Audio Audio/Peripherals Basics Gaming Headphones Headsets Practice Reviews Sound Systems Soundcards

Onboard sound disadvantages, problems, workarounds, external and internal solutions, headphone guide and basics

If you also hear what you see, the external analog amplifier has a nasty background hum, the headphones are much too quiet, and the sound comes across much too flat and powerless in other ways as well, then something is obviously rotten with the system. But where is the best place to start and, above all, what are the causes? I have already written several articles on this subject, which have become classics, but time does not stand still. And that’s exactly why I sat down again and reclassified all the things we already know together with the feedback that came in over the years. And much of it I have also retested.

Nevertheless, I want to preface this guide with an important remark, because you can never really please everyone. And so, in this part, I’ll rather limit myself to the technical environment and the background of what might annoy a gamer. The Hi-Fi faction and the guild of headphone amplifier collectors don’t have to be sad though, because I will start an extra project for that together with the community. Because even something like that is of course interesting and important, but it only affects a small part of the readers. Today’s article is thus based on the usual suspects on the hardware side, because the wallet should not get a panic attack either and quite a few discussed problems with the gaming hardware are already complaining on quite a high level.

So I’ll try to cover and document advanced PC audio in a second part, because that will seamlessly build on today’s article. It’s just that the amount of all information would surely overwhelm most readers (and me writing it, too, I guess). External hi-fi DACs from the pure audio sector, amplifiers of all kinds and various stunts with the connections will therefore be in the next part, today we first satisfy the broad masses. This is not meant in a pejorative way, but rather for those who don’t need more than they already have and just want it to be error-free.

I would like to thank the community for all the feedback over the last four years since the first article was published, Creative in Singapore for filling up my already very extensive hardware archive with some of my selected products without any obligation, AMD and MSI for the support including the information about some problems that occurred (and have been solved in the meantime), as well as a local dealer who exchanged many things back and forth until I had what I needed. The products used are thus purely exemplary and could also be equivalents from A to Z that have similar parameters. That’s really up to each person. And today is also exclusively about the Windows world. Linux users are welcome to contact me to gather some more ammunition for part two. So dare! 🙂

Hardware with or without Windows drivers?

Apart from the fact that you often can’t use the full functionality of the purchased gaming hardware without drivers, these parts usually work without additional drivers nowadays. Well, at least in their basic functions. The times when you could use your sound card as a paperweight after switching to a higher Windows version should actually be over. Nevertheless, Intel experienced various connectivity issues after the switch to a USB solution starting with the Z490 boards. Just like AMD and the 5oo chipsets, which had problems with detecting the hardware during boot, for example.

If you summarize the whole thing, it concentrates on the annoying “USB port dropout”, the “USB 2.0 audio crackling (which unfortunately also affects external DACs or devices with a built-in DAC) and the “PCIe Gen 4 exclusion”, which probably rather occurred on AMD motherboards and affects the slots that are connected via the chipset. So you can already see here that with a bit of bad luck also the driverless USB DACs can be affected and many a Hi-Fi freak has rejoiced too early. Because it affects everyone and not only the supposed gaming gear, but also really expensive components!

For example, an Intel board with ALC4080 chipset and the really annoying audio cracking drove me to completely disassemble the table shown in the picture again, and then switch to another platform. Then there was silence, at least in the connected speakers from Nubert with integrated DAC! Conversely, I then had PCIe problems with the new X570 motherboard because it didn’t like the now built-in internal sound card from Creative when booting and you often had to boot several times until the device was also recognized by Windows. So it can affect anyone in some way, even me. And then also several times.

If I may give some advice at this point: please don’t soak up questionable information in any gamer forums until you have finally done with the hardware world yourself. Reddit is definitely a more competent source, especially when it comes to the direct threads about AMD or Intel. Here I then also found the solution to the AMD problems, for example, and was able to ask the CPU manufacturer and MSI more specifically.

And if anyone is still wondering why I use almost exclusively Creative products in this article, I’ll tell them that I’m actually a lazy old fart on the inside. But please do not tell anyone! In fact, you only need to install a single driver to get the parts all working again. Then I can also relax and jump back and forth between the products without having to constantly remove the driver corpses as a certified crime scene cleaner. Life can also be quite simple, because my Nahimic drivers for the Intel motherboard on the office PC have recently also a quirk and I have to constantly reinitialize the external boxes by manually switching them back to USB. This also affects an Asus Xonar Essence STU, which I’m only allowed to turn on AFTER the PC and have to wait until I see the login screen. By the way, as a USB solution, it is driver-free.

