Worthwhile to move from a HDMI output to AVR to a HT sound card and separate amps? - AVS Forum
Forum Jump: 
 
Thread Tools
post #1 of 10 Old 05-08-2013, 08:40 AM - Thread Starter
Member
 
sproulle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: South Jersey
Posts: 57
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Hi folks,

I'm currently running a pretty standard HTPC setup - using a PCIE videocard with HDMI output through an Audyssey AVR to my TV.

I originally went with that setup because it allowed me to hook up multiple HDMI sources. However, since then I started using HDHomerun for the overwhelming majority of HDTV viewing. So I'm no longer really utilizing the HDMI switching on my receiver.

So my question is this - is it worth considering a dedicated, high quality 5.1 sound card in my HTPC, with analog outputs to separate amps? If your HTPC is your only source, could you match or improve audio quality with a nice HT sound card just driving amps directly, and the video output straight to the TV, with no AVR? I know I've seen some ~$150-200 sound cards that have daughterboards with 5.1 channel RCA analog audio outputs that seem like they'd do pretty well.

I know that Audyssey is giving me a lot of nifty room correction features, but is there software available to replicate that type of functionality? Obviously, it's quite a bit more expensive to pick up three stereo power amps to run a 5.1, but I'm wondering if anyone has run a similar setup. It seems a little silly that I'm using some little embedded processor in a fancy AVR to make my audio sound nice when I could just be doing that onboard the HTPC itself.

I'm not looking to switch over to that type of setup, just kinda musing on possibilities for a future setup. A good sound card running analog outputs to a trio of power amps seems like a good setup.
sproulle is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 10 Old 05-08-2013, 08:46 AM
AVS Special Member
 
Sammy2's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Right next to Wineville, CA
Posts: 9,835
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 115 Post(s)
Liked: 189
This is possible but why?

Someone was posting about a room correction software just recently but I didn't follow it much as I am happy with Audessey.

For broadcast TV via the HDHR the audio is DD 5.1 (or lower) so you are going to spend a bunch of money for absolutely no gain if you already have an AVR with Audessey.

Sammy2 is offline  
post #3 of 10 Old 05-08-2013, 08:59 AM
AVS Special Member
 
Foxbat121's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: VA
Posts: 9,907
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 168 Post(s)
Liked: 222
Inside a HTPC, it is the the worst environment for any sort of analog circuitary to run cleaningly because of all the high speed digital circuitary. A high end sound card needs a lot of specialty circuitary to just eliminate this high noise floor, something that would be easier in a carefully designed receiver. Then there is the quality of DACs that affect the analog audio quality. Good DAC chips aren't cheap.
Foxbat121 is offline  
post #4 of 10 Old 05-08-2013, 09:31 AM
Member
 
edyohome's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: McKinney TX
Posts: 168
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 14
Foxbat hit it on the head. I ran 5.1 out of my HTPC (albeit from the motherboard audio not discrete audio card) via analog to a 5 channel amp for a while. The noise from the motherboard never could be eliminated. I had to abandon and go back to SPDIF out to receiver. I suppose if you could get a good enough audio card that had great isolation it might could work but you'd likely end up spending more than just using a receiver. It would be great if someone could come out with a power amp that had the DAC built in and could take the HDMI or SPDIF input and convert it there to analog and out to speakers but through my search I didn't find such animal. A company called Simplifi came close but actually what they had was a Creative brand sound card mounted inside of their power amp chassis. The card still was connected analog internally to the amp stages and then output to speakers. You just connected USB between PC and amplifier. I interpreted this as technically the same thing as using an onboard audio card with analog outs and would be no better than what I had done.

Give it a try and see if you can get the noise floor down. It may work for you. It didn't for me. I just wanted to eliminate one more box from my programmable remote macros and thought it would be more convenient to just have a TV, PC and amp. Didn't work that way for me. YMMV.

EZed
edyohome is online now  
post #5 of 10 Old 05-08-2013, 10:07 AM - Thread Starter
Member
 
sproulle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: South Jersey
Posts: 57
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Hmmm, good responses.

I'm not looking to do this in the immediate future or anything like that. I wonder how well some of those $150-200 sound cards do in terms of noise - I'd hope they'd be significantly better than onboard sound, but I haven't really seen any reviewed with a power amps and good quality HT speakers, only with crappy 5.1 computer speaker setups.

I'm certainly not trying to re-invent the wheel, and I'm currently quite happy with my living room HT setup and my ~75wpc AVR, I was just thinking along the lines of if I ever wanted to go with a dedicated HT in the future, maybe I'd save some money and complexity by using a good quality soundcard to provide analog out to power amps, rather than a high end AVR or processor/amp separates.

