I just got a Creative Fatal1ty Pro sound card and have a dilemma...

I don't understand much about sound but this is what I do understand. I am using a 10 year old receiver (Sony STR-DE485) which my speakers are connected to. Now I have two options: run analog cables to the "Multi in" ports on the receiver (which would probably be the best thing to do right?) so that the sound card can do all the decoding and hard work. Or I can use an optical cable to send a DOLBY DIGITAL LIVE signal to my receiver, which can then decode it. This way my receiver (which is 10 years old) is doing most of the work. OBVIOUSLY, I WANT THE SOUND CARD TO DO THE WORK as it is newer and my receiver probably isn't very good as it is so old.

I know that analog audio is lossless and the Optical Cable digital audio is lossy. Another +1 for analog... So analog would probably be the best thing to do in my situation right? This way the sound card gets maximized to its full potential and the dinky old receiver isn't doing any of the hard work...

The problem is that I've tried both setups and for stereo sources on iTunes, THE OPTICAL SIGNAL SOUNDS SO MUCH BETTER than the analog signal. I'm convinced that this is because the Dolby Digital Live signal is making all the audio 5.1 (and doing a heck of a good job at it). So why can't I convert my stereo signal to 5.1 using Dolby Digital via the ANALOG CABLES? Because it is a lossy digital signal and analog sounds better technically, right? I understand that, but stereo mp3s are lossy anyway?!

I don't want my receiver to do all the work. I have a nice sound card. But stereo music sounds better with the digital signal. Is there any way to make stereo music 5.1 using the sound card's ANALOG OUTPUTS? thank you.

P.S There is a setting in my sound card that says "Play stereo mix to digital output." Would that solve this problem I'm having? Thank you.
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  1. You can't (in a true surround sense) upmix a song recorded in stereo i.e. two tracks into 5.1 ( 6 tracks). If you think of it, a 5.1 (or higher) speaker set up is designed so that the listener - when positioned optimally - experiences sound around about them normally in the context of watching tv/film. True surround music tracks are uncommon; they allow the listener to more easily separate instruments from L-R and F-B (including F-B would put you somewhere in the middle of the stage!).

    I think you are talking about keeping the music in stereo but duplicating the L channel to both front and back L, and the same with R. the ".1" would be your sub/woofer. Is this correct? If this is correct, some audio software (don't know about Creative) allows you to alter the sound at the audio card's output jacks and in this way you could specify 2 L's and 2 R's, then send these into your receiver. If it's what you are looking for and if software allows then this would be one possible way.

    In using the audio outs from the sound card you need to balance the signal going from your PC to the receiver then to each speaker. Normally such receivers have separate volume controls for each speaker (might be inside a menu i.e. not physical dials). If you don't optimise this the resulting sound could be very poor.
    Using the digital out from your sound card should be the easiest solution (1 lead) but may post problems when you wan't to send a stereo source to all speakers - you might have options on your receiver on how to handle a particular source type, or, you may be able to create a custom 'upmix' within software in your pc. Again, remember that you are not producing a true (3D) surround from a stereo track.
    Bear in mind also that the resulting sound at the speakers is only as good as the quality of the source material. For CD music you are looking to rip the audio into wav files (or lossless compression e.g. flac). Of course, high quality mp3's (256 or greater) may be fine for many.

    "P.S There is a setting in my sound card that says "Play stereo mix to digital output." Would that solve this problem I'm having? " --> one example of the above. Give it a go.
  2. mesab66 said:
    You can't (in a true surround sense) upmix a song recorded in stereo i.e. two tracks into 5.1 ( 6 tracks). If you think of it, a 5.1 (or higher) speaker set up is designed so that the listener - when positioned optimally - experiences sound around about them normally in the context of watching tv/film. True surround music tracks are uncommon; they allow the listener to more easily separate instruments from L-R and F-B (including F-B would put you somewhere in the middle of the stage!).

