PC sound system

Cliptin

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I'm in the planning stages of updating the sound system in my PC. I've been doing some research and have a pointed question.

What is the difference detween Dolby Digital and AC3?
 

timwhit

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Two names for the same thing. AC3 is what DD was originally called, but Dolby Digital is a lot more user friendly name to remember.
 

Mercutio

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What timwhit said is essentially true...

AC3 is the current encoding format for "Dolby Digital". There have been other encoding standards in the past (used in movie theaters). There may be other "Dolby Digital" standards in the future, such as an official "7.1" format.

Your other options are DTS, which is a less-compressed and theoretically better-sounding multichannel format, SDDS, which AFAIK is supported only by Sony stuff and largely irrelevant on home equipment, and ARS (Advanced Resolution Sound), which uses an even lower level of compression (MLP) and a higher sample rate to achieve very high fidelity for a digital, multichannel format.
 

Cliptin

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OK, more question and answer:

I am looking at the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz and either the Creative Labs DeskTop Theater™ 5.1 DTT3500 Digital or the S4 MidiLand 8200 v2.0.

http://www.turtlebeach.com/site/products/santacruz/howdoesitwork.asp
Digital 4.1 Configuration
The VersaJack Digital 4.1 setting is a hybrid digital/analog output mode designed for speaker systems equipped with a digital input for the Front Speaker pair and an analog input for the Rear Speaker pair. These speaker systems are designed to reproduce both Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and audio for 4-channel games. When playing anything other than Dolby Digital from a DVD, Digital 4.1 mode sends the Front L/R audio signals in digital format to the VersaJack tip and ring conductors and the Rear L/R audio signals in analog format to the Back Speakers, so you don't have to unplug the digital input when switching between Dolby Digital and four channel audio.

Dolby Digital AC-3 Configuration
Dolby Digital™ Surround (also known as "AC-3") is a proprietary encoding technology from Dolby Labs that compresses 5.1 surround information into a stereo digital data stream. There are also AC-3 modes for 4-speaker setups, with or without a subwoofer.

When the VersaJack output is set to digital mode, playing a DVD encoded with Digital Dolby AC-3 multi-channel audio automatically sends the digital AC-3 signal to the VersaJack ring conductor. This signal should be connected to an amplifier, receiver or speaker system with a digital input and AC-3 decoder so the AC-3 decoder in the amplifier will convert it into 5.1 surround sound.

I don't understand most of what is written but the text above specifically says Dolby Digital™ Surround (also known as "AC-3"). Then why would I need a digital decoder like the one included below. How does the digital out compare in use to the Live I already own?

Perhaps the most exciting new development the S4 MidiLand 8200 v2.0 features is the ADS-4000, a digital decoder, which will not only be able to process Dolby Digital technology, but the super-savvy, next generation sound technology, DTS Ditigal Surround. In addition to the original Dolby Digital (AC-3) 5.1, Dolby ProLogic, and 2.1 surround features, MidiLand has also added the analog 4.1-surround sound capability to the upgraded model, enabling full EAX sound effect support.

For reference, right now I have a SB live and Creative Labs SoundWorks® Digital. I want to upgrade the sound in this computer to near but knowingly sub-HT quality. Is there any reason why I should not match the SB card with the DeskTop Theater™ 5.1 DTT3500. Maybe I need a primer.
 

timwhit

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How much money are you planning on spending on this endeavor?

I think in the long run you would be better off buying a real receiver with digital inputs (built in Dobly Digital, & DTS decoder) and a 5 channel speaker system to go along with it.

It might cost more right now, but in the long run but it really does make a lot more sense. And it will sound a whole lot better.

You might not be planning on spending the kind of money that I am talking about, but at least consider it.

BTW you can get some great deals on eBay on receivers. I particulary like Harmon Kardon, Onkyo, and Integra (made by Onkyo). I have a crappy Sony Receiver that I spent $400 on about 2.5 years ago and it isn't the greatest but it sure blows away any integrated computer speaker's amp (actually I have 2 of them). Especially hooked up to my NHT 2.5i's.

