Author Topic: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore  (Read 6922 times)

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Online Homer J Simpson

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Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« on: October 26, 2018, 11:07:40 pm »


 

Online nctnico

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2018, 11:24:54 pm »
One of the reasons is that a new version of Windows required to replace the soundcard because the drivers no longer worked. I used to have a whole stack of perfectly fine soundcards but they didn't work with newer Windows versions. People got fed up with that too. Having an on-board audio chip which just works is so much easier.

Linux is kinda the other way around BTW. In my current PC I have a Soundblaster 128 (IIRC) PCI sound card because the on-board soundcard doesn't work. Go figure.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2018, 11:34:18 pm by nctnico »
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Online NiHaoMike

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2018, 11:37:56 pm »
There's also HDMI for lossless surround, which every modern GPU supports.
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Online rdl

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2018, 11:57:16 pm »
Those cheap onboard Realtek chips actually don't sound all that great for music, assuming the rest of your set up is halfway good (amp, speakers, etc.) but he's right that they work fine for games, youtube, movies and such. I've got an Audioquest Dragonfly that plugs into a USB port, no drivers required. It sounds as good as the CD player I was using for music before. I'm no audiophool though, I bought it used for $45.
 

Offline @rt

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2018, 04:55:03 am »
We have external USB DACs with amp if needed.. much easier.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2018, 06:04:53 am »
He coined the name gmail, nice.
Yeah, those sound card makers didn't see the cheap chip motherboard solution coming, doh.
 

Offline Halcyon

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2018, 06:18:40 am »
Balanced audio is the way to go. Decent quality internal and external USB sound devices aren't expensive, but the difference between a balance and unbalanced signal is phenomenal.

There is also something about the satisfying click of an XLR cable and connector.
 

Offline JPortici

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2018, 08:13:40 am »
the cheap integrated realtek chips are 100% perfectly fine. They're going to drive crappy speakers or crappy headphones anyway.
If one is concerned about quality there are audio interfaces for recording that starts at 50€ that at worst are on par with whatever comes for the consumer marked
 
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Offline MrMobodies

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2018, 10:09:52 am »
I do but I get old stuff.

When I was about 12 I use to go down bootsales and pick up all different ISA sound cards and test them and they all sounded different.

There was one of them which was an Aztech 2320 and what is unique about it is that it has got a hardware sound effect SRS3D. I didn't want know what it mean't at the time but I can hear the instruments and background stuff brought to the top and I can hear so much more detail. I noticed it appearing on Windows Media Player 7 as a plugin but it didn't sound as clear and was distorted on comparison. I saw a Wikipedia article about it some years after and it stands for "Sound Retrieval System".

I have kept a lot of my old stuff to operate them just loop audio through the line in around the house which has been going for nearly 20 years on a Gigabyte 6BXE under my desk and similar and I have others lying around for spares and other with sounds cards for a midi keyboard like a Yamaha SW1000XG .

A lot of power wasted over my audio foolery desires and expectations.
I got the cables cheap as end of line things I would never pay a lot for them brand new.

I wanted to buy one of those ISA to USB bridge and run it under a virtual machine but it was costly to get here.
They announced a release a Wow3d thing but I never saw it selling so I stuck with that.

Recently I also got some Belkin Network USB hubs cheap off Ebay and Creative USB Live sound cards, 8 for £2 each all with the cables and remotes which work quite well without delay or interruption over the network and two go into an Emu 1820m dock and into one of the Aztechs and in a Philips HD1502 headphone base in the attic. I can play off any laptop and it works well over the Wifi access points to my wireless headphones.

Here is one of them I take around to demonstrate.

Bottom ISA card Aztech 2320. It has got a 28k Rockwell modem on it that you could make calls on it back in 1997.

Nobody believes me until I show them the difference through that particular sound card.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2018, 11:44:29 am by MrMobodies »
 

Offline Richard Crowley

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2018, 03:34:48 pm »
Wow. This is the kind of drivel that gives YouTube the reputation of a giant cauldron of misinformation and silly babbling.   :--   :-DD
 
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Offline blueskull

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2018, 03:57:37 pm »
There are tons of good USB sound cards, ranging from sub-CD quality to satisfying the best golden ears.
And they are removable, portable and they work with laptops.
And all major OSes (Windows 10 mid 2017+, macOS and Linux since ancient) support USB audio class 2.0 which easily supports 24/192 recording house standard.

The only legit reason for a PCIe sound card I can see is when you need to stream many, many channels of high sample rate, high sample depth studio quality audio stream to one computer-based DAW.
But even then, 480Mbps with 30% safety margin (336Mbps) can still support 27 stereo pairs of 24/192 audio (padded to 32/192).

