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Sound Cards for use with power amplifiers - Page 2

post #31 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.

The classic symptom of a ground loop is a 50-60hz hum.

The Xmeridian has a ground lift strap on the board for this.

Although I've never heard of a ground loop crackle...
post #32 of 63
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the suggestions guys, I'll let you know how I go tonight.

The crackling/buzzing/whining is definitely audible at the listening position still, when everything is quiet which is quite a shame. I agree with the ground loop sentiment, usually a problem in car audio circles. I have a Ground loop isolator so I'll put that in the circuit and see if it is removed.

WRT to removing the GPU, my mobo doesn't have an integrated GPU, so I'm not sure what I'd be trying to achieve with this.
post #33 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonadman2 View Post

WRT to removing the GPU, my mobo doesn't have an integrated GPU,.

Didn't notice that. Many 775 boards of that type at least have p35 graphics. The noise might be related to EFI from the dGPU. Do you have another card that you can try?
Does your amp have line-in level adjustment?
post #34 of 63
Thread Starter 
Hey guys, finally got this one licked. After having it pointed out to me by NorCalJason the answer was pretty simple. Turns out it was the motherboard causing the noise, it must be faulty in some way. It still works perfectly and is now resigned to server duties and I have installed a spare AMD Sempron CPU and Mobo in the theatre. Now it is completely noise free and sounds fantastic.

I'm curious as to how people adjust TA on these cards? Also, is it possible to have a different HPF for the surrounds compared to the LCR?
post #35 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonadman2 View Post

Hey guys, finally got this one licked. After having it pointed out to me by NorCalJason the answer was pretty simple. Turns out it was the motherboard causing the noise, it must be faulty in some way. It still works perfectly and is now resigned to server duties and I have installed a spare AMD Sempron CPU and Mobo in the theatre. Now it is completely noise free and sounds fantastic.
I'm curious as to how people adjust TA on these cards? Also, is it possible to have a different HPF for the surrounds compared to the LCR?

Glad you got it figured out.

What's TA?
post #36 of 63
Thread Starter 
Time Alignment. I can find anywhere to adjust it.
post #37 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonadman2 View Post

Time Alignment. I can find anywhere to adjust it.

I use JRiver for room speaker distance and level adjustment
post #38 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by kapone View Post

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.

Why did you decide to go away from the HTPC setup and to a dedicated AVR might I ask? I'm currently trying to decide whether to get a new 4520CI or build a HTPC to basically act as a dedicated pre/pro. The former is certainly easier, but figured the latter would be the optimal solution.
post #39 of 63
I'm in the early stages of researching these cards. I think the Xonar Essence ST + H6 daughterboard and the Claro Halo XT both look promising. I'm curious, do these cards let you input optical/spdif and output analog or are these merely for pass through? I'd like to be able to hook up a ps3 for example. Video to TV, optical/spdif to sound card and output optical to my amps. Is this feasible with these or any cards that you all know of?
post #40 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delacroix333 View Post

I'm in the early stages of researching these cards. I think the Xonar Essence ST + H6 daughterboard and the Claro Halo XT both look promising. I'm curious, do these cards let you input optical/spdif and output analog or are these merely for pass through? I'd like to be able to hook up a ps3 for example. Video to TV, optical/spdif to sound card and output optical to my amps. Is this feasible with these or any cards that you all know of?

The Claro Halo XT has capability for both optical and coaxial digital inputs. The optical is on the card's I/O panel; the coaxial requires use of their CA-1 cable, which connects to an internal connector on the card.
post #41 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manchild View Post

The Claro Halo XT has capability for both optical and coaxial digital inputs. The optical is on the card's I/O panel; the coaxial requires use of their CA-1 cable, which connects to an internal connector on the card.

I'm sorry, I meant to say, input digital and "output analog to my amps," not output optical.
post #42 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delacroix333 View Post

I'm sorry, I meant to say, input digital and "output analog to my amps," not output optical.

Yep. You can input either coaxial or optical as I mentioned before and utilize the 7.1 analog outputs from what I've gathered.
post #43 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manchild View Post

Yep. You can input either coaxial or optical as I mentioned before and utilize the 7.1 analog outputs from what I've gathered.