NHT-2-5i-Right.gif
 

timwhit

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One more piece of advice: Don't buy anything that says 'Bose' on it.

I have made this mistake in the past and have paid for it.

I'm not a big fan of Cambridge products either. Too much advertising and they are sold at Best Buy which is another turn off. (Creative uses Cambridge speakers.)
 

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timwhit said:
One more piece of advice: Don't buy anything that says 'Bose' on it.

I have made this mistake in the past and have paid for it.

I'm not a big fan of Cambridge products either. Too much advertising and they are sold at Best Buy which is another turn off. (Creative uses Cambridge speakers.)

I don't know what the hang-up is with Cambridge sound works. I realize it will not satisfy the high end audiophiles, but I'm rather happy with my set of CS speakers. For the price I paid, I haven't found a comparable speaker.

I also have the digital works for my PC and I think they sound really good. I don't remember seeing their home equipment at Bestbuy... I can't say I've really looked for it either. There is a CS store right in another mall, maybe that's why?
 

Mercutio

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Not too long ago, Cambridge Soundworks was a respected mid-range speaker manufacturer. In fact, I get their catalog, and they still make some reasonably nice speakers in the $2000/speaker range.

The thing is, Creative bought CSW to legitimize itself as a "home theater" brand, and now their low end stuff (touted as high end to PC-types) is basically junk.

I agree about Bose, completely. Also avoid Sony anything. Sony basically makes junk. Expensive junk with useless features.

Finally, a real HT setup is far, far better than flavor of the week computer audio crap.
As for the other...

The versajack is capable of delivering undecoded (digital) AC-3 to an external device such as an HT receiver or a set of digital speakers for two reasons: 1.) Not having a hardware decoder on the card makes it cheaper. 2.) Decoding AC-3 is a hit to your PC's CPU and 3.) Most real HT equipment already has dolby digital decoding builtin.

Today, it's possible to buy DVD players with internal DD decoders, that can be connected to inexpensive receivers that DON'T decode dolby digital. However, it's far, far more likely that your DVD player just doesn't care what spews out its outputs, because even modest receivers can handle the common digital formats.
 

timwhit

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Merc, what kind of sound setup do you have? I can't wait to get rid of my Sony receiver, but the fact that I'm broke makes it hard. I still like my Sony Wega 27" though...
 

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By your standards on reasonable speakers, I purchased their garbage line at $89 a speaker for the model 6. At the time I didn't have tons of money, so I bought what I could afford.

Today I still use these for my main HT setup. I have a CS center channel paired with the two model 6's and Boston Acoustics HD5's in the rear. I have a Yamaha 5.1 receiver with DTS decoding. (No sub just yet)

I didn't know that Creative bought CSW, but I guess all the signs point to the branding of their speakers with SB.

I don't like Sony's HT equipment including their speakers, but that's personal preference. I enjoy my Sony TV, which I don't find it having useless features...although it might have been expensive at the time.

My HT and computer audio are two separate components. Neither of them is connected in any way and I was never lead to believe my CSW speakers for my PC were HT quality. :)
 

Handruin

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timwhit said:
Merc, what kind of sound setup do you have? I can't wait to get rid of my Sony receiver, but the fact that I'm broke makes it hard. I still like my Sony Wega 27" though...

Same exact TV I have...Like you, I still enjoy mine.
 

Mercutio

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Which room?

My listen-only setup is an Onkyo 696 with Acoustic Research speakers (ARO-216s and ARO-208s, don't remember the center) and a little yamaha sub. It's hooked to a JVC 7-disc DVD-A changer and a Sony 400 disc CD changer that I absolutely despise (it won't read some discs new, out of the shrinkwrap).

My HTPC is connected to a Kenwood VR-509, a 1000-lumen projector, a 27" Sony presentation monitor, a JVC SVHS deck, a Sony 5-disc DVD/SACD changer, another Sony 400-disc changer (the older, better one), and some mismatched Pioneer and Infinity speakers.
 

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There's nothing wrong with Sony's ES audio equipment. Their ES recievers are class leaders at their pricepoints. They actually even put out their rated power all channels driven. Sony's speakers are in large part junk however (save a few really expensive ES models they don't sell anymore).