USB audio class 3.0 is out, so with 10Gbps BW, I can't see any reason PCIe needs to exist anymore in the audio business.

Sure, PCIe has lower latency, but USB is also good for <=1ms. Anywhere below 10ms, let along 1ms, is challenging from an OS task scheduler perspective.

Unless you run a preemptive OS designed with DAW applications in mind, I don't see how PCIe can benefit at all.
 

Offline JPortici

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2018, 07:31:49 am »
PCIe still exist in the form of thunderbolt for high resolution, high samplerate, high channel count interfaces
 

Offline rjp

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2018, 07:35:44 am »
good  enough and relatively free is the enemy of excellent and expensive.

ditto smartphones killing so many standalone devices, from music players to cameras and gps units and games consoles and and
 
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Offline daqq

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2018, 07:56:24 am »
good  enough and relatively free is the enemy of excellent and expensive.

ditto smartphones killing so many standalone devices, from music players to cameras and gps units and games consoles and and
You make it sound like a bad thing. I'm quite happy not having to drag around:
- cell phone as phone
- camera
- calculator
- music player
- PDA as an organizer and misc
- GPS for GPS
- misc.

as separate devices. And 'good enough', well, most of the time I do not need some really obscure functionality that is only available on a dedicated GPS unit, I just need to know which way to the nearest something. And when I need to take high quality pictures, I'm OK with bringing a camera with real optics. And if you are in a situation where you need sound quality that you can't achieve by a smart phone and would actually notice the difference, then you are not in an outside environment, which kinda defeats the point of wanting a portable music player in the first place.
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Offline rjp

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2018, 08:07:37 am »
good  enough and relatively free is the enemy of excellent and expensive.

ditto smartphones killing so many standalone devices, from music players to cameras and gps units and games consoles and and
You make it sound like a bad thing. I'm quite happy not having to drag around:
- cell phone as phone
- camera
- calculator
- music player
- PDA as an organizer and misc
- GPS for GPS
- misc.

as separate devices. And 'good enough', well, most of the time I do not need some really obscure functionality that is only available on a dedicated GPS unit, I just need to know which way to the nearest something. And when I need to take high quality pictures, I'm OK with bringing a camera with real optics. And if you are in a situation where you need sound quality that you can't achieve by a smart phone and would actually notice the difference, then you are not in an outside environment, which kinda defeats the point of wanting a portable music player in the first place.

I actually offer no   value judgement :) just stating the obvious really.

 
 

Offline technix

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2018, 09:00:20 am »
good  enough and relatively free is the enemy of excellent and expensive.

ditto smartphones killing so many standalone devices, from music players to cameras and gps units and games consoles and and
Actually there is a bit of feedback going on:

* iPod Touch, the last remaining device under the portable media player brand iPod, is an iPhone sans the cellular modem. (If I recalled it right, one early model iPod Touch flat out used the iPhone logic board as-is without the 3G modem installed, and the connector footprint for the 3G modem is clearly visible.)
* Nintendo Switch, likely the first 9th generation game console, is based on the same Tegra chipset as used in some smartphones.
* A lot of consumer cameras now comes with Android for wireless connectivity and image enhancement applications - almost as if it is a smartphone with cellular modem removed and camera module beefed up.
* The TI Nspire series graphing calculators uses their OMAP processor, as used in some early Android devices.
etc.
 

Offline Lord of nothing

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2018, 09:18:37 am »
When I see what many User buy for a Crap Headphone I dont wonder why the cant hear the difference.
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Offline MrMobodies

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2018, 09:36:30 am »
What I have noticed about wireless headphones FM and digital is that many of them cut out on low volumes and when I turn up the volume they cut out at a slightly higher volume and I had to keep returning them. The FM ones are terrible when they cut out as they give white noise and hurts me ears.

It didn't do it on the Philips HD1502 I got imported from Germany ten years ago and I have been using it since.
It has even got a transmit button on the display for when it does cut out.

The quality seems okay but I wouldn't say it is anything great as it sounds a little hissy with certain playback but then I can adjust the bass and treble on the headphones.
Also the rechargeable AA'S can be pulled out on the side of the headphones without taking them off and I don't bother charge them on the station when I got a bank of them sitting in the chargers. I got two of those old Conrad Charge Manager 2020, one for aa's and one for aaa's waiting for all sorts of things so I don't have to wait when I want some round cell batteries.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2018, 09:39:20 am by MrMobodies »
 

Online NiHaoMike

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2018, 01:11:43 pm »
Those cheap onboard Realtek chips actually don't sound all that great for music
The digital output works perfectly fine as it's just data. It is still subject to the limitation of no lossless surround, which is what HDMI addresses. There are no HDMI output sound cards on the market since that function is built into every modern GPU, but what seems to be missing is a USB to HDMI sound card. I suppose a Pi Zero could be programmed to work as one...

