What is a good sound card for HTPC?

Can someone help me locate a particular sound card that can do the following?

1.) can *decode* DD and DTS
2.) has a TOSLink optical digital input that accepts DD/DTS 5.1, not just stereo PCM
3.) has a TOSLink optical digital input that works with the analog output, meaning it will convert the digital 5.1 sound to analog 5.1 output
4.) has multi-channel analog output
5.) has PCI slot

Unfortunately, documentation for these is sparse.

So I would appreciate anyone who has experience with this to share their knowledge.
6 answers Last reply
More about what good sound card htpc
  1. I think what you really want is a newer motherboard, with all that stuff already on it.
  2. You try HT | Omega? www.htomega.com

    just invest in a new mobo, that'll solve half your problems. Wanna make music, you'd need to invest in something else :)
  3. soundguruman said:
    I think what you really want is a newer motherboard, with all that stuff already on it.

    Done. I will get a new mobo, along with new RAM and GPU.
  4. Lutfij said:
    You try HT | Omega? www.htomega.com

    just invest in a new mobo, that'll solve half your problems. Wanna make music, you'd need to invest in something else :)

    I will go with the former, including new GPU and RAM.

    I don't want to make music, I just want to do three things by order of significance:

    1.) Watch Movies
    2.) Listen to Music
    3.) Play Games
  5. After some deliberation, I decided that I want to open up my options to other alternatives. I believe I can accomplish this task by creating a survey for anyone to voluntarily take. It will only take a few minutes of your time and this would really help me quantify my data so I can make an educated purchase.

    Here goes.

    I prepared a short survey for my OT because I wanted to re-evaluate my original question and better rephrase it in a different format that would make my decision-making process more accessible to all of us. I've provided much information as necessarily possible so please let me know if there's anything you need to know to make an informed suggestion.

    Basically I was wondering if you can include a list of sound cards (PCI-E or PCI) by voting for the best sound card in different categories for me to tally and choose from so I can have an idea which one to buy. I think most likely the higher-end sound cards may be overkill for my "HTPC" system where digital speakers, amps and AVRs are nonexistent, so to gauge the budget, I'd say something that is a sustainable upgrade (from either onboard sound or an Audigy 2) at a "bang for the buck" range.

    In a distant future far away I will upgrade to digital speakers and amp/receiver, by which time I shall return and seek the appropriate sound card.

    But for now, here are my current HTPC audio sources.

    ·Speaker setup: Analog 5.1.
    ·Headphone: "foam-removed" Sennhesier HD-555.
    ·Audio movie source: lossy compressed DD and DTS encoded in AC3/DTS bitstreams, 640kpbs-1.5Mbps. They are not HD-Audio as in TrueHD, DTS-HD, etc. There are no external video hardware involved, just files downloaded via filehosting site.
    ·Audio music source: lossy compresed MP3s with optimally encoded variable to 320kbps high bitrates. (Both audio movie/music sources are from my personal backups globally stored in a remote clandestine server.)
    ·Audio videogame sources are PC titles.

    The following categories are soundcard application objectives that I intend to do with the soundcard, ordered by significance:

    Category 1: Analog playback via internal DAC
    Category 2: Movies
    Category 3: Music
    Category 4: Games

    Each category is divided by 3 tiers.

    Tier 1 = The best soundcard for its category.
    Tier 2 = An excellent soundcard for its category.
    Tier 3 = A good soundcard for its category.

    Examples of what I mean:

    Category 1: Analog playback via internal DAC
    Tier 1 = Creative X-Fi Elite Pro ----> the best soundcard for Analog playback via internal DAC.
    Tier 2 = Turtle Beach ----> an excellent soundcard for Analog playback via internal DAC.
    Tier 3 = Asus HDAV13 Deluxe ----> a good soundcard for Analog playback via internal DAC

    Category 2: Movies
    Tier 1 = Xplosion ----> the best soundcard for Movies
    Tier 2 = Asus Xonar D2X ----> an excellent soundcard for Movies
    Tier 3 = HT Omega Striker ----> a good soundcard for Movies

    Category 3: Music
    Tier 1 = Creative X-Fi Elite Pro ----> the best soundcard for Music
    Tier 2 = Xplosion ----> an excellent soundcard for Music
    Tier 3 = X-Fi XtremeMusic ----> a good soundcard for Music

    Category 4: Games
    Tier 1 = Creative Fatal1ty ----> the best soundcard for Games
    Tier 2 = Xplosion ----> an excellent soundcard for Games
    Tier 3 = HT Omega Claro ----> a good soundcard for Games


    As you can see, I've placed soundcards that excel in particular areas than others, while also placing them again in different categories > tiers. These are just examples, which show I know next to nothing. Hence, I humbly seek your advice.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    So I would appreciate if someone could "vote" for their favorite or best sound card you think deserves their place and please completely fill out all 4 categories as you possibly can.

    Can you please limit only one instance of a specific sound card model per category but there can also be multiple different models of the same company per category.

    For instance, I would prefer the following:

    Category 1: Analog playback via internal DAC
    Tier 1 = Creative X-Fi Elite Pro
    Tier 2 = Creative X-Fi Platinum
    Tier 3 = Asus HDAV13 Deluxe


    But not like this:

    Category 1: Analog playback via internal DAC
    Tier 1 = Creative X-Fi Elite Pro
    Tier 2 = Creative X-Fi Elite Pro
    Tier 3 = Creative X-Fi Elite Pro


    Let me know if you have any questions and thanks again.


    And here is the actual survey:

    Category 1: Analog playback via internal DAC
    Tier 1 = ____________
    Tier 2 = ____________
    Tier 3 = ____________

    Category 2: Movies
    Tier 1 = ____________
    Tier 2 = ____________
    Tier 3 = ____________

    Category 3: Music
    Tier 1 = ____________
    Tier 2 = ____________
    Tier 3 = ____________

    Category 4: Games
    Tier 1 = ____________
    Tier 2 = ____________
    Tier 3 = ____________
  6. For the love of God, stay away from creative cards. You'll have a nightmare dealing with their drivers/softwares and customer support.

    Now that, that's mentioned. It takes out 2/3 rds of your survey material.

    People here at Tom's will suggest getting Asus Xonar's while a handful will suggest getting HT | Omega's

    But here are reliable soundcard makers/makes:
    Asus Xonar
    HT | Omega
    Auzentech
    *only the Creative Titanium HD anything preceding it are crap loads

    HT | Omega's striker should fit your choice of gaming/music/movie

    Asus Xonar HDAV is another choice but for pure HD audio video encodiing. It was designed to handle the audio/video reciever's job.

    Auzentech X-Fi Home Theater HD but its limited to HDMI 1.3a interface which is not a future proof plan. The standard today is HDMI 1.4a.

    Reading reviews are a better idea, on making educated decisions, not taking surveys where fanboys and biasness come into play.

    To get a more tailored answer to your HTPC sound setup, we'd need to know what equipment you'll want to hook the cards to?(apart from the headphones - like the receiver, speaker model)

    Cos mobo's these days have a Optical sound port available, plus they come with an HDMI port which can pass through audio and video.
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