Sick of on-board audio, what should I do?

Azzkiker

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 4, 2012
Messages
412
Hi all,

I have been using an older set of Bose AE2 headphones with a mod-mic for my computer audio. I do a lot of gaming, and occasional music listening... I am not looking for professional level stuff. I could spend a few hundred bucks, maybe more, preferably less. My target is that point on the curve where you get a lot for your money.

My Gigabyte Z590 pro AX has the Realtek ALC4080 codec and I'm not convinced it's any good. Sometimes it will crap out and put out a max volume static sound that could give someone PTSD under the right circumstances :eek:

I've read a lot of threads on the topic of gaming audio setups, and I'm still confused. Should I get a standalone sound card? Is the optical out on my Mobo still processed by the ALC4080, or the cpu? Should I go HDMI out from my RTX 3080 to some other device?

The headphone out on my mobo sucks. To get anywhere near reasonable volumes in Discord or built in voice chat in most games I have to max out all settings for mic output and boost in windows.

So, what is a good gaming audio setup with the potential for positional audio that is reasonable? Headphones only, I don't want speakers.

To be clear, I'm talking about the soundcard I/O and DAC, I'm not necessarily looking for better headphone or mic although suggestions are welcome.
 
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toast0

2[H]4U
Joined
Jan 26, 2010
Messages
2,162
My Gigabyte Z590 pro AX has the Realtek ALC4080 codec and I'm not convinced it's any good. Sometimes it will crap out and put out a max volume static sound that could give someone PTSD under the right circumstances :eek:

That gives me flashbacks to my macbook. That was a software issue apparently, only affected iTunes, not Chrome, started after a major update and stopped after the next one... Just Worked, not bitter.

Any-hoo... It's bulky, but you could do HDMI out to a receiver and use it's headphone jack, if you've got a spare receiver or a source of used receivers for cheap. Optical from the onboard should work too. That technically goes through the sound card, but it should be minimally processed. I'm not sure what your options are for a higher quality ADC for your mic if you need that, but maybe your onboard is good enough at that?
 

Azzkiker

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 4, 2012
Messages
412
Thanks for the reply!

I am looking at the SB X3/4 since bypassing the Realtek sound card could get rid of my occasional static blast and maybe give better 7.1/positional audio for games. However, I've also looked at the Schiit HEL to get cleaner sound and especially the onboard mic gain seems useful... is there a good way to do both? A better internal or external soundcard, plus a good mic amp, or is there a standalone device that does both well?
 

chithanh

Gawd
Joined
Oct 18, 2010
Messages
946
Does your monitor have a headphone jack? You could use that as an interim solution until you get your hands on something better.
 

Nenu

[H]ardened
Joined
Apr 28, 2007
Messages
20,224
Professional level isnt required to get audio without "static sound that could give someone PTSD".
A soundcard isnt professional level.
It seems you dont need professional level.
 

Azzkiker

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 4, 2012
Messages
412
Professional level isnt required to get audio without "static sound that could give someone PTSD".
A soundcard isnt professional level.
It seems you dont need professional level.

Yes, thank you for understanding. I am NOT looking for professional or audiophile grade sound, just something pretty good that still does "magic" surround sound for headphone gaming.
 

Azzkiker

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 4, 2012
Messages
412
I locked this thread because I started to think it was a bit redundant and I hadn't done my due diligence. However, I have a worthwhile update including a few words of caution.

I bought a pair of HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless and they were terrible. If you use their Ngenuity software/drivers for EQ or Spatial audio you get >200ms latency. It's enough to notice out of sync audio in youtube videos so I didn't even try it in FPS games. Apparently it's a known issue with that model, but you won't find it mentioned in any of the mainstream reviews. Additionally, they sounded rather stale compared to my Bose AE2.

This may seem obvious, but wireless headsets may not be everyone's cup of tea.