There was a time when gamers were all against USB sound cards, but that seems to have changed with USB 2.0 sound cards appearing on the market. Also smartphones have gone USB-C which dramatically increased the demand for single chip USB DACs.
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Offline tooki

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2018, 02:07:18 pm »
good  enough and relatively free is the enemy of excellent and expensive.

ditto smartphones killing so many standalone devices, from music players to cameras and gps units and games consoles and and
Actually there is a bit of feedback going on:

* iPod Touch, the last remaining device under the portable media player brand iPod, is an iPhone sans the cellular modem. (If I recalled it right, one early model iPod Touch flat out used the iPhone logic board as-is without the 3G modem installed, and the connector footprint for the 3G modem is clearly
No, they’re totally different boards to accommodate the different form factor of the case. Tons of shared components of course.
 

Offline The Soulman

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #20 on: October 28, 2018, 02:21:37 pm »
Balanced audio is the way to go. Decent quality internal and external USB sound devices aren't expensive, but the difference between a balance and unbalanced signal is phenomenal.

There is also something about the satisfying click of an XLR cable and connector.

There shouldn't be a audible difference between balanced and unbalanced for short cable runs (i.e. 99% of all consumer applications).

Yes, the click of a proper xlr connection can be satisfying.
 

Offline Jan Audio

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #21 on: October 28, 2018, 03:56:40 pm »
For professional audio gear there are cards with more ins & outs.
Now a days there are table mixers that are a soundcard, multichannel audio via USB into your "analog" mixer.

Throw away all your old soundcards with each new windows ?
Its getting more standard now so maybe you wont have to throw away so much no more.
 

Offline Lord of nothing

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #22 on: October 28, 2018, 04:08:52 pm »
Why not use W7?  :palm:
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Offline Jr460

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #23 on: October 28, 2018, 04:09:11 pm »
Not only more ins and outs, but low latency, or very controlled latency.   Having an ASIO computable driver is a must if you want to do recording.  Making sure your PC doesn't have some other poor driver that doesn't play well and holds interrupts for too long, is also important.
 

Offline blueskull

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #24 on: October 28, 2018, 04:12:11 pm »
PCIe still exist in the form of thunderbolt for high resolution, high samplerate, high channel count interfaces

Yes, but mostly for Apple devices before Apple's adoption of USB3.0.
 

Online NiHaoMike

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #25 on: October 28, 2018, 04:15:38 pm »
Recording is a use case where it seems like USB boxes are the preferred solution nowadays. MsMadLemon says that no matter how many inputs there are on the box, there never seems to be enough. Maybe what we really need is a low cost, high SNR, and large number of inputs digitizer box? Probably would be good to base it around a Pocketbeagle (take advantage of the I/O accelerator hardware in the chip) or a low cost FPGA plus a FX2 for the USB interface. The FPGA solution would be better in terms of having very low latency and implementing antialiasing filters, but there are fewer open source developers able to work on it. Analog inputs would be handled by ADC modules, something like 4 or 8 stereo channels per module to allow expansion up to the limit of the system.

Or maybe use Ethernet since it's inherently isolated to prevent ground loops?
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Offline Marco

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #26 on: October 28, 2018, 04:26:38 pm »
C'T magazine used to test frequency response and year after year you just saw everything converging on flat. By this point even with the cheapest DACs and opamps there is just no excuse to not have good output, you have to intentionally screw it up ... it doesn't even save any money any more.

PS. Realtek's drivers suck though, every time there's a major windows update it reverts to their drivers on my laptop (rather than Microsoft generic) and there's some reverb with no controls to get rid of it.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2018, 04:30:53 pm by Marco »
 
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Online rdl

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #27 on: October 28, 2018, 05:23:11 pm »
My amplifier is 20 years old and only has analog inputs, so I can't comment on the digital quality. I'm no audiophile, but I heard distinctly better quality sound when I switched from the motherboard analog output to the external USB device. I would describe it as less "scratchiness". While I do tend to buy stuff that's better than average, the difference could be nothing more than less noise due to the device being outside the computer case.

The digital output works perfectly fine as it's just data.
 

