Did I screw myself by buying a sound card?

DarkSable

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Sep 27, 2012
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Heya Tom's!

So I recently bought a mini-pcie to pcie x1 adapter and an Asus Xonar DX to put in my computer. I'm super excited about this, but then I began thinking about how that's going to work, and if I just screwed myself on sound. Here's the scenario:

I have an old stereo setup - it's got pretty good quality speakers, but the sub is dead and the receiver is so old that it can't connect to a modern sub. So, I'm buying a new receiver (Likely either this one or this one) along with a subwoofer. (One of these three.)

With that setup, I would either run optical / RCA from the Xonar DX to the receiver, or I would run HDMI passthrough. (Can I run hdmi passthrough from my graphics card and still get the benefits of a sound card?)

The other option would be to buy something like a pair of monitor style speakers which would connect directly to the sound card. In addition to this, an optical cable would lead to my headphone amp.

So here are my questions:

1) Aside from giving me surround and better sound for the headphones (for gaming), did buying the sound card and the adaptor actually gain me anything?

2) Can I run HDMI passthrough to the receiver and still get the benefit of the sound card, and more importantly, does the sound card still even have a benefit when using a receiver?

3) Any ideas on which of those receivers and subs would be best? I'm open to other suggestions as well.

4) What is the advantage of having the monitor-style speakers? How are they going to sound compared to a traditional setup?

Thank you for all your help - I know computers well, but not audio as much, and I'm just trying to get a good setup for listening to high-quality music.

EDIT: Just to clarify, when gaming, I will be using an Astro Mixamp Pro connected by optical, and Astro A40s. This should give me 5.1 or 7.1 surround, correct?
What I want the sound setup for is JUST for listening to music, and it will always be a stereo setup; I couldn't care less about surround. Thanks!
 

thee_prisoner

Distinguished
If you get a receiver, run HDMI through the video card. Optical has it limitations in terms of bandwidth. It can only send compressed 5.1 and can't do 7.1. For just music, you can use the optical on the sound card or use the mobo analog/optical/HDMI or video card HDMI.

The Behringer monitor speakers you linked to have their own DAC so the sound card is just an expensive pass through. The speakers will be doing the D/A conversion.

To answer your other questions;

1) The Astro mix amp does all the surround processing. You gain a slightly cleaner sound(S/N ratio) whether you will notice it or not depends on the quality of the sound source and your equipment. With gaming sounds, you probably won't notice a difference. Almost all people wouldn't notice the difference.

2) The sound card will be totally out of the picture. You won't get any benefit.

3) On what receiver subs are best, give us a budget and what if any equipment you have at the moment. Personally, I'm not a fan of receivers( I use separates) because that way I can upgrade and add new electronics to my setup. For example, I use separate amps and a pre amp. Receivers have to compromise a lot to get everything in one package. Also, if you aren't using this for movies or gaming, a simple integrated amp or receiver is fine. You will be using a receiver/integrated amp or pre amp as a input/output controller device. Which is convenient if you have to hook up a bunch of different input devices. Your old receiver will work since the sound card has analog outputs.

4) I'm not sure what you mean by a traditional setup. For me a traditional setup has ALWAYS been using a home stereo speakers, amp, pre amps etc. If you mean in terms of computer speakers compared to monitor style speakers, Pro or some consumer grade monitor speakers are quite good and used for near field(close to you) are similar to computer speakers in that they are meant for near field. Most computers are very below average in sound, some are ok and a few very decent. SO it depends on when listening to music if you will be near the speakers or do you want to fill a room with sound.

In terms of your edit questions; the sound card while using the optical output only outputs compressed 5.1 then the Astro mix amp re-processes it to 7.1. It is really too bad that headphones don't have HDMI inputs, which is a much superior tech. I prefer analog 5.1/7.1 over optical. My Turtle Beach Earforce HPA2s use analog outputs(better for gaming and movies, HDMI can be better depending) and sound better then the Astros because it is true 5.1 discrete channels not simulated. Having said that, I have listened to both the Astro 40s and 50s and they are good.

