Optical vs analog for sound card-> receiver connection - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 13 Old 02-20-2018, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Optical vs analog for sound card-> receiver connection

Right now my setup on my PC is:

Creative SoundBlaster ZXR sound card
Marantz NR1506 AV Receiver
B&W MT-50 speakers

I'm using DTS Connect to transfer audio via optical to my receiver. Everything is satisfactory. I am getting stereo sound from all stereo sources + emulated multi channel when I use SBX Pro Studio Surround, also surround encoded games / videos work without any emulation (I turn SBX surround off when playing games and I get directional audio from all 5 channels).

I also have an old Denon AVR 1910 which will be picked up from the repair shop after years of neglect.

If I were to use the Denon instead of Marantz and connect it using analog multichannel connections to my sound card:

Do I get improved sound quality on all sources encoded including and higher than 48 kHz, 24bit since optical via DTS Connect / Dolby Digital live is compressed anyway?
Also the channel wattage boost (90W/channel over 50W/channel) is absolutely worth it?
Or am I crazy in thinking comparing Marantz vs. Denon watts is not a blasphemy to the sound gods & my sound card's DAC will never sound better than a Marantz even though theoretically I will be getting unlimited bandwidth ?
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post #2 of 13 Old 02-20-2018, 08:16 PM
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I almost always lean towards recommending the optical connection and using the receiver's DAC. That SoundBlaster looks like a top of the line sound card, but even if it has a good and properly implemented DAC, you're still running the analog outputs through across the PCB, past those power components and within the noisy environment of inside a PC. Even if they routed them on inner layers of the PCB to shield them, the digital output just seems to be a sure thing for low noise. Might as well try both and see what you like better...
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post #3 of 13 Old 02-21-2018, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
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What would be the case if noise wasn't a factor?
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post #4 of 13 Old 02-22-2018, 08:04 AM
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Then its just down to the quality of the DAC, both of which are probably quite good.
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post #5 of 13 Old 02-22-2018, 08:18 AM
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I would bitstream over HDMI, not sure if your older Denon has HDMI, but the marantz sure does.
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post #6 of 13 Old 02-22-2018, 12:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Jawaburger View Post
I would bitstream over HDMI, not sure if your older Denon has HDMI, but the marantz sure does.
That's a terrible idea I'm afraid. Not only the HDMI output of a graphics card is horrible, that also means adding the receiver to the video loop which will surely add input lag
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post #7 of 13 Old 02-22-2018, 12:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktorpil View Post
That's a terrible idea I'm afraid. Not only the HDMI output of a graphics card is horrible, that also means adding the receiver to the video loop which will surely add input lag
Didn't realize that the 1s and 0s that come out of the optical were so much better than the 1s and 0s that come out of the HDMI. I apologize.

I am not a gamer so I didn't consider the input lag with audio and video, which is a valid concern.

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post #8 of 13 Old 02-22-2018, 12:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktorpil View Post
That's a terrible idea I'm afraid. Not only the HDMI output of a graphics card is horrible, that also means adding the receiver to the video loop which will surely add input lag
I'm sorry, audio output via HDMI is digital, either it works or it doesn't. The difference is in the DAC of your receiver. As far as input lag is concerned, you ought to be able to set the video as passthrough in your receiver. Man, you use DTS Connect which means PCM sound needs to be compressed to DTS and then lament about "bad" HDMI output?

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Not to mention the DTS encoder adds a small delay to the audio as it has to collect the audio and then compress it.

And if you're gaming, you're using DisplayPort which has the free sync or g sync to your monitor, leaving HDMI free for audio.
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post #10 of 13 Old 02-23-2018, 06:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktorpil View Post
That's a terrible idea I'm afraid. Not only the HDMI output of a graphics card is horrible, that also means adding the receiver to the video loop which will surely add input lag
HDMI supports 8 channels of uncompressed hi-res audio....
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post #11 of 13 Old 02-23-2018, 06:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jawaburger View Post
Didn't realize that the 1s and 0s that come out of the optical were so much better than the 1s and 0s that come out of the HDMI. I apologize.

I am not a gamer so I didn't consider the input lag with audio and video, which is a valid concern.
No need to be sarcastic. It is clear that you don't know anything about the sound processing capabilities of the sound card (EAX, ALchemy, DirectSound emulation, crystalizer etc.) and it's superior hardware compared to my GTX 1080s' inferior 10 dollar integrated audio chipset AND the fact that it is a discreet audio solution compared to a coil-whining-90-degree-celcius-running video card.

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Originally Posted by gorman42 View Post
I'm sorry, audio output via HDMI is digital, either it works or it doesn't. The difference is in the DAC of your receiver. As far as input lag is concerned, you ought to be able to set the video as passthrough in your receiver. Man, you use DTS Connect which means PCM sound needs to be compressed to DTS and then lament about "bad" HDMI output?
Yes it works. Without any enhancements/processing which I need. If the only difference was the DAC of the receiver, than it would be pointless to have a sound card at all and we would all be using onboard audio. As for the pass-through, I think it would be ok with the Marantz with it's 4:4:4 chroma subsampling support, but I wouldn't take any chances since my TV already has considerably more input lag than a monitor. With the Denon, I think it's futile since it blocks anything higher than a 1080p signal to pass.

