as a precursor, this post is going to be a bit convoluted, as my journey into receiver audio with speakers and digital signals is new, and it's caused me some issues.
first and foremost, for the past 2 or so years (the time i've been an audiophile in training) i've been a headphone guy, so take that into account when trying to see my questions and points of view. for the past year or so, i've been using an e7/e9 combo with a pair of hd650's, and hadn't even had speakers connected to my main computer. I'd been wanting some speakers just to have playing when I wanted some ambient music in the background or when I was watching a movie with other people... or just when I didn't feel like wearing headphones.
So I did a bit of research, and finally decided on buying a pair of Pioneer BS41's. As they were on their way, I read that they were not very efficient and needed proper amplification to sound great. So I started looking online for a decent speaker amp, and concluded that it'd probably be cheaper to buy a nice used receiver than a weak t-amp which didn't provide enough watts. So eventually I find a (seemingly) good deal and snag an Onkyo HT-RC260 for 70 dollars.
fast forward a couple days, and my monoprice order arrives (a optical toslink wire, 50 feet of 12 awg speaker wire, and a pair of RCA wires (just in case.) I start hooking my setup up, and am floored when I notice my main rig doesn't have an optical out port... >_<
what are my best options now? (keeping in mind best stereo sound quality possible, as well as price; not necessarily ease of setup) I know I can use the line out of my e9 to the receiver via RCA, but that seems a little much just to get a clean signal to the receiver (I don't even know if it will be that clean being passed around so much). Is it possible with my video card (hd 5850) to put out the video signal via DVI but put out a digital audio signal via HDMI? and if so, will there be any extra load put on the video card in doing so?
How will buying a cheap sound card just for the optical out to the receiver work? does the digital signal get processed first by the sound card before going out? I'm sure the receiver's DAC is far better than most lower end sound cards (correct me if i'm wrong) lastly, I guess i could just buy a new motherboard, which i REALLY don't want to do.
can someone elaborate upon my situation, and possibly provide some insight and/or advice? It would be VERY much appreciated. Thanks in advance
Hmm perhaps better to state what motherboard model you on? You can simply buy a PCI SPDIF bracket and call it a day ^^ If you feed digital audio out to a receiver, DAC duties are taken over by the DAC of the receiver. Lastly i too used to think those BS21/41s were a tad inefficient for T-Amps but apparently for PC Audio/Near field use peeps have reported being happy with a cheapo TA2020 Lepai for example. A beefier alternative is a TK2050 based T-amp but academic since u got your receiver ^^
Given that you are just starting out I would use the line out of the E7/E9 for now since you have the receiver. You can convert coax digital out to optical digital out if that is the problem.
If you want to upgrade from there you have a lot of options. You can get a good quality DAC that will work from USB and you don't need a new soundcard. Some of these have headphone amps built in. The Cambridge Dacmagic plus is one of these. Then you can use the preouts to drive a real power amp instead of a home theater receiver. Add a sub or upgrade the speakers as budget permits.