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Best Sound Card for Foobar2000, Looking for high-end sound card recommendation
NewtoFoo
post Feb 29 2012, 16:33
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I have a very high end stereo and I am trying to get the best card for attaching foobar2000 to my DAC with coax. Being new to Foobar I have seen recommendations against the ASUS cards which after researching seemed to be the best. The claim is that these cards have buggy drivers. Can anyone help me understand the best sound card for Foobar. Thanks for any help.
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Kohlrabi
post Feb 29 2012, 17:27
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QUOTE (NewtoFoo @ Feb 29 2012, 16:33) *
Being new to Foobar I have seen recommendations against the ASUS cards which after researching seemed to be the best. The claim is that these cards have buggy drivers.

While indeed the drivers are buggy, Peter worked around the issues with Xonar cards, and versions after and including 1.1.10 should have no more difficulties with Xonar cards, at least when using the DirectSound (default) output method.

Also, inb4: It's foobar2000.


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-Richy-
post Feb 29 2012, 17:40
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QUOTE (NewtoFoo @ Feb 29 2012, 16:33) *
I have a very high end stereo and I am trying to get the best card for attaching foobar2000 to my DAC with coax. Being new to Foobar I have seen recommendations against the ASUS cards which after researching seemed to be the best. The claim is that these cards have buggy drivers. Can anyone help me understand the best sound card for Foobar. Thanks for any help.


First of all my operating system is Windows XP SP3. The ASUS XONAR Essence ST (PCI), foobar 1.1.11, the latest foo_out_asio plugin v2.1.1 and the latest ASUS XONAR Unified Drivers 1.52 works very well for me also with the included ASIO drivers that allow auto sample rate adjustment and bitperfect output.
The Essence ST PCI version has a much better clock than the Essence STX PCIe version and very little jitter with coax.
I connect the coax out with the Benchmark DAC1 HDR and the sound is much better than connected with USB. No music dropouts, very clear, nearly perfect.
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db1989
post Mar 1 2012, 01:23
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QUOTE (-Richy- @ Feb 29 2012, 16:40) *
I connect the coax out with the Benchmark DAC1 HDR and the sound is much better than connected with USB.

insert generic reference to ToS#8 here
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Möhre
post Mar 1 2012, 11:04
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i just bought the Xonar Essence + Extension. I did not notice any problems with the current drivers under Win7.
The sound quality and internal mixing is ways better than Creative. Best setting seems to be 24bit/96Khz.
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Wander
post Mar 1 2012, 12:52
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Unless you have 96kHz samples, it doesn't make any sense to set the sample rate of your sound device at 96kHz. And even though, I doubt you would hear the difference between 44kHz material and 96kHz.

@topic: There's no best soundcard. Generally, the more you pay, the better the quality gets and the lesser the improvements in quality are. So, what are you willing to pay, and do you need it for sound-recording or just listening to music?

This post has been edited by Wander: Mar 1 2012, 12:59
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db1989
post Mar 1 2012, 13:12
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QUOTE (Möhre @ Mar 1 2012, 10:04) *
The sound quality and internal mixing is ways better than Creative. Best setting seems to be 24bit/96Khz.

Am I just talking to myself in this thread?
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mjm716
post Mar 1 2012, 13:19
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QUOTE (NewtoFoo @ Feb 29 2012, 16:33) *
I have a very high end stereo and I am trying to get the best card for attaching foobar2000 to my DAC with coax. Being new to Foobar I have seen recommendations against the ASUS cards which after researching seemed to be the best. The claim is that these cards have buggy drivers. Can anyone help me understand the best sound card for Foobar. Thanks for any help.


I have excellent experience using the Creative X-Fi adapter in my 'sound loop' - from PC to either desktop speakers or high-end stereo. It's fairly simple, but the Crystalizer function really delivers fuller, enhanced MP3 playback. In addition, using the CMSS-3D function really does improve AVI or other movie playback.

