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Onboard analog cables vs sound card optical ??

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December 8, 2011 6:28:23 AM

Hi guys, i have a PC setup with nVidia 8800 GT DVI to HDMI and no optical or spdif out on my DG33FB intel motherboard. I am going to buy a Denon 1912 receiver which has capability to decode TrueHD, DTS-HD etc. I will connect the DVI->HDMI to receiver so no problems on video front. What is the best approach for audio.

Do i connect onboard (5+1) ports through analog cables(3 x 3.5mm to dual RCA male) or buy a new soundcard which has optical out through DTS live or connect etc ? I do not want to spend on Auzentech X-FI HD or nVidia 460/480/560 GT etc which has HDMI cables as my rig is pretty old(Only 1 PCI Express slot :(  ). Will update my PC rig in 1-2 years and get the new nVidia HDMI audio/video out capable devices. So i do not want to spend unnecessarily on a HI-FI sound card. I can buy a budget sound card like Asus XONAR-DG which has optical out. But will get it only if sound quality will be better than connecting through analog outs from onboard ports. I am not an audiophile but do appreciate good sound. PC will be used for gaming,music and watching BR rips.. What's the cheapest solution rite now ?
December 8, 2011 7:15:21 AM

You might want to look to see if it's got coaxial digital output (orange plug). It might require that you go through your motherboards manual, nearly all of them have some option to set one of their ports to digital audio output.
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December 8, 2011 7:22:44 AM

Here's a pic of my mobo back panel(found on search). I don't think it has the co-axial port. Can you confirm.

http://www.directcanada.com/products/?sku=12200BD8450&v...

I checked the manual online to look for spdif header out.
http://www.intel.com/support/motherboards/desktop/dg33f...
It doesnt have it.

So it means that i do not have any form of digital out rite.. That is why i want to know if getting a soundcard will be better. And if i do have to will the Asus Xonar DG be perfect for the job of digital out. Any help appreciated.
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December 8, 2011 11:11:02 AM

First and formost, all audio needs to be converted to analog at some point in order for audio to be played back. As a result, you want the device with the highest quality digital to analog converter as the one that does this conversion. And 99% of the time, thats the soundcard on your PC.

About the only reason using digital outputs on a soundcard makes sense is if you connect to a receiver that happens to have a higher quality DAC. Otherwise, your just degrading audio quality by going digital to another device.
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December 8, 2011 1:31:39 PM

Quote:
About the only reason using digital outputs on a soundcard makes sense is if you connect to a receiver that happens to have a higher quality DAC

Dont u think thats the case with my rig.. Not to mention that i will get the benifits of DTS encoding from the sound card.

Considering that i will update my PC in a year or two, the budget sound card is the best option rite. The onboard audio totally sucks and considering that i will be getting a good receiver the digital output from sound card makes sense. Dont you agree ? I do not want to be stuck with crappy audio quality for a whole year till i save up for a new PC. So the question is which is crappi-er :lol:  And will the step up from analog outs from crappy mobo to a decent sound card with digital out be noticeable and worth my troubles ??
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December 8, 2011 2:00:07 PM

Quote:
benifits of DTS encoding


There are none; DTS is a horrible audio format. Its only saving grace is it can transmit 5.1 over optical, but its compressed to holy hell along the way. DTS and Dolby are both horrid audio formats.

My point being, I'd take the analog out of an onboard chipset over Dolby/DTS audio streams any day.
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December 8, 2011 3:03:53 PM

Ok so i get your point that compressed is not good when compared to uncompressed PCM from source. So what if i get the sound card and use the analog outputs from that. My onboard Realtec decoder does a sample rate of 192kHz, 24bit(donno if its of consequence). Will i get better audio with the analog outs from sound card ? I want to be able to get real surround sound, 5.1 atleast, from my BR Rips and games.
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December 8, 2011 4:46:05 PM

Sure, you should use the analog outputs from the onboard, and should have no issues getting 5.1.
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December 8, 2011 5:16:06 PM

gamerk316 said:
Sure, you should use the analog outputs from the onboard, and should have no issues getting 5.1.


This is actually surprising for me. I thought that the sound card would be better at processing audio hence better sound, not to mention the noise in the lossy analog cables. I get the digital encoding concept that you are saying but why then do people buy sound cards if they have 5.1 onboard analog ports or use digital ports from sound cards when analog ports are there. Have seen a couple of cases and hence i posted this to solve my doubts. Could you explain a little better for me or some links which explain that ?
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December 8, 2011 5:49:37 PM

Most people are clueless when it comes to audio; too many "experts" think that digital automatically means better, or simply say that Dolby/DTS are great audio formats. And repeated enough, it gets accepted as truth.

