Author Topic: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore  (Read 6920 times)

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Offline technix

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #50 on: October 30, 2018, 01:08:58 pm »
This is a simple and correct answer.
The quality of the onboard devices/sound card is (more than) good enough for the majority.
In fact THD and SNR of onboard sound cards is better than most cd players.
So only people who really need that much more buy a dedicated card.
Most mid to high end consumer amplifiers are also digital input nowadays, removing the need for a high end sound card in the first place.
If they accept digital input in the form of HDMI or DisplayPort audio stream, or if you have a splitter that strips audio out into a separate SPDIF line, you don't even need sound cards at all with a modern enough graphics card since they can too send digital audio using that digital stream natively. Early HDMI graphics cards did require motherboard SPDIF support, but as of now graphics cards with HDMI audio or DisplayPort audio support can emulate a PCIe HDA device and capture audio stream internally.
 
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Offline Richard Crowley

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #51 on: October 30, 2018, 01:13:07 pm »
For normal consumers the audio or sounds cards might be dissapeared, for musicians these are called audio interfaces and are still manufactured and sold by many companies even up to thousands of $ a piece.

In the start of the 2000 era these were connected through firewire, which now is replaced by thunderbolt and usb3.1c ofcourse.
Main features are 19" rack format to take it out on tours in flightcases, and although some just offer a very good low jitter DAC , others have tons of extra features.
Most of the popular audio interfaces are simply USB 2.0  Unless you get up to high channel counts (>16 channels, etc.) USB 2.0 is fully capable of input and output up to 48 KHz sample rate and 24-bit-depth.

The main reason for these external audio interfaces include input and output arrangements like XLR microphone inputs, frequently with 48-volt phantom power, or instrument (e-guitar) high-impedance inputs.  And balanced, line-level outputs, none of which are  comprehended in typical computer sound interfaces, whether motherboard-integrated or separate plug-in boards.

And it remains a fact that no matter how much effort they put into making motherboard audio better, even an inexpensive external audio gadget is MUCH better than the internal audio in high-end motherboards.  Exactly the same circuit in an external box is better than the same circuit inside the computer.  Simply because it is OUTSIDE from the hostile noise environment inside the computer.
 

Offline bob225

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #52 on: October 30, 2018, 02:26:52 pm »
Back in the day I use to run a old creative labs 8 bit card, then a 16 bit card followed by the 128

The last card I had was the creative labs Audigy 2 platinum circa 2002 - and that wasn't a cheap card/system

These days its all digital either hdmi or over spdif aka toslink (optical) and let a external dac deal with it or a a/v receiver
« Last Edit: October 30, 2018, 02:28:53 pm by bob225 »
 

Offline MrMobodies

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #53 on: October 31, 2018, 12:10:28 am »
Back in the day I use to run a old creative labs 8 bit card, then a 16 bit card followed by the 128

The last card I had was the creative labs Audigy 2 platinum circa 2002 - and that wasn't a cheap card/system

These days its all digital either hdmi or over spdif aka toslink (optical) and let a external dac deal with it or a a/v receiver

I got one of those somewhere in the attic with all the other sound cards I brought down the bootsales.

A Creative 1986? and it had a volume wheel next to the jacks.

I even got an IBM ACPA (Audio Capture Adapter) that I could never get working properly as it is missing a rom and has a dip switches but there are so many variants and no matching manual. The driver installed but I get a hissing sound for playbacks. It has relays which turn on when trying to play or record.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2018, 12:15:37 am by MrMobodies »
 

Online NiHaoMike

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #54 on: October 31, 2018, 03:54:12 am »
I even got an IBM ACPA (Audio Capture Adapter) that I could never get working properly as it is missing a rom and has a dip switches but there are so many variants and no matching manual. The driver installed but I get a hissing sound for playbacks. It has relays which turn on when trying to play or record.
I once had a PC with a sound card that has relays on it. The purpose of one of the relays is very clever: when not powered, it connects the line out to the line in. That allows for listening to a cassette player or whatever plugged into the line in without having to turn the PC on. Beats having to reach behind the PC to reconnect the speaker wire!
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Offline technix

