How to set up an 8 channel sound card.

Hello, i have an Asus m3n78-em motherboard with 8 channel audio onboard. I have noticed that my sound quality is not as good as I would like, so i am considering buying a new sound card. Before I do that though (since they are all likely to have 6 or 8 channels also), I'd like to know how to go about using all those channels. I currently have my audio outputting through the single (green) headphone/line out jack which splits into 2 RCA plugs into my Sony stereo. I have 2 surround speakers, 2 front speakers, a center speaker, and 2 subwoofers, but they are all driven by my stereo receiver.

My question is: what kind of speakers do I need to make use of each of the individual (side speaker, sub, right, left, etc.)3.5mm jack on my mobo? To my knowledge, single speakers don't use 3.5mm plugs, they use the 2 wires (+/-), so I don't see how they would connect to my PC. My other question is, if there is a way to do this, will it be worth is (will i see an increase in sound quality?) or should I just get a new sound card and run a coax cable to my stereo receiver? Thanks in advance.
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  1. You have a stereo receiver with all those speakers? The first thing you should do is get a modern receiver that can drive at least 5 plus a subwoofer. Speakers need to be powered by an amplifier. With a stereo receiver, you can't use all your speakers to play surround from your computer, and I'm guessing the receiver has no digital input, but you say "coax", so I'm going to stop right here and ask for the model number of your receiver.
  2. I'm sorry, it is a surround sound receiver. I'm have a bad habit of calling a sound system "stereo". But the receiver is a Sony STR-K700. It has the 5 original speakers, but I replaced the sub with 2 large enclosures each containing 2 12 or 15 inch (not sure which) and a mid-sized speaker.

    By coax, I am referring to the RCA jack labeled DVD coaxial audio in.

    The main thing I'm hung up on is how to make use of each 3.5mm jacks on the onboard soundcard. It almost seems to me that if that can be done, I can eliminate the need for a separate receiver, in which case, would I get better sound?
  3. Best answer
    You are forgiven. The answer to your question depends on what you want to do with your computer sound. Right now, with the setup you have, you should have purchased the separate SPDIF module described on page 1-29 of your motherboard owner's manual and be sending audio to your receiver through the coax. This will at least give you DVD surround, but you cannot send surround from games that way. For that, you would need a sound card that can do Dolby Digital Live or DTS Direct. If you want to play Blu-ray, you'll need a card with a DVI/HDMI output. So, it depends.

    If you just want to use that side speaker jack, you can't do it with what you have. Your sound circuitry won't let you run analog and digital at the same time. There are dedicated powered computer speaker systems out there that you simply plug into all your computer's jacks, but you're spending money now, and what they can reproduce will be limited by your audio card. I think it's better and simpler to let the receiver do all the decoding. Thing is, your receiver doesn't do 7.1 (8-channel), and it doesn't have discrete inputs for each channel.

    Those audio output jacks on the back of your mobo provide only a line-level signal. There is far too little power there to drive speakers (but certain headphones will produce sound). You have to run those lines to an audio power amplifier (which is what is in your receiver, a separate one for each channel except the subwoofer one which depends on the amplifier in the subwoofer itself).

    "Better" sound is subjective, to some extent. Some people like listening to Amy Winehouse in simulated surround sound. I consider that torture for both reasons. Your on-board sound will blow your mind if you have good speakers and can get the connections sorted out.
  4. So do you believe that I would be better off buying the SPDIF module or an entirely new dedicated sound card? I'm not willing to spend more than $100 on this, really. I would just like to get some better sound without having to replace my entire speaker setup.

    I have my computer set up with a dvi output on my evga nvidia geforce gtx 260 with an adapter to hdmi into my tv. I also have a blu-Ray player set up internal, so I'd like to get some good sound from that. I often watch DVD quality movies from my hard drive too, and I play games on occasion also. My biggest concern is sound quality when listening to music through iTunes. when I replaced my car speakers and installed a sub I realized how good my music can sound and am left disappointed with my home system.
  5. I've looked at what info is available online for your gear, and I say get the SPDIF module and see whether that floats your boat sufficiently. They're cheap. This will give you Dolby Digital from DVDs and Blu-rays, and from iTunes, too, sometimes, I think. I've read that coax is better than optical, I forget why, but it stands to reason that fewer conversions is better. Your receiver is a bit of a dinosaur, I'm sure you already know, in that it has no HDMI.

    About your overall impression of the quality of your sound, everything depends on the speakers and the room. An eight-transistor AM radio will sound great through studio speakers. Any sound card under $100 won't be noticeably better than the onboard sound you have already.

    P.S.--You will get only stereo from your games this way. To get surround sound from games, like I said, you'd need a card with encoding. These can be had for something like 35-60 dollars.
  6. Ok, well then I'll go with the SPDIF module with coaxial for now then, since I don't play games too often. Thanks a lot for all the help, you saved me a bit of money, and I learned quite a bit.
  7. Best answer selected by eaw2539.
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