The thing is fairly cheap as well and hearing is believing. smile.gif

I've also tried their wireless version with similar success.
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Kohlrabi
post Mar 1 2012, 14:33
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QUOTE (mjm716 @ Mar 1 2012, 13:19) *
It's fairly simple, but the Crystalizer function really delivers fuller, enhanced MP3 playback.
According to wikipedia, it's nothing more than a compander, to diminish the effects of aggressive dynamic range compression. Whether the result sounds better is purely subjective, it's definitely unable to specifically "enhance" MP3 playback.


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dhromed
post Mar 1 2012, 15:50
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That is actually very interesting. Is there a foobar component or piece of software that does about the same? I might try it on various modern pop albums I have and see if I can reduce their bluntness.
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mudlord
post Mar 2 2012, 03:44
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QUOTE (dhromed @ Mar 1 2012, 09:50) *
That is actually very interesting. Is there a foobar component or piece of software that does about the same? I might try it on various modern pop albums I have and see if I can reduce their bluntness.


Could be arranged. But I have to wonder why the hell to do so considering there is a lot of info around suggesting that this Crystalizer crap is just 1 big fat scam?
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dhromed
post Mar 2 2012, 10:45
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Oh, of course, I'm not expecting magic results. You can't un-bake a cake. It would be in the same category as applying a little equalizing to an offensive piece of music. You can't fix it, but you can limit the damage to your delicate sensibilities.

Is the concept interesting and feasible enough to create some kind of experimental component, is what I mean.
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mjm716
post Mar 2 2012, 12:22
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QUOTE (mudlord @ Mar 2 2012, 03:44) *
a lot of info around suggesting that this Crystalizer crap is just 1 big fat scam?


Lovely, and very constructive. I certainly don't work for Creative, but I tend to give props or slag things I have actually TRIED myself.

First off, this is a hardware decoder, so no BS dealing with another layer of code sucking processing power.

I initially compared it to what I got tweaking unfiltered output via extern dual channel 15 band equalizer, but found the X-fi handled various genres quite well automatically, whereas I had to usually re-EQ to get similar aural improvements. To my ears it 'fills out' the mid and high-ranges very effectively. Of course there's little as subjective as musical taste or sound interpretation, so YMMV.

I got my white puck model for about US$25 years back and was initially skeptical, but long since consider it cash well spent.
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Canar
post Mar 2 2012, 19:53
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The Crystalizer on my Creative Xmod is terrible and I would not recommend it to anyone who actually enjoys music. It does, however, seem to be enjoyed by most of the casual listeners I've tried it on.

In short, in my experience, if you value fidelity, stay away.

In regards to the OP's question, really, don't worry that much about it. Even onboard audio is going to be very acceptable. As far as measurements go, my E-MU 0404 rates very well, but I've tried and I can't differentiate it from the Realtek onboard from my motherboard. You're better off spending money on better speakers.

This post has been edited by Canar: Mar 2 2012, 20:03


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dhromed
post Mar 2 2012, 20:35
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A blurb from Dutch site (original here):

QUOTE
24-BIT CRYSTALIZER - voor MP3 — muziek klinkt beter dan de oorspronkelijke cd! [...] (random image of waveform) MP3 bij 128kbps met 24-bit Crystalizer - Indrukwekkende 24-bit kwaliteit!


Which means
QUOTE
24-BIT CRYSTALIZER - for MP3 — Music sounds better than the original CD! [...] (random image of waveform) MP3 at 128kbps with 24-bit Crystalizer - Impressive 24-bit quality!


Yeah, that's blurbtastic alright. I think I'll pass.

I'm still curious about how the effect sounds, though, purely for academic reasons.

Hardware manufactures seem completely desperate for a marketable edge, since hardware is pretty much just plain good, these days. The copy on that page alone is hysterical.

This post has been edited by dhromed: Mar 2 2012, 20:39
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mudlord
post Mar 2 2012, 23:59
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QUOTE (dhromed @ Mar 2 2012, 04:45) *
Oh, of course, I'm not expecting magic results. You can't un-bake a cake. It would be in the same category as applying a little equalizing to an offensive piece of music. You can't fix it, but you can limit the damage to your delicate sensibilities.

