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Sorting Through Sound Card Abilities

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June 4, 2011 10:05:02 AM

OK so this is driving me crazy. I have read dozens of professional reviews of dozens of sound cards and still I really don't have a handle on which ones are the best and what each one does. I have the following questions:

1. Does any one sound card support DTS, HDMI and all the other wonderful enhancements available (too many to name) and really do real 5.1 or 7.1 (not virtual)

2. If you have a quality set of speakers what would be the minimum sound card to get? Asus Xonar? Asus essence STX?

3. Is the Asus Essence STX just good for 2.1 system and/or earphones?

4. I keep hearing the the Creative cards are just good for gamers and gaming is not my prime concern - I game very little. I want great music sound and movie sound

5. Are the Claro sound cards any good - they are about the same price as the essence?

6. Is an SPDIF connection the best connection for sound? Or is HDMI better?

OK the multitude of acronyms that get thrown around in the pro reviews are amazingly confusing and of course no one ever take the time to explain their reviews. Are most people reading these reviews sound tech experts ha, ha?

I plan on installing an ATI 6950 in my build. I have a 5.1 surround sound without DTS and other process goodies. It does not have an HDMI connection. What is the best sound card for the money for my system.

I'm not sure if I need more than a 5.1 system for a computer but I would like to understand 7.1 systems.

I am sure you guys have heard some of these questions before many times, but I have honestly tried to do my own homework and I need some help.

Should I get a new set of speakers with HDMI?

Thanks for any help you can give.
June 4, 2011 7:57:49 PM

4.Creative labs does not have the sound quality.
5.http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

As you can see, all of HT Claro's cards have high ratings. I will be buying the PCIe x1 card later.
6. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S/PDIF, S/PDIF transmits compressed sound.
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDMI, "HDMI allowing up to 8 channels of uncompressed audio at sample sizes of 16-bit, 20-bit and 24-bit, with sample rates of 32 kHz, 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz and 192 kHz."

This means that HDMI can handle the max potential of any sound card out today. Along with video. Realistically, I haven't found speakers or headphones that can transmit 192kHz audio.
June 4, 2011 8:01:55 PM

HDMI is a video standard with ability to carry audio signal along with video.. It is made for monitors which have inbuilt speakers so as to carry audio and video from the same source (avoids extra cable clutter).. You won't find HDMI on any speaker set..

Here is a card which supports most of the currently popular sound standards, has good specs and costs accordingly -

www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682913200...

The Essence is ideally a card for stereophiles and headphone enthusiasts.. It can do 5.1 digitally though but it'll be somewhat (in your words) virtual.. The Claro from HT is a fine choice for a sound card though a bit costly..
Related resources
June 5, 2011 1:30:54 AM

Emperus said:
HDMI is a video standard with ability to carry audio signal along with video.. It is made for monitors which have inbuilt speakers so as to carry audio and video from the same source (avoids extra cable clutter).. You won't find HDMI on any speaker set..

Here is a card which supports most of the currently popular sound standards, has good specs and costs accordingly -

www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1682913200...

The Essence is ideally a card for stereophiles and headphone enthusiasts.. It can do 5.1 digitally though but it'll be somewhat (in your words) virtual.. The Claro from HT is a fine choice for a sound card though a bit costly..



Thank you for your reply. I have read several reviews on the above listed cards and I was very interested in the Essence. However it appears to be set up just for 2.1 and supposedly from some of the newegg reviews doesn't support "true" 5.1. I am assuming this means it doesn't send separate singles to each of the 5.1 speakers but I am not sure.

I am very interested in the Xonar and you are right it seems to be the one card that does DTS, Dolby digital, pro logic, etc. What each of these decoding functions entails is fuzzy to me. But it appears to get the most out of your music and movies that it is needed.

Can you explain to me the difference between the Xonar and the essence because they seem to process the the sound stream differently?

Also, is the Ht Claro "true" surround. And for that matter is the "virtual" surround of the Essence different from the actual surround sound processing?

I read a lot about driver problems with sound cards. Do the Asus cards mentioned and the HT Claro have these problems?

If you had a choice between the three cards, which one would you choose.

Finally, I am thinking of getting the Asus PRO Z68 motherboard. Will a separate sound card improve greatly from the on-board sound of this board. I have read that some "enthusiast" boards sound processing is equal to a good sound card but I doubt that is correct.
June 5, 2011 1:34:01 AM

wigglerthefish said:
4.Creative labs does not have the sound quality.
5.http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

As you can see, all of HT Claro's cards have high ratings. I will be buying the PCIe x1 card later.
6. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S/PDIF, S/PDIF transmits compressed sound.
According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDMI, "HDMI allowing up to 8 channels of uncompressed audio at sample sizes of 16-bit, 20-bit and 24-bit, with sample rates of 32 kHz, 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz and 192 kHz."

This means that HDMI can handle the max potential of any sound card out today. Along with video. Realistically, I haven't found speakers or headphones that can transmit 192kHz audio.


