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Do I need a Soundcard?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

My configuration:

 

Desktop with AMD 6870 outputing Video and Sound through HDMI to an AV receiver (Sony str-dg910). I plug my AT-M50's into the receiver. I game and listen to music a lot, would I benefit from adding a soundcard and send sound via optical to the receiver? I'd assume the receiver is more than enough to drive the headphones so I wouldn't need an amp, but for the DAC and some of the gaming effects like EAX would it be worth it?

 

Thanks for any help! - John

post #2 of 11

I think buying a cheap one with either Dolby Headphone(Asus Xonar) or CMSS-3D(Creative X-Fi/Audigy) would be worth it. Don't buy an expensive one if you're only going to be using optical out, the quality will be the same.

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

I don't have to do optical out if there is a better option. Are there sound cards with coax out?

post #4 of 11

Optical isn't a bad option if your receiver has a good DAC. It's basically the same quality as USB or coax. It's just digital, you don't have to worry about it too much.

 

When using a digital out like optical/coax/usb, all that you are doing is encoding the digital data with the effects that the sound card has. You aren't using its DAC. So the quality of the cards DAC is irrelevant.

 

There are soundcards that use coax out, usually using a combo port that is both optical and coax. Either one is fine but I'd stick with optical since it's cooler.

 

You could also opt for using the analog inputs of your receiver(probably RCA), which in that case the sound card quality does matter. But if the receiver has a good DAC might as well go digital.

post #5 of 11

For gaming, you'd probably benefit from a sound card's DSP features.

 

The good news is that your receiver should have a respectable DAC in it, so even affordable sound cards like the X-Fi Titanium ($50 shipped or less on Newegg) will do the job if you connect via S/PDIF.

post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

I tried googling to see about the DAC in the receiver, only found 1 review on amazon that mentioned it was pretty bad. Any recommendations on the Asus Xonar (~$30) vs something like the Creative sound blaster Z? Also say I go with the SB-Z, once it's hooked to my amp, should I plug the headphones into the amp still or move them directly to the soundcard?

post #7 of 11

Do you have onboard sound in the mainboard? It should have S/PDIF.

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by NamelessPFG View Post

For gaming, you'd probably benefit from a sound card's DSP features.

 

The good news is that your receiver should have a respectable DAC in it, so even affordable sound cards like the X-Fi Titanium ($50 shipped or less on Newegg) will do the job if you connect via S/PDIF.

Newegg has been sold out on the Titanium (non-HD) for the past few weeks, listed as "Discontinued".

Found several listing on eBay.

post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Warder45 View Post

I tried googling to see about the DAC in the receiver, only found 1 review on amazon that mentioned it was pretty bad. Any recommendations on the Asus Xonar (~$30) vs something like the Creative sound blaster Z? Also say I go with the SB-Z, once it's hooked to my amp, should I plug the headphones into the amp still or move them directly to the sound card?

You would want to plug the headphones into the sound card.

Chances are the CL-SB-Z DAC chip (CS4398) is better then the Sony's DAC.

Also chances are the CL-SB-Z's headphone amplifier is lower impedance :) then the Sony's headphone output.

No good reason for plugging the headphones into the receiver anymore.

 

If you ran 2-channel analog from the CL-SB-Z to the RCA inputs on the Sony, chances are all 2-channel speaker audio from the Sony would improve.

post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the info. I ordered a Sound Blaster-Z card to try out. I started getting feature creep and thinking about those $250+ cards but for 90% gaming with the AT M50's I think this will work out. Down the road once I need to hook the PC to a 5.1/7.1 system I'll probably look at those cards.

 

One more question, I use the Sony receiver as a sort of hub for my gaming setup. I have my PS3, Xbox, and PC plugged into it so I can switch between them easily. If I have to I can move my headphones between my PC and Receiver, but it sounds like if I use the RCA out from the card to the receiver I can keep my headphones plugged into the receiver and still get the SB-Z DAC improvements along with software effects like EAX. Is that correct?

post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Warder45 View Post

Thanks for the info. I ordered a Sound Blaster-Z card to try out. I started getting feature creep and thinking about those $250+ cards but for 90% gaming with the AT M50's I think this will work out. Down the road once I need to hook the PC to a 5.1/7.1 system I'll probably look at those cards.

 

One more question, I use the Sony receiver as a sort of hub for my gaming setup. I have my PS3, Xbox, and PC plugged into it so I can switch between them easily. If I have to I can move my headphones between my PC and Receiver, but it sounds like if I use the RCA out from the card to the receiver I can keep my headphones plugged into the receiver and still get the SB-Z DAC improvements along with software effects like EAX. Is that correct?

Correct.

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