Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

Home audio on a PC, help I'm clueless

Last response: in Components
Share
March 11, 2008 8:46:01 PM

Hello, I am looking into replacing my Logitech Z-3 speakers on my onboard sound (Ow I know). I want some really good sound on my PC and I have started to read about the short comings of PC speakers and sound cards. I want to get a decent sound card, hook it up to a nice, but inexpensive, AMP/receiver (is there a difference? Those terms seem interchangeable) and buy some nice stereo speakers (no surround sound). I have tried to do some research, but the terms the people use when reviewing AMPs/receivers are well over my head. I am not sure if I can truly get across just how clueless I am in this case. My question is this: What AMP/receiver, sound card, speakers and subwoofer should I look into for a very budget system (under $1000). Also can someone link me a guide or explain to me the finer details, like how this is all hooked up, what to look for in the above mentioned products, what brands are good, and any type of information you think I might not know, because I most likely wont. I have not posted this thread out of laziness, I am finding it very hard to figure any of this out and as sound goes all I know is that specifications rarely tell you anything about quality or lack there of. Also this forum has great members, and I truly respect THW forum members and their opinions.

Is this a good receiver? I keep hearing how great it is, and the price is about right, though I can go higher:
http://www.amazon.com/Onkyo-TX-8522-Watt-Stereo-Receive...

Are these good sound cards? Is there much of a difference with a receiver/AMP?
Cheap:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Expensive:
An audiophile (He calls himself that but I am not sure) just bought this card: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

More about : home audio clueless

March 11, 2008 8:52:19 PM

a receiver is generally an amp with a built in tuner.

The first question IS.

What do you want to do with it?
March 11, 2008 9:02:38 PM

I would like to buy some decent sounding stereo speakers. From what I hear, and what I have experienced, PC speakers are pretty much crap. My Logitech Z-3 speakers have absolutely no bass accuracy, and can not be turned up without terrible distortion. From what I hear this is true of all PC speakers, regardless of the sound card. So my answer really is that I want a receiver to hook up to my sound card so that I can power some real speakers. Also I would like a subwoofer somewhere in this system, a 2.1 set up I think, that can produce accurate bass and not just rattle the window panes.
Related resources
March 11, 2008 9:15:00 PM

But what sound sources??? :bounce: 
If you want to have a Hi-Fi grade system to listen to your CD collection you could spend a fortune. You could try your present speakers with a Xi-Fi card and hear the difference.

Mike.
March 11, 2008 9:45:12 PM

I just want some decent stereo speakers and an accurate subwoofer connected to my PC for listening to music and gaming. Thank you for the quick responses.
March 11, 2008 10:30:11 PM

firetatoo said:
get something that has optical or digital coax.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductReview.aspx?Item=N...

if you have pci-e x1. recomend the spdif digital coax or optical.


Is there any difference between that sound card and the one that I posted earlier? (besides the PCI and PCIE 1x interface)

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I was also thinking the exact same thing about Sp/dif, I just did not know if it mattered in this particular scenario.Thank you for telling me. Are these cards any good as well? Price is an object, but if the difference between a $100 sound card and a $200 sound card is large, then I will deal with it.

Cheap:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Expensive:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
March 11, 2008 11:11:40 PM

While I'm no Audiophile, I can say that I own the bluegears B-Enspirer sound card you have listed. It's currently hooked up to a set of 2.1 Altec Lansing PC Speakers and used primarily for DVDs and Music through my HTPC. I have no complaints, but eventually, I intend to pick up a 5.1 receiver with an optical S/PDIF input to augment my Home Theater experience.

I also own a Creative X-FI XtremeMusic sound card that has been working just fine, though they are a little hard to find these days.

-Wolf sends
March 12, 2008 1:58:05 AM

I have changed my budget from $700 to $1000, as you can see in my original post.
March 12, 2008 2:02:04 AM

How are these speaker sets. I have listed a cheap version and an expensive version, as I have been doing. Also will the receiver in my original post work with these?

Cheap:
Speakers (pair) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OG4E2U/ref=cm_cr_p...
Subwoofer: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OL22T2/ref=cm_cr_p...