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #55 on: October 31, 2018, 05:18:01 am »
I even got an IBM ACPA (Audio Capture Adapter) that I could never get working properly as it is missing a rom and has a dip switches but there are so many variants and no matching manual. The driver installed but I get a hissing sound for playbacks. It has relays which turn on when trying to play or record.
I once had a PC with a sound card that has relays on it. The purpose of one of the relays is very clever: when not powered, it connects the line out to the line in. That allows for listening to a cassette player or whatever plugged into the line in without having to turn the PC on. Beats having to reach behind the PC to reconnect the speaker wire!
It is technically doable with a modern computer if the USB ports are powered off when the machine is off: power the coil with USB VBUS. Optionally add a small USB micro so the machine can supply enough current when it is on and detect system status even if the USB port is never powered down when off.
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #56 on: October 31, 2018, 06:26:34 am »
Isn't the reason the same answer as the questions:
  • Why nobody buys Network cards anymore?
  • Why nobody buys HD controller cards anymore?
  • Why nobody buys USB interface cards anymore?
Answer:  Because these things have all been integrated into the motherboard.

To be sure there are still PCI plugin-boards for network and all those other things.
But they tend to be specialty products for users who need something beyond/different than the mainstream stuff.

My workstations all end up with PCIe Ethernet and RAID cards because one Ethernet port is not enough and with some very rare or very expensive exceptions, motherboard RAID just sucks.  My legacy P3 workstation has a USB 2.0 PCI card.

Quote
And of course there is always the issue of the very noisy envvironment inside the computer case which is hostile to audio input and output.
The last motherboard I installed had a very pronounced, separated "island" for the audio hardware to attempt to improve the Signal-to-Noise Ratio.

The biggest problem I usually have with audio is the ground loop from the non-isolated singled ended audio outputs from the computer.  Unfortunately USB audio does not solve this.
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #57 on: October 31, 2018, 06:28:09 am »
Which leads to another consideration on top of those above. Until the 1990's or early 2000's, I'd say, hi-fi was a big thing. A lot of people had pretty good home hi-fi equipment. It was even a sign of social status. I'm noticing that msot people don't care about hi-fi anymore. Many people in the same social classes than those that once had nice hi-fi gear are now content with crap bluetooth speakers or the speakers in their laptops or LCD monitors. The most audio-inclined will have "sound bars" that sound like crap while putting out no more that 10W RMS at over 1% distortion. The centers of interest seem to have shifted. Only a small percentage now still seek good audio equipment (amongst which you have to distinguish the real amateurs and the audiophool'ed). Our way of "consuming" music has now changed a lot too.

Popular music got worse starting at about that time with both lossy compression and the Loudness Wars so there was less reason to have high fidelity amplifiers and speakers.

I agree to an extent. Big speakers are nowhere near as popular as they used to be. But at the same time, small speakers have gotten a lot better. Computer modeling and stuff lets us get surprisingly big sound out of tiny speakers.

I disagree; small speaker sound just as poor now as they did in the past.  Nothing changed with the advent of computer modeling and small speakers were and are always worse than large speakers for a given quality of design.  What did change is a preference for that big "boomy" sound produced by excessive intermodulation distortion from small woofers.

Quote
But also, we listen to a lot more music on the go now, and our car audio systems are often pretty decent. And even more so, our earphones have gotten a lot better than they used to be. (There have always been good large headphones, but earbuds and small headphones today are far better than they used to be, especially at the lower end.) And people are also willing to spend more on earbuds than in the past.

The biggest recent change in headphones came with the use of rare earth magnets in the 1980s; they have not improved since then.  I have yet to find anything better than the inexpensive Pickering OA-4s that I used to have for general use.
 

Offline technix

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #58 on: October 31, 2018, 09:15:51 am »
And of course there is always the issue of the very noisy envvironment inside the computer case which is hostile to audio input and output.
The last motherboard I installed had a very pronounced, separated "island" for the audio hardware to attempt to improve the Signal-to-Noise Ratio.

The biggest problem I usually have with audio is the ground loop from the non-isolated singled ended audio outputs from the computer.  Unfortunately USB audio does not solve this.
Technically there are USB isolators, and SPDIF over optical is isolating too.
 

Offline Richard Crowley

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #59 on: October 31, 2018, 10:18:56 am »
I agree to an extent. Big speakers are nowhere near as popular as they used to be. But at the same time, small speakers have gotten a lot better. Computer modeling and stuff lets us get surprisingly big sound out of tiny speakers.

I disagree; small speaker sound just as poor now as they did in the past.  Nothing changed with the advent of computer modeling and small speakers were and are always worse than large speakers for a given quality of design.  What did change is a preference for that big "boomy" sound produced by excessive intermodulation distortion from small woofers.
To be sure, "computer speakers" are mostly cheap plastic toys not worthy of the name "speaker" IMHO.