TO answer the question did you screw yourself over buying a sound card, for high quality music, meaning high quality source(not mp3), high quality amp and speakers, you didn't screw yourself. But if you are just using low quality of the items you selected, then a sound card won't make much of a difference. I'm not saying you have to spend a lot of money on good quality items, used home stereo stuff is a good way to try some components out. Having a local indie stereo store carrying used/new would be a good first stop and to listen to the items you might buy.

I guess, I just find it strange(not a flame post) that you have a fairly expensive computer, a sound card, buy an expensive headset and want to cheap out in terms of music.

Post what you have left over from your old system(receiver/speakers) and maybe we can work with that and do a mix of old/used and new. I can recommend some stuff once we have all the information.

Happy listening, the Prisoner...
 

DarkSable

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Sep 27, 2012
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The music that I'm listening to is a mix between FLACs and 320 kbps streaming from Spotify. I'm sorry though, I think you may have misunderstood me - I'm not trying to cheap out in terms of music (though my budget isn't huge) - I'm new to the world of audiophilia, and completely lost as to what I should be looking for. Anyways, thanks for the advice, and here goes:

1/2) Mnkay. I've pretty much come to the point of realizing then that the sound card isn't going to give me any sort of benefit, correct? (i.e. that there's no way of setting it up so that it will give me better sound than sending HDMI to my receiver.) If that's the case, then I think I might just return it. [The reason I was loathe to do that was that it was a gift I had requested specifically.]

3) I don't really have a set budget - the max is $400 for everything, and in theory, I only need the receiver and a sub. I know that's pushing it a lot, but it's all I can afford in the foreseeable future. For the equipment I already have, see below. (My old receiver might work to hook up to the computer, yes, but I don't think there's a modern subwoofer that can connect to it...)

That being said, what's the advantage to having a seperate amp for each speaker? Wouldn't they have to go back to a receiver to be controlled anyways?

4) I was trying to see if having those speakers would be a better option for my setup than a traditional speaker / sub / receiver setup. That being said, I'm probably going to go for the 'fill the room with sound' option. It should be fairly easy, as the room is small. (Though it does have some odd angles in it.)

Analogue just means the usual 3.5mm connectors like usually found on onboard sound, doesn't it? I always thought that gave worse sound quality than other options. I do like my A40s, and they're perfect for what I want them for - gaming. I can't stand them for listening to music, though; they fall to pieces at both the lower and higher registers. (Plus it's way more comfortable to listen to music without a heavy pair of headphones on anyways.)

How did I not screw myself by buying a sound card? From what you're telling me, it sounds like I would get equal if not better sound by sending HDMI to a receiver as using S/PDIF from the sound card.


Here's everything I've got so far, including what I'm looking at getting:

Computer-side:
- A GTX 670 which can route my excess monitor through a receiver by way of HDMI
- A Asus Xonar DX which I can return if need be. (Though I'd swallow $70 on the korean adapter I bought to make it work... but that's okay, I could find something else to use it for.)
- An Astro Mixamp Pro and a pair of Astro A40s. [Which only matter so far as getting surround out of them.]

Receiver side:
- My old receiver, an Onkyo tx-84. It's got speaker wire out, and RCA out, but no sub out; when I got it, it had a half-working jury-rigged sub connected by two sets of speaker wire.

- A dead subwoofer with (I think) a pair of 10" drivers. When the drivers are tested with a 9v battery, they seem to still function, but the wiring and casing is a mess. How feasible would it be for me to make a new housing for these guys, and how would I wire them? I'd be willing to try it if it would be a good option.

