Audio Headphones Headsets Practice Reviews Sound Systems Soundcards

Disadvantages of onboard sound – Influence of graphics card, headphone sensitivity and motherboard layout | igorsLAB

Why I think the onboard sound on many motherboards is bad or at least not optimal, I would like to explain in detail in this analysis. The usual tests (and marketing) usually focus only on the DAC and the codecs, but eggs the actual problem smoothly. What do good headphones, a potent graphics card, a medium-priced motherboard, an oscillograph, a very good multimeter and a set of trained ears have to do with each other? Let's find out!

And the winner is…

… the external sound card, digitally connected (USB, SPDIF) with built-in DAC. Only an electrically (analog signal branch) and spatially separated sound solution is really and fully satisfying. We had to see that even built-in plug-in cards as a sound solution still suffer from the graphics card. This is not really audible, but you never know what Nvidia and AMD, as well as Intel, think in the future.

We had to listen and see how the built-in sound solution of the motherboard also failed terribly due to the dynamic range of good one-players. So there are two very good, completely independent reasons to think about an external and usable sound solution. An advantage of the separate solution is also its longevity. A lot of things also work via plug & play, so that you can use these external sound cards over several generations of computers.

If you're not into artificial surrounds and digital sound games, you'll find and really be happy outside the gaming frenzy in the hi-fi area. Good sound solutions can be obtained from approx. 100 Euro and already there you realize that an equally expensive motherboard can never offer such a thing even for economic reasons. And if you buy expensive headphones, but fail to deliver adequate content, you really can't help it anymore.


Summary and conclusion

What do I take for myself from these revealing tests? Actually, I only wanted to experiment with how to add some added value to motherboard tests. This also includes judging their audio qualities too objectively. However, this is not possible by laying on hands or simply staring at it. Here you simply have to measure in order to be able to judge objectively and not just hold something rapturously into the camera.

In addition, I want to try to measure field strengths in order to be able to test graphics cards in even more detail. However, I still have to get some technical and technical help. That's why I leave it (for the time being) also with the motherboard tests with real audio measurements. This in itself is a pagan work, but it is probably worth it.

The reader has learned two things today, if he did not already know it. On the one hand, only what you put in beforehand comes out of the headphones. Without corresponding output power or voltage on the relevant impedance, the most expensive headphones is simply amputated. So you kind of punish yourself. And on the other hand, if you want to bet on a potent graphic, you should de-escalate the topic of "radiation" and simply retreat gallantly into the quiet corner with the audio. Because in the case you can only lose the fight.

The manufacturers of motherboards can only be encouraged to finally use a real shield, especially on the way from the slot panel to the part of the board where the technology sits. Simple traces are cheap, but that's how it sounds. No matter if you later install capacitors with gold or platinum and a really good DAC. What is once hushed can no longer save even the most amazing packaging.


More about audio? Then this is certainly the right thing to do!

Gaming Headsets: Myth, Truth and How We Test

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About the author

Igor Wallossek

Editor-in-chief and name-giver of igor'sLAB as the content successor of Tom's Hardware Germany, whose license was returned in June 2019 in order to better meet the qualitative demands of web content and challenges of new media such as YouTube with its own channel.

Computer nerd since 1983, audio freak since 1979 and pretty much open to anything with a plug or battery for over 50 years.

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