Closed

Is it worth buying an expensive sound card if i have a receiver ?

Well title says it all..

I have expensive Energy CF-70 home theater with an onkyo TX-NR609 receiver i will be using on my new HTPC, currently using onboard Realtek audio with OPTICAL OUT....

So now i'm wondering if it makes a difference if i buy a more expensive sound card, and still use optical output to my receiver.... After all, Optical is digital so would an expensive sound card really increase the quality of the digital optical output ?
29 answers Last reply
More about worth buying expensive sound card receiver
  1. Actually, if you're after the best quality sound, you want to ditch optical altogether and go to HDMI.

    Assuming you're playing Bluray, or will be in the future, you won't be able to support bitstreaming audio with an optical cable. For an HTPC, you can get an AMD 5xxx series card (or a 6xxx series as it can support 3D). Then it's just one cable to the amp, and it'll display 1080p and play TrueHD / DTS-HD sound no bother at all.
  2. Quote:
    Actually, if you're after the best quality sound, you want to ditch optical altogether and go to HDMI.


    Not really; both Optical and HDMI are digital standards, and should produce the same exact output. HDMI has the bandwidth to carry several more audio standards though.

    As to the OP's question: Not really. If you are going to use optical, then the only thing a soundcard gives is Dolby Digital Live/DTS-Connect support, allowing for realtime encoding to either Dolby Digital or DTS [the only way to get 5.1 out of Optical]. You still go through the soundcards drivers when using Optical, but at that point, the Receiver is far more important.
  3. gamerk316 said:
    Quote:
    Actually, if you're after the best quality sound, you want to ditch optical altogether and go to HDMI.


    Not really; both Optical and HDMI are digital standards, and should produce the same exact output. HDMI has the bandwidth to carry several more audio standards though.


    You're absolutely correct in that they're both digital, but they don't produce the same output (if HDMI can carry more audio standards, by definition it has different outputs to optical). As HDMI has greater bandwidth (as you point out) it's the better option for a HTPC and A/V receiver set up. I'm assuming that at some point the OP wants to watch HD, and given his kit I don't think that's unreasonable. Whether or not you'll hear the difference is another matter. However, if the OP is set to spend more money, a bitstreaming-capable GPU and an HDMI cable is a better investment.
  4. gamerk316 said:
    Quote:
    Actually, if you're after the best quality sound, you want to ditch optical altogether and go to HDMI.


    Not really; both Optical and HDMI are digital standards, and should produce the same exact output. HDMI has the bandwidth to carry several more audio standards though.

    As to the OP's question: Not really. If you are going to use optical, then the only thing a soundcard gives is Dolby Digital Live/DTS-Connect support, allowing for realtime encoding to either Dolby Digital or DTS [the only way to get 5.1 out of Optical]. You still go through the soundcards drivers when using Optical, but at that point, the Receiver is far more important.


    assuming the OP wants to have multi channel sound output, there will be a difference, for one: optical will be conpressed, and will not do bit stream output, and 2, it cant output 7.1 or more, which is the main standard in blu-ray movies.

    for stereo, optical is best, since there is no inteference.
  5. to the OP, your choice is buying a soundcard will depend on ur receiver specs.. now for one i dont think there is many recievers out there that have more then SNR ratio of 115dB for under 2000. buying the highest consumer soundcard out today can probably give you better quality.

    however only do this if your reciever supports analogue by-pass.
  6. MEgamer said:
    assuming the OP wants to have multi channel sound output, there will be a difference, for one: optical will be conpressed, and will not do bit stream output, and 2, it cant output 7.1 or more, which is the main standard in blu-ray movies.

    for stereo, optical is best, since there is no inteference.


    I'm not arguing, but it depends on what hte OP wants to do. If he wants to stick with optical, then there are few reasons to bother with a soundcard [mainly the encoding support].
  7. i said i would stick with optical because i thought it was better than HDMI

    So here's more details: my setup will be used to watch HD movies, so of course i want dolby digital 5.1 surround sound.