Granted, there ARE a few situations where using the optical port makes sense; if I have a high quality receiver, and am watching a movie with a Dolby/DTS track, then I want the receiver doing the processing. But soundcards are optimised for the analog outputs, and I find it a waste to not use it.

As for noise in the analog cables, audio is analog by nature, and whatever music you are listening to will be converted to analog at some point. So no matter what you do, there will be some noise in the signal. Soundcards have gotten significantly better on that front though, as Signal to Noise ratios over over 100 are common even for onboard chipsets, and the top soundcards approach or exceed 120dB SnR, which is excellent.

Between analog on a soundcard and analog onboard, obviously, the soundcard is better. But between analog on onboard and Dolby/DTS over optical on a soundcard, I'll stick to onboard.
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December 8, 2011 6:28:42 PM

Had found this earlier :

"I find that using an analog connection from my PC to receiver produces a very noticeable "hiss" noise, which, with a digital connection, is non-existent.
When you are using the analog outs on your pc card you are using the DACs on the card, when you use the digital out on the card you are then using the dacs on the receiver. The dacs on your receiver will be of a higher quality than the one on your card. Aside from that the big difference is when you use an internal sound card, you pick up internal noise from all the internal electronics in your computer they only way to bypass that, aside from the things that were already mentioned, would be to get an external sound card or continue using the digital out."

This sums up my situation i guess. I can always borrow an optical cable nd verify if analogs are indeed the best for my content.

Quote:
Between analog on a soundcard and analog onboard, obviously, the soundcard is better. But between analog on onboard and Dolby/DTS over optical on a soundcard, I'll stick to onboard.


Yup thats all i wanted to hear :)  A little more questions my fren, please bear with me :) 

1. The soundcard Asus XONAR-DG is good enuf for me right ? I will off course be using the analog ports on it..

2. I will need to buy 3 x 3.5mm to RCA cables like this correct ?
http://www.amazon.com/Belkin-Audio-Cable-Splitter-1-Min...
Should i spend more and get good brand cables (to reduce noise and improve audio quality etc.) or any cable like this should be good(or does the soundcard come with these cables) ?

Still need to get my receiver so donno how to make such a connection with 3 RCA's. Denon 1912 has the ports i am guessing, but i shud learn how to group them after connections. My fren had difficulty with this on a Sony AVR and still uses digital..

Appreciate your inputs for the above questions..

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December 8, 2011 7:13:56 PM

as previously mentioned in the other thread (which i'm guessing is a duplicate)

if your videocard supports sound out via dvi i'd go with this option (using a dvi to hdmi cable) to hook up to the receiver.

i've got mine hooked up this way to $1300 or so of audio equipment and things sound great to me. the receiver ends up being your default audio device.

....but do whatever you want as its just a suggestion
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December 8, 2011 11:59:03 PM

gamerk316 said:
First and formost, all audio needs to be converted to analog at some point in order for audio to be played back. As a result, you want the device with the highest quality digital to analog converter as the one that does this conversion. And 99% of the time, thats the soundcard on your PC.

About the only reason using digital outputs on a soundcard makes sense is if you connect to a receiver that happens to have a higher quality DAC. Otherwise, your just degrading audio quality by going digital to another device.




Baaaaaad advice.

He ~IS~ connecting it to a receiver, the DAC on the receiver will beat anything available on a consumer audio card.

http://www.usa.denon.com/us/Product/Pages/ProductDetail...

And while I prefer Yamaha receivers myself (Using RXV-3900 myself) the above mentioned Denon isn't a slouch.

http://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio-visual/av-receiver...

He's wanting to port the audio in as pure a format as possible from the sound source to this receiver so that the receiver can do the 3D positional audio and environmental correction (if available). The source in this case being various programs / games / media players on the computer. Having the computer's sound CODEC try to play will just result in sh!t quality sound without some very expensive sound cards. His board doesn't even support 5+1 output.

