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Gamers with Home theater setups...

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October 27, 2006 4:09:07 PM

::::Thanks for your patience on reading the long post:::::
There must be others in my situation.....

I am upgrading soon (when quad-cores and Dx10 cards come out to drop prices?) and am revisiting the sound issue.

I have a sony DA4ES receiver and 5.1 Polk audio surround satellites + sub. This represented a considerable investment a few years back, as I wanted crisp/LOUD sound for gaming/music/home theater. I have been using an analog mini-plug to stereo RCA cable and letting my receiver simulate surround. I have never really been able to have discrete 5.1 due to connectivity issues with my old Audigy 2 gamer for the following reasons (I think):

1) the analog outputs on the back of the card require proprietary cables to go to an audio receiver and are out of stock for a long time now
2) even connecting the front channels direclt to my receiver's analog multichannel in cxns results in too low input from the card given crap for sound, no power/bass. (need to pre-amp the signal?)
3) The platinum versions have the optical cxn on the front panel but I didn't think this provided true 5.1

Thinking about upgrading to x-fi has left me with similar problems (1-3 above). Some ppl recommend getting the X-fi cards with the front panel for TOSLINK/SPDIF support but on Creative's forums they state that this output DOES NOT enable discrete (REAL) 5.1/7.1 surround but only Stereo! This can be upmixed by my receiver to simulate surround..this is no improvement over my current setup?

Other cards with SPDIF output right on the card such as the auzentech X-plosion don't seem to be suited for hardcore gaming and apparently FPS take a hit with their card. Am I missing something here? There must be a significant population of gamers with Hi-Fi HTPC setups that have found a solution..help?? Thanks = \ :o 

More about : gamers home theater setups

October 27, 2006 4:53:37 PM

Not sure if this will help, but I have the Creative Audigy 2 se. The manual states you need an optional S-PDIF card (which has coaxial digital and optical outputs) which connects to the soundcard output. But you can also hook up the soundcard output directly to your amp if you have the right cable. (3.5mm to RCA mono is the proper name). I just bought a 3' - 3.5mm cable and a 3.5mm to RCA adaptor from a local electronics store and plugged it directly in my coaxial input on my JVC amp. I then used the 5.1 sound from my amp. This cost only $2.50 and works great! there should be no need to buy any fancy coaxial cables or propriotory connectors. My local dollar store also has optical digital cables for $2.00. If your soundcard has a regular RCA output for the coaxial digital you can use any standard RCA cable instead...and bingo, digital sound!
October 27, 2006 4:58:39 PM

It seems most use a secondary PC as the htpc setup. This eliminates most the problems.
Related resources
October 27, 2006 5:14:10 PM

i don't know about your amp, but mine has a "6 channel input" which is just using 3 sets of stereo RCA cable for providing the 6channels required for 5.1, this works in many games and i can get my computer to "upmix" non-surround audio (but i don't stuff like that), but if i use the "6ch input" on my amp, i have no decoding, so it has to be done by my computer. i have never tried using dolby from my computer, so i can't help you there, but i do get surround sound from games and it is discrete, because my amp doesn't touch up on any of it (if i disconnect my sub input, i will have no bass, my amp won't even redirect bass in this scenario, and since i have sattelite speakers, the quality then sucks)

i use an Audigy LS by the way

Ara
October 27, 2006 6:07:39 PM

I have the exact same problem you have, using a minijack to RCA converter from my computer to my Pioneer receiver. I've been wondering how I can get true 5.1 surround sound from a new card. Does new mobo's support 5.1 surround sound output from their optical out ports?
October 27, 2006 6:14:20 PM

Yes the onboard optical outs support full surround sound. As for sound in to the reciever, just use all the outputs on a soundcard, and plug them into the descrete channel imput on the reciever.
October 27, 2006 6:42:39 PM

i know i reply a lot to this same type of question, in regards to which cards offer the type of surround youd want, taking into consideration the type of sound setup that you have too...

the x-purity, x-plosion, x-mystique, and montego ddl are all acceptable choices for what youre wanting, assuming you have coaxial rca, or optical toslink input connections on your receiver... simple as that.

and you will get the discrete surround channels youre looking for, in the form of DD 5.1 on all of the cards, and DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1 on a couple of the other cards

the montego ddl offers only optical toslink connections for its digital interfaces, so, it may be advisable not to get that, unless you have optical connections on your receiver

if your receiver has the capability of upmixing dd and dts signals, you can then go from standard 5.1 dd/dts to 6.1/7.1+ dd ex/dts es

im not sure if the x-purity is available yet, so, the x-plosion is the best choice out of all 4 of those cards then, as far as features offered.

hope this helps.
October 27, 2006 7:01:25 PM

Thanks for all the info. It never really mattered before since most things I watch (anime/movies) are usually only Xvid without 5.1 channel sound, but H.264 is making its ways and I've been holding off until I can figure out how to set-up my system.
October 27, 2006 7:02:33 PM

