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Do I need a DAC?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Im looking at hooking up my computer up to my Onkyo TX NR515 amp, mainly to listen to music (mix of flac and 320 wma) and films.  My HT is sorted but I'm not sure the ebst way to cinnect my computer to amp.  The on board sound card isnt up to much and the pc only has a line out connection.

So my options as I see it

1) new internal sound card with hdmi / optical out

2) ext usd dac between pc and amp

3) pc direct to amp using line out to RCA

post #2 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackstone View Post

Im looking at hooking up my computer up to my Onkyo TX NR515 amp, mainly to listen to music (mix of flac and 320 wma) and films.  My HT is sorted but I'm not sure the ebst way to cinnect my computer to amp.  The on board sound card isnt up to much and the pc only has a line out connection.

So my options as I see it

1) new internal sound card with hdmi / optical out

2) ext usd dac between pc and amp

3) pc direct to amp using line out to RCA

 

Do you have any way to connect your Onkyo to your home network? If you can do that, you can use the network streaming capabilities of your receiver to retrieve and play your files. Page 29 of your owners manual outlines how to get started with this, and it might be the easiest way to access your files.

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

I could do this as the amp is on my home network.  Although this might be the easiest way, would it be the best way in terms of sound quality?

post #4 of 11
If it's a recent computer with hdmi out from the gfx card it should also support audio, no need for a standalone soundcard just for that...
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

Im not sure if it was a little unclear in the original post but the computer doesnt have hdmi out.  I was questioning whether to replace the old soundcard with a new one that does have hdmi out

post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackstone View Post

I could do this as the amp is on my home network.  Although this might be the easiest way, would it be the best way in terms of sound quality?

 

It depends, in my opinion.

 

If you are using Audyssey or any room equalization or speaker setup parameters (crossovers to subwoofer, etc), then most of the time your receiver will "redigitize" an incoming analog signal to perform these functions via an A-to-D conversion. There is another D-to-A conversion plus volume control that is performed as well before the signal hits your speakers. By using your receiver in this way, the benefits of an upstream DAC would likely be minimized due to multiple conversions.

 

On the other hand, if you are using the Onkyo in "Pure" or "Direct" mode (which bypasses all of the above for the most part except volume control) then you MIGHT notice a difference in sound quality as there aren't as many conversions.

 

If you get a new soundcard or outboard DAC and use the analog/RCA outs you would want to ensure that you are using only one volume control, plus there's the additional software setup that may be required. If you're comfortable with that, then by all means there are lots of affordable options.

 

Without knowing your system or your room, I think network streaming would be the cheapest and most effective solution. The Onkyo seems to even have a control app for iDevices and the like, so you might even be able to control playback using something other than the receiver remote. Network streaming means the decoding and other functions are all controlled and done in one place, with the least chances that something in the "stream" interferes with sound quality. And again, depending on how you have your Onkyo configured, there might not be any real perceivable difference in an upstream DAC. Your mileage may vary of course...

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

Firstly, thanks for the detailed response.

 

Although I kind of know what I am talking about, I'm still fairly new to all this so please bear with me.

 

At the moment I am just using the amp in the "pure" mode.  I have looked at crossover but havent tried it yet.

 

I was thinking of an outboard DAC, keeping the volume constant, and using just the amp to control volume.

 

I must admit, I am not familiar with Audyssey so this is something I will look into.

 

I think to start with, I should investigate the streaming option.  I was slightly put off by the interface of this espeically when using for video.

 

For reference,  I currently have a PS3, sky HD and the PC hooked up to the Onkyo 515 which feeds Q ACOUSTICS 2000i and the ouput is Samsung 55D8000

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

Firstly, thanks for the detailed response.

 

Although I kind of know what I am talking about, I'm still fairly new to all this so please bear with me.

 

At the moment I am just using the amp in the "pure" mode.  I have looked at crossover but havent tried it yet.

 

I was thinking of an outboard DAC, keeping the volume constant, and using just the amp to control volume.

 

I must admit, I am not familiar with Audyssey so this is something I will look into.

 

I think to start with, I should investigate the streaming option.  I was slightly put off by the interface of this espeically when using for video.

 

For reference,  I currently have a PS3, sky HD and the PC hooked up to the Onkyo 515 which feeds Q ACOUSTICS 2000i and the ouput is Samsung 55D8000


We all have to start somewhere, that's for sure...with my first receiver I didn't even hook up the speakers to the right speaker ports, imagine my surprise when the front left speaker sound came out of my rear left surround...