Expensive:
Speakers (must by 2 speakers seperately): http://www.amazon.com/Polk-Audio-Monitor-Floorstanding-...
Subwoofer: http://www.amazon.com/Polk-Audio-Monitor-Powered-Subwoo...
March 12, 2008 11:42:52 AM

Are you still wanting to use a sub? if so, a surround reciever will be your best bet as it does all the signal splitting. "Amplifiers" tend to only be 2channel stereo.

As I remember (don't pay nearly as much attention to HiFi as I used to) Onkyo are pretty average.

I don't think I've ever heard a good thing about Sony's hifi speakers (not heard anything bad though either)

I think a good investment would be a copy of WhatHIFI or a similar magazine. These will break down lists of products into price ranges, features and scores as well as a short conclusion.

Also, a $1000 hifi system would be wasted on any lossy audio codec, only spend this much on this sort of equipment if you use FLAC or WAV.
March 12, 2008 12:40:00 PM

Panasonic SA-XR55K Receiver

Here's the receiver I intend to add to my Home Theater solution. Probably a bit overkill for your uses, but should give you some ideas.

-Wolf sends
March 12, 2008 5:14:18 PM

It would appear that the DADDY of all cards right now is the auzentech prelude

http://www.auzentech.com/site/products/x-fi_prelude.php

Gaming, and audio.

I have a fairly mid-high end Onkyo receiver for my home theatre / audio.
The speakers I have have fairly low bass response (20Hz I think) so I don't even use a sub. Subs aren't mandatory, they just help if you have speakers that tail off anywhere from 60-120Hz on the bass.
March 12, 2008 5:14:42 PM

The_Blood_Raven said:
Hello, I am looking into replacing my Logitech Z-3 speakers on my onboard sound (Ow I know). I want some really good sound on my PC and I have started to read about the short comings of PC speakers and sound cards. I want to get a decent sound card, hook it up to a nice, but inexpensive, AMP/receiver (is there a difference? Those terms seem interchangeable) and buy some nice stereo speakers (no surround sound). I have tried to do some research, but the terms the people use when reviewing AMPs/receivers are well over my head. I am not sure if I can truly get across just how clueless I am in this case. My question is this: What AMP/receiver, sound card, speakers and subwoofer should I look into for a very budget system (under $1000). Also can someone link me a guide or explain to me the finer details, like how this is all hooked up, what to look for in the above mentioned products, what brands are good, and any type of information you think I might not know, because I most likely wont. I have not posted this thread out of laziness, I am finding it very hard to figure any of this out and as sound goes all I know is that specifications rarely tell you anything about quality or lack there of. Also this forum has great members, and I truly respect THW forum members and their opinions.

Is this a good receiver? I keep hearing how great it is, and the price is about right, though I can go higher:
http://www.amazon.com/Onkyo-TX-8522-Watt-Stereo-Receive...

Are these good sound cards? Is there much of a difference with a receiver/AMP?
Cheap:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Expensive:
An audiophile (He calls himself that but I am not sure) just bought this card: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


For SPDIF output there is only ONE soundcard worth buying:
http://www.auzentech.com/site/products/x-fi_prelude.php
NO OTHER SOUND CARD HAS EAX 5.0 AND REALTIME DTS ENCODING OVER SPDIF SUPPORT (with true audiophile sound - check out the reviews of this card)

A good entry level receiver like this:
http://www.richersounds.com/showproduct.php?cda=showproduct&pid=SONY-STRDE400
was recommended to a friend when we went into Richer Sounds last year... Apparently Sony is no longer playing second fiddle to Panasonic and Yamaha. Guess you must have an equivalent in the US??

That leaves you some lee-way in your budget for true Hi-Fi speakers... Through your money at them!!

Bob
March 12, 2008 7:01:03 PM

I have done more research and I think a subwoofer is now not needed, the room I will put these in is quite small. This however limits my speaker options since I must get one with some decent bass. The Sony receiver that you sent me seems to have good reviews. The problem is I can not find it for below 400 USD yet its 100 pounds. The sound card options have been narrowed down to the bluegears b-Enspirer 7.1, because of the price and the fact that the Auzentech has a lot of extras I do not need. The speakers are kind of simple to pick out at the moment, its all about price and the reviews. The receiver is the hard part, as I still am not sure how it all works. The Sony and the Polk speakers, both low end from what I can see, are rated at 200w, but the receivers I see never go above 100-120w x2 (what ever that means). Some one please shed some light on this, as usual I am clueless.