Offline Jan Audio

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #28 on: October 28, 2018, 05:33:33 pm »
Volume/noise ratio is important for pro audio.
For PC speakers it dont matters as they are noisey already.
 

Offline MrMobodies

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #29 on: October 28, 2018, 07:29:13 pm »
There was one time when I brought someone a couple of those Dell Sound bars that clip under the screens. It didn't come with a power supply so I supplied some 12v 2a Asian power devices. We started to hear all sorts of noises regardless of adjust volume knob .

I read about it and it is a known issue that affects some of them.

I tried a couple of other power supplies believing it might have something to do with it. A 12v 1a transformer brick and it just was noisy. Out of my collection the only one it didn't do it on was a Li Shin LSE9802A1255 and it's 4.16a variant. No noise at all. A bit of an overkill for a 1a load that isn't used much.
 

Offline Bassman59

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #30 on: October 29, 2018, 02:51:45 am »
Recording is a use case where it seems like USB boxes are the preferred solution nowadays. MsMadLemon says that no matter how many inputs there are on the box, there never seems to be enough. Maybe what we really need is a low cost, high SNR, and large number of inputs digitizer box?

I can think of many professional high-channel count high-quality audio interfaces, from Burl, MOTU, Apogee, UA, and more. The problem is that you won't get bottom-scraping low cost here. But, perhaps you should just buy the Behringer X-32 Rack, that gives you 32 ins, 32 outs over High Speed USB, and oh yeah, it comes with a free mixer.

Quote
Probably would be good to base it around a Pocketbeagle (take advantage of the I/O accelerator hardware in the chip) or a low cost FPGA plus a FX2 for the USB interface. The FPGA solution would be better in terms of having very low latency and implementing antialiasing filters

Sure, you can use a Cypress FX2 part with the external memory interface (or whatever they call it) talking to an FPGA, and have the FPGA manage taking that bus and splitting it out to however-many DACs and however-many ADCs you need for your design. (High Speed USB has enough bandwidth for enough 24-bit/96 kHz channels.) But, you need to work out how many registers you need to do this, it ends up being a big chip.

And I have no idea what you're going on about with anti-aliasing filters. They're all in the converters; your FPGA sends and receives I2S (or TDM or other standard converter protocol) and the converter chips (from TI, Cirrus, AKM, ESS and others) do their thing.

Quote
Or maybe use Ethernet since it's inherently isolated to prevent ground loops?

Ethernet is widely used in professional audio applications using both Dante and AVB for high channel count applications. It works. You can buy a Dante interface module from Audinate and plug it into your design, or license their IP and roll your own. You can design your AVB product around the XMOS parts and they provide a free core.
 

Offline technix

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #31 on: October 29, 2018, 03:09:03 am »
Or maybe use Ethernet since it's inherently isolated to prevent ground loops?

Ethernet is widely used in professional audio applications using both Dante and AVB for high channel count applications. It works. You can buy a Dante interface module from Audinate and plug it into your design, or license their IP and roll your own. You can design your AVB product around the XMOS parts and they provide a free core.
Or just run some kind of open source or publicly reverse engineered protocol like PulseAudio or Apple AirPlay.
 

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #32 on: October 29, 2018, 03:21:42 am »
And I have no idea what you're going on about with anti-aliasing filters. They're all in the converters; your FPGA sends and receives I2S (or TDM or other standard converter protocol) and the converter chips (from TI, Cirrus, AKM, ESS and others) do their thing.
Run the ADCs at 192kHz and downsample to (for example) 48kHz in the FPGA in order to make it easier to work with (might be unnecessary with modern PCs), while still getting the very relaxed analog LPF requirements of an ADC running at 192kHz.
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Offline MrMobodies

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #33 on: October 29, 2018, 07:08:30 am »
Or maybe use Ethernet since it's inherently isolated to prevent ground loops?

Ethernet is widely used in professional audio applications using both Dante and AVB for high channel count applications. It works. You can buy a Dante interface module from Audinate and plug it into your design, or license their IP and roll your own. You can design your AVB product around the XMOS parts and they provide a free core.
Or just run some kind of open source or publicly reverse engineered protocol like PulseAudio or Apple AirPlay.

I used Shairport4w with itunes for quite some time and it was quite reliable.

It would be good to see a virtual sound card driver for it one day appear.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2018, 07:10:31 am by MrMobodies »
 

Offline technix

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #34 on: October 29, 2018, 04:09:34 pm »
Or maybe use Ethernet since it's inherently isolated to prevent ground loops?

