Do I need soundcard for 5.1 surround sound on this motherboard?

bestmak

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Hey! I'm planning on buying the Logitech X-540 70 watts 5.1 Speakers for gaming and listening to music/watching movies and have a Gigabyte 97A DS3P and Windows 8. The motherboard has three outputs on the back and I have no idea if I can get true 5.1 using this motherboard because I'm pretty sure one is for the mic and another for 2.1 channel sound (I know nothing about this). Do I need a soundcard? If so, what kind (I know nothing about that either)? Can you recommend a super cheap soundcard? Do you think there are better speakers for under $100?

Any help will be appreciated. :D
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
honestly that is for you to decide. i can list my thoughts... but it would be my own opinion and may not be the same as yours.

i prefer speakers as you can likely tell from my build pics http://postimg.org/gallery/ql0xj0nu/ for positional audio. i really dont like wearing headphones unless i have to (i bought my m50s to use when traveling and also while at work). i hate headsets and the only headphones i would use are my studio headphones except for earbuds i use while working out (since they are cheap and replaceable).

personally... i'll never give up my surround sound set and studio headphones.

---

razer surround + your earbuds you have now: its cheap.. and if you're happy with how razer surround works go for it. you wont get the best sound out of your current earbuds but if its good enough for your needs then you can save some cash and perhaps buy something really nice later on.

razer surround + new headphones:
the trouble is that your soundcard may not support good headphones because it might lack enough power to drive them. you can likely power something like the m50's though. they arent the best for soundstage but you will get a whole helluva lot of increase in sound quality if your card can power them.

new DH soundcard + your earbuds you have now: likely a waste. while dolby headphone is toted to be good i would pair it up with half decent headphones to make best use of it.

new DH soundcard + new headphones: if you have a soundcard capable of DH plus its capable of powering good headphones then you have a great solution. paired up with something like a hd598 its about the best you're going to get for headphones unless you spend quite a bit of money. even if you just use a pair like the m50s or dt770 its going to sound better than a headset.

surround sound headset: if you're looking for easy plug and play or relatively inexpensive headphones that have surround then you might want this route. they have a mic included so you dont have to worry about buying one. sound quality is typically significantly less than good headphones but so is the price. you also dont normally need a soundcard for headsets.

new soundcard + SS headset: unless you buy a set which has 3x3.5mm inputs then its a waste of money. usb headsets have their own soundcard inside so they bypass any soundcard which makes it useless.

new soundcard + speakers: this is the most comfortable option capable of the most boomy bass. if you arent worried about waking up or bothering others its great. you get true surround sound as well. speakers dont always play nice with microphones but you can get them to work without echo if your placement and settings are right.

---

however thats just my take on things. i'm sure there are people who think just the opposite (and quite a few people love headsets).

pick whatever will fit your needs best.
 
This X540 needs three outputs from your PC: Front L/R, Back L/R and center. Check with your motherboard whether you can reconfigure the jacks to provide for these signals.

As for add-on soundcard: Check reputable places (Amazon, NewEgg) for 5.1 soundcard with discrete outputs.
 

bestmak

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Can you briefly explain what that is?
Here is the link to my motherbaord and you can check the specs from this link too."
Link: http://ca.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=4591#ov

Also, do you know about any specific sound cards that might work well with this surround sound system? :p
 
S/PDIF is digital audio link (over either coaxial or optical cable) which can carry surround sound. It was widely used before HDMI became popular to carry sound from DVD players to receivers.

From the picture you've posted, it looks that your motherboard does not support it, and neither do the chosen speakers. But if you go this way, you can buy "cheap" receiver with S/PDIF input, and look for soundcard with similar output.
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
closed your other thread... its pretty much a duplicate of this one.

this is what you had listed there in case anyone is curious

Hi! I'll get straight to the point:
- I know nothing about sound cards and requirements for 5.1/7.1 etc
- I have the Gigabyte 97A DS3P mother board and I see "three holes" in the back.
- One says "Mic", one says "Line IN" and the other says "Line Out". From what I've read I think I need Front LF, Rear LF and Sub/Center...
- Do I need a sound card for true 5.1 surround sound?
- If yes, what kind of sound card am I looking for? Can you please suggest one for like...super cheap?
- Also, please suggest any good 5.1 channel surround sound speakers for $120 or less. I know about the Logitech Z506 for $95 at Dell, but do you know about anything cheaper/better for that price?
 

bestmak

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Dec 27, 2013
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I wasn't getting a lot of replies here and posted at a time when most people are at work in US/CAN so I decided to post it at a later time and be more clear. Also, I'm not sure if I will buy the Logitech X-540 so I removed that in the newer post since the update function wasn't working for me at the time. Just curious to know, why did you close it? I don't think it was doing any harm. Does it violate the rules of Tom's Hardware? If so, which rule does it violate?
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
the specs for the motherboard say
2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
BUT

the manual (not sure which version you have... but this is for ver3) http://download.gigabyte.us/FileList/Manual/mb_manual_ga-970a-ds3_v.3.x_e.pdf says

