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Need advice on audio / sound card

354 Views 7 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  arcticool
I have my HTPC almost ready to roll :). Here are my specs:

Dell 400SC

2.8Ghz P4 800Mhz FSB

1 GB PC3200 RAM

200GB 7200RPM HD on board plus 1TB storage on a networked server
MCE 2005

ATI HDTV-wonder


What is a good sound card I can get to compliment my setup? Do you recommend getting a card that I can feed into a Audio receiver or something I can connect speakers directly too (if that's possible)? I would like to connect the speakers directly to the PC sound card - since I am guessing there are quite a few audio programs just like video to process sound for the best output and best of all, it will always be upgradable with newer software. I have a Kenwood N8100 (recent Fry's deal) and a Panasonic XR25S that I can use with the PC if you guys recommend using an amplifier.
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if you have powered speakers then you can run them off the sound card. Some powered speaker sets are getting very good.

Home audio speakers require an amp/pre amp or reciever to work correctly, the reciever can be fed by your sound card of course.

So it depends on your speakers, but I'm going to guess you'll need to use one of your recievers.

There are really on two commercial grade audio solutions out there right now.

The audigy series from creative and the via envy 24.

The better via cards have very similiar sound quality to the audigy, but the audigies have EAX4 and DVDA. Although to get either EAX4 or DVDA you'll need to hook up to your reciever using a 6ch analog in. The via envy has about the same quaility audio but doesn't have some of the frills and costs alot less.

Either one can be hooked up digitally to pass DD and DTS through to the reciever unmolested.
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See this thread:


and this one:


It is looking like THE card to get, in fact I am trying to get one my self but its tough as there currently only attainable through Ebay.
Thanks guys for the replies. After posting this thread last night, I realized that I had bought a MADDOG Entertainer 7.1 DSP a while back for $10 after $40 rebate. I wasn't sure that it had a S/PDIF out or not but was pleasantly surprised to see it had one and not only that but it also came with an optical cable. :)

Adding to the elation, this card has the popular Envy 24 chip. I connected it to the AUX input on N8100 and set the speakers to 5.1 and the output was awesome. I watched Saving Private Ryan on my HTPC last night and the sound just blew me away. I will need to tinker with the setup a little bit to make sure I maxing the experience.

Anyways, I was quick on the trigger last nite to post this thread without even realizing I had a good (?) card. Thanks for all your input.
I have that card as well. I would recommend the via vinyl drivers versus the maddog

works great for bit-perfect playback as well ( I use foobar2000)

and the wolfson dacs for higher quality analog can be set off the 7/9 speaker outs (I use digital when I want 6.1 out of the card) and I use my receiver's auxiliary inputs for that output
Thanks RalphArch. I will try the via vinyl drivers. I also use the S/PDIF out to receivers AUX using the optical cable. Pure digital signal to a digital receiver - can't beat that. :)
Originally posted by ashwen
Thanks RalphArch. I will try the via vinyl drivers. I also use the S/PDIF out to receivers AUX using the optical cable. Pure digital signal to a digital receiver - can't beat that. :)
My comment about aux was regarding the analog out (2 CHANNEL Wolfson dac on the entertainer) I use the optical normally as well - but since this card outputs analog and digital simultaneously, that comment was more about where to put stereo analog into receiver (mine has 7.1 analog in - but I only have 5.1 analog available because the rears on entertainer are connected to output the analog from the Wolfson DAC .
I would recommend an external Audigy 2 on USB.

Why? Its an excellent card, relatively cheap, and helps to avoid many stutter/skipping issues due to audio/video sync and dropped frames (by virtue of being usb). If you must have internal, I got my Audigy 2 ZS for $45 bucks online, and games\\movies never sounded better ;-)

Good luck-


Edit: I should note that I live in an appartment and have found computer speakers to be *far* less obtrusive than my stereo. Now I can hear all the voices clearly, but don't have to 'volume jockey' on the action scenes. And the Z-5300 for the price is really outstanding:

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