Sound Cards

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Nov 6, 2002
Do most sound cards simply provide terrible sound or is there a setting I don't know about? I've listened to music on many computers and it always sounds painfully horrible, with treble quality similar to that of 96KB/s MP3's, even when playing directly off an original CD or playing a perfect wave file. Yet I could hook up a $40 portable CD player to the same speakers with the same disc and the sound is fine. I've got to be missing something here!
Yeah, it sucks. Most built-in sound cards do not offer any EQ to tailor the sound to your liking. You have to rely on the EQ funcationality in iTunes or Windows Media or WinAmp, etc....

To me, it's worth it to buy a better sound card rather than using the built-in sound offering.
my sound card is built in and sounds just fine. if your not using it to be a sound system but just some lil thing while surfing the web you dont need them aftermarket junk. also those things can slow your computer down if you have an older computer

I will ask one more thing. you have it plugged in the right hole?

also go under control panel and click on sounds and audio devices and under volume click on speaker settings advance. then click on preformance and see what your settings are there. this might help.
I've always had good sound cards and found the speakers to the limiting factor. I bought the SB AWE32 back (199X) when this was the true sex model.

I stuck this card in 3 more PC's as I upgraded (paid off in the long run! that card had 32MB of RAM). But both my home PC's with built in cards sound OK.

I put a cheapie speaker set on my Dell @ work and it sounds, like well, khrap.
There is no way you can say onboard is as good as many sound cards. My desktop has a creative x-fi and my laptop has built in sigmatel audio. Even with good external speakers setup, my laptop sounds like ****, while my desktop sounds amazing
I use old Yamaha and a newer M-Audio card, these are cards musicians use and their sound quality and noise level is way lower than other cards including onboard ones.
Was running a Santa Cruz (good sound!) until either the card ****ped or Winamp itself started skipping.

Either way, I'm using onboard nForce2 MCP sound for now and it seems to sound just fine! Not as many channels but I don't game much anymore, so it works quite well. Handles 5.1 fine.
The laptop I'm using at work here is a Dell with a Pentium M and "SigmaTel C-Major Audio", so I think it's just built-in. I've set it to maximum performance levels for sample rate and hardware acceleration and there are no other adjustments possible as far as I can tell. It didn't make a difference; sound is still highly compressed, so it does okay until there's a lot of treble at the same time. I don't care about equalizers or anything, I just want it to be able to create proper analog sound waves from a digital source!

I'm gathering that I just need a decent sound card. What doesn't make sense to me is how they can make something that reads CDs, converts from digital to analog with high quality, and sends the analog out to included headphones for $40, yet they still don't include decent audio capability on most computers!

I know that my computer at home does actually have a sound card, but it has never sounded good. I'll see what I have on it and if any adjustments are possible when I get back to Canada (I'm down in Texas on a rig near Galveston at the moment). Maybe it was never properly installed by Dell? I'll try the install disk too to make sure. The sound quality of my computer never concerned me much because I don't listen to music on it at home with my Paradigm system close by, but it would be nice to get it working better so I can actually tell if an MP3 is decent enough to bother putting on a CD-R.

And yes, I have tried listening to music on computers other than Dells!
what sound card do you have? also the media player you use. are you using the graphic eq? default setting can sound liek that too. but I never had a prob with sound cards be it on the mother board or one of the slots. so look in to your eq settings on your player.
The nforce2 is a great onboard sound chip.

But it sounds like you and I are in the same boat rpn. I've also got a dell inspiron b130 notebook with the sigmatel audio, and it sounds crummy. Months ago i bought an audigy 2 pcmcia sound card, only to discover that dell didnt put a pcmcia slot in the laptop. It's got some newer express card slot and there are very few express card items on the market, no sound cards that i've been able to find.

As far as my desktop goes it's also a dell that came with an audigy 2, always sounded great. Not really sure what else to say, odd problem.
I don't like the way Winamp output. Listen to the same file with Winamp and WinMedia Player with the EQ off and you will hear the difference.
My Dell notebook also has the integrated SigmaTel C-Major card and the sound is pretty good. This is coming from someone who's rather picky about his sound. I've got it connected to a small Onkyo receiver and a pair of PSB Alpha B speakers. The only thing I can think of is that your particular sound card is somehow defective. If so, for about $20-30 you can purchase one of those Turtle Beach USB sound cards (I think BestBuy carries them plus some online stores). It's the size of a USB flash drive.
After listening to Dell and Gateway laptops, the sound from my home computer isn't nearly as bad. It has a Creative Live SB0200 card (Dell OEM). I just picked up a Toshiba laptop with "Realtek 16-bit" audio. It doesn't compress the music too badly, but also doesn't put out much bass (even on external speakers). It must keep the bass down to protect the built-in speakers, and there's no adjustability as far as I can tell. It's still much better than the sound from the Dell and Gateway laptops I've used recently.
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