Help choosing a 5.1 surround sound system for my PC

TomHanksForehead

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Mar 24, 2014
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I want a decent 5.1 surround sound system for my desktop pc. My budget is about $600 which is liable to change. This will be placed in a relatively small room; like a dorm room. I will be using this system to watch movies, play games, and listen to music.

My Ideas so far:

Idea #1
Center speaker: Pioneer SP-C22 Andrew Jones Designed Center Channel Speaker (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008NCD2EI/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=)

Front/Rear speakers: Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Andrew Jones Designed Bookshelf Loudspeakers (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008NCD2EI/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=)

Subwoofer: Polk Audio PSW10 10-Inch Monitor Series Powered Subwoofer (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002KVQBA/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=NIEHJX4UOT0Q&coliid=I1VUY2QMUKGT7J&psc=1)

Idea #2
Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Theater System
Specs:
My mother board: MSI Z87-G43 (http://www.msi.com/product/mb/Z87G43.html)
My graphics card: EVGA gtx760 (http://www.evga.com/Products/Product.aspx?pn=02G-P4-2765-KR)

Questions:
What is the best system for my pc?
What kind of receiver will I need?
Will I need a soundcard?
What kind of speaker wire will I need?


What I would like:
-true 5.1 surround sound when playing games and movies
-surround sound when playing music (stereo from the front speakers and rear speakers mimic the front speakers)
 

Eduello

Estimable
Mar 2, 2014
472
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5,260
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Get a receiver that can use HDMI audio. I'd recommend a cheap one from Denon (I've got the 1911 myself, the quality is incredible for the price).
You won't need a sound card, since HDMI sound is done by you GPU (digital transmission so no worries over quality loss).
Don't spend excessive amounts of money on the wires since your budget is not that huge.
I'd go for the Pioneer speakers and the Polk audio subwoofer since they're on sale and are better and louder (well the subwoofer at least) than idea number two.

This setup will have 5.1 for gaming and movies + multi channel stereo (your #2 request).
 

Eduello

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Mar 2, 2014
472
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Get a receiver that can use HDMI audio. I'd recommend a cheap one from Denon (I've got the 1911 myself, the quality is incredible for the price).
You won't need a sound card, since HDMI sound is done by you GPU (digital transmission so no worries over quality loss).
Don't spend excessive amounts of money on the wires since your budget is not that huge.
I'd go for the Pioneer speakers and the Polk audio subwoofer since they're on sale and are better and louder (well the subwoofer at least) than idea number two.

This setup will have 5.1 for gaming and movies + multi channel stereo (your #2 request).
 

MagicPants

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Jun 16, 2006
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Unless you're willing to pay $300-$400 just for a receiver, you're better off buying a top of line logitech surround sound system (z906).
The problem is for 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, computers generally only have direct connections (one 3.5mm minijack for every two channels) while receivers stoppped having inputs for that when HDMI came out.

The cheapest receiver I know of with 7.1 direct input is the HK avr 1600 for around $320 (most are $800 or more!). It's a good receiver, don't let it's hyper conservative power ratings fool you.

You can also run surround sound over HDMI, so as long as your monitor can do that, you can go with audio out of your videocard. This does tend to be a pain in the butt however, because windows will get confused if you ever turn off the receiver (with your computer on) and require you to reboot, and reselect your audio device to get it working again.

You can get surround sound via the optical port, but that's rather low quality, so you'd be much better off getting the logitech z906s.

Also I wouldn't recommend mixing different brands of speakers, and sub woofers. So I'd go with the Energy Take classics(BTW monoprice sells a generic version of this that's listed as the premium home theater system).

So, I'd recommend:

one harman kardon avr1600 (or 2600, but NOT the 1650) $320
one asus xonar dsx sound card $60
one monoprice premium home theater system $270
which should knock you back around $650

or the logitech z906s for around $330
 

Eduello

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Mar 2, 2014
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If you can't find Denon receivers that fit your budget, go for Onkyo or Pioneer and stay away from Sony and Yamaha as their cheaper models tend to be complete Garbage (Owned a Sony STR-DG520 once, won't make the same mistake twice)
 

Eduello

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1rXcJuEsy0
Don't waste your money on a sound card, I've used HDMI audio with my Denon, HD TV and PC for a long time. Trust me, it's not that terrible.
 