Ethernet is widely used in professional audio applications using both Dante and AVB for high channel count applications. It works. You can buy a Dante interface module from Audinate and plug it into your design, or license their IP and roll your own. You can design your AVB product around the XMOS parts and they provide a free core.
Or just run some kind of open source or publicly reverse engineered protocol like PulseAudio or Apple AirPlay.

I used Shairport4w with itunes for quite some time and it was quite reliable.

It would be good to see a virtual sound card driver for it one day appear.
I have Shairport-Sync on one of my Raspberry Pi, coupled to the Cirrus Logic Audio Card and has a pair of speakers from my old stereo attached to it. My environment is mainly macOS so there is a virtual sound card driver built in. I also wish there would be virtual sound card drivers for other OS too.
 

Offline Bassman59

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #35 on: October 29, 2018, 05:33:03 pm »
Or maybe use Ethernet since it's inherently isolated to prevent ground loops?

Ethernet is widely used in professional audio applications using both Dante and AVB for high channel count applications. It works. You can buy a Dante interface module from Audinate and plug it into your design, or license their IP and roll your own. You can design your AVB product around the XMOS parts and they provide a free core.
Or just run some kind of open source or publicly reverse engineered protocol like PulseAudio or Apple AirPlay.

You're missing the need for sample-to-sample synchronization over hundreds of channels of audio, as well as extensive routing capabilities (multiple consoles, recording devices, etc) that Dante and AVB provide. But, like I said, this is for professional live-sound and broadcast environments, way beyond what the average home user or gamer needs.
 

Offline Bassman59

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #36 on: October 29, 2018, 05:34:44 pm »
And I have no idea what you're going on about with anti-aliasing filters. They're all in the converters; your FPGA sends and receives I2S (or TDM or other standard converter protocol) and the converter chips (from TI, Cirrus, AKM, ESS and others) do their thing.
Run the ADCs at 192kHz and downsample to (for example) 48kHz in the FPGA in order to make it easier to work with (might be unnecessary with modern PCs), while still getting the very relaxed analog LPF requirements of an ADC running at 192kHz.

But, to what benefit? Do you need to reduce CPU horsepower or are you constrained by I/O capacity? Buy a more-powerful computer, one that actually meets your needs.
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #37 on: October 29, 2018, 08:01:27 pm »
Many reasons why they are not as big a market as they once were for home computing. (For professional uses, you're still going to buy expensive "sound cards", which are not really just cards.)

Yes most computers now have decent integrated audio. But you also have to consider another factor: desktop computers have lost a lot of market share. There are now a lot of other computing devices that people use instead, such as tablets and even mobile phones. Obviously adding an extra device to them, even if it's USB, would just be clunky and unpractical. Onboard sound on those devices is not always that great but I think people tend not to care much anymore. They just want a compact device.

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.


 

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #38 on: October 29, 2018, 08:38:29 pm »
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.

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.

 
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Offline tooki

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #39 on: October 29, 2018, 10:45:44 pm »
Many reasons why they are not as big a market as they once were for home computing. (For professional uses, you're still going to buy expensive "sound cards", which are not really just cards.)

Yes most computers now have decent integrated audio. But you also have to consider another factor: desktop computers have lost a lot of market share. There are now a lot of other computing devices that people use instead, such as tablets and even mobile phones. Obviously adding an extra device to them, even if it's USB, would just be clunky and unpractical. Onboard sound on those devices is not always that great but I think people tend not to care much anymore. They just want a compact device.

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.
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.

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.



As for laptops, by the time laptops came down to consumer-friendly prices around the turn of the millennium, built-in audio had been long established in computers. (And IIRC, laptops tended to include it onboard a bit earlier, for simple lack of any feasible way to do external audio before USB came along.) Consumers, for all intents and purposes, never saw laptops without onboard audio.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2018, 10:48:12 pm by tooki »
 

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #40 on: October 29, 2018, 10:49:28 pm »
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.
Right?!?! Like, when YouTube suggested that video to me (before it got shared here), I saw it and was like, "uh, because it's always integrated now anyway. Duh!"
 

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #41 on: October 29, 2018, 11:44:21 pm »
But, to what benefit? Do you need to reduce CPU horsepower or are you constrained by I/O capacity? Buy a more-powerful computer, one that actually meets your needs.
Some of both, although as mentioned, probably not necessary in the first place with a modern PC.
Yes most computers now have decent integrated audio. But you also have to consider another factor: desktop computers have lost a lot of market share. There are now a lot of other computing devices that people use instead, such as tablets and even mobile phones. Obviously adding an extra device to them, even if it's USB, would just be clunky and unpractical.
Modern smartphones use USB-C and the DAC is built right into the USB plug of the headphones or adapter. The SaviAudio chip LeEco uses is quite impressive sound quality wise, just barely behind a top of the line PCM1792A.
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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #42 on: October 29, 2018, 11:53:38 pm »
I dunno what chip is in it, but Apple's Lighting to earphone jack adapter apparently has incredibly good performance. It's incredible what fits inside the strain relief of a plug!!!
 