HOWEVER, there are some quite notable counter-examples.  To be specific, the "IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors ultra-compact 3" studio monitors with bluetooth".  While these things are around the same size as the toy plastic "computer speakers" out there, they are quite solid and heavy.  And they put out sound (including bass) worthy of speakers 3x-4x their size.  They really are quite remarkable.  Of course they are price accordingly, but if you need a really good sounding speaker pair in a small space, nothing can touch them. I say this from first-hand experience as I bought a pair after nearly a year of glowing reviews on audio professional forums where they are typically quite scornful of "computer speakers".

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« Last Edit: October 31, 2018, 10:21:35 am by Richard Crowley »
 
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Online NiHaoMike

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #60 on: October 31, 2018, 01:01:44 pm »
Technically there are USB isolators, and SPDIF over optical is isolating too.
Do you know of any affordable USB 2.0 or 3.0 isolators? All the cheap ones seem to only work for USB 1.1. The closest I can think of is a Raspberry Pi running USB/IP, but that probably adds a significant amount of latency. I do say that's largely a moot point for audio when as mentioned, S/PDIF is trivial to isolate and HDMI generally goes to digital amplifiers that are not very sensitive to ground loops..
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Offline MrMobodies

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #61 on: October 31, 2018, 08:17:18 pm »
Do you know of any affordable USB 2.0 or 3.0 isolators? All the cheap ones seem to only work for USB 1.1. The closest I can think of is a Raspberry Pi running USB/IP, but that probably adds a significant amount of latency. I do say that's largely a moot point for audio when as mentioned, S/PDIF is trivial to isolate and HDMI generally goes to digital amplifiers that are not very sensitive to ground loops..

There are those Belkin network USB hubs Fl5009 (Silex Rebranded) that I use with significant amount of latency.
I got a lot of them cheap on Ebay last year.
I find I can get 50mbps through them.
They are not great for transfer throughput but I use them for serial ports and seems to work well with a Creative SB0490 usb sound card, no cut outs. I did have playback issues at first with the official Creative drivers (not the standard USB) dating from 2011 and 2015 when connected to the network hub but no problems with the 2017 WHQL driver set. From a wireless connection on testing they can cut out intermittently on heavy throughput.

I didn't have issues with noise yet on the sound card that I can hear.

Fortunately with Windows 10 and issues with the later builds not working all you have to do is replace the driver from the SXUPTP Driver with the latest one from Silex and it works fine after that.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2018, 08:27:42 pm by MrMobodies »
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #62 on: October 31, 2018, 11:46:46 pm »
The biggest problem I usually have with audio is the ground loop from the non-isolated singled ended audio outputs from the computer.  Unfortunately USB audio does not solve this.

Technically there are USB isolators, and SPDIF over optical is isolating too.

There are but this function really should be built into the USB based audio device, especially ones which claim to be professional.  Adding it externally increases latency which is already poor and reduces reliability.

To be sure, "computer speakers" are mostly cheap plastic toys not worthy of the name "speaker" IMHO.

HOWEVER, there are some quite notable counter-examples.  To be specific, the "IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors ultra-compact 3" studio monitors with bluetooth".  While these things are around the same size as the toy plastic "computer speakers" out there, they are quite solid and heavy.  And they put out sound (including bass) worthy of speakers 3x-4x their size.  They really are quite remarkable.  Of course they are price accordingly, but if you need a really good sounding speaker pair in a small space, nothing can touch them. I say this from first-hand experience as I bought a pair after nearly a year of glowing reviews on audio professional forums where they are typically quite scornful of "computer speakers".

Even I have some old Logitech desktop speakers which are a bass-reflex design by Altec Lansing.  They are good for desktop computer speakers but are not as good as larger bookshelf or floor speakers.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2018, 12:11:18 am by David Hess »
 

Offline tooki

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #63 on: November 01, 2018, 12:00:01 am »
Popular music got worse starting at about that time with both lossy compression and the Loudness Wars so there was less reason to have high fidelity amplifiers and speakers.
While I hate the loudness wars with every fiber of my being, I don't see any indication that they are responsible for the change in audio gear habits.

Especially in the case of amplifiers, I don't see any evidence that they've gotten worse. Linear amp sound quality plateaued decades ago, insofar as you don't even need to spend a lot of money to get an objectively excellent amplifier.

