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Help Selecting a Soundcard

Discussion in 'Soundblaster Live' started by The Berzerker, Nov 30, 2004.

  1. I'm trying to purchase a 5.1 soundcard for my PC, but I'm very confused. My
    machine already has 5.1 sound onboard, but it's not 5.1!?!? It has an SPDIF
    port, sure and through this it can output DVDs in full 5.1. However, when it
    comes to games, it's just not capable. I'm guessing because with the DVD
    it's just throwing out raw 5.1 sound, while real-time stuff like games can't
    be done that way. Either way, it can't have 5.1 in games, and that's what I
    want.

    So, you see my problem. I've been browsing around, looking at cards, and I
    can never tell whether the card does 'true' 5.1 sound, or is just like what
    I've already got.

    I've been looking at this.
    http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/prod...2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=72316

    I can't tell if it's appropriate. It's certainly cheap, and I don't have
    lots of money to spend. I've also noticed that it doesn't feature a SPDIF
    port, which makes it useless? You're required to connect each speaker
    individually to a port, and I can't do that. My 5.1 speaker system (complete
    with decoder) requires it be connected via optical or coax. The speakers
    simply wouldn't fit into the back of the card if they were to be connected
    one by one. What do I do? Is there an alternative model with a SPDIF port? -
    so I can just link the card to my decoder?

    I'm not really fussed about manufacturer and I'd really, really appreciate
    some help.

    Thanks. I hope someone can guide me.
     
    The Berzerker, Nov 30, 2004
    #1
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  2. The Berzerker

    Lenny Guest

    You have to understand that the SPDIF output is only capable of delivering
    the equivalent of one pair of speakers - ie normal stereo. It simply can't
    fit any more data through the connection. When you play DVDs and get 5.1
    sound through your decoder, that's because the decoder DECODES compressed
    audio that's been reduced in size to fit inside a data stream meant for a
    stereo left and right speaker pair.

    PC games don't generate sound in compressed format (either Dolby Digital -
    sometimes called AC3 - or DTS); PC games produce a raw, uncompressed sound
    meant to be directly output to speakers. A few sound solutions are then
    capable of compressing that multi-channel raw sound into Dolby Digital
    format and send it out a SPDIF output to an external decoder - that's the
    Nvidia NForce chipset for Athlon XP processors and Intel's new IO Processor
    6, part of the i915/i925 chipsets for the Pentium 4.

    Either of these solutions require you to at least change motherboard,
    perhaps main processor as well, and even memory and graphics card, making it
    a very expensive solution just to get multichannel sound through SPDIF.

    Most PC surround solutions depend on multiple analog outputs, so if your
    decoder doesn't have multiple such inputs then you're scroowd.

    If your decoder lacks the analog inputs you'll find on most PC add-in boards
    these days, I'd recommend you buy a PC-centric surround sound system.
    There's many to be found these days with varying price tags, some featuring
    quite powerful amplifiers, some also has built-in SPDIF inputs and decoder
    for DD/DTS surround, though you don't really need that as your PC can decode
    the sound and send the analog signals to the amp instead.

    It all depends on how much moolah you're willing to spend. A Soundblaster
    Audigy2 ZS is one of the best add-in soundcards you can find today, and
    Creative has some pretty darn nice surround speaker systems too, though I
    would suggest Logitech or Videologic instead. Few systems beat the Logitech
    Z680s, and they're pretty cheap now too now that the model's being replaced
    if you buy from the right place. The new model only brings a different look
    to the speakers and a 10" bass speaker compared to "just" 8" in the Z680.

    Look around, see what fits your budget. Perhaps ask for more advice, there's
    always people willing to help on the internet. :)
     
    Lenny, Nov 30, 2004
    #2
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  3. The Berzerker

    Folk Guest

    I concur with Lenny. Spend the extra £20 and get the ZS.

    http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/prod...2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=52229
     
    Folk, Nov 30, 2004
    #3
  4. http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/prod...2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=52229


    Aha! So, looking at the card on creative's website

    http://www.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=1&subcategory=204&product=4915

    Am I mistaken, or are those connections just like the end of a coaxal lead,
    and not conventional jack socket things? If so, my speakers will indeed fit
    into the back of the card. However...

    I will have no way to connect the sub. As it stands my front, center and
    rear speakers connect into the back of the sub, the sub the connects via a
    DIN port to the input and volume selector. So, I'm stuck?