Maybe external sound cards might alleviate some of the noise issues, but most of those seem to be oriented for studio use, and I don't know whether you'd be able to configure a card that's really intended to have 3-4 separate stereo outputs for different mixes to function as a single 5.1 or 7.1 output.
sproulle is offline  
post #6 of 10 Old 05-08-2013, 10:30 AM
Member
 
edyohome's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: McKinney TX
Posts: 168
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 14
MSI used to produce the 5.1 DIVA add on for one of their motherboards which was 5channel amplification inside of the PC onboard the audio card but it suffered from reliability issues and was discontinued. Was a good idea but they never could get the crate off the ground.

EZed
edyohome is online now  
post #7 of 10 Old 05-08-2013, 10:46 AM
AVS Special Member
 
Dark_Slayer's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 2,549
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 179 Post(s)
Liked: 304
Quote:
Originally Posted by sproulle View Post

Hmmm, good responses.

I'm not looking to do this in the immediate future or anything like that. I wonder how well some of those $150-200 sound cards do in terms of noise - I'd hope they'd be significantly better than onboard sound, but I haven't really seen any reviewed with a power amps and good quality HT speakers, only with crappy 5.1 computer speaker setups.

I'm certainly not trying to re-invent the wheel, and I'm currently quite happy with my living room HT setup and my ~75wpc AVR, I was just thinking along the lines of if I ever wanted to go with a dedicated HT in the future, maybe I'd save some money and complexity by using a good quality soundcard to provide analog out to power amps, rather than a high end AVR or processor/amp separates.

There is somewhat of an ongoing saga regarding the "best quality" sound from a computer, there are some things that may need a little clarification

Foxbat and edyohome are absolutely right in regards to internal DACs. However, the workaround you could use if you *really* want to go this direction is simple. Use an external USB DAC. A high-end external USB sound card (Xonar Essence One) is as much as a good network connected receiver but much less flexible

My reasoning follows that I'd never spend that to have a DAC for a single machine when I could get good quality DACs in a Denon/Yamaha/Onkyo AVR for the same price and get more flexibility like network connectivity and multizone playback with tons of input

Also, when you leave the music discussion and enter the video playback discussion, it gets to be way more complicated than I'd care for in order to let the htpc "do-it-all"

In this regard, the AVR is still king. As to onboard Realtek DACs, their quality can be considered irrelevant if you're setup appropriately. In essence, the best bang for your buck is HDMI input on a receiver and putting the money into it so that you're happy with it's DAC. Then just keep your signals all digital up to the receiver and let it do what it's designed for
Dark_Slayer is online now  
post #8 of 10 Old 05-08-2013, 11:06 AM
Advanced Member
 
kemist1117's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 540
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 12
I have tested this to some extent.

I was previously running a modded X-FI that had the opamps replaced with high quality opamps and an upgraded capacitor, using the analog outs to a low/mid range Denon receiver from a few years back.

At some point the card died and was replaced with another card using DTS connect out to the receiver.

While this is not quite apples to apples, as HDMI allows for high bit rate audio while DTS does not, the sound was decidedly better using the upgraded X-Fi analog solution so its not out of the question that you can get high quality audio from a soundcard solution, though the whole solution will definitely be more expensive than a comparable receiver setup, esp. if you include room correction software.

Regarding audyssey like solutions for PC; there are a number of options available including audyssey (ARC system 2, only corrects in stereo however). I am making use of Dirac's solution which is one of the more simpler to implement solutions, however it is also quite spendy. There are other options such as audiolense but these require a convolver. Jriver includes a built in convolver and can work with it, however, i am not aware of any (cheap?) stand alone convolver solutions that would apply to all audio output through the pc. One great thing about dirac is it installs as a virtual soundcard and corrects all audio passing through the system as long as it is not protected (i.e. will not correct blu-ray's played through approved software such as TMT5).
kemist1117 is offline  
post #9 of 10 Old 05-08-2013, 12:26 PM
Advanced Member
 
Ruiner's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 530
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3 Post(s)
Liked: 18
This is probably only worthwhile if you already have the amps, and they're better than what you'd get in a modern AVR.
Ruiner is offline  
post #10 of 10 Old 05-09-2013, 01:03 PM
AVS Special Member
 
jimwhite's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Saint Petersburg, FL USA
Posts: 5,372
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dark_Slayer View Post

There is somewhat of an ongoing saga regarding the "best quality" sound from a computer, there are some things that may need a little clarification

Foxbat and edyohome are absolutely right in regards to internal DACs.

I get a chuckle every time I see this.... go ahead and open up that modern HDMI AVR.... you'll see a lot more digital circuitry than analog!!

Well behaving Internal Audio Cards have been around for years. Check out the Lynx cards as well as several of the Asus Xonar's and the Creative X-Fi.

Jim White
St. Petersburg, FL
jimwhite is offline  
Reply Home Theater Computers

User Tag List

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page


Forum Jump: 

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off