That's awesome, thanks! This is a game changer for me.
post #44 of 63
In reviewing cards I've looked at those mentioned here. I'm focusing on the two that are readily available (newegg and amazon as of today) and have a similar feature set. There are some higher priced cards and even a mid priced (Onkyo SE-200) which are excellent but I don't think they'd benefit my mix of movies, gaming, and music specifically better than what I have listed below. I stuck with PCI cards since the PCIe versions just use a bridge anyway. I also like to keep as much distance around my video cards as possible. Both cards use the same Same C-Media chipset and have very similar functionality. These are the differences that stood out to me, there are more, but these are what I was looking at:

Asus Xonar Essence ST + H6
TI (Burr-Brown) DACs
Headphone amp power from PSU via Molex
High/Low impedance headphone switch via software
Swappable OPAMP
Arguably better GUI user interface

HT Omega Claro Halo + XT
AK DACs
Headphone amp power from Mobo
High/Low impedance headphone switch via jumper
Swappable OPAMP (dual-OPAMP dual polarity)
S/PDIF In (optical)
Coax In

I would summarize this as the Essence ST having arguably better DACs, though its debatable whether this matters at all. The Essence ST has a superior power configuration for the headphone amp as it draws power via molex straight from PSU rather than the mobo. This may be one reason that some headphone listeners have said the trebles in the Halo are more harsh, but neither review was blind so I take that with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, power via molex will always be more stable for both the card and the motherboard and the Essence ST has the advantage here. Switching between High/Low impedance headphones via jumper or software doesn't matter to me, but it might to some. Again, advantage to Essence ST. The opamps appear different on these two with the Halo having a dual opamp design. The HT Omega pitch is that the Halo's design is better but I am a newb so I don't understand how this really affects the real world. The inputs on the Halo are superior, giving the option for both optical S/PDIF and coax.

I am confirming with HT Omega that both optical and coax inputs will be processed and output via analog. If so, the Halo is better for me because it allows a buddy to bring over a ps3 for example and plug right into the card for audio. Alternatively, I could connect the coax or optical output from my TV to the the Halo and plug any ancillary devices directly into the TV. That flexibility is nice. Am I missing something here? Can I get this functionality with the Essence ST also? I would most like the headphone amp power solution on the Essence and the inputs of the Halo, if there's a way to achieve that somehow.

Is the OPAMP differnce compelling? I don't know anything about that one.
post #45 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delacroix333 View Post

I would summarize this as the Essence ST having arguably better DACs, though its debatable whether this matters at all..

They both use excellent DAC's. There is no advantage to the other.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delacroix333 View Post

I
Am I missing something here? Can I get this functionality with the Essence ST also?

No, you're not missing anything. The Essence ST is really geared toward use with a 2.1 / High quality headphone system. The HT Omega Claro+ is geared for HTPC's with a focus on audio quality.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delacroix333 View Post

Is the OPAMP differnce compelling?

Nope. The compelling argument is both of them allow swappable OP AMPS on *all* channels. You can really tweak them to your liking.
post #46 of 63
Thanks for all the help. Then for me, the coax input on the Halo tips it for me. My TV converts all audio and outputs digitally via coax so that will allow me to plug in anything to my TV on a whim and pass the audio to the Halo. I'll just leave that connection in place 24/7 and use it when needed. I'll also have that optical input free on the Halo if I want to plug in a device directly. Given my needs, I think this is perfect. Once I get my amps my receiver will be gone. Thanks again!
post #47 of 63
I'm probably going to pick up some used mono amps so I can locate and hide them close to my speakers. It will just work with my room better. The RCA runs for the surrounds would need to be about 30 feet for one and 40 feet for the other. Is anyone doing runs this long with these cards? Ideally I'd like to make the RCA run longer and the speaker wire run shorter.
post #48 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delacroix333 View Post

I'm probably going to pick up some used mono amps so I can locate and hide them close to my speakers. It will just work with my room better. The RCA runs for the surrounds would need to be about 30 feet for one and 40 feet for the other. Is anyone doing runs this long with these cards? Ideally I'd like to make the RCA run longer and the speaker wire run shorter.

Sounds like fun!

My only concern would be noise in a long RCA line. That being said, it might be an irrational fear. Maybe somebody else can comment on if this is valid or not.
post #49 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by NorCalJason View Post

Sounds like fun!
My only concern would be noise in a long RCA line. That being said, it might be an irrational fear. Maybe somebody else can comment on if this is valid or not.
I'd consider paired wire and baluns if the distance is more than a couple of feet.
post #50 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by olyteddy View Post

I'd consider paired wire and baluns if the distance is more than a couple of feet.

Sorry, these are newb questions. Do you mean twisted pair wire like CAT5? Regarding the video balun, how would that be used with RCA out and RCA in on the sound card and amp respectively? Would I use adapters?
post #51 of 63
After doing a little more reading it sounds like using RG59 or CAT5/6 is the way to go.

