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PCIe sound card recommendation

post #1 of 59
Thread Starter 
I'm a bit confused on this. I need an extremely budget soundcard recommendation (<40 bucks). All I want it to do is provide me with the ability to have 5.1 or preferably 7.1 channel output over coax or optical. This is where my confusion comes in. Is optical limited to 5.1 channels or was that just some incorrect information I read a long time ago?

I am going to be getting a receiver for decoding 5.1 and 7.1 streams (mostly gaming type stuff) and i'll be using an external DAC for my stereo listening needs. The problem I'm having right now is that my DAC (amb gamma 2 F++) is getting a horrendously noisy signal from my computer's USB ports ever since I added a solid state drive, and I have no idea how to fix it. Everything is attached to the same power strip, and I dont think it is a ground loop issue. Anyways, right now i cant do more than 2 channel output to DAC so a sound card is definitely the solution. The computer has no other way to do digital output.

What would you guys recommend?
post #2 of 59

1.  http://www.ebay.com/ctg/77246937?_imid=110906243673

 

2.  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829270006


Edited by hotdun - 7/18/12 at 11:59am
post #3 of 59
post #4 of 59

If your graphics card has HDMI output and your monitor has HDMI input. then get a receiver with HDMI (in/out).

I believe HDMI is the only way to send 7.1, 8-channel.

I think optical may be limited to 5.1(?) 6-channel.

I think the Xonar DG & DGX might be limited in the optical output.

The Xonar DX or D1 wound be a better choice.

post #5 of 59
Thread Starter 
So here is the problem. The receiver only has component in/out. My monitor doesnt have component in/out. My graphics card only has 2x DVI and a single miniHDMI. Pretty much every single suggestion so far seems to be analog output from the sound card to the receiver, which is completely unacceptable. The receiver I was going to get (used) is this one

http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/PUSA/Home/AV-Receivers/Elite+Receivers/VSX-52TX

I believe it is limited to 6.1 channels, but like I said, I think i'll only be doing 5.1 channels so probably optical is the most i'll need. I might just need to take the hit on this one and sacrifice the 7.1 functionality and stick to 5.1. I dont have room for more speakers right now anyways.

Second choice for receiver (new) was this

http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/PUSA/Home/AV-Receivers/Pioneer+Receivers/VSX-522-K

I can get either one for about 200-250ish total.

The later has better connectivity options but is obviously of lower quality. I think if I stick to the 5.1 channel thing and get the Xonar DGX or DX or whatever as mentioned above that would be a fine choice, especially because 7.1 is not a concern to me. It would have been NICE but its not something i can really afford to use, especially given my tiny room size and complete lack of speakers. I only have a 2.1 setup that I COULD expand to a 4.1 setup if I sacrifice the quality of my frontal speakers, but i'd rather just save up and add on speakers later on.

SO that being said, which 5.1 sound card with optical output would be recommended? 7.1 is no longer a concern? I'm looking specifically at asus. I dont buy creative products.
post #6 of 59
Thread Starter 
I've more or less settled on the HT Omega Striker 7.1. It has DTS Connect, which the asus cards do not have. From my understanding, DTS Connect is superior to dolby digital live, and I need one of those 2 in order to get >2 LPCM channels out of my sound card and into a receiver. The card costs 75-90 bucks right now, which isnt too bad. I wont be doing anything except sending optical output to the receiver or to an external DAC (amb gamma 2 F++) until I get said receiver. The sound card should be able to do headphone virtualization stuff and send optical data to the DAC until I get the receiver, and once I get the receiver I can start upgrading to a 5.1 setup. Until then, this sound card should give me at the very minimum bit-perfect 2.0 output to my DAC, and at the very most virtualized 3d sound to my DAC for my headphones.

Can someone please comment on this and tell me if I'm right? Can you recommend pros and cons of this and possibly suggest different sound cards? Ideally, I wanted a PCIx1 sound card but that seems to be an impossibility if I want DTS Connect, and i'd rather have DTS Connect and have my sound card a bit snug with my GPU than to use dolby digital live. Screw dolby digital.
post #7 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by shrimants View Post

I've more or less settled on the HT Omega Striker 7.1. It has DTS Connect, which the Asus cards do not have. From my understanding, DTS Connect is superior to Dolby Digital Live, and I need one of those 2 in order to get >2 LPCM channels out of my sound card and into a receiver. The card costs 75-90 bucks right now, which isn't too bad. I wont be doing anything except sending optical output to the receiver or to an external DAC (amb gamma 2 F++) until I get said receiver. The sound card should be able to do headphone virtualization stuff and send optical data to the DAC until I get the receiver, and once I get the receiver I can start upgrading to a 5.1 setup. Until then, this sound card should give me at the very minimum bit-perfect 2.0 output to my DAC, and at the very most virtualized 3d sound to my DAC for my headphones.
Can someone please comment on this and tell me if I'm right? Can you recommend pros and cons of this and possibly suggest different sound cards? Ideally, I wanted a PCIx1 sound card but that seems to be an impossibility if I want DTS Connect, and I'd rather have DTS Connect and have my sound card a bit snug with my GPU than to use Dolby digital live. Screw Dolby Digital.

