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Audio dropouts on optical connection
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alanm
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Default Audio dropouts on optical connection - 04-14-2017, 06:04 | posts: 7,153

Cant figure this out. Only began to happen with my SBZx (optical out) on new motherboard. Specifically, optical out with Dolby Digital or DTS selected. No encoding is fine. Analogue connections with DD/DTS is also fine.

Ran LatencyMon for an hour and everything OK there. This on Win 10 CU fresh install. Anyone with suggestions or clues? Thanks.
   
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Default 04-14-2017, 07:02 | posts: 2,865 | Location: Ibaraki, Japan

I guess there no problem with physical connection if it works fine without DD/DTS encoding/decoding. I'd look into encoder and decoder and make sure they are working under same standart.


   
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Default 04-14-2017, 07:35 | posts: 7,153

Lets see... SBZx optical out was working fine before, same OS, same driver. Only new variable was the system upgrade. I suspect something on the new board may be interrupting the digital encoded signal or momentarily conflicting with Creative driver when encoders on. The dropouts are brief, with music about once a minute, with games can be more frequent.
   
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Default 04-14-2017, 14:55 | posts: 10,242 | Location: United states of Kingdom

Try another cable.
The optical out may have a different intensity, slightly different colour spectrum or fit that highlight an imperfection in the cable or the angle it fits in the card.

A friend had a similar problem and went through 3 cables to get one that worked.
   
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Default 04-14-2017, 15:21 | posts: 57

Think it's Creative same old problem kind of sblive+via chipset.Something like incompatible hardware or most possibly incorrect driver.As well keep in mind that spdif and as i remember optical(not sure) have limitation up to 640kb for stream transferring.Try to limit audio to 640kb(AC3Filter.....http://www.ac3filter.net/)
   
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Default 04-15-2017, 04:58 | posts: 7,153

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mufflore View Post
Try another cable.
The optical out may have a different intensity, slightly different colour spectrum or fit that highlight an imperfection in the cable or the angle it fits in the card.

A friend had a similar problem and went through 3 cables to get one that worked.
First thing I tried. Already on my 3rd cable, no difference. The cable feeds a Yamaha AV receiver, and when I switch to its DD/DTS decoders, no problem, no dropouts. So I know its not the cables. But prefer the SBZx own sound processing, esp for games.
   
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Default 04-15-2017, 05:10 | posts: 7,153

Quote:
Originally Posted by elaganza View Post
Think it's Creative same old problem kind of sblive+via chipset.Something like incompatible hardware or most possibly incorrect driver.As well keep in mind that spdif and as i remember optical(not sure) have limitation up to 640kb for stream transferring.Try to limit audio to 640kb(AC3Filter.....http://www.ac3filter.net/)
Yeah I think its the card/drivers conflicting with something on the new motherboard. As mentioned, there is no problem when running through AV receivers decoders and no problem when it was on old motherboard. For past month though, I have been on analogue outputs testing a new mini-amp. May end up using that for front speakers and using receivers analogue in for rear speakers.
   
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Default 05-03-2017, 07:12 | posts: 13

About your optical issues. Did you get this worked out?
   
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Default 05-03-2017, 11:02 | posts: 7,153

No, settled on analogue. Have the front channels via Yamaha receiver and rear channels via a 2ch mini-amp and sub directly into card.
   
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Default 05-03-2017, 16:00 | posts: 13

I was dealing with a similar problem but I don't have a receiver anymore. I'm glad you have a solution that's working but I am curious about your setup. You want the sound card to decode the channels and then send them out a TOSLink cable to your receiver?
   