Also I would like to clear up the air, I do not want an audiophile grade system. All I want is a decent, full bodied, accurate, and cheap system. The cheaper the better, as well as with performance. Also I game and also listen to rock and heavy metal music. Thank you all.
March 12, 2008 8:05:06 PM

The_Blood_Raven said:
...
The sound card options have been narrowed down to the bluegears b-Enspirer 7.1, because of the price and the fact that the Auzentech has a lot of extras I do not need.
...


Yeh looks good. Very good. Uhmm I wonder if the Linux drivers they provide support realtime DTS encoding over SPDIF??!!
Guess you don't need EAX 5.0 though - not sure how much this adds over EAX 2.0 anyway??

Bob



March 12, 2008 8:12:47 PM

Worry about the sound card last. Find a good audio shop in your area. If you have a budget of $1000, don't overspend on speakers - spend about half of it (or more) on a good integrated amplifier. Don't be afraid of finding a deal on a used piece, either. Mainstream brands are a no-no. If you can get it at BB, CC, etc, take a pass on it. A good piece in this range is going to have lower power specs than a Sony, Onkyo, etc, but don't let that scare you - something like an Arcam, Cambridge, NAD, Rotel, etc @ 50 watts will sound better than the others rated at 120 watts. There are plenty of good speakers in the sub-$500 range - again, mainstream is generally a no-no.
April 2, 2008 1:56:51 PM

Make sure if you purchase a receiver that it has all the separate analogue inputs for 5.1/6.1 or 7.1 as you won't have all discrete channels mapped out to the receiver via SPDIF while playing games that support EAX.
April 2, 2008 2:50:10 PM

Here's some food for thought for you in the sound card department, a GREAT bundle deal that newegg is offering an X-fi Elite Pro (retails for $200-250) and a set of Creative HS-900 headset ($40 retail) for only $130 ($80 after rebate). According to newegg it's not an openbox or anything, it's a retail bundle.

Creative 53SB000003000 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Interface Elite Pro Sound Card and HS-900 Headphone Bundle - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
April 2, 2008 5:49:14 PM

emp said:
Here's some food for thought for you in the sound card department, a GREAT bundle deal that newegg is offering an X-fi Elite Pro (retails for $200-250) and a set of Creative HS-900 headset ($40 retail) for only $130 ($80 after rebate). According to newegg it's not an openbox or anything, it's a retail bundle.

Creative 53SB000003000 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Interface Elite Pro Sound Card and HS-900 Headphone Bundle - Retail

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Hi All :hello: 

Please don't blaspheme!! Perhaps you haven't heard but consumers are being called on en mass to boycott Creative Labs products!! :non: 

http://forums.creative.com/creativelabs/board/message?board.id=soundblaster&thread.id=116332&view=by_date_ascending&page=1

I for one will not consider buying or using one of their products again!!

Bob
April 2, 2008 6:24:48 PM

Oh yes I've read all about it, and I own a creative sound card as well. It is a stupid business move what they're doing, but as far as I know this whole Daniel_K mess only affects audigy cards and X-Fi line up is doing decent enough in the driver department for XP and Vista nowadays (Correct me if I'm wrong).

I sure would like to try in the future another company other than Creative, but to pass on such a deal like that (Basically after rebate the card one of the top X-fi models that usually retails for $220-250 is going for $40-50), it would be a dumb move for anyone in the market for a sound card.

I mean if the OP is willing to support the cause then by all means do so, I'm just presenting an option that I would jump on if I didn't already have a sound card.
April 2, 2008 6:43:08 PM

I have to toss in my 2 cents....

It sounds as if the original poster isn't going to benefit from true high end equipment as he doesn't seem to be bitten by the audiophile bug yet. With that in mind, receivers like Denon, Onkyo, Sony, and Pioneer are going to give him all he needs. I'm guessing he'll upgrade to 5.1 sound or better, or else there really isn't any reason to spend a lot of money or equipment that has lots of processing power for a 2.1 system.

And skimping on speakers for a higher end source is like getting the fastest CPU and a cheap power supply in my mind.

