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Thread: Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

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    The User DemonDragonJ's Avatar
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    Default Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

    Recently, computer video cards have been receiving far greater attention than have computer sound cards, and the competition between the different brands of video cards is far more intense than is the competition between the different brands of sound cards. Plus, users seem to care about video cards than they do about sound cards, as video cards are usually provided among the specifications of a computer, but sound cards are not.

    I wonder why this is, so I have inquired from other users, and the most common answer that I have received is that most users are more concerned about their computer's video than they are about is sound, and that most users are content with a motherboard's integrated audio features, as they are not significantly different from a dedicated sound card. I myself disagree with that belief, as I have found, from my own first-hand experiences, that a dedicated sound card is far superior to integrated audio on a motherboard, just as a dedicated video card is far superior to onboard video.

    What does everyone else say on this subject? Why do video cards receive far more attention, and experience far fiercer competition, than do sound cards? I await your responses.
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    Water Cooled Stonerboy779's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

    Its largely because of how much integrated audio has improved.
    it is also partly because integrated audio no longer bogs a system down.
    Finally its also about price. Why would you pay money to get the same performance as you would with your onboard.


    Only people who really buy aftermarket soundcards are those who's onboard has issues with hissing or clicking. Those who are easily sold over by sales pitches or those that have plenty of money.

    Then we come to the last group of people and that is those that are more serious about their audio quality. They mast have headphones which require amping or may want bitperfect noise free playback.

    I personally use an external USB dac and headphone amp (audioengine d1) with me AKG Q701s.

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    Yuk it up Monkey Boy! Airbozo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

    I blame it on MP3 players. When you are content to listen to crappy audio on a tiny portable device, the sound quality of your computer just does not matter anymore unless you are hooked up to a high performance audio system.

    Sound logic has come a long way in the last 10-20 years as well. What Creative used to market as the latest and greatest is now included on many boards. Just like high end audio systems, there is not much _new_ innovation in sound components, just new features and possibly less noise. This is the same for sound cards in a computer. There is only so much you can get out of an audio card that is smack dab in the middle of an electronically noisy device. Even if you shield it (Xonar anyone), that signal still passes through some pretty noisy traces and you still have to use some of the logic on the card to "clean" the signal either before or after processing takes place and sometimes both.

    When I bought my ASUS Striker extreme, the on board audio could not keep up well and basically sounded like crap. Once they updated the drivers, you could not tell the difference between on board and an add in card. (with the right processor)

    Video cards have not reached that point where good enough is good enough. That time will come when we start seeing life like visuals on our computers. Once that point is reached, then the game will be about speed, resolution and features with very little visual improvement.
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    50 Custom PC's in 10 Years! TheGreatSatan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

    I don't see a difference in onboard audio vs dedicated card
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    Yuk it up Monkey Boy! Airbozo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheGreatSatan View Post
    I don't see a difference in onboard audio vs dedicated card
    Yes, but can you hear the difference?


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    Religiously tolerant. Luke122's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

    Does onboard audio do the job? Absolutely.

    Does dedicated audio provide higher quality? Absolutely.

    Will everyone notice the difference, and be willing to pay for it? Not so much.

    And so that's why graphics cards are so much more competitive. People arent rushing out to buy 14" monitors anymore, when they can get 24" ones for under $200, and sometimes even 27-30" ones for $500ish. It's a HUGE noticeable difference, and anyone who can see... will see.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheGreatSatan View Post
    I don't see a difference in onboard audio vs dedicated card
    I think Airbozo was on the right track with this. It's all about source material, and output devices. Garbage in = garbage out. The average person who is content with an iPod or other MP3 player is less likely to be critical of onboard audio devices, as the quality is roughly the same for output (depending on source material). But hook that same mp3 player into a specialized hifi rig, and prepare to be disgusted by your mp3 collection. I know I am. It's not that the fancy rig is the problem, it just reveals much more of the content material.

    Speakers tend to be thought of as a more immediate and noticeable upgrade, as they are sort of the "last mile" in the audio chain. Sure, better speakers will give you better sound... to a point. Add some super high quality, very sensitive and accurate speakers, and suddenly you might start to notice electrical noise from the onboard audio. Your old speakers might not have let you hear it, but trust me.. it was there before.

    I found that adding a higher quality output stage (amp/speakers) really made the inadequacy of my onboard audio show up. Once I went to a dedicated external audio device the sound really "came alive". Things were clearer, cleaner, easier to understand, and stereo stuff really did have a distinct "left" and "right" (aka Imaging).

    TL;DR
    Dedicated audio devices provide much better performance and quality, but at added expense that most people cant justify. "Good enough" mentality.

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    If it isn't stock, it's modded! slaveofconvention's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

    It's a matter of scale, as others have mentioned - there's an obvious and huge difference in the image quality whereas the sound quality - the differences are much more subtle.

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    Mentally Underclocked mDust's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

    In addition to what has already been said, game graphical processing is a lot more intense than game audio processing. This is why games have a minimum requirement for gfx cards but generally don't care what your sound card is, or if you even have one. Gfx cards are generally required, so people shop around for them, whereas sound cards are a luxury option. If you get a top end gaming mobo, they generally come with onboard sound that amounts to a dedicated card anyway. Plus, top-end processors in that mobo don't care about the miniscule amount of extra processing.

    I forget what sound card I had (5+ years ago), but it cost over $200. It died a week out of warranty and I never bought another. I never got around to buying good speakers to go with it...so it was a complete waste of money for me. It really doesn't make any sense to have a good sound card and then plug cheap speakers into it. Quality output is only as good as the weakest link in the chain.
    I'll procrastinate tomorrow.

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    50 Custom PC's in 10 Years! TheGreatSatan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

    I'd only get a sound card if I knew that taking the job of providing sound would help out my motherboard and processor. (ie doing less work) Although, I would never buy one of the Killer NIC cards, even though the processor load is lightened because of it
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    The User DemonDragonJ's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why are Sound Cards not as Competitive as are Video Cards?

    It seems to me that the general consensus on this subject is that sound cards are less competitive than are video cards because most users are more concerned with their computers' video than they are with their computers' audio, and the integrated audio of most motherboards is acceptable to most users.

    I can accept those explanations, but I have heard, with my own ears, a considerable difference between onboard sound and the sound of a dedicated sound card, so I shall always use a dedicated sound card in any computer that I have, even if I must spend additional money to obtain that superior sound.
    "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." -Thomas Jefferson.

    "Those who would trade their freedoms for security will have neither." -Benjamin Franklin

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