Optical sound card

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by Mccaula718, Feb 16, 2019.

  1. Mccaula718

    Mccaula718 Gawd

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    I'm looking for a recommendation for a sound card with optical out that will support my 7.1 headphones. My motherboard unfortunately doesn't have any toslink so I need something pcie that works with Windows 10. The cheaper the better and even usb is ok as long as it has Dolby 7.1. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
     
  2. DoubleTap

    DoubleTap [H]ard|Gawd

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    You're going to need to be a lot more specific.

    Optical only supports 5.1

    Which headphones are you using?
     
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  3. AlphaAtlas

    AlphaAtlas [H]ard|Gawd Staff Member

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    Many motherboards have an internal toslink header, which means you might be able to use a bracket like this:

    https://www.amazon.com/SPDIF-Optical-Plate-Cable-Bracket/dp/B01LWNKIKN

    Also, Dolby has an Atmos app you can buy on the Windows store now. You're probably better off using that (or Razer Surround) if your headphones only have 2 drivers.


    But yeah, as said above, we're going to need more info for a specific recommendation.
     
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  4. pendragon1

    pendragon1 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    lol I just installed one of those this afternoon. got tired of not having optical/5.1.
     
  5. pippenainteasy

    pippenainteasy Gawd

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    There's also usb to optical adapters you can buy. But yes this is why I spend the extra $15 for a motherboard with optical to avoid this issue...
     
  6. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    Incorrect - TOSLINK optical supports up to 7.1 compressed (ie Dolby Digital or DTS). You are correct in that it can't support that many channels of UNCOMPRESSED audio, though.

    OP - I have had great success with the Asus Xonar U3. It also does Dolby Digital Live. Most optical outs only send uncompressed 2-channel stereo audio from Windows and will pass-through existing multi-channel DD or DTS audio such as that found in a lot of movies. Dolby Digital Live encodes ALL Windows audio into compressed Dolby Digital.

    It usually runs ~$40 brand new, but is worth every penny. The higher end (and more expensive) Xonar USB units don't do Dolby Digital Live encoding.
     
  7. DoubleTap

    DoubleTap [H]ard|Gawd

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    Please cite your format and the source of that information. If you are correct, it's not widely known.

    It's well known / believed in A/V circles that TOSLINK gets you 2ch uncompressed or 5.1 compressed.
     
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  8. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    I have a DTS-EX/DD-EX 7.1 (Pioneer VSX-516) system hooked up to a blu-ray player via TOSLINK, with the player set to "Legacy Audio/Bitstream" mode, and all 7 channels work and are distinct with 7.1 channel films. When watching 5.1 channel films, the 2 rear channels are silent and likewise all but the front 2 stereo channels are silent in movies that only have stereo or monoaural sound (VERY old movies).
     
  9. pippenainteasy

    pippenainteasy Gawd

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    7.1 is technically 8 channel, DTS-ES/DD-EX is 7 channel (i.e., 6.1). If you have two rear surrounds will just mirror the output in dual mono.
     
  10. DoubleTap

    DoubleTap [H]ard|Gawd

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    Ok, so quick recap.

    1. I was wrong, it seems you can get 6.1 over optical.
    2. You can't get 7.1 over optical - your rears are just running mono.
    3. It's kind of moot because DDL/DTSC only support 5.1 encoding.
    4. Most of those encoders are slow and will add a lot of latency to your gaming sound.
     
  11. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    4) SOFTWARE encoders add a lot of latency, and it is easy to find wrappers that will make DDL work for pretty much any soundcard. Hardware DDL encoding produces negligible latency, and if you look carefully, you can still find soundcards that take this approach.

    The technology was first produced by nVidia of all people for the original XBOX chipset, and it then migrated into their nForce and nForce 2 chipsets for AMD processors. nVidia wasn't very fond of doing audio driver updates though, and the actual number of people using this tech didn't seem to support the effort, so nVidia effectively dropped it. That's OK, because C-Media picked that ball back up and ran with it. Auzentech was the first to bring cards to market with these chipsets in the form of the X-Mystique 7.1 Gold PCI soundcard (using the CMI-8768+ chipset), released in the US under the brand "Blue Gears" (I have 2 of these, actually - bought specifically BECAUSE nVidia dropped DDL encoding on their nForce 3 and newer chipsets). C-Media produced newer chips utilizing this technology (and even added DTS live hardware encoding to some), and Auzentech and Asus (under their Xonar brand) released cards in kind. The soundcard business, while not huge, was profitable enough for Asus to license and spin off their own audio processors based on designs from C-Media for some of their Xonar cards. Sadly, Auzentech, despite having outstanding hardware, folded.

