Guys, I apologize in advance for the long and annoying post, but now it's my
turn to be a newb. Bear with me
I'm trying to build myself a computer as my laptop is 6 years old and it's having trouble keeping up with work these days. So I figured I try and build a desktop. I decided to do this sometime during thanksgiving week as I new there would be a bunch of Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. However, I have NEVER built a computer before. I'm a complete newb when it comes to building a desktop computer. I'm like MLE (no offense!). I had to do a $#*& ton of frantic research to try and learn how to go about picking and choosing your components and what the hardware is out there these days - before sales were gone.
Anyways, I have a couple PC audio questions:
As far as my PC audio options go, obviously I've already got plenty of Amp and stereo DAC already, but I do need some surround DSPs. I'm seeing that some motherboards come with optical outs. While optical out is good, that will only help me if the onboard audio also has some surround DSP/Dolby Digital encoding capabilites to go with it. I looked and I'm seeing that some motherboards (mostly ASrock) have THX onboard and some Gigabyte/Asus boards have Dolby Home Theater onboard (such as the Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD3). Does anyone know if these types of boards are even CAPABLE of outputting their encoded DSP of choice (like Dolby Headphone) over their optical outputs -> e.g. the same way the the Xonar devices can? Or is it strictly analog out on them? If they CAN output the Dolby Headphone encoded signal undisturbed, then it would make a card like the Xonar DG redudnant, no? If they can't, then there's zero use in going for it as I'm NOT going to use the onboard audio's analog outs as my source to feed my amp. So, should I bother investing a bit more for a motherboard with onboard Dolby Surround + optical, or is it a lost cause?
Assuming that the motherboards with Dolby Home Theater CAN output DH over optical, would it better to spring for one of those slightly pricier boards (getting whatever overclocking/etc. benefits they bring simultaneously) or instead just take that ~30-40 dollars and put it straight into a soundcard like a Xonar DG(x)? Does the soundcard have additional benefits like offloading some audio work from the motherboard? So should I get a motherboard with onboard Dolby, or a simply a soundcard with Dolby? Again, I already have PLENTY of amp, so either way I'll ideally be just sucking a digital signal out of the computer and letting my external amp and DAC do all the heavy amp lifiting.
Speaking of DACs, how good are the DACs in these budget sound cards (the smaller amp cards like Xonar DG, Creative X-fi non titanium, etc.)? I guess they don't really have true line outs and your double-amping the HP jacks, but are they still almost par with something like a FiiO D3? I was thinking I would pick up a D3 optical DAC to do my PC gaming DAC work, grabbing the digital signals out of the soundcards and feeding it to my desktop amp [Soundcard optical out > FiiO D3 > M-stage]. If the soundcard DACs are on par with the D3, this setup would probably be redundant though.
Is a Xonar DGX with PCI-E better/faster/newer than a regular DG? I'm not familiar with the differences between PCI vs PCI-E except that the latter is newer. The DGX costs a bit more than the DG.
So, TL;DR questions:
1) Motherboard w/onboard surround Vs. discrete soundcard?
2) Soundcard PCI Vs. PCI-E? Solved!
3) FiiO D3 Vs. amping the analog outs from sound card?
3) Bonus Build question: Which CPU platform should I go with, and what's a decent motherboard for it? see below...
I already ordered parts while the deals were hot. I can still change things around though. I'm not going to open any part boxes until I've read a bit more.
Those are all the actual prices I paid (after 1 or 2 mail in rebates). I scored some good deals I think.
I think most of the parts are solid, but I'm still unsure about which CPU platform to go with. I'm still debating whether to keep the AMD FX8320 CPU or return it and spring for an Intel Chip (what's the best option orice/performance there? 3570k?). I live near a microcenter so I can combo CPUs and motherboards together for nice prices. I scored the 8320 for $99 though, and now prices have gone back up some. A 3570k build would cost me roughly $100 more I think. FWIR the intels perform a bit better in non-heavily threaded gaming, but I'm not sure if it's worth price premium.
Once the CPU is decided, then I can look for a matching it to a motherboard. I don't want to invest too much in a motherboard, since sockets changes all the time and it seems like a waste to invest much in extra motherboard features. I would just need the cheapest stable one that supports a bit of overclocking. For AMD, that's either a 970 or 990fx board. For intel, I think it's a Z77 maybe? Not sure.
I have a couple more questions but I'll save them for later as this post is already way too long and annoying. I'm just a dirty console gaming peasant and I need to be schooled by local members of PC Gaming Master Race.