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Digital Crossover
Digital Crossover
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Old 28th November 2014, 04:08 PM   #1
uzernaam is offline uzernaam  United States
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Default Digital Crossover

So I'm looking to this forum for some knowledge.

Here is what I'm trying to achieve:

PC-based music system playing through a sound card built into the system with at least 6 channels total of analog audio out. I want to use Thuneau's digital crossover/EQ to split the frequency bands up into stereo high/low/sub and run each channel to a dedicated amplifier.

Right now I'm using a USB d/a converter which is part of the M-Audio Fasttrack pro. Settings of 88.1 kHz / 24-bit really, and I mean REALLY sound good on my system, but I'm still using analog line-level crossovers between my sound card outputs and my multichannel amp. I want to skip using these crossovers, and do the crossover digitally from within the computer. So my M-Audio won't work, since it is just a stereo DAC.

So I bought an Asus Xonar sound card and got it work work just like I hoped... except for one thing. The sound quality is nowhere near as good as my M-Audio box was. Only if I set the default settings to 24-bit / 192 kHz does it even approach the ballpark. The sound is metallic, grainy, and very very digital sounding.

So I'm returning this sound card, and I'm looking for a solution. I guess what I'm asking is if anyone out there has experience with an internal PC-based sound card with multiple output channels that actually sounds good enough to compare to some good DACs on the market, like my M-Audio or the Cambridge DacMagic plus that I have my eye on.

What would be really cool is if you could use the Thuneau digital crossover software with several external USB DACs, since my intuition tells me that something like the Cambridge DacMagic is going to be about the best sound quality I can afford, the only problem being that I don't know if I can process 6 channels with 1 computer using 3 of these DACs.

The other, more likely solution (I think) would be finding a top-quality PCI or PCI-e sound card and running each output channel to a different amplifier channel by dividing it up using software and ASIO... I have already achieved this but the results were disappointing because I think the Xonar sound card is just not up to par in quality.

Another thing I'm considering is running optical out from my pc into the Behringer DCX2496, then analog out from it to my amps. My only fear comes from reading that the D/A conversion of this thing is ok but not good, and that some have experimented with replacing or upgrading certain components to really make it shine. I am willing to go this far if I have to.

Anyway, insight will be much appreciated.

Last edited by uzernaam; 28th November 2014 at 04:22 PM.
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Old 29th November 2014, 10:32 AM   #2
Julf is offline Julf  Europe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uzernaam View Post
So I bought an Asus Xonar sound card and got it work work just like I hoped... except for one thing. The sound quality is nowhere near as good as my M-Audio box was. Only if I set the default settings to 24-bit / 192 kHz does it even approach the ballpark. The sound is metallic, grainy, and very very digital sounding.
What OS and player software are you using? What you describe really sounds like some sort of resampling/software/driver problem.
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Old 30th November 2014, 01:16 AM   #3
uzernaam is offline uzernaam  United States
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I'm using Windows 7 Pro 64 bit, 32 GB memory and Foobar2000. I tried the drivers from the included CD, then uninstalled them and downloaded them from the Asus website. I even switched the card to a different slot on the motherboard. Still, the sound quality is quite noticeably less than the M-Audio Fasttrack Pro even though it has to play through analog crossovers.

I really thought moving to Thuneau's frequency allocator would get me even closer to perfection, but it seems to be about 3 steps backwards. I'm still thinking it's the sound card.

Last edited by uzernaam; 30th November 2014 at 01:22 AM.
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Old 30th November 2014, 01:58 AM   #4
AlanL is offline AlanL  United States
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I think Lynx and RME make some quality on board sound cards.

You might also look at the pro multichannel usb interfaces by Steinberg, Prosonus, Metric Halo, Motu, Apogee, etc. (Lynx and RME too). Some get pretty $$$.

Exasound makes a good 8 channel dac.

Minidsp might have a board that will let you use your own dacs.

Have you read this thread? http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/digit...-part-2-a.html
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Old 30th November 2014, 07:28 AM   #5
Julf is offline Julf  Europe
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Originally Posted by uzernaam View Post
I'm using Windows 7 Pro 64 bit, 32 GB memory and Foobar2000. I tried the drivers from the included CD, then uninstalled them and downloaded them from the Asus website. I even switched the card to a different slot on the motherboard. Still, the sound quality is quite noticeably less than the M-Audio Fasttrack Pro even though it has to play through analog crossovers.
I suggest checking the foobar2000 forums to make sure your software is set up for a bit perfect path.
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Old 1st December 2014, 09:10 PM   #6
uzernaam is offline uzernaam  United States
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Thank you AlanL. That exasound is making me hot, looks like exactly what I need since it seems like similar quality to the Cambridge, but instead of being a 2 channel beast, it has 8 analog outs, capability of crazy high bit/sample rates, and is ASIO compatible.

Now all I have to do is save up the 3 grand... and hope the wife doesn't tell me I have some 'splainin' to do.

