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Selecting a Discrete Sound Card, or my First USB DAC?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

I have a bit of a unique situation and having trouble sorting through the mountains of information available.

 

I have three PCs in the same room, each with a pair of M-Audio BX5 D2 monitors. I want to be able to use each PC normally, but also have the ability to play Rocksmith together on all 3 PCs at the same time (using one PC as the A/V source). I've got the video figured out and wired up, and I've figured out how I can get audio to the speakers using my onboard RealTek AC'97 7.1 (3.5mm to two unbalanced XLR). Unfortunately, this assumes I'll keep using onboard sound, which probably isn't the brightest idea with my equipment profile.

 

If I buy a discrete sound card (I have both PCIe 1x and PCI slots available), I can easily wire this using the 3.5mm jacks and force stereo to all jacks using speaker fill. But I keep reading about interference and noise using them. I haven't experienced any noise from PC chassis ground (yet) that I'm aware of.

 

Should I be looking for a 5.1/7.1 solution to send stereo to all the jacks? Or should I go with a stereo output and splitters? Stereo output and a speaker selector?

 

Should I buy a discrete sound card? Buy a USB DAC? Which one? There's so many to choose from! Right now, the ASUS Xonar U7 seems like an easy choice.

 

Budget is about $100. If it has an external sound knob, I'd add about $40 to the budget (the cost of a Griffin PowerMate).


Edited by thadius856 - 4/27/14 at 9:41am
post #2 of 4
5.1 (or 7.1) is designed for certain speaker placement with a front soundstage, with everything relative to the listening position: http://www.audioholics.com/home-theater-connection/speaker-placement-setup-tips-for-upgraded-home-theater-systems

If you can't set your speakers up that way, but rather have them sort of otherwise placed around the room, stereo makes more sense to me in a way. Really hard to know without seeing a picture of your setup.
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply, Cel.

 

The reason I mention running 3 sets in stereo is because we intend this setup to be used almost exclusively for playing guitar with Rocksmith, and other general music listening. We don't anticipate any sources that aren't stereo.

 

So maybe just Y'ing off the stereo output would be better? Or getting a line level speaker selector?

 

Room layout:

 

http://i.imgur.com/dJyaeio.jpg

 

Speaker location:

 

http://i.imgur.com/F9BdPYY.jpg

 

Of course, speakers are pointed towards the seat in front of them.

 

We'd be using the two side-by-side desks most of the time. But the option to also use the third would be nice when guests are over (it turns into a karaoke type deal).

post #4 of 4
OK. I got the impression you were thinking of possibly wiring the room for 5.1 or 7.1. You definitely couldn't do that with this setup. But you could use either a 5.1 sound card or an external DAC that is just stereo. Some kind of splitter make sense to me smily_headphones1.gif

Soundblaster Z is an internal card that can be purchased with an optional external volume control.

Audioengine D1 is an external DAC/headphone amp that I think is a pre-amp line out (and if so, the volume control would work with the speaker connection). Little pricier though smily_headphones1.gif

Schiit Modi is an excellent stereo DAC. You would need your separate volume control.
Edited by cel4145 - 4/27/14 at 3:02pm
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