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Replacement Sound Cards

Discussion in 'Audio' started by Creeker, Nov 26, 2003.

  1. Creeker

    Creeker Guest

    Once again I'd like to get opinions from those more experienced than myself. I'd like to replace my existing sound card to improve my mp3 and streaming audio sound. I have a nearly 3 year old Dell, running Windows ME, that currently has a SB Live! Value card. What upgrade, in the $50 to $75 range, would improve my listening experience?
     
  2. alxdotnet

    alxdotnet Guest

  3. bird1234

    bird1234 Member

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    I see a couple of issues with your system. Try the sound card the previous person said. Second, GET ANY OPERATING SYSTEM OTHER THAN Windows ME. That would probably be your biggest problem to fix. Also since it is a Dell, i pity you, everything is probably on board, your FSB, ram and CPU are probably quite slow more than likely.

    I should just stop and say,

    get a new computer.
     
  4. Creeker

    Creeker Guest

    Believe me, I know that ME isn't the way to go. But my reality is that I will have this system for another couple of years or so. And to be honest, it's been a very reliabe computer. It does crash on occasion, but I haven't lost anything of significance. I have had many enjoyable hours on it. And Dell has been very good to deal with. The sound card will probably be the only upgrade I'll ever do. Maybe I'll be asking for opinions on a new system this time next year.
     
  5. tigre

    tigre Moderator Staff Member

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    Can you give some details about your needs, please:
    - How many channels do you want
    - Is gaming support important
    - Is a very low noise level important (or is your PC noisy)
    - What issues do you have with your SB Live that need to be improved?
    ...

    I've recently got a Terratec Aureon 5.1 Sky (24bit/192kHz capable) for 55 € and I'm very satisfied with it, but AFAIK it's much more expensive in $$$-land.

    Depending on what sound issues you have right now, maybe you could get much better sound
    - using an audio player that resamples output to 48kHz in a decent way (foobar2000 or winamp with SSRC output plugin),
    - using a good equalizer (fb2000*s or winamp's shibatch super equalizer DSP plugin) to get better frequency response with your speakers and/or
    - getting better speakers / a decent pair of headphones

    If you're sure you need a new soundcard I recommend to have a look at RMAA forums
    http://forum.rightmark.org/cgi-bin/forumdisplay.cgi?action=topics&number=4
    or search for the several "What soundcard to buy" threads at http://www.hydrogenaudio.org
     
  6. Creeker

    Creeker Guest

    I guess more details would be good. What I want is better sound from streaming audio. On-air FM stations are in a truly sad state in the U.S., so the internet is much better for variety. I listen to numerous streaming stations (Live365, etc.) and want better sound. I realize that they won't approach CD quality, but in my current set-up the music is more AM than FM. Gaming is not important, nor is more than regular stereo. I have a 6.1 home theater with DVD and a 50" HDTV, so that is covered. I simply want better internet music. Is a sound card more important than speakers? I have an Altec Lansing sub-sat system. It's true that the sound of mp3's through Winamp is better than Live365. What do you think?
     
  7. tigre

    tigre Moderator Staff Member

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    If I were you, I'd try to track down the reason for poor sound ...

    Bitrate of streamed mp3s? (Resulting in too low lowpass etc.)
    -> Rip one of your CDs to .wav and listen on your PC (ideally using the same playback software as you use for streaming, if possible). No big differences?

    Decoder/Player quality?
    Compare different players with the same source (e.g. mp3 streams / files). Winamp should give decent quality. Some other players (e.g. foobar2000 are more accurate in theory, but noone was able to proove that (s)he heard a difference so far. Some players might have worse playback quality though.

    Speakers?
    Connect your soundcard's lineout to your hifi ...

    Soundcard?
    Creative cards resample everything to 48kHz before D/A conversion. In most cases this is done in a not-so-decent way. As workarround you should use a player with decent resampling output set to 48kHz as I said in my 1st post. I'm not sure if the streams you listen to work with one of those players (foobar2000 / Winamp+SSRC output plugin). If this doesn't work, setting resampling quality to "high" in Windows sound settings could improve sound.
    If you've done everything described so far and found nothing guilty for poor sound, it's time to get a new soundcard. I don't know any that fit your needs from own experience, but browsing the links I gave above should help ...
     
  8. Creeker

    Creeker Guest

    Well now you've got me thinking. I'm second guessing the sound card and leaning toward a free (for me) solution. I have a spare receiver and a sub-sat speaker system that will easily fit in my computer furniture. If I ran the signal from the sound plug on the back of the computer to the receiver, would the increased amp power and superior speakers result in far better sound? I've seen products advertised that will do just this, claiming the ohm differences must be accounted for. Coming off a holiday, I haven't had time to try anything yet. Does anyone have any experience in this? Tigre mentioned connecting to a hifi. What's the best way?
     
  9. SemiCrazy

    SemiCrazy Member

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    I think the biggest problem with regard to streaming internet radio is the (lack of) quality of the sound file when it arrives to you in the first place. What bitrates/formats (file extensions, not musical genre)are the internet radio stations you're listening to streaming at? Nothing is going to make a 20kbps soundstream sound good. Likewise, if your connection speed can't keep up with a higher bitrate stream,you will experience gaps or pauses in the stream (again depending on how the source is streaming it).
     
  10. Creeker

    Creeker Guest

    No doubt. The quality can be highly variable, and apparently never close to CD quality and often not even FM. I'm just trying to get the best sound possible from a media that offers far greater variety, without the barrage of commercials, than radio has offered since maybe the 70's. Music lovers in the U.S. know the damage Clear Channel and their ilk have caused. I could rant on that for hours, but foul language isn't allowed here.
     
  11. tigre

    tigre Moderator Staff Member

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    With good equipment (e.g. decent headphones) the flaws of low bitrate lossy compressed music will be much more obvious than if you're listening through 10$ PC speakers. So if you build a decent setup, high bitrate streams will sound fine but low bitrate even more awful than now in comparison. You have to decide if you want the red or the blue pill ;)
     
  12. Creeker

    Creeker Guest

    I'm a red pill kind of guy. I'll post my results.
     
  13. Creeker

    Creeker Guest

    I finally got around to hooking up a receiver and speakers to my computer, and the results are far beyond what I had hoped. No more concerns about my soundcard. Using a 1/8" plug to RCA adaptor cable, I hooked my computer up to a receiver's aux inputs. Then I added bookshelf speakers and an 8" powered subwoofer that I've had in storage for years. Listening to streaming audio and mp3s provide a much more audiophile-like experience. Granted, the quality of the stream makes a difference, but the sound is still superior overall. Even now, listening with headphones plugged into the receiver, the sound is better than it has ever been. I'd urge anyone with spare audio equipment to give it a try.
     
  14. tigre

    tigre Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the 'final' report, Creeker. It's always nice to have feedback for ppl who tried to help.
     

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