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #43 on: October 30, 2018, 04:41:42 am »
Or maybe use Ethernet since it's inherently isolated to prevent ground loops?

Ethernet is widely used in professional audio applications using both Dante and AVB for high channel count applications. It works. You can buy a Dante interface module from Audinate and plug it into your design, or license their IP and roll your own. You can design your AVB product around the XMOS parts and they provide a free core.
Or just run some kind of open source or publicly reverse engineered protocol like PulseAudio or Apple AirPlay.

You're missing the need for sample-to-sample synchronization over hundreds of channels of audio, as well as extensive routing capabilities (multiple consoles, recording devices, etc) that Dante and AVB provide. But, like I said, this is for professional live-sound and broadcast environments, way beyond what the average home user or gamer needs.
For open source protocols it is doable if you can patch in those features if you know how to write it and run it over a low latency network like fiber-only 10GbE.

Sample synchronization can be done by timestamping the frames with a wall click time and NTP or GPS synchronize all nodes to the same clock source

Routing can be done using precisely controlled multicasting and single-casting of data packets. No special handling is needed in the audio layer, it is all part of betworking layer.

As of multi-channel audio, I believe most open source protocols support them natively, at least you can emulate it using a minimal FLAC codec (multiplexing the channels into one FLAC stream with or without compression)
 

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #44 on: October 30, 2018, 11:43:29 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.

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.
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.
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Offline technix

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #45 on: October 30, 2018, 12:32:27 pm »
  • Why nobody buys Network cards anymore?
  • Why nobody buys HD controller cards anymore?
  • Why nobody buys USB interface cards anymore?
So only people who really need that much more buy a dedicated card.
When you use server-grade stuff, a lot of things have to come on cards:
  • Why nobody buys Sound cards anymore? My server motherboards don't have built-in sound, thus either it have to be mute or I have to use a sound card to get analog audio out of it.
  • Why nobody buys Network cards anymore? When you need a lot of Ethernet ports (for example link aggregation) a multi-port network card like Intel I350T4 is a must-have. Or if you need faster networking (e.g. 10Gbps Ethernet or Infiniband) or (iin most of the case) native optical fiber networking you need cards too.
  • Why nobody buys HD controller cards anymore? If you need real RAID you almost always need to buy a hardware expansion card - I have two MegaRAID 9271-8iCC to put 14 of my storage drives into a concrete 24TB RAID-60 array.
  • Why nobody buys USB interface cards anymore? This is a downer for me: Intel Z97 chipset has a bugged USB XHCI controller with 96 endpoints instead of the standard 128, while all of the USB ports on the board goes to that single XHCI controller. Given my array of debug probes and my tendency to constant hook them (since it is fairly difficult to reach the USB ports on my rack-mounted machines) I ran out of endpoints fast, and has to use a PCIe USB 3.0 card to add a second XHCI controller that isn't bugged. My server boards also lacked USB 3.0 entirely and has to rely on those cards.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2018, 12:34:03 pm by technix »
 

Offline Richard Crowley

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #46 on: October 30, 2018, 12:35:20 pm »

When you use server-grade stuff, a lot of things have to come on cards:
  • Why nobody buys Sound cards anymore? My server motherboards don't have built-in sound, thus either it have to be mute or I have to use a sound card to get analog audio out of it.
  • Why nobody buys Network cards anymore? When you need a lot of Ethernet ports (for example link aggregation) a multi-port network card like Intel I350T4 is a must-have. Or if you need faster networking (e.g. 10Gbps Ethernet or Infiniband) or (iin most of the case) native optical fiber networking you need cards too.
  • Why nobody buys HD controller cards anymore? If you need real RAID you almost always need to buy a hardware expansion card - I have two MegaRAID 9271-8iCC to put 14 of my storage drives into a concrete 24TB RAID-60 array.
  • Why nobody buys USB interface cards anymore? This is a downer for me: Intel Z97 chipset has a bugged USB XHCI controller with 96 endpoints instead of the standard 128, while all of the USB ports on the board goes to that single XHCI controller. Given my array of debug probes and my tendency to constant hook them (since it is fairly difficult to reach the USB ports on my rack-mounted machines) I ran out of endpoints fast, and has to use a PCIe USB 3.0 card to add a second XHCI controller that isn't bugged. My server boards also lacked USB 3.0 entirely and has to rely on those cards.
Yes, precisely my point:
Quote
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.
 

