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#1 BetaWar  Icon User is offline

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Soundcards (internal and external) and AMP/DACs

Posted 09 January 2018 - 10:21 AM

We have topics about video games, headsets, keyboards, and mice, but I haven't seen any chatter about what soundcards people use (if any).

I am looking into getting a new soundcard since I have moved over to using pretty much solely Linux (yay Wine!) at home and work, and sadly my Sound Blaster Z doesn't currently have Linux support without patching the kernel manually... and I hate having to taint my kernel... the only good thing about doing it for my graphics card is that they give you an installer.

So, I have been looking around. Quite a bit actually, considering all the things ranging from an internal soundcard again, to an external soundcard, to even just standalone amp/DAC combinations (or separate amps and DACs). The problem I have found with most amp/DAC solutions is that they don't have an input jack (for, say a mic), and right now that is the largest annoyance with my current onboard audio - people on the other end of the calls complain about static when I am talking. I am relatively certain that this is due to crappy onboard audio circuits and interference from other electronics in the box since my headset hasn't changed since I changed computer - the computer and lack of soundcard is the delta here.

The most intriguing solution I have found so far is the Sound Blaster X G5, but this has just been a few days of research.

The appealing thing to me about an external solution is that I should be able to take it with me easily when I eventually upgrade my machine again (not that that is currently planned). I am not planning on using this as a portable solution, but space is constrained since my desk has a lot of stuff on it.

What is everyone else using for soundcards/amps/DACs? Do any of you have recommendations for a Linux audio solution (headset compatible, hopefully)? Have any of you used the Sound Blaster X G5 in the past/ would you recommend it?


My other requirements:
Low Impedance - My headset only takes 32 Ohm impedance so I would prefer something that doesn't kill it. Though I can also always change the volume to compensate if needed (that's what it did with my previous card).
Linux support - at least for the sound device itself, not necessarily all the extra software features.

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Replies To: Soundcards (internal and external) and AMP/DACs

#2 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: Soundcards (internal and external) and AMP/DACs

Posted 09 January 2018 - 10:37 AM

Honestly I use my onboard soundcard and it works pretty spiffy. Abet I don't use the mic much, if at all.

Is your mic on your headset or separate? I woudl think most roll through USB now, don't they?

Maybe one of these little jobbies?
https://www.amazon.c...y/dp/B00Q3XLGLU


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#3 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

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Re: Soundcards (internal and external) and AMP/DACs

Posted 09 January 2018 - 10:49 AM

We would have to travel back to the time of I/O cards, back in the 90's, before I would be able to provide any useful insight to this conversation.

As I seem to recall, I once bought an MPEG2 decoder card, just to watch video disks (pre dvd). We really have come quite a way.

Back then, pretty sure the top of the line was SoundBlaster, 16bit, multi-channel, gold tipped, or something similar. Generally they had a game port, too.

View PostBetaWar, on 09 January 2018 - 12:21 PM, said:

What if everyone else using for soundcards/amps/DACs? Do any of you have recommendations for a Linux audio solution (headset compatible, hopefully)?
Probably not along the lines of current discussion, but I did get a Raspberry Pi to use for streaming audio via BlueTooth & replace my car radio. That's sort of Linuxie, audio, right?
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#4 BetaWar  Icon User is offline

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Re: Soundcards (internal and external) and AMP/DACs

Posted 09 January 2018 - 12:22 PM

There are some headsets that go through USB these days, but not all. Mine, for instance, is using a 4-pole 3.5mm connector (which I currently split out to 2x 3-pole connectors for mic and headphones). The problem (in my opinion) with USB headsets is that they don't have as much/ any support for amps or DACs, which means that the sound that the computer sends is what you get, you can't do a bass boost, etc. easily unless the headset supports it with an inline controller.

