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sound card comparison

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  • sound card comparison

    Could someone please point me in the direction of informative texts and comparisons of different soundcards for mp3 (wav) playback [NOT gaming reviews]?

    I have seen many differing opinions about the need, or advantage, of the more expensive sound cards, but no one has given much supporting evidence.

    The way I understand it now, 16bit vs 32bit will make no differnce for playing mp3s which are all 16bit anyway (true?). Also, PCI vs ISA is only different in terms of bus speed and potential for increased system load using ISA due to a bottleneck that may not even exist playing mp3s. Number of MIDI voices and wavetable size make absolutely no differnce; and 3D, pseudo spacial effects, and DSP are also of no valuable use. 4 channel output is obviously only an advantage if your car system can support it AND you plan to use the spacial effects mentioned above or you have figured out a way to encode 4channel mp3 (a whole nother thread). RCA outs are a plus, but there is negligable degredation when converting 1/8" line out to RCA (if done correctly).

    Extremely low signal to noise ratio and total harmonic distortion are the best measures that I can come up with to evaluate a card for mp3(wav) playback, but GOOD LUCK finding these statistics on soundcards other than mayve the SBlive!

    Bottom line here is this: I just bought a 17$ 16bit Aztech ISA card. I have not installed it yet, but when I do, I plan to put it side by side in my machine against my neighbor's SB AWE64 Gold. I'll eiter post the results, or get off my lazy *** and get my mp3car page going.

    Please correct me if you see somethng you disagree with, but be prepared to support it with some form of logical evidence. Remember, this is strictly for playing mp3s, NOT Quake3.


  • #2
    Games, MP3, not much difference really.
    32bit card are PCI, not 32bit sound...

    There are cheap cards like the Crysal CM series that score a 3/10.
    There are inexpensive cards like the SB16 etc that score 6/10.
    Then there are more expensive ones like the Vortex32 that score 9/10.
    But the best are SB128PCI and SBLive! which score 9.9/10.
    Not much point getting a an SBLive! Why pay for 4channel when you don't need it?
    So I've got an SB128PCI in mine, it sounds
    The PC Chips card I had in there before was pants compared to the SB128. The SB16 was Ok, but the cpu loading is less under PCI so I went PCI.
    Sounds as good as the Live! in my main PC.


    • #3
      Well, I think most games use synthesized sounds, not directly played-back .wav files.

      I installed a cheap 20$ Aztech half size ISA card, and I was pretty surprised. Other than having a sort of high noise floor, I was pretty impressed. I couldn't really tell much difference between it, my pci card in my other machine, and my neighbor's SB AWE64 Gold. This was only on my home stereo which is nothing spectacular. We will see how it sounds in my car system.

      Also, there was no noticable processor load increase running only winamp and win95. I may install a processor load monitor and see if there is actually a difference btwn PCI and ISA load in mp3 playing.


      • #4
        You're right; playing sound through an ISA bus is probably not causing a bottleneck. It's when you compare things such as SCSI cards in ISA vs. PCI interfaces when you really see the difference. Plus ISA is only 16bit and PCI does have 32bit capability. Even if they ran at the same clock speed, the PCI would have twice the throughput due to the double data width.

        As I recall the speed limit on ISA was 33MHz while PCI runs at 66MHz... So theoretically PCI should be able to transfer data at least 4 times faster than ISA.

        I may be totally off here; check the ISA and PCI bus specifications for true figures.

        Jason Johnson
        Yorba Linda, California

        MPC Phase IV - *** PENDING ***