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I have a 5/6 year old PC currently being used as my HTPC.

Looks great on the (4 year old) TV I have at the moment, which will be upgrade shortly if I can find the funds.

 

Part of the upgrade will be some Logitech Z906 speakers, which I have just purchased at

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In my opinion, not really. A dedicated card will be better than a built-in solution for sure, unless you have a high-end motherboard. I could be wrong, but the quality of the sound chip won't matter in this case as you are sending it digitally to a speaker set that has a dedicated audio processor.

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Hello,

Sound cards aren't expensive (I was thinking buy a

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To answer your question as simply as possible, NO!

 

Tried that trick twice and was a complete waste of money.

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Cease all that self-proclaimed audiophile placebo at once. Output quality of optical S/PDIF will not differ between soundcards no matter how much money you shell out. It either works or it doesn't (same with DVI, HDMI etc.). Copper wire digital, yes, ground loop is guaranteed, even if often inaudible. Optical, no, it's impervious to all interference. No, before you object, jitter is complete bogus.

 

In shared mode (recommended for daily work) mixing of streams is done by Windows itself and in exclusive mode (recommended for entertainment) your audio player directly feeds the speakers' DAC, transmitting ones and zeros exactly as they appear in the PCM (or Dolby DTS, if supported) data.

 

The problem might remain with codec (unless it's DTS), resampling (shared mode) and quality of speakers' DAC and amp (always), but optical output is 100% pure.

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Cease all that self-proclaimed audiophile placebo at once. Output quality of optical S/PDIF will not differ between soundcards no matter how much money you shell out. It either works or it doesn't (same with DVI, HDMI etc.).


As far as I understand and I have been wrong more than once.

You are right when it comes to transferring audio from one device to another optical the same as digital, it will not lose any quality and does not do anything with the signal as it is sent digitally.

However, what is done with the sound before it is sent to the output that is also important.

If you have a bad on board or cheap soundcard that muffles the sound, fails badly on the signal-to-noise ratio then the bad sound is just going to be sent when converted to digital to be sent.

That is my understanding anyway.

But in this instance in reply to the original post it would not make much audible difference, unless you convince yourself.

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I have an ASUS ROG Xonar Phoebus and yes the quality is significantly better than the onboard realtek 7.1 with all the enhancements.

The other benefit of the ASUS sound cards is that they truly offload audio processing to the audio card which means less CPU utilisation.

Creative have lost the plot with their drivers since the audio stack in windows was re-written back in vista and audio drivers no longer execute in kernel memory space causing performance issue and playback issues (like a scratched CD). They also fail to release compatible audio drivers on time for new versions of Windows.

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Cease all that self-proclaimed audiophile placebo at once. Output quality of optical S/PDIF will not differ between soundcards no matter how much money you shell out. It either works or it doesn't (same with DVI, HDMI etc.). Copper wire digital, yes, ground loop is guaranteed, even if often inaudible. Optical, no, it's impervious to all interference. No, before you object, jitter is complete bogus.

 

In shared mode (recommended for daily work) mixing of streams is done by Windows itself and in exclusive mode (recommended for entertainment) your audio player directly feeds the speakers' DAC, transmitting ones and zeros exactly as they appear in the PCM (or Dolby DTS, if supported) data.

 

The problem might remain with codec (unless it's DTS), resampling (shared mode) and quality of speakers' DAC and amp (always), but optical output is 100% pure.

 

You are talking about audio processing with software incapable of offloading encoding to the audio card like via OpenAL. its the same with graphics, you either get crap graphics rendered on the CPU with low FPS or you have a dedicated card that gives you the performance. My card does dolby DTS on its chip.