I checked out the DSP Xover project page. I'm a little confused as to what it's design goals, purpose, and capabilities are although it sounds like something I might be interested in. My patience wore thin before I could read all the pages in the thread to find out.

Last edited by uzernaam; 1st December 2014 at 09:13 PM.
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Old 2nd December 2014, 02:27 PM   #7
DorinD is offline DorinD  Romania
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I'm using this one with great success: Basic PC DSP loudspeaker crossover. Frequency Allocator Light
Also I used this one: RS-MET which is decent in case you don't need delays between different ways (not my case).
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http://www.homebuilthifi.com/project/5604
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Old 2nd December 2014, 04:58 PM   #8
Richidoo is offline Richidoo  United States
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Have a look at Presonus AudioBox 1818. Stable and well maintained ASIO drivers, USB input, excellent quality inputs for analog sources, very good quality outputs, 10 channels i/o, <$500. The outputs have electrolytic caps for protection as do all pro audio interfaces and PC soundcards, but it uses excellent sounding opamps which have no offset, so the caps might be bypassable for home use, I'm looking into that now. I use the old version with firewire input called "Firepod."

I have tried foobar, and a couple VST hosts for digital crossovers. I use JRiver now, and very happy with it. JRiver DSP section has 64 bit processing, so it is "transparent." ASIO inputs are easy to switch between different analog sources. Library management and GUI are excellent, remote control from browser, or many 3rd party apps. It has convolution engine for FIR. Blameless 64 bit digital volume control. Setting up active crossover filters and EQ is not "simple," but it is straightforward and logical, took me an hour starting blind. Now two months later I could do it in 5 minutes. It is easy to tweak the system from the listening position using remote desktop from a laptop. Costs $50.

I have a DCX2496. Built to a price, sounds like it and unreliable. Lots of mods available, but they are expensive and they are all needed to make a audiophile worthy digital source. The value is in the flexible programming in the DSP chip. Everything else is marginal. http://www.pimmlabs.com/web/behringer.htm

Rane RPM26r is another product similar to DCX2496, but much better quality. Easy to setup and adjust from networked PC but the sound is closed in and dull.
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Old 2nd December 2014, 08:15 PM   #9
uzernaam is offline uzernaam  United States
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Richidoo, that Presonus looks good, but I'm afraid it won't work for me, because at 88.1 or 96 kHz, it breaks down to 4 channels. I need at least 6, preferably 8 at 192 kHz. I'd like high/low + sub, or high/mid/low + sub which would require 8 channels total. I realize there isn't a lot of hardware out there that can do this, at least not cheap.

DorinD, I'm already using that software. What surprises me is that my onboard sound card does a better job sound-quality wise than the Asus Xonar DX
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Old 3rd December 2014, 07:26 AM   #10
soundcheck is offline soundcheck  Germany
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Hi there.

I was considering to go "active" over years. Last June I made the step.

I'm now running an active system setup using a RME FireFace UCX as audio interface.
The RME driver quality is, as ususal, outstanding.
RME officially supports ClassCompliant mode.
You can use this device on all platforms, even on your iPad!!!
Multiplatform (Windows/OSX/iOS/Android/Linux) and long term product support, beside real good sound quality were the key criterias.
I didn't want a multichannel device that sounds worse then my stereo setup.
I also didn't want to end up with buggy drivers/firmware, that won't get
supported beyond product warranty.
The list of devices/solutions suddenly gets rather short.

I use the UCX hooked up to a Cubitruck running ArchLinux - (SW: squeezelite and ecasound)
as a headless client now. (All these multichannel Windows setups I consider much too complex.)

After having the setup up'n running (took quite some time),
I wasn't 100% satisfied with the soundquality first.
Sound was good, but something was missing.
Two potential areas for improvement were quickly identified.
1. I could improve the performance of the UCX by swapping
the wallwart supply by a high quality 12V linear supply. A real nice step forward at minimum effort.
2. I also applied a USB filter - similar to the iFi iPurifier. Another layer of grain disappeard.

I'm quite happy now. The system IMO sounds really nice and flawless.

But honestly:
I'm still asking myself, if it was really worth the effort.
We shouldn't forget. Beside a top quality multichannel interface. We need more top quality amps. More quality cabling (speaker/power/cinch).
Powering/Filtering, more complex PC setup, you'll loose some overall flexibility, such a system is more difficult to sell,....

Bottom line. What do I gain??? IMO a little - if you're lucky - if you manage to get it done right.


Some comments to solutions discussed earlier in this thread.

EXA: Be careful with the EXA devices, regarding drivers. Beside that the device is IMO much too expensive.
Mini: I'd also stay away from MiniDSP. Quality?? Closed system!
Devices similar to DCX2496 (I own that too) are IMO rather inflexible and usually won't achieve top notch audio and filter quality.


Cheers

Last edited by soundcheck; 3rd December 2014 at 07:56 AM.
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