With AMD, you should definitely use the latest AGESA and get the BIOS updates directly from the manufacturer (like with Intel motherboards with the ALC 4080). For Creative products, download the SB Command software (at least version 3.5.08.00), and for Onboard, be sure to download the latest Realtek or Nahimic drivers. I don’t host it here, because the versions change often.

Perpetual questions

Why I still consider the onboard sound on many motherboards to be bad or at least not optimal is something I would like to explain in detail in this article. The usual tests (and marketing) usually only focus on the DAC and the codecs, but smoothly miss the actual problem. What do good headphones, a potent graphics card, a normal motherboard, an oscilloscope, a very good multimeter and a set of trained ears have to do with each other? Let’s just find out!

  • Where the annoying noise comes from (also on the desktop) e.g. when scrolling
  • Why powerful graphics cards can also strongly distort the sound quality under load in gaming
  • When it hums like you have a bear on the line
  • What to do about noise and jitter in external DACs
  • The various onboard solutions together with the “secret” data sheets
  • Analysis of the maximum possible output level (“volume”)
  • Why not every pair of headphones sounds or is as loud as you’d like it to be
  • Overview of some of the sound solutions used and solutions for every budget

Yes, there are a lot of good reviews about the onboard sound and even blind tests that (want to) prove that it doesn’t always have to be the overpriced sound solution that seems necessary for daily happiness or is at least mantra-like propagated as such. However, almost all tests generally get it wrong: you play music without processor and graphics card load and assess a state that will never occur in gaming, for example.

Also, no one is likely to scroll back and forth, up and down on the screen during smooth classical music playback in such a test. This is rather impractical and only proves that the DACs (digital-to-analog converter) of current motherboards are better than their reputation. The problem, however, is that the digital part has not been a weak point for a long time, but that the analog branch including all signal paths on the motherboard is the real bottleneck.

Apart from the fact that the effective voltage (Vrms, I’ll explain in a moment) is much too low for a clean headphone input and output on almost all motherboards, the “interferences” (transients) caused by a potent graphics hardware are a real weak point, because the EMC tests and the issued CE certificates concern the GHz range, but not what ends up in our ears as mixed frequency garbage. Often enough, you can still hear what you see, unfortunately.

“Transmitting station” with over 500 watts

Without getting too technical now: at the non-linearities of many an amplifier unit, mixed products of various signals, direct and indirect, arise, because every unshielded, metallic surface simultaneously acts like a small antenna. There is rectification and intermodulation en masse. You don’t believe that? This can be measured and proven. Even in places where untrained ears cannot or do not want to perceive anything at first.

In addition, you run (often without knowing it) your headphones on the audio output of your motherboard far below value! I have therefore included an extra chapter that deals specifically with this. Because full scale, overdrive, distortions or the still (subjectively) cleanly achievable maximum level as acoustic added value are a really gloomy onboard chapter in itself. And often enough, either headphones are labeled as cucumbers, although actually only the motherboard doesn’t play along, or their “bad and unclean” sound is criticized, just because distortions that start much too early have a negative impact on the sound image. Mr. and Mrs. Gamer like it loud, but this is exactly where almost all onboard solutions fail grandiosely. The beauty of it is that this can also be easily measured and proven.

Personal note

At the time, I was annoyed by various discussions during the test of the USB Gaming DAC from Sharkoon, where the measurements, e.g. for the external voltage distance, were criticized in some forums. I would like to say that sites like Sengpiel Audio are indisputably very good compendiums. However, one must also understand the offered converters. For example, if we consider the gain and the measured voltages, such calculators are always based on the assumption that the input and output impedances are identical. But this is exactly what measurements at the headphone output never offer! What still works well in the recording studio between the individual components with identical connection impedances is simply no longer usable in this form at the low-impedance headphone amplifier.

This is actually basic knowledge and yet almost always the reason for various whiny comments. My measurements also include that such a DAC already gets various (interfering) signals from the system, which unfortunately are already measurable even without the actual signal of the selected source. In addition I have then in the area with the USB output and jitter still some further info and measured values. I am not infallible and gratefully accept suggestions and criticism. But it should already be technically justified.

173 Antworten

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DrWandel

Mitglied

83 Kommentare 68 Likes

Danke für die ausführlichen Informationen!

