Best soundcard for my HTPC - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 35 Old 09-30-2008, 12:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello,

I just bought a Yamaha V663 and have my PC connected to it via an optical cable from the onboard sound. This doesn't provide a 5.1 surround option however and I have heard that the Auzentech Xplosion Cinema 7.1 is a good solution for the price.

Is that the best card in the sub $100 range to play games and watch movies over an optical cable to the V663? It only supports EAX 2, but is that really an issue?

Thanks for the help.
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post #2 of 35 Old 09-30-2008, 01:28 PM
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I bought the non-fatal1ty Creative X-Fi Titanium PCI-e. Same tech as the Azuntech IIRC. It's a good card. You don't need the extra crap on the fatal1ty card.
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post #3 of 35 Old 09-30-2008, 08:26 PM
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Use your analog outputs/inputs, those allow surround sound at better sound quality than what can be compressed to fit over optical. Or, if you have an HDMI port to spare, you can use one of the newer Radeons to run multhcannel PCM though. As for the newer EAX stuff, it is put to good use by some games, but you aren't really missing out on much without it.
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post #4 of 35 Old 10-01-2008, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the responses!

@ kylebisme

So you actually don't even recommend a soundcard? My onboard audio is fine?

Thanks for the advice!
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post #5 of 35 Old 10-01-2008, 11:46 AM
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kylebisme was saying if you have a new Radeon card, you can run the HDMI to your receiver and get sound through it. I haven't tried it - I have a 4850, but no HDMI receiver. You can get a 4670 or even like a 4550 for less than $100 that does that if you're not gonna use the PC to play games.

I happen to think onboard audio is worthless, but thats just been my experience.
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post #6 of 35 Old 10-01-2008, 01:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PannTher View Post

So you actually don't even recommend a soundcard? My onboard audio is fine?

Really I was just saying that there is no reason to be looking for a card to do DDL and/or DTS Connect, since you can get better sound quality to your receiver though an HDMI port or the multichannel analog inputs rather than compressing the surround sound down to fit over optical. Those features are really only useful for those receivers which don't support uncompressed inputs.

I don't know what onboard audio solution you havve, but the last few onboard audio solutions I've tried have done a respectable job, so I recomend starting there. I use a X-Fi myself, with the analog outputs. I got it mostly for Alchemy, which lets old DirectSound game to run in surround sound in Vista by converting the calls to OpenAL. However, your best bet is to start with some analog connections from your onboard, or HDMI audio if you have a newer Radeon and a free HDMI input on the receiver, and see how that suits your needs before shopping for a new card.
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post #7 of 35 Old 10-01-2008, 03:11 PM
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Look at the Xonar D1 (pci) or the DX (PCIE mini. Easily under a hundred and better DAC's then a xtrememusic fatility.
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post #8 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 05:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the responses!

I have a Gigabyte GA-P965-DS3P mainboard providing HD audio. I have an optical cable connected to the optical input on the receiver.

But to get surround, I would connect a cable to the front speakers output on the mainboard and then into any red and white inputs on the receiver?

I have an NVIDIA 8800GT as a video card so am not really interested in another card.

I really don't know what the easiest and cheapest solution is.

I have heard that the Auzen Cinema sound card is good for around $80, but that outputs surround over optical. That's not a good idea?

Thanks for all the help.
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post #9 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 07:39 AM
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so analog outs to my recievers inputs would be alot better quality from my Auzentech Prelude? ? Interesting, as of right now I have been running optical cable to my reciever for the last 9 months. So anyone actually do this and can tell a noticable difference in sound quality?

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post #10 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 12:21 PM
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3 sets of analog outs - 1 for FR/FL, 1 for SR/SL, 1 for center/sub. Or 4 sets of analog outs if the receiver has 7.1 analog ins, with the additional for RR/RL.

What they are saying is that using analogs for these will give you the full 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound without sacrificing the sound quality that optical would have, thanks to optical needing compression to get the 5.1 over it.

I have an older CreativeLabs Audigy2 - it suffers from a fault that the analog outs sub channel is at headphone level, not line level, so in essence the sub channel is quiet. When watching DVD's I flip to the digital out and use DD or dts to get the sub channel. I haven't heard, but here's to hoping that the newer Creative soundcards have fixed this issue. Anyone know for certain?

