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A/V Do I need a sound card?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by jjsyht, 11 Jul 2009.

  1. jjsyht

    jjsyht Hello, my name is yuri

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    I've just upgraded my 'home theater' (if a 42" tv counts as that) with a spanking new marantz amp.:D
    I have my dvd and cd player connected to it, and now I want to connect my htpc.
    The amp has HDMI input and the mobo has one too, so I'm using that to connect each other.

    My question is; is it worth upgrading (for sound quality) to a discreet sound card (like x-fi) since output by HDMI is digital already?

    I'm really confused with sound on a pc. Since HDMI sound output is digital, does it send the 0s & 1s on the dvd directly to the amp to be processed?:confused: And what about my lossless music?
     
  2. JaredC01

    JaredC01 Hardware Nut

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    I would assume the audio would be the same with on-board sound as it would with a card due to the information being sent in a digital format. The main thing you are paying for in a sound card are good quality DACs (Digital to Analog Converters) for better sound reproduction and lower background noise. Since the signal being sent to your receiver is in a digital format still, your receiver is taking the place of a sound card, and decoding the information itself.

    I would say you should be fine, UNLESS the on-board sound converts it to analog, then re-converts it back into a digital signal, in which case the DACs would make a difference. On the down side, I'm not sure if theres a good way to tell if its reconverted unless the manufacturer has something in their specs.
     
  3. Diosjenin

    Diosjenin Thinker, Tweaker, Et Cetera

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    Since the sound is sent digitally, the audio being piped through your HDMI cable should not be affected by the quality of the sound hardware you have on your PC. That being said, depending on what chipset you're currently running, the information being sent over the HDMI cable may be slightly crippled - 780G, for example, can only push through 5.1 with or without Dolby enhancements over HDMI, whereas the GeForce 9300/9400 series is capable of 8-channel LPCM over HDMI. So if your speaker configuration is capable of 7.1 and that kind of thing is important to you, it might be worth looking for a sound card (or a modest video card) capable of pushing 8-channel LPCM.

    Your lossless MP3s will be fine as is.

    Where a discrete sound card really makes a difference is if you are piping your sound over an analog connection, namely the 3.5mm jacks on the back of your motherboard. Digital connections, however, do not go through any digital-to-analog conversion - thus, barring chipset limitations, there is no difference between digital connections on your motherboard and digital connections over a discrete card.


    - Diosjenin -
     
  4. Panther57

    Panther57 AMD Dragon Fan.

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    On older slower systems a seperate sound card has been suggested to take some resources off the motherboard. The same still holds true but with todays faster set-ups and good onboard drivers it depends on your personal choice. A lot of gamers use X-Fi for the benefits of it. It definately can't hurt to install a good sound card if you have the extra cash.
     
  5. jjsyht

    jjsyht Hello, my name is yuri

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    thanks a lot guys, you saved me a couple of bucks.

    btw, this is my baby: Marantz. you have no idea how much convincing (not to mention begging) to get the missus to 'allow' me to get one of these.

    Now that I'm 'giving up' on a sound card it'll be like a victory to her. :thumb:
     
  6. sheninat0r

    sheninat0r What's a Dremel?

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    :eyebrow:
     
  7. hotnikkelz

    hotnikkelz What's a Dremel?

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    Soundcards are overrated unless you're an audio professional :) you just need an excellent motherboard
     
  8. notatoad

    notatoad pretty fing wonderful

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  9. Smilodon

    Smilodon The Antagonist

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    Whatever you do, avoid Creative sound cards. Driver support in a fluid OS market is shite. If you want to run ONLY xp, then fine. Anything up-to-date and they are hopeless.
     
  10. MiNiMaL_FuSS

    MiNiMaL_FuSS ƬӇЄƦЄ ƁЄ ƇƠƜƧ ӇЄƦЄ.

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    I'll try to keep this as simple as possible, generally these things only apply if you're a real picky audiophile - short of that you wont notice a great difference. My tech is a little out of date, but this was certianly true upto around 2 years ago.


    1 - Don't use HDMI for music, generally speaking the jitter performance on the HDMI input seems to be substantialy inferior to the S/PDIF performance

    2 - The ideal scenario is for your computer to output whats termed "S/PDIF RAW" to your amp/reciever where it will be recieved - this is of course assuming your amp has a better digital decoded than your computer.

    Sadly only Soundstorm the old Nforce2 chipset is capable of outputting S/PDIF RAW. All other soundscards and motherboards decode the digital signal to some degree before outputting.

    3 - This however is the reason that highend soundcards ARE worthwhile if your an adiophile or in the industry, becuase the sound is decoded 'in' your computer it pays to have the best decoded you can.