Thanks. I am not sure that HDMI is the best conduit for audio and this is confusing. Many people are recommending analog (RCA) connections and SPDIF as the best. My question is, if you have your pick, what is the best connection vehicle to get the most out of your sound system.
June 5, 2011 4:45:12 AM

True 5.1 should begin at the source.. There are plenty sound cards (including on board) which can deliver even 7.1 channel audio.. However, audio cd's and most music is still in stereo predominantly.. Its movies which are filled with 5.1 surround audio and some games.. Thus, for a music lover, stereo sound is all that is required and that's the reason the Essence was born.. Its more for audiophiles and music lovers.. If you need surround audio then there are other good cards available.. I won't recommend Essence for that..

Driver problems are a thing of past now mostly.. You can relax on that front completely..

The HT Claro is once again an excellent option but IMO priced too high.. Even a discerning user won't find difference in audio when comparing the Claro with the Xonar DX..

I had a choice between all of them a good year back and I ended up with the Essence.. Reasons being that am not a movie buff at all and enjoy stereo sound more compared to surround.. I also have few good headphone sets which truly enjoy the Essence's inbuilt amplifier and audio output delivery..

Lastly, you should not compare the Xonar DX to the Essence.. They are for different sectors.. For your needs and if you have the cash I will recommend either the Asus Xonar D2X or the HT Omega Claro Plus+..
June 5, 2011 8:53:48 AM

Emperus said:
True 5.1 should begin at the source.. There are plenty sound cards (including on board) which can deliver even 7.1 channel audio.. However, audio cd's and most music is still in stereo predominantly.. Its movies which are filled with 5.1 surround audio and some games.. Thus, for a music lover, stereo sound is all that is required and that's the reason the Essence was born.. Its more for audiophiles and music lovers.. If you need surround audio then there are other good cards available.. I won't recommend Essence for that..

Driver problems are a thing of past now mostly.. You can relax on that front completely..

The HT Claro is once again an excellent option but IMO priced too high.. Even a discerning user won't find difference in audio when comparing the Claro with the Xonar DX..

I had a choice between all of them a good year back and I ended up with the Essence.. Reasons being that am not a movie buff at all and enjoy stereo sound more compared to surround.. I also have few good headphone sets which truly enjoy the Essence's inbuilt amplifier and audio output delivery..

Lastly, you should not compare the Xonar DX to the Essence.. They are for different sectors.. For your needs and if you have the cash I will recommend either the Asus Xonar D2X or the HT Omega Claro Plus+..


Thank you so much, I didn't even know about the Xonar DX2 (damn the world of sound cards can be confusing ha, ha). I have a couple of more questions:

1. Is the Xonar D2X worth the extra $100 over the standard Xonar DX?

2. My 5.1 Harmon Kardon receiver is about 10 years old and it does not process the new digital movie formats. Will one of these cards do that for the receiver? I hope that is not a stupid question but I have never owned a sound card before. It has analog left and right inputs for audio or a single 3.5 mm jack input. So the only connection that I would have from the sound card to the receiver and speakers is a L/R analog connection. Do I just need a new system????

3. Since my system is 5.1, I would like to try to use it even though it is older. It has great sound if you give it a good source and I think I need a good card. What is frustrating is that the system can put out good sound but it is just dated!

4. Once I get my card, should I uninstall all old sound card drivers from the system? I am doing a new build probably with the Asus Pro Z68 motherboard. Will I have to uninstall any of the motherboard sound drivers in order that they do not conflict with the new sound card?

5. Last but not least, if I get a new system is it best to go with a $300 - $500 receiver and then hook up separate speakers and a subwoofer? What is the best, most cost effective sound system (5.1) that is going to be hooked up to a computer?

I ask because I listen to music, watch HDTV, record TV shows with WMC 7 as a DVR and watch movies (I am getting an internal blu-ray player soon).

If you could set up the perfect 5.1 system right now, what would you do (please no Logitech 5500 recommendations - it was a great system for its time). If you could build the best, most cost effective 5.1 system what would you use and how would you connect it to an Asus Xonar DX2? The video card is the ATI 6950.

It would be nice if the system would shut down when the computer shuts off. That seems to be a weakness with a separate receiver system hooked to computers.
June 7, 2011 7:12:56 AM

Emperus said:
True 5.1 should begin at the source.. There are plenty sound cards (including on board) which can deliver even 7.1 channel audio.. However, audio cd's and most music is still in stereo predominantly.. Its movies which are filled with 5.1 surround audio and some games.. Thus, for a music lover, stereo sound is all that is required and that's the reason the Essence was born.. Its more for audiophiles and music lovers.. If you need surround audio then there are other good cards available.. I won't recommend Essence for that..

Driver problems are a thing of past now mostly.. You can relax on that front completely..

The HT Claro is once again an excellent option but IMO priced too high.. Even a discerning user won't find difference in audio when comparing the Claro with the Xonar DX..

I had a choice between all of them a good year back and I ended up with the Essence.. Reasons being that am not a movie buff at all and enjoy stereo sound more compared to surround.. I also have few good headphone sets which truly enjoy the Essence's inbuilt amplifier and audio output delivery..

