Is a Digital Connection (HDMI or S/Pdif) the best way to go?

Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by ROBSCIX, May 7, 2012.

  1. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    This question seems to pop up regularly and I get this question in my PM and emails frequently.
    The inquiry usually surrounds a person with their first sound card or curious about connection method to their speakers or receiver.

    They have the option of either a digital connection through S/Pdif or normal analog interconnects and are wondering is digital the best connection method?

    I always give the same answer, "It depends on the card(source) and the device you are connecting to."

    The questions really surrounds the quality of the DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) chip in your card and speakers/receiver.

    Consider:
    If you have a older card or are using onboard and connecting to a modern receiver chances are the DAC in the receiver is higher quality then the DAC in the source. In this case digital would give you the optimal sound quality for that system.

    If you have a higher end/modern soundcard and a set of Z-5500's or low/mid quality receiver chances are the card will have the better DAC chip so in this case analog is the better connection method.

    Few years back digital was generally always the better connection method for PC audio but with sound cards continually pushing the bar higher for component quality, it is no longer the case.

    If you have a receiver or digital speaker system and are unsure which way to go, do some experiments. Try both and use your ears to decide but generally you will find the above information to be accurate.

    To note: HDMI follows the same ideas as it is just another digital connection that might suffer from DAC quality.

    Hope that Helps.

    Good luck and hope that helps!
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  2. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Multi channel Analog is better imo, but then there's HD digital sound where it is lossless, which you get from HDMI, so it's really difficult between those 2 imo

    regards,
    RagDoll.
     
  3. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    As was mentioned it depends on the components being tested as to if analog or digital is better.

    HDMI is another consideration but basically it is another digital connection and again it boils down to the component quality in the receiver over the component quality in the source, especially when you are talking about budget priced receiver.
    Not to mention achieving analog based HDMI audio routines is not an easy task because of DRM but it is possible.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2012
  4. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Just wondering how good this puppy's Digital to analog converter would sound, it's an ONKYO receiver with 192, 32 bit DAC built in. So, actually in this case, using the receiver's DAC would be better :) Although, it probably costs thousands of dollars, compared to a 200 dollar soundcard. However, when soundcards start having 32 bit audio is when movies start mixing 32 bit audio :3eyes:

    http://www.intl.onkyo.com/products/av_components/av_receivers/tx-nr5009/index.html

    Check out the specs on this puppy...

    regards,
    RagDoll.
     

  5. Anarion

    Anarion Ancient Guru

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    It has TI Burr-Brown PCM1795 DAC's which is excellent DAC. Here's the spec sheet: http://www.ti.com/lit/gpn/pcm1795
     
  6. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Cool, thanks for that m8 :) This receiver would be one component of a dream system to me, it's got the lot, all in one carefully designed piece of electronics... lol the only thing I wish for more is Kim Kardashian :banana:lol
     
  7. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    Many of the new modern high end soundcards are coming with flagship DAC chips so they will generally surpass all but the highest quality receivers. Again, it depends on what you are testing.
    To note, this has little to do with the overall quality of the receiver, it is just concerning the digital input sections.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2012
  8. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, digital sound is still converted from digital to analogue and then from analogue back to digital? So, actually there is more conversion going on with a digital connection, which is probably why analogue is the best. Is this right, or is a digital connection not converted at all?

    regards,
    RagDoll.
     
  9. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    With my X-Fi in windows 8, in playback, properties, and advanced, I have an option for 32 bit 96khz. Just wondering, since I'm running analogue and will be using the dac of the x-fi, does this mean the x-fi can actually do 32 bit 96khz dac or what does it mean?
     
  10. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    If I am following your question here,

    You have a digital music file and it gets converted to analog at the last step.

