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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

A bit about myself I am a college student currently studying in the field of engineering. As such i spend hours and hours in front of my computer working on cad or typing reports.

As such I am looking to drastically improve my audio set up. I have a logitech 7.1 system which is 'okay' but far from good.

I will be building myself a custom computer soon to run cad and some other engineering tools. Because it is a custom build I can obviously pick and choose components.

Here are some ideas of come up with that i would like some feedback on.

#1) Build the computer with a motherboard that has daul LAN ports, Then add a receiver and speaker system connected through the LAN.

#2) Buy a motherboard that has an optical audio output and connect that a receiver and speakers.

#3) Add a dedicated sound card to the computer and run an optical cable from that to the receiver.

I live in an apartment I am NOT looking for something that will be loud im trying to get good audio quality.


Id like some feedback and how you would go about this. I'm open to motherboard suggestions as long as they are LGA 1366 or audio cards.

I don't have a firm budget yet but please keep in mind i am a student so funds are not unlimited, the receiver would be a base model I don't intend to plug anything into it other then this one computer and maybe an ipod dock.


Steven
 

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All of what you're trying to do can be done with an HDMI port on the mainboard. I've yet to see a decently priced receiver with a LAN port (or why you'd want it anyway).

Most mainboards shipped now have an HDMI port built in. HDMI to the receiver and you're good to go. Just make sure the receiver you have has an available HDMI input port. Or purchase one that does. Most modern receivers have an HDMI port or two.
 

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to add to cambo's comment,

Not sure you can get a computer without an optical output or an A/V receiver that doesn't have an optical input, so you should be able to connect a toslink cable from any computer to virtually any A/V Receiver.
 

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Most mainboards shipped now have an HDMI port built in.
Not exactly. Motherboards with onboard video, typically mATX, that are designed for multimedia or HTPC do. ATX boards typically don't have onboard video or HDMI. The same goes for video cards. Those designed for HTPC have HDMI but cards designed for high resolution graphics and PC monitors don't. (High end graphics cards have multiple DVI and/or DisplayPorts.) The reason is that HDMI HD supports different video standards and doesn't display things like CAD well. Many have DVI and HDMI but it can be a trade off if a second PC monitor is used. For the naysayers out there, yes HDMI *can* support different resolutions but any HDMI displays I have seen only support HDTV standards on the HDMI port.

The onboard sound for newer motherboards is as good as the dedicated sound cards of several years ago. Just look for 'HD Audio' and it will be fine. Some, such as the Realtek ALC889, are slightly better but they all sound good. As mentioned, most motherboards and sound cards supply S/PDIF and/or TOSLink digital audio outputs. If digital audio is being used, sound card quality becomes less of an issue since the weak link on many PC sound implementations is the analog output.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you for the replies!

I am not aware of any x58/1366 motherboards that come with integrated DMIvideo. I could use the HDMI output from the video card bu this brings us back to integrated, correct?

Are there any receivers worth having that are priced say under 300$? All I really need is an suitable input and 5.1 output.

Scary bob : I noticed most come with the ALC889 chip. Do you believe that the msi big bang would produce better sound due to its audio configuration? (hybrid, dedicated/ integrated solution)

Steven
 

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What types of audio sources will you be using? If it is audio that is already encoded in DD/DTS 5.1 then the quality of the sound card will make no difference because it will simply pass the digital audio to the receiver and the receiver does the decoding. The onboard audio built into the motherboard is perfectly adequate for this sort of application.

Ultimately for a setup such as yours the receiver is far more likely to be the determining factor about how "good" the audio quality is. If you have no need for things like HDMI switching, etc. and just want decent 5.1 audio output then you should consider picking up a 4-5 year old used receiver. For ~$300 you can get a receiver that cost over $1,000 when it was new and would have a much higher quality DACs and amp section than what you'll find in a new, low-end $300 receiver.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The audio formats will vary a lot. Majority of the time will be xm radio live stream (from the computer) and itunes/similar player. Iv read of some problems with itunes and windows media so program will be changed if needed.

If I get a 4-5 year old receiver what sort of inputs would I be looking at? Optical seems to be very common now was it also common a few years ago?

Is there any harm in having a 5.1 receiver and only running 2 speakers for now and adding in the future?

Any advice as far as buying used equipment?
 

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I believe optical inputs have been around for quite a while, very likely 4-5 years ago.

No problem running your receiver with only 2 speakers, being simple stereo. Just make sure the receiver is set only to output to stereo. Most audio tracks don't take advantage of 5.1 anyway (except SACD, etc).
 

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The audio formats will vary a lot. Majority of the time will be xm radio live stream (from the computer) and itunes/similar player.
Only stereo is required for these sources. A high quality sound card won't make any difference since these are low to medium bit rate and have more distortion and frequency loss than any HD audio chips. The ALC889 is one of the best, if not the best, onboard audio solution. There may be better ones out there but then we go back to considering the sources, which are not the best. If you are doing CAD, the audio should be way down on the list of considerations. Any onboard HD audio will do. Put the money into a good monitor, good video card and fast CPU. DisplayPort, not HDMI, is best for video with dual link DVI in second place. I use an ALC889 audio solution for home theater with a fairly high end sound system. It's plenty for what you will need. ALC888 or Intel onboard sound will be fine as well. A good used stereo amp and bookshelf speakers should be fine for music. That's what I use with my workstation PC. Games and movies might benefit from surround sound but it's not essential.
 

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Re : Audio via onboard HDMI

ATI onboard HDMI only does LPCM 2.0

Their 5-series video card can do the whole sherlong.

The newest H55M + Core i cpu are supposed to do it all as well.
 
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