Quote:
Yes the onboard optical outs support full surround sound.


virtually no motherboards offer surround from the digital outputs. (not without the source media being encoded in a surround format)

because, the signal is being output in digital form from the sound card, directly to the external digital decoder... ...for there to be surround, the digitally outputted signal must be encoded in a surround sound format, prior to... otherwise, you get only 2 channels, a left and a right, and thats it... in the form of PCM.

edit: though, if the external decoder offers something like dolby prologic, you can have simulated surround then with the PCM signal... but, yeah, it sucks, lol
October 27, 2006 7:59:27 PM

I have a home theatre setup with my PC also. The reason you only get stereo from a digital link is that the signal is encoded as 2-channel PCM, not as DD or DTS. Generally you can use a passthrough with a dvd or surround audio disc to preserve the multichannel signal. But with a game this is not the case. You need a realtime DD or DTS encoder with a digital out to do this. I dont personally have one, but there are a (very small) handful of cards that do. This is a relatively new thing. I dont think the x-fi (or any other soundblaster card) will do this. I have no idea why manufacturers havent made this standard.

Frozencpu carries some of these new cards here:
http://www.frozencpu.com/cat/l3/g39/c51/s498/list/p1/Ga...
October 27, 2006 9:24:36 PM

I get full surround sound with my Abit Uguru and optical out. I also get full sourround sound with my xifi soundcard and the 3 mini-RCA output cables... reguardless of the source... although my reciever / soundcard must convert it into SS if the source isnt.
October 27, 2006 10:21:04 PM

im just saying, that an optical/coaxial connection by itself, will not deliver 2 channel PCM as a surround signal, 2 channels isnt surround (obviously)... but, that is all you can get via a 2 channel signal

without dolby digital or dts encoding (and some other surround formats im sure)... there is no way to get discrete surround sound over a digital connection

on the receiving end however, the digital decoder can decode that pcm signal as a 2 channel source, and upmix those 2 channels into simulated surround... but, you still only have 2 discrete channels regardless.

with multi cabled analog connections, you do have multi channel surround... one channel for each cable.

depending on the receiver, you *may* lose provided features and options going with a multi cabled analog approach, over digital... such as, you may not be able to use an equalizer, or bass boost, or detail enhancement, or environment simulation of some kind, you may even lose a desired soundstage perhaps... again, it would depend on the receiver too

but, using analog will allow you to get discrete surround sound
October 27, 2006 11:25:51 PM

Thx for the discussion guys. I know creative makes analog speakers, but I wonder if there is another reason they dont just throw a toslink cxn on the back that could connect directly to a receiver offerring true 5.1/7.1, (is this encoding in itself proprietary?)

I have had a DVD player connected via optical/toslink with great results on this receiver. I have all connections imagineable to me (http://www.audio-ideas.com/reviews/receivers/sony-da4es...). The ideal solution for me would be to have true surround via built in toslink like the Auzentech cards but with the gaming performance of the X-Fi.

I'm sure most ppl who have HT setups are in the same boat.
October 27, 2006 11:30:36 PM

well, creative does offer the DTS-610 interconnect, for about $100 or so, which will net you what youre wanting... ...to use an x-fi with all its features, the analog cabling inbetween, next is the DTS-610, then a digital cable goes out from it to your receiver... so, you can the surround your wanting, that way.

i can guess the reason they didnt though... is because creative takes pride in low cpu usage, high performance sound cards... adding DD and DTS encoding to those same cards would completely negate that benefit when its enabled, and result in a loss of performance of a few FPS (<5 FPS loss).

edit: as far as either of those surround formats being proprietary, they are... very much so (dolby digital belongs to dolby laboratories, and DTS belongs to DTS digital entertainment)... ...same situation with creatives EAX, and how noone can just go using it unless they have permission to, which is why you only have up to EAX 2.0 on non creative sound cards... and why creative has EAX 3, 4, and 5 free to use on any of their cards they want to.
October 27, 2006 11:34:37 PM

Quote:


I'm sure most ppl who have HT setups are in the same boat.



Exactly :)  I decided to keep the analog cables and digital cables both plugged in. During games I flick the reciever into analog mode. For dvds and music (since music is only 2-channels anyways) I use the optical link. This makes it so that I dont have to sacrifice having my beautiful digital sound during dvd playback, but i still get surround during games.

Just gotta make sure to buy some analog cables with nice shielding. Though, unfortunately, this reciever will not apply some effect with 6-channel analog input.