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If you are using SPDIF or TOSLINK the quality depends on your receiver, same with HDMI. If you are getting out the audio from the output jack of your computer then IT REALLY depends on your soundcard, motherboard sound is never good, you can try the Creative Z OEM version, which is not that expensive and DOES improve the sound, however the real deal is at external DACs, but they are known to be quite expensive (and they do even a better job than soundcards)

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You are talking about audio processing with software incapable of offloading encoding to the audio card like via OpenAL. its the same with graphics, you either get crap graphics rendered on the CPU with low FPS or you have a dedicated card that gives you the performance. My card does dolby DTS on its chip.

 

I'm definitely not. Performance has nothing to do with quality. There's no argument that dedicated solutions offer vastly better *analog* reproduction quality. Usually they do.

Hardware processing, on the other hand, is a fairly valid point. While Windows' own resampler is rather good, any hardware SRC and mixing (and effects - but why would anyone want to use them?) will be even better. But afaik this is available only since Windows 8, is it not?

 

Then there's also ASIO, a step above WASAPI exclusive mode, because it's actually bit-perfect whereas with WASAPI one must take several precautions for it to be so.

 

Now, the problem is with connecting PC to Logitech Z906 amp using optical and then amp to speakers using *unbalanced wiring*, because Z906 doesn't have balanced outputs. *That* is suboptimal... but passable. Still better than if PC were to be connected using any electrical wire.

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With Logitech speakers no. With expensive speakers or expensive headphones connected directly in the sound card yes but not at this price.

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 Output quality of optical S/PDIF will not differ between soundcards no matter how much money you shell out. It either works or it doesn't (same with DVI, HDMI etc.).

 

Last time i checked (a while go) most integrated sound card did not support DDL and DTS connect though.

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Cease all that self-proclaimed audiophile placebo at once. Output quality of optical S/PDIF will not differ between soundcards no matter how much money you shell out. It either works or it doesn't (same with DVI, HDMI etc.). Copper wire digital, yes, ground loop is guaranteed, even if often inaudible. Optical, no, it's impervious to all interference. No, before you object, jitter is complete bogus.

 

In shared mode (recommended for daily work) mixing of streams is done by Windows itself and in exclusive mode (recommended for entertainment) your audio player directly feeds the speakers' DAC, transmitting ones and zeros exactly as they appear in the PCM (or Dolby DTS, if supported) data.

 

The problem might remain with codec (unless it's DTS), resampling (shared mode) and quality of speakers' DAC and amp (always), but optical output is 100% pure.

 

the problem with that is that you get sound drops, when audio switches, you get beeps and bops and other annoyances, whereas a quality sound card that encodes to DTS Live or the DD equivalent, will take all the windows sounds encode them and send them out. no switching between streams and formats on the amp/receiver and thus no drops, no beeps no bops. 

 

As for quality, from a movie no, from interactive sources, a sound card will give better sound, if it's worth it... eh...

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I'm definitely not. Performance has nothing to do with quality. There's no argument that dedicated solutions offer vastly better *analog* reproduction quality. Usually they do.

Hardware processing, on the other hand, is a fairly valid point. While Windows' own resampler is rather good, any hardware SRC and mixing (and effects - but why would anyone want to use them?) will be even better. But afaik this is available only since Windows 8, is it not?

 

Then there's also ASIO, a step above WASAPI exclusive mode, because it's actually bit-perfect whereas with WASAPI one must take several precautions for it to be so.

 

Now, the problem is with connecting PC to Logitech Z906 amp using optical and then amp to speakers using *unbalanced wiring*, because Z906 doesn't have balanced outputs. *That* is suboptimal... but passable. Still better than if PC were to be connected using any electrical wire.

My bad I didn't notice the SPDIF part but, the audio processor of some cards will enhance the quality of the sound even before it becomes analogue. The fact that it will be digital signal doesn't mean that it cannot be resampled or processed on the fly.The end quality will depend on the Z906's DAC.So anyway you see it if you have a crap DAC you get crap audio and that's the point where we agree at. I admit I don't use an SPDIF and I rely on the DAC of the Xonar which is superb.

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My bad I didn't notice the SPDIF part but, the audio processor of some cards will enhance the quality of the sound even before it becomes analogue.