 

(Apologies if this is all stuff you've known before) Audyssey is a method of equalization that attempts to compensate for the sound anomalies that occur in your room. Certain frequencies may be boosted or reduced depending on any number of things...types of materials in the room (glass can make high frequencies seem more prevalent for example), the dimensions of the room (bass can "pool" and sound boomy in parts of the room, lean in other areas), etc.

 

Audyssey runs a series of test tones through your speakers, and feeds the results to its processor in your receiver by "listening" through a microphone you place at your listening position. After it takes the measurements, Audyssey attempts to compensate for the "boosts" and "cuts" in the frequency response. Some people like what Audyssey does, others do not- it is a very personal choice. In my room, for example, which is brick and heavily carpeted, the "raw sound" is very wooly and midrange-oriented with a big lack of detail. After Audyssey the sound is much more balanced and even...but to someone else that might sound too "lean," so the nice part is if you run it, you can compare and see which one you like better.

 

Running Pure mode bypasses Audyssey, so if you follow the instructions and run Audyssey you can toggle back and forth between Stereo mode (with Audyssey) and Pure (without Audyssey) to see what types of changes there are to the sound. I know this is OT so if you want to discuss Audyssey more feel free to PM and we can continue the conversation there.

 

OK, long tangent aside...your PS3 actually can be a very capable media player if you like the interface. Assuming it is connected via HDMI to your receiver, the results should be basically identical to if you bought another sound card and used optical or HDMI to feed to your receiver. If you haven't already, look into software like PS3MediaServer or Asset UPNP for your computer. Both should be free. Once you load your music library in there (I think they both support flac and wma, but not 100% sure), you can access your library using the PS3 interface and controls and see if you prefer that to the Onkyo. Best part, it's free :) That might be a good alternative to the Onkyo interface.

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Although I recently researched Audyssey, I was unable to find such a comprehensive summary as you have given.

 

Not sure why but I never though of streaming through my PS3 which is very strange given this is what I have done in the past.

 

I have 2 concerns with this,

1. I have many 1080 films on my pc which streaming seems to struggle with.  The network on my PS3 is a lot slower that on the PC.

2. I have a lot of music, maybe 150gb and even more in films.  Although the interface is ok on the PS3, its not great when dealing with all these files which is why I switched to playing the pc through the TV.

 

I will have to look in more detail into this and the Onkyo interface but as I said, my big concern is being able to deal with so many files and by that I mean th ease of files the exact album that I want.

post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackstone View Post

Although I recently researched Audyssey, I was unable to find such a comprehensive summary as you have given.

 

Not sure why but I never though of streaming through my PS3 which is very strange given this is what I have done in the past.

 

I have 2 concerns with this,

1. I have many 1080 films on my pc which streaming seems to struggle with.  The network on my PS3 is a lot slower that on the PC.

2. I have a lot of music, maybe 150gb and even more in films.  Although the interface is ok on the PS3, its not great when dealing with all these files which is why I switched to playing the pc through the TV.

 

I will have to look in more detail into this and the Onkyo interface but as I said, my big concern is being able to deal with so many files and by that I mean th ease of files the exact album that I want.

 

Whoops, didn't see this post over the weekend, sorry for the delay here...

 

In general, I think any FLAC/WMA files will not approach the same bandwidth demands for streaming as your 1080p movies. Whereas some 1080p Blu-rays I've watched approach 40Mbps, my 24 bit/96kHz WAV downloads demand only about 4-5Mbps and stream no problem via N WiFi. If your PS3/Onkyo is connected to your network via wireless, that could be one (possible) explanation for the issues you've had with streaming those movies. If your current PS3 connection is via wireless, I would be curious if there's any difference if you connected it via hardwire Ethernet.

 

With that size of a media library, maybe another possible consideration would be something like the Dune or Popcorn Hour series of players. A lot of those have internal 3.5" drive hookups and/or USB ports for connecting external drives. They're supposed to be equipped to handle just about any type of file format and have all sorts of connectivity (HDMI, optical, RCA...) with built in file browsers. Sounds to me like it might be a worthwhile investment to get an all around media "hub" for your system if that is what you're interested in. I have no experience with these players, but have seen some extensive systems with those products as a centerpiece.

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

I have thought about of something like a "media hub" but the reason i was leaning towards using the pc is that i have recently been using xmbc for video and im happy with the current music players i have.  therefore, i was just looking to get the best  sounds output option whether it be dac, internal sound card, streaming, bluetooth etc

If the media hub is seen as a better all round solution then maybe i will have to move towads this.  I have also looked at a media pc which has the hdmi out and i was favouring over a media hub as this way it still works as a pc, i can use whatever media players i want and its easier to download and store the files on one system

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