Lastly, you should not compare the Xonar DX to the Essence.. They are for different sectors.. For your needs and if you have the cash I will recommend either the Asus Xonar D2X or the HT Omega Claro Plus+..



Beuler? Beuler? ha, ha :-)

Best solution

June 7, 2011 12:08:07 PM
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And this thread is proof why I need to finish up my audio guide...

Quote:
1. Does any one sound card support DTS, HDMI and all the other wonderful enhancements available (too many to name) and really do real 5.1 or 7.1 (not virtual)


Let me make clear: Dolby and DTS are non-virtualized 5.1 standards, but very few soundcards have native decoding ability of either format. [That is, they can output 5.1 Dolby/DTS to another device, but can't play them back again]. Unless outputting to a receiver using an optical connection, there is NO REASON for using either format on the PC side of things.

Quote:

2. If you have a quality set of speakers what would be the minimum sound card to get? Asus Xonar? Asus essence STX?


The absolute minimum I would go for a decent speaker set would be either the ASUS Xonar D1/DX or HT Omega Striker.

Quote:

3. Is the Asus Essence STX just good for 2.1 system and/or earphones?


The ST/STX Deluxe does come with an H6 board that can be used for analog 7.1, but for the most part, the ST/STX is geared toward high quality 2.1 speaker sets and headphones that can take advantage of the powered headphone amp.

Quote:

4. I keep hearing the the Creative cards are just good for gamers and gaming is not my prime concern - I game very little. I want great music sound and movie sound


Creative cards USED to have an edge in gaming, due to EAX support and hardware acceleartion. Problem is, Vista re-did the audio stack, and those advantages went away. Coupled with lower-quality cards and known driver problems, Creative is hard to recommend. Its also worth noting, Auzentech also has cards using Creative's X-fi chipset, so I typically recommend them for more "gaming oriented" cards.

Quote:

5. Are the Claro sound cards any good - they are about the same price as the essence?


ASUS and HT Omega both use C-Media designs for their soundcards. The Claro line is routhly equivalent to the ASUS Xonar D2, and the Claro Halo/XT can be thought of as a ASUS Essence ST/STX with full 7.1 analog outputs.

Quote:

6. Is an SPDIF connection the best connection for sound? Or is HDMI better?


Niether, analog is the best, due to soundcards superior Digital-to-Analog converters. SPDIF is the worst due to the limitation of formats it can physically support.

Quote:

1. Is the Xonar D2X worth the extra $100 over the standard Xonar DX?


No. The D2/D2X does give the advantage of slighty higher audio quality and DTS encoding support, but thats not worth an extra $100, especially when those features are already included in the HT Omega Striker.

Quote:

2. My 5.1 Harmon Kardon receiver is about 10 years old and it does not process the new digital movie formats. Will one of these cards do that for the receiver? I hope that is not a stupid question but I have never owned a sound card before. It has analog left and right inputs for audio or a single 3.5 mm jack input. So the only connection that I would have from the sound card to the receiver and speakers is a L/R analog connection. Do I just need a new system????


I BELIEVE [make sure you check yourself] the Auzentech Home Theatre HD, Creative Titanium HD, and ASUS HDAV 1.3 can output any of the new 7.1 formats as 7.1 PCM over both analog and HDMI, so any receiver should be able to work with them.

Quote:

3. Since my system is 5.1, I would like to try to use it even though it is older. It has great sound if you give it a good source and I think I need a good card. What is frustrating is that the system can put out good sound but it is just dated!


It depends. A soundcard certainly won't hurt, but if the speakers aren't particularlly good, it can only do so much to improve audio quality.

Quote:

4. Once I get my card, should I uninstall all old sound card drivers from the system? I am doing a new build probably with the Asus Pro Z68 motherboard. Will I have to uninstall any of the motherboard sound drivers in order that they do not conflict with the new sound card?


Unless you buy Creative, you usually do NOT need to uninstall other audio drivers. [I have 4 devices installed right now].

Quote:

5. Last but not least, if I get a new system is it best to go with a $300 - $500 receiver and then hook up separate speakers and a subwoofer? What is the best, most cost effective sound system (5.1) that is going to be hooked up to a computer?


Depends on personal taste.

Quote:
If you could set up the perfect 5.1 system right now, what would you do (please no Logitech 5500 recommendations - it was a great system for its time). If you could build the best, most cost effective 5.1 system what would you use and how would you connect it to an Asus Xonar DX2? The video card is the ATI 6950.


Assuming you stick with analog, the "best" all around option is probably the Auzentech Meridian 2G. Think of it as a newer version of teh ASUS Xonar D2/D2X. If you don't mind a slight decrease in overall quality and about $75 savings, the HT Omega Striker remains a strong all around option as well.
June 8, 2011 9:19:10 AM

Great post Gamer316 and you too Emperus

OK I have decided on either the Asus Xonar DX 7.1 or the ASUS Xonar D2X 7.1 or possibly the Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2G (I am researching it and it is $149 on Amazon)

Gamer 316 said, "Niether, analog is the best, due to soundcards superior Digital-to-Analog converters. SPDIF is the worst due to the limitation of formats it can physically support. "

1. OK with either card if I am watching a modern Bluray movie (or DVD) will I connect the card to my receiver via analog connections for the best sound?