My suggestion, from experience, is to do what you just suggested: keep your existing card instead of switching. My guess is that you would not notice a large enough increase in quality by switching cards to justify the cost (and tossing out your Xfi).
November 2, 2006 1:27:45 PM

i had a problem hooking up my home theature system to my computer also. I baught a creative X-Fi platinum sound card and no the digital hookup wont work. You need to order these cords http://us.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=1&... These provide ut to 7.1 surround audio to you multi channel in on your audio reciever i use these with my Yamaha hometheature system works and sounds great. The sound card comes with alot of software that elts you fine tune your system. you can give your system a bass boost with makes everything sound amazing.
November 2, 2006 2:07:11 PM

Quote:
I have a home theatre setup with my PC also. The reason you only get stereo from a digital link is that the signal is encoded as 2-channel PCM, not as DD or DTS. Generally you can use a passthrough with a dvd or surround audio disc to preserve the multichannel signal. But with a game this is not the case. You need a realtime DD or DTS encoder with a digital out to do this. I dont personally have one, but there are a (very small) handful of cards that do. This is a relatively new thing. I dont think the x-fi (or any other soundblaster card) will do this. I have no idea why manufacturers havent made this standard.

Frozencpu carries some of these new cards here:
http://www.frozencpu.com/cat/l3/g39/c51/s498/list/p1/Ga...


I believe this is Creative's response to this type of question/comment:

Quote:
Dolby Digital Interactive Content Encoder (DICE)

Computer games written with support for 3D audio do not require a Dolby Digital Interactive Content Encoder (DICE) to output multichannel sound, with no exceptions. Sound devices that support the real time encoder technology from Dolby will simply receive the multichannel wave file output and encode it in real time to a somewhat modified Dolby Digital bitstream. Creative does not support the Dolby Digital Interactive Content Encoder on any of its sound cards.

The only difference between a Sound Blaster card and an audio card that has a real time encoder, is that you can make a one-wire, digital connection from your audio card to your home theater receiver and enjoy discrete multichannel sound from the game. However there will be a continuous, slight delay, known as "latency", as the encoder is creating and transmitting the bitstream, and of course the compression scheme being used is "lossy" (i.e. not bit-accurate).

If you want to enjoy 3D audio in 3D enabled PC games in multichannel surround sound with a Sound Blaster card, it is recommended that you connect the analog outputs of the sound card directly to the analog inputs of the receiver. This will require 3 cables for 5.1 surround sound, one for front right and left, one for rear left and right, and another one for front center and subwoofer. Though it requires more cables than a real time encoder system, it will not have any latency issues. When connecting PC audio to a home theater receiver, Creative's latest sound cards such as Sound Blaster Audigy, Sound Blaster Audigy 2 are likely to provide higher quality audio than any Dolby Digital real time encode system available for the PC today.
November 2, 2006 2:11:22 PM

in regards to latency issues though, there are 'no' percievable delays in sound, TBH

in regards to sound quality, as far as digital output from the card, i would be iffy at best about it being better, but, theres no surround that way anyhow, so, you get stereo, as far as ddl/dts compression, thats there when its enabled

as far as analog output from the card, thats completely true, audio quality is better (than most other cards), no doubt

...though the x-purity/x-meridian i would even keep a look out for as far as analog quality, and improved quality after compression (compared to existing ddl/dts cards), im not sure its out yet though

scratch that... it is out, lol, just checked
November 2, 2006 2:14:50 PM

Quote:
I have the exact same problem you have, using a minijack to RCA converter from my computer to my Pioneer receiver. I've been wondering how I can get true 5.1 surround sound from a new card. Does new mobo's support 5.1 surround sound output from their optical out ports?


Go over to the home theater forum on Toms. There are a couple of approaches discussed there. Sorry, late running out the door and no time to find the link.
November 2, 2006 5:10:26 PM

Yes, this is a classic Creative response. It is ironic that they call this a "solution." It seems more like an "advertisement" to me.

I am going to look into DICE for my audiotrak card, though. I wonder if DICE has to be supported at the driver level, or if it can be integrated further upstream using cpu time? Ill let you know if I find out.

If I can keep my audio latency using it under a couple of ms, then it might be worth trying out :) 
November 2, 2006 9:07:36 PM

I don't have a Dolby Digital Live card, so I'm only spelling possibilities here. If Dolby Digital Live encoding cannot be turned off on the sound cards, and the lossy encoding is on at *all* times, then yes, I agree, that going analog with "hi-end" Creative cards can be, "arguably better."

I say this, because game-audio is already lossy-heavy, but Creative would have an advantage with music and movie tracks which are usually of higher bitrate (movie DD streams are a higher bitrate than dolby digital live), so encoding them on a lower bitrate will have compression artifacts. One place where analog still cannot compete with digital is noise floor, but this is simple physics. So in this situation, you have to deal with noise level vs compression errors. In a large room, IMO, noise level will win out, because the "listening volume" will bring out the DAC-ADC-DAC noise, which is much more noticeable than compression artifacts (are you gonna be bothered by loss of frequencies more or by loud tweeter hiss?). In a smaller room, it's possible that compression artifacts will be more apparent.

If you *can* turn off DDL-encoding for music and movie tracks, then, I would lean towards a DDL-digital card over Creative's analog options, because, especially in a larger room, due to higher volumes making DAC-ADC-DAC noise very apparent, it's a simple matter of numbers.
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