@1C3M4Nz

Ignore the above guy, he's giving you horrible advice that will ruin your home theater setup. I'm assuming your building this as either a home theater solution or some sort of super gaming environment? Looking over your board I see it's a reference Intel design, you might be screwed here. Looking over your board's technical manual I don't see any digital audio connectors and seeing as it's only your basic 3 audio ports I doubt the CODEC will let you chose to use one for digital audio out. Your pretty much going to have to buy an audio card. Thankfully if your buying that receiver then you already have the quality DAC and thus can settle for a typical sound card. Any sound card you buy will just act as a pass-thru as it ships the signal to the receiver for processing.

Now about those audio formats you mentioned earlier. Those are used to describe environmental and positional qualities for the various sound channels. To get the benefit your receiver, card and sound source (video / game / program) must all support it. At a minimum I'd suggest getting a card that supports DTS, PLII is on pretty much all of them but it's slightly dated. Don't be worried if windows falls back to stereo PCM after boot, the receiver won't initialize the special modes unless it detects a signal from a source program.

The only downside to a S/PDIF is that it has no way to synchronize clocking between the sound card and the receiver. If you were using a poor quality receiver or audio recording device then you could get sync issues. If your getting that receiver then you shouldn't need to worry as the receiver will sync itself.
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December 9, 2011 12:19:34 AM

1C3M4Nz said:
Had found this earlier :

"I find that using an analog connection from my PC to receiver produces a very noticeable "hiss" noise, which, with a digital connection, is non-existent.
When you are using the analog outs on your pc card you are using the DACs on the card, when you use the digital out on the card you are then using the dacs on the receiver. The dacs on your receiver will be of a higher quality than the one on your card. Aside from that the big difference is when you use an internal sound card, you pick up internal noise from all the internal electronics in your computer they only way to bypass that, aside from the things that were already mentioned, would be to get an external sound card or continue using the digital out."

This sums up my situation i guess. I can always borrow an optical cable nd verify if analogs are indeed the best for my content.

Quote:
Between analog on a soundcard and analog onboard, obviously, the soundcard is better. But between analog on onboard and Dolby/DTS over optical on a soundcard, I'll stick to onboard.


Yup thats all i wanted to hear :)  A little more questions my fren, please bear with me :) 

1. The soundcard Asus XONAR-DG is good enuf for me right ? I will off course be using the analog ports on it..

2. I will need to buy 3 x 3.5mm to RCA cables like this correct ?
http://www.amazon.com/Belkin-Audio-Cable-Splitter-1-Min...
Should i spend more and get good brand cables (to reduce noise and improve audio quality etc.) or any cable like this should be good(or does the soundcard come with these cables) ?

Still need to get my receiver so donno how to make such a connection with 3 RCA's. Denon 1912 has the ports i am guessing, but i shud learn how to group them after connections. My fren had difficulty with this on a Sony AVR and still uses digital..

Appreciate your inputs for the above questions..



Unfortunately this

Quote:
Between analog on a soundcard and analog onboard, obviously, the soundcard is better. But between analog on onboard and Dolby/DTS over optical on a soundcard, I'll stick to onboard.


Is incredibly bad advice. You can't differentiate between "onboard" and "sound card" audio, their the same depending on your motherboard. Both use the same CODEC's depending on who designed the board and the price. Evaluate what's on the board and determine which chip you want to move to for your audio needs.

Now the second part of that is HORRIBLY wrong. Digital is just a pass-through interface, both coaxial and SPDiff, it takes whatever audio data it has and sends it directly out the port. The sound card (CODEC) just needs to understand the format enough to frame it properly, otherwise it has no interaction with the audio data from the sound source. Modern sound cards are adequate at converting digital recorded audio to analog, their not particularly good at the whole environmental part though. Unless your using a professional audio card with a DSP on it, then your sound card is going to output it assuming a very small room made of wood. Your receiver on the other hand has a specialized processor inside that will calculate the proper analogue sound frequency's to reproduce the environment the audio was designed to sound like. If your receiver is on the high end then it'll have a mic that you can put where your sitting and it'll conduct a set of sound tests and calculate out the acoustic properties of your living room so that it's internal DSP will know how to convert the sound even more faithfully.

If your using a high quality receiver then use the digital interface PERIOD, end of story.

BTW it's no different then the audio sent over HDMI.

Ok now that I'm off my soapbox. Here is how you connect this up.

Assuming you have a sound device that has either digital coax or optical output along with a DVI->HDMI cable.

Look at this,
http://www.usa.denon.com/Assets/Images/products/AVR1912...

