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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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DTS Audio pass-through.

 

 

 

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.

 

Watxch a movie with DTS sound. drop out to the MC software menu and if it has nav sounds, they're not going to be DTS or DD and the computer will send another audio stream, causing the receiver to switch and you get sound drop and a pop. sometimes you will get a pop for every nav sounds and the software/windows insist on switching back to DTS or DD all the time.  Same if windows for some reason decides to give you a ding or something in the background. or in any other situation where you can switch between different times of audio streams(more often than you think in a htpc)

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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'm using Asus Xonar DX and it sounds better on my speakers then on-board. I do have an inexpensive Logitech 5.1 Speaker System.

I'm connected via standard analogue speaker connector, not optical / digital. 

It also sounded better (to me) compared to the Creative Labs X-Fi titanum I had on there before as well. 

 

You can also test you sound card with this program

http://audio.rightmark.org/index_new.shtml

using a male to male wired connection. 

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I've tried adding a sound card and it was not worth the effort or money spent on it.  I removed it and returned to the onboard sound, works very well for me.  Save your cash for something else.

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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.

 

As to the hating of effects (either processing OR simulation), those that have never used them can be described in one word - purists.

 

While I have nothing against purists in terms of audio, there is one dirty little secret about MOST recorded audio, and especially music; it was recorded in a studio, which is designed to be as audially dead/neutral as is possible.  (In other words, BO-ring.)

 

The one thing I am actually GLAD to have at my beck and call as a feature (which just recently became an option for integrated audio) are audio-environment simulations, especially EAX-type Environmental Audio, which offers simulations of environments such as jazz clubs, stadiums, etc.  I first experienced the capabilities of Audio Environments with the original Sound Blaster Live, and they have been part of every Creative audio solution since.

 

However, the bigger issue with such simulations is that they require either a DSP or a decent CPU, because they do require processing power (of either one OR the other) - given that most gamers hate the idea of ANYTHING running in the background (which is why they have historically preferred as light a background task load as possible), they tend to follow the purists and use optical-out to A/V gear.

 

I've never had had either the space OR the desire to get that technical - most setups with an A/V receiver connected to a PC have more invested in even the PC than I've ever spent on it - even back when I bought workstation and SMP motherboards.

 

Now, I don't use Audio Environments all the time - I have to be in the mood for them.  Still, having them at your beck and call is not necessarily a bad thing - despite the howls and yowls of purists.

 

I mentioned that Audio Environments have become available to the onboard-audio crowd (usually via a Creative-sourced add-on program from their OEM Products Group) - and that even their current discrete audio solutions (in PCIe and USB) still offer the feature - I can testify from using these products that it is still true - even with Windows 8.x.  I call such simulations the Last Holdout from EAX (Environmental Audio eXtensions) which was replaced by OpenAL - and apparently was thought to be a gaming-only feature, and quite dead with the rewrite of Windows' audio stack with Vista.

 

Audio Environments became available to the onboard-audio crowd because more modern CPUs have cycles to spare - and this is especially true of quad-core CPUs.

 

However, if everything is kept digital, no audio solution inside the PC - discrete or otherwise - is going to matter.  (There, the routing to A/V makes sense - same applies to HDMI.)

 

In short, it depends HIGHLY on the path the audio takes to your ears.

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I'm using Asus Xonar DX and it sounds better on my speakers then on-board. I do have an inexpensive Logitech 5.1 Speaker System.

I'm connected via standard analogue speaker connector, not optical / digital. 

It also sounded better (to me) compared to the Creative Labs X-Fi titanum I had on there before as well. 

 

You can also test you sound card with this program

http://audio.rightmark.org/index_new.shtml

using a male to male wired connection. 

 

Yeap I used to own the DX as well but fall in love with the ROG one. I have a shit 5.1 Logitech myself for the past 5-6 years

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Depand on if you use PC audio output. For headphone i got a little Creative Labs XFI HD USB and the sound quality is amazing.  For SPDIF, it's you're receiver that doing the job, same with HDMI...

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I've tried adding a sound card and it was not worth the effort or money spent on it.  I removed it and returned to the onboard sound, works very well for me.  Save your cash for something else.

hamslammer - do you use HDMI or another entirely-digital path from the PC to your ears?  If so, then your logic makes sense.  (This includes optical-out to A/V, USB headphones, HDMI, etc.)

 

However, if you use an analog path (analog speakers OR headphones) or connect to the speaker OR headphone jacks of your motherboard, then you are shortchanging yourself, simply due to the sloppiness of the D-A conversion mechanism built in to motherboards.

 

The digital/analog audio conversion path has gotten better on motherboards - that much I won't dispute.  However, it is still not as well done as most discrete sound cards - even the bottom end from Creative.

 

Basically, which is better is path-dependent.

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hamslammer - do you use HDMI or another entirely-digital path from the PC to your ears?  If so, then your logic makes sense.  (This includes optical-out to A/V, USB headphones, HDMI, etc.)

 

However, if you use an analog path (analog speakers OR headphones) or connect to the speaker OR headphone jacks of your motherboard, then you are shortchanging yourself, simply due to the sloppiness of the D-A conversion mechanism built in to motherboards.

 

The digital/analog audio conversion path has gotten better on motherboards - that much I won't dispute.  However, it is still not as well done as most discrete sound cards - even the bottom end from Creative.

 

Basically, which is better is path-dependent.

I have nothing against HDMI from a GPU - my AMD HD5450 had a full-size HDMI output to my display, which I used for both video and audio.

