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Finding an amp with a digital input vs. Buying a sound processor vs. Good ol' Analog

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  • Finding an amp with a digital input vs. Buying a sound processor vs. Good ol' Analog

    I've been on the hunt for an amplifier with a digital input. I.e. Optical. Ive gone through the forums, dug and dug, dug some more.. But I was left with options and advice almost too old to even consider xD

    I'd preferably have my Amp linked to my car pc through an optical cable for a pristine signal to the amp, and no fiddling with analog interference.

    After searching, Ive learned that some of you use Audio processors such as the Alpine H701 for conversion to analog from the digital signal. Would this have any advantage of going straight from my PC's analog audio header to the amp?


    I'll be running a 8-speaker setup with two 10" subs, to be purchased later on once I get my amps setup.

    Two in each door of my Mini (so four counting the other side) , two tweeters in the front (one on each side) and two 6x9s in the back, also one on each side.

  • #2
    You won't notice any difference in a car environment. Most people don't even notice a difference in a home theater setup. Just buy a good USB DAC with RCA outputs, buy a good RCA cable (I prefer twisted pair for no real reason), and keep it away from power cables, and you'll be fine.
    1999 Mercury Grand Marquis GS with: ASRock E350M1 w/4GB RAM, 80GB Intel SSD, Opus DCX3.120, Visteon HD Radio + HDR-USB, PL-18N wifi, OBDLink Scan Tool, BTA6210 BT, BU-353, Win 7 Ultimate, CF 4.0, Alpine MRP-F240 + MRP-T220, RF Punch 1572s, Kicker 8" Comp.

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    • #3
      if you going to build such complicated multichannel system you'd like to setup it correctly, right? Then you'll need to ajust the phase and Freq range for each channel independently.
      Grab external car audio processor like Bit.One or PXA-H701.

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      • #4
        your post is a little vague on what you intend to get out of the system, so i don't know if you are using $25 walmart speakers, and $10 amps, or went with some hybrid audio legatia pro drivers(the 6" driver pair retail for $650)....

        Originally posted by kegobeer View Post
        You won't notice any difference in a car environment. Most people don't even notice a difference in a home theater setup. Just buy a good USB DAC with RCA outputs, buy a good RCA cable (I prefer twisted pair for no real reason), and keep it away from power cables, and you'll be fine.
        it depends on the circumstances, but in some cases, it could be possible to hear the difference.

        i think i need to hear more on your setup before commenting further on why you feel that you need to go optical.
        My OLD 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT:
        "The Project That Never Ended, until it did"


        next project? subaru brz
        carpc undecided

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        • #5
          I personally wanted to do optical out as it is immune to RFI and while the speaker wires out from the amp are not, it's one less thing to reduce noise. I suspect he is thinking along the same lines.

          Also: Alpine makes an amp with optical input, though the word I'v e heard on it is that it was designed for a specific series of Alpine head units... unsure if the optical input on it is set up for proprietary signal or not.

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          • #6
            So why not mount the analog amp where the optical is?

            Or are new speakers optically connected too?

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            • #7
              Ok, so I am running into the same question. Do I want to use the separate analog 6 channels out for a 5.1 setup and go to the analog in of a 6 channel amp or use a dsp? If using a dsp, I only use 2 channels out of the soundcard and let the dsp do all the 6 channel separation correct? I would think the PC would allow more customization if the 6 channels came directly from it to the 6 channel amp...is this correct? I am not so concerned about the analog/digital quality difference as I have used analog all these years and been very happy with it. Now if I was using the car to watch a movie while not moving, in a very quiet environment, that would be different. But, loud music with the windows down being 95% of my use, I don't think it will matter.

              Thanks for any info.

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              • #8
                guys. the car environment is bad enough as it is.
                and your advice is: fcuk lets make it worse by not using good quality components.
                you got it backwards.

                turn the damn car off and then you will hear the difference. if it sounds better with the car off then it will certainly sound better with the car on.


                btw i ve bee searching for the solution(reasonably priced) for some time now.

                and theres really nothing available to do that unfortunately. not yet.

                unles you really good and can replace the power supply with a 12volt and use a home audio amp with digital input.
                Last edited by raverx3m; 04-14-2011, 11:10 AM.

