Sound quality when run thru a surround sound system: ALC887, ALC1200

alpharalpha

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I'm doing a budget mini-itx build that will pull double duty as living room pc and htpc for streaming etc. Everything gets run thru my surround sound system so I'm wondering how much of a difference these different onboard audio setups will make using it this way--no headphone usage.
I'd like to get the AsRock H460M, good budget mobo for my needs, expect just an ALC887 and not much else dedicated to audio performance. for $25 more the AsRock H470 has a ALC1200, Nahimic so more than H460. Then for another $25 there's the very nice Asus Rog Strix B460-I Gaming with a whole lot of feature I don't need, but also with ALCS1220A and a bunch of extras dedicated to audio.
Am I really going to notice a considerable improvement going with the higher audio codecs not using headphones and running it thru my surround sound? No reason to spend extra just for audio if it's not going to matter for how I'm using it, but if it does I'll get it. Thanks.
 
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If you're using a digital output to your received, as long as it outputs the surround format you want (Dolby Digital, DTS, etc) it doesn't matter because the work is done at the receiver.
 

Dan_D

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If you're using a digital output to your received, as long as it outputs the surround format you want (Dolby Digital, DTS, etc) it doesn't matter because the work is done at the receiver.

Exactly. It really makes no difference. Analog output is the only way you'll see a difference between the cheaper CODECs and the more expensive ones.
 

alpharalpha

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I have been running the 3.5mm jack on my pc to analog av rca inputs on the receiver, but while it doesn't have an hdmi input, it does have optical, so if I got one of those hdmi to hdmi+optical splitter/extractors would that be the way to go?

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If you’re running analog out you might notice a difference; the higher end codecs are usually on boards where the manufacturers have attempted to do some kind of quality work on the onboard audio. Asus puts their stuff on a riser on some birds to isolate it from other electrical noise in the system.

if you get a board that has a built in optical output, or one of those combojack outputs that can do spdif with a minidin adapter, you won’t notice a difference because it’s just sending the digital audio stream right to your receiver.

can’t speak to the hdmi audio extractor option, but if you are connecting to your tv via HDMI for video,does your TV have an optical audio out you can pipe to the receiver?
 

alpharalpha

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Monitor doesn't have digital audio out. Can you explain mini din adapter? I tried looking it up but didn't find anything related to digital audio? I'm seriously considering getting a motherboard with optical out, nothing for mini-itx in stock right now and would have to switch my build choice to amd instead of intel; looks like the new intel mini-itx have moved to a digital c usb out.
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criccio

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I have been running the 3.5mm jack on my pc to analog av rca inputs on the receiver, but while it doesn't have an hdmi input, it does have optical, so if I got one of those hdmi to hdmi+optical splitter/extractors would that be the way to go?

View attachment 251133

Correct. If you use HDMI out it'll bypass all the onboard audio completely.
 
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The adapter I am taking about: some of the systems use a 1/8” mini plug for analog stereo out, but it’s also able to send digital audio via optical with the right connector:

StarTech.com THINTOSMIN6 6 feet Toslink to Mini Digital Optical SPDIF Audio Cable Size: 6 ft/2 m https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KY38L6S/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_.Xy3EbJGT5FEJ

It’s more common on laptops but I’ve seen it on some desktop systems. Intel puts it on some of the little NUC boxes for instance. You’d have to check the manual for whatever motherboard you’re thinking of getting to see if it supports it.
 

alpharalpha

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The adapter I am taking about: some of the systems use a 1/8” mini plug for analog stereo out, but it’s also able to send digital audio via optical with the right connector:

StarTech.com THINTOSMIN6 6 feet Toslink to Mini Digital Optical SPDIF Audio Cable Size: 6 ft/2 m https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KY38L6S/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_.Xy3EbJGT5FEJ

It’s more common on laptops but I’ve seen it on some desktop systems. Intel puts it on some of the little NUC boxes for instance. You’d have to check the manual for whatever motherboard you’re thinking of getting to see if it supports it.
Interesting, I don't know if that motherboard would have it. I do see that there is a s/pdif optical out header on the motherboard, would just have to get a bracket for that; but who knows, the audio on the Asus mobo looks pretty decent, maybe it'll sound alright, I wonder if the speakers would have to be directly connected to the oboard audio inputs to get the hd audio or if just using the one 3.5mm out would have the ability to transfer hd audio to the receiver's rca av inputs?. My other option is to wait and hope the AsRock B450 comes back in stock, if ever, if has good audio and an onboard spdif optical out.
- Sonic Studio III + Sonic Studio Virtual
 
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If by "HD Audio" you mean... any kind of digital audio, no, you won't get it over the line out to RCA inputs. Best you can hope for is good quality stereo audio.