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #47 on: October 30, 2018, 12:52:21 pm »
Yes, precisely my point:
Quote
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.
That is only half of my point: it is either specialty (RAID card, Infiniband,) or bug fixing/upgrades (USB 3.0 cards, 10GbE cards)

I have consumer-grade PCIe cards for USB 3.0 XHCI and SATA 6Gb/s AHCI, both of which are standard motherboard features on modern motherboards, but I have to use them in order to add support (old motherboards doesn't have, or lacked enough SATA 6Gb/s or USB 3.0 ports) or fix bugs (the USB 3.0 on Z97 is bugged) on my systems.
 

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #48 on: October 30, 2018, 12:55:45 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.
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Offline Kjelt

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #49 on: October 30, 2018, 12:56:22 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.
 
 

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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.
 

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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 »
 

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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 »
 

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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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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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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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.
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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.
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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.
 

Offline b_force

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #75 on: November 06, 2018, 03:24:59 pm »
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.
Well, in fact a bass-reflex system is actually more likely to introduce more non-linear distortion

See; https://www.klippel.de/fileadmin/_migrated/content_uploads/Loudspeaker_Nonlinearities%E2%80%93Causes_Parameters_Symptoms_01.pdf
Page 16 (if you look around the web you will find similar findings)

Still, Floyd Toole (Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms) basically has proved that all these effects are less important on the "priority list".
Or in other words, bad directivity and room acoustics are much more significant that just a little bit of extra distortion.
Of course all within limits.

But in general, yes more excursion means more distortion. Mostly due too non-lineair effects in the suspension and magnetic field.
So for the same air volume displacement, it is always better to take a bigger woofer.
Although with a proper driver design (especially the motor) that isn't always that black and white.
A bad designed 12" will perform less than a very well designed 8".
(a side note, a good designed speaker isn't always more expensive)

Btw, signal generators and multimeters are old fashioned.
Just get a laptop, smartphone or PC with a decent soundcard.
"If you can't explain it simply (or at all), you don't understand it well enough." A. Einstein

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Offline John B

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #76 on: November 06, 2018, 09:21:01 pm »
I'm still running a MOTU firewire interface for audio and music production purposes. I use a Scarlett interface on the PC as an audio out and headphone preamp.

What is interesting in this conversation is that audio interfaces are compromises in themselves. So while you may look at motherboard based sound hardware as being an all-in-one compromise, an audio engineer may look at an interface as being an all-in-one compromise. That is, the interface is a mix of ADCs/DACs and preamps. If you want to spend big bucks and get the absolute best in each area, you have to buy them separately.

It's not audiophoolery either. For example the headphone preamp in my MOTU isn't that powerful, so I have a separate multi channel headphone amp for driving 250 ohm headphones. Having said that, a high end interface is plenty for professional quality recordings.
 

Offline b_force

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #77 on: November 06, 2018, 10:13:27 pm »
I'm still running a MOTU firewire interface for audio and music production purposes. I use a Scarlett interface on the PC as an audio out and headphone preamp.

What is interesting in this conversation is that audio interfaces are compromises in themselves. So while you may look at motherboard based sound hardware as being an all-in-one compromise, an audio engineer may look at an interface as being an all-in-one compromise. That is, the interface is a mix of ADCs/DACs and preamps. If you want to spend big bucks and get the absolute best in each area, you have to buy them separately.

It's not audiophoolery either. For example the headphone preamp in my MOTU isn't that powerful, so I have a separate multi channel headphone amp for driving 250 ohm headphones. Having said that, a high end interface is plenty for professional quality recordings.
That is correct, some headphones are difficult to drive.

Also for professional recordings or professional PA systems (so mixers etc) you really need to have a decent SNR.
If you have a pretty sensitive headphone you can sometimes easily hear the noise.

Interfaces and sounds-cards nowadays are actually pretty good.
Like said before, even the onboard soundcards are better than top of the line CD-players 10-15 years ago.
"If you can't explain it simply (or at all), you don't understand it well enough." A. Einstein

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Offline John B

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #78 on: November 07, 2018, 12:48:19 am »
Speaking of distortion, I have noticed with the MOTU interface that there is noticeable distortion when sampling a simple sine wave. This is sampling at 24bits/48kHz.

