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Does a soundcard really help take off CPU load?

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#1 Cyber Akuma

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  • Joined: 18-January 05

Posted 29 July 2010 - 14:37

I know that it won't do much, but please, let's not get into a discussion on why I am upgrading an old system instead of getting a new one.

Anyway, I have integrated sound on my desktop, and I read that some PCI soundcards can help with the audio processing, so I was wondering if I could help performance by any, if at all, if I installed a PCI soundcard to take some of the load off of the CPU when dealing with audio.

Would this help at all? Even by a little? And if so, any recommendations? I only need 2.0 stereo, nothing fancy.

#2 Sethos


    The Neowin Pessimist

  • Joined: 03-October 05
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Posted 29 July 2010 - 14:41

Onboard Soundcards do take up CPU cycles, varies depending on audio output and how fast your processor is - Can be between 0.X% and up to 5% from what I've heard.

Using soundcards that's on the new generation of GPUs will also suck up 5-10% performance.

So it might help but it's not an exact science whatsoever, give it a shot if you have the money to spare but don't expect wonders.

#3 MR_Candyman


    Neowinian Senior

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 14:43

It will help. Will you notice a difference? Debatable. I always get a 2-3 fps increase in games, but others claim they see no FPS increase

#4 Pupik


    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 09-December 05

Posted 29 July 2010 - 14:49

Only if you're still using Pentium 3. With the amount of cores and speed of the cpus these days, the noticeable differences are just not there.

#5 OP Cyber Akuma

Cyber Akuma


  • Joined: 18-January 05

Posted 29 July 2010 - 16:01

Only if you're still using Pentium 3.

... actually, I am.

#6 Brandon


    Neowin RUNNER

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 16:03

What are you doing with it?

If you buy one, don't spend more than $10 or so.

You can pick up a Pentium 4 / Athlon XP desktop usually for under $80 or so

#7 OP Cyber Akuma

Cyber Akuma


  • Joined: 18-January 05

Posted 29 July 2010 - 16:10

What are you doing with it?

If you buy one, don't spend more than $10 or so.

You can pick up a Pentium 4 / Athlon XP desktop usually for under $80 or so

Its my main desktop

#8 Pharos


    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 21-March 05
  • Location: Massachusetts

Posted 29 July 2010 - 16:12

I have a Creative X-Fi (not the dumbed down ones), and I did not notice a difference in speed at all. In fact, I'm not even using it anymore because it adds 20 seconds of additional boot time.

Honestly, the amount of software and processes dedicated sound cards use compared to on-board ones will offset any performance advantages.

#9 The_Decryptor



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Posted 29 July 2010 - 16:18

There will be barely any difference, audio isn't that resource intensive.

In the past it mattered, now not so much.

#10 giantpotato


    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 27-January 04
  • Location: Montreal, Canada

Posted 29 July 2010 - 16:20

Some soundcards increase CPU usage http://www.hardwarec...d-review-8.html
I have a xonar DX and haven't noticed any decreased performance in games though. What I did notice is greatly improved audio quality. At most a soundcard would increase performance by 3-4 fps which is hardly noticable.

#11 Fish


    Slamdunk the funk

  • Joined: 03-February 05
  • Location: UK

Posted 29 July 2010 - 17:03

Yeah, this used to be the case. Onboard sound wasn't up to much in terms of sound quality, and as processors obviously weren't particularly fast the extra cycles used to process onboard sound actually mattered. These days it's a different story. Onboard sound is generally good and quite adequate for most people, and today's processors hardly notice the extra load entailed. In your case, with a PIII, I'd say it would be borderline as to whether you really see any performance increase while gaming, for example, but a half-decent PCI card might improve audio quality for you.

#12 thatguyandrew1992


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Posted 29 July 2010 - 20:39

... actually, I am.


#13 thechronic


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Posted 29 July 2010 - 23:56

To be honest it may or may not make a difference, there is no way i could predict such a thing. Sure, if you used an onboard graphics card then switch for an AGP one but anything else is pointless. Your best bet is to upgrade your ram if possible and make sure the processes you have running are the ones you need.

#14 zivan56


    Neowinian Senior

  • Joined: 18-September 01
  • Location: Vancouver, BC

Posted 30 July 2010 - 00:00

Onboard can be one of two: it can be one of two: built into southbridge or a dedicated DSP/chip soldered onto the motherboard connected via the PCI/PCIe bus. In the latter case, it is the same as having a dedicated sound card if the chip does all the processing. If the former, then it does utilize the CPU to do most of its tasks.

#15 hotdog963al



  • Joined: 28-November 04
  • Location: Cambridge, UK

Posted 30 July 2010 - 00:20


Why is it that surprising? Lots of people are still running old hardware, it all depends on what you use your computer for.