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HTPC HiFi Soundcard Advice

Discussion in 'Computer Components' started by springtide, Oct 17, 2005.

  1. springtide

    springtide
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    Thanks for all of the advice so far! I'm slowly getting there...

    I'm looking at replacing my DVD and CD Player with a HTPC I'm building.
    So, I'm looking for a soundcard that will provide:-

    - Provide AC3/DTS Pass-though to my A/V Amp (Coaxial SPDIF)

    - Output CD Quality analogue to my stereo (as the DACs on my Marantz 7300 A/V Amp aren't as good as my CD Player) via unbalanced (phono) connectors.

    The DVD-RW Drive I've been looking at (Plaxtor SATA) appears to have digital out.

    I'm not too worried if the card has a external box as long as it's not the 19" rack size (The main point is to consoladate boxes)

    The obvious choice appears to be the M-Audio 1010LT as this seems to do all that I'm asking (but is a little below my budget)

    I've been looking though the Forums and everyone seems to rate the RME Hammerfall cards - although these don't appear to do AC3/DTS Pass-though and also appear to need additional cards/modules. I've downloaded the manual and it all looks rather complicated to setup.

    Also, I'm looking for ease of use. Setup once and forget kind of thing.

    I've been thinking whether it wound be better to pushing the Digital Out of the DVD-RW Drive into an external stereo DAC. Or even into the digital in of the soundcard and backout of the analogue output, bypassing the "Windows Mixer". Anyone tried this? Or is better to go via the IDE/SATA transfer route?

    Do I save my money and get the M-Audio 1010LT?
    What do people think of the Creative EMU 1820M cards? (do they do AC3/DTS Pass-though?) One review talked about them using the same DACS as the Lynx 2 cards (http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/creative-emu-1820/)

    Or has someone else have any better recommendations?

    Thanks
     
  2. The Dude

    The Dude
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    If you want to keep using your AV amp, the Maudio 2496 is a no-brainer IMO.

    The analog output from that card is vastly superior to the analog output from a Denon AVR3803, and on par with a Musical Fidelity XDAC in my experiences with both. As soon as I tried the analog output from my 2496, the Denon went back in it's box (I was using mainly 2Ch at the time)

    I've just upgraded my 2496 to an FW410, in order to get 5.1 (7.1) analog output direct from the soundcard to my Aaron power amps..

    Both of these cards do everything you need, TBH, I'd just go get yourself a £60 Maudio 2496 and prepare to be stunned.... :)

    Use an ASIO capable player such as JRiver or Foobar... and you don't even need to worry about the digital output on your DVD drive... not required at all...:smashin:
     
  3. meansizzler

    meansizzler
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    Nowadays windows can stream Digital Audio through the IDE cable of your cd rom, so there is no need to get one with an SPDIF output, I don't know of a way to select the spdif of your soundcard to use for cd playback anyway withing media player/center, they all use Digital audio coming out of the IDE cable, so it's best sticking with and IDE drivem the LG 4163b is a highly recommended drive, can write to all formats even DVD-RAM, them plextors are expensive...as for the soundcard the Sound Blaster Audugy 2 ZS works for me, but it's up to you what you want....
     
  4. springtide

    springtide
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    On searching this forum, I saw your pst from before...
    What was the reason to go Firewire rather than PCI?
    Better sound quality due to less noise? Or we you just short of PCI slots?
    Another thought I've been having was to bypass the DD/DTS decoder in my A/V amp and use the soundcard for all 8 channels (I have 7.1 analogue in on my Amp). Would you say this is a prefered option (or only really neccessary with high end dedicated amps).

    I've decided on the Plextor as I'm short for space - it's 30mm shorter (170mm rather than 200mm) and less cable mess with SATA.
     
  5. The Dude

    The Dude
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    I only upgraded to the FW410 to get the 7.1 analog outputs.. the 2496 has 2Ch analog output, with SPDIF passthrough for using an AV reciever..

    I wanted to get rid of the reciever alltogether and go straight to my poweramps, so a card with at least 5.1 analog output was the priority..

    After getting the card though, the FW410 is such a vast improvement over the already excellent 2496, that I believe, as you suggested, that the external enclosure, and seperate DC power supply, play a major part in the differences.. Inside a PC case in not exactly a quiet environment electrically speaking ;)

    If you've got a decent AV reciever, this will probably do a better job of surround processing at this current time.. we're still some way off having PC software to do as good a job overall.. TheaterTek does very well, but still only supports 5.1 as things stand.

    I only do a small amount of movie watching, *my priority is 2Ch quality*, so a very decent soundcard driving my PowerAmps was the big thing for me, on that basis I wanted rid of the 'spare' AV reciever, so went for the multichannel soundcard option.

    It would be interesting to compare my FW410 & TheaterTek to the AVR3803 for 5.1 surround quality, I think the Maudio/TheaterTek would come out on top.
     
  6. owain_thomas

    owain_thomas
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    I've got an RME 9632 and am delighted with the sound quality. Not sure where you read that they can't do DTS/DD passthrough, I've never bothered with mine but I'm pretty sure it works. As for additional cards you only need those if you want multichannel analogue outputs, if you want digital for DD/DTS and analogue for stereo that would just need the basic card. the manual is quite daunting because it details a lot of stuff you would likely never use, the cards are pretty straightforward to use IME.
     
