Cheap, Decent Sound Card

By YingYang · 17 replies
Dec 14, 2003
  1. I have a multitude(7 and growing by the month) receivers from the glory days of home audio, late '70s to the early '80s. This includes Pioneer, Sansui, Onkyo, Harmon Kardon, etc. All I need is a decent sound card to route to one of the amps via a 1/8in plug to RCA. Anything more than 2 channels is a complete waste, so no expensive 5.1 or 6.1 setups.

    My audio current setup consists of a decent pair of $550 JBL speakers fed by 65w each and then 2 12" Adire Shivas each fed by a 350w plate amp. I know that no sound card will ever do this setup justice, especially when I upgrade to some high end Sansui towers, but I want to listen to my mp3s when the desire arises. Anyone have any suggestions with links?
  2. young&wild

    young&wild TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 993

    Hmmm......perhaps telling us your budget will help us get the best value for money soundcard for you.
  3. YingYang

    YingYang TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 19

    I'm thinking dirt cheap, between $20 and $60 with the sole emphasis on SQ.
  4. Crazy

    Crazy TS Rookie Posts: 139

    If you want a sound card with good quality and not that expensive i would go for the Creative Lab Sound Blaster 128 PCI Sound Card -OEM Version there not expensive its like 24$ on newegg.

    Its 4channel so you have room for an upgrade and its good quality. You 'll have a very good signal comming from the sound card, you dont even need a high quality amplifiër to hook it up to( I used my stereo for about 5years! and played perfect(2ch)).

    To conclude, go for the Sound Blaster 128 PCI witch will give you a clear signal for a very low price

    Greets Crazy,
  5. newbie5678

    newbie5678 TS Rookie Posts: 33

    What is the SNR for the 128?
  6. young&wild

    young&wild TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 993

    If i were you, I would opt for a none creative product.

    For $49 at, you can get a 6 channel Turtle Beach Santa Cruz with Audigy quality or better.

    Another option would be the Hercules Fortissimo III 7.1 card for only $45 at as well.

    Both cards will definitely blow the Creative SB 128 PCI away in terms of sound quality, features and expandablility.
  7. StormBringer

    StormBringer TS Maniac Posts: 2,244

    YnW, didn't you read, he said more than 2 channels is a waste for his purposes.

    I think the SB 128 PCI would be your best choice as well.
  8. young&wild

    young&wild TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 993

    SB, for you info, I m totallly aware that he needs no more than 2 channels. However due to the fact that anything from $20 and $60 is within his reach and that sound quality is his main priority, I strongly felt that the two cards I have stated above can be considered as well.
  9. YingYang

    YingYang TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 19

    I'm going to be playing sub-par quality audio that will then be bottlenecking through a CPU. If I can move up a notch in SQ and the card happens to be 5.1 or something, that's great. I'm a complete audiophile who knows full well the limitations of any piece of equipment not dedicated completely to audio; the sole purpose of any device in a SQ system is to be completely transparent from the source to the speakers. Although in present day recordings the source material i.e. CDs, DVDs, etc. are inherenetly flawed because of the recording methods used...
  10. Crazy

    Crazy TS Rookie Posts: 139

    The Creative SB 128 PCI is 4.1 sound, give's very good sound definatly because you are going to route it to a amplifier.
    Most recordings dont have 4.1 sound or above. Most (almost all) dvd's are 5.1 and thats it. The chance of finding for example an mp3 in 4.1 or above is very very small.

    The specs for the SB 128 arn't that bad, anyhow if you have a clear signal comming from your pc(like mp3) you won't hear the difference.

    Whats the use of having 6.1 if you only use 2channels, 24$ is a good price and you can always upgrade and by that time sound cards will be mutch better then they are now....

    Beleave me, if you use an amplifier you won't regret buying the SB 128 PCI.

    Greets Crazy,
  11. RealBlackStuff

    RealBlackStuff TS Rookie Posts: 6,503

    My money would also be on the Hercules Fortissimo III 7.1 Sound Card.

    Also their drivers and hardware will cause less conflicts in your PC than the average Creative/Soundblaster

    "Unrivalled audio fidelity up to 7.1 speakers. Worthy successor of the worldwide awarded Gamesurround Fortissimo™ II, Gamesurround Fortissimo™ III 7.1, provides powerful and excellent true-to-life PC sound over 2, 4, 5, 6 or 8 speakers. "
  12. Charles Hammond

    Charles Hammond TS Rookie Posts: 59

    I have heard good reviews about the M-Audio sound Cards, but I think they run about $99.00. They are rediculous 7.1 rated. I think they do Single Pass Audio through Hardware encoding. They are true Single Pass, not software supported, or relying on the CPU. They have no EAX support. They are designed more for Music. I have not used one, but from the reviews I have read the people seem to like them. Personally, a Cheap SB 16 is probably good enough for what you want. Dont know about the SNR. At Line-out levels the SNR is probably lower than from the sound card amplifier.
  13. thehandler

    thehandler TS Rookie

    Young and WIld, say I wonder if that TB card of today available for 49 bucks is the same specs as the one I bought 2 years ago?
    I've been running one for 2 years and it rocks but I've never used it for anything but 2 channel sound. I wonder if it has those other features? Mike
  14. Vehementi

    Vehementi TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,704

    I use a receiver for my speaker system and I just use the built-in SPDIF on my system board. It sounds great.

    In your case, I would reccomend either the Hercules or the PCI 128. Really either one you want.
  15. Krugger

    Krugger TS Rookie Posts: 173

    another vote for the PCI 128. for cost and what you want to do i think it'd be perfect. it's a great little card, and does what it's supposed to do.
  16. Athena

    Athena TS Rookie Posts: 66

    I would go w/ the Fortissimo I upgraded to it from the SB Live and it sounded much better and gave off less hiss when the volume was loud.
  17. young&wild

    young&wild TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 993

  18. vegasgmc

    vegasgmc TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,377

    Check out the Chaintec 7.1 card. It uses the VIA Envy processor and Ive only heard raves about it. Newegg has it for $27. Im gettin one. Im tired of Creative driver problems and the Hercules cards use the CPU too much.
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