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Confused about upgrading audio


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#1 Johnny Boy

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 06:29 PM

I will start first by describing my current audio setup in my room and then I will describe what it is that I am trying to do.

Current Setup: I have a custom built computer and a Sony 5.1 Home Theater System. Right now the computer is connected to the home theater using the onboard audio jack. It is a 3.5 mm. I bought a 3.5mm to RCA converter because the Home Theater only supports RCA, Digital Optical, or Digital Coax inputs. The onboard audio is by Realtek, I cannot get the specifics right now as I am not home (specifics can be retrieved eventually if they are needed by whoever is willing to help!!).

First problem: all of my audio needs to be set at about half to three quarters volume(at the receiver,while at full volume on computer) to be even at a decent volume.

Second Problem: I know that audio playing out of my itunes cannot possibly play in true surround (only simulated 5.1 from stereo) however when I use the realtek software that is on my computer to test the surround, the simulated sound travels smoothly from front left across to the center all the way to the front right and then fades away as the sound goes "behind" me to the right and the fades back in eventually on the left. I know this has something to do with the RCA input (pretty sure it only supports stereo..not positive).

Goal: purchase a sound card/cable that will enable me to watch movies and or listen to my music in better quality then I am currently getting. I know the music can't be true surround, but I want it to sound better/louder at a lower receiver volume(if you can understand what I mean by that). I also want the movies that are meant to be in true 5.1 surround sound to play as such. Now I know that some optical audio outputs on PCI sound cards only output in stereo and I know there's something about audio encoding in Dolby DS? (or something, but all of this is new to me. I'm very tech savvy so don't hesitate to thoroughly explain, audio is just not my thing.)

Hope someone can help! Sorry for long post. Cheers!

John
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#2 DJBPace07

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 10:41 PM

Well, you will need a good sound card for good audio quality, the question is which one. Personally, I cannot stand Creative so I'm ignoring their cards. They had the nerve to charge for drivers, even to their high-end products. They've stopped doing that, but it left a very bad impression. Anyway, I have the ASUS Xonar D2X 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Express x1 Interface Sound Card. This is a pro-sumer card geared towards audio creation, audiophiles, and home theater. It has multiple audio inputs and all the Dolby technologies built in. Since I wear AKG's K-701 headphones all the time, which are reference headphones that take a great deal of power to drive, I like the built-in headphone amp and Dolby Headphone. The card is impressive but does have some flaws, first, if you're in a dark home theater environment, the LED backlit ports are very bright, second, the drivers are stable, but they aren't revised very often, third, it isn't a gaming audio card so don't expect frame rate increases or hardware EAX, fourth, and finally, if a program crashes while playing audio through the card, the audio loops back the last second of sound until you disable then re-enable the card. The price for it is expensive, but you get a solid sound card plus a suite of audio creation tools. If you need the standard PCI model it is the Asus Xonar D2 Ultra Fidelity 7.1 PCI Sound Card. It's the same as the PCI-Express X1 model, the D2X, but in standard PCI form that doesn't require a direct power connection to the power supply. There are less expensive models, like the ASUS Xonar DX 7.1 Channels PCI Express x1 Interface Sound Card, but it doesn't have coax nor the interference shield. You can also try the HT | OMEGA CLARO Plus+ 7.1 Channels is also a nice card, but you should have a receiver if you use the digital audio input.

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#3 Johnny Boy

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 01:40 AM

Thanks for the reply, those look like some pretty good cards. Do you recommend Digital Coax over Digital Optical or does it really not matter? Also if I do purchase one of those cards(and use a digital interface) am I going to get the true surround sound/increased volume that I'm looking for?
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#4 DJBPace07

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 02:50 AM

It is capable of supporting a 7.1 system natively. If you have a TV tuner or a graphics card that allows for a connection, then you can use the sound card as the audio processor and loop it back to the graphics card where it is sent over HDMI. In terms of quality, it doesn't really matter which cable you use, though, the optical will suffer from less interference over longer runs. For the best quality, you should plug the audio from your receiver/amp into the SPDIF out. If you want to look over the users guide, to make sure it will do what you want it to, you can go the Asus website and download it from the support section here.

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#5 Johnny Boy

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 03:02 PM

Okay so now I have the whole bit about the cable down. My last question is,are all these crazy features on the cards you showed me neccessary? I guess what I'm basically asking is if there are less expensive, more simple cards that will give me the effect I am looking for without all the extra things that I probably wont use (such as the audio creation software). My price range is probably somewhere between 40-100 dollars.

Would this card be suitable for my needs: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx...N82E16829271001? I see it is a very similar card to the HT Omega Claro you suggested in an earlier post, however it is 96 Khz rather then 192 Khz, will this make a HUGE difference?

Edited by Johnny Boy, 01 January 2010 - 03:07 PM.

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#6 DJBPace07

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 08:30 PM

A higher sample rate means that it can accurately reproduce higher frequencies and thus better signal reproduction. Blu-Ray's, I think, go up to the 192 Khz. range, but you need a very good set of speakers, or headphones, to hear much difference. The Xonar probably has a better signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio than the other card. Since you didn't give an initial price point, I went with what I was using as a baseline. The Xonar D2 and the D2X are meant for high quality home theaters or audiophiles, where spending hundreds of dollars on equipment is standard. With audio, the line, "Garbage in, garbage out" applies. The sound you hear is as good as the weakest link in a chain, if the speakers, receiver, decoder, sound card, or source material isn't good, then you won't get good audio. For instance, if you have a top-notch home theater setup but are playing 128 Khz. MP3's, you're not going to get as good of an experience as playing in a Lossless format or, even better, a 24-bit Lossless format. For your price range, the HT | OMEGA STRIKER 7.1 Channels 24-bit 96KHz PCI Interface Sound Card will probably be your best bet. BTW, the Xonar uses the C-Media Oxygen HD chip and the Omega also uses a C-Media chip. They both are very similar at their core, but the extras are what sets them apart. The Claro and the Striker are similar too, but the Claro does have a different chip and a better DAC.

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#7 Johnny Boy

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 12:49 AM

Thanks a lot man. I'm most likely going to buy that chip and I'll post back to tell you what happens. Thanks for all the help.
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