2. Will either card process all of the DTS, surround sound, special effects etc. on the bluray disk so that my receiver can play it? This still is not clear to me

3. Following #1, what is the optimum way to connect these cards to a receiver? When I look at the connections I see "line in," "surround," "Digital In" "back," "center," "front" connections. My receiver has only a L/R connection. how do you connect up to it from one of these cards (the best way).

4. I am tempted to get a more au-to-date receiver with current connections. If I did get a current receiver, what is the best way to connect to these cards

Thank you for all of your help. Your answers have helped me narrow my choices. It is remarkable how unclear it is to figure out how to connect a sound card to a set of good speakers and a receiver - you would think this would be fairly straight forward.

Probably these questions may seem a little dense, but remember, I have not done this before and so I am learning from scratch. Further, there is a lot of information out there for using a sound card.

Thanks again
June 8, 2011 12:18:59 PM

Quote:
1. OK with either card if I am watching a modern Bluray movie (or DVD) will I connect the card to my receiver via analog connections for the best sound?


Yes, as the soundcard will do a better job at converting to analog. What would happen is the Dolby/DTS formats would be decoded by the video player, then sent out as analog to the reciever.

Quote:
2. Will either card process all of the DTS, surround sound, special effects etc. on the bluray disk so that my receiver can play it? This still is not clear to me


No. With the exception of the ASUS HDAV 1.3, Auzentech HomeTheatre HD, and Creative Titanium HD, no soundcards have full [any?] decoding support for even the basic Dolby/DTS specs.

That being said, most video playback software DOES have the decoding ability built in, so you can still use Dolby/DTS formats, have the player handle the decoding, then output as analog.

Quote:
3. Following #1, what is the optimum way to connect these cards to a receiver? When I look at the connections I see "line in," "surround," "Digital In" "back," "center," "front" connections. My receiver has only a L/R connection. how do you connect up to it from one of these cards (the best way).


Eeek, sounds like your reciever doesn't have 7.1 analog inputs, which complicates things a bit. Can you list exactly what inputs your reciever can take? I'd imagine you have analog in, and probably either coax or optical in as well...

Quote:
4. I am tempted to get a more au-to-date receiver with current connections. If I did get a current receiver, what is the best way to connect to these cards


Analog remains best. Backup is HDMI [if you get one of the HDMI soundcards]. Optical/Coax is last choice, due to format limitations.
June 9, 2011 5:28:33 AM

"Eeek, sounds like your reciever doesn't have 7.1 analog inputs, which complicates things a bit. Can you list exactly what inputs your reciever can take? I'd imagine you have analog in, and probably either coax or optical in as well..."

Eeeeek, that's exactly how I feel too, ha,ha.

I have a single 3.5mm in by itself (it can be used in lieu of the analog inputs) and a L/R red and white in with a yellow "video" in. I think that these are "analog" stereo in with the yellow being for video. The unit has 5 speakers and a powerful subwoofer. It also has analog and video out (same connections). It is over 10 years old and so I am not sure it is a true 5.1 system. That is why I was wondering if a card can produce 5.1 in that system instead of just stereo. Probably a pipe dream ha, ha
June 9, 2011 5:33:19 AM

Hey I note that the Xonar DX and Xonar DX2 are fairly old cards - the reviews are 3-4 years old. Are they still current in their technology? It seems that sound cards don't change much over the years. Is the Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2G the newest card?
June 9, 2011 4:10:29 PM

Quote:
I have a single 3.5mm in by itself (it can be used in lieu of the analog inputs) and a L/R red and white in with a yellow "video" in. I think that these are "analog" stereo in with the yellow being for video.


Not even optical/coaxial inputs? At least you could get 5.1 that way...If you have optical/coax inputs, you could get 5.1 via Dolby/DTS encoding from the soundcard, then have the receiver handle the decoding. If not, then it looks like you are limited to just 2.1.

Quote:
Hey I note that the Xonar DX and Xonar DX2 are fairly old cards - the reviews are 3-4 years old. Are they still current in their technology? It seems that sound cards don't change much over the years. Is the Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2G the newest card?


The ASUS Xonar D2(X) and Auzentech X-Meridian 2G use the same exact C-Media chipset. The 2G uses slightly better components, but functionally, they're the same exact card. The D1/DX uses a slightly older chipset; think of it as a D2(X) without DTS Encoding support and slightly lower playback quality.
June 16, 2011 12:38:44 AM

Thanks to everyone who posted on this thread - you helped me a LOT and I really appreciate it. I now know that my system as it is, is limited to 2.1 stereo and that a sound card will not remedy that. That is OK for now because I at least know what I don't have.

I am also researching the sound cards that were recommended and trying to figure out the best one for my needs. You again have been SOOOO helpful because you have greatly narrowed my search.

I am thinking of buying a cheap $300 - $400 Yamaha or Pioneer receiver and going with separates or something or maybe I will wait until Corsair puts out a 5.1 speaker system (I do want a 5.1 system). Anyway I'll chew on that for now.

