Small 5.1 optical in Amp to Hook to PC sound card - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 02-15-2012, 12:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Six or seven years ago I bought a computer sound system in a box from Sound Blaster (Cambridge Brand I think). It consisted of a mini-amp, 4 low end speakers and a small sub woofer. I hooked the optical out to the mini amp and got some really decent sound for a PC. About a year ago my mini amp fried out. I looked to by a new one at the time but it was discontinued.

Then it came to me that I had a very nice Denon AVR 3803 in storage because I needed to buy a new high end receiver with HDMI for my HDTV. So I lugged the receiver up to my home office and started using it as my amp. I also decided it was overkill for the crappy sound blaster speakers so I moved my home entertainment system speakers to my computer and replaced those with Quad-Lite speakers at the entertainment system.

Now my home entertainment center sounds better than ever and my tiny 10 x 10 home office really rocks out using the PC soundcard+Denon amp.

The negative is my Denon receiver is huge and has tons of features I don’t need any more. The positive is it was a sunk cost sitting in my basement store room and sounds great. Plus I happened to make a decent spot for it so it does not get in the way too much.

Now my question. My son is turning 17 in a few months and I would like to set his bedroom PC up with a better sound system then the cheap junk he has now.

I have been searching for a small 5.1 ‘amp only’ with optical in that could drive a decent set of speakers. I don’t expect anything super small but maybe half or a quarter the size of my Denon without all the bells and whistles.

I have found a few extreme high end amps without optical in like a Rotel RMB-1076 or Marantz MM7055. However, I really can’t find anything in a more reasonable ~$300 range with optical in to hook the sound card to the amp.

Anyway, I figured the experts here would know of something that might do the trick. Maybe a smaller size all in one type receiver? I am surprised there isn’t at least of small selection of PC sound card to amps on the market. In my case, I have found that even though my home theater has a great sound system, I rarely use it to play music except for parties. 90% of my music listening is done in my office while I am working or screwing around on the web.

Ideas anyone?

"It's not a lie if you believe it's the truth" --- George Costanza
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post #2 of 8 Old 02-15-2012, 12:18 PM
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Maybe I missed it in the post, but why not just get a better set of 5.1 computer speakers if space is the issue? By wanting an optical input, you're already asking for more functionality than "just an amp" would provide.

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things I've learned here:
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post #3 of 8 Old 02-15-2012, 02:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Because even the best 5.1 PC speaker systems are pretty bad. This is what he has now and the aim is to improve sound. My old Cambridge Sound Blaster system was the best 5.1 PC system I could find and the sound was no where near what I have now using my Denon AVR.

I didn't know amps did not have optical inputs, I never owned a dedicated amp. I was thinking amp to keep it simple and not pay for all the bells and whistles that aren't needed. But I am willing to go with a smaller quality receiver then my 60 lb Denon AVR.

My goal: Decent PC Amp/receiver then cobble together a 5.1 system with some of the many speakers I have laying around. Then he could upgrade the speakers as he moves forward.

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post #4 of 8 Old 02-15-2012, 04:22 PM - Thread Starter
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It looks like the Logitech Surround Sound Speaker System Z906 is the best PC sound in a box system. It is similar to the system I had years ago.

I suppose it is ok sounding and easy to get up and running but it is not really anything that can be built upon and upgraded through the rest of high school and college.

Back in the 70/80s when I was a kid, we all had our stereo systems in our bedrooms and would get the best receiver we could afford and then trade up speakers, turntables etc.. until we had a really nice set up. I guess those were simple times.

Nowadays, the computer dominates the bedroom and is the new 'receiver', it has all music on it plus access to millions of tunes through various services. Yet it seems computer sound systems where most all home music is listened to are neglected with inferior sound systems.

I guess there is more to do with a computer than the stereos we had in the olden days, but still, I would like to get him on the path to hearing and appreciating decent sound.

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post #5 of 8 Old 02-15-2012, 04:38 PM
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I see. Makes sense that computer speakers won't be likely to give you the sound that you want.

The optical output and 5.1 is the issue here, because you need something to process that digital signal into something the amp can use (not to mention that you'd need a 5-channel amp w/ some sort of bass management on top of that). I use an onkyo receiver for my computer setup. It takes a dolby digital live signal from the PC, decodes it, amplifies it and then pushes it out to a 5.1 speaker setup. I don't know of anything other than a home theater receiver that would do all of what you need in one box, but there are definitely some 5.1 receivers that have a smaller footprint than others.

edit: if it makes you feel better, incremental upgraditis is still alive... I think.

HTPC always in progess...
things I've learned here:
"the sound of a power cord" is BS.
turn your center speaker 90 degrees.
avoid women who require WAF in a HT.
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post #6 of 8 Old 02-15-2012, 04:50 PM
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I'd get a used receiver. Even an old cheap 50 watt will have optical in, and be more than enough.
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post #7 of 8 Old 02-16-2012, 12:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyleron View Post

I'd get a used receiver. Even an old cheap 50 watt will have optical in, and be more than enough.

Probably the way to go.

"It's not a lie if you believe it's the truth" --- George Costanza
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post #8 of 8 Old 02-16-2012, 01:37 PM
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Check out the Marantz NR1402. Nothing fancy, but it is small and fits your requirements. Not exactly small, but smaller than most. A cute little guy, I saw one in Crutchfield last week.

Another I found is the Sherwood R-904N, quite impressive for its small size.

Both in the neighborhood of $400 new though.

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