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Narcotic

Sound card help/suggestion

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Hey guys, I'm back for more help with my computer build. This time, my Audio/Sound card.

 

I've recently purchased a new gaming headset Astro a40 wireless. The headset has 2 optional ways to plug in, USB or fiber optic cable (preferable).

 

However, I don't think I've EVER upgraded my sound card in my PC (silly me) so I don't have a fiber optic port.

 

Any suggestions on a decent sound card with a fiber optic port that's between $0-200?

I'm a gamer that would like to enjoy my new headset and sound quality of the gaming world. I'm no musician that needs a top-of-the-line sound card.

 

 

Thanks in advance, Narcotic.

 

EDIT: The sound card must support 7.1

Edited by Narcotic

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People here are probably tired of hearing me rave about my Asus Xonar D2X, but I will do it at least one more time :lol: It puts out some very good, clean sound. I'm no audiophile, but I certainly can tell the difference between low, medium, and high-grade audio and the D2X is definitely on the high end. If you want something less expensive, the Xonar DX is also a good option. Furthermore, I have heard really good things about the HT Omega cards.

 

Some of the other members here :cough: stonerboy :cough: will probably come along and rave about their DAC amps. I've not seen/heard those so my opinion is based solely on sound cards alone.

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Why do you need a 7.1 card for a pair of stereo headphones?

 

The USB connection, being purely digital already, is probably what you'll want to use. I see no advantage (unless I'm missing something) by piping it through an optical connector instead since it has it's own mixer/amp anyway.

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In order to have accurate 7.1 directionality, the external mixer would have to be fed a 7.1 audio source, convert it into stereo but keep the directionality using audio algorithms, and then send it to the cans as stereo. The end result is that the algorithms trick your ears into thinking the stereo sound is in the original 7.1 format. If you start out with just a stereo signal, it will only be able to stay stereo, and the directionality algorithms will be useless. He's trying to do optical, which allows the source (the sound card) to do most of the decoding/decrypting, whereas with USB it is all done externally.

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In order to have accurate 7.1 directionality, the external mixer would have to be fed a 7.1 audio source, convert it into stereo but keep the directionality using audio algorithms, and then send it to the cans as stereo. The end result is that the algorithms trick your ears into thinking the stereo sound is in the original 7.1 format. If you start out with just a stereo signal, it will only be able to stay stereo, and the directionality algorithms will be useless. He's trying to do optical, which allows the source (the sound card) to do most of the decoding/decrypting, whereas with USB it is all done externally.

Stereo mixing (with positional audio) emulates an infinite number of speakers positioned around your head already. Going from 7.1 -> stereo is just as effective as using stereo -> stereo with no conversion. Heck, it's probably better overall since you only have stereo output anyway.

 

Am I missing something there? The processing algorithms work just the same with 7.1 output as they do with stereo output...you're just skipping a step by doing it in stereo to start with. There is no real "source" for gaming anyway since it's all processed on the fly.

 

The built-in USB connection means that it'll use the mixer within the little external box to do the processing. I don't think that's a disadvantage versus using the optical connection except that it moves the processing onto the sound card. It's all purely digital from one end to the other for either setup and it's all done in software. I guess I just don't see the point in buying a sound card when the headphones basically came with one already. :teehee:

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I guess I just don't see the point in buying a sound card when the headphones basically came with one already. :teehee:

I agree with this statement, as long as he is alright with using USB and not optical.

 

If you have bullets whizzing by your head and you have the source set to stereo, the external sound card is not going to know how to process those sounds in terms of front-to-back directionality. However, if the output is set to 7.1, or even 5.1 for that matter, the algorithms have something to start with to calculate how to position those "infinite speakers" around your head.

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If you have bullets whizzing by your head and you have the source set to stereo, the external sound card is not going to know how to process those sounds in terms of front-to-back directionality. However, if the output is set to 7.1, or even 5.1 for that matter, the algorithms have something to start with to calculate how to position those "infinite speakers" around your head.

There is no front to back directionality in a stereo headset. :P

 

All of the positional information is there even with a stereo headset. The game in question calculates everything before it ever gets near the sound card driver.

