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How to improve sound quality from HTPC ?

Discussion in 'Computer Components' started by Erling, Apr 12, 2005.

  1. Erling

    Erling
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    Hello all,

    Been using a HTPC for little over a year now, as it's the cheapest and most flexible way to feed a high quality upscaled image to my projector (Not to mention the most troublesome... :rolleyes: )

    Have heard from various sources along the way, that the audio quality from a PC is not on par with a stand alone DVD player. Some have recommended using the expensive Holo3Dgraph cards with a stand alone player, thus making the PC a scaler only.

    Decided recently to do a back-to-back comparison of the audio quality from my HTPC and the stand alone player I used before.

    The DVD player is a Pioneer DV-545. The HTPC is equipped with an M-Audio Revolution 7.1 sound card, outputting a digital SPDIFF signal to my surround processor. Playback software is Theatertek. I used the digital coax output on the Pioneer, with the same digital cable as for the HTPC. (The Revo 7.1 has an RCA SPDIFF socket).

    I used a PCM audio track from a concert DVD for the comparison. To my great disappointment, the stand alone player clearly had the edge over the PC. Sound was considerably clearer and more detailed - like you had removed a veil compared to the PC.

    I realise there will probably be many ready to tell me there can be no difference with a digital signal, but my own theory is that the PC introduces more jitter in the signal than the DVD player. The difference was comparable to what I have heard audio wise in connection with CD players and jitter reduction (for players with separate converter). The player/converter in question was Linn's first CD player. In addition to the digital soundstream, it had an extra connection with the purpose of synchronizing the clock frequencies to reduce jitter. Was very audible if you forgot to connect it.

    Question is, can anything be done about the PC ?
    Are there better sound cards or other hardware options for the PC that might help ?
    Seem to recall from years back that for CD players/converters, you could get some kind of external clock device to put between the player and converter, which would then reduce the jitter and thus improve sound. Could that be a possible solution ?

    Thanks in advance for any input or suggestions.

    Cheers,
    Erling
     
  2. KraGorn

    KraGorn
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    RME soundcards seem to be highly thought of in the 'bottomless wallet' market. :D
     
  3. Hawklan

    Hawklan
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    Hi

    You could also try the LynxTwo B similar price to the RME once you factor in the price for the RME Daughter Board to give you 5.1
    http://www.lynxstudio.com/products.html

    Volume control is easier with the lynx - Basically you cannot control the windows master volume controls with the RME, this used to be a problem with the Lynx but a recent driver fix has sorted it out.
    Saying that I know of a number of happy RME owners that have found work arounds

    The sound apparently is not quiet so warm as the RME (more analytical) which may well suite movies over music. I've gone down the Lynx route after reading copious reviews and posts on both and other cards
    None ofthese cards with give you Bass management - But software like TheatreTek should cover you for DVD playback
    I can't comment on how it sounds yet - Should be able to over the weekend

    Many thanks

    RON
     
  4. CrispyXUK

    CrispyXUK
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    The Revo wont do ASIO over S/Pdif, try an M-Audio 2496 or better card (mentioned above)
     
  5. jrpavel

    jrpavel
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    The M-Audio Transit USB card does bit-perfect playback -- verifiable by sending a track from http://www.sr.se/multikanal/english/e_index.stm but you have to fiddle to switch between PCM and DD/DTS.

    The RME cards are great for bit-perfect PCM, but you won't get them to transmit DD/DTS.

    Lynx cards will always be subject to the KMixer resampling problem.
     
  6. RobsterD

    RobsterD
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    :confused: I've got a 9632 and it o/p's DD/DTS to my amp no probs.
    I got this card for its excellent analogue output which IMO is exceptional very close but not quite up to my Roksan TT
    Use the card with Foobar with the ASIO plugin and it is a worthwhile upgrade from the Maudio 24/96 which I had before.
    The problem will be what you o/p the card into a Richer Sounds special aint gonna do it justice ;)
    Rob
     
  7. jrpavel

    jrpavel
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    I was referring to digital output. Sorry for the confusion.
     
  8. Erling

    Erling
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    Thanks everyone for your replies and suggestions.

    Some new terms and designations for me, so I've had to do a little digging to try and make sense of it all.

    What I use and need is SPDIF output from a sound card and it has to be both DD, DTS and PCM, so I guess that rules out the RME cards ?

    From what you guys tell me and what I've been able to find out, using ASIO would be desirable and might improve the sound quality. Crispy (and others in various forums) claims that the Revo (which I have) won't do ASIO over SPDIF. Checked M-Audio's specifications on their site. It does specify ASIO 2 as a feature for Revo 7.1, so I sent an email to their tech support to ask if does or doesn't do ASIO over SPDIF. Got a reply yesterday where they claim it does support ASIO over SPDIF.

    If we assume that they're correct, how does one go about using ASIO ? Is it something you set in the parameters for the sound card, is a Windows setting, or is it up to the software utilizing the sound card ?

    Thanks again for any replies and suggestions.

    Cheers,
    Erling
     

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