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Media PC with Radeon 5670 and X-Fi

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March 17, 2010 2:20:42 PM

I just purchased a Media PC for my home theater. It has a Gigabte P55A-UD4PMB with I7, a ATI Radeon 5670 sound card, and a Creative Labx X-Fi extreme sound card. The salesman told me the sound card would provide better sound, so I added it. However, the ATI sends hi-definition sound through HDMI to my Denon 4308ci receiver, and nothing is even hooked up to the sound card. I decided to disable the sound card as I can't see that I'm using it, and I always select HDMI in programs like Total Media Theater. I am confused as to why I was told the sound card would give me better sound, isn't my Denon doing the processing? Does the X-Fi do some sort of audio processing within the computer that would send better sound over HDMI to my receiver, or is it useless unless I plug something into it's external jacks? What does the audio processing in my computer?

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March 17, 2010 2:41:28 PM

sounds like you got ripped off.

yes as long as all the sound goes through HDMI to your HT amp then your sound card does not do anything useful. In fact it probably does not do anything at all.

Im assuming here that your PC puts out stereo digital through HDMI and you use whatever pro-logic setting on your amp, or it sends out a dolby digital or DTS track with multiple channels. in either case, sound card does nothing more than what you already have
March 17, 2010 3:14:31 PM

That's right - I had to do some EDID modifications to my system, but now the ATI even sends bitstream for all the uncompressed high definition audio on blu-ray to the receiver, or it can do it and send pcm. The Creative manual mentions that you can hook a guitar up to the card, though all I see are 1/8 mini jacks. Maybe I could use it to run a set of stereo monitors elsewhere in the house or something.
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March 17, 2010 6:50:46 PM

yeah... if you really want to make better use of the card then you could set it to be the source of the sound in your system. use the spdif port on it. Youll get the nice x-fi surround effects when playing music, or other nice goodies such as Dolby Digital Live.

which X-Fi card is it anyways?
March 17, 2010 9:06:09 PM

It's the Xtreme Gamer version, it says it's a retail version too, but Cyberpower didn't include a single game, Creative always used to include games with their cards. I could use the SPDIF for music to the receiver, that's what I used to do with my desktop - I liked using windows media player with G-Force, and album artwork. The ATI is supposed to be sending 192khz 24 bit audio out over the HDMI, but I suppose the best way to tell is to listen and compare. I suppose the X-Fi might add something extra special to pc games as well.
March 18, 2010 3:11:56 AM

moooog said:
I just purchased a Media PC for my home theater. It has a Gigabte P55A-UD4PMB with I7, a ATI Radeon 5670 sound card, and a Creative Labx X-Fi extreme sound card. The salesman told me the sound card would provide better sound, so I added it. However, the ATI sends hi-definition sound through HDMI to my Denon 4308ci receiver, and nothing is even hooked up to the sound card. I decided to disable the sound card as I can't see that I'm using it, and I always select HDMI in programs like Total Media Theater. I am confused as to why I was told the sound card would give me better sound, isn't my Denon doing the processing? Does the X-Fi do some sort of audio processing within the computer that would send better sound over HDMI to my receiver, or is it useless unless I plug something into it's external jacks? What does the audio processing in my computer?


Was it Besy Buy? I have seen Best Buy do that a lot.
March 18, 2010 8:45:09 PM

moooog said:
It's the Xtreme Gamer version, it says it's a retail version too, but Cyberpower didn't include a single game, Creative always used to include games with their cards. I could use the SPDIF for music to the receiver, that's what I used to do with my desktop - I liked using windows media player with G-Force, and album artwork. The ATI is supposed to be sending 192khz 24 bit audio out over the HDMI, but I suppose the best way to tell is to listen and compare. I suppose the X-Fi might add something extra special to pc games as well.


Yes... just test and listen.

im just curious about one thing though, the HDMI port on your video card, does the gfx card already have audio chips onboard? Because with the GTS250 that I have i do have sound trough HDMI, but I need to make a wire with spdif go into the card inside the computer in order to get a signal into it. The card itself has no audio processing stuff. all it does is take spdif from whatever source and merge it with the HDMI video signal and put it into one cable.... is it the same with your card? because then obviously you can hook up your X-fi to the SPDIF in your video card and use the x-fi as sound card. (setting it to Dolby Digital Live so you get realtime 5.1 dolby digital encoding)
March 25, 2010 3:35:41 PM

I would have to look, I wondered about that. It's just that SPDIF can't transfer the DTS-MA and Dolby Tru-HD, and I am getting that over the HDMI, so I thought the graphics card had the processing. What I'm currently getting is a disaster - I am getting all kinds of static cropping up on audio, while scrolling through Windows Media Center, playing trailers, playing WMA files - the corruption pops up - it seems to pop up more quickly when multi-tasking. I think it's a IRQ sharing problem, and I think the Radeon, the X-Fi, and my wireless keyboards are all part of the problem as they are sharing with a lot of other stuff, and I read that Soundblaster cards have never done well with that. I tried using a divx player for a while, and it seemed to have much less trouble with this static showing up after a few tracks like the Windows players - but the windows players should work.