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                • #9
                  short of exhaust-note noise and a small amount of motor vibration, my sound system doesn't sound any different with the car on or off..

                  so i have no desire to go optical if it doesn't pose any major audible advantage-- esp. considering the extra cost optical components have..


                  i disagree with the "f-it, lets make it worse" attitude. i have made my sound system much better by changing the speakers, the wiring, and the amps.

                  while i understand the desire to go optical to get the best quality signal, i still don't see a major advantage in the way that most installs are connected.

                  the only installs that i really believe would truly take advantage of the optical-cable clarity would be installs that run optical cables to each speaker location, and then keep the amp within a couple feet of the speaker..

                  in most installs, all of the equipment is mounted in the back of the vehicle-- which means that the optical signal would provide a very clean signal to the amps, but would leave copper-noise-inducting cable to connect to the speakers that are usually at least 10-20' long.... so now all the work that you went into to get the clean signal at the amps has been lost with the speaker cabling running like a antenna along the length of the car....


                  i guess for me, it is similar to having a chance to buying a Ferarri, or a much cheaper kit-car that looks exactly the same-- sure the motor, and the italian design are nice, but for me, if the styling of the kit-car was the same as the real thing, i would choose the cheaper model...
                  My OLD 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT:
                  "The Project That Never Ended, until it did"


                  next project? subaru brz
                  carpc undecided

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                  • #10
                    speaker wires do not introduce nearly as much noise as RCA cables do,
                    like i said earlier.
                    the signal is converted from digital to analog and back to digital if you have a digital amp or any kind of processing built in the amp.
                    with optical amp the signal is only converted at the amp which means the signal reaches the amplifier 100% noise free.
                    and i think that is a big+ in addition to having a good quality speaker and good quality recording.

                    the quality of components and conections matters at home, i dont understand why people would argue about the importance of better signal in the car.

                    some people cant hear the difference at home and they argue about a set of 5 dollar RCA cable vs 50 dollar set... etc.
                    if you dont have a good reference audio system you wont hear a difference in anything.

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                    • #11
                      In my experience, I went from a $700 Alpine headunit running RCA's to a laptop and X-fi optically connected to a processor then 1 foot RCA cables into the same amps in the same location. The difference to me was night & day. I eliminated 3 runs of 16' RCA cables. I just can't see how that cannot help I have NO noticable vehicle electrical noise, just the stupid little sounds that windows makes randomly from time to time.
                      My 2007 Ford F350 Work Log located HERE

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                      • #12
                        So it has absolutely nothing to do with the HU and sound source. Cool.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by PhilG View Post
                          In my experience, I went from a $700 Alpine headunit running RCA's to a laptop and X-fi optically connected to a processor then 1 foot RCA cables into the same amps in the same location. The difference to me was night & day. I eliminated 3 runs of 16' RCA cables. I just can't see how that cannot help I have NO noticable vehicle electrical noise, just the stupid little sounds that windows makes randomly from time to time.
                          What exactly was bad about the Alpine setup? Alternator whine? If so, had you moved the Alpine closer to the amp and used shorter RCA cables, would that have made a difference? And what if you had run the Alpine from a different power source, like the laptop does? (Alpine directly connected to the battery, thus part of the overall car grounding system vs laptop that is not part of the car grounding system.) Of course, the location of the RCA cables and type used would also make a huge difference. My $300 Alpine head unit had some nasty whine until I found a decent set of shielded RCA cables - and then the noise completely disappeared.
                          1999 Mercury Grand Marquis GS with: ASRock E350M1 w/4GB RAM, 80GB Intel SSD, Opus DCX3.120, Visteon HD Radio + HDR-USB, PL-18N wifi, OBDLink Scan Tool, BTA6210 BT, BU-353, Win 7 Ultimate, CF 4.0, Alpine MRP-F240 + MRP-T220, RF Punch 1572s, Kicker 8" Comp.

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                          • #14
                            Wow, cannot believe a question about finding an amp capable of digital inputs has created such a debate whether or not digital is better than analog or not.

                            The link between audio source & amplification has always been the weakest link of the system, and anybody who has ever had noise issues they could never remedy would know exactly how significant the move to digital signaling would be. Huge difference in sound quality could be realized, because the better the signal the amp gets the equally better the output would be.
                            Digital signal would be immune to noise, and not only would it not pick up noise in a car, but any noise created by the source would not be transmitted into the digital output, so ground loop issues from the PC components itself would no longer pose an issue either. Anyone who thinks the signal difference is negligible in a car probably cannot hear a differnce between the radio, CD, or Sat radio sound quality either. (which is more than evident in a half decent car stereo system)


                            I think it is a very valid choice, & I read this thread because I was equally curious & hoped to find a few answers in here myself.

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                            • #15
                              So absence of noise makes a better system?
                              And digital is the only way to avoid noise?

                              Wow!

                              Let's hope the digital is not fairly compressed mp3!!

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