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soundcard vs receiver or preamp

Discussion in 'Sound City' started by johhnn, 16 Feb 2021.

  1. johhnn

    Associate

    Joined: 25 Sep 2012

    Posts: 21

    Hi Thanks for reading

    What do you think of a decent level soundcard versus decent receiver.
    The soundblaster ae5 connected to external power amps, versus yamaha rxa2070
    I know this is a stupid question and there is some old debate, would love a modern 2021 point of view.
    Do you have any real world experience of cards versus receivers, or cards versus external processors of any nature.
    Many thanks.
     
  2. EsaT

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 6 Jun 2008

    Posts: 9,372

    Location: Finland

    For what use/connected to what?
     
  3. Alex h

    Soldato

    Joined: 13 Jun 2009

    Posts: 5,456

    Location: Lost

    Funny you should ask this as my ae5 became faulty 2 weeks back so sent it back now connected to the yamaha rxa 2070 av amp and to be honest it sounds great connected via optical so i wont be getting another ae5 less drivers on pc less clutter in it
     
    Last edited: 17 Feb 2021
  4. The_Arbiter

    Hitman

    Joined: 2 Jul 2019

    Posts: 981

    The AVR means you can change out/replace your speakers cheaper than having to buy active speakers, in theory.

    The problem with AVR is that they are struggling to support high refresh rates at 4k. The 2070 looks like 60 max. But looking at the manual seems a nice bit of kit.

    I bought a yamaha 675 many years ago, and headphone quality is good, on par with dedicated headphone DACs i've had when using dt990 or k702, but with surround support. When i used to use the Yamaha phone app i thought it was really good.

    They are big and expensive so if only using headphones and PC there are other options. I was interested in the Soundblaster X7 at one point as it's a nice inbetween.

    But decent active speakers are a nice add on for pure PC use when using a soundcard for headphones too. Depends what you really want though, and how many screens and devices you have
     
  5. johhnn

    Associate

    Joined: 25 Sep 2012

    Posts: 21

    Think i may try the dac route. Do you have any good recommendations for external dac / preamps for a 5.1 system.
    Preferably hdmi out from pc, to hdmi input on dac/ preamp, then rca outs on dac for connection to power amps.
    I have a budget of £300, or am willing to buy used.
     
  6. The_Arbiter

    Hitman

    Joined: 2 Jul 2019

    Posts: 981

    Hardware Canuks did a video just yesterday which may help you.

    https://youtu.be/DUJe6Dtn1Iw

    I think you'll be limited on what you can get in regards to 5.1 and/or HDMI connection. If your motherboard supports it you can get 5.1 directly from it, but quality will be compromised depending on the board and if your speakers are good enough to notice the difference.

    You've not mentioned what your full setup is so i'm unsure on what you're fully after. There are a lot of variables, which can be good but also bad due to compatibility problems.
     
  7. johhnn

    Associate

    Joined: 25 Sep 2012

    Posts: 21

    I have the asus H170I-PRO motherboard, paid £159 high end board, lets me put out 5.1 through the hdmi. Am thinking of a preamp or dac from hdmi.
    The speakers i have are kef ls50 meta, paid £999 per pair.
    What do you mean quality will be compromised by the board?
    Any dac recommendations? Willing to buy used if any bargains to be had
    Many thanks
     
    Last edited: 18 Feb 2021
  8. The_Arbiter

    Hitman

    Joined: 2 Jul 2019

    Posts: 981

    Sorry for confusion, i meant some boards support surround audio via 3.5mm jacks, but sound may be compromised depending on board. But this is obviously what you don't need now.

    Your options are limited with HDMI DACs, i've never even looked at them myself but know they're not common.

    To clarify, do you have 4x of those Kefs and an active sub?
     
  9. dual2max

    Gangster

    Joined: 6 Sep 2005

    Posts: 281

    For my laptop to HI-FI, I use the Audioquest Dragonfly. USB to 3.5mm and a decent cable into pre-amp.
    The PC has the Sound Blaster 7.1. I use the optical output to my Marantz receiver.
    All sounds lovely to me.
     
  10. johhnn

    Associate

    Joined: 25 Sep 2012

    Posts: 21

    The reason i want to get away from sound cards and onto external dac is that i am having problems with the pc audio. I've searched around for months but cannot find anybody with a similar problem.
    When i play a stereo file of low bitrate on the pc, about 140 kb/s the sound quality is okay, i can enjoy the music.
    When i play a file with hd audio dtshdma or dolbytru the sound quality goes down considerably and sounds terrible compared to the stereo file.
    With hd files the bass goes down by about 10db until i can barely hear it, the mids and high sound all wrong a piano does not sound like a piano the sound is thin and boring.
    Intresting because the higher bitrate hd files should sound considerably better but i am getting the reverse effect.
    I borrowed an asus stxII top end sound card and it was doing exactly the same thing. Have been fiddiling around with the settings but no change.
    The only thing that comes close to an explanation is an article i found on protected audio pathways:
    " Regarding soundcards in PC,s , the high res content from DTS MA and Dolby tru HD is always downconverted to 16 bit before digital to analog conversion.
    There are no exceptions to this. It is a condition of the PAP ( protected audio path ) within PC's. "

