Sound cards, Video Cards and Cables? (Does the digital signal go through other cards?)

Tomahawk1

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Okay bear with me, Right now I my setup is: From GTX 980ti GPU HDMI to my TV and from my TV through optical cable to my sound bar system. For when I want to really get into my music/games I use my sennheiser headphones plugged into the on-board (Motherboard) realtek line out.

1. Am I correct in thinking that the onboard audio has nothing to do with the signal going out through the HDMI cable attached to my video card and if so if I purchased a quality sound card the same would be true for it? (I would need to run separate cables for the sound system which I am unwilling to do as they are across the room)

2. Is there any advantage of purchasing a 5.1 or 7.1 sound card to use with headphones (is virtual surround sound better on these cards)?
 

gamerk316

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Just to make doubly sure I understand, the audio stream in this situation is being generated by software of the game or player and transmitted through the GPU?
Yes. When you use any digital output out of the PC, be it HDMI USB or Optical, some other device is responsible for converting that audio stream into analog. All the PC is doing is sending the digital stream to that device.

That being said, depending on the output device, it's possible some post-processing is performed on the digital signal by driver software. That being said, I'm pretty sure NVIDIA and AMD more or less leave the audio stream alone.

Where's a sound card would add other effects or might deliver a cleaner signal for transmission? Please forgive me for being obtuse.
When you output via analog from a soundcard, you go through the soundcards Digital to Analog converter, which for most dedicated soundcards these days is competitive with low to mid end Digital Receivers and standlone DACs. What this means is a much cleaner output signal then, for example, your motherboards internal audio chip.
 

gamerk316

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1. Am I correct in thinking that the onboard audio has nothing to do with the signal going out through the HDMI cable attached to my video card and if so if I purchased a quality sound card the same would be true for it? (I would need to run separate cables for the sound system which I am unwilling to do as they are across the room)
When using HDMI from the GPU, the onboard audio chipset/drivers shouldn't be coming into play at all. Same with a dedicated sound card. The audio stream is simply being passed through the HDMI cable to the TV, then to the sound bar via optical.

2. Is there any advantage of purchasing a 5.1 or 7.1 sound card to use with headphones (is virtual surround sound better on these cards)?
From my experience:

"Real" 5.1/7.1 headsets sacrifice a lot of audio quality in order to fit 3 drivers per earcup, and have the problem of cut-offs as audio transitions around the speaker. "Virtual" 5.1/7.1 headsets (or stereo headsets using Dolby Headphone) do a decent job at audio location, though the cues are a lot more subtle in comparison.

For a competitive environment, I could see some justification for a "real" 5.1/7.1 headset due to the fact that audio cues are relatively sharp. For a more casual gamer, I'd just recommend a decent soundcard and enable Dolby Headphone (or similar implementation) on a decent stereo headset.
 

Tomahawk1

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Dec 31, 2014
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When using HDMI from the GPU, the onboard audio chipset/drivers shouldn't be coming into play at all. Same with a dedicated sound card. The audio stream is simply being passed through the HDMI cable to the TV, then to the sound bar via optical.
Just to make doubly sure I understand, the audio stream in this situation is being generated by software of the game or player and transmitted through the GPU? Where's a sound card would add other effects or might deliver a cleaner signal for transmission? Please forgive me for being obtuse.
 

gamerk316

Distinguished
Jul 8, 2008
325
0
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Just to make doubly sure I understand, the audio stream in this situation is being generated by software of the game or player and transmitted through the GPU?
Yes. When you use any digital output out of the PC, be it HDMI USB or Optical, some other device is responsible for converting that audio stream into analog. All the PC is doing is sending the digital stream to that device.

That being said, depending on the output device, it's possible some post-processing is performed on the digital signal by driver software. That being said, I'm pretty sure NVIDIA and AMD more or less leave the audio stream alone.

Where's a sound card would add other effects or might deliver a cleaner signal for transmission? Please forgive me for being obtuse.
When you output via analog from a soundcard, you go through the soundcards Digital to Analog converter, which for most dedicated soundcards these days is competitive with low to mid end Digital Receivers and standlone DACs. What this means is a much cleaner output signal then, for example, your motherboards internal audio chip.
 
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