I gave up sound cards a long time ago and have been pretty happy with onboard audio quality on higher end boards. I use a pair of desktop monitor speakers (Edirol MA-15D) that accept both analog and digital input. It's really easy to switch between the two and I've done side by side tests to see if I notice any difference in audio quality. Keep in mind it's just two speakers, so surround sound isn't something I'm concerned about. My ears aren't what they used to be but audio compression artifacts drive me nuts, I can still pick up on the odd muffling or distortion (usually). Generally speaking, on higher end boards since ALC1150 4-5 years ago, I don't notice a difference anymore.

So with that in mind, I'd say:

If you're using analog audio, you'll probably be perfectly happy with the sound quality from a decent onboard audio implementation. But you're only going to get stereo output regardless of source.

If, however, you want surround sound of any sort, you're going to need a digital output. Optical can do Dolby Digital and DTS; for the HD audio streams used in blu-rays and such you'd need to be able to output from HDMI directly to your receiver.
 

alpharalpha

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If by "HD Audio" you mean... any kind of digital audio, no, you won't get it over the line out to RCA inputs. Best you can hope for is good quality stereo audio.

I gave up sound cards a long time ago and have been pretty happy with onboard audio quality on higher end boards. I use a pair of desktop monitor speakers (Edirol MA-15D) that accept both analog and digital input. It's really easy to switch between the two and I've done side by side tests to see if I notice any difference in audio quality. Keep in mind it's just two speakers, so surround sound isn't something I'm concerned about. My ears aren't what they used to be but audio compression artifacts drive me nuts, I can still pick up on the odd muffling or distortion (usually). Generally speaking, on higher end boards since ALC1150 4-5 years ago, I don't notice a difference anymore.

So with that in mind, I'd say:

If you're using analog audio, you'll probably be perfectly happy with the sound quality from a decent onboard audio implementation. But you're only going to get stereo output regardless of source.

If, however, you want surround sound of any sort, you're going to need a digital output. Optical can do Dolby Digital and DTS; for the HD audio streams used in blu-rays and such you'd need to be able to output from HDMI directly to your receiver.

I use the surround system for dvds, the htpc is just for streaming. I know wouldn't have got digital audio thru rca, guess they say hd audio for hooking the speakers directly to the onboard outputs, just was thinking maybe it'd process well enough to be close. I have found 2 motherboard options, both have 1220, the AsRock has the optical onboard while the Asus B460 has an spdif header that I can connect optical out bracket to. the Asrock is not in stock right now but it's audio profile is: (Realtek ALC1220 Audio Codec), Supports Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 5 and Nichicon Fine Gold Series Audio Caps & 12K Black Caps. While the Asus B460 has: S1220A;
ROG SupremeFX 7.1 Surround Sound High Definition Audio CODEC
- Dual OP Amplifiers
- Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
- High quality 120 dB SNR stereo playback output and 113 dB SNR recording input
- Supports up to 32-Bit/192kHz playback
Audio Feature :
- SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
- Rear audio USB Type-C® port
- Premium Japanese audio capacitors
- Sonic Radar III
- Sonic Studio III + Sonic Studio Virtual Mixer

I think a lot of that is geared towards headphones, but regardless, it's there, seems like they took a lot of attention to the audio. So which do you think is the better motherboard, taking in account I'd have to use a bracket the Asus and on a mini-itx there's 2 slots on the case but I think most of the new gpus use both of those--not that I plan on gettting a gpu anytime soon. The Asus is in stock, which the AsRock is not, though is has the optical onboard, saving that precious bracket. I was leaning towards an intel build using i3-10100 but considered the amd 3400g for little better igpu graphics. What do you think?
 
