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Thread: FAQ: Should I use onboard sound or an upgraded PCI or external soundcard?

  1. #1
    Car Audio Moderator durwood's Avatar
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    FAQ: Should I use onboard sound or an upgraded PCI or external soundcard?

    There is no right or wrong answer, but it depends on how you listen to your music If you sound like one these people, then this should HELP you decide. Just remember, it’s always easier to upgrade later if onboard isn’t cutting it.

    Onboard

    1. If all you want to listen to are MP3’s or some other form of compressed music.
    2. You plan on using stock speakers or maybe even just an inexpensive set of coaxial speakers (tweeter mounted in the center of the speaker).
    3. You are the type of person that listens to music at home on a home theater in a box/boom box setup.
    4. You are running your computer through your stock or aftermarket radio through AUX_IN or by an FM modulator.

    Upgraded PCI or External soundcard

    1. You are going to be using component speakers or spent a decent amount of money on replacement speakers
    2. You are using amplifiers of good quality (brands such as Rockford, JL Audio, Kicker, XTANT, Audison, ARC, Zapco, USAmps, etc just to name a few reputable brands), or if your 4 channel amp costs more than $200-300, you are in the market for better sound.
    3. Your computer audio output goes directly into amplifiers you might be in the market.
    4. You desire more control over your sound that onboard cannot do (crossover, better EQ, time delay). If you want to do things with ASIO, look for a supported ASIO card and Read here:

      ASIO

      and here:
      Software with good soundcard

      **A cheap way to do more advanced sound is an Audigy Card with the KXPROJECT drivers.

    5. You need more channels than 5 or 7 depending on your onboard sound.
    6. You have good home theater equipment i.e. you do not listen to music at home on a home theater in a box setup or boom box.

    Exceptions:

    -Your motherboard supports newer High Definition Codecs


    I can add more to this or if anyone feels I missed something please let me know.

  2. #2
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    Durwood:

    Thanks for the FAQ. I am investigating the possibility of a car PC- but of course I have numerous questions.

    At the end of your FAQ, you cryptically state that onboard maybe OK if “Your motherboard supports newer High Definition Codecs”. Can you elaborate on this a little? I am interested in the “ASUS M2A-VM HDMI Socket AM2 AMD 690G Chipset ATI X1250 GPU Dual VGA 6-CH Audio Firewire Dual Channel DDR2 800/667/533 Micro ATX” motherboard which does indeed have the “ALC883 High Definition Audio 6-channel CODEC”. However, I can find no specifications on the output voltage as I plan on running my car PC directly into a Audison SRx 5 amp.

    I am concerned about the voltage output from onboard sound compared to a decent PCI or USB soundcard. I can only find one soundcard which lists the output voltage as 5 Vrms (the discontinued Auzentech X-Meridian). So far, I have yet to find output voltages for most of the external USB cards or the internal motherboard based soundcards. Comments?

  3. #3
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    Most onboard cards only put out about .5v.
    Jan Bennett
    FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

    Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

  4. #4
    Car Audio Moderator durwood's Avatar
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    http://www.realtek.com.tw/products/p...nn=4&ProdID=44

    It's an ok codec, but some of the other ones have a higher SNR on their DACs. Possible ground loop problems can occur due to poor grounding techniques with onboard sound. I guess that can be true of any soundcard, but from my experience, the onboards are the worst. And then if you have too weak of a signal coming out it's not enough to work well with some ground loop isolators and you lose low end response. Not in all cases, but I've seen it happen.

    High-performance DACs with 95dB SNR (A-Weighting), ADCs with 85dB SNR (A-Weighting)
    Meets performance requirements for audio on PC2001 systems and Microsoft WLP 2.x
    Ten DAC channels support 16/20/24-bit PCM format for 7.1 sound playback, plus 2 channels of independent stereo sound output (multiple streaming) through the front panel output
    2 stereo ADCs support 16/20/24-bit PCM format, one for stereo microphone, the other for legacy mixer recording
    All DACs support 44.1k/48k/96k/192kHz sample rate
    All ADCs support 44.1k/48k/96kHz sample rate
    16/20/24-bit S/PDIF-OUT supports 44.1k/48k/96k/192kHz sample rate
    16/20/24-bit S/PDIF-IN supports 44.1k/48k/96kHz sample rate
    Up to four channels of microphone array input are supported for AEC/BF application
    High-quality analog differential CD input
    Supports external PCBEEP input and built-in digital BEEP generator
    Software selectable 2.5V/3.75V VREFOUT
    Two jack detection pins, each designed to detect up to 4 jacks
    Reserve analog mixer architecture for backward compatibility with AC'97
    Wide range (–80dB ~ +42dB) volume control with 1.5dB resolution of analog to analog mixer gain
    All analog jacks are stereo input and output re-tasking for analog plug & play
    Built-in headphone amplifiers for each re-tasking jack
    2 GPIOs (General Purpose Input/Output) for customized applications
    Power support: Digital: 3.3V; Analog: 3.0V~5.0V (Minimum AVDD is 3.0V)
    Pin compatible with the ALC880 and ALC882
    Enhanced S/PDIF-IN circuitry ensures compatibility with consumer DVD players
    48-pin LQFP 'Green' package
    Meets Microsoft WHQL/WLP 2.x audio requirements
    EAX™ 1.0 & 2.0 compatible
    Direct Sound 3D™ compatible
    A3D™ compatible
    I3DL2 compatible
    HRTF 3D Positional Audio
    Emulation of 26 sound environments to enhance gaming experience
    10-Band Software Equalizer
    Voice Cancellation and Key Shifting in Karaoke mode
    Realtek Media Player
    Enhanced Configuration Panel to improve user experience
    Microphone Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC), Noise Suppression (NS), and Beam Forming (BF) technology for voice application
    ALC883D features optional Dolby® Digital Live output for consumer equipment
    ALC883DTS features optional DTS® Connect software