I also cannot get the PC to send unprocessed sound for standard DVD or stereo WMA files - it only sends 2 channel PCM, and I can't use any of my receiver's multichannel processing like Dolby Pro-Logic II etc. I think I'll remove the X-Fi card from the computer and see what happens then - but I think the ATI card is part of the problem as well. One time I tried uninstalling the X-Fi card and drivers, and the High Definition Audio Device, and after I reinstalled the ATI I was getting unprocessed audio to my Denon for WMA - but for some reason I only got pops and a screech when the blu-ray arrived at the main track. So I added everything back how it was including the X-FI, fixed the Denon's EDID, and Blu-Ray's again work perfectly, it's just all the lesser stuff. I downloaded a codec pack called Shark something, and it helped with some problems of AVI files having no sound - but not the static in windows players. Very frustrating for a Media Center PC - the only way I can get sound from my surround speakers (except for blu-ray) is to set my A/V receiver to 7-channel stereo. I tried disabling the X-Fi card again, but cannot repeat what I did the 1st time to get unprocessed sound to my receiver for dolby digital and stereo audio, so I figure the problem must be with the ATI 5670. I am using the special Redwood driver from AMD.

I purchased it from Cyberpower, their prices are hard to beat. The display on the Silverstone case is dark, I'm not sure if that is normal either.
March 25, 2010 4:14:42 PM

If I uninstall the High Definition Audio Device, which is part of the ATI - I get no sound of any sort, so I don't really think the X-Fi has anything to do with the sound processing going over the HDMI. I still worry that it may be causing conflicts and the sound corruption though. One time I uninstalled everything, and after reinstalling I was able to get unprocessed sound to my A/V receiver for my WMA files and get 7 channel sound with Dolby Pro-Logic II. I think I'll try removing the X-Fi card altogether, and then reinstall the ATI high definition audio defice and see what happens. Perhaps I should try putting the ATI into a different slot? Its a media case, so there might not be many options for that.
March 25, 2010 5:50:43 PM

its fine... its clear that the X-fi is useless in your case. remove it completely, and install the ATI drivers again. done.
March 25, 2010 7:12:06 PM

I uninstalled the High Definition Audio Controller, and let windows 7 re-install it automatically. So far so good - my receiver is getting a unprocessed signal on my music files, no distortion so far either. I think I'll return the X-Fi card for the 90 bucks though, the sound quality seems to be stellar as is.
March 26, 2010 1:53:22 PM

Well, I guess that was no fix - no High Definition sound on Blu-Ray - just hiss when the main movie starts. If I install 10.3 catalyst driver, only Stereo Speaker Configuration is available. If I install 8.69 Redwood xt driver, I can select 7.1 speaker configuration, and get High Definition sound on Blu-Ray - but only 2 channel sound on DVD and Music Files - It reads 7.1 multichannel on my Denon, but sound only comes from the main speakers. One workaround is to go into the configuration and set my speakers to "Stereo", and then I am able to use Dolby Pro-Logic 2 to get surround sound - that is the only way I can get 5.1DD DVD to play with surround sound. I was also having a lot of trouble with static and corruption from Stereo sources - these problems go away if I uninstall the high definition audio controller, but then of course I have no Hi-Def sound codecs on Blu-Ray unless I re-enable the device. Are the 10.3 catylyst drivers not for use with the 5670 Radeon card?
March 26, 2010 2:11:49 PM

ok. my suggestion:

since you have the x-fi already, you might just as well use it. Remove all audio drivers and anything sound related to you graphics card. were not going to use it. Install the x-fi, and install all it's drivers. Set it to digital mode, and use the sp-dif port on it and connect that to your amplifier. like that you will have the x-fi do sound, and gfx do video and all.

DVD's (most at least) should have AC3 dolby digital tracks, which are supposed to be passed straight through sp-dif unprocessed (also called AC3 Passthrough or Spdif passthrough) and then processed by your amplifier. Any sound file with two channels (music or cheap DVD's) will be very slightly processed by the sound card and then sent over spdif, where your amplifier properly processes it. Obviously since it has only 2 channels it will only let you hear 2. The amplifier may have a mode which makes the sound get processed and make it appear as if it is 5.1, (Pro Logic), or spread via all speakers for music. (mine has only Pro Logic). Pro Logic filters out the voices and sends it to the center speakers, and music to bigger side speakers.) It does a pretty surprisingly good job at that.