THe reason I'm sticking with creative is EAX in gaming. Though many feel EAX is not worth the marriage to creative, to each his own on that one.
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post #11 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PannTher View Post

But to get surround, I would connect a cable to the front speakers output on the mainboard and then into any red and white inputs on the receiver?

Nah, your receiver has a section of six RCA inputs marked as "muti ch input", and you'll need 3 stereo minijack to RCA cables to connect to those from the front, surround, and sub/center outputs on your sound device.

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Originally Posted by WiseGuy2k7 View Post

So anyone actually do this and can tell a noticable difference in sound quality?

Yeah, not with a Prelude, but with a Soundstorm board back in the day when I first moved my PC to the living room. More recently I've also compared HD movie surround sound compressed to DD and DTS by PowerDVD Ultra to multichannel analog output using my X-Fi. In both cases, uncompressed analog output makes for a notable improvement in surround sound quality over optical, and doesn't make any perceivable impact on the fidelity of two channel sources.

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Originally Posted by GKMad View Post

I haven't heard, but here's to hoping that the newer Creative soundcards have fixed this issue. Anyone know for certain?

Sub tests on my X-Fi boom the sub just as loud over analog as they do bitstreaming over digital.
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post #12 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 12:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Wow, thanks so much for the response.

I see the multi chanel input you're talking about. So essentially, I would have 3 cables with a mini jack on one end and the normal RCA cables on the other? So 3 outputs going to 6 inputs on the receiver?

Thanks again for the help.
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post #13 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 01:11 PM
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Are people actually saying that a crappy headphone jack split to two RCA, then most likely extended by another RCA to RCA is gonna offer better fidelity than 5.1 across optical?

I've been very happy with the Auzentech Prelude I run. Has performed flawless and EAX support in games turns on and I assume is working. Very nice having one optical cable to my receiver. Fidelity is good and well, I doubt I'd ever notice any flaws from optical compression on my somewhat budget 5.1 receiver / speaker setup.
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post #14 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 01:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cohagen View Post

Are people actually saying that a crappy headphone jack split to two RCA, then most likely extended by another RCA to RCA is gonna offer better fidelity than 5.1 across optical?

I've been very happy with the Auzentech Prelude I run. Has performed flawless and EAX support in games turns on and I assume is working. Very nice having one optical cable to my receiver. Fidelity is good and well, I doubt I'd ever notice any flaws from optical compression on my somewhat budget 5.1 receiver / speaker setup.

Well, Auzentech doesn't use crappy jacks. And the X-Meridian I have kicks the crap out of my Denon 2105 when fed analog. It's mostly a comparison of DACs and Opamps. Either you can put in a quality analog out card and allow those two steps to occur there. Or you can let your AVR perform the work. For most people a $200 sound card dedicated to those two steps will do much better than their $500 AVR.

I wouldn't however recommend relying on the analog-out built into the motherboard. Those are pretty much just junk.
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post #15 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 01:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Naylia View Post

I wouldn't however recommend relying on the analog-out built into the motherboard. Those are pretty much just junk.

In my experience onboard sound is beyond horrendous. When exactly did it get the reputation of being "good enough"? I mean is this is the same crowd that yells about crappy 128kbps mp3 and iTMS... then pipes their FLAC 6000kbps files through onboard audio?

Plus, its worth mentioning that most of the work in an onboard setup is being done by the CPU... like a WinModem...
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post #16 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 02:00 PM
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Yep PannTher, you've got it.

Cohagen, the headphone jacks are fine for carrying the line level output from PC sound devices to a receiver of a reasonable distance away without any appreciable loss. I use 2' minijack to RCA cables myself, basic RadioShack fair, no extensions. However, I doubt extending them a few feet would be an issue, and you can always use higher quality cabling for longer runs as needed.

As for whether or not you'll be able to notice the lack of compression, you could use a stereo source to test. Just take a reasonably high quality stereo sorce such as a proper CD or better, use your soundcards encoder to pass that by bitstream, then turn off the encoding and pass it as stereo PCM. If you can appreciate the difference in that, I highly recommend running a couple extra cables to get that same improvement in fidelity with surround sound. On my Denon 2805 and Klipsch RF-35 setup it is well worth the hassle of running a couple extra cables.
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post #17 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 02:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by number1laing View Post

In my experience onboard sound is beyond horrendous. When exactly did it get the reputation of being "good enough"? I mean is this is the same crowd that yells about crappy 128kbps mp3 and iTMS... then pipes their FLAC 6000kbps files through onboard audio?


