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sound card confusions

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doors666

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Hi Guys,

I am looking to buy a sound card. Pretty soon a couple of friends of mine are coming down from US and dubai. Any idea where I should get this from. Is dubai cheaper than US for this. I could not find any online sites from dubai where I could check the prices of the sound cards.

I listen to music 40% and movies 60%. Games - No.
I will be putting this card in my HTPC, which is connected to pv8 and yamaha receiver with B&W speakers.

My budget is around 100$ USD. I am considering the following options, please advise.

Must have features:
24/96 support
SPDIF out
5.1 or 7.1 with either analog or digital, better If its on both, without compromising music quality.
good DACs for music
Card should be for micro atx cabinets
ASIO support for unmolested bit-perfect SPDIF.


I also had a question about tv tuner cards as I will be adding one in future. Does the tv tuner card while capturing tv need the Line-In of the audio card to capture sound or does it usually have its own? I am asking because some of the cards I saw have multiplexed the line In/Mic In/SPDIF out in the same port (e.g. asus xonar dx). If this is the case, it will not work for me as I need to spdif out and line in for tv tuner card.

Asus XONAR-DX
Available for about 80$ in US
Does not support DTS thru either analog or digital outs. Does this mean that the dvd movies with dts will not play or does it mean that it will play by using software decoding and there will be some extra load on the cpu. How much extra load roughly. amd 2.5GHZ cpu/2g ram

Emu 0404 24/96 Digital Audio PCI Card
About 85$
I think it passes the DD and DTS through spdif, can anyone confirm. Is this card an overkill, I would not ever be using this for music recording purposes.

AuzenTech AZT-XPCINE 7.1 Channels 24-bit 96KHz PCI
about 100$
Has everything I need. How's the sound quality

M-Audio Revolution 7.1
about 90$
Has everything I need

M-Audio Revolution 5.1 High-Definition Surround Sound Card
about 70$. Apart from the number of channels, any other difference with revolution 7.1. How's the sound quality.

M-Audio Audiophile 24-Bit/96kHz 4 Input / 4 Output PCI Digital Recording Interface with MIDI for Mac or PC
80$
supports 2.1 analog and DD thru spdif. DTS?. Since analog is only 2 channels, if it does not pass thru DTS, I wont be able to see DTS movies at 5.1 or 7.1, right?

M-Audio Audiophile 192 High Definition 4 Input/ 4 Output Audio PCI Card with Digital I/O and MIDI - Mac and Windows
120$
passes thru DTS and DD, 2.1 channel analog.
Says supprts balanced analog I/O. What does it mean. Can I feed it to my av receiver or not?

So which one out of these is a good choice. Anything else I need to consider. The card has to be good for music and I should be able to play dd/dts movies etc.

Thanx
 

thevortex

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doors - I would also consider the ESI Juli. Its a very highly regarded sound solution - especially if you do not need 7.1 channel analog output.

ESI - Juli@

It is targeted at the professional musician though. Same as the M-Audio cards you have mentioned. I dont consider that a negative point:)

If you are looking at products upto $120 you could look at the Xonar D2X or the Auzentech Prelude. They would be just a small jump away. The M-Audio cards seem to focus more on sound production but I am sure they are good for hifi listening as well.

About balanced and unbalanced outputs, they are valid if you use them to connect to your stereo amplifier which would have a choice between balanced or unbalanced inputs. If you are going to connect to your Receiver I guess these do not matter. About the last M-Audio Audiophile card are you saying that this card passes DTS and DD through its Analog out? I am asking since I find that surprising. Only the M-Audio 2496 provides DTS out. But it does not mention Dolby Digital. I am sure it provides DTS through its digital out not through its analog out.

If your main usage is for movies, I would concentrate on the DD/DTS capability than about analog outs. Its pretty much an either or situation - except for the Xonar and the Auzentech Prelude.
 

Jith77

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Check online forums for secondhand cards in us. . . That ways you can get a better card for 100 bucks.
 

spirovious

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I can suggest another onboard solution-

check Gigsbyte MB with good onboard soundcard with s/n 106db,spdf/opt out,
7.1+ 2 seperate ch for stereo output,Blue ray aud support,onboard HDMI out & many more.

check-http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Products/Motherboard/Products_Overview.aspx?ProductID=2954&ProductName=GA-EG41MF-S2H

also-http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Products/Motherboard/Products_Overview.aspx?ProductID=2946&ProductName=GA-E7AUM-DS2H
 

thevortex

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Cranky, the Prelude does say that with its latest patch you can download drivers for DD and DTS, right? Is that only for Vista?