    " Without PAP, all audio must be downsampled (a.k.a. “bit crippled”) to 16-bit, 48kHz per the AACS specification. Unfortunately, there is no Protected Audio Path (PAP) on any computer right now, so all HD Audio is currently downsampled on a PC. "

    Even taking this into account the hd files should sound better than the stereo but the hd sound is thin, washed out, boring.
    I am doing something fundamentally wrong at a very basic level but cannot figure out what it is.
    At the moment I have the asus H170I-PRO motherboard running windows 10 pro 64-bit, then asus stxII into the pci slot, then rca outs from stxII into 3 quad power amps to give 5.1 sound. Volume control is on the stxII.
    Can you help, or do you have any pointers in the right direction.
    Thanks
     
  11. EddScott

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 8,395

    Location: Pembrokeshire

    I was using a Denon 2310 hooked up via optical from my PC MSI Tomahawk board. Headphones are Beyer DT770 250 Ohm.

    I bought a Chord Mojo B grade from RicherSounds. Initially using optical but I changed to USB (USB port on the board) as I can set the audio quality to a higher level.

    The PC is literally only used for sim racing :) cars sound better with the Chord/USB connection (and better than with the Denon receiver)
     
  12. The_Arbiter

    Hitman

    Joined: 2 Jul 2019

    Posts: 981

    Apologies if you've tried already, but up to date codecs and different video software?

    Never heard of PAP before, so will be having a search about that. I found getting lossless surround is quite hard unless you get newer AV receivers and newer bluray players too. I know optical and USB can't deliver the same as HDMI, but i was never aware HDMI from PC might be compromised, so that's helpful to know and keep an eye on. I'll be having a read up and will post if i find anything recent/relevant.
     
  13. johhnn

    Associate

    Joined: 25 Sep 2012

    Posts: 21

    Thanks for the replies much appreciated.

    The chord mojo is good but i need multichannel 5.1 or 7.1. I would love more some recommendations for multichannel dacs or preamps, budget is £300 but am also willing to look at second hand.

    Also I am going to try different media players for windows 10, the powerdvd i am currently using is highly recommeneded. Today i am going to format the hard drive and do a clean install of windows, also install latest drivers and updates for everything. Then see if there is any improvement. If not i might ditch the pc and move to a streamer. My amateurish guesswork is that a pc has to run a huge operating system, leading to possible driver clashes or conflicting hardware. Whereas a streamer does not try to be a jack of all trades and probably has a smaller, less resource stressing linux opertaing system installed and may perform better as it only has one job to do. Possibly leading to better audio video performance. Is this a valid point.
     
  14. james.miller

    Capodecina

    Joined: 17 Aug 2003

    Posts: 19,406

    Location: Woburn Sand Dunes

    *Lossless 7.1 LPCM. and DTS:MA/TrueHD bitstreaming. connect that to an AV amp and you'll get your full res lossless HD audio.
     
  15. doc

    Gangster

    Joined: 22 Jan 2005

    Posts: 110

    Lots of factors to this, but I'm not sure what you're expecting. Any processed audio format (most Dolby) played through an amp is never going sound like a good FLAC file playing through a USB DAC to some good speakers/headphones. It's all down to the quality of the audio paths and any processing along the way.

    This is exactly why I have two sound setups connected to the lounge PC:

    1. Music (FLAC/WAV Source) - USB DAC via XLR connections to Yamaha Studio monitors
    2. Movies/TV - MPC-BE player bitstreaming via HDMI direct to a Yamaha RXA1060. All modern graphics cards will support separate HDMI connections for video and audio, so invest in two leads. Don't bother with ARC and AV passthrough.

    It's different devices for different sources to get the most from them. I still have a STX and a STX II in a PC, but rarely if ever use them these days as the above now suits my needs. I went through various USB DACS and found that anything over £200-300 sounds very similar. £300 will get you 90% quality and every £100 after that gets you another 1%(!). Best saving your money for good speakers/headphones.

    Also remember with PAP that your PC and the output device will talk and exchange what formats they support, so yes, 16/48 is the multi-channel audio standard because you're processing the audio in the PC with the expectation of going to an external device that is expecting 16/48. So my AV Amp above expects 16/48 as that's the standard. However, the USB DAC above can take a (stereo) 32/192 signal because it's taking a digital signal from the PC and processing it externally. Just don't start the conversation over whether anyone can really hear the difference between 16/24/32 bits!

    One thing I did notice is that you have volume control on the STX. STX should be used as a line out and let your power amps do what they are good at (amplification). Also (obviously) make sure the sound control panel is set for full range speakers and turn off any audio processing. Other basic stuff is to disable onboard sound in the BIOS and remove any drivers/software for it. One final note, HD formats often need a bit more volume/gain to sound good.

    Hope this helps.