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Default 05-03-2017, 17:03 | posts: 10,242 | Location: United states of Kingdom

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hyde View Post
You want the sound card to decode the channels and then send them out a TOSLink cable to your receiver?
That would be DD or DTS "encoding".
The receiver decodes the DD or DTS signals.
fyi
   
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Default 05-03-2017, 18:24 | posts: 7,153

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hyde View Post
I was dealing with a similar problem but I don't have a receiver anymore. I'm glad you have a solution that's working but I am curious about your setup. You want the sound card to decode the channels and then send them out a TOSLink cable to your receiver?
Yes. The sound processor on SBZ cards superior for gaming, about equal for music/movies on the receiver. The receiver is convenient for powering multi channel speakers. It worked fine w/digital input on my previous system but on the new audio dropouts occur with SBZ card on optical out. Therefore, resorted to analogue. But since most modern day receivers no longer have multi-channel analogue inputs (only main left/right channels), had to use an additional small amp (with LR inputs) to power the rears.
   
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Default 05-03-2017, 18:27 | posts: 7,153

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mufflore View Post
That would be DD or DTS "encoding".
The receiver decodes the DD or DTS signals.
fyi
But what about when receiver only used for its amps with analogue? I know SBZ encodes, but how does decoding occur via analogue receiver?
   
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Default 05-03-2017, 19:11 | posts: 10,242 | Location: United states of Kingdom

Quote:
Originally Posted by alanm View Post
But what about when receiver only used for its amps with analogue? I know SBZ encodes, but how does decoding occur via analogue receiver?
To get 5.1 down a single SPDIF connection it has to be compressed and encoded to a standard (DD or DTS) before being sent.
The receiver isnt just analogue, it is also digital input.
This decodes the DD or DTS unravelling and uncompressing the 5.1 channels, then (processes and) converts it to analogue which is sent to its analogue amplifier.

Analogue from a sound card isnt compressed or encoded.
Thats why it can be fed directly to an analogue amplifier.

Last edited by Mufflore; 05-03-2017 at 19:16.
   
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Default 05-03-2017, 20:51 | posts: 7,153

OK, seem to have overlooked the fact that its the codecs/media player that is decoding the 5.1 material played through SBZ's analogue outputs.
   
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Default 05-03-2017, 22:25 | posts: 13

This is all so fascinating. I was over-thinking and thought perhaps the DD/DTS setting was asking the card to be the decoder (via software) and then trying to shove all that info down a TOSLink cable. Apologies if my thoughts are garbled but I do at least understand what's taking place now. Thanks for explaining it.

Is there a Windows sample rate setting somewhere? Maybe it has defaulted to 96kHz. If it can even push that resolution for a bit, it seems likely a buffer would overflow every so often. Adjust to 48kHz? 44.1kHz even. No real need for anything higher. I'm probably still over-thinking.
   
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Default 05-04-2017, 00:57 | posts: 10,242 | Location: United states of Kingdom

An element of confusion can come from media that has audio already encoded with DD or DTS 5.1
In this case audio is fed directly to the SPDIF output on to the receiver, no encoding is needed. It is already encoded.
This method is often termed pass through.
But...
If sending pre-encoded audio out via analogue from the soundcard, it must be decoded first.
This is where the soundcard (or its driver) does decode it.
Surround music doesnt normally come in this format except on a music video or film track. Unless on DVD there are likely higher quality surround tracks included as well.

Its worth saying that analogue 5.1 out from a PC is higher quality than 5.1 over SPDIF, assuming the soundcard is decent.
Analogue is uncompressed, SPDIF 5.1 must be compressed otherwise it wont fit down SPDIF. This loses detail.

You can also feed 5.1 via HDMI from your gfx card into the receiver to keep all the detail.
In this case the higher quality output will come from the one with the best DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter), cable quality withstanding.
   
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Default 05-04-2017, 05:05 | posts: 13

I really appreciate the time you spent clarifying things. Codecs have always been a bit of a murky area for me. In the end, it seems like analogue may be both an only choice but also a good choice.
   
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Default 05-04-2017, 06:18 | posts: 10,242 | Location: United states of Kingdom

It can get murkier.

There is wide variety in the quality of different outputs on different hifi components. This gets more defined with high end audio.
I present an example that has 2 of the same very high quality DAC chip.
It is called the Oppo 105D Blu Ray player which acts as a DAC and pre-amplifier to feed analogue amplifiers with high quality audio.
It has HDMI, SPDIF (optical and coaxial), PC USB, direct USB (USB pen or hard drive) and disc inputs.

