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What's required to play a good/clean source?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I've tried searching about this subject before but the amount of info and articles out there can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing. I've also recently moved to a new apartment and have internet access issues so I can't even do much research for the next couple of weeks. So I apologize if this question has been asked a million times already.

I plan to mostly listen to music using my PC (2500K cpu, Asus Maximums IV Gene-Z mobo, Win7-64bit ..etc) and sometimes on my PS3. I'm currently using the internal sound card of my motherboard which is connected to my AVR via optical cable.

So, what do I need to listen to truly high quality audio? Stuff like:

- Do I need a dedicated sound card?
- DAC
- Which Audio formats are considered as good sources, i.e I know MP3 is considered to be bad, FLAC is supposed to be good but which FLAC quality should I use and what other formats are also good?
- Does different audio player softwares make a difference? I use WinAmp.
- Which cables should I use for the connections between PC and AVR.
- Does wireless streaming lower the audio quality compared to cables?

Finally, will quality CD players or even turntables produce much better quality audio than what I can achieve with my PC + proper hardware (like DACs)?

Any help would be appreciated.
post #2 of 7
Quote:
I'm currently using the internal sound card of my motherboard which is connected to my AVR via optical cable.
In that case, you're good to go.
Quote:
- Do I need a dedicated sound card?
- DAC
No and no. Your AVR DAC is doing the work, and undoubtedly doing it just fine.
Quote:
- Which Audio formats are considered as good sources, i.e I know MP3 is considered to be bad, FLAC is supposed to be good but which FLAC quality should I use and what other formats are also good?
FLAC is FLAC. It's lossless compressed, so it's as good as CD. MP3 quality depends on the bitrate you use. iTunes and Amazon sell music encoded at 256 kbps. At that bitrate, you would be very, very hardpressed to hear any real difference between that and the original CD. Use FLAC if you've got the disk space, otherwise use MP3.
Quote:
- Does different audio player softwares make a difference? I use WinAmp.
Generally this is more about convenience and capabilities than sound quality.
Quote:
- Which cables should I use for the connections between PC and AVR.
The one you're using now.
Quote:
- Does wireless streaming lower the audio quality compared to cables?
Not as long as your wireless method can transmit lossless audio, which something as simple as an Airport Express does.
Quote:
Finally, will quality CD players or even turntables produce much better quality audio than what I can achieve with my PC + proper hardware (like DACs)?
No—and you already have the proper hardware.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for the very detailed response, I really appreciate it!

I'm wondering though, why do people use ASUS sonar sound cards or DACs when a simple internal sound card (which many people consider as bad) is enough to get the job done? I always thought that people who spend on such components are already connecting it to an AVR or something like that.

Also, many video cards these days pass uncompressed audio through their HDMI output, is it preferable to use that instead when I have access to it (I'm waiting for the next gen Nvidia cards)?
post #4 of 7
Quote:
I'm wondering though, why do people use ASUS sonar sound cards or DACs when a simple internal sound card (which many people consider as bad) is enough to get the job done? I always thought that people who spend on such components are already connecting it to an AVR or something like that.
Lots of people do lots of things for lots of reasons. Many of them probably believe they are getting better sound that way. And human hearing is pretty suggestible, so it's easy to think you're hearing something better, especially after you've plunked down some serious money for it. But the only thing in the chain that could realistically affect sound quality would be the DAC, and these days even DACs are pretty much indistinguishable, in an objective comparison.
Quote:
Also, many video cards these days pass uncompressed audio through their HDMI output, is it preferable to use that instead when I have access to it (I'm waiting for the next gen Nvidia cards)?
No, and there's a small possibility that it could actually be worse. (Emphasis on small.)
post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by metallicaband View Post

Thank you so much for the very detailed response, I really appreciate it!
I'm wondering though, why do people use ASUS sonar sound cards or DACs when a simple internal sound card (which many people consider as bad) is enough to get the job done? I always thought that people who spend on such components are already connecting it to an AVR or something like that.
Also, many video cards these days pass uncompressed audio through their HDMI output, is it preferable to use that instead when I have access to it (I'm waiting for the next gen Nvidia cards)?

I use a Xonar STX. But I use it for the analog out to run to my HK 3390 stereo receiver (no optical or HDMI inputs) and the headphone output for good headphones. For analog output, it is very good.

But you are right. It doesn't make sense to use it for the optical out, especially if you have HDMI out of your graphics card. If I switched to an AVR over the HK stereo receiver, I'd sell my STX in a heartbeat and just use the HDMI out on my EVGA card.
post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by metallicaband View Post

Also, many video cards these days pass uncompressed audio through their HDMI output, is it preferable to use that instead when I have access to it (I'm waiting for the next gen Nvidia cards)?

I send my audio through my video card's hdmi port to my receiver and use my receiver to convert the audio to analog. From what I've read. that is the way to do it. Digital is able to pass through Windows to the video card to the hdmi cable uninterrupted.

Have your receiver convert the digital audio to analog. I never have Windows decode and I never have a computer's sound card decode... I'd much rather have a dedicated AVR to decode.
post #7 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by brandon_k_w View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by metallicaband View Post

Also, many video cards these days pass uncompressed audio through their HDMI output, is it preferable to use that instead when I have access to it (I'm waiting for the next gen Nvidia cards)?

I send my audio through my video card's hdmi port to my receiver and use my receiver to convert the audio to analog. From what I've read. that is the way to do it. Digital is able to pass through Windows to the video card to the hdmi cable uninterrupted.

Have your receiver convert the digital audio to analog. I never have Windows decode and I never have a computer's sound card decode... I'd much rather have a dedicated AVR to decode.

It is generally best to leave the audio signal in the digital domain until it is as close as possible to the speakers. Feeding the HDMI output of a PC into a HDMI input on an AVR is a very good way to accomplish this.

The counterpoint is that some PCs have defects in their HDMI facilities that can lead to clicks, pops, and interruptions of the sound produced by the AVR.
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