And in little gadgets like portable music players, as well as in TVs, the class-D amps used are often much better than the driven-past-its-limits op-amps or small amp ICs used in the past.

I agree to an extent. Big speakers are nowhere near as popular as they used to be. But at the same time, small speakers have gotten a lot better. Computer modeling and stuff lets us get surprisingly big sound out of tiny speakers.

I disagree; small speaker sound just as poor now as they did in the past. 
Well, I respectfully disagree. Small speakers of today sound far better than small speakers of the past. Maybe we have different cutoffs for "small"? I don't mean things like bookshelf speakers. I mean the sub-3" drivers used in things like radios and (nowadays) bluetooth speakers, or built into TVs and laptops. There have been some really excellent designs in recent years, insofar as the sound from tiny drivers is far better than one would have expected (or gotten) in the past.

Nothing changed with the advent of computer modeling and small speakers were and are always worse than large speakers for a given quality of design.
Well, computer modeling most decidedly does make a difference. It makes feasible some types of enclosures that would have been infeasible to calculate by hand. Not a big deal for a rectangular box. But very relevant when creating tuned enclosures for weird spaces, like when integrating speakers into a flat-screen TV, laptop, or phone. I mean, it's absolutely amazing what phone and tablet companies are getting out of the absolutely tiny speakers in devices as thick as a pencil. No, of course they don't sound like big speakers, but they sound vastly better (and louder) than one would expect a side-firing speaker with a 2x6mm aperture to.

Anyway, I never said that small speakers could match or exceed large speakers. Big beats small. This remains a fact, because physics.

What I think has happened is that the smaller speakers of today (in little stereos, bluetooth speakers, soundbars, etc) are good enough for most people that they don't see a problem, and don't seek out anything better.

Of course, we also know that sound quality is learned to a significant extent, in that you can learn to listen for it. And most people simply do not listen for sound quality. (How, I don't know; to me, bad sound is distracting.)

What did change is a preference for that big "boomy" sound produced by excessive intermodulation distortion from small woofers.
Well, I for one do not subscribe to that preference! :P Which is why I have to shop carefully for the speakers, headphones, and earbuds I use. I hate the boomy sound that emerged in the 90s in cheap gear.

Quote
But also, we listen to a lot more music on the go now, and our car audio systems are often pretty decent. And even more so, our earphones have gotten a lot better than they used to be. (There have always been good large headphones, but earbuds and small headphones today are far better than they used to be, especially at the lower end.) And people are also willing to spend more on earbuds than in the past.

The biggest recent change in headphones came with the use of rare earth magnets in the 1980s; they have not improved since then.  I have yet to find anything better than the inexpensive Pickering OA-4s that I used to have for general use.
Yes, in headphones, especially larger ones, there have been no major changes for a long time. It's more or less about choosing good build quality, a "sound" you like, and a style you find comfortable.

(I tried looking for images of the OA-4, but the only ones are of a set missing its cushions. But it looks like they're on-ear headphones, so I wouldn't like them, based on comfort. I wear glasses and don't like the pressure of headphones on the pinnae, so I use over-the-ear headphones and speakers at home, and very small Etymotic in-ear earphones out and about.)

But earphones (and small headphones, to a lesser extent) are a LOT better than they used to be! Earbuds have improved a lot since the 80s, when earbuds were just awful. The modern in-ear earphone (i.e. the kind with a silicone or foam tip that seals the ear canal) wasn't even invented until the mid-80s, and remained a relatively niche style of earbud until well into the 2000s. This is what I was referring to, that there is greater availability of good earbuds, and that people are becoming willing to spend more.
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #64 on: November 01, 2018, 12:26:15 am »
While I hate the loudness wars with every fiber of my being, I don't see any indication that they are responsible for the change in audio gear habits.

Especially in the case of amplifiers, I don't see any evidence that they've gotten worse. Linear amp sound quality plateaued decades ago, insofar as you don't even need to spend a lot of money to get an objectively excellent amplifier.

It is easier to make a low distortion amplifier than a low distortion speaker.  I consider the amplifier side trivial yet many manufacturers still get it wrong.  Speakers can be more of a manufacturing problem with a wide distribution of driver characteristics and nobody wants to manufacturer adjustable tuned enclosures.

Quote
What I think has happened is that the smaller speakers of today (in little stereos, bluetooth speakers, soundbars, etc) are good enough for most people that they don't see a problem, and don't seek out anything better.

