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Dolby live capable card for astro a40

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January 16, 2012 9:13:31 AM

Hey all, So i've never had to bother with a sound card before and have very little experience with them. Was using a set of G35s until recently upgraded to some astro a40's. now this headset is awesome. when playing games on the console I've found the sound to be even better than i got on PC with g35s.

however, as soon as i've hooked them up to my PC things have gone a bit awry. The sound was awful and flat, and not directional at all. I came out to check my settings and saw nothing wrong, and after a bit of googling have come to the conclusion that because my on board sound card doesn't support Dolby live, I'm just getting upmixed stereo.
Firstly, is this right? Do i need to get something to encode into Dolby live in order to get surround via optical to my astro mixamp?
secondly, is there any workaround? It seems odd to me that PC's are not capable of native surround output over optical when consoles are. This is the first time i have ever come across a case of consoles being superior in any way, but it seems fairly significant.

And lastly, how do i fix this?

Now I'm already in the market for a new motherboard, but wont be getting one for at least another week. so if I can get an add in card that will work in the mean time AND won't need to be chucked when i get a new mobo im happy to buy one. However, if it would be a waste of money, I'll jsut wait til i get the new mobo. so in short, do any/most mobo's support this natively?

Now im stuck with NZ avilabilty, so my selections are low. On my current mobo i also have only PCIe, not PCI.

I was looking at this usb sound card. I think this will do the job?

but I'm also probably getting this motherboard. really, that site is one of the only trust worthy places to buy. so any advice relating to the products there would be handy.

tl;dr How to get dolby live working with my headset via either a mobo or sound card upgrade from playtech.co.nz

More about : dolby live capable card astro a40

January 16, 2012 12:01:27 PM

Quote:
Firstly, is this right? Do i need to get something to encode into Dolby live in order to get surround via optical to my astro mixamp?
secondly, is there any workaround? It seems odd to me that PC's are not capable of native surround output over optical when consoles are. This is the first time i have ever come across a case of consoles being superior in any way, but it seems fairly significant.


You are correct.

Understand, optical can not carry uncompressed 5.1 audio, hence why Dolby/DTS signals are the only way to send 5.1 signals over optical. Its a physical limitation of the standard [and why I wish it would die and be replaced by HDMI already...]

However, due to licensing reasons [IE: MONEY], most motherboard manufactuers do not license the technology to encode to Dolby/DTS in realtime. Dolby/DTS signals can still be sent through, but you won't get the automatic realtime conversion to either format.

Quote:
And lastly, how do i fix this?


Easiest way is via a soundcard with DDL support. The ASUS Xonar DX is probably your best bet. [Note it requires a 4-pin power connector]
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January 16, 2012 1:28:35 PM

Interesting read there about optical audio for PC not being the same as the xbox/console, I wasn't aware of that myself and I do own some A40's however have only ever used them with my 360.

@gamerk316 - while Audio over HDMI would be a great option, in terms of sound quality, this surely would be very limited since many PC users without a high end dedicated graphics card are only going to have 1, if any HDMI ports on their motherboard and this is likely to be used for video to a screen rather than connecting a headset or speaker system? Switching to HDMI audio devices would surely require a whole new generation of technology in which hardware is build with HDMI sound ports?
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January 16, 2012 2:17:47 PM

^^ They already exist; the Auzentech HTHD, ASUS HDAV 1.3, and Creative Titanium HD all feature HDMI in/outs.

SPDIF over Coax/Optical is horrible audio wise, as you can't carry more then 2.0 uncompressed PCM, and are limited to 5.1 Dolby/DTS, which are low quality lossy formats. Hence why I avoid using optical like the plauge.

And I note, its not a PC disadvantage; games on consoles typically carry a Dolby/DTS track, just like movies do, because a Dolby/DTS track is FAR smaller then uncompressed 5.1 PCM [disk space limitation]. PC's can output a pre-existing Dolby/DTS track without issue; its the conversion of normal PCM to Dolby/DTS thats the problem. And since 90%+ of PC users use analog outputs directly to speakers, there is very little incentive to include native Dolby/DTS encoding on PC's, since Dolby/DTS formats would be a quality downgrade.
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January 16, 2012 2:28:53 PM

Thanks for the info! I shall keep an eye out for headsets using HDMI interface in the "hopefully" near future :) 
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January 16, 2012 4:45:46 PM

^^ I doubt it. For one, theres no reason for it, since only a handful of headsets even support "true" 5.1 surround; its cheaper to implement Dolby Headphone in software then add more drivers. Secondly, by using an analog hookup, you can avoid needing a seperate DAC built into the headset [or a seperate control unit, like the Astro A40 has with its MixAmp].

HDMI is going to be the preferred method for connecting to receivers, but I don't believe it will ever be used to directly connect a headset to a soundcard.
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January 16, 2012 7:46:29 PM

Why not just buy the mixamp? :) 
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January 16, 2012 7:48:09 PM

amuffin said:
Why not just buy the mixamp? :) 


I have the mixamp. but with my PC hooked up by optical I am only getting upmixed stero as the others have discussed. I need to be sending Dolby live through the optical to be getting proper surround.

EDIT: Just ordered the xonar U3. hopefully it will do the job. found a place selling it local for 75 bux so hopefully will get it today. On the plus side it will mean i can also use my headset with my laptop, which doesn't have built in optical.
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