If grounding is an issue then use an audio isolation transformer. Is this what you meant by balun? I found punch downs and passive connectors named balun also, but I don't think that's what you were referring to.

Monoprice sells RG59 with RCA terminations at 5.89 for 50'. That would be cool if I can get an off the shelf solution that works well. It's marketed for digital audio and subwoofer connections. I would assume it carries analog just fine, since that's what subs receive.

Monoprice also carries a similarly cheap RG6 with RCA terminations. That RG6 wire is stiff though and may be overkill. If there's a definitive reason to go RG6 over RG59 then I would do it. I thought I remembered reading that RG6 is more prone to issues than RG59 due to resistance caused by the shielding though. I have no idea if that is correct so don't hold me to it. I do know one thing, RG6 is a less manageable cable due to stiffness and is more prone to issues with the connector due to its inflexibility.

http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=102&cp_id=10236&cs_id=1023601&p_id=2982&seq=1&format=2
Edited by Delacroix333 - 12/15/12 at 7:36pm
post #52 of 63
I've done a little more research and wanted to report back. Most of you probably knew this but I wanted to save someone the trouble if they didn't, such as myself. Both the HT Omega Claro Halo + XT, Asus Xonar Essence ST + H6 and anything but high end sound cards provide an "unbalanced" source via RCA or mini connections. They do not use "balanced" XLR connections. In this situation an "unbalanced" connector like coax is the best.

The unbalanced scenario uses the shield to mitigate interference. The twisted pair cables work best with XLR balanced connections. The balanced scenario doesn't require shielding like the unbalanced scenario because the nature of the connection cancels interference. Un-shielded twisted pair (UTP) can be used with great results in a balanced connection. Not so for unbalanced.

Now, I just need to find which coax will fit the bill. There's a lot of variables.
post #53 of 63
Looks like the Belden 89259 is a winner. It's RG-59/U. Expensive stuff though. There's definitely cheaper cable that will do the job, like the Monoprice cable mentioned above.
Edited by Delacroix333 - 12/16/12 at 7:43am
post #54 of 63
After looking into this further and with the assistance of Andrew at Blue Jeans Cable I think a better choice is LC-1 for analog IC and 5000UE for speaker runs. In doing some searching, these are well regarded and much cheaper than the Belden 89259. I have to say, Andrew at Blue Jeans Cable was very helpful and honest about what would fit my needs the best. Andrew didn't recommend I pass on 89259 in favor of LC-1 and 5000UE because Blue Jeans doesn't stock it, because they do. He simply stated I didn't need the plenum rating and for a speaker wire the 5000UE would probably provide a better result due to the larger gauge. He could have sold me that expensive cable and I would have probably done it. I experienced great customer service at Blue Jeans, I'll definitely be buying from them.
post #55 of 63
This is a great discussion.

I have a htpc setup that I watch mostly everything through, I plan to do the sound card to amp to speaker setup as discussed. However I find myself watching quite a lot of HDTV ota straight through my TV. How would I get this HDTV ota sound feed through the sound card and amps to speakers? Or is no decoding necessary and I can just connect TV audio out to my amp. I guess I would need some type of switch to swap inputs to amp between TV and htpc. Please advise.
Thanks
post #56 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by combres View Post

This is a great discussion.
I have a htpc setup that I watch mostly everything through, I plan to do the sound card to amp to speaker setup as discussed. However I find myself watching quite a lot of HDTV ota straight through my TV. How would I get this HDTV ota sound feed through the sound card and amps to speakers? Or is no decoding necessary and I can just connect TV audio out to my amp. I guess I would need some type of switch to swap inputs to amp between TV and htpc. Please advise.
Thanks

Does your tv have a optical digital output?

It would be simpler to get a tuning card for the htpc...
post #57 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by NorCalJason View Post

Does your tv have a optical digital output?
It would be simpler to get a tuning card for the htpc...

I agree, this is what I am doing as well. The tuner card not only gives you the ability to output sound and video from your PC but also record any shows you like on a timer just like consumer dvr's. My pc storage is huge so I have near limitless recording possibilities. Storage is cheap these days for PC's.

Tuner cards also may have an audio out which plugs into the sound card internally, I know the HT Omega Halo has this input specifically for tuner cards and the like. Not all sound cards have audio inputs so keep that mind. Either way, I think the tuner card is the way to go simply so you can record shows.