Of course, we also know that sound quality is learned to a significant extent, in that you can learn to listen for it. And most people simply do not listen for sound quality. (How, I don't know; to me, bad sound is distracting.)

They are only good enough now because recorded music quality declined.  What people learned is that most modern recorded music sounds just as bad on good speakers as poor speakers.

Audio compression (not data compression) does have its place in noisy environments where excessive dynamic range is a problem like an automobile but instead it is used everywhere for marketing purposes.

Quote
What did change is a preference for that big "boomy" sound produced by excessive intermodulation distortion from small woofers.

Well, I for one do not subscribe to that preference! :P Which is why I have to shop carefully for the speakers, headphones, and earbuds I use. I hate the boomy sound that emerged in the 90s in cheap gear.

The first time I really noticed this was watching the movie Aliens at home and then later at a friend's house.  At a friend's house the dropship scene was just loud and difficult to listen to.  At home, the dropship scene shook the house without being loud and everything was clear.

Quote
(I tried looking for images of the OA-4, but the only ones are of a set missing its cushions. But it looks like they're on-ear headphones, so I wouldn't like them, based on comfort. I wear glasses and don't like the pressure of headphones on the pinnae, so I use over-the-ear headphones and speakers at home, and very small Etymotic in-ear earphones out and about.)

I gave mine up after repairing the cushions a few times until they rotted off.

Quote
But earphones (and small headphones, to a lesser extent) are a LOT better than they used to be! Earbuds have improved a lot since the 80s, when earbuds were just awful. The modern in-ear earphone (i.e. the kind with a silicone or foam tip that seals the ear canal) wasn't even invented until the mid-80s, and remained a relatively niche style of earbud until well into the 2000s. This is what I was referring to, that there is greater availability of good earbuds, and that people are becoming willing to spend more.

I cannot stand in-ear anything and the ones I have tested did not sound as good as the OA-4s that I had.
 

Offline tooki

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #65 on: November 01, 2018, 02:46:27 am »
Especially in the case of amplifiers, I don't see any evidence that they've gotten worse. Linear amp sound quality plateaued decades ago, insofar as you don't even need to spend a lot of money to get an objectively excellent amplifier.

It is easier to make a low distortion amplifier than a low distortion speaker.
So true! That's exactly why I advise people to invest more on better speakers than on a better amp/receiver when building a hi-fi or home theater system. (My own system is a ratio of about 3:1. Bowers and Wilkins speakers — from when they were still made in England — and a Denon receiver.)

I consider the amplifier side trivial yet many manufacturers still get it wrong.  Speakers can be more of a manufacturing problem with a wide distribution of driver characteristics and nobody wants to manufacturer adjustable tuned enclosures.
Well, for sure if you buy any kind of standalone home theater receiver (i.e. not a HTIB), you're going to have a proper amplifier and decent DACs. I don't think there's anyone screwing those up.

In general, I don't think amps are an area of particular concern any more. The technology to make low-distortion, well-behaved amps is well known at this point.

Speakers are much harder, being electromechanical devices. But any quality manufacturer will have good enough manufacturing tolerances to keep the specs pretty well controlled.

Quote
What I think has happened is that the smaller speakers of today (in little stereos, bluetooth speakers, soundbars, etc) are good enough for most people that they don't see a problem, and don't seek out anything better.

Of course, we also know that sound quality is learned to a significant extent, in that you can learn to listen for it. And most people simply do not listen for sound quality. (How, I don't know; to me, bad sound is distracting.)

They are only good enough now because recorded music quality declined.  What people learned is that most modern recorded music sounds just as bad on good speakers as poor speakers.
I don't think that's true any more now than 30 years ago. That was before the loudness wars, and still most people didn't have a proper hi-fi at home, just often a boombox, and the mono speaker in their TV. Sure, good gear was available, but the mainstream was well established as buying cheaper stuff.

I do think there's a chance that you have a bit of rosy retrospection going on, in that I think you are forgetting how much awful audio gear was also made in the past. It's just that the bad stuff we forget about, and the good we remember fondly. How much music was listened to in the 50s and 60s on horrible transistor radios and car stereos? How much music was listened to in the 80s on poorly mass-duplicated cheap cassettes, played back on cheap tape players with awful pack-in headphones? How much music was played back on budget turntables whose high tracking weight chewed up the vinyl? Yes, great equipment was available then, but it wasn't cheap, and most people didn't have it.

