HDMI out on video card or Optical out on dedicated sound card?

Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by Coxis, Aug 15, 2018.

  1. Coxis

    Coxis Member

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    Hey guys,

    I'm contemplating getting a proper home theater receiver and setting up a 5.2 system for PC gaming. My system currently has an AMD Radeon 7950 that I'm planning on upgrading soon and a Soundblaster Z with an optical out that I'm planning on keeping.

    The question is, what's better for audio? I'm a little rusty on audio these days, but I know about a few details, like HDMI supporting up to 7.1 (My system will be 5.2, so not relevant), HDMI supporting uncompressed audio and Optical only supporting 5.1, compressed. I know dedicated audio used to be better back in the day, but is it still better now, especially since HDMI supports uncompressed audio? I also seem to remember that it matters which device was doing the decoding, the PC or the receiver.

    Given all these factors, which one should I use and why? how should I set up the decoding? I assume I don't need to decode at all if the sound is coming uncompressed from the PC?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. sverek

    sverek Ancient Guru

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    Digital signal doesnt lose quality. You either have it or not.

    HDMI can pass higher-resolution audio, including the formats found on Blu-ray: Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio.
    And you can also use hdmi for video.

    Basically, there should not be difference in audio quality, rather features.

    Unlike optical cable, hdmi cable bents more freely and less stiff. I still have optical cable lying around and not feel like messing with it.

    Go with HDMI if it supported. As for how to setup, you better check your AV manual.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
  3. Anarion

    Anarion Ancient Guru

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    Optical cable is way easier to handle than HDMI. The problem with optical is that it can't do 5.1 uncompressed. If you do use HDMI, your soundcard becomes obsolete.
     
  4. sverek

    sverek Ancient Guru

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    What kind of optical cable you owned :D
     

  5. nhlkoho

    nhlkoho Ancient Guru

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    What kind do you own that it's so stiff? I have so many optical cables laying around and they are all just like regular cables.
     
  6. SplashDown

    SplashDown Master Guru

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    Almost sounds like someone is confusing SPDIF with Optical..... just a guess.
     
  7. Anarion

    Anarion Ancient Guru

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    I wonder what kind of cable you own... :eek: There's no way that one can make a harder to handle optical cable than HDMI. Even the coaxial digital cable is really easy to handle.

    I do have a flat HDMI cable that I use to connect my display and it's really stiff and hard to handle though (flatness makes them even worse).

    [​IMG]
    ^^Very soft and flexible. Came with my X-Fi Forte.

    [​IMG]
    ^^A bit harder plastic. Came with Zx. Still, obviously easier to handle than any HDMI cable.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2018
  8. RealNC

    RealNC Ancient Guru

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    SPDIF can be either optical, or coaxial. The optical cable is very stiff, since there's an optical fiber in it. The coaxial cable is just a normal cable and thus as flexible as any other.
     
  9. tsunami231

    tsunami231 Ancient Guru

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    For years I used Optical to stereo for pc sound when using my stero with TV, but I been forced to use HDMI now due to TC dont use RGB/DVI anymore let alone Display port. I perfered sound from my sound card to stereo and or tv, that is no longer option, sadly and optical is much easier to deal with thinner smaller cable, I have 8 foot optical cable like the one transparent one anarion shows, those cable are really easy to manage even compared to the hdmi cable then again all the hdmi cables I have are like 12-14awg not sure which there the default high speed cables dish network hands out with there boxes, I have like 10 of them

    That being said I now use HDMI The only thing sound card has connected to it my wireless headphones, if I didnt have them there would be no point in having drivers installed for it.

    At this point everything it connected via hdmi except my dish box has optical cable runing to my receiver so i can listen to sirusxm, and that will be gone too once I actual get new a/v receiver that actual supports hdmi at that point everything gona be pluged into a/v unit and one hdmi ran to tv Funny how hdmi was supposed to make cable management easier, might made pluging them in easier cause only 1 plug but when you have 5+ hdmi running to same area no so much
     
  10. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    If doing surround audio, aka more than stereo, then use HDMI Out. You can then connect up to 7.1 uncompressed PCM. If only doing stereo, both are uncompressed.
     

  11. Anarion

    Anarion Ancient Guru

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    Optical cables are generally far from stiff. The radius can be very slim too. Optical cables can be really tiny and flexible since no metal and no shielding is needed.
     
  12. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    It can you know.
    The timing of each clock or data transfer can vary with noise or crappy hardware.
    This matters greatly on high end and on a lot of lesser hardware.
    Its one of the fundamentals of quality sound.

    And error correction / interpolation dont always give the best result when the signal is bad enough that a data bit/bits is lost.
    Its not as simple as working/not working.
     
  13. SplashDown

    SplashDown Master Guru

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    Ya when I said spdif it was meant as coaxial, my bad should of expanded on. I've used all 3 before ... optical myself to Sony A/V.
     
  14. SplashDown

    SplashDown Master Guru

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    Another tip don't skimp on your speaker wire it makes a difference, also coax cable to kicker. I noticed anyway I used the cheap crap they give ya when you buy system just till I got better a week later and it sounded clearer or cleaner take your pick, I noticed more when you crank it up.
     
  15. RealNC

    RealNC Ancient Guru

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    Hm. Never seen a fully flexible optical cable before. From what I know, optical fibers cannot be bent too much, or else they stop working (there's a maximum angle light can propagate within an optical fiber.)
     

  16. sverek

    sverek Ancient Guru

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    @Anarion, as @RealNC mentioned I have the same issues with optical cables.

    Maybe we have different tolerance how we use our cables, and quality of the cables.
     
  17. sverek

    sverek Ancient Guru

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    Wouldn't that be cause of damaged cable or defect hardware?

    If everything follows the protocol how it supposed to work, I'd image there wouldn't be issues.
    Just like monitor prints the same image, no matter if you use gold or other material for HDMI cable, as far as its follow the standards.

    EDIT: sound difference would make sense if AV has different quality DAC for optical and HDMI, causing difference in output analog sound. But obviously I ignore that fact, since it would take forever to figure out which digital signal AV handles better and why.
    So I treat them equal.
    The only way to tell if there difference in sound, is using both cables and listen for yourself. However if there different sound by using different cable, that hints on rather poor AV quality (considering we use same encoding/decoding standard for both cables).
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2018
  18. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    I have one that's very flexible. I can coil it up and tight just as well as copper.
     

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