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5.1 Channel surround decoder needed?

Last response: in Components
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November 5, 2004 11:49:48 AM

I have a nForce 2 Ultra and it's currently connected to a standard 2 channel home stereo. I spend all day at work on a computer, so my home system is primarily used for entertainment. I play lots of games but would very rarely, if ever, watch a DVD on my computer since I already have a nice home theater setup in my living room.

Here are my questions... lots of new games are advertising surround sound features, with some even claiming true 5.1 surround. I've been looking at 5.1 speaker systems and found that one of the main differences between the lower priced models (mid to upper $100s) and higher priced models (lower $200s and up) is the presence of a built in DD/THX decoder.

1. I know what this is for in a home system, but why would one need this in a computer system?
2. Doesn't the nVidia APU decode DD/THX and output in analog 5.1 channel?
I have no interest in the "simulated surround" many companies are advertising. I'm only interested in true 6 channel discreet.
3. So, to get the true 5.1 in games (my biggest motivation here is going to be Half-life 2) do you need the external decoder in the speaker system?

Also, I've had mixed luck in the past with Creative products, and I've had a set of Altec Lansing's go out on me, so I'm leaning toward the Logitec Z-5300 ($143, no decoder) or Logitech 680 and Logitech Z-5500 (with decoders, $219 and $279 respectively).
4. Anyone have good or bad experience with the Logitech speaker systems?
5. I love Klipsch products, but I'm not too fond of the $356 price tag. Would they really be worth it over the Logitech models?

Thanks for all the help!
November 6, 2004 12:16:14 AM

THX isn't a technology, it's a certification. Basically you make a sound system, and if you want it to sell for the big bux, you pay big bux to get it certified (basically to get them to listen to it and tell you it's OK to use a THX sticker).

nVidia APU is an encoder. You can get Dolby Digital 5.1 directly from that encoder, but it's still a digital signal. All speakers are analog, even "digital speakers", it's the amplifier on "digital speakers" that uses a decoder to output 6 analog channels.

Most boards that offer 5.1 output give you the choice of using the onboard decoder (AC97 codec with extra features) and connect standard speakers, or using a speaker system with the decoder built into the amplifier directly from an S/P-DIF connector (aka digital coaxial or digital optical connection).

So that answers questions 2 and 3. You can get Dolby 5.1 using cheap analog speakers from the codec (which separates the digital signal), or output the digital signal to a digital speaker system which will split the channels itself.

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November 6, 2004 3:40:43 PM

Cool, thanks for the help! I'm not sure what kind of crack I was smoking, but I meant to say DTS, not THX, sorry :-) Either way, that answers my question... I don't need the decoder in the speaker system unless I want to use the digital out.

Thanks!
!