If your amp does not have these functions, then you can use the x-fi card in Dolby Digital Live mode (live encoding to AC3 digital) which is then decoded by your amplifier again. You can then use functions such as X-fi CMSS 3D which has Stereo Xpand, (similar to Pro Logic) and Stereo surround (spreads equally to all speakers, base to woofer).

Overall I believe that using the X-fi will give a much nicer effect. You'll just be using one more cable to get the sound through, unless you can find a way to merge the x-fi's spdif with the HDMI on the ATI at a hardware level.

I hope this is all clear, and good luck.
March 26, 2010 3:10:08 PM

I might have to do that - as it looks to be the only way to get 5.1 sound for DVD files, but I need to keep the HDMI for the Dolby True HD and DTS-MA on blu-ray, how can I use both the HDMI and the SPDIF for sound at the same time? I guess I would have to select back and forth between the HD controller and the X-Fi card in the config utility? If the X-Fi can plug into the ATI Hardware, would that allow for a seamless integration of the SPDIF and HDMI audio? I did find that I can select 2-speaker stereo in the config, and then use Dolby Pro-Logic 2 for DVD and Music files, which is a pretty good option.
March 26, 2010 3:11:43 PM

p.s. - thanks for the replies - it looks to me like the ATI drivers simply do not work properly, and I do not understand what this 8.69 Redwood driver is vs. the 10.3 driver - they both are "Catalyst", but the ATI 10.3 driver just will not work for me.
March 26, 2010 8:11:38 PM

hmm, well one suggestion I have if you want to integrate the spdif from x-fi with video from ATI card is that you figure out which two wires in an HDMI cable serve for spdif (HDMI is simply video over a few wires, and 2 wires for spdif), and then open an HDMI cable up, physically solder the spdif from x-fi to the HDMI cable.

What you should then have is a standard looking HDMI cable, but at the end which is at your computer there are two plugs, one HDMI, and one for SPDIF (not sure what plug that is, standard rose or 3.5mm jack.)

Then you can keep all your shiny goody effects, and there is no need at all to constantly switch back and forth.

Also make sure that when you make your cable, that the sound terminals on the HDMI port attached to your video card are not directly attached to the new added port. It could be bad for the hardware if you have two sound sources feeding into the same cable. well its really one sound source (X-fi, with ATI sound disabled), but it might not be too good for the ATI card if it has an incoming signal in an out port.

furthermore dont bother with the redwood drivers. since all you are using the ATI card for is video, the official 10.3 drivers should be perfectly fine. (unless they make your video fail).


I do do a good job at making this all seem horribly comlicated, but actually its really simple if you think about it. so I hope it is all clear.
April 2, 2010 7:12:18 AM

I believe my main problem was that the drivers were not uninstalling properly. I removed the X-Fi card and returned it, If I get a sound card in the future, it will be a Xonar or some sort of audiophile grade card - just the physical appearance of this card doesn't impress me enough to modify anything to use it. It does indicate that I am sending 192khz 24bit audio to my receiver as it is. I used a program called driver sweeper for the Creative, ATI, and Realtek software and drivers. After doing this - the 10.3 drivers did work - all the speaker configurations showed up - and most importantly I have no problem with the static popping up on the audio in WMC. There are still a few bugs, I have to switch configurations from Multichannel to Stereo and back to Multichannel to get surround sound on 5.1 DVD files, and do not receive bitstream for 5.1 sources. Blu-Ray does bitstream, and I can live with the glitch on DVD's. One thing I found confusing - my system has a lot of Nvidia Chipset and Display items listed in Driver Sweeper. My motherboard is a P55A-UD4P, and I know nothing about it's integrated graphics, and haven't checked the bios. Do these boards use Nvidia? The ATI card is definitely what I want for a home theater PC.
April 2, 2010 11:55:07 AM

The 4000/5000 ATI series cards output up to 7.1 due to a realtek soundchip built in; thats where the sound is comming from. As it can bitstream all known formats, as long as your amp can decode a DD/DTS track, you should have no trouble with 7.1 sound...

Even if your amp lacks a necessary decoder, most programs that playback DVD's/Blue Rays have built in decoders to uncompress the audio track to 5.1/7.1 beforehand, so you should still be able to get the audio you need.

Worst case, you could give the Auzentech HomeThearte HD a try.
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