For sure, a given technology might go through a golden era. (For example, how cassette technology peaked probably around 1990-94ish, both in the decks and the tapes. The top gear and tapes then were amazing. But most people never got to experience it, since they couldn't afford it and instead bought a basic model and the cheaper tapes. I was actually looking at my tape collection last night, and it struck me how, in retrospect, I bought really good tapes back when I was an avid tape user. I was buying way better tapes than most 14 year olds would have, I suspect!)

But this doesn't mean that all gear has gone downhill. For the same money — or less — than you would have paid 20 years ago, you can set up a fantastic audio system with components whose sound quality match or exceed everything you could have gotten before. It's not as though quality gear has become altogether unavailable, other than players for obsolete media. (Then you're better off with used players from their respective golden era.) Any standalone receiver will have great amps and an excellent DAC, and beyond that you choose the best speakers you can afford, and some kind of source device for playing your audio files.

Audio compression (not data compression) does have its place in noisy environments where excessive dynamic range is a problem like an automobile but instead it is used everywhere for marketing purposes.
You don't need to convince me about compression/loudness wars, I'm 100% behind you!!

What amazes me is that that crap happens after production. So the producers create a nice, balanced mix, and then some pissant in the mastering studio fucks it up for distribution.

A good example I noticed in the past few years is Katy Perry's "Firework". The album version is awful: it's been mangled to the point that there is distortion that sounds like straight-up clipping. (It's so obvious to me as to be distracting.) But if you go on YouTube and watch the music video, it's a perfectly clean mix, no distortion, no clipping. (And of course it'd sound better still without YouTube's aggressive [digital] compression.)

The first time I really noticed this was watching the movie Aliens at home and then later at a friend's house.  At a friend's house the dropship scene was just loud and difficult to listen to.  At home, the dropship scene shook the house without being loud and everything was clear.
On a sound bar or something?

I cannot stand in-ear anything and the ones I have tested did not sound as good as the OA-4s that I had.
Well, without knowing the sound of the OA-4, I can't relate to it, but there's HUGE differences between in-ear models. Most, especially budget models, are tuned to be boomy, and are unlistenable to me. But nonetheless, there are very nice models at every price point.

My current favorite in-ear is the Etymotic ER4XR, which are just gorgeous to listen to. Just transparent and effortless. (And pricey.) They are almost as good as my best headphones, the Beyerdynamic MMX300 (which is the DT770 with a boom mike added), which is truly transparent and effortless. They just sound natural from the first note, unlike essentially every other headphone or earphone I've ever listened to, which all color the sound a tiny tiny bit, to which my ears must acclimate for a moment. The MMX300 is instantly natural, and the ER4XR takes but a short moment. (Same for my ATH-M50x.)

My second-favorite in-ear earbuds are the very under-appreciated Apple In-Ear Earphones (not the EarPods!), which punch far, far above their $80 price in terms of sound. Unfortunately, they're just not durable — I never got more than a year out of them, and I'm really, really careful with my stuff!

And one thing to remember about in-ear earbuds, especially ones like the Etymotic, is that they MUST be fitted properly. If they do not form a proper seal in the ear canal, with the sound vent in the correct place, the sound will be terrible. The Ety's, in all fairness, take getting used to — one German magazine reviewer remarked that to get the proper seal, it feels like you must insert them deep enough to tickle your nostrils from behind! (In actuality, one can better regard them as highly effective earplugs that happen to be equipped with tiny speakers.)
 
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Offline b_force

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #66 on: November 01, 2018, 08:37:39 am »
While I hate the loudness wars with every fiber of my being, I don't see any indication that they are responsible for the change in audio gear habits.

Especially in the case of amplifiers, I don't see any evidence that they've gotten worse. Linear amp sound quality plateaued decades ago, insofar as you don't even need to spend a lot of money to get an objectively excellent amplifier.

It is easier to make a low distortion amplifier than a low distortion speaker.  I consider the amplifier side trivial yet many manufacturers still get it wrong.  Speakers can be more of a manufacturing problem with a wide distribution of driver characteristics and nobody wants to manufacturer adjustable tuned enclosures.

Especially because distortion is the least important anyway. (Unless it's pretty bad and non-linear)
Things like directivity have a lot more impact
There aren't many companies and "engineers" that seem to understand that.
"If you can't explain it simply (or at all), you don't understand it well enough." A. Einstein

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Offline tooki

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #67 on: November 01, 2018, 11:08:58 am »
That is — in theory at least — the difference between normal loudspeakers and studio monitors, right? I was told by studio gear dealers that studio monitors are designed as “near field” speakers intended for being used up close.
 

