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HDMI vs Analog

post #1 of 68
Thread Starter 

Like most PC's I already have multi-channel analog out, but was thinking I might invest in a HDMI output to handle multi-channel audio out from the PC. My question is are there any advantages in investing in multi-channel audio out via HDMI considering I can already output multi-channel through analog? Thanks

post #2 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by lemm View Post

Like most PC's I already have multi-channel analog out, but was thinking I might invest in a HDMI output to handle multi-channel audio out from the PC. My question is are there any advantages in investing in multi-channel audio out via HDMI considering I can already output multi-channel through analog? Thanks

Might depend on which has the best DAC

If your PC's sound card has the better DAC, then the analog cable connection is best.

What sound card are you using?

What audio device is getting the audio signal from the PC?

post #3 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by lemm View Post

Like most PC's I already have multi-channel analog out, but was thinking I might invest in a HDMI output to handle multi-channel audio out from the PC. My question is are there any advantages in investing in multi-channel audio out via HDMI considering I can already output multi-channel through analog? Thanks

 

That depends on a lot of factors. Is that on the motherboard, or a separate soundcard? Because if it's just the motherboard, one of the main considerations is that a good soundcard can cost just as much as a decent entry-level home theater receiver, so if for example you're comparing a $200 soundcard vs a $250 HT receiver, you might want to consider the latter since it will have its own power supply, and a fully digital crossover for tuning the cut between the surrounds and the subwoofer/s.

It does come with a host of its own disadvantages, or overkills. First off, that HT receiver will be huge. The smallest one I know of is the Marantz NR series, and they are around $399 and $599 new. Being relatively huge won't stop there - how large is your computer area? Browse around the net, and you'll either end up with standard HT sized entry-level surround speaker systems with an 8" sub, or you spend more (usually starts at $499 or thereabouts) to get ones built around 3.5" to 4.5" midrange drivers; if subs are included they'll still be 8" subs, and the high-output 6" subs are waaaay too expensive. Second, if you're planning to go for three monitors, I don't know how that'll work (ie if you can output video via DVI, then audio only through HDMI) since HDMI passes both audio and video to the HT receiver, and there's just a bypass for the video to get from there to your display. However if you're planning to use an HDTV, if you aren't using one now, and just go for a large screen (many of them nowadays don't have the ghosting issues more prevalent a few years ago), that won't be a problem. I've tried my AMD A8 laptop on some non-major Jap/Korean 32in LED and Total War Shogun II wasn't having any ghosting issues, however I still suggest you try your own games.

 

Chances are however that the HT receivers will have better analog stages (forget just the DAC chips used, there's a whole circuit around them) and likely better amp sections than the amps in multimedia surround speakers systems (Onkyo and Yamaha have entry-level receivers using discrete topologies), plus the sound-shaping tools like what I mentioned above. However, a lot of that entails setting it up properly (I've heard the best equipment sound like crap in some people's dens just because they nor the tech who installed it didn't really understand the tweaks) plus matching the output to matched efficiency speakers. Meaning, basically, that an HT receiver set-up has a lot of potential if you get it right; otherwise, it can sound like crap for the money you spent on it.

post #4 of 68
Thread Starter 

@ Purple & @Protege Thanks.....

Currently the audio out is via the Asus P5 series HD multi-channel analog out motherboard which feeds into a multichannel SACD input on my receiver. This kind of input is absent on newer receivers but seems to work well for analog outs.

 

I hear what you're both saying about comparing DAC's and the cost and setup of either a new soundcard or receiver. The reason for my question was exactly as you have both speculated that a decent soundcard and new receiver are of comparable expense so I'm looking to achieve the best bang for my buck so to speak given the 2 alternatives or stick with what I have if there is no appreciable difference.

 

The problem I'm having with comparing the DACs, a new AVR and new Soundcard is that I'd need to have them both to see which is better and by how much and then compare to the analog I already have. So I'd have to:

(i) get a new Soundcard which primarily have analog outs which would then go into the multi-channel analog in I already have

(ii) get a new AVR that usually only come with HDMI Inputs for multi-channel so this would be through the gpu HDMI

(iii) then compare the 2 new above setups with each other and with my existing analog setup to check for differences.