The Asus Xonar DSX comes with DTS, but not sure which DTS features it comes with.

The Striker 7.1 comes with S/PDIF coaxial (& optical), which I believe is a little more desireable over optical.

The Striker comes with the CMI8770 audio processor, the DSX comes with the C-Media CMI8788.

post #8 of 59

DTS Connect isn't that obscure of a feature. All the X-Fi cards capable of Dolby Digital Live are also capable of DTS Connect (unless you're running XP, which you're probably not), and there's also quite a few Xonar cards with DTS Connect as well (though not the more renowned ones like the DG or Essence STX).

 

If you can get yourself an X-Fi Titanium for $50 or less (try eBay), you'd be good to go. Toslink S/PDIF output without adapters, and DTS Connect support (even if it's not as heavily advertised as the Dolby Digital Live support, but trust me, it's there).

 

HT Omega's said to be a very good brand of sound cards, though. One of the best out there, and better than Asus if you're looking for a C-Media card and don't mind a PCI interface on everything but the eClaro, if you ask the fans.

post #9 of 59
Thread Starter 
I dont buy creative products. Bad experiences with them in the past.

I'm rather confused now about the DSX vs the striker. The DSX is more enticing to me because of the PCIx1 interface and the later generation processor. I'm part of the DIY community and i'm not above trying to replace some caps and opamps on that card either.

My board is only a miniATX and if I go with a PCI card, it will give me a couple of millimeters of clearance between the card and my GPU, which is TERRIBLE for heat. As I said before, I dont even plan on using the line outputs on the card anways, and I dont have a problem dreaming up some kind of metal grounded shroud to protect against EMI if it comes to that. Plus this card is cheaper.

I do have an S/PDIF header on my board, but at this kind of a price, I feel like the DSX is a better purchase than the Striker.

Why is coax preferable over S/PDIF? Are the bandwidths different? I thought that either way the signal representation is the same, its just a difference between electrical pulses vs light pulses?

EDIT: according to HardOCP, the 8788 chipset on the DSX is actually a rebadged less capable version of the chipset. Its actually an Asus AV66. I dont know if this counts for anything, does that invalidate the point of using 8788 as an upgrade to the 8770?
Edited by shrimants - 7/19/12 at 11:41am
post #10 of 59

That's your call, but I still have to use X-Fi hardware for the gaming features (DirectSound3D and OpenAL support is an extremely high priority for me), and my experiences are generally problem-free, especially with the Titanium HD. Guess I'm just lucky with Creative hardware and their infamous drivers.

 

Do note that I've heard my fair share of complaints about Asus Xonar drivers, Realtek drivers, and so forth, like it's not only Creative cards that have issues. Anecdotal experiences are funny things.

 

I was beginning to wonder why you didn't bring up the HT Omega eClaro (their only PCIe card), but then I looked up the price...dear god, you could buy an Essence STX for that much!

 

People tend to prefer coaxial S/PDIF over optical/Toslink because of lower jitter, or something like that. I don't know if you'd actually hear the difference in practice.

post #11 of 59
Thread Starter 
My buddy had a bunch of issues with creative drivers and I've had bad experiences with their hardware. As for optical I just like it because it reminds me of lasers. Drivers aren't such a huge deal to me but creatives lack of Linux support also pissed me off. They are just a company I avoid despite quality products. I think the dsx looks like tgr way to go unless Asus has better dts offerings for less than 100
post #12 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by shrimants View Post

My buddy had a bunch of issues with creative drivers and I've had bad experiences with their hardware. As for optical I just like it because it reminds me of lasers. Drivers aren't such a huge deal to me but creatives lack of Linux support also pissed me off. They are just a company I avoid despite quality products. I think the dsx looks like tgr way to go unless Asus has better dts offerings for less than 100

I've never understood blindly boycotting multinational corporations, but if that's what does it for you - that's alright. redface.gif

Anyways, the Asus cards use the same chips as the HT Omega and Auzen cards (except for the X-Fi Auzen cards, which are becoming rare), so they have relatively similar featuresets. DTS Connect, as Nameless said, is not really rare, and there's not "differing quality implementations" - you either pay DTS and have their software, or you don't. As far as overall quality - they're going to be the same thing for passing surround sound via S/PDIF. You don't want to use either for listening to music; put the card into stereo and feed PCM out.

