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MtothaJ
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Recommended PCIe internal sound card for HP Z420 / 620 / 820

HP Recommended
Z420, Z620, Z820
Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit)

Is there any speciffic internal sound card which either you would recommend or HP specifically recommends for use with the HP Z420 / 620 / 820?

This would be for general multimedia use (films, games etc.), seeking to get a better audio experience than the onboard Realtek on the Z420.

Key aspect is good WIndows 10 compatibility.

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BambiBoomZ
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Mtothal,
 
The Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D is one I'd consider earlier, except that all the reviews said the same thing- sometimes fussy to setup and had to be reinstalled plus the sound quality was not terrific given a high price. 
 
I also do not intend to ever use surround sound and combined with the cost of used (it's discontinued) Recon3D and various ASUS Xonar  at least $70- $80+ in the US, it's difficult to justify.  It's possible to buy a used Presonus Audiobox or Focusrite Scarlett USB for $60-120- and those provide high controllability, full recording, editing, and MIDI while preserving a precious PCIe slot.  As the z620 has two GPU's- one double height covering the PCI slot, a PCIe M.2 drive (HP Turbo Z 256GB), there is only Slot 3 which is x4.  Already, there isn't a spot for the LSI RAID controller of my dreams (LSI MR9260-8i), which are PCIe x8. The problem witht the z620 is the ungainly 2nd CPU riser compresses the area for the card slots:
 
HP 620_Tesla M2090 Test installation _11.1.16.jpg
I didn't plan properly as the original idea was to buy a Quadro M4000 (8GB) instead of the Quadro K2200 /Tesla M2090 combination. I haven't even finished the z620 upgrade and already I'm looking for it's replacement.  It's silly to have a dual CPU system providing all those PCIe lanes and they can't be used well.
 
Digital sound at this level is not too demanding and PCI has plenty of bandwidth and works perfectly well.  The consumer-level PCIe cards are usually only x1.  Your concern of support - no new drivers for Windows 10- though is justified.  But Wndows 10 does have legacy support and so far I haven't seen any dire proclamation that all PCI soundcards are simply unusable in Win 10.
 
What are using for playback? Do you ever record or edit videos?
 
Cheers,
 
BambiBoomZ
 
 
 
 

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BambiBoomZ
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Mtothaj,

 

I've never used them, but ASUS has a quite good range of PCIe sound cards, from 2-channel to 7.1.  The specifications and reviews / reputation are generally positive.

 

For years, I've been very happy with PCI sound cards as a way to use that slot.  I've used  M-Audio 192 "Audiophiles" since 2009 and I have one now in the main z420 (E5-1660 v2 / 32GB / Quadro K4200 / Win7) , in an HP m9426f which is a deidecated sound system (live and MIDI) another in the Dell E520 that runs the television, another in a Dell Precision T5500, and the junior one , the "2496"  in the secondary z420 and in a Precision T3500.

 

The advantage of those is that they are duplex recording cards with MIDI I/O and  SPDIF.  Using Cakewalk and Steinberg software, these have made many quite good live and MIDI recordings, including a few that were broadcast.  I've not used Windows 10,  but the Windows 7 and 8 drivers are said to work in Win 10. The 192 uses 1/4" instruments jacks and the 2496 has RCA. I bought most of these cards used and never had a failure or problems after hundreds of recordings and thousands of hours of playback.

 

The office z620 (2X E5-2690 / 64GB / Quadro K2200 + Tesla M090/ Win7)  however has a conflict as the double height Tesla M2090 covers the PCI slot. This system is probably going to have a USB interface with at least 2-in / 4 out plus MIDI. Without the M2090 it would have an M-Audio 192.

 

The dedicated sound system playback uses Audio Research LS3 /D130 with Infinity 360 speakers but in the office, I've had good general results with Logitech 2.1 systems, the obsolete z2300 in particular.  Some models have a wired remote with on/off, volume, and a headphone jack and that's very convenient.  I'm giving a couple of Logitech z323 systems as gifts this year which are lower cost and still have the wired remote.

 

I'd never heard HP z integrated sound until about three weeks ago with the z620 and while it's quite acceptable, the dedicated sound card is simply better and much more enjoyable over a long listening period.

 

Cheers,

 

BambiBoomZ

MtothaJ
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Thanks for the very detailed response.

I did some digging around and at some point it looks like HP offered the Z420 with the Creative Recon3D PCIe card. I think there were some additional CTO options also.

I was thinking of initially going with a card to fit the legacy PCI slot (additional bonus is that it makes connecting the front panel audio cable to the card a lot easier than when using the top PCIe 1x slot) but these seem to be now rather old, with drivers / support pretty much abandoned by their respective manufacturers.

Currently looking at some of the lowe cards from the Asus Xonar line. The Creative SB Z looks pretty good also, but reviews seem to mixed.

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BambiBoomZ
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Mtothal,
 
The Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D is one I'd consider earlier, except that all the reviews said the same thing- sometimes fussy to setup and had to be reinstalled plus the sound quality was not terrific given a high price. 
 