Now it has one digital coax / optical input and a bunch of HDMI inputs. Now your going to have to do some research on your receiver. It lists itself has having input remapping, so you should be able to assign one of the digital audio inputs to one of the HDMI inputs. On my Yamaha it's rather straight forward, I'm not sure whats required for the Denon. But you REALLY should send them an email and ask about that specific feature.

Also you won't be able to use 5~7 channel input so those RCA cables he recommended to you are useless. This receiver does not have 5~7 channel analog input in. Your going to sit there scratching your head and swearing for a few hours during installation if you try to do that.

Now if the receiver supports remapping then it's as simple as HDMI + Optical / Coax and your done. If it doesn't then it gets a little harder. Your going to need to buy a video card that has HDMI and a digital I/O pin on the back. But that's a different story. Honestly just make sure your receiver supports remapping the digital audio input to a HDMI port, will save you a ton of headache.

I have a very similar setup in my own home and often build / setup my friends and coworkers home theaters. I know what I'm talking about here. Using a bunch of RCA cables from your HTPC to a high quality receiver is almost the same as tossing that receiver into the trash. Let it do it's job which is processing digital audio signals and reproducing them in their intended state.
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December 9, 2011 2:18:41 AM

Best answer selected by 1C3M4Nz.
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December 9, 2011 2:30:38 AM

First off thanks for the great advise.. I felt the explanation to be complete :)  Great receiver btw.. That thing looked like it was loaded with ports. I could see many RCA's so my guess is you have tried analog cables approach before and giving me first hand experience :)  Appreciate that. I will be getting the Sound card. Since the ASUS Xonar DG is cheap and does the required DTS encoding i will get it..

The mic and calibration tools for the receiver - the YPAO rite.. I have researched Yamaha receivers too. In my price range i really have only 2 options..
Either the RX-571 or RX-671.. Now i really dont need the networking and zone 2 features of RX-671. So its just a matter of sound quality Denon vs Yamaha, which i will demo and decide this weekend. (Will get the Yamaha probably cos of features and price point. People say there is actly no diff in sound quality between Yamaha and Denon.)

http://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio-visual/av-receiver...

What are your thoughts on this receiver. You would classify it as "high quality" receiver too no ? And do you know if remapping is possible seeing the ports behind ?
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December 9, 2011 3:27:57 AM

Well most of my experience is with Yamaha receivers, they've always worked great for me. Yamaha puts lots of work into their DSP's and the various sound creation programs. Listen to each one and check their configuration, then pick the one your most comfortable with. Extremely important that you check the input mapping on the Denon, I know the Yamaha can do it.

One thing to note, you really should look to getting a HDMI capable video card. Because your using this has a HTPC all your audio will be in DDL / DTS so it'll work just fine. But if you ever plan on gaming then you can run into issues where the game is outputting multichannel data to DirectX that isn't DDL / DTS. In this case it's up to your sound card to encode the sound into DTS / DDL / WMA Pro or PCM 5.1. The older SPDiff spec doesn't technically support PCM 5.1 although it's possible (its the same wire as HDMI). You can get caught up in this catch-22 where Windows Audio Control + Sound Drivers + Video Game all conspire to prevent more then two channels of digital audio from being sent over your digital interface. A good sound card will just encode it into DTS / DDL / WMA Pro and settle the matter, but often the vendor's don't provide the right driver support. HDMI on the other hand is spec'd to handle PCM5.1/7.1, so you just connect the digital I/O out connector on the audio card to the HDMI audio input on the video card (same fricking wire as digital coax) and set the sound output to HDMI and *poof* suddenly works.
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December 9, 2011 4:52:21 AM

Yup this is the plan going forward. I did not want to invest on a new PC rite now(spent all my dough on HT). As for as a video card that is a wicked chain. Buy the new nVidia 580 GT, then you need to buy a new power supply. and maybe a new mobo as well as mine honestly sucks. Cant even use DDR3 :(  So do not worry this is only a temporary measure. Going forward i will buy a new PC with a great mobo, processor, video card which has HDMI port(which will passthru 7.1 audio if it exists when i buy)..
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December 9, 2011 5:24:12 AM

http://www.maximumpc.com/article/howtos/how_to_connect_...

Thread states that analog outs will be better as you can pass multichannel PCM through them. I still think analog will be better and it also depends on the source. But since i have limitations on my AVR for analog ports and also considering it is a temporary setup i will go ahead and get the budget audio card with digital out and use the DTS(better than plain stereo for me) :) 
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