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Soundcard with Optical out

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by shoruk3n, Nov 16, 2012.
  1. Shoruk3n
    Hi all!  So I have http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/PUSA/Home/Home-Theater-Systems/HTS-GS1 which I use for my PS3, and have recently decided life would be easier if I used it for my PC as well.  My question is what sound card would be a good choice for using optical out?  I want to use TOSLINK I believe, although I'm not entirely sure.  Any Help would be greatly appreciated!
     
    Edit:  The HTS-GS1 also has coaxial input, if that matters.  I'm so confused!
     
    Edit 2:  Just noticed my TV has an optical output.  Since I'm using HDMI input from my video card, is it possible to simply hook up the surround system to this optical out from the TV?
     
  2. HalidePisces
    [​IMG]

    Just about any motherboard made after 2000 will have some sort of S/PDIF output. You can tell by looking at the back of the motherboard where all the I/O stuff is located. The top orange RCA port is coaxial. That square port below it is optical.

    For sound cards, this isn't always that obvious. Some have what's called a "mini-TOSLINK" port, which is a 3.5mm port (exactly like ones for headphone and microphone) that requires an adapter. You can find out if that's the case through a quick read of a card's specifications. Like motherboards, unless you're considering a sound card from before the PCI days or an el-cheapo USB sound card, almost any sound card made within the last 10-15 years will have some sort of S/PDIF output.

    As for which to use, optical is generally preferred due to interference concerns. However, optical cables has a shorter maximum length and don't take sharp bends well.

    Since you're outputting the sound digitally from your computer, the choice of sound card doesn't really matter. Even the on-board digital output is fine. Your HTS-GS1 will do the actual conversion from digital to analog so it can be played through your speakers. The choice of sound card only really matters if you're gaming on the PC. And even then, mostly for pre-Vista games. If that does apply to you, we've got a massive thread on that.

    EDIT: I forgot to address the HDMI input and TV optical out matter. Your TV's optical out will only output stereo even if the HDMI input has more audio channels. You can thank HDCP for that.
     
  3. Shoruk3n
    Thank you for the VERY helpful reply!  My Mobo is http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/AMD_AM2Plus/M3A78_PRO/#specifications, which has coaxial s/pdif.  So is that the correct type of output I need?  And if so, doesn't using the on-board sound use more CPU than if I had a soundcard?  I'm concerned with using up processing power for sound in games where I'm pushing my rig to keep 30 fps.  Lastly, what type of cable do I need?  I looked up s/pdif on newegg, but I see a lot of stuff that looks like the digital optical cable I already have.  Thanks again!
     
  4. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Quote:
    You need to use a digital coaxial cable from your motherboard to the to the HTS-GS1,
    http://www.monoprice.com/products/subdepartment.asp?c_id=102&cp_id=10236
    Make sure you've updated the audio software to the latest version for your PC's on-board audio.
    In the windows control panel, in the "sound" subsection, in the "playback" tab, make sure the S/PDIF is the default output.
    When your sending the digital audio thru the S/PDIF (optical & coaxial) digital cable, the CPU is doing very little audio processing.
    Most modem multi-core CPUs should have more then enough processing power for audio anyway.
     
  5. Shoruk3n
  6. PurpleAngel Contributor
  7. Shoruk3n
    So I've been doing some more digging around for info.  My current soundcard is an Audigy 2 zs, which I cannot find a manual for online anywhere.  I believe it has a digital out (s/pdif I think/hope?), but maybe in the form of a 2.5mm connector?  Are there audio cables that are 2.5mm output --> coaxial input?  If so, is that all I would need to hook up my PC to my Pioneer sound system?
     
  8. HalidePisces

    Your search-fu is weak. These were the first and third results from a search for "Audigy 2 ZS" on Google:

    http://support.creative.com/Products/ProductDetails.aspx?prodID=4915
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102178

    The first link to the manufacturer of the Audigy 2 ZS. Click on "Quickstart User Guide" and you'll see a link for the manual. Or you can just use the link below...
    http://support.creative.com/manuals/download.aspx?nDownloadId=7127

    The other link is to Newegg, a major online retailer serving the US, Canada and China. If you don't live in one of those countries, you may not see Newegg as a result. Doesn't matter. The important thing is that Newegg usually offers detailed pictures of the things they sell.

    [​IMG]

    Here you can see the "Digital Out jack" on the right. This is that "mini-TOSLINK" I mentioned before in my earlier post. You will need a 3.5mm to TOSLINK adapter between your optical cable and your sound card.
    Example of a 3.5mm mini-TOSLINK to TOSLINK adapter: http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?p_id=2671
     
  9. Shoruk3n
    Thanks again for all your help, I really appreciate it.  I found the product page for the soundcard earlier, but I didn't see a link for the manual.
     
    Ok cool, so I can use a mini-TOSLINK to TOSLINK and get all hooked up!  But since my card doesn't have Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect, I still won't be gaming with true 5.1 then, correct?  For that I would actually need to purchase a new card with those features?
     
  10. HalidePisces
    It's a bit buried in the manual, but I believe the Audigy 2 ZS can decode Dolby Digital and DTS. Check out "Connecting Related Peripherals" -> "Watching DVDs" in the manual. However, your sound card won't be decoding it anyway. The digital out will pass the encoded audio stream to your HTS-GS1 and will be decoded there. The HTS-GS1 can decode Dolby Digital and DTS, so you should be fine.

    As a note, the decoding on your sound card could be used to directly connect to speakers instead of having to use a receiver. But you're probably better off using an external DAC such the HTS-GS1 due to internal computer noise concerns.

    This would be your set-up:
    Audigy 2 ZS Digital Out Jack --> 3.5mm mini-TOSLINK to TOSLINK adapter --> TOSLINK cable --> HTS-GS1 (any decoding would be done here) --> Speakers


    You can get a 3.5mm mini-TOSLINK to TOSLINK cable, but I would recommend an adapter instead. I don't think they make adapters going the other way, so you would have more usage options with a TOSLINK to TOSLINK cable.
     
  11. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Quote:
    Refurb Creative Labs X-Fi Titanium (non-HD) PCI-E sound card, $49.99
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102043
     

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