 

This is going to be difficult to say the least. I guess my initial question was if all those factors were equal, would there be any difference between using HDMI multichannel vs analog multichannel. And if they are not equal, would a new soundcard or new receiver be of significant difference to my current setup given both routes are of comparable expense.

 

Again, thanks to you both for taking the time to reply.

post #5 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by lemm View Post

The problem I'm having with comparing the DACs, a new AVR and new Soundcard is that I'd need to have them both to see which is better and by how much and then compare to the analog I already have. So I'd have to:

(i) get a new Soundcard which primarily have analog outs which would then go into the multi-channel analog in I already have

(ii) get a new AVR that usually only come with HDMI Inputs for multi-channel so this would be through the gpu HDMI

(iii) then compare the 2 new above setups with each other and with my existing analog setup to check for differences.

 

This is going to be difficult to say the least. I guess my initial question was if all those factors were equal, would there be any difference between using HDMI multichannel vs analog multichannel. And if they are not equal, would a new soundcard or new receiver be of significant difference to my current setup given both routes are of comparable expense.

 

 

Chances are there would be a lot of differences, but it won't be a simple function of transmission of the digital signal vs analog. For one, what receiver is that? If for example you compare it with newer receivers, not only will the new receiver not have the capability to be compared via analog inputs, but cheaper receivers now also have technically better amp sections than what you can get for the same money five years ago (heck they're probably better than what you can get for double that money ten years ago). While that may seem to be just on paper, remember that this isn't like comparing dual mono vs conventional 2ch - this is 5ch vs discrete 5ch with, in some higher models, each channel or each side (L-front+L-rear, R-front+R-rear) might have its own bank of power caps. On some speakers, that can mean a lot for the dynamic range and the perceived impact and tightness of the bass, even if both amps measure flat (ie, speakers aren't anything like a fixed load used to measure amp outputs).

 

If it were my money, check your current amp's topology. If it's reasonably older, and you don't plan on using multiple monitors,* I'd recommend getting a current $400 (Amazon price, not MSRP on manufacturer's site) receiver and see if the discrete topology on the new one will outperform your old receiver in powering your speaker, and also if the quality of the decoding (detail, tonality, etc) beats your on-board sound.


*Not that I'm sure it won't work, but you'd need to research on this

post #6 of 68
Thread Starter 

I figured as much that it wouldn't be as simple as that. Thanks for confirming. If HDMI vs Analog makes no difference in and of its self then its time to look at some other pros/cons of a HDMI receiver vs Analog Soundcard.

 

My current receiver is much much older than that. It's from an era before HDMI or bluray when other receivers still had Dolby Pro Logic to simulate surround from 2ch, but I recall it having an expensive retail price at the time, more than double the current price of say a Sony STR-DH520 That of course doesn't mean much now so you may be onto something when you said "they're probably better than what you can get for double that money ten years ago". But it still has the ability to accept discrete 5.1ch HD audio over analog from bluray / games with 24bit 96kHz so I'm assuming it's still able to handle current audio standards so long as I'm using analog which new receivers like the Sony STR-DH520 and every othe one I've seen lack (although I would get 8ch rather than 6ch with the Sony).

 

So forgetting HDMI vs Analog my options look something like this: I'll keep my current receiver and get say a Asus Xonar U7 or Soundblaster Z soundcard (or even stick to my onboard analog outs) or forget analog and get say a Sony receiver and output audio via HDMI. I get the feeling you'd lean towards the receiver rather than a new soundcard with my current receiver?

post #7 of 68
Quote:

Originally Posted by lemm View Post

 

But it still has the ability to accept discrete 5.1ch HD audio over analog from bluray / games with 24bit 96kHz so I'm assuming it's still able to handle current audio standards so long as I'm using analog which new receivers like the Sony STR-DH520 and every othe one I've seen lack (although I would get 8ch rather than 6ch with the Sony).