Also if movies are your forte and music is not that important, it is not that important to get a sound card. Especially if you have a good receiver. Because then you just want your HTPC to pass through the audio to the receiever which should theoretically do a much better job of the D to A conversion.
 

neo

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@cranky Hey! Which acc to you would be the best sound card for 2 channel audio.
TIA
Cheers.
 

neo

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Hey! Checked the lynx & it does seem to be one of the best.

But it's def not what i'm willing to spend at the moment.

Of the mid priced stuff form M-audio,EMU, Asus, realtek etc which acc to you are the ones to consider or what would be your ratings??
Pl give your suggestions of models & makes as my knowledge is limited
TIA
Cheers
 
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marsilians

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~$100-120: E-mu 0404 for analog outputs, ESI Juli@ for digital output

One thing to keep in mind...

I have only used the Juli@ and one thing I found that it does not have input volume adjustment and also does not work with Windows volume control.

Also like to add HT OMEGA CLARO Plus+ as another choice. Pretty good performance for multi-channel gaming too (though I am not very experienced in this realm).
 
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thevortex

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I would definitely put the Xonar D2X at the top of the list if you are considering it for hifi purposes.

If you are particular about it, the D2X can encode any audio stream into Dolby Digital Live or DTS before passing it onto your receiver/amplifier. So, if you have a TV Tuner card, you could even watch TV on DTS Live (an ASUS term).

This is not something very useful for music though. But worth checking out if your HTPC is going to be your entertainment hub.
 

marsilians

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Thanks Cranky. I know the windows audio controls are made for media player types (software apps) and I ended up using the mixer one finally for the out. Will try the line level linput one as you noted.

This is very common for almost all pro audio cards - Windows is only an annoyance. The software mixer in Windows mangles the sound very badly, so pro cards use hardware mixers and dedicated drivers to control them. You lose a bit of flexibility but gain sound quality by going this route.

The Juli@ definitely has input volume adjustment, but you've to activate the monitoring button (routing it to the audio output directly) for it to work. If you're recording it's usually the outboard mixer or the software program that will provide level control.

The way pro card 'mixers' work is very similar to a mixer - a single stereo bus (or two, or three depending on the card), with lots of routing flexibility and monitoring options. Not necessarily meant for just stereo listening or home use, so one has to adapt them for one's specific needs.
 

bhaskie

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Asus Xonar Essence STX!

Asus also has the Xonar Essence up its sleeve, which is also supposed to be a very good card. I've not seen any (trustworthy) reviews of it yet, but the components look judiciously chosen. I fear it will be beyond your budget, at least $220-250.

You can get it from newegg for $200 (+ 10 shipping, you can apply the free shipping promo codes).

I have been thinking of getting the Xonar Essence over the Xonar D2X.
The specs look really great! Check it here:
ASUS Xonar Essence STX Virtual 7.1 Channels PCI Express Interface 124 dB SNR / Headphone Amp card for Audiophiles!

It should be great to use with those precious headphones of yours! The one think that it lacks is 7.1 analog outs. It should have very high quality 2-channel analogue outs though - through that TI PCM1792A DAC (127dB SNR, Max. 192kHz/24bit). You will need to use the coax/toslink combo to feed the digital output to your AVR. Oh, its got a swappable opamp socket (like the auzentech prelude) as well!

Cranky,

Any idea how good the analogue outs gonna be vs. the Xonar D2X? (based on the components they use)?
 

bhaskie

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The Essence is slightly better specced than the D2X, better fitted out with FG caps (they're the bomb, IMO) and the flagship BB PCM1792. The only thing the D2X offers is multichannel analog output (which is needed by exactly who?) and DTS encoding (only under Vista).

I hope Asus got the board sorted out though - I found the Xonar DX had only a 2-layer board, which is quite sad. I've not had a chance to review the higher end Asus cards, but most pro cards I've seen use more layers. My 1212m, eg has 4-layer board for the analog section. This helps keep the noise down, and there's plenty of it inside a PC.

Thanks Cranky!

The Xonar HDAV 1.3 is 4 layer, but I don't know about the D2X or the Essence (I think they are 2 layer boards, I am not sure though).

The Essence does not use the flagship BB DAC. Its got the BB PCM1792A specc'ed at 127dB SNR (and costs 13 bucks) whereas the flagship PCM1792 is specc'ed at 132dB SNR and costs 65 cents more :)
(yeah I was comparing the spec sheets!). In any case they are much better than the 1796.

I am particularly interested in the TI TPA6120A2 headphone driver, since I am getting a senn HD600. I am really excited about this card, in fact I am gonna cancel my D2X order and wait for another month!
 

neo

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Thanks Cranky!
My main purpose is stereo only so do the emu choices remain the same as you've mentioned.