Is the concept interesting and feasible enough to create some kind of experimental component, is what I mean.


Closest is the Noise Sharpening component.
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Andreasvb
post Mar 3 2012, 03:47
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foo_dsp_delta

http://foosion.foobar2000.org/components/?id=delta


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dhromed
post Mar 3 2012, 16:07
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Thanks, but that's a treble booster. I thought the crystalizer did something entirely different?
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Canar
post Mar 3 2012, 18:12
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This calls for some recordings. I'll perhaps do some after I get home today.


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Chinch
post Mar 3 2012, 21:22
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Personally, I have one of the X-Fi series cards, and I really miss the crystalizer, whatever the hell it does... I never looked much into it, but in my opinion, thinking back, it's definitely an improvement to the sound. After being used to it, and then listening to other sound cards, they all just sound "flat". Imagine the difference between an audio file left "flat" with no adjustments or EQ. Now imagine that same file, with say... the mids dipped and the highs and lows boosted. "Scooping the mid's" is what most guitar players call it. Now the difference between those two, would be what listening to a normal sound card vs. a Creative card with the crystalizer enabled. It may be some form of simple equalizer for all I know... but I don't see how the few of you said it makes it sound like crap... I can't understand that, unless you like totally flat music. I suppose some elitists might insist on hearing the music "purely" without adulteration, but to me it sounds like I'm listening to the music through a wall. Maybe I've spoiled myself with applying audio altering processing over the years, but oh well. I recommend the hell out of the crystalizer technology. Just my opinion, of course... as always. No need for a flame out.

(BTW, the X-Fi was also so much better for recording guitar going through a DSP effects board, into the sound card). The Realtek software (IMO) is junk and confusing. I've got Rear Audio Out, Digital Audio Out, Digital Audio Out (Optical), SPDIF Output... then on inputs I have Microphone, Digital Input, Line-In Input, Stereo Mix-- I'm pretty positive I know what they all do, that's not the problem (though I should rename them for quicker visual clarity)-- when I go into the inputs I can have the inputs "Listen" to one of the outputs... which seems like "OK, gotcha"... but then it doesn't seem to work that way. It would seem like I'm basically creating an audio loopback. Creative cards already did that without me having to deal with all this BS and they called it... "What You Hear" (you all knew that, haha)... anyway... the Realtek just overcomplicates simple concepts to make them SEEM like complex ones.


All I know is that even with DSP's and messing with EQ's and all this and that, I still cannot get a sound card to sound the same (as good).



I don't know if this sound card is crap, I imagine so, it's a Realtek HD using the ALC889 audio codec... it's 9.1 channels... that is, it does 7.1 surround, plus it can simultaneously play a separate 2 channel stereo signal out of the headphone jack, bringing it to 9.1 if you care to. It has Dolby 5.1 Surround and this and that. I run a 5.1 speaker setup. To me, it sounds pretty horrible... it takes a lot of EQ tuning, etc to make it sound even acceptable. It is maybe 2-3 years old (the chipset, I'm guessing) -- the Soundblaster X-Fi card is like old as dirt... I think it's called an Soundblaster X-Fi Music. It was limited and I have no idea what it did over any of the other X-Fi series of the same class/level. So my question is, why does that ancient card instantly sound so much better than this much newer chipset right off the bat, with no screwing around with DSPs and using tons of EQ, etc? Is it that much of a sound card quality difference, despite the age, or is there some other factor?

The major difference to me seems to be when I cut on and use the crystalizer vs. not... (though the CSB still sounds better, default settings). I've never gotten this. Can anyone enlighten me? The only thing I suspect is that Realtek is cheap garbage sound hardware, and that's what kind of audio I must expect out of such a thing...?

These are the specs, I threw them in a CODEBOX so it wouldn't take the entire page. Hope that is sufficient (trying to be courteous).


