power than your base sound card. I've stuck with Creative Labs over the years but frankly there latest sound cards are really unimpressive to me and a new Hercules card is showing in my crystal ball for the future.

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I bought a new Shuttle case (the teeny ones) with an integrated sound chip on the mainboard. No problems at all and it can even give optical out for 5.1 sound, I don't see any reason to have a dedicated sound card these days (unless you are a musician or hard core audiophle.)

 

They make a ton of mainboards with integrated sound these days, saves space and very cheap too.

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Just speaking in general terms, the processing requirements of audio are a tiny fraction of those of hi-resolution graphics, so if you want a soundcard because you're afraid audio is eating away at your CPU, you probably don't have much to be worried about.

 

That said, I don't know the specifics. If a game is asking your CPU to do audio processing and audio effects (like a real-time reverb to simulate a room), then the processing requirements climb substantially. But I'd be surprised if many consumer audio cards have special audio processing hardware on them for these kinds of effects, not many pro-level audio cards have such hardware, with the exception of some very expensive ones.

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