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Originally Posted by Worf View Post
Not to mention the DTS encoder adds a small delay to the audio as it has to collect the audio and then compress it.

And if you're gaming, you're using DisplayPort which has the free sync or g sync to your monitor, leaving HDMI free for audio.
I've yet to notice any delay. I don't have a monitor. I have a 49 inch 4K TV.

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Originally Posted by noears View Post
HDMI supports 8 channels of uncompressed hi-res audio....
Uncompressed and unprocessed. Try listening to an mp3 file and getting sound from all 5 speakers using an HDMI connection.
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post #12 of 13 Old 02-23-2018, 10:00 AM
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[quote=ktorpil;55742234]No need to be sarcastic. It is clear that you don't know anything about the sound processing capabilities of the sound card (EAX, ALchemy, DirectSound emulation, crystalizer etc.) and it's superior hardware compared to my GTX 1080s' inferior 10 dollar integrated audio chipset AND the fact that it is a discreet audio solution compared to a coil-whining-90-degree-celcius-running video card.

Quote:
Yes it works. Without any enhancements/processing which I need. If the only difference was the DAC of the receiver, than it would be pointless to have a sound card at all and we would all be using onboard audio. As for the pass-through, I think it would be ok with the Marantz with it's 4:4:4 chroma subsampling support, but I wouldn't take any chances since my TV already has considerably more input lag than a monitor. With the Denon, I think it's futile since it blocks anything higher than a 1080p signal to pass.
Can't speak about your receiver, but if passthrough works correctly it shouldn't add lag. Maybe 1ms if that, as far as I know.
When you are transmitting digital sound, and without going into the madness of esoteric audiophiles, yes, the only difference *is* the DAC of the receiver. You mention enhancements and processing, but that can be done on the PC side through software or on the receiver side. Crystalizer you mention is nothing special, a simple DSP. If you are a fan of EAX effects, I can understand, no problem. Not sure what you mean by "Direct Sound emulation".
A coil-whining-90-degree-celsius-running video card transmitting digital audio is doing so bitperfect, with no influence from temperature or coil whining. Otherwise you wouldn't get Dolby Digital or DTS working through it when bitstreaming.

Quote:
I've yet to notice any delay. I don't have a monitor. I have a 49 inch 4K TV.
It's not the delay I was referring to. You complain about bad sound and then proceed to compress with a lossy codec the audio signal. In the case of mp3 files you mention below you re-compress an already lossy source. That's bad for good sound.

Quote:
Uncompressed and unprocessed. Try listening to an mp3 file and getting sound from all 5 speakers using an HDMI connection.
Yeah, what about it? All receivers I've ever owned offered an all channels stereo mode. If they don't you can get it from plugins with foobar and other music players. Upmixing is not rocket science, especially if all you want is simply having stereo played back on all channels.

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post #13 of 13 Old 02-23-2018, 11:06 AM - Thread Starter
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[quote=gorman42;55743646]
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktorpil View Post
No need to be sarcastic. It is clear that you don't know anything about the sound processing capabilities of the sound card (EAX, ALchemy, DirectSound emulation, crystalizer etc.) and it's superior hardware compared to my GTX 1080s' inferior 10 dollar integrated audio chipset AND the fact that it is a discreet audio solution compared to a coil-whining-90-degree-celcius-running video card.

Can't speak about your receiver, but if passthrough works correctly it shouldn't add lag. Maybe 1ms if that, as far as I know.
When you are transmitting digital sound, and without going into the madness of esoteric audiophiles, yes, the only difference *is* the DAC of the receiver. You mention enhancements and processing, but that can be done on the PC side through software or on the receiver side. Crystalizer you mention is nothing special, a simple DSP. If you are a fan of EAX effects, I can understand, no problem. Not sure what you mean by "Direct Sound emulation".
A coil-whining-90-degree-celsius-running video card transmitting digital audio is doing so bitperfect, with no influence from temperature or coil whining. Otherwise you wouldn't get Dolby Digital or DTS working through it when bitstreaming.

It's not the delay I was referring to. You complain about bad sound and then proceed to compress with a lossy codec the audio signal. In the case of mp3 files you mention below you re-compress an already lossy source. That's bad for good sound.

Yeah, what about it? All receivers I've ever owned offered an all channels stereo mode. If they don't you can get it from plugins with foobar and other music players. Upmixing is not rocket science, especially if all you want is simply having stereo played back on all channels.
Right... I won't open a whole can of worms but I have enough experience and investment over the years to know that "components affect digital signals". Let's leave it at that.

Hence, I am thinking analog is better. No analog>digital>analog conversion when using analog inputs and disabling the encoder.

Again, I'm telling you that I need the enhancements my sound card is providing, and you're telling me to look for other inferior and problematic ways to get what I want.

Sigh... I created this thread so that people who've connected their sound cards to AVRs using both digital and analog connections could give me insight. Since that's not happening, I'll try and find out myself. This thread can be locked.
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