If you have suggestions on a new system let me know or it might be better to start a new thread.

Thanks again to everyone.
June 23, 2011 7:09:44 AM

Best answer selected by flong.
June 23, 2011 9:36:03 AM

I have a correct about Digital Optical Output on the sound board. Its the best IF and only ~IF~ you have a high quality receiver.

I used to use,
http://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio-visual/av-receiver...

Now I'm using,
http://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio-visual/av-receiver...

These are not cheap, the 3900 alone costs more then most computers. There are some toned down "cheaper" models that would also work fine, but at $250+ USD most people would find it hard to justify buying it. I'm kinda of an audio freak, I can't stand horrible sound or poor 3D positional audio. I find just about every sound card on the market lacking in this respect. I setup the sound unit to just pass the digital data through to the receiver and let the receiver do the DSP and positional calculations.

That being said, there is no other reason to use digital input / output if your just going from card to speaker. The optical port is for connecting receivers and other high end sound devices.
June 24, 2011 12:33:26 PM

you should use HDMI, with that receiver, to get the most out of it, like using the new formats from DTS and dolby.

optical is almost dying now... i dont know any consumer electric companies, even standardising SPDIFs now. its either analogue or HDMI now. i use SPDIF for stereo, onto my denon amp, but tehn again theres the jitter issue, but i cant tell a diff.
June 24, 2011 9:12:26 PM

MEgamer said:
you should use HDMI, with that receiver, to get the most out of it, like using the new formats from DTS and dolby.

optical is almost dying now... i dont know any consumer electric companies, even standardising SPDIFs now. its either analogue or HDMI now. i use SPDIF for stereo, onto my denon amp, but tehn again theres the jitter issue, but i cant tell a diff.


I had considered that but Gamer316 said that the analog inputs provide the highest sound quality. To be honest, getting the best sound out of a PC is overly complicated. You have to sift through sound cards and various connections and speaker setups, ad nauseum.

You also have to consider how to get the best sound for movies (which I watch on my PC) and so you have to look at all of the Dolby variations.

There is an excellent article at Bit Tech here but it is a little dated (2007):

http://www.bit-tech.net/bits/2007/09/12/pc_audio_101/1

I am trying to sift through the article to see what still applies to 2011. It appears that with a good sound card, the analog inputs provide better sound quality but I am open to more information. Apparently, the Asus Xonar cards covert the analog input into a digital signal.

Thanks for your input
June 24, 2011 10:01:03 PM

yes analogue is best if you want to get the msot out of your soundcard, however, what i meant i using HDMI, was, that if you have a better DAC on the receiver then the soundcard, you shuld bypass, digital signals to the recievers, to do the decoding, so that you can makes the "most" out of it. so you can use formats like DTS HD_MA and dolby TRUEhd

but as always, HD audio and video, is still mediocre, compared to the proper HD hardware setup. NVIDIA and ATI, have a very bad score on the HQV benchmark tests, and asus xoanr HDAV1.3, is the only card that can do bitperfect audio output fo movies, as well as using a secure path for HD audio formats like the one i listed.

with the article u linked, i use foobar with WASAPI, it does the same thing,like bitperfect output, and by-pass k-mixer, but its easier to get going once installed, and you dont actually have to a "setup", like you do in ASIO, and -4ALL.
June 24, 2011 10:27:24 PM

"with the article u linked, i use foobar with WASAPI, it does the same thing,like bitperfect output, and by-pass k-mixer, but its easier to get going once installed, and you dont actually have to a "setup", like you do in ASIO, and -4ALL."

Can you expand a little on this. Right now it seems very complicated to me. What is WASAPI?

I think this card does process the various Dolby signals for movies (at least is lists them at Newegg)

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

I am not sure that the HDAV 1.3 is the best choice for music. I am thinking about the ASUS Xonar DX 7.1 because it is cheap and it appears to do a very respectable job of sending out a clean signal to the amp/speakers. I think that this will work for both a 2.1, a 5.1 and a 7.1 surround sound system (for movies, I don't game much).

I am also considering this:

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

But I am not sure if it is worth the extra $100.

Thanks again for your feedback, I really appreciate it.
June 24, 2011 11:37:04 PM

WASAPI, is like ASIO, it is used for bit perfect playback. thats it really... thers only minor differnece in wasapi and asio, they are both made for bit perfect playback, but ASIO was more focued on reducing delays, in audio input, in music creation software and such. bit perfect playback , and normal windows playback, is very small, i could hardly notice any difference on my sennhesier IE8, - treble was a bit more airy, that was it.

asus XONAR DX and D2X do have dolby technologies, but they are just post processing effects like pro logic, virtual speaker, and dolby headphone.

yes HDAV 1.3 was only designed in movies in mind. it has HDMI 1.3 with a processor that allows you to transport signlas in a secure path, what i mean by this is, -is that if you play any material that has HDCP (all blurays) and you wanted to play dolby digital TRUEHD, or DTS MA-HD, then you need this card... however the PC still alwas TRUEHD and DTS MA-HD in stereo natively, so if you got a stereo, then ur not all lost.

jsut so you know, if u have a proper a processor (hardware hifi processor), that can truly decode the dolby signals, then theres is absolutely minuscule difference between dolby trueHD and dolby digital plus.

asus xonar DX and D2X are very gd cards, not for the price, just own its own... you really cant fault it. you will be happy with either purchase, then different specifications again would hardly be perceptible, even on a grand system.