Stereodude
 

Mercutio

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I had a Sony ES Receiver. It broke an offensive number of times and frankly didn't sound as nice as some of the other things I could've spent $800 on.

I sold it and bought the Onkyo.
 

timwhit

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I don't think I have heard any Acoustic Research before.

My personal favorite speaker brands are NHT, Definitive Technology, Monitor Audio, and B&W. There are others but I can't remember them right now.

I completely despise anything made by Klipsch, and pretty much any other well known brand (well known in the speaker industry seems to equate with less quality, more hype).

I don't really mind my Sony 300 Disc Changer it works faily well, never had a problem playing a CD in it before, except a few that are fairly scratched.
 

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Mercutio said:
I had a Sony ES Receiver. It broke an offensive number of times and frankly didn't sound as nice as some of the other things I could've spent $800 on.

I sold it and bought the Onkyo.
Odd... I returned an Onkyo and bought a Sony ES (DA5ES). I like the Sony much more. Can't beat the 5 year warranty either.

Stereodude
 

Mercutio

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Wait until the third or fourth time it needs warranty repair (four to six weeks repair + transit) and tell me how much you like it. The original reason I bought my Kenwood receiver was as a cheap, temporary replacement during the regular disappearance of my Sony.
 

Stereodude

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timwhit said:
I don't think I have heard any Acoustic Research before.

My personal favorite speaker brands are NHT, Definitive Technology, Monitor Audio, and B&W. There are others but I can't remember them right now.

I completely despise anything made by Klipsch, and pretty much any other well known brand (well known in the speaker industry seems to equate with less quality, more hype).

I don't really mind my Sony 300 Disc Changer it works faily well, never had a problem playing a CD in it before, except a few that are fairly scratched.
I don't think AR is the speaker maker they once were. Most of their stuff is pretty low end these days.

I have a 7.1 setup made from Infinity Interlude speakers. I like 'em a lot, but for a little more money the Onix Rocket lineup ( http://www.rocketloudspeakers.com/ ) from AV123 ( http://www.av123.com ) will take 'em and anything else in the price range for a ride. For the money the Rockets are probably without a doubt the best speakers you can buy. Soon I'll have a pair of Rocket 750 towers to play with in my 2nd "Stereo" system.

I also have some Wharfedale speakers, which were a super deal off Ubid. Got 3 pairs of their tower speakers before Ubid switch their format around a few months back. I have a pair of Modus 1.6s, a pair of Emerald 99s, and a pair of Sapphire 89s.

I'm in the process of measuring the response of all my speakers in my room. The preliminary data is interesting.

You can mark me down for disliking Klipsh and Bose pretty much across the board.

Stereodude
 

Stereodude

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Mercutio said:
Wait until the third or fourth time it needs warranty repair (four to six weeks repair + transit) and tell me how much you like it. The original reason I bought my Kenwood receiver was as a cheap, temporary replacement during the regular disappearance of my Sony.
Well my old non ES reciever only was ever in for repair once and it's like 7 years old now. Maybe you had bad luck with your ES reciever, but the last few generations have been solid judging from the lack of complaints on the various forums.

Stereodude
 

Cliptin

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timwhit said:
How much money are you planning on spending on this endeavor?

I think in the long run you would be better off buying a real receiver with digital inputs (built in Dobly Digital, & DTS decoder) and a 5 channel speaker system to go along with it.

It might cost more right now, but in the long run but it really does make a lot more sense. And it will sound a whole lot better.

You might not be planning on spending the kind of money that I am talking about, but at least consider it.

You are right about the long run. However, I plan to spend under $500. Until such time as I can afford to upgrade my entire 15 year old stereo system I intend to use my PC instead.

To help mitigate the limited power available onboard any sound card I'm considering options that will allow the use of the digital out and an external amplifier. My current sound system is 2.1 and I would like to experience 5.1 or more DVD sound. I understand that some games have surround sound. I'd like to experience that too.