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I wouldn’t bother with a solution that required a bracket connected to the header on the board. I used to do that for my builds and it’s fine, the brackets are easier to find now with eBay. But, as you’ve said, you may end up using one of those slots with a GPU down the road, and also, I don’t think it’s worth the effort. I’ve got an Asus board using that same audio solution (b450i Strix) and I like the audio on it a lot. I’ve also used recent asrock boards and liked them too.

as far as going intel or AMD right now - I’d go AMD personally, primarily for the more capable integrated graphics, but also because I just think they have better tech right now. I’d at least wait until next week to see if B550 Chipset launches (expected June 16) and if there isn’t an immediate need for the system I’d wait until the desktop version of the 4000 series APUs launch (which could be anywhere from next week to October depending on which rumors you’ve read). The GPU will be a little faster but mostly they will be available with more cores/threads, making it less likely I’d want to replace the processor down the road.
 

alpharalpha

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I wouldn’t bother with a solution that required a bracket connected to the header on the board. I used to do that for my builds and it’s fine, the brackets are easier to find now with eBay. But, as you’ve said, you may end up using one of those slots with a GPU down the road, and also, I don’t think it’s worth the effort. I’ve got an Asus board using that same audio solution (b450i Strix) and I like the audio on it a lot. I’ve also used recent asrock boards and liked them too.

as far as going intel or AMD right now - I’d go AMD personally, primarily for the more capable integrated graphics, but also because I just think they have better tech right now. I’d at least wait until next week to see if B550 Chipset launches (expected June 16) and if there isn’t an immediate need for the system I’d wait until the desktop version of the 4000 series APUs launch (which could be anywhere from next week to October depending on which rumors you’ve read). The GPU will be a little faster but mostly they will be available with more cores/threads, making it less likely I’d want to replace the processor down the road.

Time flies, I thought the new amd stuff wasn't coming out until later this year but right, the motherboards are due soon; maybe there'll be one with onboard optical out in mini-itx. I'm feeling a bit more at ease about it all, knowing I can put that optical bracket in (and while right now no gpu, later on I could always find a little space for that optical out besides the slot, or get a single slot gpu, I'm not really a gamer, my young son plays games but they're kid games that run on the igpu fine for now.) And like you said, the audio on the Asus Rog is pretty good, I may not even notice a difference between the analog out and the optical, just use the pc for streaming, surround system for dvds.) June 16th is just around the corner, am curious what will be coming out.
 

alpharalpha

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I wouldn’t bother with a solution that required a bracket connected to the header on the board. I used to do that for my builds and it’s fine, the brackets are easier to find now with eBay. But, as you’ve said, you may end up using one of those slots with a GPU down the road, and also, I don’t think it’s worth the effort. I’ve got an Asus board using that same audio solution (b450i Strix) and I like the audio on it a lot. I’ve also used recent asrock boards and liked them too.

as far as going intel or AMD right now - I’d go AMD personally, primarily for the more capable integrated graphics, but also because I just think they have better tech right now. I’d at least wait until next week to see if B550 Chipset launches (expected June 16) and if there isn’t an immediate need for the system I’d wait until the desktop version of the 4000 series APUs launch (which could be anywhere from next week to October depending on which rumors you’ve read). The GPU will be a little faster but mostly they will be available with more cores/threads, making it less likely I’d want to replace the processor down the road.
Well, the 550s are out now but no digital out, at least not on the mini-itx :(
 

E4g1e

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Right now you are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to multichannel audio output. You see, most optical audio connections can only handle 2-channel stereo. So, the HDMI-to-optical converter will not do you any good there as it will always downmix into 2.0 stereo. Not what you want.

With your current equipment the only way that you can ever hear multichannel audio would be entirely via analog connections. Unfortunately, cheaper motherboards not only cheap out on the audio codec chip, but also cheap out on the associated audio components so that it will sound no better than a cheap portable player. I'm sorry to say this, but you will have to spend a lot of money for either a super-deluxe motherboard or a new multichannel receiver with HDMI inputs.

EDIT: By the way, uncompressed or lossless-compressed multichannel is not supported at all through the optical out or in. Only lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 is supported. Just a clarification.
 
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killroy67

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Why not just get a nice sound card from Creative, I have the AE5 Sound Blaster and love it. Any onboard sound solutions on a motherboard are crap, I don't care what anyone say, if they tell you differently then they never owed a sound card. Go cheap on the mobo and get a sound card, you wont regret it. Creative has a full lineup of sound cards to suit your needs.
 

E4g1e

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Why not just get a nice sound card from Creative, I have the AE5 Sound Blaster and love it. Any onboard sound solutions on a motherboard are crap, I don't care what anyone say, if they tell you differently then they never owed a sound card. Go cheap on the mobo and get a sound card, you wont regret it. Creative has a full lineup of sound cards to suit your needs.
It cannot be an internal sound card. The OP has already decided on a mini-ITX form factor. That cannot change. Plus, that system will likely have a discrete graphics card installed, which will eat up the only expansion slot on the board since most AMD CPUs and some mainstream Intel CPUs (the F series) REQUIRE a discrete GPU just for a system that's equipped with such a CPU to even run at all.