PC USB has a dedicated DAC chip for high quality stereo, this same chip also handles output of all formats to headphones for exceptional quality.
The other DAC chip handles SPDIF, HDMI, direct USB and disc playback - stereo or multi channel output to analogue amplifier(s).

Sound quality going from lowest to highest detail:
SPDIF 5.1, HDMI stereo or multi channel, ...
From then on its hard to tell what is best, PC USB, SPDIF stereo, direct USB or disc playback.

I like SPDIF stereo over PC USB but it is limited what it can be used for as it does not allow frequencies inbetween 44, 48, 96 and 192KHz.
PC USB accepts "anything" up to 384KHz and DSD bitstream format music. If this format is available for the same music it sounds better on PC USB.

HDMI in has a max audio frequency of 96KHz from PC despite the specs saying otherwise, a flaw imo.
For movies with 5.1 192Hz High def audio, it is better to use the direct USB inputs or play a disc.

Other DACs may give different results and sound better or worse than my DAC.
A new version of my DAC is about to be released, they are accepting pre-orders.
I'm waiting to see how it compares before plonking cash on it.


ps
if you have questions, this is the place to ask.

Last edited by Mufflore; 05-04-2017 at 13:43. Reason: fixed daft error
   
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Default 05-04-2017, 08:48 | posts: 13

why would sample rates between 44.1 ~ 192kHz be a desirable option? Alanm, I seem to have hijacked your thread. :-/ sorry!
   
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Default 05-04-2017, 11:34 | posts: 7,153

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Originally Posted by Hyde View Post
Alanm, I seem to have hijacked your thread. :-/ sorry!
Not at all, very informative stuff and big thanks to Mufflore. Although I admire his pursuit of audio perfection, not sure I could extend mine to that level. For one I believe there are degrees of diminishing returns the higher you go up the bit rates/sampling rates scale. Which then requires proper encoded material (ie, Dolby True-HD, DTS-HD) that contains it and far greater space/bandwidth the higher up you go. I'm perfectly content with 24-bit/48khz and even with SPDIF 5.1. Uncompressed music is fine over SPDIF if your OK with standard 2 channels.

The other thing, not sure I would give up my SBZ sound processing for games for an external dac, as the latter would bypass it entirely. Same with HDMI connection thru GPU, the SBZs gaming capabilities I believe are far better than anything that may bypass it.

Last edited by alanm; 05-04-2017 at 11:36.
   
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Default 05-04-2017, 12:27 | posts: 10,242 | Location: United states of Kingdom

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hyde View Post
why would sample rates between 44.1 ~ 192kHz be a desirable option? Alanm, I seem to have hijacked your thread. :-/ sorry!
For DSD format playback.

I often keep the sound system switched to my PC to hear alerts and for convenience.
There are times I am using the PC and want to hear music as well so play back DSD files from the PC.
The DAC I have lets me play them back through PC USB in the original format but its a faff to set up (after playing none DSD) and often cant be asked.
So I do a nearest sample rate conversion in Foobar 2000 which is 88KHz or 176KHz approx.
There is a small detail loss but I dont care when I'm doing other things as well.

This plays well over USB but not optical (SPDIF) or HDMI. To play over these it has to be converted to 96KHz or 192KHz which reduces detail and stereo imaging quite a bit.
So I dont use optical very often and dont use HDMI for music playback.

I prefer to play DSD directly on the DAC, either from SACD disc or via a PC network share. Sometimes via a USB drive.
But then I cant hear the PC.
Yep I could get another sound system in here but its not happening for a few reasons
One being when I am listening to music in all its glory directly on the DAC I dont want to be dragged back to reality by my PC.

Oh yeah, I forgot to add earlier that the DAC can use network shares or streaming as an input.

Last edited by Mufflore; 05-04-2017 at 12:53.
   
