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Help! Sound card for HTPC

Audiolab 6000A Amplifier

ak47

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Hi!

I am helping a friend in setting up his home theatre. He has decided on the following configuration:

AVR: Yamaha RX-A840
FS: Monitor Audio MR6
Center: MA MR-Center
Surround: MA MR1
Sub: SVS PB-1000

Projector: Optoma HD-26 (Full HD and 3D ready)

Usage: 70% Movies/Games/TV 30% Music


For the HTPC, I am in two minds. I can either go in for a Zotac mini-pc with an external soundcard like Asus U7 or go for a conventional PC setup with an internal soundcard like Asus DX.

The budget for soundcard is 5k.

Now my question is, will having a sound card make much of a difference if the motherboard already has HDMI audio support.

If yes, then should I go for a mini-pc with external soundcard, a conventional pc with internal soundcard, or a conventional pc with external soundcard?
 
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shibashis

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As Koushik suggested, get the audio over the HDMI and let the AVR handle the responsibility of conversion to analog.
 

ak47

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You will not need a sound card. You have to connect the PC to the AVR via HDMI. That's enough!
+1 to this.

I would definitely recommend a GPU for the HTPC, makes a world of difference in the PQ.
As Koushik suggested, get the audio over the HDMI and let the AVR handle the responsibility of conversion to analog.
Thanks guys! I won't go in for a sound card now. I am now considering Zotac's mini pc for the HTPC. Seems like a pretty sweet deal.
Also, has any one used Raspberry Pi as their HTPC. Many people at techenclave have suggested it, but I'm unsure about the picture and sound quality it can give out.
 

Rockfella

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Go for a HTPC.
Thanks guys! I won't go in for a sound card now. I am now considering Zotac's mini pc for the HTPC. Seems like a pretty sweet deal.
Also, has any one used Raspberry Pi as their HTPC. Many people at techenclave have suggested it, but I'm unsure about the picture and sound quality it can give out.
 

musicbee

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My recommendation is for a PC/HTPC, its way more upgradeable.

I'm not sure how the PQ and SQ of a Pi will be (have not used it), but I've used Zotac Mini PC and Intel NUC and they compare very well to a traditional PC, even for 1080p content. 4K though is going to be a stretch and hence the vote for a HTPC.
 

Bharathram

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1) I have tried playing music from my HTPC using onboard sound card through all the modes HDMI, Optical , RCA and also through DLNA using the onboard sound card. None of the wired modes sound even closer to details you get through wireless DLNA in my opinion.

Your receiver supports DLNA and any decent HTPC will support DLNA. Please use this mode unless your plan to buy external DAC

2)On the other hand if you are planning to buy an external DAC and connect it through RCA to your receiver things will change. You will get much better details because of superior quality of Digital to Analog conversion inside the DAC.

Go with option 1 if you are not purchasing DAC
 
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ak47

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If you are going for Zotac I guess the EN760 series should cut it, they come with a dedicated graphics card
My recommendation is for a PC/HTPC, its way more upgradeable.

I'm not sure how the PQ and SQ of a Pi will be (have not used it), but I've used Zotac Mini PC and Intel NUC and they compare very well to a traditional PC, even for 1080p content. 4K though is going to be a stretch and hence the vote for a HTPC.
+1 to this. Nothing like a general PC when it comes to upgradeability and flexibility. PQ & SQ can be match to any extent by tweaking the H/W & S/W.
I agree it is more sensible to go with a proper PC. I will shortlist the components and list them here to get further advice.

1) I have tried playing music from my HTPC using onboard sound card through all the modes HDMI, Optical , RCA and also through DLNA using the onboard sound card. None of the wired modes sound even closer to details you get through wireless DLNA in my opinion.

Your receiver supports DLNA and any decent HTPC will support DLNA. Please use this mode unless your plan to buy external DAC

2)On the other hand if you are planning to buy an external DAC and connect it through RCA to your receiver things will change. You will get much better details because of superior quality of Digital to Analog conversion inside the DAC.

Go with option 1 if you are not purchasing DAC
Thanks for tips. I have no experience in setting up DLNA, but I will set it up for my friend once I get the hardware together.

Also, I wanted to know if I can get a decent DAC within 5-6k and if there will be a significant difference in SQ if I buy one.
 

koushik

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Also, I wanted to know if I can get a decent DAC within 5-6k and if there will be a significant difference in SQ if I buy one.
At that price, I am afraid, No! You are better off using AVR's internal DAC than a 5-6K eternal DAC. For most people an AVR is more than enough, don't worry about out board DAC.
 

Bharathram

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Yes...just go with the receivers DAC..DLNA setup is straight forward...u wil find lot of material in the net and in ur manual...get a good dlna media server like plex(free) and start streaming it.. Plex even allows you to passthrough the decoding to pcm part to your receiever...in that way u can capitalise on the player in your receiver too...
 

kestrel5915

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1) I have tried playing music from my HTPC using onboard sound card through all the modes HDMI, Optical , RCA and also through DLNA using the onboard sound card. None of the wired modes sound even closer to details you get through wireless DLNA in my opinion.

Your receiver supports DLNA and any decent HTPC will support DLNA. Please use this mode unless your plan to buy external DAC

2)On the other hand if you are planning to buy an external DAC and connect it through RCA to your receiver things will change. You will get much better details because of superior quality of Digital to Analog conversion inside the DAC.

Go with option 1 if you are not purchasing DAC
While playing audio via hdmi are you bitstreaming it?
If yes, then which media/audio player are you using?
 

toaster09

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a question and not related to OP, how big is the difference is PQ from an onboard to a dedicated graphics card?
 

Fillmore

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a question and not related to OP, how big is the difference is PQ from an onboard to a dedicated graphics card?
Are you going to use it for gaming ?
If the answer is yes then a dedicated graphics card would help.

If you are going to use it only for Movies , then depending on your processor you might not need one.

In my case I have an Intel Haswell processor , the graphics core in these processors have been modified extensively. The GPU supports DirectX 11.1, OpenCL 1.2 and OpenGL 4.0. It also features an improved decoder for 4K videos.

If you are going with an assembled HTPC, then you can try the default processor first. If not satisfied you can always add a Graphics card later.
 
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Bharathram

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While playing audio via hdmi are you bitstreaming it?
If yes, then which media/audio player are you using?
Yes , I used to bitstream through HDMI using Foobar & Itunes. But when stream it through DLNA using the same Foobar there is a lot of difference.
 

musicbee

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a question and not related to OP, how big is the difference is PQ from an onboard to a dedicated graphics card?
In a word yes.

But it depends on your intended use, your existing processor specs, etc. I've an i7 and it handles everything pretty well including 4K content as it has integrated graphics. For everything the CPU usage is less than 10%.

However, use something like SVP or madVR (especially in combo), and it will certainly push any CPU and necessitate the need for a dedicated GPU.

That said, using a GPU for even ordinary 480p, 720p, & 1080p content adds a certain wow factor and certainly improves the high dynamic range, though how much of it is visible will depend on the content itself and the TV or PJ.
 

kestrel5915

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Yes , I used to bitstream through HDMI using Foobar & Itunes. But when stream it through DLNA using the same Foobar there is a lot of difference.
I, however, find this rather strange that wireless dlna is providing better quality than wired hdmi.
 

musicbee

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I, however, find this rather strange that wireless dlna is providing better quality than wired hdmi.
I stream all my music wirelessly at home... never found it lacking in SQ.

Never did any AB testing against digital formats though the convenience alone makes it worth.
 
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