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Nforce onboard sound or PCI card?

I've recently made some upgrades to key parts of my system and am wondering if I would see any significant improvement from purchasing a PCI soundcard instead of just using my onboard sound?

I am going to be running an Athlon64 3000+ on a Chaintech vnf4 nforce4 ultra mobo with 512x2 geil pc3200 ram a radeon x800xl pcie vidcard and a seagate 120gb sata HD.

The system will mainly be used for gaming, mostly sports, MMOs and a few FPS's and I usually either use a pair of normal headphones or some creative 2.1 speakers. I'm no audiophile and dont plan on upgrading my headphones or speakers anytime soon but I've read that a separate soundcard can let you hear things onboard won't and it can improve performance by offloading work form the CPU to the soundcard.

Anyhow, I was just wondering if given my equipment and situation if it is worth it for me to get a separate card.

The ones I'm considering are:

Audigy 2 ZS - hear it's the best for gaming but i really got a bad taste in my mouth for creative due to past experiences with their cards and their drivers

Turtle Beach Santa Cruz - hear alot of good things, good price, but kind of old isnt it?

Chaintech av-710 - good price, good reviews, dont know much else about it

and in all honesty, i'm not really into spending the money for a 2 zs unless the benefit is pretty big. The Turtle Beach and Chaintech are more in my price range, would either of those have any appreciable improvement over the onboard sound?

Here's the info about the sound form the Chaintech website:

* Supports enhanced NVIDIA 7.1-channel audio
* Complies with AC'97 Rev 2.3 specifications
* Six audio jacks with automatic jack sensing
* Supports 48KHz coaxial S/PDIF output
* EAX/Direct Sound 3D/I3DL2/A3D compatible
the only nforce onboard sound worth using is the nforce 2 soundstorm, nforce 1, 3 and 4 only have a cheap and nasty AC97 codec.

Audigy 2 ZS / Audigy 4 are your best bets if gaming is the main application of the pc.

Turtle Beach are ebhinf the times gaming wise, but for pro audio I dont think you can get better without going to the $1000 + pro audio/mixing solutions.

Chaintech is probably a Via Envy sound chip - pretty good but not as good as the EMU 10K series that drive the audigy cards.


OSNN Veteran Addict
Political User
I've got a similar dilema to this, I'm using the AC97 onboard sound at the moment, which is ok, but not great. What kind of improvement would I see to games by using a PCI sound card like that audigy one? Apart from the increased sound quality I mean, i.e. FPS etc.
Greatly reduced hiss and crosstalk from other onboard devices. Less CPU overhead giving you an small increase of 1-5 FPS depending. In the case of the Audigy 2 ZS (oem models are fine) greatly increased audio quality - especially if paired with a decent speaker or headphone setup (I can recommend Sennheiser HD280Pro and if you can find the boom mic accessory for them even better for headphones).


Carbon based lifeform
Political User
if you are using this on a 2.1 system there will be no audible barometer of quality you can hear. the only value will be when you offload some of the sound from the cpu.

spending more than you have to isn't a good plan, especailly when the other cards you mention are cheaper and can do the same. If you place on streaming the audio to a separtate receiver than you might consider the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz, Either way the Santa Cruz and Chaintech offer the option of Digital audio out for way less than the Audigy Zs

Son Goku

No lover of dogma
Audigy 2 might not present the same problem, and there might have been a BIOS update or something to address this. But when I first got my nForce 1 board I had an Audigy 1 which formerly played OK in my Athlon tbird system.

I messed with the thing for hours, reseating the card, moving to different PCI slots, and just about everything I could think of, the thing just wouldn't play at that time. That said, I gave the card to a roomate of mine who had less cash then me at the time (as I've typically given my old hardware away to peeps I know who need it) so don't have it to try anymore.

Perhaps the issues have been worked out, or someone can tell you how to get it to play. But it might be something to consider...
sounds like you had a bios bug :)

I really dont recommend anything other than crweative audio products unless you want to get into professional audio. Nothing else comes close in the consumer audio product range.
My gaming buddies who use(d) the Audigy do not like them. They are quirky.

The Turtle Beach is doing good for them.

For gaming I see no point in going beyond a $25 Sound Blaster Live to off load the audio processing from the CPU. Do you really care if the bandwidth of that laser blast is 18kHz instead of 20kHz or maybe a half dB off in volume?


The Analog Kid
The audigy's in general suck, but they are the only way to go if you want EAX.

The Envy chips are damn good, but what's more import is the DAC they are connected to. The AV-710 has a VERY high quality Wolfson dac on channels 7-8


OSNN Veteran Addict
Political User
I'm going to get a SB Live then I think, but probably not for a while, having just played the F.E.A.R. demo I am going to save up for a new graphics card first!! :)
Reps out.
THe audigy 1 was a little quirky but the audigy 2 nd 4 are fantastic.

Any gamer not using a creative card is not a gamer. Non-Creative cards are terrible with things like EAX and A3D (Creative aquired A3D when they bought Aureal).

If you intend to play games you need an audigy 1 or 2 for best results. Consumer audio has no better product.

Professional audio however has masses of far superior products that granted will give you sound in your games, but not being targeted at games as the creative cards are, they aren't especially great at game related audio technology.

Likewise the Creative cards are not that great at professional Audio (despite what they'd like you to believe).

So as I said. If the primary purpose is gaming you Only have creative as an Option. If your primary focus is pro-audio, you have a whole world to choose from!


The Donger Need Food!!!!
Political User
my onboard sound is phenomenal and is based of the Via Envy 24PT.

I am so impressed with it that in my next build I will probably buy a sound card based off of a derivative of that chip.

EDIT...that's funny I went to find cards with my codec and when I type in VIA 24PT in google I get my sig in a thread here as the first link...ha, will add a link as soon as I find one

EDIT #2...oh well found the same Chaintech card posted earlier http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductDetail.jsp?ProductCode=292003


OSNN Veteran Addict
Political User
I ALMOST bought one of those Live cards the other day, but I want hardware EAX so I didn't bother, then I remembered those X-Fi babes are just round the corner so I decided that I will get one of those. I then realised I might be in for a long wait so I bought a Geforce 6600 to tide me over cos my Ti4200 needed to go into a home he he.

I am SO glad I didn't get the SB Live now :) These X-Fi things better be good!

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