 

Not really if it's just a passthru i think.

 

I might be wrong i did not use SPDIF output for a while (using HDMI and PowerDVD) but if i remember corectly to get 5.1 via SPDIF from a PC you needed DDL or DTS Connect in most of the cases. If i remember correctly that's why i bought my X-FI prelude a while ago as i could not get the SPDIF output of my onboard sound card to output anything but stereo sound. My memory could be wrong though.

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I have an ASUS ROG Xonar Phoebus and yes the quality is significantly better than the onboard realtek 7.1 with all the enhancements.
The other benefit of the ASUS sound cards is that they truly offload audio processing to the audio card which means less CPU utilisation.
Creative have lost the plot with their drivers since the audio stack in windows was re-written back in vista and audio drivers no longer execute in kernel memory space causing performance issue and playback issues (like a scratched CD). They also fail to release compatible audio drivers on time for new versions of Windows.

I'd love to blind test you, I doubt you could tell the difference.

Also, CPU utilisation is a moot point these days. All CPUs are insanely powerful.

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i used my Creative X-Fi sound card (the original one) for like 7 years. The sound difference was amazing, but that was at a time when on-board sound was not very good. Upgraded this year and the on-board sound is very good. no need for the old card anymore. plus, i dont think my board even has PCI anymore...

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Last time i checked (a while go) most integrated sound card did not support DDL and DTS connect though.

 

It's still true, but (my subjective opinion) they're both bad ideas anyway.

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Also, CPU utilisation is a moot point these days. All CPUs are insanely powerful.

if your cpu is crappy, it'll definitely help out,but you wouldn't get a soundcard to offload the crappy cpu before you'd upgrade your cpu in the first place. :)

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It's still true, but (my subjective opinion) they're both bad ideas anyway.

 

Who cares these days anyway. You can just get a video card with HDMI passhtru and be done with it ;) Unless i'm mistaken most media player softwares will "bitsteam" thru the HDMI port. Anyway using PowerDVD i get dolby sound from the HDMI port of my video card and it sounds really good. But from my own past exp of many years ago DDL was better than the stereo sound the SPDIF output of my onboard sound card gave me. But it was many years ago (probably around 6 or even 7 years ago) so things are probably different today. Back then you did not want to use onboard audio for an HTPC.

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CPU Utilisation = more FPS (maybe like 3 more :d)

You can blind test me any time

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The majority of audio issues do not come from the sound card or the speakers, it comes from the fact that most of us have lousy hearing. This is doubly true if you're over the age of 30.

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The problem might remain with codec (unless it's DTS), resampling (shared mode) and quality of speakers' DAC and amp (always), but optical output is 100% pure.

 

Not sure what you mean by this

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Not sure what you mean by this

 

DTS Audio pass-through.

 

 

the problem with that is that you get sound drops, when audio switches, you get beeps and bops and other annoyances, whereas a quality sound card that encodes to DTS Live or the DD equivalent, will take all the windows sounds encode them and send them out. no switching between streams and formats on the amp/receiver and thus no drops, no beeps no bops. 

 

Not sure what you mean by "audio switches". When would that happen? The only single time I do keep hearing such an annoyance is on the Welcome screen when good part of the startup sound gets dropped. As I've come to understand, my speakers need a great deal of time to detect what kind of data I will be sending.

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Technically speaking, yes they will.

 

Will you hear the difference? Almost certainly not.

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Audio quality depends on all the components in the system (not to mention the source and the environment).

 

If you output to PC type of speakers, it won't be worth it.

 

If you output to an A/V receiver and a real speaker system, then, in this case, certain advantages can be realized like on-the-fly stereo to 5.1 DTS or Dolby conversion (if your current solution doesn't support it already) and a higher sample rate (no downsampling).

 

I've been using ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 Deluxe card since 2008 and it has served me really well. Have it paired with a Pioneer Elite A/V receiver and a set of PSB speakers.

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