Plus, its worth mentioning that most of the work in an onboard setup is being done by the CPU... like a WinModem...

I've heard some awful onboard audio back in the day, but intergrated solutions have come a long way since then. At least the stuff from Intel and Realtek I've heard lately do a notably better job than DTS compression, even my old Soundstorm board did better with analogs than the DD Live encoding. As for running off the CPU, even solutions which are completely software driven are hardly a drop in the bucket for modren CPUs.
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post #18 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 02:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Ok, very different opinions makes me confused... ha ha

Thanks a lot though!
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post #19 of 35 Old 10-02-2008, 02:35 PM
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I find the best thing to do is try your onboard audio, via analog or SPDIF or HDMI depending on your options for connections and listen to it. Use it for a month. Then use that to inform what needs you have to satisfy with a sound card. Figure out the limitations of your current system based upon your actual usage and then solve that problem. Rather than just dropping money on a card with a lot of features you'll never use.
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post #20 of 35 Old 10-03-2008, 07:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Good advice.. thanks..

I'll try the rca over multichanel for DTS and DD gaming..

For normal stereo as it stands now.. I notice a considerable difference between optical and rca... but maybe it's my mind.

We'll see how it plays out.. thanks!
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post #21 of 35 Old 10-03-2008, 07:22 AM
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It won't be DTS or DD over the analog connections, that is the point of having the analog connections, to avoid the compression needed to fit surround sound over an optical connection. As for the difference in sound quality you are noting with stereo sources, it could be poor DACs and/or poorly isolated circuitry, but the higher end Gigabyte boards I've used recently have been pretty good.
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post #22 of 35 Old 10-04-2008, 08:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks again for the post.

I think I'm going to go with an Auzentech card as the surround sound from the RCA cables really didn't sound all that good.

Maybe it's the cables... but I figure the card will sound amazing and I can use it for years to come.
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post #23 of 35 Old 10-08-2008, 12:45 PM - Thread Starter
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So I got the Auzentech... I'd have to say the difference is night and day... incredible really.

Thanks for all the help and replies!
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post #24 of 35 Old 10-08-2008, 01:17 PM
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Glad to hear it worked out well. Which model did you select?
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post #25 of 35 Old 10-08-2008, 04:58 PM
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Ok so what is the bandwidth per channel of the Dolby Live signal from the optical cable to the receiver? People are saying it is compressed? My receiver is showing 44.1khz if I recall. Is that not CD quality sound if it is 16 bit?

Or do people like the analog cables because they prefer the card to do the DA conversion?
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post #26 of 35 Old 10-09-2008, 09:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Hmm, how would I check that on the Yamaha V663? ha ha
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post #27 of 35 Old 10-09-2008, 09:22 AM
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Your reciever should show that it's getting a Dolby Digital signal, and possibly the bitrate. If it is showing a sample rate like 44.1khz, then you don't have DDL encoing enabled, but rather are just passing stereo PCM.

I recomend trying analog output from your new card as well, while your motherboard audio apparently wasn't doing a good job with it, an Auzentech card should.
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post #28 of 35 Old 10-09-2008, 11:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Yes, it's showing Dolby Digital over optical. The surround sound demo is accurate as well. Truly awesome.

Thanks again!
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post #29 of 35 Old 10-10-2008, 05:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kylebisme View Post

Your reciever should show that it's getting a Dolby Digital signal, and possibly the bitrate. If it is showing a sample rate like 44.1khz, then you don't have DDL encoing enabled, but rather are just passing stereo PCM.

The receiver shows dolby and the 44.1 khz. I did a search and I think I found that each channel in Dolby Live is 44.1 khz. Can someone point me to a document explaining how optical 5.1 dolby live is crap and compressed? I find it hard to believe.
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post #30 of 35 Old 10-10-2008, 10:50 AM
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My receiver shows Dolby when I send it a stereo PCM signal as well, because I have it set to do Dobly PLII on stereo sources. That is different that Dolby Digital though. And no one said DD is crap, but it is lossy compression which is a step down from lossless audio. If really you wasn't conformation of that fact, I recommend you try searching again, I'm not going to go hunting for sources in the hopes of proving to you something you clearly don't want to belive.
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