I think there's been lots of good info in the previous posts, but spending lots of dough on SN ratios that are far superior to what the speakers can produce seems like a wast. And no sub? You'd better have a stereo set with good bottom end.

Just my opinion....
April 2, 2008 7:23:42 PM

I will toss in this, I know 3 friends that all bought Onkyo recievers and not one of those units lasted more then 3 years. While my Nikko system is now over 20 years old. As for speakers, you can't seriously buy speakers from reviews. You have to experiance the sound for yourself and when listening to speakers you must do so in an enclosed space not out in the open like some stores do. Speakers add color to the sound in there own special way. By using different materials for construction of the speaker and by the shape and size. I had always seen reviews of Bose 901 speakers and they are still one of the best out on the market but when I first heard a set I couldn't believe anyone would spend that kind of money on the sound I heard. I settled on Cerwin Vega speakers, I liked the sound from the larger woofers and horn tweeters compaired to the Bose use of a series of small speakers and directed sound. Not only do different speakers have there own sound (color) but your ears interpret the sounds different as well. So don't ever buy speakers from a review, the only review of speakers should be by your own ears and not whats printed on paper.
April 2, 2008 7:36:21 PM

The_Blood_Raven said:
Hello, I am looking into replacing my Logitech Z-3 speakers on my onboard sound (Ow I know). I want some really good sound on my PC and I have started to read about the short comings of PC speakers and sound cards. I want to get a decent sound card, hook it up to a nice, but inexpensive, AMP/receiver (is there a difference? Those terms seem interchangeable) and buy some nice stereo speakers (no surround sound). I have tried to do some research, but the terms the people use when reviewing AMPs/receivers are well over my head. I am not sure if I can truly get across just how clueless I am in this case. My question is this: What AMP/receiver, sound card, speakers and subwoofer should I look into for a very budget system (under $1000). Also can someone link me a guide or explain to me the finer details, like how this is all hooked up, what to look for in the above mentioned products, what brands are good, and any type of information you think I might not know, because I most likely wont. I have not posted this thread out of laziness, I am finding it very hard to figure any of this out and as sound goes all I know is that specifications rarely tell you anything about quality or lack there of. Also this forum has great members, and I truly respect THW forum members and their opinions.

Is this a good receiver? I keep hearing how great it is, and the price is about right, though I can go higher:
http://www.amazon.com/Onkyo-TX-8522-Watt-Stereo-Receive...

Snip


First off, the PC provides an excellent DSP sound source. However, there is one item to remember; analog audio will always have more S/N due to all the digital traffic inside the PC. So to circumvent this shortcoming, the requirements needed is a sound card or on-board system that produces 24 bit of resolution at 96kHz sample rate and an SPDIF (Sony Phillips Digital InterFace) output/input. Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 should be a minimum.
As for the Onkyo, I have a similar higher-end Onkyo and enjoy it with my PC setup using an optical interface for my SPDIF computer output.

Caveat:
Some audiophiles treat value-line home entertainment and computer audio with too much dogma, so what ever you plan to purchase may never get the approving nod from these snobs.

Enjoy,

Rick
April 2, 2008 8:11:53 PM

I would never buy bose...

I can't afford the amps/processors I really want :( 

My first Onkyo is about 10 years old and still running great, current Onkyo is 4 years old...

My HTPC uses a Creative Audigy2 ZS over SPDIF to my Onkyo. I have an Audax 6.1 setup with (1) 10" 500 watt sub and (1) 12" 250 watt sub. Sound is terrific.

Quality sound card is a must; on board will not cut it. High quality watts are not comparable to BB $199 reciever watts. We could go on and on....

In the end it's what sounds good to you, and you usually get what you pay for.
April 5, 2008 8:30:05 PM

IMO subs are always needed. You can find one that will fill any sized room.
April 5, 2008 9:36:27 PM

The Panasonic receiver that wolfshadow suggested is very good. Unlike traditional analog amplifiers, it's class-d which means its much smaller, less idle power usage, and can output a lot of clean power (very low THD, 0.03% at reference level playback from S&V measurements).

I suggest you go to AVSforum. This particular subforum: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?f=89

It's a great forum with people from budgets large and small who want a new HT setup.