- Two large speakers. I can tell you that they're Kef Coda IIIs, but that's the only identification I can find about them. Keep in mind these are what I think are called loudspeakers - i.e. they only have the black and red ports used for speaker wire. Beyond that, I know nothing about them - I used to use them on a bookshelf, because I don't think they're big enough to be floor speakers... but they're too big to really be considered bookshelf speakers; they come up to my knee.

I'm looking at buying a refurb Pioneer along with what I think is a very good subwoofer. It's $200 right now, but I think that's actually a sale price (instead of setting an MSRP of $1000 and selling it for $300), because amazon is selling them for $600. Am I right about that, and would that be a good setup?
(Also, in terms of wiring, the Kefs would be hooked though speaker wire and the sub would use an... RCA cable, right? Would I have to buy the RCA cable, or would it come with that?)


Anyways, thank you SO much for your time and for helping a lost noob who wants to be an audiophile but doesn't know where to start.
 

thee_prisoner

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"How did I not screw myself by buying a sound card? From what you're telling me, it sounds like I would get equal if not better sound by sending HDMI to a receiver as using S/PDIF from the sound card." Sound cards have their advantages but what you're using it for since the receiver you might be purchasing and you have the Astro 40s. My big beef with sound cards is they need to go for high quality analog, HDMI and optical(at least in terms of SPDIF is limiting).

"The music that I'm listening to is a mix between FLACs and 320 kbps streaming from Spotify. I'm sorry though, I think you may have misunderstood me - I'm not trying to cheap out in terms of music (though my budget isn't huge) - I'm new to the world of audiophilia, and completely lost as to what I should be looking for."

Streaming music and FLAC(is pretty good) are still aren't the best in terms of musical quality. Digital can be great with the right equipment(along with analog). Analog is a pure signal not tainted by any DACs. I would read up on digital vs analog. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Streaming has inherent disadvantages but I listen to streaming music on Shoutcast.com, LastFm and etc. So there isn't anything wrong with that.

1/2: IF you run the HDMI from the motherboard or video card to the receiver(or separates) the sound card will do nothing. For the Astro's it might help in a cleaner sound(higher S/N ratio) using the optical from the sound card but the Astro's mix amp will be doing the processing. Gaming sounds aren't really high fidelity but you want great spatial(discrete) sounds for gaming.

3: On the old receiver, I haven't been able to find a manual or a picture of the back for hook ups.(can't find an image or manual) But if anything, it can work as an amp maybe down the road. The advantages of having separates is; think of a pre amp(a basic pre amp is just a volume control and depending adds other stuff) like your mobo(adding sound cards, vid card and etc) and you can add various amps, tuners, surround processors, turntables and etc to your system. It makes swapping stuff out cheaper in the long run. Plus the components are better quality, amp in receivers are generally sub par. Nothing wrong with receivers but I prefer separates. It just gives you more options . For your budget, unless you have a good independent stereo store around that sell new/used, the Receiver you linked to looks ok.

4: The Kef Coda IIIs are considered floor, bookshelf speakers or on a stand in that time period. Kef makes good speakers and I wouldn't have a problem using them(in other words, pretty dang nice speakers and a keeper for future projects). A sub would be helpful since the lower bass are not great but with the Velodyne link you provided, it should work well.

The Velodyne(they make good speakers) sub for 200.00!!! looks like a good purchase, the receiver looks fine too.

On the hooking them up, look at the sub manual. But basically since the sub is powered, it can do the crossover functions if you want it to. You have some options but the Kefs and this sub will make a good 2.1 speaker system. In terms of setup you have to make a decision on the whether the sub makes the crossover on the receiver(or separate) or the sub. Since receiver amps are generally not very good, I suggest letting that sub use it amp and let the receiver power the Kefs. Just refer to the sub manual and it will explain it.

PS: The old sub, I would play around with it and maybe check out DIYaudio.com and post what you have.
PSS: I can't emphasize enough about hitting up a local indie stereo store looking for used stuff. Great values and listening before you buy plus full trade in value.

Happy listening, the Prisoner...
 
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