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Discussion Starter #1
I am relatively new to the HTPC revolution so I'm not familiar with a lot of products out there. I recently upgraded my HTPC's sound card from Turtle Beach Santa Cruz to a Hercules Fortissimo w/ optical out. I have a Denon 3803 and my MP3's sound about 10X better. I've searched these threads quite and bit and discovered a company called M-Audio, their products seem pretty top-notch; my question is, are the M-Audio products THAT much better than the Hercules, I mean isn't all digital out inherently the same? It's all 1's and 0's right?


Also, would digital coax be better than toslink for a primarily music based HTPC?
 

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I am just putting my parts list together for my first HTPC and was asking myself that same question. After exhaustive searching here which you should do a bit of because if nothing else you will be more confused like me! Actually the searching on this topic gave me a wealth of information and I highly suggest it becuase not too many people will spend the time to rehash what has already been well documneted here.


For me to summarize what I have found in my searching would kinda' go like this:


DVD/Music: Any good optical/coaxial digtial output that is unfettered will do well. Most people tend to like the M-Audio cards because they do what you intend to do and that is pass the signal thru without any adulteration such as the SB Audigy's with resampling to 48Khz. I also have learned that it's hit or miss with some mobos that have this feature so a PCI card to do this sounds more like the solid bet to me. Also understand that the only card that will do DVD-A is currently the SB Audigy but it's output for this format is seperate analog channels not digital. There currently is no PC solution for SACD.


GAMING: Either the new NVidia boards with Dolby Digital onboard or the SB Audigy here seems to shine out.


I personally plan on first trying the optical out on the Abit IC-7 Max 3 first for DVD's and music and if that fails to come up to snuff then I will probably go with an M-Audio card. I also plan on having a second card for games and that being my SB Audigy whcih can also do DVD-A's and will only use it's analog connections. Hopefully that will prevent me from going back and forth in Windows switching them back and forth but could not find any info on that one! It should just be a matter of connecting both and choosing between the two on my Denon assuming that I don't have to switch back and forth in Windows.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it. I guess I should have narrowed down my question a bit. My HTPC is still in the infant stages but the end goal is to have it be primarily used for CD-Archving, MP3's, and a PVR. I am really not too concerned with gaming, DVD-A, SACD, or watching DVD's via my HTPC. I guess my question becomes, what is the best pure digital sound card for music? More precisely, will a M-Audio which can cost $200+ more than my hercules be worth it?
 

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Not all optical out is the same: The main quesion in my mind for HT is whether the sound card can pass DD5.1 and DTS or only DD2.0?


Coax may be useable for longer lengths but optical is immune to ground loops. The content itself should make little difference.


edit: One thing that confuses me... Since the "HT" in "HTPC" stands for "Home Theater", why would you not be interested in DVDs?
 

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Bart - Digital out just passes the signal. If it encoded as DTS you get DTS with a DTS encoder (presumably your receiver) If it is encoded 5.1 you get 5.1 ect, ect. Good point on the ground loops! I always use optical where possible over coaxial.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
As of now I have a sammy 931 DVD player with DVI out, I am using that right now for DVD purposes, I am open to using my HTPC in place of that, but more research needs to be done regarding video cards, powerstrip and other related HTPC elements. I am just interested in audio for now. Also, I am still in the process of upgrading my speakers, I don't even have DD5.1, I guess 2.1 would be more like. But I am researching speakers as well right now.


Thanks
 
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