Ich muss jedoch sagen, dass für meine Zwecke (vor allem Spielen und Hintergrundmusik) der Realtek ALC892 auf meinem X370-Board (MSI) völlig ausreicht. Brummen, Zirpen und ähnliche Effekte habe ich kaum wahrnehmbar. Sicher, das ist bestimmt keine HiFi, aber für mich gut genug. Vielleicht habe ich auch einfach nur Glück, aber auch über Kopfhörer ist der Sound recht ordentlich, obwohl ich meistens lieber meine uralten (ca. 30 Jahre) Sony-Aktivboxen verwende.

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Igor Wallossek

1

10,293 Kommentare 19,077 Likes

Kaum ist nicht nicht ;)

Je potenter die Grafikkarte, umso mehr Grillen muss man zertreten :D

Antwort 1 Like

ipat66

Urgestein

1,368 Kommentare 1,366 Likes

Es lässt sich erahnen,warum wir länger auf diesen Artikel warten mussten.
Sehr informativ.
Da hat man noch für später was zu lesen !

Freue mich schon auf Teil 2...:)
Danke Igor

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ssj3rd

Veteran

219 Kommentare 155 Likes

Hatte auch extreme Störgeräusche mit meiner On-Board Karte aber auch mit meiner intern verbauten Soundblaster AE9. Lustigerweise aber immer erst dann, sobald ich ein Spiel gestartet habe.
Nach vielen vielen testen und Herumprobieren mit (teils sehr teuren) abgeschirmten Cinch+Strom Kabeln hat schlussendlich ein kleines 10€ Wunder-Kästchen Ruhe im Karton verschafft: (der ja auch im Artikel erwähnt wird)
https://www.amazon.de/dp/B076JGVJGP...t_i_MBY9S0CEJQR0XDFXMYNC?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
Da ich halt 5.1 habe musste ich natürlich 3 Stück davon abbringen, aber seitdem ist absolut Ruhe im Karton.
Da ich auch öfters beim Autoradio mal ein knistern hatte habe ich es auch dort angebracht, auch dort kein knistern mehr, nix.

Ist für mich echt ein kleines Zauber Kästchen 🙏

PS:
Übrigens hat bei mir eine externe Soundkarte über USB die exakt gleichen Störgeräusche auf den Boxen verursacht wie die interne. In die gleiche Steckdose stecken hat auch nicht geholfen, was genau ist den eine symmetrische Verkabelung von der hier im Artikel gesprochen wird?

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Igor Wallossek

1

10,293 Kommentare 19,077 Likes

Dafür gibts ja den Goldfisch aus dem Oehlbach, der schnappt dann beim USB nach Luft :p

BTW: den Feintech habe ich ja im Artikel :D

View image at the forums

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ssj3rd

Veteran

219 Kommentare 155 Likes

Damit ist was genau gemeint?

Antwort Gefällt mir

Igor Wallossek

1

10,293 Kommentare 19,077 Likes

Ertappt! Du hast den Artikel nicht gelesen :p

Seite 3:

Dein Feintech steht übrigens auf Seite 2 ;)

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Ghoster52

Urgestein

1,430 Kommentare 1,095 Likes

Vielen Dank Igor! (y)
Zur AE-5 sei noch gesagt, den Stromanschluss benötigt man nur für den ARGB (scheiß) Streifen.
So ist es jedenfalls bei der NonPlus.

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Igor Wallossek

1

10,293 Kommentare 19,077 Likes

Ich habe hier die AE-9 auch gerade ohne PCIe am Laufen ;)
Allerdings braucht der externe Kasten leider den 6-Pin

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S
SpiritWolf448

Veteran

122 Kommentare 35 Likes

Schöner Artikel, Igor, der wie üblich Lust auf mehr macht. :)

Ich hier habe eine externe SoundBlasterX G6 in Gebrauch, gekoppelt an einen SwissSonic HAD-1 Kopfhörer-DAC von Thomann (via TOSLink). Damit befeuere ich meine Beyerdynamic DT990 (250 Ohm Variante). Ich bin kein Audiophiler, von daher kann ich sagen, das ich mit der Kombo sehr zufrieden bin. (Unter Windows. Linux benutze ich nicht, daher kann ich dazu nichts sagen.)

