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Old 16-02-2021, 04:50   #1
john121
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soundcard or receiver

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
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.
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Old 17-02-2021, 11:37   #2
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If your focus is getting the best sound for your digital music then an external DAC is the way to go. Moving away from an internal Soundcard was the best thing I did as I never play games on my old PC or my Mac so I didn't need the extra functions of a Soundcard.
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Old 17-02-2021, 12:39   #3
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I have a Cambridge Audio 'DacMagic Plus'.. it's fantastic. USB audio in, quality headphone amp and balanced stereo output... Goes into a pair of PreSonus monitors.

I think they had a new model... but this is one I have.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B006GJU33I

Quote:
Upsampling DAC – Upsamples all incoming audio to 24-bit/384kHz to get the most from you digital audio.
Integrated pre-amplifier – no need for extra separates. Connect to active speakers or your power amp for an immediate audio upgrade.
Connect four devices at once – plug-in any digital source, from Blu-Ray players to PCs. Switch between them with the front facing controls for easy operation.
All the connectivity you need – USB Audio, Coaxial, Optical and optional Bluetooth inputs. Output over RCA or balanced XLR to even the most high-end audio systems
Integrated headphone amp – plug in any set of headphones with the 6.5mm headphone aux-in.
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Old 17-02-2021, 13:36   #4
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Similar / but different

Sound from my devices goes to my monitor either by hdmi or digital video in the case of my Mac and then that’s output to my speakers

However, volume control on monitor is fiddly
Can I add something in line, between monitor and speakers, that has an analogue dial and will control volume that’s not that expensive ?

Cheers
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Old 17-02-2021, 14:33   #5
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Depends on what you want to actually do the digital to analogue conversion. A USB DAC does the work and as far as Windows or OSX is concerned, that external device is the sound card. Since it's got the Pre-AMP in it as well, you've cut down on the electronics which are dealing with analogue 'noise' etc and it's contained into a single box outside of the PC case which is a nightmare of fans and interference .

When using HDMI to monitor to speakers. Your GPU is being the sound card, doing Digital to Digital (HDMI) conversion, the monitor is then converting the second digital signal to analogue and then being a pre-amp. I'd hazard a guess its probably not that good as a DAC or as a pre-amp.

Therefore if you get USB DAC and plug your speakers into the output, you've cut a device out of the chain. There are loads of small and cheap USB DAC's on Amazon. Many are for headphones, but they'll do the same job with some powered speakers instead of headphones. Of course quality will vary.

Last edited by scoobyood; 17-02-2021 at 14:39.
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Old 17-02-2021, 14:51   #6
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I’m not overly fussed about quality, but would like to have an analogue physical volume button rather than fiddle around with the sound on monitor

To take the audio jack that goes currently from my monitor to speakers, running that into some sort of volume control and then from there into the speakers
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Old 17-02-2021, 15:16   #7
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depends how much you want to spend.

The schiit sys should do what you ask

https://www.schiit.com/products/sys
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Old 18-02-2021, 08:30   #8
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Thanks! If i forget the soundcard and try the external dac / preamp which would you recommend. My budget is £500.
I have 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.
I have 3 quad stereo power amps to produce the 5.1
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Old 18-02-2021, 08:41   #9
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if you want 5.1, the dac above won't work as it's only for stereo. You'll need something with a 5.1 decoder in it.
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Old 18-02-2021, 19:43   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dunkle View Post
Similar / but different

Sound from my devices goes to my monitor either by hdmi or digital video in the case of my Mac and then that’s output to my speakers

However, volume control on monitor is fiddly
Can I add something in line, between monitor and speakers, that has an analogue dial and will control volume that’s not that expensive ?

Cheers
I use the NAD D 3020:

https://www.cnet.com/reviews/nad-d-3020-review/

MAC case to the NAD via USB I think may work for you.

Second hand these go for around £250.

Last edited by jmdomain; 18-02-2021 at 20:08.
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Old 19-02-2021, 07:26   #11
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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
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Old 19-02-2021, 07:58   #12
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unless the files are specifically mixed for dts/dolby then it will be up to the player to do it's best to split the files in to some kind of quasi surround mix and it won't sound great. This might be where the issue is coming from.

Could you give me an example of a particular music track you are trying with?

also what software are you using for playback?
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Old 19-02-2021, 08:48   #13
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Hi. I'm using cyberlink powerdvd for playback.
For the music playback it is youtube vids, low bitrate. Does sound good.
For the dtshdma files it is ripped movies for bluray disc. Does state dts audio and bitrate in powerdvd information tab
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Old 19-02-2021, 09:14   #14
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iirc the asus card should have software that will control the surround output.

Have a look here if you haven't already and check on your computer how it's set up

https://www.vortez.net/articles_page..._review,5.html

In theory that asus card should be as good as any external dac. The only reason why you might want to go external is if you are getting noise from it being inside a pc, but that's pretty obvious if you turn the volume up when nothing is playing.
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Old 19-02-2021, 17:34   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john121 View Post
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
I would go back to square one, remove soundcard and uninstall all drivers for what you can uninstall device wise then reset settings to Windows defaults where possible and make sure Windows spatial settings aren't on like Windows Sonic. Add soundcard back in and re-install drivers.

Then reconfigure to the settings that you prefer and try different HD file types to see if you have the same issue. I'm sure you've done all this but just saying in case you haven't.

Last edited by jmdomain; 20-02-2021 at 03:55.
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