 

UNfortunately, when I swapped in my current nVidia GTX550Ti, the HDMI port on the newer GPU was mini-HDMI - not full-sized.  (And an adapter was NOT included.  Yeesh.)

 

And mini-HDMI to standard HDMI adapters are more expensive than any other sort of adapters for HDMI - or, more importantly, more expensive than a PCI Express or USB discrete audio solution from Creative. (My refurbished Recon3D Fatality Professional was all of $45 - including tax. And it decidedly is NOT PCI - it uses the topmost PCI Express x1 slot - above my GPU - which means it interferes with exactly nothing - in terms of either interrupts or airflow, AND it lacks the 4GB address hardware flaw that the PCI-based X-Fi suffers from.  All win, and without BOHICA.)

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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.

So you're pretty happy with the Asus cards? I've been thinking about getting one simply to get rid of the damned "sound card out of range" B.S. error I keep getting with VMWARE/Realtek audio and Linux guests. Pisses me off to no end. There are work arounds on the net, but Realtek's audio options are missing the required settings or the Linux guest doesn't have the audio setting needed on its own end.

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Im not sure if this has been mentioned - but if one is truly concerned about audio quality,  listening to MP3 on $80 speakers makes any sound card/onboard discussion completely moot.

 

So many times I will hear people ramble on about this topic, then top it off with "I have it plugged into a Creative Labs ....." which is some $100 crap speakers. 
 

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So you're pretty happy with the Asus cards? I've been thinking about getting one simply to get rid of the damned "sound card out of range" B.S. error I keep getting with VMWARE/Realtek audio and Linux guests. ****es me off to no end. There are work arounds on the net, but Realtek's audio options are missing the required settings or the Linux guest doesn't have the audio setting needed on its own end.

 

Yes I am very happy with the ASUS range since 2008.

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This all probably boils down to a point that audio quality is subjective and hard to grade. Different equipment sounds different to different set of ears. A purist (probably a characteristic of me, lately) would prefer the most accurate possible representation of the original recording, even if it sounds "flat", "inexpressive" etc.. Others would rather have some coloration of highs (often confused with overamplification of minute details). Some might prefer deep bass even when it isn't there. And there's the special sort of folks with their tube amps, which distort... in a pleasing way. And, let's be honest, most of us just can't hear shhhhh...

 

 

Watxch a movie with DTS sound. drop out to the MC software menu and if it has nav sounds, they're not going to be DTS or DD and the computer will send another audio stream, causing the receiver to switch and you get sound drop and a pop. sometimes you will get a pop for every nav sounds and the software/windows insist on switching back to DTS or DD all the time.  Same if windows for some reason decides to give you a ding or something in the background. or in any other situation where you can switch between different times of audio streams(more often than you think in a htpc)

 

I see. So a dedicated audio processor fixes this or is it a problem inherent to the protocol and receivers?

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This all probably boils down to a point that audio quality is subjective and hard to grade. Different equipment sounds different to different set of ears. A purist (probably a characteristic of me, lately) would prefer the most accurate possible representation of the original recording, even if it sounds "flat", "inexpressive" etc.. Others would rather have some coloration of highs (often confused with overamplification of minute details). Some might prefer deep bass even when it isn't there. And there's the special sort of folks with their tube amps, which distort... in a pleasing way. And, let's be honest, most of us just can't hear shhhhh...

 

 

 

I see. So a dedicated audio processor fixes this or is it a problem inherent to the protocol and receivers?

 

Some of the dedicated sound cards support DD Live/DTS interactive(it might be DDi and DTSLive, I don't remember). Where the sound cards will take ALL the sounds the computer makes, wrap them together and send them back out as DTS or DD, making sure the receiver never has to change stream, stopping all drops and pops as it constantly gets a DD or DTS stream. 

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Some of the dedicated sound cards support DD Live/DTS interactive(it might be DDi and DTSLive, I don't remember). Where the sound cards will take ALL the sounds the computer makes, wrap them together and send them back out as DTS or DD, making sure the receiver never has to change stream, stopping all drops and pops as it constantly gets a DD or DTS stream. 

 

Ok, then I reckon the problem indeed is there, even though it probably comes with the protocol and the receivers generally being unable to switch seamlessly (which is a shame, given that receivers are usually serious piece of kit regardless of their standing), and a sound card with the mentioned features provides a band-aid, a pretty good one, though.

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Ok, then I reckon the problem indeed is there, even though it probably comes with the protocol and the receivers generally being unable to switch seamlessly (which is a shame, given that receivers are usually serious piece of kit regardless of their standing), and a sound card with the mentioned features provides a band-aid, a pretty good one, though.

Most PCI Express (and quite a number of midrange or above PCI) sound cards, and especially those with DSPs, support both protocols - the original PCI-bus X-Fi (and all their successors) is a prime example.  There HAVE been A/V receivers that could seamlessly switch-on-detection; however, they weren't cheap (Sony's ES series and Pioneer's Elite series, for example) - it was while ear-testing both series of receivers back in the Windows 9x era that I discovered the presence of Dolby Digital in FM (as in radio, and as in outside of simulcasts).

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So leading on from this, if my motherboard has optical out, would this be best to use instead of the three cables (for surround sound)?

The only advantage would be to cut down on the cable mess behind the PC but I don't know what would be better.

 

Thanks

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yes. optical out would prevent signal noise and would give digital all the way. 

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