 

Well, that depends. Yes, of course it will accept signals "without" compatibility issues, since it's your motherboard's onboard sound that does the decoding and it passes on an analog sound, which of course has no incompatibilities like with digital (aside from the ones that will screw up the gain, or screw up your amp). However, jsut because it's sending out an analog signal, does not mean it didn't for example downsample the signal as needed - in other words, sometimes onboard sound isn't compatible with all HDaudio encoding formats. Then again, entry-level receivers and discrete soundcards aren't either.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lemm View Post

 

So forgetting HDMI vs Analog my options look something like this: I'll keep my current receiver and get say a Asus Xonar U7 or Soundblaster Z soundcard (or even stick to my onboard analog outs) or forget analog and get say a Sony receiver and output audio via HDMI. I get the feeling you'd lean towards the receiver rather than a new soundcard with my current receiver?

 

Yes, I'd get a current receiver over a new soundcard, your onboard and/or your older receiver, if at least for testing whether it sounds better than what you currently have. On a purely technical sense, I prefer keeping the path of the analog signal as short as possible - whether it's my amp with a USB DAC (or as is more common, a DAC with a headphone amp in it), an HT receiver, or as they're coming out nowadays, direct digital amplifier design.*

 

Don't take it to mean I would argue that overall a system as such would absolutely be superior all the time; I just prefer its advantages and dealing with any of its disadvantages the same way I prefer Class A (even just Class A biased) and its need for relatively larger heatsinks and power consumption (hey, not like it'll consume more power than my computer, let alone my fridge). Thing is, if you can get a good, current receiver from a dealer with a reliable return policy, you can try it out and hear for yourself if there are audible improvements that you like. Over here, we don't get that luxury on returns; heck if we get anything broken sometimes we need to raise a ruckus in forums and at the government trade regulatory body's office. Of course, if one lives within the metro, some products are within driving distance and many stores have dedicated listening areas; you'll just have to dismantle your system. Still, it's not in your own room; usually you only get this if 1) you're a money-throwing customer and 2) you're borrowing stuff that can cost as much as a used car. tongue_smile.gif

 

 

*from what I understand, it eliminates the analog output stage after the DAC, since it has a great bearing on the final sound more than the DAC itself, which basically means it tends to color the sound


Edited by ProtegeManiac - 7/7/13 at 9:14am
post #8 of 68
Thread Starter 

Thanks Protege

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

 

Well, that depends. Yes, of course it will accept signals "without" compatibility issues, since it's your motherboard's onboard sound that does the decoding and it passes on an analog sound, which of course has no incompatibilities like with digital (aside from the ones that will screw up the gain, or screw up your amp). However, jsut because it's sending out an analog signal, does not mean it didn't for example downsample the signal as needed - in other words, sometimes onboard sound isn't compatible with all HDaudio encoding formats. Then again, entry-level receivers and discrete soundcards aren't either.

 

Yes of course, I just meant it's discrete 6ch analog input rather than the common dolby pro logic of the time. I checked the motherboard output and it supports up to 24/192 which I guess would avoid any down-sampling etc. of current HD standards in bluray and games so in terms of a a clean analog path the current setup is still similar to HDMI. Surprising really given it's from before HD audio and bluray became the talking points on forums like this.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

 

Yes, I'd get a current receiver over a new soundcard, your onboard and/or your older receiver, if at least for testing whether it sounds better than what you currently have. ...

 

Don't take it to mean I would argue that overall a system as such would absolutely be superior all the time;....

 

Thing is, if you can get a good, current receiver from a dealer with a reliable return policy, you can try it out and hear for yourself if there are audible improvements that you like....

 

I was almost hoping for a more definitive reply like 'yes, your ancient receiver can in no way compare to current receivers' or 'a new soundcard will be miles better than motherboard audio' but I guess it's not that easy.

 

It would of course by ideal to go into a shop and get decent current generation receiver and soundcard for comparison. However I'm not sure it's that simple for working items. Generally shops would require a fault for used items and only refund unused goods. Hence the questions here.

 

Thanks for all the time you spent replying. If you think of anything else that may be relevant do let me know.

 

Regards,

Islam

post #9 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by lemm View Post

I figured as much that it wouldn't be as simple as that. Thanks for confirming. If HDMI vs Analog makes no difference in and of its self then its time to look at some other pros/cons of a HDMI receiver vs Analog Soundcard.

