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Sound Cards for use with power amplifiers

post #1 of 63
Thread Starter 
I have an Onkyo TX-NR5007 receiver and have had nothing but problems with it and wish to move to a simpler solution. In my lounge I use an HTPC as a daily driver, and this uses an Asus Xonar DX sound card which provides 5.1 channel playback - even with stereo sources. I have this connected to a 5 channel power amplifier and a sub, so this setup is completely receiver-less. I love that I can just use the volume control on the HTPC remote, and most power amplfiers sound better than equivalent priced receivers anyway.

Onto my problem - I have a 7.2 channel setup in my theatre, and want to get rid of the aforementioned Onkyo receiver but not the HD audio decoding (which incidentally doesn't work at the moment. I want to purchase a sound card that will do all of the decoding on board (HD audio, DD/DTS, Stereo) and provide these outputs to power amplifier monoblocks. So far the only two options that I seem to have available to me are the Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 Deluxe and Auzen Hometheater HD.

Will these cards provide 7.2 channel surround to stereo sources like a receiver would?

If I am using the card to output an analog signal, do I still need to pass the HDMI cable out of the Video card (ATI HD6450) back into the sound card, and then off to the projector?

Has anyone used either of these cards in the scenario that I am proposing? What did you think of the performance compared to a dedicated receiver?

Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 63
Decoding HD audio/DD/DTS is done by a software decoder (e.g. LAV Audio Decoder + dtsdecoderdll.dll; read this guide). So any decent sound card that supports multichannel LPCM up to 192kHz/24bit should be good for your purpose. (Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 Deluxe and Auzen Hometheater HD have been discontinued and used ones must be very expensive.)
post #3 of 63
Thread Starter 
Well that's quite the revelation. Thanks renethx.

So really what I'm after is a soundcard with a high end analog output section. Do any of those exist?
post #4 of 63
Non "X-Fi" card is recommended. E.g. C-Media CMI8788 (ASUS AV200) chip card, that includes

ASUS Xonar Essence ST + Xonar H6 (discontinued?)
Auzen X-Meridian 7.1 2G (discontinued?)
HT OMEGA CLARO halo XT
HT OMEGA CLARO II
HT OMEGA eCLARO 7.1 (PCI Express x1)

Auzen X-Meridian 7.1 2G and HT OMEGA CLARO halo XT feature swappable OPAMPs for all analog outputs.
post #5 of 63
Why non-XFi ? confused.gif
post #6 of 63
I actually have an X-Meridian 7.1 2G with 8 extra OPA627BP op-amps (they mount on the X-meridian using dual to single DIP adapters, so each channel has it's own op-amp) along with the stock op-amps and the X-tension board sitting idle, since I moved to the Denon 4311ci and went all HDMI. The card is used (~2 months) but everything is pristine as such.

If interested, send me a PM.
post #7 of 63
btw. I was going straight to power amps from the X-Meridian as well, before I switched to the Denon. smile.gif

post #8 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwhite View Post

Why non-XFi ? confused.gif

From what I observed, resampling every audio stream to 48kHz is happening inside X-Fi cards. Several other people also pointed it out, e.g. in J River MC Forum, as in this thread. But I may be wrong and then X-Fi should be good.
Edited by renethx - 10/29/12 at 11:06pm
post #9 of 63
The resampler on playback can be turned off on the the X-Fi, have to be in audio creation mode
http://support.creative.com/kb/ShowArticle.aspx?sid=10843
post #10 of 63
Kb was written in 2008 and even Matt (and several audiophiles) didn't notice it in 2010?
post #11 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Kb was written in 2008 and even Matt (and several audiophiles) didn't notice it in 2010?

Not to worry. Question is will it work in Win7 ?smile.gif
Edited by Tong Chia - 10/30/12 at 12:28am
post #12 of 63
So my quick test shows that with Auzen X-Fi Forte 7.1 under Windows 7 x64, "Bit-Matched Playback" on/off has no effect at all. Whether "Bit-Matched Playback" is on or off,

- In WASAPI exclusive mode, the master sampling rate = the one selected in Settings, whatever the sampling rate of the incoming audio stream is.
- In ASIO, the master sampling rate = the sampling rate of the incoming audio stream. 176.4kHz is not supported (an error message "Sample rate of 176400 Hz not supported by this device" in foobar2000 with no sound).

IMO it's too restrictive. But overall the audio quality is very good.
Edited by renethx - 10/31/12 at 12:14am
post #13 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Kb was written in 2008 and even Matt (and several audiophiles) didn't notice it in 2010?
I just realized I posted in the JRiver thread (as mojave). The bitmatching in the knowledge base article only works with ASIO playback and only applies up to 96K. With ASIO, though, the X-Fi cards don't follow the normal ASIO channel output and switch the center/LFE with the side surrounds for 5.1. For 7.1 the drivers are all wacky and even the unified Xonar drivers don't route 7.1 properly. Some of the surrounds or LFE bleeds into the other channels.