Offline Richard Crowley

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #68 on: November 01, 2018, 11:31:23 am »
In practice, the main difference between "normal loudspeakers" and "studio monitors" is even frequency response and extended frequency response.   Because of more rigorous component selection and design, this typically comes with lower distortion as well.

One of the major complaints with "computer speakers" is their terrible frequency response.  Especially the products that have Left/Right "satellite" speakers and a center "subwoofer".  And even two-piece, two-way computer speakers have quite bad frequency response through the crossover frequencies frequently to the extent of a major dip through the crossover area.

Since those things are primarily designed for "gamers", they have satisfying (if not "accurate") "thump" in the low-end to reproduce explosions, etc for "shoot-em-up" gaming.  But people who try to do audio/video editing with cheap plastic computer speakers are frequently tripped up by the frequency response dip through the crossover often occurring right through the speech fundamental frequencies.  You can listen to videos on YouTube and almost "hear" what kind of speakers they were mixed with.
 

Offline gildasd

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #69 on: November 01, 2018, 06:18:39 pm »
Back in the Pentium 200 days,
some of my friends were into recording music using PC’s, and they had to build ghetto faraday boxes around the sound card to avoid random clicks polluting the music.
It was very primitive but fun.
I'm electronically illiterate
 

Offline b_force

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #70 on: November 01, 2018, 06:43:09 pm »
That is — in theory at least — the difference between normal loudspeakers and studio monitors, right? I was told by studio gear dealers that studio monitors are designed as “near field” speakers intended for being used up close.
"They" tell a lot don't they?

Traditionally (many years ago before most of us were even born) monitor speakers were designed to have an even freq resp.
While consumer products just had something that sounded adequate mostly because of the constrains (cost, design, size etc)

Nowadays I can insure you that this idea is far far gone.
In fact, there are quite some VERY pricey (and known) monitor speakers with a poor frequency response as well as poor directivity.
Basically just poorly designed.
But that is what you get when certain people start to believe in their own fairy tails.

Basically you can create a very accurate system with any kind of setup, even with satellites and a subwoofer, if you know what you're doing.
"If you can't explain it simply (or at all), you don't understand it well enough." A. Einstein

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Offline MrMobodies

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #71 on: November 02, 2018, 06:53:40 am »
I noticed they are selling those all in one desktops and the only opportunity is the USB.

Some like the Packard Bell OneTwo have got PCI-E slot inside for an optional graphics card with the HDMI connection to the motherboard but I suppose you would need to  fabricate a hole and a lid and some method to secure the card and cable,
 

Offline Kjelt

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #72 on: November 02, 2018, 08:09:10 am »
That is — in theory at least — the difference between normal loudspeakers and studio monitors, right? I was told by studio gear dealers that studio monitors are designed as “near field” speakers intended for being used up close.
Nowadays I can insure you that this idea is far far gone.
I don't think so at least not in the pro studio monitor community.
Those monitors have the best analysis in their manual you will see in the branch. They tell you the exact frequency response even under angles, distances etc etc. The whole point of a good studio is that the studio it self does not "color" the sound, so a pro mixer can go to any studio and create their own sound without being affected by the surroundings. This is in theory ofcourse, but good studio manufacturers will document as much as possible to get that right.
 
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Offline b_force

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #73 on: November 02, 2018, 12:26:30 pm »
That is — in theory at least — the difference between normal loudspeakers and studio monitors, right? I was told by studio gear dealers that studio monitors are designed as “near field” speakers intended for being used up close.
Nowadays I can insure you that this idea is far far gone.
I don't think so at least not in the pro studio monitor community.
Those monitors have the best analysis in their manual you will see in the branch. They tell you the exact frequency response even under angles, distances etc etc. The whole point of a good studio is that the studio it self does not "color" the sound, so a pro mixer can go to any studio and create their own sound without being affected by the surroundings. This is in theory ofcourse, but good studio manufacturers will document as much as possible to get that right.
Some do but definitely not all do.
I was just saying that they shouldn't color the sound, but like I said before that idea is far gone.
Like you said in theory but in practice it's a very different story.
The directivity and freq resp of some big brands is just really poor.