... but if you like being expensive, and want the reassurance that you have the very best in its class, then the d2X would be just fine.
June 25, 2011 10:25:52 AM

MEgamer said:
WASAPI, is like ASIO, it is used for bit perfect playback. thats it really... thers only minor differnece in wasapi and asio, they are both made for bit perfect playback, but ASIO was more focued on reducing delays, in audio input, in music creation software and such. bit perfect playback , and normal windows playback, is very small, i could hardly notice any difference on my sennhesier IE8, - treble was a bit more airy, that was it.

asus XONAR DX and D2X do have dolby technologies, but they are just post processing effects like pro logic, virtual speaker, and dolby headphone.

yes HDAV 1.3 was only designed in movies in mind. it has HDMI 1.3 with a processor that allows you to transport signlas in a secure path, what i mean by this is, -is that if you play any material that has HDCP (all blurays) and you wanted to play dolby digital TRUEHD, or DTS MA-HD, then you need this card... however the PC still alwas TRUEHD and DTS MA-HD in stereo natively, so if you got a stereo, then ur not all lost.

jsut so you know, if u have a proper a processor (hardware hifi processor), that can truly decode the dolby signals, then theres is absolutely minuscule difference between dolby trueHD and dolby digital plus.

asus xonar DX and D2X are very gd cards, not for the price, just own its own... you really cant fault it. you will be happy with either purchase, then different specifications again would hardly be perceptible, even on a grand system.

... but if you like being expensive, and want the reassurance that you have the very best in its class, then the d2X would be just fine.


Thank you again for sharing your knowledge with me. You have been a tremendous help.

"jsut so you know, if u have a proper a processor (hardware hifi processor), that can truly decode the dolby signals,"

Do you mean a separate receiver? My current receiver will not process any Dolby digital signals because it is too old but I am thinking of replacing it.

"however the PC still alwas TRUEHD and DTS MA-HD in stereo natively, so if you got a stereo, then ur not all lost."

I don't know what you mean by this. Are you talking about the motherboard sound processing? Also will the Xonar DX process the HDCP signal for movies?

I think the Xonar DX will be sufficient for my needs.

Again, thank you.
June 25, 2011 11:22:52 AM

DVD can only output 5.1 directly (6.1 using encoding like dts es / Dolby Digital EX).

Bluray, on the other hand, can output 7.1, but only via HDMI (not S/PDIF).

I don't agree with the bald statement that the DACs on the soundcard are necessarily better than those in the receiver. They might be better than a really cheap receiver (and probably better than cheap computer speakers), but there are some seriously good DACs in some amplifiers. If you are using a good amp, then an HDMI connection to the amp should produce better results.
June 25, 2011 12:05:42 PM

compulsivebuilder said:
DVD can only output 5.1 directly (6.1 using encoding like dts es / Dolby Digital EX).

Bluray, on the other hand, can output 7.1, but only via HDMI (not S/PDIF).

I don't agree with the bald statement that the DACs on the soundcard are necessarily better than those in the receiver. They might be better than a really cheap receiver (and probably better than cheap computer speakers), but there are some seriously good DACs in some amplifiers. If you are using a good amp, then an HDMI connection to the amp should produce better results.


So you think that a good receiver negates the need for a sound card? All of the things about designing a computer that are not nearly as confusing as setting up the best sound system. I primarily want to watch HDTV (I have the 2250 Hauppauge tuner card), watch dvd and blue ray movies and listen to music.

So the best connection would be HDMI from the sound card to the to the receiver? Or would it be analog from the sound card to the receiver? Or would you connect the sound card directly to the speakers via analog connections? This is very confusing.

In general, is the best set up a sound card like the Asus Xonar DX and a separate receiver and have the speakers connected to the receiver? I would like to set up a 5.1 system.
June 25, 2011 3:03:58 PM

compulsivebuilder said:
DVD can only output 5.1 directly (6.1 using encoding like dts es / Dolby Digital EX).

Bluray, on the other hand, can output 7.1, but only via HDMI (not S/PDIF).

I don't agree with the bald statement that the DACs on the soundcard are necessarily better than those in the receiver. They might be better than a really cheap receiver (and probably better than cheap computer speakers), but there are some seriously good DACs in some amplifiers. If you are using a good amp, then an HDMI connection to the amp should produce better results.


lol who said DACs were better on the soundcard??? was it me?? if so it was a typo. but its only better if you spend about 600 more (and ye its in pounds so mroe then 1200 for you americans), i have yet to see a receiver with an SNR ratio of more then 120 that costs under 1200dollars.

blueray can ouput 7.1 with high definition formats and LPCM, with analogue too you know.

June 25, 2011 3:11:05 PM

flong said:
So you think that a good receiver negates the need for a sound card? All of the things about designing a computer that are not nearly as confusing as setting up the best sound system. I primarily want to watch HDTV (I have the 2250 Hauppauge tuner card), watch dvd and blue ray movies and listen to music.