I am satisfied with the quality and power of my current setup just not the quantity. I just want good PC theater quality. :)

Regarding the SB\Cambridge coalition: As a consumer (albeit ignorant) it is comforting knowing that the two pieces will work together before I put it together. As a business, they can market the products toward each other and sell it as a system. It is much easier on the sales bots as well. I also continued to get their catalog after the merger.
 

Mercutio

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Philips Acoustic Edge ($50 or so) + Onkyo 494 ($250, does DD/DTS/DPLII and video switching) + cheap KLH 5.1 speaker set ($149 at Best Buy) + $5 SPDIF cable + a ton of speaker wire = You're under still under budget and ready for the future.

I buy my AV cables from cableconn.com.
 

Cliptin

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Mercutio said:
Philips Acoustic Edge ($50 or so) + Onkyo 494 ($250, does DD/DTS/DPLII and video switching) + cheap KLH 5.1 speaker set ($149 at Best Buy) + $5 SPDIF cable + a ton of speaker wire = You're under still under budget and ready for the future.

I buy my AV cables from cableconn.com.

I had no idea you could get a setup for so cheap. If I got a regular receiver, I'm wondering if my current speaker system is good enough to re-use and add-on to. It is a dbx Soundfield 3x2 system which includes two bookshelf size speakers and a sub and 140W sub ampwith built in crossover. They were purchased around 1988 so I'm having difficulty finding web references though I could physically measure something if it would be helpful. This is what I found:

http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/speakers/messages/91929.html
I currently have a pair of AR PS2062's(which I'm selling to my friend), three pairs of Aura LSB-527M's,three Aura LSC-537M CC's,and a pair of Aura LSW-828's in storage. That's obviously not including the Michaura M55's(mains),Aura's CC,and my old(but still great-sounding)dbx Soundfield 3x2 sub/sat system(rear surrounds)in my HT.
http://www.audioreview.com/Main+Speaker/Bose+Acousitmass+10/PRD_119194_1594crx.aspx
Actually, the dbx system dominated the competition which featured systems from Bose,Yamaha,Cambridge SoundWorks,and Polk...all costing at least twice as much as the dbx.

Ther quotes really don't mean much to me but maybe they wil to you guys. Maybe Gary could pop in and give us a first hand opinion.
 

Mercutio

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Optionally, yes.

A receiver with Dolby Pro Logic II will try really hard to turn any input it gets into 5.1, even if it's a plain old stereo input.

If you choose to hook up your PC through analog 5.1 inputs on a receiver, you'll get 6 channels any time there's six channels to be had, which is the same thing computer speakers would do.
 

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Mercutio said:
There may be other "Dolby Digital" standards in the future, such as an official "7.1" format.
Windows XP seem to have a 7.1 speakers setting. I found it strange but it was there...
 

Cliptin

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Mercutio said:
If you choose to hook up your PC through analog 5.1 inputs on a receiver, you'll get 6 channels any time there's six channels to be had, which is the same thing computer speakers would do.

I don't think I understand this part. The "hook up your PC through analog 5.1 inputs" part. I understand how to hook up one analog stereo source such as a turntable or cassette deck; but I don't understand how you can hook up multiple analog sources and have them play at the same time.

Are you just saying that the receiver takes the place of the decoder like the Midiland ADS 4000.
 

Cliptin

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I managed to find the manuals that shipped with my current stereo speakers. I can relay some information if it would be helpful. For instance the satalites have 4.5" mids and the sub has 2x6.5" speakers.
 

Cliptin

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timwhit said:
Are the old speakers powered or unpowered?

My dbx speakers use standard speaker cable between all of the pieces. The cabel somes out of the receiver and in to the sub-amp/crossover. The sets of cables then run to each piece: the 2 sats and the sub.

Is that what you were looking for?

PS. Tim do you have Trillian
 

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On the back of every modern, quality receiver, there is at least one set of analog 5.1 inputs. Those inputs require SIX connections, one for each monaural channel. Analog 5.1s are use by DVD players with internal decoders, SACD or DVD-A players (where the perfect, digital datastream simply isn't allowed out of the box) and on PCs with 5.1 soundcards.

Soundcards that do 5.1 matrix two monaural channels off a mini-headphone connector, so that on the PC end, only three cables are required.

