Should I Use an 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 musi.c 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.


  • If all you want to listen to are low bit rate MP3’s or some other form of compressed music.

  • You plan on using stock speakers or maybe even just an inexpensive set of coaxial speakers (tweeter mounted in the center of the speaker).

  • You are the type of person that listens to music at home on a home theater in a box/boom box setup. Yes, even the Bose systems are home theatre in a box systems.

  • You are running your computer through your stock or aftermarket radio through AUX_IN or by an FM modulator.
Upgraded PCI or External soundcard

  • You are going to be using component speakers or spent a decent amount of money on replacement speakers for your car.

  • You are using amplifiers of good quality (brands such as Rockford, JL Audio, Kicker, XTANT, Audison, ARC, Zapco, USAmps, Steg, Focal, Butler, TRU, Brax, etc. just to name a few reputable brands), or if your 4 channel amp costs more than $300 (retail).

  • Your computer audio output goes directly into amplifiers.

  • 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 and here
    A cheap way to do more advanced sound processing is an Audigy Card with the KX Project drivers.
  • 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.
PCI or External

  • Are you using a laptop or a desktop?

    • Laptop = External Card or PCIMIA card

    • Desktop = Either PCI or external will work most of the time

  • Do you have room for a PCI card in your case/car?

  • Do you want to do all tuning via software on the computer or are you going to be tuning with an external processor (like the Alpine PXA-H701 processor for instance).

  • Have you spent a decent amount of money on sound deadening your vehicle and on audio equipment for it? (greater than $1000 in most cases).
For a list of external cards see this compiled list.
Article written by RedGTiVR6 and Durwood
Created by , 02-09-2011 at 02:41 PM
Last comment by on 04-16-2014 at 12:02 PM
9 Comments, 2,818 Views

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