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Old 1st March 2007, 05:24 AM   #1
herm is offline herm  United States
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Default Soundcard as pre-amp / processor

My Marantz pre-pro is dying, and I was thinking of
getting rid of it and going all HTPC.

Now I have:

PC (digital out) -> pre/pro -> 6 channel amp -> speakers

What I want:

PC (5.1 channel analog out) -> 6 channel amp -> speakers

So who is doing this now?
What sound card are you using?
Do you get pops and clicks when you re-boot?
How does DTS and Dolby Digital decoding get done?
(software or hardware decode?)
Would an external sound card sound better?
Should Hillary run for president?

OK, ignore that last question. It's bound to start fights...

herm
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Old 4th March 2007, 03:24 PM   #2
herm is offline herm  United States
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Bump.

No HTPC people out there?

Herm
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Old 4th March 2007, 07:57 PM   #3
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Hey Herm,

That is pretty much my exact setup, minus some incomplete parts.

I have a XP Media Center PC with a SoundBlaster Audigy card running kxdrivers . I had a custom SPDIF optical header made that sends 3 stereo digital signals to 3 external DACs. The DACs will eventually run into 6 channels of amplification, once I finish the amps. Right now I'm just running stereo.

The line level outputs of the Audigy are horrible and do click and pop on power/shutdown of the PC. They also tend to cause ground loops, as does the coax SPDIF connections. This is why I went with external DACs.

The Audigy card and kxdrivers + your DVD decoder (i.e. NVIDIA purevideo) would do the DTS/surround processing. I don't use my setup for HT use though, so I can't really elaborate on more details.

And sure, Hilary can run if she wants. It doesn't mean she will win.
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Old 5th March 2007, 05:49 PM   #4
herm is offline herm  United States
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Anonymous,

I have a thought about avoiding pops and clicks:

If you use an external sound card (firewire or USB) you can avoid
several issues.

First, the sound card will have a different power supply than the
computer. When you reboot the computer, the sound card does
not power down - so No clicks, right?

Second, the external power supply can be made much cleaner
than the stuff they are using for the main board.

It seems like a great idea, but I can't find anyone who has done it.
All the HTPC threads that I read are about which processor or
memory. None of them focus on good sound!

I've tried to read some of the PC crossover stuff, but that thread
is all about software.

Anyone know of nay good HTPC forums?

herm
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Old 5th March 2007, 06:03 PM   #5
AndrewT is offline AndrewT  Scotland
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Hi Anon,
Quote:
I had a custom SPDIF optical header made that sends 3 stereo digital signals to 3 external DACs
I was asking about this multiple 2channel some months ago.

How have you got the 6channel digital stream to come out as pairs?

My Tannoy speakers are set up as left or right from the spdif input. Five of them around the room and then add a sub.
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Old 5th March 2007, 06:31 PM   #6
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Default HTPC Forums

A fairly good site for HTPC stuff (soundcards, Cases, CPU's, etc.) is at http://www.extrememhz.com. The also have a forum to discuss things.

Some good reviews are at http://www.3dGameMan.com

Hope this helps.

Thomas
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Old 5th March 2007, 06:35 PM   #7
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Herm,

Whether or not an external sound card will have any clicks/pops all depend on the card I guess. The Audigy card I have makes the noise due to the internal DACs(so I read).

There are multiple solutions to what your are looking for. Finding one that perfectly suites your needs can be quite the headache.

The solution I chose was a fairly good compromise on money vs. quality. I'm happy with the way it turned out. I don't think it can be beat for the price.

Audigy card = $15
kxdrivers = FREE
Custom SPDIF header = $45 (I could have made one myself for a lot less, but the one I had made for me turned out really nice)
3x Entech 203.3 DACs = $120

Andrew,

The Audigy card has 4 available SPDIF output connections on its header. You can use these along with the kxdrivers for either HT surround sound or for multiple-way active crossover duty(or whatever else you can think of).

I use 3 of the available 4 along with a custom header that converts the electrical output signals to optical outputs to keep PC noise isolated from my external DACs.

Here is a pic of the electrical connections of the SDPIF in/outs on the Audigy.....

Click the image to open in full size.

And here is pic of the optical header on the back of my HTPC (note: the RCA connections on the left are connected to the cards analog outs. I used them before I had the digital out setup)....

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old 7th March 2007, 04:22 PM   #8
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my audigy 2 has pops and clocks ad infinitum, but my x-fi dont. a shame KX drivers dont work for x-fi.
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Old 8th March 2007, 03:53 AM   #9
herm is offline herm  United States
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Hmmm.

I've got a shot at a used M-audio 410.

Any opinions?

And thanks everybody for all the help so far..

herm
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Old 12th March 2007, 04:23 AM   #10
herm is offline herm  United States
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I will probably start a new thread when I get involved in this deeper,
but i wanted to close the loop here so anyone doing research will
know what I decided:

I bought a used M-audio Firewire 410.

It has 8 analog outputs. So far I am using just two.

Here's the setup:

PC -> 410 -> Amp

That's it.

The pc sends multi channel data to the 410 via firewire.
The 410 converts them to analog and passes them to the amp.

No pops or clicks, even on reboot of windows.

so far, so good.

By the way, Nero 7 does a software decode of dolby 5.1 and
passed it to my 410. I don't have any speakers hooked up, but
I could see all the level meters working on the 410 software!

herm
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