In any case, a device that does analog 5.1 output is doing all the decoding work; a device with an analog 5.1 input isn't doing much of anything but passing that signal on to the speakers.
 

Mercutio

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On the back of every modern, quality receiver, there is at least one set of analog 5.1 inputs. Those inputs require SIX connections, one for each monaural channel. Analog 5.1s are use by DVD players with internal decoders, SACD or DVD-A players (where the perfect, digital datastream simply isn't allowed out of the box) and on PCs with 5.1 soundcards.

Soundcards that do 5.1 matrix two monaural channels off a mini-headphone connector, so that on the PC end, only three cables are required.

In any case, a device that does analog 5.1 output is doing all the decoding work; a device with an analog 5.1 input isn't doing much of anything but passing that signal on to the speakers.
 

Cliptin

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Mercutio said:
A receiver with Dolby Pro Logic II will try really hard to turn any input it gets into 5.1, even if it's a plain old stereo input.

If you choose to hook up your PC through analog 5.1 inputs on a receiver, you'll get 6 channels any time there's six channels to be had, which is the same thing computer speakers would do.

OK. So the two ways meantioned above are mutually exclusive? If I choose the digital solution then decoding is handled by the decoder in the receiver (better quality then decoding in the PC? at least a CPU hit?) but there is a chance that the Dolby Pro Logic II will not be able to turn the input it gets into 5.1.

On the other hand, If I choose to use the analog inputs then the sound card could produce a signal on any channel and the receiver would amplify it. But all decoding would take place inside the PC.

Right?

Do you have a preference? It seems that if the connections are digital then most signals would go to all speakers even if they were originally just stereo. Is ther a reason why I whould not want this?
 

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DPLII works for everything that starts its life as a stereo signal. Some things, though, it doesn't work so well for. I have a couple of CDs that turn into extra-hissy messes on the surround channels when I use DPLII..

DPLII is still matrixed sound. It's not 5.1 in the same way that DTS or DD are. ProLogicII relies on psychoacoustics to turn a stereo signal into a best approximation of full surroundsound, so it isn't perfect.

The two types of connections are not mutually exclusvie. My receivers can - and do - DPLII 5.1 for DVDs encoded with PCM, connected through 5.1 analog inputs, just as easily as they can CD Audio through TOSLink.

Anything that starts out as Dolby Digital or DTS obviously doesn't get DPLII processing. Any decent receiver should switch for you, though.

And the prevailing reason to use a receiver to handle DD decoding is that it has the stuff to handle it, built right in. Why waste CPU cycles or pay for equipment with extra decoders if you don't need them?
 

Cliptin

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All of the above makes sense now that I've had some time to spend with the setup. I was afraid I would short-change myself unknowingly.

However, I still have not added my sub into the mix. I understand the sub-out on the receiver is line level and therefore expects to find a powered sub on the other end.

My sub is powered but by an old-style external amp/crossover and requires standard speaker cable connections.

1) I'm not sure what the polarity of of the sub-out conection on the back of the receiver is in order to build the necessary custom cable.

2) I'm not sure sure there isn't some problem lurking for me having to do with the double filtering of the high-pass filters or the cobbled together nature of this system in general.

Any help?
 

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1) I don't think the polarity really matters( or even applies) since all audio speakers use AC and not DC.. so the polarity is chaning constantly and if you only use 1 sub it probably dosen't matter....


However, if the output from your reciever is a single RCA output, the inner wire is usually considered positive, while the outer one is negative.

RCA cables can be easily cut apart or you could check out radio shack for an RCA to speaker wire converter which they may or may not have.



2) Some people consider Custom built PC's "cobbled together" personally, I think of them as customized to my personal specifications and preferences.
 

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Polarity does matter, try inverting your speakers and see how nice the sound is ;-)
 

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typically it only matters when you ahve more than 1 speaker of the same sound range. One speaker is moving out while the other is moving in and you will compete with each other. Hence, one is out of phase.

However, if you have 1 speaker like a sub woofer, that is producing sound lower than the rest of your speakers it may or may not be noticeable.

In any event, if you think the sound is off, simply reverse the polarity. No harm done.
 
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