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Best External Sound Card?

Last response: in Home Audio
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January 21, 2011 12:01:07 PM

I have experienced problems lately with my speakers as they are producing a very weak sound, upon further investigation i concluded that the speakers in my 7.1 setup are not drawing enough power because they are all plugged in to the rear audio ports on the motherboard. I need a sound card capable of handling all of these speakers, i do not have any pci or pcie slots available and can not free any up. So i need an external sound card capable of supporting 7.1 audio and handling the power of 9 speakers and 3 subwoofers any suggestions? Price is not much of an issue.

More about : external sound card

January 21, 2011 2:34:25 PM

do those speakers have their own amplifier?

you say that you are experiencing problems 'lately' with very weak sound.
that implies the speakers used to work louder.
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January 21, 2011 5:52:53 PM

Yes I did not have quite as many speakers as i did now (i had 7) and they preformed very well that also might have to deal with the fact that they were connected to a good sound card, but as i mentioned i can no longer use an internal sound card. Yes, all of the speakers are parts of sets and have their own amplifiers they are not all different speakers. the speakers are
logitech x 540 (5.1)
Logitech z 2300 (2.1)
and Klipsch promedia (2.1)

does that help you?
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January 21, 2011 6:56:50 PM

knowing that the speakers have a dedicated amplifier helped tremendously.
the first thing i would do is connect each set of speakers to something different and make sure they all still work.

i mean, i'm sure they do.. but maybe one of the sets of speakers has died and caused damage to the soundcard, and now the soundcard is passing along that damage to the remaining speakers.

you can use an ipod or portable cd player or an old portable cassette player.. anything with a headphone jack will help you make that determination.

as far as soundcards go.. you wont get A+ help from me there.
i would simply tell you to buy one from a store that will allow you to return it for a ful refund if you are not satisfied.
however, there are some important features that i am willing to help you decide on.

for example.. having an equalizer is a must if you plan on calibrating the frequency response with a calibration microphone.
but something that might be overlooked is time-alignment.
being able to calibrate the distance of the speaker from the listening position is always a must have.
you can get ALMOST the same results by adjusting the volume seperately for each speaker, but there are more important things like actual delay and the ability for the speaker to pass along its audio through the air without creating congestion with the other speakers.

the beautiful thing about time-alignment is pretty clear.
if you have one speaker that is 3ft away from you, and the other speaker is 10ft away from you.. no matter how hard you try to adjust the volume so that the speakers sound equally far apart - the audio from the speaker that is 3ft away will always reach your ears before the speaker that is 10ft away.
if you have time-alignment.. the sound processor will delay the output of the speaker that is closest to you so that both soundwaves reach your ears at the same exact time.

the only way to know the difference is to have experienced it yourself.
but if i had to describe it to you, it would be best said as the ability to hear special 3D effects.
there are times when the audio gives you a nice big hug and then throws half of your brain off for a ride.
an example of this would be a car driving by.
without time-alignment.. the sound of the car will simply go from the left speaker to the right speaker.
and it will make a stop at the center channel along the way.
but if you have time-alignment, the sound goes from the left speaker to the right speaker.. but the 3D effect is so close and in your face that your brain will think it can grab it.

there really isnt any 'in your face' 3D special effects without calibrating the speakers with time-alignment unless all of the speakers are exactly the same distance away from your ears.
and when i say exactly.. that means no differences of 3-5 inches.

but even then.. the speakers are all different and they might project the audio at different speeds.
like.. if one set of speakers was a little bit late, you would have to move them back away from the listening position - or you would have to move all of the other speakers closer.
and this can be annoying if you have to move a speaker 4ft closer to your ears.
it will probably get in the way when you are trying to walk.

3D effects are supposed to touch your soul when they happen.
and its always a better thing to have, because if you dont think you are gonna use it.. you might want to try and use it a little bit just to test/experiment.
chances are you will have better results.

with time-alignment, i have one front speaker that is about 4ft away from me.. and the other speaker is about 7ft away from me.
there is no center channel.. but the voices sound like they are right there in front of me.
you should be able to see clearly that i am using time-alignment.
because without it, the voices would sound like they are coming from the corners of the room where the speakers are.

another feature that can really help people out is an ADJUSTABLE bass boost.
that means you can pick the cut-off frequency and adjust how much gain to apply.
this really helps with amplifiers that refuse to play low bass with a simple control knob.
i have the klipsch promedia 2.1's and i know that if you want deep bass of 30hz .. you have to turn up the subwoofer.
but if you turn up the subwoofer, all of the other frequencies get louder than wanted.
so then you can just go to the bass booster and set the cut-off at 30hz and turn the gain up.
this will boost the low low end without messing with 40hz 50hz or 60hz
its like getting some actual subwoofer bass without having to increase the kick of a drum.
lots and lots of todays music has the kick of a drum.. and its not a drum, its still some 'thump' of a techno or pop track.

another feature that needs to be said..
sometimes your soundcard has the ability to play movies in surround sound, but it doesnt give you the option to play stereo music on all of the surround speakers.
just another thing you want to look for before buying.
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January 21, 2011 8:10:55 PM

wow you spent some quality time on this post! thanks for your commitment and all of your help! you were very knowledgeable of the subject.
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January 21, 2011 10:21:41 PM

i just read your other post and realized you were seeking further advice from the other thread.
the other thread is talking about connecting too many things to the soundcard.
its the same exact principle of hooking up a 2ohm speaker to a radio that says 8ohms minimum.

so you might want to learn how to match input/output resistances.
i dont know how to do that.. all i do is check the output minimum and try not to go below it.
the inputs and outputs have high impedance ratings.. like 2,000 ohms or 8,000 ohms
and i dont know if that is a limit that can be fully collapsed down to zero or if you cant go any lower than that.
i think you would have to be an electrical engineer to fully understand the safety limits.

might i suggest you try a forum of people who do their own soldering and electronic design quite often?
http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/

these people are always posting about how to replace resistors and capacitors to fix something that is broken.
if they cant teach you the danger, i would be suprised.
and i would also side-note the thought 'maybe that is why the electronics are always broken?'
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January 22, 2011 1:28:16 AM

ok i posted, guess we will wait and see what these guys say. Ill let you know what happens.

thanks a bunch again
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