On this weekend me & my firends had a chance to compare a few cd players Like the primare cd 31/ Holfi Xenia/ Nad 542/ CA 640 v2 with a HTPC having the M-audio 1010lt sound card
& we all felt the cp players sounded better.

I've thread on for HTPC on this forum I'd be happy if can go through it & give your invaluable inputs.
Cheers
 

bhaskie

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Thanks Cranky!
My main purpose is stereo only so do the emu choices remain the same as you've mentioned.

On this weekend me & my firends had a chance to compare a few cd players Like the primare cd 31/ Holfi Xenia/ Nad 542/ CA 640 v2 with a HTPC having the M-audio 1010lt sound card
& we all felt the cp players sounded better.

I think you should have tried something like the Audiophile 192 instead of the Delta 1010lt to compare with CD players. The 192 has balanced analogs as well.
M-AUDIO - Audiophile 192 - High-Definition 4-In/4-Out Audio Card with Digital I/O and MIDI

Maybe something like the Xonar Essence STX will be able to take on good CD players. I am getting this once in a few weeks and will update on how it performs.
 
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thevortex

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The Essence is slightly better specced than the D2X, better fitted out with FG caps (they're the bomb, IMO) and the flagship BB PCM1792. The only thing the D2X offers is multichannel analog output (which is needed by exactly who?) and DTS encoding (only under Vista).

I hope Asus got the board sorted out though - I found the Xonar DX had only a 2-layer board, which is quite sad. I've not had a chance to review the higher end Asus cards, but most pro cards I've seen use more layers. My 1212m, eg has 4-layer board for the analog section. This helps keep the noise down, and there's plenty of it inside a PC.

Cranky I need to clarify that the Xonar D2X has DTS encoding even in XP. Also I bought it for the multi channel analog option. It is far better than any other multichannel representation that my receiver can come up with.

The Essence makes sense if you are a headphones guy. Otherwise probably not. If you are a tinkerer I would probably get the HDAV deluxes which allow for an aftermarket change of the opamps. If the Essence's too allow it, they could be a great buy.
 

bhaskie

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Cranky I need to clarify that the Xonar D2X has DTS encoding even in XP. Also I bought it for the multi channel analog option. It is far better than any other multichannel representation that my receiver can come up with.

The Essence makes sense if you are a headphones guy. Otherwise probably not. If you are a tinkerer I would probably get the HDAV deluxes which allow for an aftermarket change of the opamps. If the Essence's too allow it, they could be a great buy.

vortex, the Essence has a great headphone amp.. but it has a lot more as well. like the best Burr brown DAC's, swappable opamps, and nichikon fine gold caps - which are supposed to be really good.
Guys with Xonar D2X/HDAV who have got the Essence now (in head-fi etc forums) say its heaven. I am ordering one and will get it in 3 weeks hopefully. Will let you know how it performs.

Ciao!
 

thevortex

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Swappable opamps make sense if you are going to tinker with the innards of your computer and your sound card:) I would prefer not to personally. Thats the reason I did not look at it.

Also one of the factors I got the D2X was that it was a no compromise solution for music as well as movies. I could even have my DivX files play in DTS or Dolby Digital. For that matter with a TV tuner card, I could have my TV content played out in those modes. Plus the music quality with the analogue outs is far better than average.

But if music is the sole priority I do see how the Essence's would make sense. Do keep us posted on how you like them. Good luck and happy listening.
 

spirovious

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I would definitely put the Xonar D2X at the top of the list if you are considering it for hifi purposes.

If you are particular about it, the D2X can encode any audio stream into Dolby Digital Live or DTS before passing it onto your receiver/amplifier. So, if you have a TV Tuner card, you could even watch TV on DTS Live (an ASUS term).

This is not something very useful for music though. But worth checking out if your HTPC is going to be your entertainment hub.

Hi,

I have 1 Q,can DX or D2X be used with Blueray movs?
Can we get 7.1 ana.out from DX or D2X sourced from blueray mov(lossless form)
 

suprateep

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Hi,

I have 1 Q,can DX or D2X be used with Blueray movs?
Can we get 7.1 ana.out from DX or D2X sourced from blueray mov(lossless form)

yes boss the SW (like cyberlink power dvd hd) will do the decoding and the card being 7.1 - can pass 7.1 analogue streams out. Nothing to worry - even a normal htpc mobos like Asus M3N78EM and Gigabyte 780 series boards can pass 7.1 analogue out after processing.
 
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