I currently own an M-Audio Revolution, Creative X-Fi Elite (with changed opamps), Asus Essence ST with H6 daughtercard (with changed opamps), Steinberg MR816x, and Steinberg UR824. I've also used an Echo Audiofire 8. The Steinberg UR824 is easily the best of these and overall the pro-audio devices are much nicer. If you want separate EQ or distance settings for each subwoofer then you could get an Echo Audiofire 12 so you have more output channels. I use JRiver Media Center for output directly to amps and perform all bass management, EQ, etc. for a 7.1 system with two subwoofers. I use a phantom center so the center channel is used for the 2nd subwoofer. I also route all other computer content such as YouTube or games through JRiver so it goes through the DSP. This is much more powerful and flexible than using a receiver.
post #14 of 63
Thread Starter 
I thought I would pose this question here rather than start a new thread. Today I stopped by a local A/V dealer and got talking with one of the sales people. I explained to him what I had (TX-NR5007) and all the problems that I have had with it. I also explained that I built the speakers myself and used minidsp's to tune the sound to the room. I have been using techniques learned from 10+ years in car audio SQ, so I felt very comfortable doing this. While it does sound very good and I was happy with it up until today, I am now looking to improve. I listened to a Rotel RSX-1562 through some low end $1200 Polk Audio speakers and it was amazing. Not so much the response of the system but it was just sweet and easy to listen to. I started wondering what I had done wrong, so I threw my old Jamo 507a's ($2700pr back in the day) in there and listened. These also lacked the sweetness and fullness of my custom speakers or the Polk/Rotel system I listened to earlier.

Will a high end sound card like the Asus Xonar D2X have a cleaner and sweeter sound than my Onkyo TX-NR5007? I really don't like the sound of this amp and never have, even from the moment I got it. I want that Rotel sound, I just don't have the budget.
post #15 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonadman2 View Post

I thought I would pose this question here rather than start a new thread. Today I stopped by a local A/V dealer and got talking with one of the sales people. I explained to him what I had (TX-NR5007) and all the problems that I have had with it. I also explained that I built the speakers myself and used minidsp's to tune the sound to the room. I have been using techniques learned from 10+ years in car audio SQ, so I felt very comfortable doing this. While it does sound very good and I was happy with it up until today, I am now looking to improve. I listened to a Rotel RSX-1562 through some low end $1200 Polk Audio speakers and it was amazing. Not so much the response of the system but it was just sweet and easy to listen to. I started wondering what I had done wrong, so I threw my old Jamo 507a's ($2700pr back in the day) in there and listened. These also lacked the sweetness and fullness of my custom speakers or the Polk/Rotel system I listened to earlier.Will a high end sound card like the Asus Xonar D2X have a cleaner and sweeter sound than my Onkyo TX-NR5007? I really don't like the sound of this amp and never have, even from the moment I got it. I want that Rotel sound, I just don't have the budget.

I have been receiverless for 1 week now.

biggrin.gif

With my current speakers, I've had a variety of home theater setups...

Harmon Kardon AVR80
B&K Reference 20 Processor + B&K AV5000 MkII amp
Onkyo 803
Onkyo 803 + B&K AV5000 MkII amp
Onkyo 803 + (3) Sonance stereo amps

And now...

Xmeridian 7.1 2g + (3) Sonance stereo amps

Like you, I never really enjoyed the sound of the Onkyo. For a time, I ran the front channels of my Onkyo through the B&K amp, and powered the rear channels off the receiver. The shift in tone was clearly audible. The Onkyo sounded thin/hallow.

Now with the Xmeridian, I'm in heaven. I can't believe how natural and detailed the sound is. It's smooth and clear. I'm also running JRiver MC18, and using ASIO4ALL driver.

My system is now involving in a way I had never imagined. I get sucked up in the movie like never before, even rewatching movies I haven't seen in years.

MC18 -> Good Audio Card -> Amps is a FANTASTIC way to go.
post #16 of 63
Thread Starter 
Done, ordered an Auzen X-Meridian 7.1 2g sound card and am going to pick up a second hand Rotel RMB-1075 this afternoon. I have a feeling that the week ahead will be very enjoyable. Thanks NorCalJason for your honest response, and to all those who have posted in this thread.
post #17 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonadman2 View Post

Thanks NorCalJason for your honest response

Sure thing man! Enjoy!
post #18 of 63
I am new to HTPC but also run an asus xonar essence card directly to my amps, using my computer's volume control. The benefits of a direct connection cannot be understated, and there really is no need for a "receiver." You also have the advantage of swapping soundcards in the future, putting the $ into higher quality analog interconnects, as well as higher quality amplification. My direct connection is used primarily for music, but for movies it is also amazing - it trashes even my prior connection, which was using only a passive preamp. (A direct connection for analog - phono stage directly to amps without an additional preamp, is equally impressive) . In audiophile circles, a direct connection is often the goal, if possible.
post #19 of 63
Thread Starter 
Hey guys, I'm just wondering if anyone gets any crackling from their Meridian 2g cards at all? Mine is quite distracting and can be easily heard at the listening position.