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Default 05-04-2017, 12:49 | posts: 10,242 | Location: United states of Kingdom

Quote:
Originally Posted by alanm View Post
Not at all, very informative stuff and big thanks to Mufflore. Although I admire his pursuit of audio perfection, not sure I could extend mine to that level. For one I believe there are degrees of diminishing returns the higher you go up the bit rates/sampling rates scale. Which then requires proper encoded material (ie, Dolby True-HD, DTS-HD) that contains it and far greater space/bandwidth the higher up you go. I'm perfectly content with 24-bit/48khz and even with SPDIF 5.1. Uncompressed music is fine over SPDIF if your OK with standard 2 channels.
It needs a system that can expose the difference enough to care.
Even then you might not care, most people I know/come across dont and some are damned resistant to the point of not even wanting to find out lol.
You could say its my thing.
A few friends have similar setups to me as its also their thing.
You never know if you can enjoy it until you try, its a wonderful addition to my life.
Although it has changed how I listen to music. I often seek out music that has more detail or stereo effects now, as well as tunes that I like.

Quote:
The other thing, not sure I would give up my SBZ sound processing for games for an external dac, as the latter would bypass it entirely. Same with HDMI connection thru GPU, the SBZs gaming capabilities I believe are far better than anything that may bypass it.
This is an interesting point as I used to stand the same ground.
I had an Auzentech Prelude from before Windows 7 came out and enjoyed games that made use of Creatives DSP features.
Windows 7 almost killed this off by not allowing direct access to the audio hardware.
The only method remaining was using OpenAL but use of this dwindled to nothing.
I started using external DACs and found that everything was much clearer than with PC sound cards and havent looked back.

Since then I have upgraded my PC and no longer have a PCI slot to put the card in so gave it away.
That means I cant test if DSP features are used any more so havent kept my eye on it.
Can I ask what it is your SBz does for your game audio?

Last edited by Mufflore; 05-04-2017 at 12:54.
   
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Default 05-04-2017, 17:40 | posts: 7,153

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mufflore View Post
It needs a system that can expose the difference enough to care.
Even then you might not care, most people I know/come across dont and some are damned resistant to the point of not even wanting to find out lol.
You could say its my thing.
A few friends have similar setups to me as its also their thing.
Oh, I do care about good audio, but may differ on what components/factors bring about the greatest differences/benefits to the sound (and value). There are extremes in the audio field as well. Some people swear by the differences of $3000 inter-connects vs $100 ones, or $20,000 tube amps vs $2000, etc, not to mention DACs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mufflore View Post
Although it has changed how I listen to music. I often seek out music that has more detail or stereo effects now, as well as tunes that I like.
Same here, very much care about detail in music, as well as 'air', 'separation' and some effects. The quality of source/playback material is paramount to this. The recording engineer is often more responsible for good sound than we assume. A well balanced system can sound better than a more premium system purely due to the quality of recording.

I dont use headphones (even though I believe quality ones may be more revealing vs speakers) because I dont think surround sound can be as authentically produced on cans as vs 5 properly positioned speakers. Even though I listen a lot to good 2 channel stuff, cant give up multi-channel. Also speakers are *for me* a more important component than say a good DAC vs a better DAC. You can get a good DAC for $200 and a premium one for $5000. But I doubt most listeners will be able to discern as much difference as they can with speakers (or possibly headphones) in comparable price ranges.

Had auditioned some very revealing studio monitors (JBL LSR305) with select tracks but had to decline due to hiss from onboard amps (seems more common with powered monitors). They are reputed to be amongst the most revealing speakers for the money. Settled for a pair of Polk S15 for my mains and quite happy at the level of detail they are able to produce as well as imaging and soundstage. Far more revealing than the Wharfedale 220s I had (too warm for my taste). Speakers are probably my main interest, esp the big bangs for the buck variety.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mufflore View Post
This is an interesting point as I used to stand the same ground.
I had an Auzentech Prelude from before Windows 7 came out and enjoyed games that made use of Creatives DSP features.
Windows 7 almost killed this off by not allowing direct access to the audio hardware.
The only method remaining was using OpenAL but use of this dwindled to nothing.
I started using external DACs and found that everything was much clearer than with PC sound cards and havent looked back.

