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Integrated vs dedicated sound in 2019

I'm currently upgrading my PC and have no dedicated soundcard.
So I'm debating whether it's worth it buying one.

I use Windows 10, don't game, only listen to music and usually connect the digital out (either optical or coax) to a Yamaha receiver, and would much prefer an internal card over USB (less clutter).

So the first question is whether (from a sound quality perspective) it's worth getting a dedicated PCI-e card for non-gamers, instead of using integrated sound.
Vendors toss around very high db numbers, usually in excess of 110db as a measure of sound quality. I'd like to hear your take on that and what are the most important points/specs to look for for audio quality.

Driver stability, crackles, interference, etc.
In the past I've had bad experiences with Soundblaster drivers and support, so Creative products are out of the question. Asus seems to be the only option from big vendors?
Are dedicated cards less prone to crackling sounds and interference - which I occasionally experience with my current integrated sound?


Price/models.
Price being important, for sound quality/no gaming, would you recommend any non-Creative dedicated PCI-e card under say 80€ over integrated sound?

cheers,
Gaius

Re: Integrated vs dedicated sound in 2019

Reply #1
You should be able to get bitperfect sound from your integrated soundcard. There is no need to buy something else. Especially if you will use SPDIF anyway. All those fancy db number do not apply on your soundcard when you use SPDIF :).

However make sure to match the frequency of your soundcard to your source (44.1khz most likely) and use WASAPI out. Else the sound might be mangled (resampled and mixed) by your OS, which is not what you want.


So why do people buy dedicated soundcard? Most probably because of a better analog out and a lower latency. The latter is only required if you create music live. 96khz or higher frequency output might also be a reason, but nobody can really hear the difference from 44.1khz and up. A higher frequency can also help to get a lower latency though.

Hope this helps.

Re: Integrated vs dedicated sound in 2019

Reply #2
Like Mark says, if you're using the digital output, quality won't be affected at all.   It's "just numbers"...   That's assuming there are no "glitches" or other "problems".


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So, the following only applies to the analog-side...

Quote
Vendors toss around very high db numbers, usually in excess of 110db as a measure of sound quality.
On the "analog side" noise is usually the ONLY thing to worry about.    Distortion & frequency response are almost always better than human hearing so if you're not hearing noise there's no benefit to a "better" soundcard.     I wouldn't fully-trust the manufacturer's specs and the soundcard can pick-up electrical noise from the computer so it can depend on the computer or which slot the card is in.    But if they give you a S/N spec that's a good sign because they are at-least thinking about sound quality...

If you go "more professional" you can get an audio interface.    But they are mostly geared to recording  from stage/studio microphones or directly from a guitar and the playback/monitoring performance may be no better than any-old soundcard (especially if there are no audible defects with your soundcard).

 

Re: Integrated vs dedicated sound in 2019

Reply #3
Quote
Most probably because of a better analog out and a lower latency. The latter is only required if you create music live.
lower output latency may also be a benefit for competitive gaming. (not asked by OP here, but neither is creating music live)

 
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