Why can't I just have nice clean sound?!
post #20 of 63
If you're getting crackling, most likely suspect is an IRQ conflict. Try moving it to another slot if you have one.
post #21 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonadman2 View Post

Hey guys, I'm just wondering if anyone gets any crackling from their Meridian 2g cards at all? Mine is quite distracting and can be easily heard at the listening position.
Why can't I just have nice clean sound?!

Mine is dead quiet.

As yours always crackeled? When does it crackle? Out of what channels? What software are you using? What drivers?
post #22 of 63
Thread Starter 
It usually makes the buzzing/crackling noise when there is something happening, loading programs at startup, firing up a program or even moving the mouse around the screen.

I downloaded the latest driver from the Auzen website and installed those. So far I've only hooked up the front three channels and all of those crackled.

I've been running an active front end with mini dsp's, so tonight I removed them from the signal chain and ran to an old pair of floorstanders. So now it looks something like this: Meridian 2G > Rotel RMB-1095 > Jamo 507a speakers. The crackling is still there, but much quieter, you have to put your ear within about 1 ft of the speaker drive units to hear the noise. I wouldn't say that its silent, but definitely much better.

If I move the signal jumper to the other position the crackling becomes slightly louder, so I've moved it back to the default position. I can try another PCI slot tomorrow night, so I'll see what happens there.

If anyone has any other good idea's I'd be happy to hear them.

On another completely separate note, the TX-NR5007 was written off today, so if I can't achieve completely silent audio this way I'll be in the market for a preamp.
post #23 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonadman2 View Post

It usually makes the buzzing/crackling noise when there is something happening, loading programs at startup, firing up a program or even moving the mouse around the screen.
I downloaded the latest driver from the Auzen website and installed those. So far I've only hooked up the front three channels and all of those crackled.
I've been running an active front end with mini dsp's, so tonight I removed them from the signal chain and ran to an old pair of floorstanders. So now it looks something like this: Meridian 2G > Rotel RMB-1095 > Jamo 507a speakers. The crackling is still there, but much quieter, you have to put your ear within about 1 ft of the speaker drive units to hear the noise. I wouldn't say that its silent, but definitely much better.
If I move the signal jumper to the other position the crackling becomes slightly louder, so I've moved it back to the default position. I can try another PCI slot tomorrow night, so I'll see what happens there.
If anyone has any other good idea's I'd be happy to hear them.
On another completely separate note, the TX-NR5007 was written off today, so if I can't achieve completely silent audio this way I'll be in the market for a preamp.

That's definitely not normal.

Have you tried Auzentech support?
post #24 of 63
Poorly shielded components such as mobo or GPU may do that. What are you using?
post #25 of 63
Thread Starter 
My HTPC specs as follows:

Asus P5Q Deluxe
Q9450
Team Extreme 1066Mhz DDR2 Ram
HD6450 (I think its HIS or Powercolor)
Corsair CX430 PSU
Lian Li PC-A05 Case
OCZ Vertex 2 60gb

I can take a picture tonight, but the Meridian is sandwiched between the CPU area and the GPU from memory. When I had my Asus Xonar DX in there it was also very noisey.

Thanks guys.
post #26 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonadman2 View Post

My HTPC specs as follows:
Asus P5Q Deluxe
Q9450
Team Extreme 1066Mhz DDR2 Ram
HD6450 (I think its HIS or Powercolor)
Corsair CX430 PSU
Lian Li PC-A05 Case
OCZ Vertex 2 60gb
I can take a picture tonight, but the Meridian is sandwiched between the CPU area and the GPU from memory. When I had my Asus Xonar DX in there it was also very noisey.
Thanks guys.

Two cards, same problem = not the card.

Something else is going on in your setup...
post #27 of 63
Ground loop.

Your PC and other components are causing a stray ground loop, causing that crackling.
post #28 of 63
Remove the GPU and see if it goes away.
post #29 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by kapone View Post

Ground loop.
Your PC and other components are causing a stray ground loop, causing that crackling.

it's not a ground loop, it's due to poor power supply filtering.
post #30 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by SAM64 View Post

it's not a ground loop, it's due to poor power supply filtering.
Try plugging the amps and the PC into a single power strip. See what happens.
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