If Sondigo is still around, the Inferno was/is the cheapest way to get on the 8788 train, and iirc it used pretty close to reference drivers. Otherwise Asus is probably the best choice if you're bent-up about Creative (I'd suggest the Recon3D if not).

All of this will cap at 5.1 unless you have a receiver with 7.1 analog in, and a card with 7.1 analog out (good luck finding all of that these days!) and bass management (which is even harder to find in audio drivers). Your receiver, however, can probably interpolate up to 6.1 or 7.1 with relative ease, using Neo:6 or Pro Logic II. I wouldn't suggest it for games, but for movies it probably won't be bad.
post #13 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by shrimants View Post

I dont buy creative products. Bad experiences with them in the past.
I'm rather confused now about the DSX vs the striker. The DSX is more enticing to me because of the PCIx1 interface and the later generation processor. I'm part of the DIY community and I'm not above trying to replace some caps and opamps on that card either.
My board is only a miniATX and if I go with a PCI card, it will give me a couple of millimeters of clearance between the card and my GPU, which is TERRIBLE for heat. As I said before, I don't even plan on using the line outputs on the card anyways, and I don't have a problem dreaming up some kind of metal grounded shroud to protect against EMI if it comes to that. Plus this card is cheaper.
I do have an S/PDIF header on my board, but at this kind of a price, I feel like the DSX is a better purchase than the Striker.
Why is coax preferable over S/PDIF? Are the bandwidths different? I thought that either way the signal representation is the same, its just a difference between electrical pulses vs light pulses?
EDIT: according to HardOCP, the 8788 chipset on the DSX is actually a rebadged less capable version of the chipset. Its actually an Asus AV66. I don't know if this counts for anything, does that invalidate the point of using 8788 as an upgrade to the 8770?

Coaxial vs Optical, I heard second hand, that Schiit recommends Coaxial>Optical>USB.

I'm fairly sure C-Media only makes one kind of CMI8788 audio processor and wants to sell as many as possible to Asus.

When these CMI8788 are make, a few may have manufacturing defects where some features may not work and so are sold as "less capable" chips.

I think that "less capable" is more of cover story for an "understanding" between C-media and Asus.

My best guess is C-Media sells their CMI8788 chips to Asus with whatever "label" Asus wants on them, to make some sound better then others, AV66, AV100, AV200, etc.

 

Now what are the advantages (if any?) of the CMI8788 over the CMI8770, I have no idea.

post #14 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

Coaxial vs Optical, I heard second hand, that Schiit recommends Coaxial>Optical>USB.
I'm fairly sure C-Media only makes one kind of CMI8788 audio processor and wants to sell as many as possible to Asus.
When these CMI8788 are make, a few may have manufacturing defects where some features may not work and so are sold as "less capable" chips.
I think that "less capable" is more of cover story for an "understanding" between C-media and Asus.
My best guess is C-Media sells their CMI8788 chips to Asus with whatever "label" Asus wants on them, to make some sound better then others, AV66, AV100, AV200, etc.

Now what are the advantages (if any?) of the CMI8788 over the CMI8770, I have no idea.

8788 has more processing power and I/O than any other C-Media chip, and some h/w features that the others lack. I used to have a datasheet and comparison graphic, but lost it a while ago. The 8770 is less feature-rich is the point, and does less in h/w. Do with that what you will.

Regarding S/PDIF - coax is claimed to have lower jitter, and jitter is claimed to be the Bogey man, but personally I like TOS because:

A) It reminds me of one of the best TV shows ever, TOS
B) It is immune to electrical interference and decouples devices
C) The new reason the OP came up with: its like lasers
post #15 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post


8788 has more processing power and I/O than any other C-Media chip, and some h/w features that the others lack. I used to have a datasheet and comparison graphic, but lost it a while ago. The 8770 is less feature-rich is the point, and does less in h/w. Do with that what you will.
Regarding S/PDIF - coax is claimed to have lower jitter, and jitter is claimed to be the Bogey man, but personally I like TOS because:
A) It reminds me of one of the best TV shows ever, TOS
B) It is immune to electrical interference and decouples devices
C) The new reason the OP came up with: its like lasers

I'm willing to go along with the CMI8770 came out, then the CMI8788 with it's improvements came out later.

But, if you were C-Media, would it not be cheaper just to stop making the CMI8770 and just label some of it's CMI8788 a "CMI8770".

if the CMI8778 would work in the same PCB socket as the CMI8770.

But I'm just making guess on facts that I'm guessing on.

 

AMD will disable some of the features in a CPU and sell it at a lower model number and a cheaper price.

C-Media may do the exact same thing.

 

EDIT, just figured out the CMI8770 appears to a version of the 8768.

The only difference is the 8770 has the added feature to work with DTS.


Edited by PurpleAngel - 7/19/12 at 2:04pm
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