Question for those of you who get 7.1 sound out of Windows games - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 04-13-2013, 10:24 AM - Thread Starter
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For a long time I have used a Dolby Digital Live sound card, that takes whatever DirectSound mix a game has and converts it to AC3 on a coaxial digital output. This works fine for my old computer and old 5.1 sound system. I've had success under both WinXP and Win7. (Note that this system has an older 3d card that does NOT support HDMI, so I use DVI + the sound card's SPDIF port.)

I have a new 7.1 sound system in another room and I will be building a new Win7 gaming rig to accompany it. I'm also deeply confused about what the best way is to get 7.1 sound out of Win7. My past experience has been that you needed either a rat's nest of discrete analog cables or sound hardware that produces a multichannel AC3 or DTS bitstream.

But I know that Windows 7 lets you choose from a variety of muli-channel speaker setups in the control panel, and people seem to be saying that now all you need is your motherboard's on-board sound, and you can get multi-channel surround sound magic with just the basic OS features. Can you do this over the motherboard's SPDIF port, or must you use a video card that supports all the right HDMI+audio voodoo?

If anyone can demystify this topic for me, I would be hugely appreciative.

ricemanva posted some great stuff in another thread (http://www.avsforum.com/t/1466936/pc-gaming-surround-sound-card-advice) but I'm still quite unsure about what path the sound signal takes--SPDIF or HDMI. If you must have sound coming over HDMI then I assume that, as with all things Windows, some hardware/drivers will be easier to get working that others.
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post #2 of 7 Old 04-13-2013, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by horseflesh View Post

For a long time I have used a Dolby Digital Live sound card, that takes whatever DirectSound mix a game has and converts it to AC3 on a coaxial digital output. This works fine for my old computer and old 5.1 sound system. I've had success under both WinXP and Win7. (Note that this system has an older 3d card that does NOT support HDMI, so I use DVI + the sound card's SPDIF port.)

I have a new 7.1 sound system in another room and I will be building a new Win7 gaming rig to accompany it. I'm also deeply confused about what the best way is to get 7.1 sound out of Win7. My past experience has been that you needed either a rat's nest of discrete analog cables or sound hardware that produces a multichannel AC3 or DTS bitstream.

But I know that Windows 7 lets you choose from a variety of muli-channel speaker setups in the control panel, and people seem to be saying that now all you need is your motherboard's on-board sound, and you can get multi-channel surround sound magic with just the basic OS features. Can you do this over the motherboard's SPDIF port, or must you use a video card that supports all the right HDMI+audio voodoo?

If anyone can demystify this topic for me, I would be hugely appreciative.

ricemanva posted some great stuff in another thread (http://www.avsforum.com/t/1466936/pc-gaming-surround-sound-card-advice) but I'm still quite unsure about what path the sound signal takes--SPDIF or HDMI. If you must have sound coming over HDMI then I assume that, as with all things Windows, some hardware/drivers will be easier to get working that others.

I tried multichannel via the motherboard's optical, but found it was limited to stereo. I think it depends on the mobo chipset.

Multichannel audio (7.1) via my Nvidia video card's HDMI was easy... Pretty much automatic through Win7/8.


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post #3 of 7 Old 04-13-2013, 11:03 AM - Thread Starter
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That is good to know, thanks.
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post #4 of 7 Old 04-15-2013, 08:40 AM
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You can use SPDIF (optical or coaxial) to get a 5.1 stream from your PC but your sound card needs to support Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect to encode the game's audio into the 5.1 stream. You said that you have a Dolby Digital Live card so that is one way to get surround sound but it's limited to 5.1 surround.

For 7.1, you need to either use 4 separate analog connections (I use these) to the direct multi-channel input on a receiver or use HDMI from your video card.

For HDMI audio to work, you need to have your monitor connected via HDMI to the receiver as well because of HDCP crap that requires the monitor to be on the other end to activate the functionality.

Also, make sure Windows has your receiver properly configured in the audio playback devices. Right-click the speaker at the bottom-right and select 'playback devices' and then make sure your HDMI device is set as the default playback device and that it is configured for the number of speakers connected to the receiver. When a game starts up, it checks Windows' speaker configuration so it knows how many speakers it can output to.

ALSO, some games won't even use more than 5 channels so you might sometimes notice that you're not getting 7.1 surround; there's nothing you can do about that except to use matrixing (don't) to fill those speakers. If the game isn't programmed to use 8 channels then it won't.
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post #5 of 7 Old 04-15-2013, 10:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks a bunch for the overview! I definitely want to do sound over HDMI so I am not limited to 5.1, and so I do not have to use a separate sound card. I'll have HDMI from the PC to the receiver to the display, so hopefully HDCP will be happy.

It has been a long time since I had to buy a GPU... is audio over HDMI kind of a given on a high end card these days, or do you need to do homework to pick one that does it well?
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post #6 of 7 Old 04-15-2013, 10:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by horseflesh View Post

Thanks a bunch for the overview! I definitely want to do sound over HDMI so I am not limited to 5.1, and so I do not have to use a separate sound card. I'll have HDMI from the PC to the receiver to the display, so hopefully HDCP will be happy.

It has been a long time since I had to buy a GPU... is audio over HDMI kind of a given on a high end card these days, or do you need to do homework to pick one that does it well?

I've had good luck with the Nvidia drivers and audio. I've connected my video card (GTX 670) to a stereo TV and a 7.1 Denon receiver with HDCP via HDMI with no problems, pretty much automatic. Window recognizes how many audio channels are connected and remaps the sounds accordingly.

Not sure how high-end you want to go, but I've read in another thread that the GTX 650 ti BOOST card is a great bang-for-buck card, so that might be a good starting point. Around $170 not on sale. Be sure to look at the Boost edition. If you are wanting more power and don't mind spending extra, then 660ti and 670 are good performance steps up. Beyond that you are getting into really expensive cards.

Someone else can comment on the Radeon cards.

Good luck!
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post #7 of 7 Old 04-15-2013, 10:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Very helpful, thanks!
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