My TV does have digital audio out via cable so I could put that into my sound card and output to the speakers if I wanted. I just find the tuner card to be a cleaner solution.

Keep in mind that I am very new to this and my system isn't completely up and running yet. I wish I had more experience to offer, but these are my observations to date.
post #58 of 63
Hello everyone.

I love the discussion about sound cards, and I am considering doing the same in my system. Currently I am outputting audio from my Xonar DX to my Emotiva XPA-5 amp directly, powering my Infinity Beta series speakers.

How would any of the above mentioned sound cards work as far as Blu-Ray audio and downsampling work with TMT5?

Anyone have any oppinions on audio quality between my Xonar DX and the Claro Halo XT?

Thanks everyone.
post #59 of 63
Zryder,

I have some info for you, but I think someone else may need to chime in here as well. I just got my setup established last night so I'll try to answer your questions and give an update on my experiences so far.

I have TMT5 and it has been great for lossless playback. I am leaning toward picking up jriver so I can get the advanced features like room correction, phone/tablet based interface to manage movie and music playback, and JRiver seems to be good for dealing with blu-ray rips. It does a lot more than that, but those items jumped out at me. JRiver seems like an awesome setup. From what I have gathered JRiver will decode TrueHD and DTS-MA and output via analog without down sampling. This requires the correct .dll's but those are easily obtained. After decoding, protection is completely removed and analog output is just fine to the amp(s).

I ended up getting and setting up the HT Omega Claro Halo XT last night and my initial impressions are excellent. Setup was incredibly easy and the drivers appear to be very stable. I listened to music via Grooveshark, tested a few blu-ray titles in TMT5, watched OTA TV using a Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1850 in W7MC, and used the Optical S/PDIF Input from my Direc TV box (subscription expiring shortly with no desire to renew) and a friend's PS3. All of these scenarios were outputted via analog to Outlaw 2200 monoblock amps, then to speakers. The results were awesome. The last item involving Optical S/PDIF has one caveat, you can only receive 2 channel PCM via this connection to the Halo (this is a connection limitation). You can, of course, mix that to 5.1 or 7.1. I am using 5.1. The sound is still very good. Considering it isn't an everyday thing for me, I don't mind. If a friend brings their console over, we can still play it with great sound. That's a win for me. My gaming system is the PC and it absolutely KILLS consoles, so I don't mind. PC gaming is 5.1 goodness all the way. Oh, I forgot to mention, I did play some Skyrim last night smile.gif

I don't know how the Halo compares to the Xonar DX. I used to have the Xonar HDAV1.3 which was a good card for its intended purpose at the time. The Halo does a hell of a lot of things that the Xonar DX wont do though. In addition to feature, what sets HT Omega apart from Asus, is customer support. I have a real world example of this, experienced yesterday, which makes me a huge fan of HT Omega. I'll relay this so that everyone can see how unbelievable (at least to me) their service level is.

Saturday
12:40 PM PST - Sent email to HT Omega with question regarding listening to the Optical S/PDIF input. The "monitor" setting is way too loud. I had to select to listen to SPDIF In for Recording Devices in Windows Sound setup. It's an easy process but I didn't know how to do it before contacting customer support. So I sent my email and expected a reply in a few days, if at all, like most vendors.

1:39 PM PST - Reply sent by HT Omega support with information and clarifying questions.

3:32 PM PST - I sent my reply. It took me almost two hours because I didn't even notice HT Omega had replied to me. I wasn't expecting their reply for for a while based on my experience with most vendors.

4:24 PM PST - Reply sent by HT Omega with detailed description of S/PDIF capabilities on the Halo and three screenshots with added markups by customer support to show me exactly how to listen to this connection via Windows. It worked flawlessly. I can mix this to 5.1 if I wish and control volume the same as I would with anything else.

Just to break this service level down:
Time for first reply from HT Omega - 59 minutes
Time for second reply from HT Omega - 52 minutes

I seriously couldn't ask for better service. This has made me a TOTALLY satisfied Halo XT owner.
post #60 of 63
Good to know they have good customer service. You don't see that as much these days as anyone would like, and that surely carries some weight.

That being said, I currently use TMT5 for my 3D blu-ray's, as I have found little else that can handle this format as gracefully as TMT5 seems to. I have not used JRiver, though I have heard many good things about it. Once I back up my collection to MKV, MPC-HC and Reclock take things from there for me, so on that side of the coin I have little to worry about, knowing I am getting the best audio I can.

However, I would love to know that I'm not compromising on direct disk playback, handled by TMT5.

More research must be done, methinks..
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