    As for bitstreaming, if i understand correctly it means my gear is capable of outputting video AND audio through the same HDMI cable ? I am unsure if my computer can do that.

    I have an AMD A6-3650 APU with included Radeon video on CPU
    Motherboard is Gigabyte A75M-D2H
    I am NOT planning to add a video card, thats why i bought AMD cpu with an integrated GPU

    thanks for all replys
  8. ungovernable said:
    i said i would stick with optical because i thought it was better than HDMI

    So here's more details: my setup will be used to watch HD movies, so of course i want dolby digital 5.1 surround sound.

    As for bitstreaming, if i understand correctly it means my gear is capable of outputting video AND audio through the same HDMI cable ? I am unsure if my computer can do that.

    I have an AMD A6-3650 APU with included Radeon video on CPU
    Motherboard is Gigabyte A75M-D2H
    I am NOT planning to add a video card, thats why i bought AMD cpu with an integrated GPU

    thanks for all replys


    Optical will give you up to DTS 5.1 surround, which sounds great. HDMI will give you the HD sound...it's up to you whether you want to go for that or not. As you know, HD content stores more data as both visual and audio, so unless you use HDMI you won't get the full benefit from the audio. It'll still sound good, though.

    Bitstreaming is where the HTPC will pass the audio to the A/V for it to decode, instead of the HTPC doing the decoding and then passing the information for the individual sound channels to the A/V. Generally, the A/V will do a better job. HDMI can pass audio and visual along the same cable, but it won't necessarily bitstream...you need the right hardware to support that. Which, incidentally, you do...the A6-3650 has a 6xxx series AMD GPU onboard, which is capable of bitstreaming (and 3D content, if you ever fancy that). So even if you wanted to, there's no requirement to get a discrete GPU.

    You've got all the kit in place to determine what you prefer...try watching a movie with the optical outputting the sound, then rewatch it with the HDMI bitstreaming to the A/V. It's down to your preference, at the end of the day.
  9. Ok i see, thanks a lot !!!

    So i only have to plug a HDMI cable in my motherboard and it should output dolby digital HD audio AND video on the same cable, without having to touch anything ??

    I'll receive the last piece of my HTPC tomorrow so i'll come back and post the results :)
  10. I've used optical SPDIF before. It's not that great. It has bandwidth issues even with 5.1 sound (depending on the quality of the output device).

    As the above said, go with the HDMI. It is an easier set up as well.
  11. spdif is great for stereo however.
  12. You'll have to set it up through Windows control panel (CP -> Sound and Hardware -> Sound -> Configure). Once you've done that, you should be able to hit 'Properties' and see TrueHD and DTS-HD as supported streams.

    You'll also need to set the soundtrack and hardware acceleration on your playback software.

    Once that's setup, play a Bluray and look at your A/V display...it should show either TrueHD or DTS-HD. Enjoy. :)
  13. I was going through this thread. I have a very similar question. I am building a system and was wondering if I need a sound card as I have an Onkyo receiver which I currently use.

    Details of my system:
    Motherboard: [CrossFireX/SLI] GigaByte GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3 Intel Z68 Chipset DDR3 mATX MB w/ Lucid Virtu Intel Smart Response Technology & 7.1 HD Audio, GbLAN, USB3.0, 2x SATA-III RAID, 2 Gen2 PCIe, 1 PCIe X4 & 1 PCIe X1
    Video card: EVGA Superclocked NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB 16X PCIe Video Card
    Optical drive: blu ray player and burner

    Receiver: My current receiver is an Onkyo with 7.1 channels but doesn't have HDMI input. It uses optical as digital input.
    I may get a new receiver in near future with HDMI inputs. (Also, my receiver is currently connected to my compute, with blu-ray, through an optical. I do have a sound card in this computer)
  14. Again, when it comes to digital, all soundcards are created equal. The only potential X-factor is Dolby Digital Live/DTS-Connect support for getting 5.1 over SPDIF. Aside from that, there is no reason whatsoever to get a soundcard just to use the digital output.
  15. If your receiver/speaker setup wont support .05%THD or better THD and SNR that the high end card will provide.... You won't appreciate the difference.

