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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am looking to purchase a single sound card as part of a PC setup that is designed for both home theatre (first) and gaming (second). (I know it is possible to run two separate sound cards, but I am after the best compromise.) I also want to avoid 5.25" internal racks or break-out boxes.


From what I have read in the forum the best sound cards for home theatre and gaming are as follows...


Home Theatre: M-Audio Sound Cards (Audiophile 2496 - US$230, Delta 410 - US$270)

Gaming: Creative Labs Sound Cards (Sound Blaster Audigy DE - AUS$249)


This is just to show I've been paying attention. :)

The real question I have is which card offers the best of both worlds given my requirements?

To answer my own question this does seem to be the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy DE. Although I am happy to be convinced otherwise. Anyone?


Thanks in advance for any replies.


[Edit: Included further sound card requirements and colour. :cool:]
 

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Buy a cheap Zoltrix Nightingale Pro 6 and you get both. Not the best analog sound quality, but very good S/PDIF. It also has EAX and A3D with no hardware compatibility problems like the Creative products.

http://www.zoltrix.com/products/audio/8SB87386CHGMX.htm


The Santa Cruz would be my best choice as its fantastic gaming and audio quality, but some on this forum mentioned problems with the S/PDIF. Dunno if its true though.


Stay away from the Hercules Fortissimo II. I had problems with it in an HTPC.


Robert
 

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I use the Santa Cruz I have no problems at all with gaming or S/PDIF. Although I have an odd problem. With the ATI player AC3 is flawless but DTS doesn't work. With Zoom player DTS is perfect but AC3 cause video stutter beats me, I just use ATI for AC3 and Zoom for DTS. Video is astounding from either.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Quick Sound Card Wrap-Up

(NB: Please feel free to correct me on any point if I've made a mistake.)


Turtle Beach: Santa Cruz

Con: Not a 24/96 card.


Hercules: Game Theater XP

Con: External breakout box.


Hercules: Game Surround Fortissimo II

Con: Only 4 speaker analog support.


Philips: Acoustic Edge 5.1 3D Sound Card

Con: Not a 24/96 card.


Creative Labs: Sound Blaster Audigy DE

Con: Not true 24/96 since it can not play or record a file of this quality.

[Edit: Con is only applicable to analogue inputs and outputs.]


Terratec: DMX 6Fire 24/96

Con: Internal 5.25" rack.


M-Audio: Audiophile 2496/Delta 410

Con: No support for DS3D, A3D 1.x, EAX 1.0/2.0.


Zoltrix: Nightingale Pro 6

Con: Not a 24/96 card.



Does a 24bit/96kHz sound card make that much of a difference versus cards which support less bits or lower frequencies?


Is there a card that can meet my requirements or do I have to compromise?
 

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Tormund.


I have an SB Audigy card. It plays and records 24/96 via S/PDIF (I use a CL Optional I/O card with optical.


Also, this card hasn't given me any problems with games using EAX. The card also comes with a free IEEE 1394 interface. I have only used it with WinXP.
 

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If you are going to use S/PDIF to pass DD/DTS sound to an external reciever when watching DVD's, and only use the analog outputs for gaming, then you probably shouldn't rate 24/96 capability too high on the list. I am not aware of any games that have sounds sampled at this high resolution yet.


However, if you are going to decode DD/DTS in the HTPC with software like WinDVD and use the analog 5.1 output for movies, or if you're somewhat of an audiophile, and plan on listening to high quality music from your HTPC, then you might consider 24/96 a top priority.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
mkanet:

Thanks for clarifying that.

I have a followup question for you since you're an Audigy user...

Looking at the PCI card connects:

Do you have to change your cabling when you switch from using the PC for home theatre to gaming? Since the Centre Channel/LFE Socket also doubles as the S/PDIF Socket this seems to be the case. Assuming it is do you find this to be rather annoying? Is it reason enough to look at other offerings?


helzerr:

Thanks for the advice. I fall into the former group so I'll have to have a closer look at the Turtle Beach, Philips and Zoltrix offerings.
 