    If you have a soundcard connected to a receiver through analog, the card does the conversion. You have the digital info -> DAC on card-> Music:)

    If you have the same system connected through digital, the receiver does the conversion. You have the digital info ->S/pdif cable -> DAC in receiver->Music :)

    Essentially though, it is exactly the same. A digital file is converted, just the place where the conversion takes place has changed. There is no extra A/D or D/A conversion steps.
    Make sense?
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012

  11. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Gotcha, thanks for clearing that up, so basically everything is converted to analogue in the end :) Just depends on how good the DAC is on either the card, or the receiver :)

    regards,
    RagDoll.
     
  12. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    No, your limited by your hardware. More and more newer DAC's are actually coming out with 32 bit chips and it ensures future proofing to some extent.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  13. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    If it's running through the DAC on the card, doesn't that mean it could be 32 bit, or how does it work if running analogue and it's using the card's dac? Does the receiver still need to be able to process the 32 bit?

    thanks,
    RagDoll.
     
  14. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    Pretty much.
    If the DAC is better in your receiver, your are better off with a digital connection. Such as using an onboard with a good receiver, digital would be the way to go.

    If the DAC is better in your card, you are better off with analog connection. Such as using an Essence STX with a receiver.
    Again, you are limited by your hardware.
    However, 32 bit DAC can actually be two different ideas and both cause quite a bit of arguments and debates.
    The idea of an actual 32 bit input DAC is sort of nuts right now because 32 bit media is non-existent. So what's the point?

    The other is a DAC with 32 bit processing. So IIRC, the Dac inputs normal bit rate audio (not 32bit) but internally is processed at 32 bit.
    This would technically mean better specs on the converted audio.
    Make sense?
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  15. Mr.Bigtime

    Mr.Bigtime Ancient Guru

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    i have a Logitec Z906 for pc here. plugged it to my onboard SPDIF via optic cable. i use DEFAULT FORMAT as DOLBY DIGITAL LIVE 5.1 . and The Remote Control Panel on the speaker shows the DECODE mode is ON. so it is DECODING what?

    i must say in BF3 every sound is more accurate and deep with this way rather than my Xfigamer analog setup 5.1.

    look there is an DOLBY PROLOGIC IIx optioon in the sound settings i enable it and sound becoms more deep. listening music with winamp, now the center channel also acts as speaker on a music file.
     

  16. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    I am not sure if I understand your post properly but if you have your S/Pdif set with the DDL/DTS encoder on then your speakers are decoding.

    Technically, your speakers in S/Pdif mode are always decoding because they are taking the S/Pdif input and decoding it. generally though, the term" decoding" is used when working with an encoded format such as Dolby Digital or DTS in any of their flavors.

    If you like the digital better, use it.
    Prologic IIX is an upmix routine so if your like your games better using that setting, enjoy!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2012
  17. alco

    alco Master Guru

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    i have a xonar d2x soundcard and been playing bf3 for not so long time
    if i connect analog and use some THX-DD-DTS for example under vlc player i have perfectly 5.1 positioning sounds
    the same goes for spdiff but must say it sounds a little better

    now when playing bf3 using analog 5.1 is not so great there is sound from the rear but positional audio is just bad (checked connections a 100 times
    now if i use digital then the sound is realy realy perfect positional audio is so much better

    is use this on a pioneer VSX-915 receiver and i just cant figure out why digital (coax) sounds better in bf3
     
  18. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    Could be settings on your card/system or in the receiver itself. If you are noticing differences in positioning, that is not the fault of the DAC's it is more about filtering and how the receiver processes the input..etc.

    That would be may guess anyway.
     
  19. alco

    alco Master Guru

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    i realy tried every setting and drivers possible

    in both cases analog or digital i use direct sound , no eq or other settings can interfer

    but today i ordered a Creative X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Champion Series gonna try and hear how thats gonna sound (and i swore to never go back to them omg :S)

    but thx for the input ROBSCIX
    any tips for the new card i am getting drivers or something else ?
     
  20. ROBSCIX

    ROBSCIX Ancient Guru

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    I have never used that card but many like the DK drivers, we should have links to them at the top of the page.
     

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