So the best connection would be HDMI from the sound card to the to the receiver? Or would it be analog from the sound card to the receiver? Or would you connect the sound card directly to the speakers via analog connections? This is very confusing.

In general, is the best set up a sound card like the Asus Xonar DX and a separate receiver and have the speakers connected to the receiver? I would like to set up a 5.1 system.


its arguable whether u want analogue or digital connections, however you cant properly stream high definition contents out from the computer anyway. and plus i cant find a receiver with an SNR over 116db, unless you spend at least 2 grand.

the best setup would be amp + speaker combo. and for bluray movies --> get a blu ray player(pc are behind with the HD stuff, no secure path for HD audio, and pictures are quite noisy compared to a proper setup, even more noticable with a HDTV). And for any other sources, you can use your computer, and conenct it to the amp.
June 29, 2011 4:47:08 AM

MEgamer said:
you should use HDMI, with that receiver, to get the most out of it, like using the new formats from DTS and dolby.

optical is almost dying now... i dont know any consumer electric companies, even standardising SPDIFs now. its either analogue or HDMI now. i use SPDIF for stereo, onto my denon amp, but tehn again theres the jitter issue, but i cant tell a diff.


Haha I guess I wasn't very clear with my setup then. That receiver sits as the center of my home theater system. I have my PS3 / XBOX360 / HTPC / WDTV connected to it using HDMI with the GameCube and PS2 connected using svideo (the receiver up-scales as necessary).

Anyhow the point was that TOS-LINK with S/PDIF is superior then analog wires from the sound card to the receiver and this is why.

Sound inside a computer or other digital device is stored digitally. S/PDIF allows you to map sound channels over the wire directly without having to convert them first an analog signal. The receiver receives the digital signal and use's its own DAC's to convert the signal and map it to the proper sound ports (speakers) with the proper modifications for distance / sound environment. This is like comparing RGB video cables (DSUB15 / DNC) to DVI cables when using a LCD Monitor or HDTV. Technically speaking you get more realistic colors from an RGB cable if your display device / video source are of a high enough quality, realistically you'll get better performance from DVI.

The superior DAC's in a $1900 USD Receiver over a $80 USD (HQ gaming card) more then compensate for any jitter introduced by the S/PDIF. Especially if that receiver automatically understands just about every audio protocol in existence and will configure itself appropriately. For my gaming PC I use my older RX-1300 which doesn't have HDMI support but has DAC's that are still far superior then anything in the PC sound card market. Connection goes from onboard S/PDIFF connector to the RX-1300 and from there to my rooms 5.1 audio setup. Technically speaking, if your using a HQ receiver then the only thing your "sound card" is doing is providing a front end for managing the audio channels to the receiver.
June 29, 2011 8:21:23 AM

palladin9479 said:
Haha I guess I wasn't very clear with my setup then. That receiver sits as the center of my home theater system. I have my PS3 / XBOX360 / HTPC / WDTV connected to it using HDMI with the GameCube and PS2 connected using svideo (the receiver up-scales as necessary).

Anyhow the point was that TOS-LINK with S/PDIF is superior then analog wires from the sound card to the receiver and this is why.

Sound inside a computer or other digital device is stored digitally. S/PDIF allows you to map sound channels over the wire directly without having to convert them first an analog signal. The receiver receives the digital signal and use's its own DAC's to convert the signal and map it to the proper sound ports (speakers) with the proper modifications for distance / sound environment. This is like comparing RGB video cables (DSUB15 / DNC) to DVI cables when using a LCD Monitor or HDTV. Technically speaking you get more realistic colors from an RGB cable if your display device / video source are of a high enough quality, realistically you'll get better performance from DVI.

The superior DAC's in a $1900 USD Receiver over a $80 USD (HQ gaming card) more then compensate for any jitter introduced by the S/PDIF. Especially if that receiver automatically understands just about every audio protocol in existence and will configure itself appropriately. For my gaming PC I use my older RX-1300 which doesn't have HDMI support but has DAC's that are still far superior then anything in the PC sound card market. Connection goes from onboard S/PDIFF connector to the RX-1300 and from there to my rooms 5.1 audio setup. Technically speaking, if your using a HQ receiver then the only thing your "sound card" is doing is providing a front end for managing the audio channels to the receiver.


SPDIF, can only send 5.1 Compressed sounds. you cant "compensate" jitter, but only produces jitter in differnet ways(althogh cheap equiments will have some more)

only analogue and HDMI, can do the latest picture audio formats. i use HDMI for my moveis, and i cant tell a bit of a difference compared to teh SPDIF, for anyone who has a higher setup then me will probably tell a lot lot more. this is why i dont use SPDIF. nad most people are moving to HDMI.

even people that have no extensive knowledge on audio and HT, will buy go buy their first home cinema in a box, from samsung, sony and such, only to find out that their will be use the *standard* HDMI.
June 29, 2011 1:12:57 PM

^^ The biggest problem with SPDIF is its format limitations. I was a convient way to get digital 5.1 back in the day, but today, lossy formats like Dolby and DTS simply aren't desired anymore. As far as PC's go, unless you HAVE to use SPDIF for some reason, its better to pretend it doesn't exist.