These days, soundcards are up to 24bit, if not higher, and you don't really notice how poor the onboard sound is until you listen to the same things with a soundcard helping out. A lot of music has a _ton_ more depth than you can hear through a Realtek onboard sound device... though it also depends on the speakers/ headphones you are using as to whether you will see any difference at all.
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#5 ArtificialSoldier  Icon User is online

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Re: Soundcards (internal and external) and AMP/DACs

Posted 09 January 2018 - 04:50 PM

SB16 forever! IRQ 7, DMA 5.
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#6 BetaWar  Icon User is offline

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Re: Soundcards (internal and external) and AMP/DACs

Posted 10 January 2018 - 08:24 PM

I wound up ordering the G5, we shall see if it is worth the money... and works on Linux... Fun times! :)
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#7 Skydiver  Icon User is online

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Re: Soundcards (internal and external) and AMP/DACs

Posted 12 January 2018 - 09:22 PM

View PostBetaWar, on 09 January 2018 - 02:22 PM, said:

These days, soundcards are up to 24bit, if not higher, and you don't really notice how poor the onboard sound is until you listen to the same things with a soundcard helping out. A lot of music has a _ton_ more depth than you can hear through a Realtek onboard sound device... though it also depends on the speakers/ headphones you are using as to whether you will see any difference at all.

Unfortunately, I find myself agreeing with this statement regarding the difference of onboard sound versus a dedicated sound card.

I say unfortunately because I am by no means an audiophile. To me, my aging Bose surround sound speakers, and entry level Onkyo amp sound better than the Pioneer Elite speakers and matched receiver that I tried for a month. 96kbps MP3 sounds good enough for me, and very rarely can I tell the difference between lossy compression and lossless compression. Add on the fact that I am tone deaf.

Given all that I could tell that there was a dramatic difference in the quality of sound on my computer when I had my mid-grade Sony headphone plugged into the Soundblaster vs. the onboard Realtek. Sounds were richer and had more depth.
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#8 BetaWar  Icon User is offline

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Re: Soundcards (internal and external) and AMP/DACs

Posted 16 January 2018 - 11:10 PM

The G5 showed up today. It works out of the box with Linux, though the configuration software doesn't support Linux. Luckily the profiles are stored on-system, so once you have configured them they are on the actual unit instead of in software. So I installed the configuration software on my laptop, set up the profiles how I wanted and moved the unit back over to my Linux box.

Some annoyances with it, though that was primarily fighting between Alsa and Pulse to get the speakers and mic working at the same time.

There are some differences I would have liked to see with the G5 overall. First, it comes with a built-in omni-directional mic. That could go... totally. I don't need a mic that is always on - plus it would free up space for useful things to take its place. Second, the wheel on the front of it to change volume is a little difficult to turn. It would have been better with some texturing or even making it smaller than the front of the unit so that when it is laying flat on a desk the wheel isn't touching the desk. They claim that there is an LED that changed brightness based on system volume, but you won't be able to dell that under normal lighting circumstances (with the lights out you can see it change). Pressing the volume dial in mutes the volume... but leaves the mic alone, which is just plain wrong. If it was going to mute anything I would have preferred it muting my mic. Third, there is no way I have found to mute the mic functionality through the G5 alone. Moreover, it also doesn't have any input redirect (or whatever you call it when you can hear yourself speak through the headphones). So I wound up actually plugging my modular TurtleBeach "superamp" in to it (and my headset into the "superamp" so I could get a mic mute button and be able to hear myself (all other audio processing is taken care of by the G5). Fourth, there is no way to turn off the G5. Having a switch or something that would allow me to tell it to do no processing (or even just turn off all LEDs) would be useful (I wouldn't even need it to have pass-through when off). Fifth, they offer a "scout mode" button, but when you enable scout mode, it disables all profiles. If it is really just a different profile, either give me a 4th profile I can set up myself (and thus remove the button), or just make scout mode one of the preset profiles I can choose to use (in one of the 3 profile slots available). Sixth, there is no way to amplify the mic input. So I am doing a lot of amplification via software (between what Linux allows under its base mic amplification settings, and alsa's gain settings I am up to +9dB and 130% amplification, even then other people on discord are winding up setting my mic to 200% volume so they can hear me over their music/ games/ shows.

So far I have been using just the 15-150 Ohm gain mode (or whatever the low gain mode is for impedance), because my headset is only 32 ohm impedance. So I haven't had a chance to try the 600 ohm side (high gain) to see how it works out. In fact, I am not sure I have any headphones that require that much power to drive.

Overall, it does what I expect it to do, as a sound card, and gives me clear voice and audio.
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