    4 - AV recievers (below around the £2,000) are not great for stero music, so if this is all about films then ur fine....if it's about music you need to buy yourself a proper amp and it will make much more difference than anything else.

    Basically - You'll see more difference upgrading you're speaker wire and using a decent lossless music format.
     
    Last edited: 3 Aug 2009
  11. Moyo2k

    Moyo2k AMD Fanboy

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    Minimal is right, the only sound cards worth buying are so expensive that their price makes them pointless to the average user
     
  12. Elton

    Elton Officially a Whisky Nerd

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    6 Channel Stereo Cheesecake!

    And I'm more of an Onkyo/Harmon Kardon guy, if only because Marantz has degraded in quality since their 80's receivers.

    And no you really don't need a sound card since the difference is minimal until you reach the skies in terms of sound cards.
     
  13. mm vr

    mm vr The cheesecake is a lie

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    Are you serious!? :eeek:

    :geek:

    I think I can forget my dreams about a proper audio setup in that case!
     
  14. sheninat0r

    sheninat0r What's a Dremel?

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    I would go out on a limb here and say most of us aren't audiophiles, and couldn't hear the differences between a $2000 and $4000 receiver and don't give half a damn how good our S/PDIF is. Also, I doubt even the most discerning audiophile could hear the differences between cheap copper wire and Nordost Valhalla interconnects - the $1 million prize is still open, last time I checked.

    Also, how much does jitter in a digital signal actually affect sound quality? I, for one, doubt that the effect will be large enough to be audible, but then again there are people on head-fi making custom silver USB cables for their DACs and claiming night and day differences in sound quality.
     
  15. MiNiMaL_FuSS

    MiNiMaL_FuSS ƬӇЄƦЄ ƁЄ ƇƠƜƧ ӇЄƦЄ.

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    mm vr - Music is supposed to be played in stereo, so you need a stero amp for the best results.

    Use an AV reciever for your movie needs, but hey just anr't very good for music.

    A £100 amp will usually beat around a £400 reciever for audio. Just get both, or use your comps surround for movies.

    sheninat0r - fella, you'll notice I said this onyl applies to audiophiles and if you really REALLY care about the quality of your music...infact I even ended on "Basically - You'll see more difference upgrading you're speaker wire and using a decent lossless music format" to emphasise that point....why the hostility my friend?....If you're using MP3 that arn't losses quality or downloading ur music all this is pointless....as anything off itune or anywhere else is horrible quality to begin with.
     
  16. thehippoz

    thehippoz What's a Dremel?

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    yeah shen.. the same applies for going over 16 bit- sure it's more accurate but the speakers are the same.. know the guys who created lame mp3 encoder actually ran some tests with audiophiles who claimed they can hear the difference between lossless wav and the same wav compressed from the same amp.. they found some actually chose the compressed

    now mixing audio you want to go lossless because your putting tracks together and compression is not a good idea in that case.. far as audio equipment- speakers can make a big difference there.. home built are nice- long as the amp has a high s/n ratio your fine usually

    that's why sound cards really haven't changed much.. 16 bit 44.1k is about as good as it gets- people that say they can hear differences at higher bit rates are just hearing the difference in the amp or soundcard converting the signal to analog as you can't really hear over 30k anyways.. and sure 24bit is more accurate but your speakers will reproduce 16 and 24 bit audio pretty much exactly the same- the only difference is you'll see a more accurate picture in the editor
     
  17. Elton

    Elton Officially a Whisky Nerd

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    You don't need a sound card, rather you need a better speaker and receiver.

    Trust me from an old Pioneer ---> 2005 Onkyo...

    It was night and day. Of course there was the fact that I had used some old Bose speakers on both sets(just replaced the Reciever.
     
  18. sheninat0r

    sheninat0r What's a Dremel?

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    Wasn't really trying to be hostile, but whenever I see audiophiles recommending cable upgrades and other similar stuff it just ticks me off. I myself do care about sound quality, and own a pair of Alessandro MS-1 headphones run by a Xonar Essence STX, but the whole "audiophile" mentality is one where diminishing returns doesn't exist, and the placebo effect is nearly entirely disregarded.

    Edit: I feel I should also mention I try to keep as much of my library as possible in FLAC.
     
    Last edited: 5 Aug 2009
  19. mm vr

    mm vr The cheesecake is a lie

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    Oh I see -- "receiver" = 5.1, "amplifier" = 2.0. Didn't know that before.
     
  20. Elton

    Elton Officially a Whisky Nerd

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    Or get a non integrated receiver + amp.

    Although those are a bit pricey.

    And by pricey i mean Rotel pricey.
     

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