 

My current receiver is much much older than that. It's from an era before HDMI or bluray when other receivers still had Dolby Pro Logic to simulate surround from 2ch, but I recall it having an expensive retail price at the time, more than double the current price of say a Sony STR-DH520 That of course doesn't mean much now so you may be onto something when you said "they're probably better than what you can get for double that money ten years ago". But it still has the ability to accept discrete 5.1ch HD audio over analog from bluray / games with 24bit 96kHz so I'm assuming it's still able to handle current audio standards so long as I'm using analog which new receivers like the Sony STR-DH520 and every othe one I've seen lack (although I would get 8ch rather than 6ch with the Sony).

 

So forgetting HDMI vs Analog my options look something like this: I'll keep my current receiver and get say a Asus Xonar U7 or Soundblaster Z soundcard (or even stick to my onboard analog outs) or forget analog and get say a Sony receiver and output audio via HDMI. I get the feeling you'd lean towards the receiver rather than a new soundcard with my current receiver?

I would say to keep the "vintage" receiver and just get an add-on sound card with 6-channel analog outputs

Asus Xonar DX or D1 sound card or Creative Labs sound Blaster Z (or Zx) sound card, all these cards come with the same CS4398 DAC chip (should be a fair bit better then the motherboard's DAC)

I can't see justifying replacing the receiver, I really have no idea on how much you would need to spend to "upgrade" sound quality from the current receiver (you might spend $400 for a new receiver and not hear an improvement in audio quality?)

What is the make and model of the "vintage" receiver?

post #10 of 68
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

I would say to keep the "vintage" receiver and just get an add-on sound card with 6-channel analog outputs

Asus Xonar DX or D1 sound card or Creative Labs sound Blaster Z (or Zx) sound card, all these cards come with the same CS4398 DAC chip (should be a fair bit better then the motherboard's DAC)

I can't see justifying replacing the receiver, I really have no idea on how much you would need to spend to "upgrade" sound quality from the current receiver (you might spend $400 for a new receiver and not hear an improvement in audio quality?)

What is the make and model of the "vintage" receiver?


Must be the only "vintage" electronic component that I'm having trouble to more easily justify an upgrade to a more modern item. It's a Philips lx700 but if it would take in the region of $400 for a new receiver to only get minor audio improvements then it would not be worth it.

 

I was considering the Xonar U7 (or even the ones you mentioned although I'd prefer external to use between 2 PC's) and just stick with my current analog receiver but then I noticed a new Sony STR-DH520 +  Xonar U3 (for DDL) is only a a bit more and thought that may be worth it going HDMI.

 

Protege suggested a new receiver to try out and compare which would be ideal but difficult. I don't want to be stuck with something that sounds the same (or worse). Which option would you suggest given comparable prices? Thanks


Edited by lemm - 7/7/13 at 10:37am
post #11 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by lemm View Post


Must be the only "vintage" electronic component that I'm having trouble to more easily justify an upgrade to a more modern item. It's a Philips lx700 but if it would take in the region of $400 for a new receiver to only get minor audio improvements then it would not be worth it.

 

I was considering the Xonar U7 (or even the ones you mentioned although I'd prefer external to use between 2 PC's) and just stick with my current analog receiver but then I noticed a new Sony STR-DH520 +  Xonar U3 (for DDL) is only a a bit more and thought that may be worth it going HDMI.

 

Protege suggested a new receiver to try out and compare which would be ideal but difficult. I don't want to be stuck with something that sounds the same (or worse). Which option would you suggest given comparable prices? Thanks

So, first off you do not have a "receiver", you have a "5.1 home audio system", when you say receiver, it sounds like you bought a separate receiver and separate speakers.

So for improved audio you might have to buy a new receiver and new speakers.

And usually you want to spend twice as much (or more) for the speakers as you do for the receiver.

For around $230-$275 you could buy a refurbished Denon receiver from Accessories For Less.

And the Klipsch HD 600 5.1 speaker system is on sale for $299 (normally $600).

 

So I still think buy an internal sound card (for the DAC) for each PC and that should be the end of your spending.

 

Until you have an extra $600 or more, to upgrade from your current 5.1 home audio system.