I've made sure that the distortion isn't present in the original signal. The distortion takes the form of noticeable harmonics of the fundamental frequency, especially the 5th 7th and 9th harmonic.

It's not noticeable with a complex signal, but obvious and audible with a simple sine wave. Never figured out whether it was user error, or just limitations on the hardware itself.
 

Offline b_force

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #79 on: November 07, 2018, 12:54:30 am »
Speaking of distortion, I have noticed with the MOTU interface that there is noticeable distortion when sampling a simple sine wave. This is sampling at 24bits/48kHz.

I've made sure that the distortion isn't present in the original signal. The distortion takes the form of noticeable harmonics of the fundamental frequency, especially the 5th 7th and 9th harmonic.

It's not noticeable with a complex signal, but obvious and audible with a simple sine wave. Never figured out whether it was user error, or just limitations on the hardware itself.
Sounds more like a samplerate conversion somewhere that didn't really went well.
Don't know what system you're using, but in Windows just check your settings.
"If you can't explain it simply (or at all), you don't understand it well enough." A. Einstein

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Offline John B

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #80 on: November 07, 2018, 01:09:31 am »
Speaking of distortion, I have noticed with the MOTU interface that there is noticeable distortion when sampling a simple sine wave. This is sampling at 24bits/48kHz.

I've made sure that the distortion isn't present in the original signal. The distortion takes the form of noticeable harmonics of the fundamental frequency, especially the 5th 7th and 9th harmonic.

It's not noticeable with a complex signal, but obvious and audible with a simple sine wave. Never figured out whether it was user error, or just limitations on the hardware itself.
Sounds more like a samplerate conversion somewhere that didn't really went well.
Don't know what system you're using, but in Windows just check your settings.

Similar kind of sound as a bad resampling algorithm. Except in this case the audible distortion is present in both recorded form, and through the interface's internal routing, ie input straight to output. I use Reaper on a Mac, but it doesn't seem to be a relevant factor in this case. I think.
 

Offline b_force

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Re: Why Nobody Buys Sound Cards Anymore
« Reply #81 on: November 07, 2018, 01:20:19 pm »
Speaking of distortion, I have noticed with the MOTU interface that there is noticeable distortion when sampling a simple sine wave. This is sampling at 24bits/48kHz.

I've made sure that the distortion isn't present in the original signal. The distortion takes the form of noticeable harmonics of the fundamental frequency, especially the 5th 7th and 9th harmonic.

It's not noticeable with a complex signal, but obvious and audible with a simple sine wave. Never figured out whether it was user error, or just limitations on the hardware itself.
Sounds more like a samplerate conversion somewhere that didn't really went well.
Don't know what system you're using, but in Windows just check your settings.

Similar kind of sound as a bad resampling algorithm. Except in this case the audible distortion is present in both recorded form, and through the interface's internal routing, ie input straight to output. I use Reaper on a Mac, but it doesn't seem to be a relevant factor in this case. I think.
What I was trying to say is that the samplerate has to match the samplerate of the audio file on some interfaces.
If you're talking about just a loopback (it won't even go into your pc) than there is obviously something else wrong in circuit.
"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 #82 on: November 13, 2018, 02:25:15 am »
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.

Well, in fact a bass-reflex system is actually more likely to introduce more non-linear distortion

See; https://www.klippel.de/fileadmin/_migrated/content_uploads/Loudspeaker_Nonlinearities%E2%80%93Causes_Parameters_Symptoms_01.pdf
Page 16 (if you look around the web you will find similar findings)

Bass-reflex adds other distortion mechanisms but lowers the overwhelming non-linear distortion from the driver by minimizing displacement.

Quote
Still, Floyd Toole (Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms) basically has proved that all these effects are less important on the "priority list".
Or in other words, bad directivity and room acoustics are much more significant that just a little bit of extra distortion.
Of course all within limits.

In my experience the non-linear bass distortion is overwhelming for high fidelity material.

Quote
But in general, yes more excursion means more distortion. Mostly due too non-lineair effects in the suspension and magnetic field.

Page 17 of the PDF you linked discusses the major contribution from the doppler effect.  A bass-reflex design improves this by minimizing cone movement but using a good crossover is also important.

Quote
Btw, signal generators and multimeters are old fashioned.
Just get a laptop, smartphone or PC with a decent soundcard.

Why make it complicated when it can be simple?  Tuning a bass-reflex design requires only a signal generator, resistor, and multimeter.  The port is adjusted to null the speaker resonance producing two smaller resonances on either side.
 


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