For the record the same tests are done with consumer products (you have to otherwise you can't make a crossover filter for it)..
So having the "best analysis " isn't right at all. In fact I have worked with medium grade consumer brands and they analyze a lot more to squeeze out every bit.
"If you can't explain it simply (or at all), you don't understand it well enough." A. Einstein

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Offline David Hess

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #74 on: November 06, 2018, 09:41:04 am »
They are only good enough now because recorded music quality declined.  What people learned is that most modern recorded music sounds just as bad on good speakers as poor speakers.

I don't think that's true any more now than 30 years ago. That was before the loudness wars, and still most people didn't have a proper hi-fi at home, just often a boombox, and the mono speaker in their TV. Sure, good gear was available, but the mainstream was well established as buying cheaper stuff.

I do think there's a chance that you have a bit of rosy retrospection going on, in that I think you are forgetting how much awful audio gear was also made in the past. It's just that the bad stuff we forget about, and the good we remember fondly. How much music was listened to in the 50s and 60s on horrible transistor radios and car stereos?

I am not that old. :)

Quote
How much music was listened to in the 80s on poorly mass-duplicated cheap cassettes, played back on cheap tape players with awful pack-in headphones? How much music was played back on budget turntables whose high tracking weight chewed up the vinyl? Yes, great equipment was available then, but it wasn't cheap, and most people didn't have it.

I made my own cassette recordings; see below.

Quote
For sure, a given technology might go through a golden era. (For example, how cassette technology peaked probably around 1990-94ish, both in the decks and the tapes. The top gear and tapes then were amazing. But most people never got to experience it, since they couldn't afford it and instead bought a basic model and the cheaper tapes. I was actually looking at my tape collection last night, and it struck me how, in retrospect, I bought really good tapes back when I was an avid tape user. I was buying way better tapes than most 14 year olds would have, I suspect!)

I still have my Yamaha KX-930 and a good collection of metal and CrO2 cassette tapes.

That last time I used them was to record directly off of my band friend's soundboard so that later I could digitize the recordings on my PC; my tape deck was just for making the transfers.  This was before portable digital recording was really feasible at a reasonable cost and I did not have a suitable laptop anyway.

Considering how amateurish the endeavor was, the recordings sound great compared to a lot of modern "professional" recordings.

Quote
But this doesn't mean that all gear has gone downhill. For the same money — or less — than you would have paid 20 years ago, you can set up a fantastic audio system with components whose sound quality match or exceed everything you could have gotten before. It's not as though quality gear has become altogether unavailable, other than players for obsolete media. (Then you're better off with used players from their respective golden era.) Any standalone receiver will have great amps and an excellent DAC, and beyond that you choose the best speakers you can afford, and some kind of source device for playing your audio files.

The weakest links now are speakers (still) and prerecorded music.

Quote
The first time I really noticed this was watching the movie Aliens at home and then later at a friend's house.  At a friend's house the dropship scene was just loud and difficult to listen to.  At home, the dropship scene shook the house without being loud and everything was clear.

On a sound bar or something?

Sound bar?

Both systems were comparable except the speakers.  My friend had not cheap mass produced consumer level floor speakers and at home I had a pair of tuned bass reflex speakers with 24dB/octave crossovers.  The difference was in low frequency intermodulation distortion.

While I hate the loudness wars with every fiber of my being, I don't see any indication that they are responsible for the change in audio gear habits.

Especially in the case of amplifiers, I don't see any evidence that they've gotten worse. Linear amp sound quality plateaued decades ago, insofar as you don't even need to spend a lot of money to get an objectively excellent amplifier.

It is easier to make a low distortion amplifier than a low distortion speaker.  I consider the amplifier side trivial yet many manufacturers still get it wrong.  Speakers can be more of a manufacturing problem with a wide distribution of driver characteristics and nobody wants to manufacturer adjustable tuned enclosures.

Especially because distortion is the least important anyway. (Unless it's pretty bad and non-linear)
Things like directivity have a lot more impact.
There aren't many companies and "engineers" that seem to understand that.

The major problem is intermodulation distortion produced by the speaker drivers themselves and especially with the bass driver.  This is minimized by limiting displacement which is not difficult for higher frequency drivers but a major problem at low frequencies.  The reason bass-reflex designs are so helpful is that they minimize driver displacement at resonance which is exactly the procedure I use for tuning during construction.  All that it takes is an audio signal generator, multimeter, and enclosure design which allows adjustment.
 


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