Originally Posted by Smegger
I don't usually go off on tirades but.....
Let's clear up a couple of things ok?
SPDIF via an optical connection is absolutely the best way to transfer your DIGITAL audio(and in a pc it is ALL digital) to an external processor.
Anyone recommending people go out and buy a sound card, of ANY description(well except for those that want DD or DTS encoding) and use the spdif on that instead of the onboard is a little confused, or works for Creative.
Why anyone would choose to use analogue, unless they had no choice, from a pc is beyond all logic.
Remember, simplicity NOT layers of complexity is the path to audio heaven.
Multiple conversions (d-a, a-d, d-a) only serve to lower the quality.
Don't believe me?
Test it yourself, install that $700(or more) sound card and simply change the connection from it, to onboard.
I dare anyone to do it double blind and tell the difference.
Use any test equipment you like, IT can't tell either.
It's all zero's and one's remember, not a two in sight.
Now if your connection is analogue THEN we have a different story.....
Actually, if you want to clear up a few things...
Depending on distance traveled, and cables in use... Coaxial SPDIF is absolutely the BEST way to carry digital audio from a PC to a receiver. Optical requires an additional conversion from electrical digital to optical digital, and then back again. This could induce additional bit errors, delay, and timing drift. Optical is the best solution if you are going a longer distance (over about 5 meters) but under that, with a well shielded cable and components, the coax will be the best quality.
I will agree that if all you are doing is spdif output, the onboard is the cheapest solution, as long as you aren't doing any gaming. If you are doing gaming, then a case CAN be made for a secondary PCI based sound card. The X-Meridian, for example, can encode game surround sound into DTS on the fly, and send it down the SPDIF to your receiver. NO onboard sound chip can currently do this. This gives the ability to have 5.1 sound for games instead of just movies (the onboard via spdif can only do 5.1 if it's originally encoded into AC3 or DTS, everything else is 2.0).
As to why using the analog connections from your PC to receiver/speakers? Same situation, if you are a gamer, the only way to get surround sound from your PC to the speakers is via analog (unless you have the DTS on the fly thing). SPDIF will ONLY carry pre-encoded AC3 or DTS 5.1, all other sound is 2.0.
Finally, before you start making declaritive statements that there is no difference between onboard and pci based audio cards in a spdif scenario... Especially in optical spdif transport, it's quite possible that the pci based onboard could be higher quality than onboard is. Cheaper optical transmitters and receivers can cause some substantial dispersion and frequency drift if lower quality components are used. I'm not saying that onboard uses these cheaper components, or that pci based uses more expensive components, I'm just saying that it IS possible, and it wouldn't surprise me if this was so. Your typical layman might not hear the difference, or notice it unless it was pointed out to them, but a serious audiophile might, and test equipment DEFINATELY could.