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Meridian Processor / HCPC Soundcard

Discussion in 'Computer Components' started by Canoehq, Oct 26, 2002.

  1. Canoehq

    Canoehq
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    After hours of reading, I'm more confused now than when I started, yet my question is probably very simple. Can someone help me ?

    I only want to connect a soundcard in my HCPC to a Meridian 568 Processor ...................so simply put, which soundcard do I buy (M-Audiophile, Delta 410 or A N Other) and what kind of cable and output / input connections (Coax, digital, spdif) do I use to link them for optimum performance ?

    I'm assuming that the Meridian sound processing will be superior to that of a soundcard, but who knows, maybe it isn't...........any views ?

    Cheers for all or any help.

    Canoehq
     
  2. Branxx

    Branxx
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    Considering the quality of Meridian 568 you should go for RME DIGI 96/8 PAD. That would quality wise be at par with Meridian.

    However, I think cheaper card may also work very well and Meridian internally re-closck SPDIF stream in order to minimise jitter. So, M-Audio Audiophile woudl be a cheaper choice.
     
  3. Canoehq

    Canoehq
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    Thanks for the reply.

    However, my confusion arises as I'm not clear whether I should be buying a high end soundcard (with all decoding bells and whistles) or a cheaper one which does 'pass through' only and leaves the more technical bits to the Meridian.

    Perhaps there is no point in spending that much buying an expensive card just for it to pass the signal through or is that the point, a higher end card somehow passes the signal 'better' ?

    Thanks for any further help.

    Canoehq
     
  4. Branxx

    Branxx
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    Canoehq,

    I see where you are heading. The sound card itself does not do decoding, it is simply just a (multi-channel) conduit for the sound information, in either digital or analogue form.

    Decoding can be achieved within HTPC with suitable software in which case the sound card would have to have sufficient number of channels for all decoded channels to be passed thru, in what ever form you choose.

    Think of sound card as a pure CD transport player. It simply passes the digital information to an external DAC. You can by one of these starting from £500 up to £10,000. The obvious question is, if all CD transport does is ‘pass through’ the digital signal, is the more expensive one passing the signal ‘better’? This is one of these ‘bits-are-bits question’.

    I recently bought RME card for £270, M-Audio card is around £130. These costs are laughingly small in comparison to cost of Meridian and other associated gear that probably cost you in excess of £10,000. Why risking getting even 1% less than maximum you can from your hi-fi investment by trying to safe few quid. That would be at least my logic and my system is similar to yours.

    I also use M-Audio Delta DIO, and STAudio DSP24 sound cards. RME is renowned for extremely log jitter especially when optical SPDIF are used. Additionally, main channel D/A converters in this card are of exceptional quality. That would in its own right be positive addition to any system.

    More importantly, RME drivers for Windows XP and 2000 are written so they bypass Windows kmixer (kmixer reclocks all sound streams and in doing so clouds the original in detrimental way). STAudio DSP24 drivers are equally written to avoid kmixer. M-Audio Delta drivers are not. This is not in itself pointing to low quality of M-Audio gear. It only says that they choose to following Windows WDM standard for sound card drivers (that forces all streams through kmixer), and RME, STAudio and some other manufacturers decided to ignore the standard in order to achieve maximum sound quality. Note that kmixer problem is present even is you only want to use the card in the SPDIF pass through mode.
     
  5. Canoehq

    Canoehq
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    Wow !

    Great answer Branxx and just what I was looking for, thanks !:D

    So, am I right in thinking that a single cable connecting the soundcard SPDIF output to the Meridian DVD input is all I need and that this one cable will carry all of the 7.1 information for the Meridian to then split out to the various speakers. (I should say that I will be using a set of ATC Concept 4 active speakers).

    Finally, which RME card do you recommend for what I need it to do and what kind of cable do I need ?

    Thanks once again

    Canoehq

    As an afterthought, I suppose there imust be the potential with a sensible RME card to wire the sound card outputs directly to the speakers and avoid the Meridian altogether ! But that's for another day !
     
  6. Branxx

    Branxx
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    Conoehq,

    RME DIGI96/8 PAD has both SPDIF optical and coax. They are both extremely good, but some have suggested optical has an edge. I connect my RME to Lexicon MC-12B via coax and have not found anything to complain about. I’ve also connected analogue stereo out, and when using it I put Lex in bypass mode (speakers are active M&K MPS series). In many cases RME sounds better than Lex!

    The data stream coming form your PC via sound card is either PCM encoded, which Meridian would recognise as standard two channel audio and, depending on your settings, would apply additional processing, for example Dolby Pro Logic II, etc. Alternatively data stream may be encoded differently, as in the case of Dolby Digital (DD) or DTS (so called non-audio streams). Your Meridian will properly recognise the type of encoding and will apply correct decoding algorithm and unpack the stream into as many channels as were originally encoded. In other words, if the DVD is encoded with DD 5.1, this stream of data will reach Meridian, which will unpack it into 6 discrete audio channels; if it was encoded in DD 7.1, than the same happens. For the sound card data stream is always the same, what exactly is in the stream is up to Meridian for figure out. If in two years time we have DVD encoded with 10.2 sound and your Meridian has appropriate decoder, your sound card will work just fine (with proviso that the total amount of data that can be passed through SPDIF interface will impose the limit on number of channels that can be meaningfully packed into the data stream, i.e. there is bandwidth limitation).

    The card I am recommending is RME DIGI 96/8 PAD. I paid approx £270, but you can order it now from www.thomann.de for only £260. The cable is not really making much difference. I use cheap video lead as SPDIF coax. Use what ever you have confidence.

    Happy listening.
     
  7. Canoehq

    Canoehq
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    Once again, thank you for such a concise and informative reply.

    Canoehq
     

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