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Motherboard Onboard Sound Any Good?

Posted on 2004-10-02
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Last Modified: 2013-11-09
Im using a Gigabyte GA-7VT600-PL (Rev 1.0) motherboard which has a Realtek ALC655 AC97 codec Chip for onboard audio.  It offers digital surround sound which to me sounds like the technology has evolved from a simple 16-bit unit.  For many years I've always used an actual sound card in the PCI slot (currently SB Live! 5.1) in fear of any kind of gaming incompatability or reduced system performance.

How is this Realtek's abilities these days?  Is it 100% game-compatible like my SB Live! PCI card?  Does running this onboard sound as opposed to my PCI card have any reduction on my system's performance?

My system: Athlon XP 2800+ Barton @ 2.08GHZ, 512MB DDR Ram PC2700, ATI Radeon  9800 Pro 128MB (256 Bit) AGP videocard, 30GB Maxtor HDD, 40GB Maxtor HDD, HP 8200 CDRW, Liteon SOHW 832S DVDRW.
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Question by:ljaques
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9 Comments
 
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Expert Comment

by:bottlegreen
ID: 12210521
The ALC655 should be on par with the SB Live! 5.1 card quality-wise, you will not be able to tell the difference. Running onbaord sound will not have any reduction on your system performance.
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by:Blue_Rishi
ID: 12210961
Agreed, two minor points though;
no soundcard / chip manufracturer can be sure their cards are 100% compatible with ALL games. A game can have bugs, so can the driver or windows for that matter all of which can result in bad performance / crashes (haven't seen this happening in a while though).
Second, the driver sujpplied by the manufracturer is (almost) as important as the card / chip itself (when comparing chips with similar capabillities). Realteks's drivers are more basic, while creative's drivers usually come with diagnostic software etc. The nicest interface (mixer) i've seen is with the nforce-2 build-in sound.

Blue Rishi

P.S. A driver / card that supports EAX-2 would be nice for games...
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by:x86fix
ID: 12214553
I have an Intel board that uses this same chip type on board- it is outstanding.  I would not bother with a soundcard unless it is an audigy or audigy 2.
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LVL 2

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by:cofneverlivetotell
ID: 12215138
Unless you are a serious gamer, i would just stick to the onboard... you only really need a good sound card if you are heavily into games or studio recording...

Cheers
Cof
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by:kublador
ID: 12219236
The only difference would be the onboard soundcard will eat more cpu usage than PCI sound cards..
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by:Asta Cu
ID: 12223099
For Doom3 and Radeon, found this of interest (though a different setup/sys type, etc.) But 'may' share some light on your other question, which I've misplaced.
http://forums.us.dell.com/supportforums/board/message?board.id=game-gen&message.id=16655&page=1&view=by_threading
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by:kinobestew123
ID: 12229161
I had that same Realtek chip that came on an MSI KT4-VL and before that, I had used the SB Live 5.1 card. (coinsidence??) anyway, I used the realtek chip for about 2-3 months and noticed a considerable drop in the sound quality, seemed more Tinny. Also, when playing dvds, about every 1minute, the sound would make a snap (more like a quick crackle actually). I put up with it until it drove me crazy so I switched to the PCI SB live card. I must say that the sound quality is far better.

PS: I use Videologic ZXR-550 speakers which are a fairly decent set. Therefore, a good soundcard is required. It of course depends on what speakers you are using.
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x86fix earned 50 total points
ID: 12230942
I don't have the exact details on the chips but I find the Intel MB's to have very good sound and the drivers work great.  I would even argue that they should perform just as well speed and cpu utilization wise as a pci card.  It is not like a video card with on board memory.  It is connecting to the pci bus just as a pci card would.  I see all types of MB sound chips adn don't think you can lump them all together.  Some are complete crapola and other are very good.  For instance the 865perl has a 5.1 sound chip and it sounds great.  It does not appear to burden the cpu either.  I like the point made by Blue_Rishi that it depends on the chip and how it is supported by the manufacturer.

That said the SB Audigy cards are in a superior class to any on board sound available.  However I will bet that they burden the CPU more than the chips used in the Intel 865 boards.  I don't know for sure but that is my bet.
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by:Asta Cu
ID: 12231033
I've been using the Audigy 2ZS on both a P3 and 4, haven't seen a downside in performance; running XP SP2.
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