So, the only choices would then become a new receiver with HDMI inputs or an external USB sound card box.
 
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killroy67

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It cannot be an internal sound card. The OP has already decided on a mini-ITX form factor. That cannot change. Plus, that system will likely have a discrete graphics card installed, which will eat up the only expansion slot on the board since most AMD CPUs and some mainstream Intel CPUs (the F series) REQUIRE a discrete GPU just for a system that's equipped with such a CPU to even run at all.

So, the only choices would then become a new receiver with HDMI inputs or an external USB sound card box.
If he uses Intel graphics, that leaves the one expansion slot free, than being able to run a dedicated sound card.
 

E4g1e

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If he uses Intel graphics, that leaves the one expansion slot free, than being able to run a dedicated sound card.
Which goes back to this question:

Which CPU is he planning to use in that system?

If this would be an Intel-based system, as long as he avoids any of the CPUs that have an -F or a -KF suffix, he would be able to squeeze in a discrete internal sound card. On the other hand, if this were an AMD-based system, then the only choices that are currently available that have integrated graphics are those APUs that are based on the older-gen Zen+ architecture (the Ryzen 3 3200G and the Ryzen 5 3400G) since the Ryzen 4000 series APUs that are based on the Zen2 refresh architecture are not yet widely available.
 
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killroy67

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Which goes back to this question:

Which CPU is he planning to use in that system?

If this would be an Intel-based system, as long as he avoids any of the CPUs that have an -F or a -KF suffix, he would be able to squeeze in a discrete internal sound card. On the other hand, if this were an AMD-based system, then the only choices that are currently available that have integrated graphics are those APUs that are based on the older-gen Zen+ architecture (the Ryzen 3 3200G and the Ryzen 5 3400G) since the Ryzen 4000 series APUs that are based on the Zen2 refresh architecture are not yet widely available.
Going by the two motherboards he mentioned I assumed he was going with a Intel CPU, both are Intel motherboards with HDMI ports. Creative has a number a sound cards, the Sound Blaster Z is not a big card. The AE series is also nice, possibly a bit bigger than the Z.
 

E4g1e

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Going by the two motherboards he mentioned I assumed he was going with a Intel CPU, both are Intel motherboards with HDMI ports. Creative has a number a sound cards, the Sound Blaster Z is not a big card. The AE series is also nice, possibly a bit bigger than the Z.
True that, but you have to realize that the integrated GPU is on the CPU itself. There is absolutely no integrated GPU at all in the motherboard chipset. Hence my suggestion for the OP to avoid all of the "F" and "KF" CPUs, which all have had their integrated graphics permanently disabled during chip manufacturing, and would therefore require a discrete graphics card in order to even run at all.
 

killroy67

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True that, but you have to realize that the integrated GPU is on the CPU itself. There is absolutely no integrated GPU at all in the motherboard chipset. Hence my suggestion for the OP to avoid all of the "F" and "KF" CPUs, which all have had their integrated graphics permanently disabled during chip manufacturing, and would therefore require a discrete graphics card in order to even run at all.
I agree, I have been out of the Intel CPU market since my I7 4790, which also did have Intel graphics. So I’m guessing by what your are sayIng is the F and KF CPU’s do not have integrated graphics? Just doing a quick search I see they have the I5-10400 and I7-10700 as example that have integrated graphics . So if the OP goes the Intel route and follows your advice, it sounds like he could slip in a nice Creative Sound Blaster card. You can get a Sound Blaster Z for around $100 and it would blow away any onboard sound solutions past or present.
 

toast0

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If you've got a header for spdif, I'd get a bracket and see if you can wedge it in somewhere. If your receiver accepts both optical and coax (rca plug, often orange) spdif, they're equivalent quality wise, and a coax only plug might be easier to work --- you can probably drill a suitable sized round hole and mount the plug somewhere. I would wonder about the HDMI audio extractors and delay for multichannel sound --- if you can get your PC to output the supported DTS/Dolby Digital formats over hdmi, there shouldn't be extra delay, but if it outputs PCM and the extractor reencodes it (if it even can), that's not great.
 
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