Line In Jack (Blue)
The default line in jack. Use this audio jack for line in devices such as an optical drive, walkman, etc.
Line Out Jack (Green)
The default line out jack. Use this audio jack for a headphone or 2-channel speaker. This jack can be used
to connect front speakers in a 4/5.1/7.1-channel audio configuration.
Mic In Jack (Pink)
The default Mic in jack. Microphones must be connected to this jack.
To configure 7.1-channel audio, you have to use an HD front panel audio module and enable the
multi-channel audio feature through the audio driver.
so unless you had some sort of front panel module (not worth having really) the answer is no, it doesnt support surround and you DO need to buy a soundcard.

as for the spdif output jack... you can ignore that as you wont be using it for the x540 system. this is only used to connect to home theater receivers and some speakers like the expensive z906. 99% of computer 5.1 speakers hook up via 3x3.5mm jacks.

if all you wanted was 5.1 sound output and arent very picky then for $28 this would work for you to purchase http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829132020&cm_re=asus_xonar-_-29-132-020-_-Product and connect up your speakers to. its not high end but it will get the job done for a decent price.

 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
I don't think it was doing any harm. Does it violate the rules of Tom's Hardware? If so, which rule does it violate?
while i agree you didnt mean any harm by it, we dont allow duplicate posts. this is why i closed it and linked your information here for others to read.
 

bestmak

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Oh ok. Two questions.

1) Kinda off topic but how can you see what other users post and close them? Is it because you are a moderator? How did you become one? Seems prestigious.

2) On a different approach...what do you think about 5.1/7.1 channel headsets? Are they any good? Do they give actual surround sound or do they just have two speakers (one left one right) with some software that makes them sound like 5.1/7.1 surround. If they are legitimate, would you recommend getting them or speakers? What are the advantages/disadvantages to both other than with speakers you "feel" the bass? Any specific ones you would recommend? Thanks
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
-if you post something on the forums in a thread... anyone can read it. i only happened upon it because two posts with the same start of the title showed up in the forum feed. only mods can edit and close threads.

-yes, i am a moderator here at toms hardware. you can recognize mods by the gold star next to their name and the status of moderator below their avatars. there are a limited number of us and its by invitation only. i suppose you could call it prestigious but i consider it just an extension to what i already do here on toms which is helping others.

--

-some surround sound headsets have just two speakers and use virtual surround. some actually have multiple speakers.

-virtual uses software to emulate surround. this can be dolby headphone or a few others. generally this muddies sound a bit though.

-multiple driver headsets arent as muddy however since you have smaller drivers the sound quality often is not as good and surround really isnt as good as speakers anyways.

-as for if they are worthwhile for you or not... thats up to you. you can game at higher volumes and not wake people up in a crowded house. a headset has a microphone on it and wont catch speaker echo. speakers have better positional audio (slightly) and have more powerful bass. some like speakers, some like headphones. with a good pair of headphones (typically not talking about gaming headsets here... but better stereo headphones) its quite possible to "feel" the bass but with your head not your whole body.

-i dont use headsets so cant recommend any. however, if you were to use some quality studio headphones instead... theres a few i could recommend in the $100-160 range. if you use a soundcard which has dolby headphone you could even get virtual surround on them.

...quite a few ways you could go.

 

bestmak

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Can I get Dolby virtual surround sound on my current stereo in-ear headphones? Or would I need to buy a physical sound card and plug it in to that? How would it work?

Also, I don't mean to "snitch" on this person, but since he has two posts that are the same how would you make sure that one of them gets closed? Like what if no one notices, can someone get away with it?

Link one:http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-2152763/word-files-suddenly-turned-pdfs-open.html
Link two: http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-2152764/word-files-suddenly-turned-pdfs-open.html
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
-since it appears your onboard audio is pretty limited i would say that it doesnt support dolby headphone. you could however give razer surround http://www.razerzone.com/surround a try which would work with your current setup without buying anything. if you wanted "dolby headphone" though you would need to buy a soundcard which supports it.

-razer surround, dolby headphone and cmss-3d are different software ways of creating virtual surround on two speakers.

----

-if you ever see suspicious activity you can always use the "report abuse" button below a post. this is the triangle with the exclaimation point. this gets sent directly to the mods for review. while we can pretty easily catch duplicate posts, it helps when users use this feature to report others who are acting out of line (flame wars, insults, trolling, innapropriate usernames, profanity, etcetera).