  7. springtide

    springtide
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    Quick question..... I've seen references to the RME DSP9632 and the HDSP9632. Are these the same cards?

    The card appears to have...

    - Coaxial Digital In & Out
    - Stereo In & Out RCA
    - Headphone out
    - Midi In and Out

    Is this correct?

    Just downloaded the manual and it does appear the HDSP9632 does support AC3/DTS passthrough.
     
  8. edward

    edward
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    I can totally recommend the RME HDSP 9632. They aren't cheap - in fact I'll probably take mine to the grave with me - but if sound quality is important to you, they're worth it.
     
  9. owain_thomas

    owain_thomas
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    the 'H' stands for hammerfall which is the name of the range of cards. it is omitted sometimes but they are the same cards. the outputs you listed are correct. the analogue/midi ones come from a breakout cable which is supplied with the card.
     
  10. springtide

    springtide
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    Cool. Looks like I've finally made a decision.
    Just done a search on the internet and found:

    http://www.thomann.de/thoiw2_artikel-182605.html


    Seem to have the RME DSP9632 for £275 including delivery!
    Anyone bought anything from Thomann?

    Cheers
     
  11. martian1

    martian1
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    Sorry to ask the question if rude but i have a HDA X MYSTIQUE 7.1 GOLD sound card. I have a digital coaxial going to my marantz amp for movies but want 2 channel stereo from the card to my trusty Audiolab 8000c amp for music, audiolab also drives fronts for films.
    Can this work without having to go into sound card settings and switch from 5.1 to stereo?..I find this a right PITA to do every time i want to switch between movies from marantz and music through the audio lab.
    I have only tried the digital to coaxial not any phono's leads. which would be best for music playback :confused:
    I forgot to add i have just installed Foobar 2000 and got new drivers for my card to allow ASIO capability but not tried it yet.
    Cheers all... Oh :lease: appologies springtide for my question.
     
  12. owain_thomas

    owain_thomas
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    hi martian,

    not sure as i've never owned your card, but on the RME you can set one bit of software to use the digital output (for example theatertek) and one to use the analogue outputs (eg foobar). seem to remember that my maudio card couldn 't do this so may not work.

    another option would be to see if there are any keyboard shortcuts for the Mystique, if there are then you can use something like Girder to change between these (maybe using a remote control)
     
  13. martian1

    martian1
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    Sounds interesting i may lookup keyboard shortcuts..bur whats RME AND GIRDER never heard of these..newbee to this.
    Thanks
     
  14. owain_thomas

    owain_thomas
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    the RME is the soundcard that's been mentioned above a few times. it's not cheap but it's very good.

    girder is an application that lets you control all sorts of PC software, it also integrates this with infra red receiver/transmitter hardware. basically lets you do all sorts of simple/complicated control functions for your PC and home cinema equipment. have a look at www.girder.nl for more details.
     
  15. martian1

    martian1
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    Thanks for the link i wil take a look
     
  16. cameronl

    cameronl
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    use the RME9632 :)

    CaM
     
  17. spamboy

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    If you want to spend a bit less money it's also worth looking at the emu1212m. Very high quality dac's in theory, sound has been compared to the Lynx cards. Perhaps a bit too revealing for hi fi though. Been seeing then go for £80-100 on ebay, £130 new.

    I've just bought one but haven't had a chance to try it out yet. I was planning to buy a 9632 before I found out about them (and if money were no object, that's what I would have bought.)
     
  18. springtide

    springtide
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  19. spamboy

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    If you're only only going to use two channels, the 1212m has the same dac's. It's not external, but it's much cheaper.
     
  20. springtide

    springtide
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    Thanks. After much thought - I've just placed an order for an RME HDSP9632 :)

    I saw a review of the RME DIGI96/8 here:

    http://archive.avsforum.com/avs-vb/...threadid=236215

    There's a section in the text:

    "For this test we had two PC set-up as follows: Dan’s Windows XP based Audio PC with Delta1010 and LynxTWO cards, both with ASIO drivers. Player was 4am Music console with ASIO plug-in, music files were all uncompressed WAV ripped with Exact Audio Copy. I contributed Carillon Audio PC (Windows XP) with RME DIGI96/8 PAD (driver bypasses kmixer so ASIO was unnecessary). Player was Sonic Foundry Siren (currently reincarnated as Sony Screenblast SIREN), music files were encoded in Perfect Clarity Audio loss-less compression."

    That seems to imply that the RME drivers for the DIGI96/8 PAD "bypass the kmixer", so you don't need to use am ASIO player. Is this true for the DIGI96/8 PAD? And if so, is this also true for the 9632?
     
  21. springtide

    springtide
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    Searching the forums, it looks like the drivers do bypass the kmixer. (I'm not that familiar with the kmixer, ASIO drivers or the general Windows sound architecture). Am I right in thinking that there would be no improvement in sound by using an ASIO player over say Windows Media while playing back CD or WAV files through the analogue out?
     

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