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Tormund,


I only have 1 optical cable connected from my Optional I/O add-on card to my amp. This gives me DD/DTS 5.1 for DVD/HDTV and PCM for everything else.
 

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The Audigy's S/N ratio is also not so good. On the GTXP, I personally like the breakout box as a feature...why is that a con? It is an option most people pay extra for, since the Hercules Fortissimo II is basically the GTXP without the box.


It isn't a soundcard you can buy without a motherboard, but I like my nForce a lot. autoswitching sound (DD or games) and encodes multichannel sound from games to DD 5.1 (ok more like 4.1) so it is really the only true one cable solution. For the Audigy, if you have more than 2 speakers, you will need to run wires for the analog out as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Namelemez:

Thanks for the input.


The breakout box is a con for me on a couple of counts...

1. because it adds 'one more' piece of hardware.

2. because it goes against the elegance of a convergent solution.


The internal rack is a con for me...

1. because there wont be space for it on front of the HTPC.


I'm picturing a HTPC with a front panel that looks somewhat like the DIGN case. A DVD/CD drive, power and reset buttons and an LCD display.



I have been considering the nForce but the availability of motherboards based on this chipset in Australia isn't very good. Although it would make for a much more elegant solution. What sort of card do you use with the nForce motherboard to connect to your receiver? Why do you say it is more like 4.1 than 5.1? Does the centre channel go missing or is it just not normally supported in games?


If I want to run games in 5.1, and I am not using an nforce, then I have to run analog connects between my sound card and the amplifier for any and every sound card, right? Therefore, I was hoping to run both a digital and analog (5.1) connection between the sound card and the receiver. This may prove to be a difficulty with the Audigy card with the combined digital output and analog (centre channel and lfe) output . This was what I liked about the Acoustics Edge card with the distinctly separate analog and digital outputs.
 

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I can only speak to the gaming side since I don't use my machine as a HTPC, but I love my Game Theatre XP from Hercules. I switched to it FROM and Audigy EX.


The Audigy died out on me within three months on XP. Seemed to die after coming out of Sleep mode. Creative Support was so bad that I vowed never to buy a Creative product again.


And just so you think I'm not just a Creative basher, I owned A Soundblaster Pro, SB Live, and an SB Live 5.1 prior to the Audigy and they all worked great. It was just the Audigy's early death and then the lack of help from Creative that swore me off them.


Good Luck!

Grey
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by JamesElrod
Would there be problems with having two sound cards in a system? Like a M-audio for movies and music and a SB for games.
I've currently got 2 soundcards in one of my WinXP Pro machines which seems to work fine.


1. Creative Audigy EX

I use this one for games and for 'upmixing' 2 channel external sources (e.g., I use the cmss against stereo TV audio from an ATI 8500DV or against a cassette deck to convert it to 'surround' similar to dolby prologic)


2. MAudio 1010LT

This card is similar to their 410 (one difference is that it has more inputs). I use this to play music that's not from external souces (e.g., PowerDVD with Prologic II to play music stored on the hard drive) and when playing DVDs (for me the software DVD player decodes the DD/DTS audio instead of passing thru digitally to a receiver/processor).


The Audigy analog outputs are connected to the 1010LT inputs. In the MAudio control panel I have 2 different configurations saved, one used for when the 1010LT is the default card and the other used when it is non-default and must 'pass-through' the inputs to the outputs so that the Audigy audio is fed to the speaker system. This arrangement means I don't need to change any connections when I change which card is the default card in the windows control panel.
 

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Tormund:


Availability isn't so great in the US either but they aren't really hard to find.


Which card? The sound is integrated onto the motherboard and is a chip Nvidia made. Actually, Abit would not include the SPDIF cable with the motherboard, so I had to rip up a header cable and have a friend solder together a capacitor and three resistors from a diagram I found on here to get it to work. Supposedly they have it now, and others have gotten a cable from Asus that works if you rearrange the pins.


The nForce has a bug/misimplementation where it won't encode the center channel from certain applications, like games. This isn't a huge loss though, since most games with special sound are 4 point surround, as many computer speakers are sold like that.


That will be a problem for you with the Audigy...not sure what you can do.
 
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