I have 7.1 Surround Speakers, and I have no sound card in my computer. I can use speakers but I want to 'discover' full possibilities of my speakers. I found that it is possible to have either PCI sound card inside computer or USB sound card.

I was wondering:

  • is using USB sound card effect sound quality (because USB 2.0 have only 4 pins when PCI have more, therefore less information's can be send to device in the same time)?
  • can it have effect on CPU usage (I guess sound cards can have built-in functions for sound processing, im not sure about usb cards)

Also if there are other things to consider in such decision, could you please write them?

  • Unfortunately I don't have time for a full answer, but some of your concerns are valid except the USB pin thing (that's not relevant, it's all data until it gets processed and converted to analog audio), but a PCI or PCI-E sound card would most likely give better sound quality with less CPU utilization than USB, not to mention it helps prevent having another "thing" hanging off your computer. In general, USB sound devices should only be used when necessary like in a laptop or computer w/o an available expansion slot. – acejavelin Feb 3 '16 at 0:29
  • internal PCI and PCI-E cards can get more power from the bus than standard USB 2, or 3. More power = bigger processor(in good sound cards). A USB device will take more CPU cycles. A USB 2 sound card could be bandwidth constrained, but a USB 3 sound card would not have bandwidth issues. – cybernard Feb 3 '16 at 4:10

You do have the onboard chipset/sound ports, right?: You may get by with that until you obtain a decent sound card. Sometimes onboard sound is pretty good--even outstanding. (You may enable and disable the onboard sound chip in the BIOS settings.)

Given that your onboard sound chipset is dead--or that the ports have lost integrity--many simple USB dongle devices prove available to fill in. Akin to the Turtle Beach Amigo II, generally they're analog stereo and relatively economical. With some such devices, the mfrs. indicate that 7.1 sound proves available--sure!

You may find that it's beneficial to own such a device, anyway--to fill in when your sound craters or when you have vexing config issues. (You then adjust USB sound codec settings--not sound card/onboard sound chip settings. The USB sound codec comprises a completely separate audio software system from those--proving quite clever. Certainly, using the USB sound codec often proves essential in today's musical instrument USB I/O box interface world, too.)

Again, the promise of USB 3 proves thwarted--fabricators prove glacially slow to adopt USB 3--forcibly, they still insist that you stick with USB 2. (USB 2 really isn't very good with media--it's best intended for relatively simple input devices such as mice and keyboards--USB 2 dongle devices are pretty simple too, though. Sound should prove satisfactory, if limited, for your purposes here.)

In the musical instrument USB I/O box world, PC latency (slowness) becomes a looming factor: As indicated by the previous erudite post, USB isn't as good as PCI or PCI-E--it's an interface which is far more "divorced" from the sys.

The criticism of onboard sound often includes mainboard crosstalk interference issues--generally that's been alleviated a great deal over the years. Given higher-level mainboards, onboard sound capability may prove quite sophisticated--as well. Indeed, you may instead consider getting a better mainboard for your audio needs....

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