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There is no front to back directionality in a stereo headset. :P

I know this, but in a 5.1 environment there is front-to-back directionality. Stereo headsets like the a40 will still be perceived as stereo unless the input supplies the cans with the sound slightly modified to create the perception of surround sound. Then the algorithms may be able to trick the ears into hearing a slight difference in front-to-back sound.

 

If 2-channel sound is coming from an audio source, 2-channel sound is what will be perceived. If that audio source is 7.1 and the headphones are able to handle it (like the a40s) then what is perceived is something akin to 7.1 sound.

 

Now, I understand that you are saying the game outputs 7.1 channel sound. However, if the hardware connected to the headphone mixer only puts out 2-channel sound, that mixer will only be able to produce stereo sound. USB may be a different story since it is bypassing the audio card altogether, but loses some fidelity just like all USB audio.

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I know this, but in a 5.1 environment there is front-to-back directionality. Stereo headsets like the a40 will still be perceived as stereo unless the input supplies the cans with the sound slightly modified to create the perception of surround sound. Then the algorithms may be able to trick the ears into hearing a slight difference in front-to-back sound.

 

If 2-channel sound is coming from an audio source, 2-channel sound is what will be perceived. If that audio source is 7.1 and the headphones are able to handle it (like the a40s) then what is perceived is something akin to 7.1 sound.

 

Now, I understand that you are saying the game outputs 7.1 channel sound. However, if the hardware connected to the headphone mixer only puts out 2-channel sound, that mixer will only be able to produce stereo sound. USB may be a different story since it is bypassing the audio card altogether, but loses some fidelity just like all USB audio.

It's a 2 channel headset - so there's no real front to back no matter what.

 

The processing your talking about (surround emulation) is done at the game level, not at the drivers. It only happens at the drivers when you use a fake 7.1 headset that downmixes to stereo internally. Personally I'd rather use the real stereo output as it tends to be much better about positional audio.

 

 

2-channel sound doesn't mean it doesn't have positional audio.

Listen to this on headphones. It's pure stereo. That's how games process sound (or, how they will once they get better modeling). Using a "7.1" headset in stereo mode will give you better positionality (is that a word?) than a "7.1" headset with "7.1" enabled then downmixed to stereo at the external box.

 

 

USB audio doesn't mean it loses fidelity BTW. USB 2.0 is more than fast enough for lossless high-bitrate audio.

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It's a 2 channel headset - so there's no real front to back no matter what.

 

The processing your talking about (surround emulation) is done at the game level, not at the drivers. It only happens at the drivers when you use a fake 7.1 headset that downmixes to stereo internally. Personally I'd rather use the real stereo output as it tends to be much better about positional audio.

 

 

2-channel sound doesn't mean it doesn't have positional audio.

Listen to this on headphones. It's pure stereo. That's how games process sound (or, how they will once they get better modeling). Using a "7.1" headset in stereo mode will give you better positionality (is that a word?) than a "7.1" headset with "7.1" enabled then downmixed to stereo at the external box.

 

 

USB audio doesn't mean it loses fidelity BTW. USB 2.0 is more than fast enough for lossless high-bitrate audio.

Hmm interesting, thanks for the info. I had heard that "holophonic" sound before and I believe the barbershop one as well. If that is the case though, what is the purpose of sound cards? I'm just curious at this point :)

 

@OP, Waco and I apologize for hijacking your thread :whistling:

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Hmm interesting, thanks for the info. I had heard that "holophonic" sound before and I believe the barbershop one as well. If that is the case though, what is the purpose of sound cards? I'm just curious at this point :)

Sound cards today just serve as good outputs. :lol: All of the processing is done in software. If you're running a digital output like USB or Optical the only differences come down to what the driver allows / will encode. Many cheaper cards don't support encoding Dolby Digital, DTS, etc. That's about the only difference these days for digital connections.

 

For analog, you're paying for good clean outputs with smooth frequency response. 99% of the time your speakers will be the limiting factor anyway, so if onboard sound doesn't have any noticeable noise or distortion a sound card really doesn't get you much IMHO.

 

 

EDIT: OP - sorry for the threadjack. Personally I'd stick with the USB interface.

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