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Igor Wallossek

1

10,293 Kommentare 19,077 Likes

Die G6 ist drin so ähnlich wie die X4 ;)

Antwort 1 Like

c
cunhell

Urgestein

556 Kommentare 523 Likes

Ich habe noch zwei SB X-Fi Titanium PCIe. eine davon an einer analogen 5.1 Anlage. Klingt einfach gut. Zumindest beim Zocken und für meine Ohren ;)
Ich bin auf den Test der AE-9 sehr gespannt. Meine beste Freundin wollte die unbedingt im Rechner haben und hat sie sich besorgt.
Ihr Rechner ist seh schön aufgeräumt was das Kabelmanagement angeht, aber dadurch die Hölle, wenn man ein weiteres PCIe Kabel anstecken will/muss. Viele Flüche später hat es dann geklappt. Soviel zu dem Thema, kannst du mal schnell meine Soundkarte einbauen. :)

Cunhell

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Igor Wallossek

1

10,293 Kommentare 19,077 Likes

Tipp:
Es gibt so windige PCIe zu Molex-Adapter, die man bei Grafikkarten ja nicht nehmen sollte. Aber hierfür geht das bestens! :D

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Ghoster52

Urgestein

1,430 Kommentare 1,095 Likes

Das letzte was noch unter Linux anstandslos lief, war die Audigy2 & X-Fi.
Die Audigy4 & Z wurden zwar noch erkannt (aber kein Sound), weiß nicht ob es jetzt besser ist, Creative verweigert sich den Linux-Support. (n)

Ich hatte zuletzt (bis 2021) eine ESI@Juli SoKa im Linux-PC, schon sehr sehr alt aber dennoch sehr gut, nur leider kein KH-Ausgang.

PS: der "Realtek ALC1220" (Asrock Taichi RE / B550 & X570) läuft aktuell auf alle 3 Betriebssysteme ohne Fehler (Fehlfunktionen)
Win 10/11, Mint 19.3 und MX-Linux 21.
Der RME Adi 2 Pro AE hatte unter Mint leichte Stumm- und Umschalt-Knackser, wenn über USB angesteuert.
Schon fast unscheinbar, der kleine xDuoo X3 II DAP (32 Ohm@220mW), läuft auch auf allen Systemen ohne Treiber als USB-DAC (KHV).
Schade, die xDuoo DAPs sind seit der Chip-Krise nicht mehr lieferbar....

PPS: die AE-9 war für (alle meine) KH mit das Beste, was ich je im PC verbaut hatte,
nur lief die letztes Jahr noch nicht absturzsicher (lag es am X570 oder AMDs AGESA Version ???)

Nachtrag: Obwohl dem Sabber-DAC bei Asrock noch ein paar NE-5532 spendiert wurden, verhungern auch meine "guten" Kopfhörer
am "OnBoard-Soundchip" (D5000 25Ohm @106db, Oppo PM2+3 unter 50 Ohm @ 102db und auch ein günstiger OneOdio Pro50
32Ohm @ 110db, nur als Beispiele). Für genussvollen Sound ist KHV Pflicht, über DAC-Klang möchte ich mich nicht auslassen... :LOL:

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c
cunhell

Urgestein

556 Kommentare 523 Likes

Ich wusste ja nicht mal, dass die Karte den PCIe-Anschluss hat und unter der Netzteilabdeckung war so wenig Platz, dass ich mir fast die Finger gebrochen habe. Und es wären eh nur SATA-Stromanschlüsse vorhanden gewesen. Molex hätte ich genauso reinfummeln müssen :)
Aber sie ist nun glücklich und das ist doch das wichtigste. Und ich hab was gut ;)

Cunhell

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D
Deridex

Urgestein

2,218 Kommentare 851 Likes

Schöner Artikel.

Kleine Ergänzung:
- Meist sind es Schaltflanken (ist für die meisten wohl besser verständlich als Transienten) die rein streuen. Aus meiner Sicht sind da starke Schaltnetzteile mit stark variable Last ein ziemliches Problem.
- die EMV decken meines Wissens nach tatsächlich nicht den hörbaren Bereich ab
- Bei meinem Laptop habe ich ähnliches am Kopfhörerausgang festgestellt. Ich gehe davon aus, dass viele Laptops ebenfalls von der Problematik betroffen sind.

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RedF

Urgestein

4,724 Kommentare 2,598 Likes

Habe eine GC-7 mit einem MMX 300 ist die mit der X4 vergleichbar?

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F
Furda

Urgestein

663 Kommentare 371 Likes

Dieser PureClock kostet bei Oehlbach 69€, nicht 20€. Bin ich da beim falschen Produkt gelandet? 🤔

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Igor Wallossek

1

10,293 Kommentare 19,077 Likes

View image at the forums

Ich habs von Amazon. War billiger. 21 netto.

Antwort 1 Like

Danke für die Spende



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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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