What would I be missing...

TheCur

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...question from a relative newb getting into "better sounding audio" for my movies and tv shows.

I'm building a new computer and considering which route to go in regards to audio.

1) Motherboard SPDIF to A/V reciever driving headphones (AT A700's / Denon AHD2ks) and a decent set of 2.1s (Klipsch? AE? Swans?)

2) Something like the CL Titanium HD driving the above?

3) A combination of amp / dac? I set my wife up with a HRT Music Streamer 2 / Fiio E9 and some AT M50's and she loves it. My worry with this type of set up is driving the speakers... (A Schiit Asgard could do it I would guess...)

I probably spend 70% watching HD TV shows / movies, 25% playing games (BF3, Skyrim, CS, etc) and 5% listening to music. I'm unconcerned with having uber 3d sound bells and whistles as I play for fun and relaxation.

I'm leaning towards the receiver (Denon AVR1312?) route but just curious as to if there is something I'd be really missing from gaming going this route? Would a Schiit dac / amp sound much better than a Denon?

Thanks for the thoughts....
 

Valaire

Gawd
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Use HDMI over SPDIF when connecting to a digital source from a computer these days. Swans will sound the best out of the speakers you listed and are a good value. I personally use a set of nearfield swan monitors (2.0, I don't need the super low end bass of a subwoofer with full range speakers) and a set of decent headphones.

If using mostly for movies, I'd stick with a very basic Xonar card unless you happen to already have a receiver nearby. Plug the speakers and the headphones into an analog switch and then into the Xonar. If you want a switch internally, you can upgrade to the Xonar Essence but that is a huge waste of money for movie-watching on stereo speakers.

I don't think it's worth futzing around with different sources like stand-alone DACS and receivers for 5% music listening.
 

TheCur

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Well I can get any Denon / Marantz receiver very cheaply since my company is a large supplier to the parent corporation. That one I listed is just their cheapest and I can get it for well under $MSRP. My budget is extremely flexible. That's why I'm leaning that way. But if a Schiit combo would blow it away, then I'd drop my money there.

I guess my thinking was trying to avoid a sound card altogether, and using on-board as it's generally pretty hassle free. If I felt I "really needed 5.1 / some bell/whistle" for some game, which I doubt would happen as long as it sounded good, I could always just plug it in there.
 

Valaire

Gawd
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I think the big issue here is your intended use of the system. If you are going to use it to watch movies and TV shows, then room/space permitting, then you should get a 5.1 system and set up a home theater. If you already have one and this is just for a secondary place to watch movies, I'd say the next best thing is a good pair of headphones and some Dolby Headphone.

The most compelling reason to explore upgrading your source is for music playback, so if you're only going to listen to music 5% of the time, I would strongly suggest you stick to a more basic source (receiver DAC, or analog sound card).

Can you give a little bit more info:

1. Do you have a home theatre already?
2. What room is the computer in, what kind of space do you have for speakers, etc.?

If I were you, and wanted a very nice movie-watching experience at my computer desk, and not at a couch, I would get a pair of mid-fi/high-fi grade stereo headphones, and Xonar DG or Xonar DX, hook it up analog to the computer, and flip on Dolby Headphone. That's the best sound you'll get next to setting up a proper home theatre, with proper speaker placement, and you on a couch. Same with gaming.

If you want to use a receiver, just use a modern video card with HDMI, hook up the receiver to it via HDMI, and then plug the headphone into the headphone-out of the receiver.
 
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TheCur

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I watch a lot of tv shows / movies on my 2nd monitor while multitasking on the main screen. I could be playing a video game, or telecommuting into work doing some programming etc or all of the above.

I have some Audio Technica M50, AD700s, and Denon AHD2k's listed in the OP for cans.

I have a very nice home theater already if I want to watch something on the couch. This is completely separate.

How is HDMI audio out (from say a XFX 7970) different from the S/PDIF out from the motherboard? Is there a compelling reason to use one over the other?
Seperate A/V receiver should be better a processing sound than a $30 sound card, correct?
 

Valaire

Gawd
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HDMI is relevant when you have a multichannel system connected digitally and you want to play computer games. SPDIF cannot handle uncompressed 5.1/7.1 multichannel audio. HDMI can. For stereo speakers, no difference.

I'd stick with your headphones and a decent source like the Xonar DX 7.1. I don't think it's worth upgrading beyond that for movie/tv show playback alone, the more important thing will be your speaker choice and you already have a range of mid-fi headphones. If you specifically want speakers too, I'd just with a nice pair of powered stereo monitors from Swan based on your desk size and budget. All will sound great for movies. Xonar has Dolby Headphone and Dolby Virtual for faking surround for the movies--its good.
 

TheCur

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Well given the [H] review of the CL Titanium HD I think I'll just go with that. Connected to a Schiit Lyr then to a set of <still deciding> AE A5+ / KRK Rokit 5's / Energy CB20 or equivalent.
 

Valaire

Gawd
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Swans will sound better than the AE's, can't comment on the other two speakers. Don't really see a reason to delve into CL's flagship card if you aren't gaming extensively and prefer CMSS3D over Dolby Headphone for gaming. Generally speaking today, one only buys a CL card because they have to, and that only comes down to their proprietary CMSS3D and if you like it more than Dolby Headphone. For music, Xonars are better, and for movies, it's probably moot.

Furthermore, why are you spending the money to get a card with a built-in headphone amplifier only to purchase a separate one?
 

spaceman

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Yeah I run an old xonar dx1 digital out into my receiver. I find onboard digital to be strangely flat. You can argue bits are bits and that is fine. Imo a cheap, decent asus soundcard sounds better as a digital source.
 
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