    You won't hear the difference between the high end sound card and on board sound chip unless your receiver and speakers are really that good.

    These type of setups are very expensive ~ >$2K for the receiver, and another >$1K for the speakers.

    These logitech and klips speaker are not up to the task if you really want to hear high end audio.

    Receivers w/ SO SO speakers is like sports car on cart wheels...

    If you use high end head phones such as bose etc...you will probably hear/notice the difference.

    I bet very few users would hear/differentiate between XFI creative and Asus Xonar unless they have a professional audio setup.
  16. You can hook up PC to a receiver but the difference between XFI-Creative and Asus won't be noticeable unless your receiver/speaker setup is really good.

    The onboard sound chip will sound the same if you have the regular receivers <$1K w/ high THD rating (.5% and higher to 1%) & use ordinary speakers.

    Get the receiver / speaker you can afford. Hook up your pc and decide if its good enough. Most likely judging on your level of audio-experience it will be more than enough.

    Don't just by XFI creative or Asus XONAR cards. Use whatever you have on your motherboard. Then decide if you are satisfied w/ it or not. If you are then you don't need to purchase this high end card costing $100 to $200. Use the money to purchase the best receiver/speaker you can get.
  17. Quote:
    These type of setups are very expensive ~ >$2K for the receiver, and another >$1K for the speakers.

    These logitech and klips speaker are not up to the task if you really want to hear high end audio.

    Receivers w/ SO SO speakers is like sports car on cart wheels...

    If you use high end head phones such as bose etc...you will probably hear/notice the difference.

    I bet very few users would hear/differentiate between XFI creative and Asus Xonar unless they have a professional audio setup.

    I do have a professional audio setup, i'm using Energy CF-70 Home Theater (costs around $4000) with an Onxyo receiver worth over $1000

    Does this means that i would hear a difference over OPTICAL AUDIO with an expensive sound card ?
  18. leon2006 said:
    If your receiver/speaker setup wont support .05%THD or better THD and SNR that the high end card will provide.... You won't appreciate the difference.

    You won't hear the difference between the high end sound card and on board sound chip unless your receiver and speakers are really that good.

    These type of setups are very expensive ~ >$2K for the receiver, and another >$1K for the speakers.

    These logitech and klips speaker are not up to the task if you really want to hear high end audio.

    Receivers w/ SO SO speakers is like sports car on cart wheels...

    If you use high end head phones such as bose etc...you will probably hear/notice the difference.

    I bet very few users would hear/differentiate between XFI creative and Asus Xonar unless they have a professional audio setup.


    since when is bose high end....
  19. when it comes to sound all that matters is what sounds good to you. no numbers or bandwidth amount will ever make something sound better because its up to interpretation. sometimes less is more. heck even diferent cords sound different. so the answer is that you wount know until you try.
  20. ungovernable said:
    Quote:
    These type of setups are very expensive ~ >$2K for the receiver, and another >$1K for the speakers.

    These logitech and klips speaker are not up to the task if you really want to hear high end audio.

    Receivers w/ SO SO speakers is like sports car on cart wheels...

    If you use high end head phones such as bose etc...you will probably hear/notice the difference.

    I bet very few users would hear/differentiate between XFI creative and Asus Xonar unless they have a professional audio setup.

    I do have a professional audio setup, i'm using Energy CF-70 Home Theater (costs around $4000) with an Onxyo receiver worth over $1000

    Does this means that i would hear a difference over OPTICAL AUDIO with an expensive sound card ?



    It depends if you have the hearing for pro audio. Also look at the datasheet of your receiver... Not all receiver are made the same.
  21. MEgamer said:
    since when is bose high end....


