The Sound Barrier

By Jason Cross  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

Build It: Last year's $800 gaming PC was a bargain, but had significant compromises. This year's model is an $800 hot-rod gaming rig that offers impressive performance. What a difference a year makes!


If you're really on a tight budget, you can skip the sound card entirely and just use your integrated PC audio. We find that's almost always a bad idea, though. The signal to noise ratio is typically poor, 3D audio options are limited, and since all the processing is host-based, games that use lots of audio channels can slow down a bit.

The solution is a good sound card. The Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Value gets you into the very latest Sound Blaster card—basically the only game in town that offloads audio processing off the host CPU anymore—without spending much money. Note that the Audigy 2 Value is based on the EMU 10K1 chip, the same chip that powered the original Audigy card. But everything else has been updated. Your games will run faster, and you'll get to use EAX in games that support it. 

ProductSound Blaster Audigy 2 Value


Price:$50 ( check prices)

Pros:Far better performance; better driver support; more compatibility for games than integrated audio.

Cons:It's $50 that you don't necessarily need to spend, with integrated audio essentially "free" on all motherboards.

Summary:If you're into games, it's a sound investment (pardon the pun). We wouldn't recommend it for home recording and the like, though.


Jason Cross Jason was a certified computer geek at an early age, playing with his family's Apple II when he was still barely able to write. It didn't take long for him to start playing with the hardware, adding in 80-column cards and additional RAM as his family moved up through Apple II+, IIe, IIgs, and eventually the Macintosh. He was sucked into Intel based side of the PC world by his friend's 8088 (at the time, the height of sophisticated technology), and this kicked off a never-ending string of PC purchases and upgrades.

Through college, where he bounced among several different majors before earning a degree in Asian Studies, Jason started to pull down freelance assignments writing about his favorite hobby—,video and computer games. It was shortly after graduation that he found himself, a thin-blooded Floridian, freezing his face off at Computer Games Magazine in Vermont, where he founded the hardware and technology section and built it up over five years before joining the ranks at ExtremeTech and moving out to beautiful northern California. When not scraping up his hands on the inside of a PC case, you can invariably find Jason knee-deep in a PC game, engrossed in the latest console title, or at the movie theater.


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