I found a bunch of really good info on the hifiguides.com forums and went a totally different direction. I upped my budget and got Beyerdynamics TYGR 300Rs and a Motu M2 with an XLR adapter and reused my mod mic. The mod mic sounds much better now that its runing through a preamp. A nice bonus is having the Motu rekindled an interest in recording guitar tracks for fun.

So far I am super happy, although it was double the money of a good wireless "gaming" headset. I feel like it's a pretty good compromise between off-the-shelf gaming gear and uber [H]ard audiophile stuff (that I wouldn't able to appreciate anyway).
 

OFaceSIG

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 31, 2009
Messages
3,563
I was not impressed with audio on my mobo. I was a Soundblaster user for years with my last card of theirs being an X-Fi Ti HD. I thought surely after all these years onboard audio can't suck that bad right? It wasn't "bad" but the amp on my mobo was weak. I felt I had the volume slider way higher then it should be. I scored a Creative X3 USB DAC refurbed from Creative. I no longer think a sound card is necessary. This DAC with good headphones is more than enough for a gamer.
 

xDiVolatilX

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jul 24, 2021
Messages
1,195
I just bought a new sound blaster x ea 5. If it is anything like my sound blaster zx it should be a beast. I would say go for a good sound blaster they have always been fantastic in my rigs clear and powerful sound output for optical or headphones highly recommend.
 

MavericK

Zero Cool
Joined
Sep 2, 2004
Messages
31,590
Yes, thank you for understanding. I am NOT looking for professional or audiophile grade sound, just something pretty good that still does "magic" surround sound for headphone gaming.
Could you not just use Windows Sonic or pay for the DTS Headphone or Dolby Headphone licenses for Windows?
 

MrGuvernment

Fully [H]
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
20,956
Fiio, love my gear, not bank breaking, but great quality

https://www.fiio.com/amp
To be honest, a good pair of stereo headphones and a decent amp, will sound better than any surround "crap" as most surround headphones are software driven, or just a bunch of little speakers toss in the ear piece.

Higher quality Stereo will beat out mediocre "surround" sound headphones any day of the week.

"puts on his trusty Sen HD595's with his Fiio DAC)
 
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Azzkiker

Limp Gawd
Joined
Apr 4, 2012
Messages
412
Fiio, love my gear, not bank breaking, but great quality

https://www.fiio.com/amp
To be honest, a good pair of stereo headphones and a decent amp, will sound better than any surround "crap" as most surround headphones are software driven, or just a bunch of little speakers toss in the ear piece.

Higher quality Stereo will be out mediocore "surround" sound headphones any day of the week.

"puts on his trusty Sen HD595's with his Fiio DAC)

100%. Between the Beyers/Motu and cables I was around $450. I recently decided the ModMic wasn't up to par with everything else and didn't like a second cable hanging off my head, so I got a Rode PodMic and boom that mounts to the font of the desk to my left. It keeps all the parts mostly out of peripherial vision while focused on gaming and the sound is a vast improvement over any headset mic I've heard. So I guess I'm at ~$550, but my audio is night and day over any AIO solution I tried and no one hears my Cherry MX Blues over the headset anymore! :D
 

MrGuvernment

Fully [H]
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
20,956
100%. Between the Beyers/Motu and cables I was around $450. I recently decided the ModMic wasn't up to par with everything else and didn't like a second cable hanging off my head, so I got a Rode PodMic and boom that mounts to the font of the desk to my left. It keeps all the parts mostly out of peripherial vision while focused on gaming and the sound is a vast improvement over any headset mic I've heard. So I guess I'm at ~$550, but my audio is night and day over any AIO solution I tried and no one hears my Cherry MX Blues over the headset anymore! :D
Ya, so many streamers and people who use mics in game need to do some basic mic config, so you cant hear their kids in the background, every key they press, every mouse click they do. Sure there are some good headset / mic combo's - but having them separate and well positioned for a little extra can make things sooo much better!
 
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