  5. #5
    Car Audio Moderator durwood's Avatar
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    Of other noteworthy news for the ALC880:

    http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/...l-hdaudio.html
    At the presentation of the past IDF they brought in requirements to the quality and hardware components to obtain Dolby Logo:

    Low-tier
    Output Voltage without clipping1Vrms<FSOV<2.2Vrms
    PCSignal-to-Noise
    relative to –20 dBFS
    A-weighting 55 dB


    PCMid-tier
    1Vrms<FSOV<2.2Vrms
    PCSignal-to-Noise
    relative to –20 dBFS
    A-weighting 65 dB

    PCTop-tier
    2Vrms<FSOV<2.2Vrms
    PCSignal-to-Noise
    relative to –20 dBFS
    A-weighting 75 dB Headroom


    Passband Ripple20 Hz to 20 kHz
    +0.5 / –3 dB 20 Hz to 20 kHz
    +0.5 / –1 dB 20 Hz to 20 kHz
    ±0.5 dB THD+N≤–60 dBFS ≤–60 dBFS ≤–65 dBFSFS

    Conclusions

    Measurings and auditions proved that the High Definition Audio codec ALC880 is much better (RMAA - "Very good ") than the AC'97 codecs Sigmatel 9721 and ALC650 (RMAA - "Good"). Integrated High Definition Audio sounds better than a modern integrated AC'97-audio and five year old sound cards, and by the quality it stands near the three year old Creative Audigy, but it still cannot compare with modern sound cards like Audigy2 and higher. Thus we are witnessing the evolution of the AC'97 standard with an updated name (High Definition Audio), a slightly better audio quality in the hardware section, and support for high audio formats at 24 bit 96-192 kHz, admittedly not so necessary for users of low-end solutions, so we deliberately don't focus your attention on this support. Useful features include standard Universal Audio Architecture drivers from Microsoft and Sensaura with installed drivers from Realtek.

  6. #6
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    Thanks very much for the info girls/guys- that helps me make an educated decision. I appreciate your links Durwood- the info is not that easy to find!

    Take care- I'll keep you posted.

  7. #7
    Maximum Bitrate bes51659's Avatar
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    My Commell LV-679 manual refers to "Microsoft WHQL/WLP 2.0 audio requirements"

    That was what I though was a "newer High Definition Codecs". Was it?

    I think the on-board is good enough for me, even if my amps and speaker are quite good. And the poweramp is right next to the PC so no danger of whining. First step to improve quality would be not to use mp3's I guess....

    I am currently doing a crash cource on this forum trying to suck up all info that is available here. Gold mine! I am confident I will find a good sw EQ and sub filters here. Time and phase compensations would be a waste of time with mp3's. They are full of that kind of error to begin with. Correct? So just doing a spectrum analysis to tweek the EQ (and sub) to my car aqustics is probably right ambition level for me. Agree? I am not stuck with the audio driver that came with the MB, am I? Is that a reason to pick an external board? More flexibility?

    Started a thread on the side of this because my problem is also user oriented.

    How do you all connect and switch in the audio sources? I need mic and line in for radio (analogue output) as well as PC sound. And I need to mute (-20dB?) radio or PC when there is a phone call. And I need a skin with maybe 5 stereo tone controls and loudness on/off (on top of the compensated eq). I do not want to open my 33 channel eq because there is a black eyed pies song on the radio with to little bass. (hypothetically:-)) And I want to adjust volume from sw when I pickup speed and get more road noise. Again, how do you all do this!!??

    Greatful for any detour you can save me!

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