-typically the mods here are very good at catching such things. while it would have been caught by one of us, i took the liberty of closing the inactive post. some users do it accidentally (clicking twice) while some do it to try and gain attention (posting in multiple sections). as long as its not excessive or a recurring offense we typically just close or delete the inactive post and keep the active one which is what i did with yours.
 

bestmak

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I tried the Razer Surround and it sounds pretty cool, thanks for that. What is cmss-3d though?
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
similar to dolby headphone and razer virtual surround... its a way to emulate surround sound. they all do it a little bit different and all sound a little bit different. there are other different technologies i did not mention as well.

razer surround has its issues... but its also free. generally i think out of the common choices we have for pc people prefer dolby headphone the most. cmss-3d is said to be okay but not as good as DH.
 

bestmak

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Would you recommend me to buy a good high quality sound card with Dolby Virtual Surround Sound so I can use my existing headphones that will wound like 5.1/7.1 headsets? OR Would you recommend me to buy 5.1/7.1 headsets? OR the headset and good quality soundcard? OR Just the speakers?

I don't know which one is best for me and based on our response, it will help me making a choice but I will obviously take other things into consideration before buying anything. :)
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
honestly that is for you to decide. i can list my thoughts... but it would be my own opinion and may not be the same as yours.

i prefer speakers as you can likely tell from my build pics http://postimg.org/gallery/ql0xj0nu/ for positional audio. i really dont like wearing headphones unless i have to (i bought my m50s to use when traveling and also while at work). i hate headsets and the only headphones i would use are my studio headphones except for earbuds i use while working out (since they are cheap and replaceable).

personally... i'll never give up my surround sound set and studio headphones.

---

razer surround + your earbuds you have now: its cheap.. and if you're happy with how razer surround works go for it. you wont get the best sound out of your current earbuds but if its good enough for your needs then you can save some cash and perhaps buy something really nice later on.

razer surround + new headphones:
the trouble is that your soundcard may not support good headphones because it might lack enough power to drive them. you can likely power something like the m50's though. they arent the best for soundstage but you will get a whole helluva lot of increase in sound quality if your card can power them.

new DH soundcard + your earbuds you have now: likely a waste. while dolby headphone is toted to be good i would pair it up with half decent headphones to make best use of it.

new DH soundcard + new headphones: if you have a soundcard capable of DH plus its capable of powering good headphones then you have a great solution. paired up with something like a hd598 its about the best you're going to get for headphones unless you spend quite a bit of money. even if you just use a pair like the m50s or dt770 its going to sound better than a headset.

surround sound headset: if you're looking for easy plug and play or relatively inexpensive headphones that have surround then you might want this route. they have a mic included so you dont have to worry about buying one. sound quality is typically significantly less than good headphones but so is the price. you also dont normally need a soundcard for headsets.

new soundcard + SS headset: unless you buy a set which has 3x3.5mm inputs then its a waste of money. usb headsets have their own soundcard inside so they bypass any soundcard which makes it useless.

new soundcard + speakers: this is the most comfortable option capable of the most boomy bass. if you arent worried about waking up or bothering others its great. you get true surround sound as well. speakers dont always play nice with microphones but you can get them to work without echo if your placement and settings are right.

---

however thats just my take on things. i'm sure there are people who think just the opposite (and quite a few people love headsets).

pick whatever will fit your needs best.
 

bestmak

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First of all, great setup man, love the characters, posters and all!

As for now, I will stick to my headphones and the free Razer software.
For later: Based on what you said, to get great sound quality from headphones, a DH soundcard and good quality headphones is the way to go. Since I can't spend dat $$$ on high quality headphones + soundcard I can't take that route. And since surround sound headsets are worse than headphones and I already have an "okay" mic, that's off the list as well. Personally, I also like speakers a bit more but mostly because of the bass, and the sound overall. I think I'm gonna buy speakers and a soundcard later since I like speakers more than headphones, I already have a pair with awesome bass (JVC Xtreme Xplosives HA-FX101-B), and MOST headphones sound similar on phones (their soundcards aren't that great).

I don't wanna ask you a 1000 questions haha, but I've got some more. I heard that the m50 (headphones you have) and m50x are the best for their price. So, since you have an amazing audio setup I'm pretty sure you're getting the best out of your m50s. So, how is the sound quality of those headphones? Are the m50x s better? Would you recommend any other headphones with a similar low price point? How is the bass? How are the highs? Since my headphones are more for bass and less for highs, do you think those will be a better all-round pair?

I'm kind of contradicting what I said before about buying the speakers and not the headphones, but if I get amazing headphone quality and "eehhh" 5.1 surround sound speaker quality for around the same price , then I think the headphones would be the better route to take.

To clear things up:
1) I'm keeping my stuff till I get more $$$
2) If headphones (m50 or something around that price point) sound quality > 5.1 surround sound speaker quality for around the same price then I'll buy headphones with soundcard.
3) If sound quality is great for speakers (help me decide which are great if I buy in the future) and headphones for around the same price, I will buy speakers (because I already have headphones).
 
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