Since then I have upgraded my PC and no longer have a PCI slot to put the card in so gave it away.
That means I cant test if DSP features are used any more so havent kept my eye on it.
Can I ask what it is your SBz does for your game audio?
I did not like my game audio when it went through my receiver, on the SBz it was distinctly superior. Due to this, I had thought the SBz with its 'sound core processor' handles some of the directional cues better in games, but apparently it only provides 'offloading' from the CPU to its processor. So not sure why the big difference, esp in directional cues vs the receiver. But hey, eager to learn more. So can a good USB or external DAC send 5.1 ch stuff to speakers? I had thought DACs were a 2ch affair, unless they are more than DACs.
   
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Default 05-04-2017, 20:57 | posts: 10,242 | Location: United states of Kingdom

Quote:
Originally Posted by alanm View Post
Oh, I do care about good audio, but may differ on what components/factors bring about the greatest differences/benefits to the sound (and value). There are extremes in the audio field as well. Some people swear by the differences of $3000 inter-connects vs $100 ones, or $20,000 tube amps vs $2000, etc, not to mention DACs.
I didnt mean to imply that you arent into decent hifi, I was trying to cover the bases for general understanding.
I also dislike spending stupid money on things that barely make a difference.
I try to achieve the same for a fraction of the cost but some things peak my interest.

A little story about what could have been a rash purchase... (soz for writing a book )
My brother has a few different interconnects that cost around 100 to 150 each and I was never too impressed with the difference they made compared to basic OFC interconnects.
I had read a lot about silver interconnects and wanted to try some but hadnt found any to demo so decided to build my own and make a set for my brother for xmas.
A lot of research later I chose pure silver unicrystal wire with a cotton dielectric (figured if I'm going to do it, get the best), configured as loose wires with no shield (to prevent loss of detail through capacitance) and silver bullet plugs on the ends.
One of the large costs was shipping from the US to UK recorded @ $106.
Total cost for 50ft of wire delivered was $349.

My brother has monoblock amps next to his speakers and the speakers are about 3m apart so a pretty long interconnect was needed.
The first test was at my brothers at Christmas, the wire had arrived only the day before.
We soldered the bullet plugs on with 10% silver solder, connected them and wow! We were blown away at the massive increase in detail.
He had already tuned his speaker crossovers for high detail with ribbon tweeters (same as the ones I use) and had to stick larger resistors in to bring the level down a bit.
We went back and forth comparing the old and new cables and the difference was nothing short of stunning, he was sold on them and so was I. And he is a fussy sod!
There was a lot of new detail, micro detail, huge air, stereo effects, improved imaging... It really placed us in the recording!
We had wondered if there would be any noise picked up by the unshielded wires but had to put our ears on the tweeters to hear only an extremely faint hiss.
Needless to say, they were a complete success.
I am using 2 shorter versions for both my DACs (1 is balanced the other RCA) and have soldered one end directly into my front stereo amp for a potentially better connection and use less RCA connectors.
These interconnects are something else!
I also tuned my tweeters for high detail and had to insert a extra resistance to tame them a little.

Anyway, moral of that story is, some exotic cables are worth considering.
Our silver interconnects really do work (the way we built them at least) with an Oppo 105 DAC (we both have one) and our home brew speakers with the same Ribbon tweeters.
I also use a Minimax Tube DAC plus (tube disabled cos that improves detail) which is even more detailed than the Oppo. Its NUTS how good it sounds!
The killer...
A friend with almost identical equipment as me but an older Emotiva DAC tried the interconnects and the effect was much less.
They only really made a difference with high definition music and not as much, whereas all audio was tons better on my DAC.
It was pretty good still but not enough for him to pay for a set himself.
All our testing was done with ribbon tweeter speakers so I dont know the value on anything else.

So silver interconnects, worth trying if you can borrow a set.
If your DAC and speakers are good enough they are awesome.

Something worth a try because it will cost practically nothing.
Make some interconnects with ye basic OFC wire and no shield, just loose wires. The shorter the better.
See if you get better air or micro detail.
I havent verified this because I have no need now and have more projects than there is time.