TomHanksForehead

Estimable
Mar 24, 2014
2
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Thank you very much for your help! What kind of receiver should I look for? As in, what should the specs be? I am perfectly fine with paying $200 for a decent receiver. I know it'slate but I should mention that I plan on using my ps3 for some games, as well, as a blue-ray player. Can I plug it via HDMI into the receiver then from the receiver into my monitor?
 

Eduello

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Yes, you can plug your devices into the receiver and the the receiver into your monitor. You'll need HDMI pass through (3D support depending on your monitor) and at least 50W power per channel. This is insanely cheap now:http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882121082
 

MagicPants

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Eduello, do me a favor and check your speakers under the control panel. (Control Panel->Sound->Speakers->configure)
Are they set to surround sound or stereo?

I'm just curious to see how wide spread the issue is(or if they fixed it). Also what version of windows are you using?
 

Eduello

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I'm using Windows Home Premium 64-bit and when you connect your receiver and display through HDMI, you must configure them as surround in order for surround to work. I've used both AMD and Nvidia GPUs and both have worked flawlessly. The only issue I've had has been surround back and side channels mixing up with video playback but that was also fixed a long time ago, since OP is only going to get a 5.1 set he won't have an issue with that.
 

MagicPants

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(Windows Home premium comes in three flavors vista/7/8)

I'm asking if you could check and see if it is still setup correctly. When windows 7 receives an HDMI handshake, it reinstalls the device which sets it to default (2 channel audio for most if not all devices), you then have to go and reconfigure it. Your video card could choose to ignore this, (AMD cards don't).

Simply switching inputs on the receiver can cause the HDMI to rehandshake, and set your speakers back to default. But you most people won't notice it unless they specifically check the speaker config settings.
 

Eduello

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Yeah sorry, Windows 7 :D
They're set to 7.1 surround, but I don't have to really check it since I game and watch movies a lot and would definitely notice if my front towers were the only speakers outputting sound.

The Denon I have (and presumably the one I suggested for the OP) can communicate with your pc even though you set the receiver to a different input source (PS3 for example) and thus won't make the pc lose all of it's settings.

My GPUS have been Nvidia gt9600m -> radeon hd 5570 -> gtx 650Ti ->gtx 760 and the only one that had some issues was the AMD one, never had any problems with the GTX 650Ti or the 760
 

MagicPants

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So I've been looking into the issue some more, and it sounds like a problem with receivers. Most receivers tell the computer that they have some default number of channels rather than checking the real configuration. This can be a headache/nightmare for HTPC users. There are two hardware solutions to the issue, the first is to cut the 19th pin on your hdmi cable (cheap, but easier said than done.) The second is a hardware solution called the genfen hdmi detective plus which costs right around $100; you can basically program an HDMI handshake into it and it will force that one to be passed along with the signal.

Apparently this issue can also be caused by having speakers on your monitor (such as a television), that overrides the AVR's configuration.

And to make things slightly more confusing, it won't mess up pre-encoded signals like movies or television, so it's only really an issue for games. Also there are more reported cases involving amd hardware.

Anyway, my Marantz SR5007 receiver has this issue, but it also has 7.1 direct inputs, so I just use those instead.
 

Eduello

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My Denon has an option to either pass the sound to the TV or to use the 7.1 set. My Panasonic Viera and my receiver both support HDMI control and ARC so the TV can also control receiver.

But yeah direct RCA inputs are free from problems like this, the only problem is that you need quality cables and a quality motherboard (or a sound card) as the signal is analog and open to interference. Not to mention a receiver that supports an "aged" standard.

If you want to give HDMI another try, turn your equipment on in a specific order (Turn on display and receiver first and shut them down only after the pc.) If I ever have any problems with drivers or something like that I just unplug and re-plug my HDMI cable and my card automatically sets it to 7.1.
 
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