Edited by PurpleAngel - 7/7/13 at 11:07am
post #12 of 68
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

So, first off you do not have a "receiver", you have a "5.1 home audio system", when you say receiver, it sounds like you bought a separate receiver and separate speakers.

So for improved audio you might have to buy a new receiver and new speakers.

And usually you want to spend twice as much (or more) for the speakers as you do for the receiver.

For around $230-$275 you could buy a refurbished Denon receiver from Accessories For Less.

And the Klipsch HD 600 5.1 speaker system is on sale for $299 (normally $600).

 

So I still think buy an internal sound card (for the DAC) for each PC and that should be the end of your spending.

 

Until you have an extra $600 or more, to upgrade from your current 5.1 home audio system.

 

It does say receiver on the front. It doesn't play it's own DVD etc like a htib but only accepts external audio input like a receiver. In any case...the speaker's are actually quite good probably better than the receiver being able to output a much better frequency range than others even of today (ie on paper anyway they're still better than the Klipsch HD 600 you mentioned), but I have other speakers too that are worth twice as much already so would not need additional speakers.

 

If you can tell me which Denon you saw would be better than what I have then maybe I can compare the specs to the Sony STR-DH520 and similar Pioneer, Yamaha offerings. Failing any major difference and Protege suggestion of possible comparisons, your suggestion of a soundcard may be the easiest. Thanks

post #13 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by lemm View Post

It does say receiver on the front. It doesn't play it's own DVD etc like a htib but only accepts external audio input like a receiver. In any case...the speaker's are actually quite good probably better than the receiver being able to output a much better frequency range than others even of today (ie on paper anyway they're still better than the Klipsch HD 600 you mentioned), but I have other speakers too that are worth twice as much already so would not need additional speakers.

 

If you can tell me which Denon you saw would be better than what I have then maybe I can compare the specs to the Sony STR-DH520 and similar Pioneer, Yamaha offerings. Failing any major difference and Protege suggestion of possible comparisons, your suggestion of a sound card may be the easiest. Thanks

You are 100% correct, the Philips is a receiver, my point was that most people in an audio/video forum would think in terms of your audio setup as an older "5.1 home audio system" or older "HTiB" (Home theater in a Box) and using those terms would help those on the forum better understand your audio setup.

 

One problem is that your Philips receiver powers the sub-woofer, chances are any separate receiver you buy will not come with the ability to power the sub-woofer, most receivers send a signal to a self powered sub-woofer.

So you would have to buy a separate sub-woofer with whatever receiver you choose to get.

 

Personally I would not buy a Sony receiver, part of the price your paying is for the Sony name.

A decent chuck of the cash you pay for the Sony goes towards Sony's marketing department, not the cost of building the amplifiers inside the Sony receiver. I'm sure the Sony would make a very decent receiver for it's price.

But I would would think a company dedicated to audio (like Denon) might offer a little better sound quality, for the price.

Off hand I do not know enough about each Denon receiver to make a recommendation

I own a Yamaha receiver (RX-V671) and I would have no problem buying Pioneer.

 

Chances are a that a CS4398 DAC chip is going be better then whatever is in the Philips (or the motherboard), so at least for $65-$80 (per sound card), you should notice an improvement in audio quality.


Edited by PurpleAngel - 7/7/13 at 3:37pm
post #14 of 68
I agree with Purple Angel. Your Philips receiver is an HTIB receiver, and it's a Philips. They are not considered a top AVR manufacturer. Sony is not well thought of, either, although there was one model last year that seemed to get some good reviews from audio video enthusiasts for a budget level receiver (sorry, I don't remember the model number).

Check out the Denon AVR-1613 from Accessories4less.com. The previous year's model, the 1612, got a stellar review, and I would expect the 1613 to perform as well since it's basically the same receiver with a few feature changes. Using the enclosed microphone with it, you'll be able to run Audyssey MultEQ, which will set the timing and channel levels for the speakers and sub AND also EQ your setup to provide a smoother in room response.
post #15 of 68
Also, if you want brand new, the Denon AVR-1713 is on sale at B&H Photo for $314. A step up from the 1613 with an additional HDMI input and the better Audyssey MultEQ XT room correction version.
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