Quote:
Same here, very much care about detail in music, as well as 'air', 'separation' and some effects. The quality of source/playback material is paramount to this. The recording engineer is often more responsible for good sound than we assume. A well balanced system can sound better than a more premium system purely due to the quality of recording.
Sweet, sounds like you have good kit.
Yep, recording quality really jumps out, it has influenced what music I listen to.

Quote:
I dont use headphones (even though I believe quality ones may be more revealing vs speakers) because I dont think surround sound can be as authentically produced on cans as vs 5 properly positioned speakers. Even though I listen a lot to good 2 channel stuff, cant give up multi-channel. Also speakers are *for me* a more important component than say a good DAC vs a better DAC. You can get a good DAC for $200 and a premium one for $5000. But I doubt most listeners will be able to discern as much difference as they can with speakers (or possibly headphones) in comparable price ranges.
Same here, I prefer surround from speakers.
Also because I like good bass and very deep, I would damage my ears trying to get a similar effect that my hifi gives.
My brother already has using high end Sennheisers and now gets ringing in his ears if he turns his hifi too loud or uses headphones. He is most annoyed.

Quote:
Had auditioned some very revealing studio monitors (JBL LSR305) with select tracks but had to decline due to hiss from onboard amps (seems more common with powered monitors). They are reputed to be amongst the most revealing speakers for the money. Settled for a pair of Polk S15 for my mains and quite happy at the level of detail they are able to produce as well as imaging and soundstage. Far more revealing than the Wharfedale 220s I had (too warm for my taste). Speakers are probably my main interest, esp the big bangs for the buck variety.
I went for broke on the speakers and almost bought the Salk Songtower which are Transmission line bass and ribbon tweeters.
But the cost of shipping them to the UK was mental so looked for a local alternative.
I kept coming back to a company called IPL Acoustics in the UK that sell kits to build your own so did that.
For less than the Songtowers I built 5 speakers, all Ribbon tweeters and the fronts are huge with transmission line bass.
Awesome awesome speakers.
I made a thread about it here somewhere but last time I looked the images had been removed.
I've built a few more sets for friends and family and my brother bought the same tweeters I use and put them in his speakers.

If you are on the lookout for speakers, consider getting a kit with decent ribbon tweeters.
With enough space for tower speakers, get transmission line versions.
You will be so happy!
You dont need massive speakers, I wish I had gone for a smaller version.
Mine are rated to 22Hz, the much smaller version to 25Hz.
My subwoofer takes over duty down to 15Hz so I could have got away with the smaller speakers which look cuter.

Quote:
I did not like my game audio when it went through my receiver, on the SBz it was distinctly superior. Due to this, I had thought the SBz with its 'sound core processor' handles some of the directional cues better in games, but apparently it only provides 'offloading' from the CPU to its processor. So not sure why the big difference, esp in directional cues vs the receiver. But hey, eager to learn more. So can a good USB or external DAC send 5.1 ch stuff to speakers? I had thought DACs were a 2ch affair, unless they are more than DACs.
I used to have a higher end Onkyo receiver and my Auzentech Prelude sounded better so I used to feed analogue to the receiver.
It costs a lot for a receiver with a decent DAC.
Thats why I went the Oppo 105 + Emotiva power amps route.
I am in no doubt that the DAC and analogue circuts on your soundcard trump those in your receiver.

Yes, the Oppo 103, 203 and 105 Blu Ray players can be used as a high end 7.1 DAC. (The 205 is coming very soon, woooo!)
They have 2 HDMI inputs and 2 HDMI outputs.
Thats why I bought mine, for high def surround movies, music and gaming.
Its an incredible piece of kit and while it costs a lot, it does a hell of a lot too and sounds amazing. It is worth the money.
I already had the stereo Minimax DAC and found it so incredible I had to have a surround version so bought the Oppo 105.
They both use the same DAC chip (Sabre32 9018 reference) and cost nearly the same.
I use the Minimax for stereo music and the Oppo for everything else including surround PC gaming.

Last edited by Mufflore; 05-04-2017 at 20:59.
   
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