I also do not intend to ever use surround sound and combined with the cost of used (it's discontinued) Recon3D and various ASUS Xonar  at least $70- $80+ in the US, it's difficult to justify.  It's possible to buy a used Presonus Audiobox or Focusrite Scarlett USB for $60-120- and those provide high controllability, full recording, editing, and MIDI while preserving a precious PCIe slot.  As the z620 has two GPU's- one double height covering the PCI slot, a PCIe M.2 drive (HP Turbo Z 256GB), there is only Slot 3 which is x4.  Already, there isn't a spot for the LSI RAID controller of my dreams (LSI MR9260-8i), which are PCIe x8. The problem witht the z620 is the ungainly 2nd CPU riser compresses the area for the card slots:
 
HP 620_Tesla M2090 Test installation _11.1.16.jpg
I didn't plan properly as the original idea was to buy a Quadro M4000 (8GB) instead of the Quadro K2200 /Tesla M2090 combination. I haven't even finished the z620 upgrade and already I'm looking for it's replacement.  It's silly to have a dual CPU system providing all those PCIe lanes and they can't be used well.
 
Digital sound at this level is not too demanding and PCI has plenty of bandwidth and works perfectly well.  The consumer-level PCIe cards are usually only x1.  Your concern of support - no new drivers for Windows 10- though is justified.  But Wndows 10 does have legacy support and so far I haven't seen any dire proclamation that all PCI soundcards are simply unusable in Win 10.
 
What are using for playback? Do you ever record or edit videos?
 
Cheers,
 
BambiBoomZ
 
 
 
 

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MtothaJ
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Just to follow up, I ended up ordering a Asus Xonar DG PCI card.

The key considerations were:

- relatively inexpensive

- overall highly recommended / good reviews

- opportunity to utilise the legacy PCI slot, in close proximity to the front panel HD audio cable

- headphone amp circuit

- optical out

- dedicated Win 10 x64 drivers

 

Once I recieve the card I will post some thoughts on how it compares to the standard onboard audio.

 

Just to confirm, my understanding is that before I install the card I should turn off the onboard Realtek audio? From what I recall I would do this in the bios, Security Settings then 'Azalia Audio' or something similar - is that correct?

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iMaxx
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With the Z620 I had (Had... I just upgraded) I used a Sound Blaster card that sat in the PCIe 1 slot. It did 5.1 with no problems and sounded great!

Basic card, worked natively in Win10, but the Creative Software allowed for proper tweaking.)

Hope that helps!

I am an HP Employee
Quality Manager - HP VR / Z Desktops
-----
iMaxx” FORMER VOODOO PC / HP LEGACY GAMING SERVICE MANAGER
While I am an HP employee, my comments and suggestions are my own and do not represent HP Inc.
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MtothaJ
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@MtothaJ wrote:

Just to follow up, I ended up ordering a Asus Xonar DG PCI card.

The key considerations were:

- relatively inexpensive

- overall highly recommended / good reviews

- opportunity to utilise the legacy PCI slot, in close proximity to the front panel HD audio cable

- headphone amp circuit

- optical out

- dedicated Win 10 x64 drivers

 

Once I recieve the card I will post some thoughts on how it compares to the standard onboard audio.

 

Just to confirm, my understanding is that before I install the card I should turn off the onboard Realtek audio? From what I recall I would do this in the bios, Security Settings then 'Azalia Audio' or something similar - is that correct?


OK, so recieved the Xonar DG sound card yesterday and proceeded with the install.

Installation was easy - I begun by turning off the Azalia / HD audio in the bios, which made the onboard Realtek disappear, then turned off, installed the card in the legacy PCI slot, connected the front panel audio cable to the card, booted up, installed the Win 10 drivers and I was good to go.

First impressions are very favourable - the sound is fuller, less scratchy and -  for a lack of a better word - less tiresome than the onboard audio. It also looks like the card supports ASIO which is another bonus.

So these are the first impressions, will come back some time in the future after spent some time using the card.

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MtothaJ
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Ok, so I have an update sooner than I thought I would - I ended up RMA / returning the card 🙂

The problem was that with the card plugged in, the Z420 was making a high pitched whinning noise. More likely than not it was some sort of electrical interference - maybe from the wireless mouse or the nearby router. I didn't notice this at first due to testing the card out a higher than usual volumes and sound quality was overall excellent, however once I did it became really annoying and I decided I will not put up with this, especially since on the integrated Realtek audio there was no such problems.

I would have two further comments with regard to the card:

- the Asus drivers aren't the best. E.g. with Skype installed, when shuting down the machine the program would crash and return an error message. There are alternative freeware 'unified' drivers available but frankly the manufacturer should ensure that everything is functioning well on the offical drivers

- if you are running Quadro SLI with 2x two-slot cards than you would want a PCIe sound card to put in the top PCIe x1 slot rather than the bottom legacy PCI card since this will not allow you to put a two slot card in the bottom PCIe 16x slot. This is pretty obvious but also easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things.

 

I will probably look at one of the Sound Blaster Recon3D PCIe cards now, which were in the HP quick specs. t least there is more hope for compatibility, although he problem is that most of these cards are not available as new anymore and there is always the question of driver support under Windows 10 (seems a lot of manufactures are still struggling with this).

