Kazrath

Question About Sound: On-board Vs Pci

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I have not been able to find any solid evidence either way.

Basically what I am looking for is information proving or denying a performance increase in using for example the Onboard sound on a K8N-E Deluxe from Asus vs. using using an Audigy 2.

Some of the "Myth" I have heard is the on-board using CPU cycles and thus lessens performance. The PCI cards use their own resources to render the sound thus providing better performance.

Does anyone have any info or insight into this issue?

Thanks,

Kaz

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The performance increase probably depends on the headroom your cpu has. Some nForce 2 boards have hardware sound (Soundstorm)built into their southbridge. This may be on its way for nF3.

I don't know about "Myth" but "Doom3" doesn't use hardware accelerated sound and relies on CPU cycles regardless of sound type.

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From personal testing it's no myth, most common onboard sound implementations* will suck CPU cycles.

However on todays mega-fast CPU's you won't notice the difference unless you are doing something specialised with the sound, eg 3D simulation using EAX2, etc.

Most common onboard sound implementations are simple DSPs, that convert a digital input to an analog output which gets heard on your speakers. All the mixing, and sound transformations into that data stream are done by the CPU.

Contary to most decent sound cards (Creative SB, TB stuff), where you just pass the raw digital audio streams to the card, and the card does all the mixing and transforms itself, without the aid of the CPU.

However since sound processing is rather simple, (unless looking more complex 3D stuff), you don't need a lot of cycles for the work, so on todays CPU's you generally don't notice a hit on performance.

IMO, if your already got a decent sound card use it, but if not, don't worry about it too much.

* Some of the more recent stuff does a lot of work themselves, ie nVidia NF2 onboard sound, so the impact is neglible.

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Note: The SoundStorm audio from the nForce 2 motherboards with the MCP-T southbridge had to be dropped from the nForce 3 because there wasn't room for it on the single chip solution nVidia used. It will make a comeback as SoundStorm 2 (or 3, or whatever) with the nForce 4, due later this year (Q4?). nForce 3 motherboards tend to use the same ALC6xx codecs as everyone else.

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nForce 3 motherboards tend to use the same ALC6xx codecs as everyone else.

Actually, they use ALC850 or similar codecs. The 850 series supports 7.1 analog output instead of "measly" 5.1 channel.

The nForce2 MCP-T motherboards STILL require a chip to do analog/digital and digital/analog conversion, and ALL boards seem to utilize the ALC650 codec chip (because the Soundstorm engine is "only" capable of up to 5.1 output). Correspondingly, while the features, CPU utilization and compatibility offered by the "digital" part of the "solution" is fantastic, the analog output quality sucks. Lots of hiss, no low end, etc.

Software audio chips do not have onboard mixers. Therefore, anything from hearing a windows make a "ding" noise or AIM play its chime when someone IM's you while you have an MP3 playing will require your CPU to "add" up the sounds together.

Rendering of 3d audio for gaming ALSO requires your CPU's attention.

Some of the simpler PCI audio solutions, such as the Via Envy series of chips and the CMedia 8738 have onboard mixers but no 3d audio renderers.

More advanced sound cards, ranging from the Sound Blaster Live! and Audigy series, Turtle Beach Santa Cruz and Hercules sound cards (powered by Cirrus Logic 4630 and 4624 chips) and even the venerable Aureal-based boards such as the Diamond Monstersound MX300, as well as Soundstorm present on the nVidia MCP-T southbridge all have onboard mixers AND 3d audio renderers of various quality and feature levels.

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Thanks for that, Odeen!

Can you comment on the quality of the ALC850 codecs - have they improved much over the ALC650?

Would you suggest that software audio chips make any significant dent in the performance of 2+ GHz CPUs in games?

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Honestly, I can't comment. As far as I understand, the sound quality of the ALC850 is the same as the ALC650 and ALC655 - lousy. The only worthwhile use for that codec is to provide a physical layer interface to a digital output.

If you can live with lousy sound quality (i.e. you have cheap speakers) there's no reason to upgrade. If you want high sound quality, get a Via Envy series card, if you want almost as good sound quality AND excellent gaming capabilities, get an Audigy2 ZS.

Hercules sound cards with Cirrus Logic CS4624 are good budget alternatives for gaming, but give ground both to cheap Via Envy cards in raw sound quality and to Audigy series in 3d audio performance.

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The performance increase probably depends on the headroom your cpu has. Some nForce 2 boards have hardware sound (Soundstorm)built into their southbridge. This may be on its way for nF3.

I don't know about "Myth" but "Doom3" doesn't use hardware accelerated sound and relies on CPU cycles regardless of sound type.

Actually Doom3 does use hardware acceleration for sound. (or rather it will)

http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=17525

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Thanks much for the information, It appears it is still better to go with a seperate card over onboard sound even the "improved" onboard in the NForce2 boards.

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Thanks much for the information,  It appears it is still better to go with a seperate card over onboard sound even the "improved" onboard in the NForce2 boards.

You need to consider your speakers in the equation. I have Logitech Z-680's with a digital SP-DIF input, and for digital, soundcards simply pass the digital signal through with no modifications. So if you're not going to do any recording, there is no reason not to use your onboard SP-DIF output.

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