    Auzentech had marketed themselves as a home theater sound card company, and were largely overlooked by gamers. The lack of EAX support and 3D positional audio tech didn't help them with gamers either. They tried to correct this by licensing the X-Fi chipset from Creative and making some cards based on it (particularly when C-Media entered into an exclusivity agreement with Asus regarding the CMI-8788 chipset making it so that Auzentech could no longer manufacture their newest at the time X-Meridian 7.1 cards - I have one of these as well). Auzentech was the first to deliver DDL and DTS encoding using the X-Fi chipset with the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude PCI soundcard (the Prelude, for a long time, was considered the absolute best implementation of Creative's X-Fi chipset). Later, Creative released "upgrade packs" that you had to pay for to get this feature using their own X-Fi cards under Windows Vista. There was quite the stink about it at the time...

    Asus still manufactures and supports devices to this day using C-Media chips and their own custom spin-offs of those chips. The Asus Xonar U3 is a USB device offering DDL and DTS hardware encoding via TOSLINK, and that is what I am using with my Crosshair VI since these mainboards do not have PCI slots. I migrated my X-Meridian down to my wife's PC (she has Altec Lansing ADA-880 speakers, which take a DDL SPDIF signal) since her Asus Prime X370-A Ryzen mainboard still has 2 PCI slots on it...
     
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  12. AlphaAtlas

    AlphaAtlas [H]ard|Gawd Staff Member

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    Huh, that's some interesting history.

    My next mobo has to have a PCI slot as well, as I'm not willing to part with my Xonar ST just yet.
     
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  13. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    I totally get it. I was willing to retire the X-Mystique she was using before. My X-Meridian was tricked out with the optional expansion board and hardware MIDI I/O ports (I have hardware MIDI synths although they are now connected by a Roland UM One mk II to my system). This is probably the single best soundcard I have ever purchased and I * heart * it. It will be pried from my cold, dead fingers.

    After the Asus exclusivity agreement expired a few years later, Auzentech immediately re-released the X-Meridian with a few minor tweaks and re-branded it as the X-Meridian 7.1 2G. Pretty much all of the Auzentech cards had replaceable op-amps before that was a thing. Since I was using digital outs (and that only effects the analog output circuitry) I never bothered with it.
     
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  14. DoubleTap

    DoubleTap [H]ard|Gawd

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    Most of that stuff is old and poorly supported now.

    HDMI would be a lot easier.

    I tried the Omni 5.1 and the Xonar U7 mk1 about 4 or 5 years ago and found their encoders to add about 500ms (estimated) latency. If you know of faster encoders that are readily available, you should get the word out...
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019
  15. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    The Xonar U3 has current Windows 10 drivers. Also, the U3 does HARDWARE DDL encoding, the U7 does not.

    Edit: I've never had any latency problems with mine, but the fastest paced game I play is Smite so I can't really speak to latency. I looked for info on Google about it for a while and there really doesn't seem to be any hard numbers on it, though there aren't really any knocks against it for latency either. The only negatives I've read, really, are about analog sound quality not being the same as top-end dedicated internal cards. There were no complaints about the digital out or the DDL support at all.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
  16. Mccaula718

    Mccaula718 Gawd

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  17. Mccaula718

    Mccaula718 Gawd

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  18. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    Without Dolby Digital Live support, you're only going to get stereo sound out of that optical out with pretty much everything except movies...
     
  19. Mccaula718

    Mccaula718 Gawd

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  20. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    That should work for you just fine, but again, the Asus U3 is cheaper and if you are digital anyway, there will be no sound qulaity difference between the 2 units. The Xi-Fi would be very good if you also plan to use analog sound in the future. Also, the Xi-Fi should have better support for older pre-Vista Windows games that used EAX and hardware accelerated DirectSound features (Creative Alchemy comparability layer).
     
  21. Mccaula718

    Mccaula718 Gawd

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    Thanks mvmiller12, I missed where you had posted that earlier. Went ahead and got the U3. Appreciate it.
     
  22. mvmiller12

    mvmiller12 Gawd

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    np! Let us know how it goes for you...