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donald81150
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7:45PM Su. 9-9-18  Hi, I hope this doen't just lie here forgotten...I'm perfectly happy w/ my HPZ600 w/ it's 24GB ram.

      Yet, I was very frustrated the past 2 days as I tried to install my legacy Creative Sound Blaster Audigy2.  it was NVER seen by the bios now in Win7.  Could that have been caused by me NOT turning off the internal audio drivers ????

I have always installed any pierce of hardware & stop Win from installing its drivers & just install ed the 1's that came it.

    Well, Since 2003 when i got the C.S.A2 card--I'm not even sure it still works tho I kept her quielt buried in another HP desktop.

   Today, after making a mess on the kitchen table I decided to scrub the resurrection thoughts & go w/ a 

Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD 2x2 USB Audio Interface

https://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/behringer-u-phoria-umc202hd-audiophile-2x2-24-bit-192-khz-...

For $79.00. Now I can finally mixdown from my Tascam 244neo multiyrack or record onto a DAW when i find the time to learn how to use one. lol

Thanks for being able to read all these.   Regards, Don

 

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BambiBoomZ
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donald81150,

 

Computer sound is an important component, for gaming, even if for watching Youtube videos, background music while working, and workstations, especially mobile, are ubiquitous in recording studios and in on-site recording. I'm surprised that computer forum posts so rarely discuss it. It may be that the internal sound of computer systems has been well devloped and must be satisfactory for most users. 

 

For a long while I used internal sound cards for all those uses mentioned, since an Audiowerk 2 in a 1998 Dell T700R, then changed to a series of M-Audio 2496 and M-Audio 192 (PCI) as those cards have MIDI I/O on a breakout cable. This was used for hundreds of recordings from a Yamaha S90 synthesizer and various live instruments (Peavey VMP 2 tube mic pre to Neumann KM184).  Quite good results.

 

More recently, I  used an ASUS STX Essence PCIe, which has has an excellent headphone amplifer, and that ran to a Logitech Z2300 2.1 speaker system. that combination was the best computer I've had. The STX/ Z2300 is now associated with z420_3  (E5-1620 v2 / 16GB /GTX 660Ti /Samsung 850 EVO). That system however, lacked any recording capabiity, so the current configuration in z620_2 (E5-1680 v2 /64GB / Quadro P2000 or GTX 1070 Ti / HP Z Turbo Drive) using a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 external USB sound interface:

 

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Scarlet2i4G2--focusrite-scarlett-2i4

 

> which in general specification is similar to the Behringer U-Phoria, including MIDI I/O.  The 2i4 runs balanced connections to a pair of Mackie MR824 studio monitors:

 

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MR824--mackie-mr824-8-inch-powered-studio-monitor

 

The setup at present is temporary and I've made only a couple of test recordings from a Studiologic SL88 /MIDI controller, and the sound is very good. For now,  the 2i4 is set on top of z620_2 and with MR824's propped up to the correct level (tweeters level with the ears) , it's a very good sound.

 

External reording interfaces and studio monitors typically have very linear frequency repsonse and not everyone finds the very revealing accuracy of the sound as appealing for listening, but I've learned quite a bit about recording quality and defects in editing and mixing in day to day by listening using the 2i4 /MR824. 

 

These days, for an internal sound card, I'd recommend The Creative Sound Blaster Z:

 

https://us.creative.com/p/sound-blaster/sound-blaster-z

 

And the ASUS STX Essence:

 

https://www.asus.com/us/Sound-Cards/Xonar_Essence_STX

 

https://www.amazon.com/ASUS-Sound-Essence-STX-II/dp/B00ONSBF4K/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=...

 

Those on a budget can have very good results from a used Creative X-FI Titanium (about $30):

 

https://www.amazon.com/Creative-Blaster-Titanium-Internal-SB1270/dp/B0041OUA38

 

I've had two of those, used before the ASUS STX with the Logitech Z2300 :

 

https://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Z-2300-THX-Certified-Speaker-Subwoofer/dp/B0002SQ2P2/ref=sr_1_8?s=el...

 

And the Z533:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Multimedia-Speaker-System-Z533/dp/B011O613W2

 

There is a newer version with Bluetooth speakers.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Powerful-Bluetooth-Speaker-System/dp/B06Y1734MB/ref=sr_1_3?s=electro...

 

I still use a Z533 with z420_1 (E5-1620 /16GB / Firepro V5900 / Samsung 850 EVO).

 

The feature that I appreciate with some of the Logitech systems is the wired remote that can sit next to the computer keyboard, with on/off, volume, bass, and a headphone jack.

 

As spoiled as I've been by good two-channel sound ( Oracle Delphi III /SME V/ Audioquest B200 + McIntosh MR67 > Audio Research SP10 > Audio Research D115 > Vandersteen 3A), the current 2i4 /MR824 setup, perhaps because of the near perfect speaker placement, is very satisfying. I wish I'd used an external interface with powered studio monitors years ago. Besides the excellent sound, the external interface also frees up a PCIe slot.

 

BambiBoomZ

 

 

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