CODE


Hardware Features

High performance DACs with 108dB signal-to-noise ratio (A-weighting)
High performance ADCs with 104dB signal-to-noise ratio (A-weighting).
Meets Microsoft WLP3.10 and future WLP audio requirements
Ten DAC channels support 16/20/24-bit PCM format for 7.1 sound playback, plus 2 channels of concurrent independent stereo sound output (multiple streaming) through the front panel output
Three stereo ADCs support 16/20/24-bit PCM format, multiple stereo recording
All DACs supports 44.1k/48k/88.2k/96k/176.4k/192kHz sample rate
All ADCs supports 44.1k/48k/88.2k/96k/176.4k/192kHz sample rate
Primary 16/20/24-bit SPDIF-OUT supports 32k/44.1k/48k/88.2k/96k/192kHz sample rate
Secondary 16/20/24-bit SPDIF-OUT supports 32k/44.1k/48k/88.2k/96k/192kHz sample rate
16/20/24-bit SPDIF-IN supports 32k/44.1k/48k/96k/192kHz sample rate
All analog jacks (port-A to port-G) are stereo input and output re-tasking
Port-A/B/C/D/E/F built in headphone amplifiers
Port-B/C/E/F with software selectable boost gain (+10/+20/+30dB) for analog microphone input
High-quality analog differential CD input
Supports external PCBEEP input and built-in digital BEEP generator
Software selectable 2.5V/3.2V/4.0V VREFOUT
Up to four channels of microphone array input are supported for AEC/BF applications
Two jack detection pins each designed to detect up to 4 jacks
Supports analog GPIO2 to be jack detection for CD input which is used as 9th analog port
Supports legacy analog mixer architecture
Up to 3 GPIOs (General Purpose Input and Output) for customized applications. GPIO0 and GPIO1 share pin with DMIC-CLK and DMIC-DATA.
Supports mono and stereo digital microphone interface (pins shared with GPIO0 and GPIO1)
Supports anti-pop mode when analog power AVDD is on and digital power is off.
Content Protection for Full Rate loss-less DVD Audio, Blue-Ray DVD and HD-DVD audio content playback (with selected versions of WinDVD/PowerDVD)
Hardware Zero-Detect output volume control
1dB per step output volume and input volume control
Supports 3.3V digital core power, 1.5V or 3.3V digital I/O power for HD Audio link, and 5.0V analog power
48-pin LQFP ‘Green’ package


Software Features

Compatible with Windows Vista Premium (complies with Microsoft WLP requirements)
WaveRT-based audio function driver for Windows Vista
EAX™ 1.0 & 2.0 compatible
Direct Sound 3D™ compatible
A3D™ compatible
I3DL2 compatible
HRTF 3D Positional Audio (Windows XP only)
7.1+2 channel multi-streaming enables concurrent gaming/VoIP
Emulation of 26 sound environments to enhance gaming experience
Multi bands of software equalizer and tool are provided
Voice Cancellation and Key Shifting effect
Dynamic range control (expander, compressor and limiter) with adjustable parameters
Intuitive Configuration Panel (Realtek Audio Manager) to enhance user experience
Provides 10-foot GUI for Windows Media Center
Microphone Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC), Noise Suppression (NS), and Beam Forming (BF) technology for voice application
Smart multiple streaming operation
HDMI audio driver for AMD platform
Dolby® PCEE program™ (optional software feature)
DTS® CONNECT™ (optional software feature)
SRS® TrueSurround HD (optional software feature)
Fortemedia® SAM™ technology for voice processing (Beam Forming and Acoustic Echo Cancellation) (optional software feature)
Creative® Host Audio program (optional software feature)
Voice recognition and Realtek proprietary API (SkyTel) is supported (Optional software feature)
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dhromed
post Mar 3 2012, 21:44
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QUOTE (Chinch @ Mar 3 2012, 21:22) *
I don't see how the few of you said it makes it sound like crap... I can't understand that, unless you like totally flat music. I suppose some elitists might insist on hearing the music "purely" without adulteration, but to me it sounds like I'm listening to the music through a wall.


It's okay to like an effect, but the basis is always that music should sound just fine when played normally.

Most times, I obviously hear a difference between effect A and no effect, but it's not necessarily better.

Same for the noise sharpener above: it smoothly boosts the high regions, and make a big difference, but it's not always an improvement.
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