    I think you are talking about keeping the music in stereo but duplicating the L channel to both front and back L, and the same with R. the ".1" would be your sub/woofer. Is this correct? If this is correct, some audio software (don't know about Creative) allows you to alter the sound at the audio card's output jacks and in this way you could specify 2 L's and 2 R's, then send these into your receiver. If it's what you are looking for and if software allows then this would be one possible way.

    In using the audio outs from the sound card you need to balance the signal going from your PC to the receiver then to each speaker. Normally such receivers have separate volume controls for each speaker (might be inside a menu i.e. not physical dials). If you don't optimise this the resulting sound could be very poor.
    Using the digital out from your sound card should be the easiest solution (1 lead) but may post problems when you wan't to send a stereo source to all speakers - you might have options on your receiver on how to handle a particular source type, or, you may be able to create a custom 'upmix' within software in your pc. Again, remember that you are not producing a true (3D) surround from a stereo track.
    Bear in mind also that the resulting sound at the speakers is only as good as the quality of the source material. For CD music you are looking to rip the audio into wav files (or lossless compression e.g. flac). Of course, high quality mp3's (256 or greater) may be fine for many.

    "P.S There is a setting in my sound card that says "Play stereo mix to digital output." Would that solve this problem I'm having? " --> one example of the above. Give it a go.


    I don't want to just duplicate the front to the back speakers. Dolby Digital Live only works through the digital optical output. According to Wikipedia, "Dolby Digital Live converts any audio signals on a PC or game console into a 5.1-channel 16-bit/48 kHz Dolby Digital format at 640 kbit/s and transports it via a single S/PDIF cable." Therefore, for any stereo content I am listening to I'll want that to be in surround sound correct and want to it to go through the optical audio right? And everything else (DVDs, 5.1 SACD audio, etc.) I'd want to go through the analog outputs because I won't want the receiver messing with the sound because its already 5.1...is that possible??!?!?!

    I know Dolby Digital Live isnt true surround sound as the source is stereo...but its still better than nothing and my sound card can certainly support it so why not use it for stereo sources?

    Thank you.
  3. "P.S There is a setting in my sound card that says "Play stereo mix to digital output." Would that solve this problem I'm having? " --> did this help solve your issue? Check out any other settings your sound card has for upmixing. You may also be able to download 3rd party audio software that helps prepare your output into the format you require for your receiver (may or may not do this in real time, though).
  4. mesab66 said:
    "P.S There is a setting in my sound card that says "Play stereo mix to digital output." Would that solve this problem I'm having? " --> did this help solve your issue? Check out any other settings your sound card has for upmixing. You may also be able to download 3rd party audio software that helps prepare your output into the format you require for your receiver (may or may not do this in real time, though).


    http://support.creative.com/kb/ShowArticle.aspx?sid=107538

    I found the description of what stereo mix is supposed to do but I seriously don't understand the point. It says is allows audio effects to be used via the digital optical output...What is the point of that when digital output already gets dolby digital live encoding? I think the only thing to do is to leave the receiver on optical out on video 2 and switch the receiver to "multi in" whenever I am listening to a true 5.1 surround sound source. Is that the best idea?
  5. The digital optical output on my xfi titanium hd works like this if I have it off and no encoding and trying to get true 5.1 via optical cable it doesn't play sound if I check mark the digital optical output and have encoding off, I get sound. If I uncheck it and turn on encoding either DTS Connect or Dobly Digital Live I get sound. Running both at the same time doesn't seem to make a difference for me so I just use encoding option atm.

    I just figured this out today as I was sick of having to switch to 2.1 instead of 5.1 to get Voices to have sound during cut scenes. Now with optical cable and encoding I get true 5.1 so I hear the voices during cut scenes during PC games. I always wondered why certain games it worked fine and others it didn't. During cut scenes voices tend to come out the middle speaker. So if you are set to 5.1 and you hit button to here voice through each speaker and you only hear left channel and right channel then this is your problem you are not hooking your speakers up to the sound card properly to get true 5.1. Just wanted to add this here in case someone has issue with this and googles and finds it. I know its nothing to do with your question.

    I have logitech z906 5.1 500watt speakers btw.
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