As far as subs go, my personal opinion is that you should get a quality subwoofer, which would probably bump you above $1k if you are buying all at once. You still have to consider cabling/speaker wire/shipping costs. Therefore if I were in your shoes I would probably start with just bookshelves + receiver at around $700 and then save up for a good sub. The best subs under $300 IMO are the Hsu STF-1 ($299) and the Onix X-Sub ($199). Both of them have flat frequency response a little south of 30hz, which I cant say the same for a lot of retail subs more than twice the price.

As a general price break-down it could look like this:

Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver - ~$300 shipped.

Dana 630 - $450 Shipped

Cabling and Speaker wire - $50

Onix AV-123 X-Sub - $250 shipped.

This would run you almost exactly $1k. But i think in a desktop setting that bookshelves will provide more than enough bass.

I personally owned the Polk PSW-10 you linked to earlier and it sounds horrendous. The bass is loose and is almost as bad as PC subwoofers. I opted for a sealed sub (SVS SB-12/plus) to fill the bottom end (60hz and below) for my desktop but unless I was listening to hip hop I really couldnt tell too much of a difference (music rarely has any output below 50hz; most bookshelves have little trouble getting that low). Another thing to consider that in a small room, a subwoofer can be overpowering and reduce your overall listening enjoyment.

As far as speaker brands within your price range, I recommend (with internet direct generally providing a much better value for the money):

*Internet Direct*
Ascend Acoustics <- very accurate but plain looking
Axiom <- looks like furniture
AV123 <- good finishes and great accuracy
Dana <- in a class of its own

*Retail*
Usher <- the S-520 is a gem at $400 and under; this speaker is designed by Joe D'appolito. Many believe this and the Dana 630s are as good as you can get under $500
NHT <- Classic line is pretty good if you can afford the Classic 3, very well designed 3-way
Energy
Paradigm
Infinity

Subwoofers:
*Internet Direct*
Hsu
AV123
SVS
Epik
Elemental Designs
Creative Sounds

*Retail*
Velodyne
...there are some more but most of the good retail subwoofers are horrendously expensive and outside your price range.

This is my setup:
NHT Classic 3 center channel
Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 front channels
Ascend 170SE rears
SVS SB-12/plus subwoofer
Panasonic SA-XR55 receiver (yeah, im biased, I recommend what i own)
April 5, 2008 10:34:09 PM

jay_l_a said:
a receiver is generally an amp with a built in tuner.


Minor Quibble:

Receiver = Preamp + Amp + Tuner
April 5, 2008 10:59:56 PM

The_Blood_Raven said:
Hello, I am looking into replacing my Logitech Z-3 speakers on my onboard sound (Ow I know). I want some really good sound on my PC and I have started to read about the short comings of PC speakers and sound cards. I want to get a decent sound card, hook it up to a nice, but inexpensive, AMP/receiver (is there a difference?.....


As someone who has spent a good 30 years buying, modding and selling hi end audio equipment purely as a hobby, I'd be hard pressed to tell you any "absolutes" in the price range you are speaking to. Over time some vendors rise to the top and sink and a new one takes its place. At this point in time, tho, the shining star in this price range, IMO is Rotel.

I am all for separates (separate amp, preamp, tuner, CD player etc), but an integrated amp (which combines amp and preamp) isn't a bad compromise.

ROTEL RA-1062 $600
ROTEL RT-1080 $250

The receiver which combines the functions of the two above is the Rotel RX-1052 which goes for about $850.

http://reviews.cnet.com/av-receivers/rotel-rx-1052/4505...

Rotel stuff is gorgeous, very good build quality and clean, neutral sound. Never seen a bad review.

As for speakers, too bad you have a small room and don't live near Long Island , NYC. I have a pair of my father's MG-1's sitting in box in my den that he wants me to sell for him (As well as twin Valedyne subwoofers and bunch of other stuff). He moved into a small Apartment and can't fit them.

http://www.magnepan.com/
April 23, 2008 4:12:09 AM

I have the bluegears in one system and the HT Striker 7.1 in another with a pioneer 110 watt/channel AV amp through Polk Monitor 10 B speaker for mains and bose 301 for rear surround and JBL center channel sound great. Have fun and buy some good quality equipment and you will have it for years bought the Polks in 1989 and still sound great today.
!