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X-FI: any way to get 7.1 digital out aside of pass through?

Last response: in Components
February 11, 2006 1:28:39 AM

I've got an X-FI platinum, and I was disappointed to see that I couldn't send my plain windows sound (like music and stuff) through the digital out into my receiver.

I've already heard that in order to get surround sound through the digital out you can (possibly have to) pass the digital signal from DVDs and stuff directly through with no processing and whatnot. My Xbox 360 does an excellent job giving me surround sound with my DVDs, so I don't need that.

What I really want above anything else is surround through my digital out when I'm playing computer games with EAX and the like. That's the only way my receiver can get 7.1 so running a bunch of analouge cables just isn't an option. Also, I'm not willing to buy a home theater connect since it only supports 5.1 (unless another version came out) and I've got a 7.1 speaker setup, and at $100 it's just plain expensive.

I've been looking everywhere to no avail, so I'd like to ask, is there anyone here that knows how I can get 7.1 or even 6.1 through my digital out with games or otherwise?

My receiver supports every standard for surround sound out there to the best of my knowledge, and has Windows Media Audio Professional support as well, which the Xbox 360 is supposed to support, but I have no idea what that does. It probably just gives you 7.1 sound. The receiver should support 7 channel PCM as well, but I haven't really had any opportunity to try it as far an I know. o_o

Please help, 7.1 surround for my computer games through my receiver is the biggest reason I bought this card. I'm willing and able to execute hardware mods, but I'd prefer some third party drivers, hacks, or utilities.

If I can't get this then all I can have is surround simulation through the special modes on my receiver. :p  Good for emulators I guess, but I love EAX. Also, my surround sound fan-subbed anime suffers, those bastards. I'd have to burn discs to bypass that limitation.

More about : digital pass

February 11, 2006 1:58:52 AM

These questions get asked every week.

The X-Fi is a sound card built for the multimedia speaker crowd, as most people who game have, rather than regular "full-range" loudspeakers.

What you need is a sound card that encodes (or wraps) discrete channels into a single digital channel. This can be done with a sound card that does Dolby Digital Live, or an external encoder like the Creative DTS Connect box, the Creative DTS-610. The DTS Connect is limited to 5.1. Dolby Digital Live soundcards goes up to 7.1, such as the Turtle Beach Montenegro or the Blue Gears X-Mystique.

I hope this helps.
February 11, 2006 2:31:12 AM

not sure if i can help at all as i am very ignorant about most tech stuff but i bought the very same sound card for very similar reasons.
i wanted to get surround sound from my comp to my dlp widescreen which i use for a monitor. what i was told to do by friend/tech guy was to use the spdif out or the optical out. so i have an optical cable from my comp to my tv. this seemed to work for me. but then again i am probably going deaf from playing games that load anyway so it is possible that i didnt know the difference.
February 11, 2006 2:38:26 AM

You only get stereo with digital passthrough unless you find a way to compress the discrete surround channels.
February 11, 2006 2:43:34 PM

OR maybe this one from Creative Labs.

Sorry you will have to cut and paste that one for some reason it will not work if i try to make a link. probably due to the fact that i am not very good at this and am doing it wrong.
February 13, 2006 7:34:02 PM

So, would it be possible to buy a sound card that can output a digital 7.1 signal, and route the sound from my X-Fi through the other card?

I don't know exactly how it would be done, but it would probably involve some sort of software setup where my second card listens to the playback on my X-Fi as a recording source, and outputs the result through the digital out. That would be mimicking the way that you can listen to what is on line in using the volume control, or mixer, or whatever you wanna call it.

The biggest issue here is whether you can get two sound cards to communicate like this?
February 14, 2006 9:40:34 AM


No, and there would be no point to this. If you took the X-Fi, outputed to another soundcard before that card then encoded into either DDL or DTS-Connect (assuming this weird concept was possible; its not, but if it was technically it would be the same thing as using the Creative DTS-610 external decoder).

You'd be going through a DAC-ADC process already when you output with the've lost all purpose of going digital because the reason you go digital is to offset the DAC-ADC process at the very end before the signal is amplified.

Also, what's wrong with using 6-channel direct? I don't know what receiver you have--you haven't specified--but if its something that came with an HTIB I doubt its DACs are any better than the X-Fis, which means going digital would be bizarre course of action.
February 16, 2006 2:50:38 PM

What I'm wondering is whether I can send the original digital signal that programs can sample from my card to the second card before it gets processed by a DAC at all. Like, in PCM format or something. At this point, the second card would output a digital audio format accepted by my receiver. I'm talking about a method that completely bypasses DAC, at least until my receiver gets ahold of it.

By the way, I have a Pioneer VSX-915. I don't do that HTIB crap.

On a side note, does a 7.1 surround standard even exist besides the upcoming DTS-HD? I know that WMA Professional can encode and decode to and from 7.1, so my receiver should be able to get it that way since it supports native WMA Pro decoding, but does another capable standard exist at all? My receiver supports PCM sound too, but I don't know the specifications of that at all. PCM is uncompressed digital audio, which I'm pretty sure can have an infinite number of channels... I wonder if 8 channel s uncompressed would even be possible to send over a coax. :/ 

BTW, I dislike 6 channel since I have 8 channel and it sounds absolutely incredible. My back speakers would be put to waste if I only used 5.1
February 16, 2006 8:33:02 PM

No one can figure out why but the only way to get all 8 EAX processed signals out of the card is by using the analog outs. In all of its infinite wisdom creative only sent the digital signals to it's DACs and not some data transmitter like I and the rest of planet Earth would have expected/wanted. Although the specs on the DACs in these things are pretty mpressive if you believe them.
March 5, 2006 3:43:32 PM

This is pretty worrying to me, I currently use a nforce2 with Nvidia APU built in. This is the same sound processor thats used in the original xbox and has a Dolby Digital encoder built in which encodes the sound from games in real time to be sent over a digital connection to an external decoder.

Frankly im amazed that the X-Fi doesn't have an encoder built in. Could this be because games need to support dolby digital encoding before it will work and since the vast majority don't, having a built in encoder give no benefit?

I though the encoder will just take "any" sound and encode it into a 5.1 digital signal in which case it will work for all games? But then I wonder how it decides what sound goes to what channel if its not already being told by the software?
March 6, 2006 10:30:57 AM


Since you own a Pioneer VSX-915, I thought you might know that your "direct" inputs are in fact 8-channel. I merely called it "6-channel-direct" for conventions sake.

If there is some other reason you have an aversion to direct that isn't generally related to sound quality--aka, 3 wires is 3 too many--that would be an important issue to bring up as well from a consumer standpoint. But up to this point your motivations have been...somewhat nebulous.