That being said, life would be a heck of a lot easier if soundcards had native decoding for all Dolby/DTS formats, so we could at least output everything over analog and call it a day...

Quote:
Sound inside a computer or other digital device is stored digitally. S/PDIF allows you to map sound channels over the wire directly without having to convert them first an analog signal. The receiver receives the digital signal and use's its own DAC's to convert the signal and map it to the proper sound ports (speakers) with the proper modifications for distance / sound environment. This is like comparing RGB video cables (DSUB15 / DNC) to DVI cables when using a LCD Monitor or HDTV. Technically speaking you get more realistic colors from an RGB cable if your display device / video source are of a high enough quality, realistically you'll get better performance from DVI.


Not always true; Remember that at the end of the chain, you are using speakers to output an analog signal [sound is a wave]. In my mind, better to take advantage of a soundcards superior DAC and output everything as analog, bypassing the receiver altogether if possible.

Personally, I'd prefer is someone came up with a format that expressed audio signals as a waveform function, so digital storage wouldn't force a loss in quality during the initial conversion to digital...
June 29, 2011 1:29:02 PM

yes, id only bypass teh receiver if i was using one under $2000 which i am, but im close to it, plus my receiver supports analogue bypass-however some receivers dont, so the only way to keep gd quality is digital input, otherwise these recievers will go through ADC then to DAC...such a pain in the arse.

but ye you are right, ive yet to see a DAC in a reciever with better SNR ratio then asus xonar DX! (that is if u spend under $2000 give or take a few) however they have a better audio processor, and its mainly that, which will change the sound and how its deliverd, whether it will have added a lot of noise or not.
June 29, 2011 5:41:59 PM

Quote:
yes, id only bypass teh receiver if i was using one under $2000 which i am, but im close to it, plus my receiver supports analogue bypass-however some receivers dont, so the only way to keep gd quality is digital input, otherwise these recievers will go through ADC then to DAC...such a pain in the arse.


Yeah, I NEVER use receivers that don't have a bypass for analog signals, otherwise they convert back to digital, then to analog again, loosing tons of quality in the process.
June 29, 2011 5:43:44 PM

This is an interesting discussion and I have been following it. Question: will you hear any difference between the quality of say a Xonar DX and a $2000+ receiver as far as the sound processing?

Also, you talk about loss of quality from digital conversion; what about lossless formats like in ITunes? They take up nearly twice the storage space because they are compressed less. And what about movies (bluray and DVD), are they compressed to the detriment of their sound quality?

Concerning the Xonar DX - doesn't it have native decoding of the various DTS Dolby formats? On the newegg listing for the card shows several DTS coding formats

Here is the link: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
June 29, 2011 6:45:19 PM

flong said:
This is an interesting discussion and I have been following it. Question: will you hear any difference between the quality of say a Xonar DX and a $2000+ receiver as far as the sound processing?

Also, you talk about loss of quality from digital conversion; what about lossless formats like in ITunes? They take up nearly twice the storage space because they are compressed less. And what about movies (bluray and DVD), are they compressed to the detriment of their sound quality?

Concerning the Xonar DX - doesn't it have native decoding of the various DTS Dolby formats? On the newegg listing for the card shows several DTS coding formats

Here is the link: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


me and gamerk316 was talking about loss in quality due to unessecary signal format conversions.

if you have a receiver, that has analogue pre-amp inputs then use the output from xonar to input in the receiver.

if u have a receiver that has no pre amp inputs, but has SPDIF or HDMI input, then use that.



we werent talkign about audio formats.

blurays have audio tracks that are loselessly compressed, LPCM, and DTS-ma-HD, is the main format for the bluray, while the dead HD-DVDs audio fomrat was dolby TRUEHD. you wont see many films with DOLBY TRUEHD, as of now it SEEMS to me that the DTS formats are slowly taking over.

you wont find much differnece between the LPCM, and the loselessly compressed formats like MA-HD, even thugh im talking about 10mb per second difference here.

from asus.... XONAR DX is the only one that cannot encode the DTS dsp modes. and HDAV 1.3 is the only that can decode the 2 types of audio formats.




as for the first question (lol im a bit backwards i know) you wont hear anydiffernece, if the 2 grand receiver if it could bypass analogue signals. however, if u were to send it through to the receiver with HDMI, then maybe just maybe.... i know the very latest high end models from yamaha use burr-brown DACs, which some soundcards use. models from HK, will probably be beaten by the soundcards SNR ratio... harmon kardon receivers are quite far from reaching the 120mark. however there is differnet sound signatures that are produced differently by differnet company, and its exaclty THIS that people will always notice first.

my first receiver was teh HK avr255, it had a very natural and slightly warm sound signature, making vocals sound expressive, but i didnt like it cos it couldnt resolve much detail... so i bought the denon avr1910, which was much easier to listent o receiver <---if this tells you anything.

EDIT: i type fast... its full of typo.
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