    I'm still god damn confused. My existing 5.1 sound system is the Creative
    Labs 5.1 Inspire set (Digital 5500). I'm really annoyed that I can't use my
    creative speaker set with my (soon to be) creative sound card. What's up
    with that?

    I know you're saying I can buy a new set of speakers, but come on! I'm on a
    killer tight budget... there must be some way to get these to work together,
    and for me to understand what's going on!
     
    The Berzerker, Nov 30, 2004
    #4
  5. The Berzerker

    Lenny Guest

    All jacks on the rear bracket of soundblaster live/audigy cards are 3.5mm
    "headphone" style jacks to save space. It's easy to get converter plugs
    though at a relativley well-stocked hifi/consumer electronics store or such
    if you should need it.
    Well, you CAN use it, it's just you'll get stereo sound from games and such,
    unless it like I previously explained, features the triple analog inputs
    needed to deliver surround sound. It just doesn't seem to be designed to do
    what you want it to do. Sorry, but it's not our fault. :)
     
    Lenny, Nov 30, 2004
    #5
  6. Aha!!!!!

    If you noted about 3 analog inputs, etc...... I missed it!

    I just dug around the back of the decoder, and noted that, wahay, there is a
    triple wire thing with 3 jacks, for rear, centre and front. So, by simply
    bypassing my existing decoder altogether it will work? The triple things
    simply plugs into the soundcard instead of the decoder. Let me confirm this,
    so the soundcard is the new decoder? - booka? Sorry if it was obvious, I was
    thinking from my existing decoder's point of view, rather than breaking it
    down.

    Hey! So, once more...... my existing card is 5.1 capable (apparently) -
    features the SPDIF port and the same old speaker breakdown, where the ports
    suddenly take a second function to connect all speakers..... yet it is
    absolutely not capable of 5.1 in games..... due to it not having codec's, or
    whatever. For educational purposes, when selecting a soundcard, how the
    bloody hell do I tell it's the real deal? Total 5.1 sound from games etc.
    Seriously, I'm still confused as to how I'm supposed to know this.

    Back to my original soundcard suggestion -

    I suggested this...... it does full 5.1 in games etc?
    http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/prod...2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=72316

    and Folk suggested this
    http://www.ebuyer.com/customer/prod...2hvd19wcm9kdWN0X292ZXJ2aWV3&product_uid=52229

    What the bloody hell? What makes the second option twice as expensive? Is it
    really worth the cash? I just want good 5.1 in games!?!?!?!!

    Please try and answer my many randomly scattered questions. I really do
    appreciate it.
     
    The Berzerker, Nov 30, 2004
    #6
  7. If you need to output 5.1 channels through an individual SPDIF out as a
    Dolby Digital signal ( i.e. don't have analogue inputs on yer receiver
    ), you need a card which supports "Dolby Digital Live" like the recent
    Cmedia cards or an nForce 2 mobo with Soundstorm. No Creative card does
    this at the moment and according to a recent press release they have no
    plans to release such a card.

    http://www.cmedia.com.tw/product/CMI8768_plus.htm

    Should serve yer needs.
     
    Sharanga Dayananda, Nov 30, 2004
    #7
  8. The Berzerker

    Lenny Guest

    Why don't you just open up your manual that came with the speakers and check
    what is supposed to connect where? That would save us all a lot of trouble!
    :)

    If you have the triple analog inputs on your speaker system, you simply
    connect each output on the soundcard to the corresponding input on the
    speaker system, then configure your soundcard to use 5.1 speakers. There's
    typically an applet provided for that very task delivered with the soundcard
    drivers. Sometimes you need to go to the windows control panel and start the
    speakers/multimedia applet too and do the same selection there. Then you
    should be all set.

    Please do note that not all games will use surround sound even if you have a
    correctly configured 5.1 speaker system. Sometimes only the front speakers
    will be used; it depends on the game title.
     
    Lenny, Dec 1, 2004
    #8
  9. The Berzerker

    Folk Guest

    Using Unreal Tournament 2004 (my fave game) as an example, the version
    of EAX used is later than what is supported by the original SBLive
    card. So if you want full support in all the latest games, then you
    need the latest tech. It's not that much different in concept than
    video cards, where if you want support for the latest DirectX 9 eye
    candy, you need a DX9 capable card. If you want game compatibility
    going forward, it would be foolish to buy a Ti4200 today, just as it
    would be foolish to buy a SBLive card today.
     
    Folk, Dec 1, 2004
    #9
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