    How do you define professional speaker system? Read the data sheet and specification of the speaker you are interested.... Then you will know
  22. You can use an spectrum analyzer to review the freq response of your audio system...From the input to the output...
  23. Thanks for the input guys. So with the graphics card I am considering (EVGA Superclocked NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB 16X PCIe Video Card) can I use HDMI connection to A/V and get good 7.1 audio. Will I have to do any specific settings?
  24. HDMI is the preferred digital port today. It's better than spdif or analog link. It does not degrade the signal along the cable since its digital.

    The quality of your sound will be the dependent on the SOUND CHIP of your receiver.

    Thats one way to go... Use the HDMI and connect it to your receiver. No need for any special setting.
  25. ungovernable said:
    Well title says it all..

    I have expensive Energy CF-70 home theater with an onkyo TX-NR609 receiver i will be using on my new HTPC, currently using onboard Realtek audio with OPTICAL OUT....

    So now i'm wondering if it makes a difference if i buy a more expensive sound card, and still use optical output to my receiver.... After all, Optical is digital so would an expensive sound card really increase the quality of the digital optical output ?


    I think what you are asking is "will I get better Digital output with a sound card SPIDF then I will with on board audio SPDIF" it has been my recent experience that Digital SPDIF from a sound card is more robust then the on board Digital SPDIF. I have read, that in fact, the sound card especially it's sound chip processes the Digital output and therefor is "better" then onboard. the difference is not going to be night and day, but IMHO certainly more solid.

    erl
  26. leon2006 said:
    How do you define professional speaker system? Read the data sheet and specification of the speaker you are interested.... Then you will know

    my dad has been in the high end sterio business for 25 years. We laugh at ppl that think bose is high-fi. It simply isnt. if you want to take a step into the high-fi sterio world get a nice tube amp like such: http://www.audioholics.com/reviews/amplifiers/onix-melody-sp3-tube-integrated-amplifier-review.
  27. erly_Cuylers said:
    I think what you are asking is "will I get better Digital output with a sound card SPIDF then I will with on board audio SPDIF" it has been my recent experience that Digital SPDIF from a sound card is more robust then the on board Digital SPDIF. I have read, that in fact, the sound card especially it's sound chip processes the Digital output and therefor is "better" then onboard. the difference is not going to be night and day, but IMHO certainly more solid.

    erl


    Not really though; the source is digital, and SPDIF is digital. Granted, the soundcard will do some post-processing on the signal, but there won't be any significant changes made to the output. The biggest advantage a soundcard gives when using SPDIF is encoding support to Dolby/DTS formats [needed for 5.1 output over SPDIF].

    As for using digital or analog, at some point, your digital source will need to be converted to analog. Its best to do this only once [as most Analog to Digital converters stink], and only by the piece of equipment with the best Digital to Analog converter, usually a soundcard or receiver.
  28. nagol567 said:
    my dad has been in the high end sterio business for 25 years. We laugh at ppl that think bose is high-fi. It simply isnt. if you want to take a step into the high-fi sterio world get a nice tube amp like such: http://www.audioholics.com/reviews/amplifiers/onix-melody-sp3-tube-integrated-amplifier-review.



    Your Dad?
  29. Just my 3 cents, but if you want to hook a PC up to a receiver, you want one of two things, both of which are not standard.

    1) A video card with an HDMI plug. This has the advantage of letting you watch movies from your computer with 7.1 The downsides are that you have to pass the video through your receiver which could add some latency, and that the fastest video cards usually only support dvi.

    2) A receiver that has a multichannel input. This has the advantage of letting your receiver work with just about any soundcard or onboard sound. But you probably won't get 7.1 from your movies (thank Hollywood's DRM for that.) Analogue 7.1 has the potential to sound the best, but you need good cables and shielding.
Ask a new question

Read More

Sound Cards Home Theatre Components