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Thread: Need advice on hardware for quality sound. Considering a 4.1 surround setup.

  1. #1
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    Need advice on hardware for quality sound. Considering a 4.1 surround setup.

    Hi guys, I've narrowed down a lot of potential components and features for a carputer I want to build, and one of the last things I'm stuck on figuring out is what to do for sounds. I'm big into music, and really want something that I can tweak to my liking to get something at least as good-sounding as my past Pioneer head units over the years.

    I am considering this as my motherboard for the build:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...scrollFullInfo

    It has an analog output as well as an optical output for the audio. I've heard that on-board sound isn't a great option for those that want high-quality audio, but I know that hardware and whatnot has improved over the years, so I was wondering if using an optical-output (going into a 4.1/5.1 amp) would give me just as good sound capabilities as an upgraded USB soundcard, or would the USB soundcard be the better bet?

    Any reason not to go with optical output for this? I also hate when you put a CD into a home theater system and you barely get sound out of the rear speakers. Will I experience this as well with a 4.1 system in the car?

    Lastly, will I need any other hardware or anything to get good sound out of my setup? Any help will be really appreciated as I'm not too educated on audio with as far as computer hardware. Thanks in advance!

    -Andrew

  2. #2
    FLAC PhilG's Avatar
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    Several questions you asked there, I'll try to answer them all, others hopefully will respond & improve on them.

    "I've heard that on-board sound isn't a great option for those that want high-quality audio"

    On board sound is what you make of it. There is plenty of software available to shape sound. Read some of Soundman's posts, he is one that has taken the software route and done well with it.


    "so I was wondering if using an optical-output (going into a 4.1/5.1 amp) would give me just as good sound capabilities as an upgraded USB sound device"

    If you have a digital signal that you need to get to amps etc. optical is a great way to do it. The signal can travel great distances without picking up any stray noise and cabling is much smaller especially on multi-channel setups. To my knowledge, if you are not converting the signal to analogue at the PC, then quality coming out of the digital out is less of an issue because one of the most important pieces is the DAC and you won't be relying on the main board to handle that. Regarding 4.1/5.1 amp with optical in, there is a very detailed thread on that here if you search, they are tough to find especially new which means your other option is a hardware based DAC with or without processor.


    "I also hate when you put a CD into a home theater system and you barely get sound out of the rear speakers."

    That is generally the way a properly decoded multi-channel setup is suppose to work; during a movie, the rear channels only are heard when someone drops a plate in a restaurant behind the person in the scene or a plane flies over and as it passes over head and moved behind the person,the sound of it fades to the rear channels. Surround sound is not suppose to surround you in sound, it's intent is to create as realistic sound stage as possible. If you want it for music it'a a waste of time, most music is only recorded in 2 channel so to get sound to the rear speakers you just duplicate the channels from the front to the back.



    "Lastly, will I need any other hardware or anything to get good sound out of my setup? Any help will be really appreciated as I'm not too educated on audio with as far as computer hardware."

    Entirely up to your goals and budget, software solutions are the lowest cost and lowest impact on the interior of your vehicle. Some hardware solutions will likely give you the best possible sound but only if a lot of other vehicle improvements are completed with it. Sound dampening, high quality speakers, good amps,etc.
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  3. #3
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    I agree with >2 channels largely being a waste for music. Besides, you can get effective 3D sound with good recordings (ie, phase-shifting of some effect or instrument).

    All my car systems have been surround speakers, but only with the rear signal being the same as the fronts (except when I had a 2-output-only system and connected the others (generally rears) as the difference - ie, 2 speakers in series between L+ & R+).


    And though I had 5.1 surround sound at for TV, DVD & PC etc, I now run all as plain stereo. I couldn't be bothered readjusting every time the program changes.
    It reminds me of what a music/sound enthusiast mate once reckoned - 2 speakers (channels) is best (for music).

  4. #4
    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    "I've heard that on-board sound isn't a great option for those that want high-quality audio"

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilG View Post
    On board sound is what you make of it. There is plenty of software available to shape sound. Read some of Soundman's posts, he is one that has taken the software route and done well with it.
    agreed. for the most part the onboard sound is plenty good for most setups. but if you choose to go the software route like i did, the motherboard you're looking at isn't powerful enough. you'll need at least a pentium or i3 processor. i tried the atom route for a while, and it's just too low powered for it.


    "so I was wondering if using an optical-output (going into a 4.1/5.1 amp) would give me just as good sound capabilities as an upgraded USB sound device"

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilG View Post
    If you have a digital signal that you need to get to amps etc. optical is a great way to do it. The signal can travel great distances without picking up any stray noise and cabling is much smaller especially on multi-channel setups. To my knowledge, if you are not converting the signal to analogue at the PC, then quality coming out of the digital out is less of an issue because one of the most important pieces is the DAC and you won't be relying on the main board to handle that. Regarding 4.1/5.1 amp with optical in, there is a very detailed thread on that here if you search, they are tough to find especially new which means your other option is a hardware based DAC with or without processor.
    but there are really 2 major problems that i understand to be with optical in-car(just to clarify, i've never used or really researched optical, this is just the stuff that i've seen pop up more then once, so i could be wrong about some of it).

    1st, there are very few amps that accept a optical input, and even fewer that use the industry-standard TOSLINK-style of optical(you'll need to look at the focal model)-- the others use their own brand-specific connector-- in alpines case, it's a different connector, and also requires other hardware just to get the amp to turn on, as it receives the turn-on signal through the same cable. and all of these amps are EXPENSIVE-- like $900+ expensive for a single simple 4-channel amp that doesn't even top 100w rms per channel.

    2nd, optical is a 'fixed' format-- ie, in a car, most of your sources are 2-channel, so that means that optical will only send 2 channels of audio out to the amps, so it makes it more difficult to split up to multiple speakers.

  5. #5
    FLAC PhilG's Avatar
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    It is my understanding that if your source is set up correctly to support appropriate formats, S/PDIF can carry two channels of PCM audio or a multi-channel compressed surround sound format such as Dolby Digital or DTS. The multichannel must be compressed though due to bandwidth limitations of the optic interface.

    Having said that, most of it is a moot point for music due to the fact that audio tracks are mostly PCM audio (2 channel) anyways.
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  6. #6
    Constant Bitrate eugenweij's Avatar
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    I think it depends on what you want to do with your setup,

    I want to have 4.1 as well but I want it because I intend to get a rear seat screen for kids movies , and have audio go to the rear speakers , and in the front I can have music or nav audio

    also it makes front and rear speakers adjustable easier ( I like having bulk of music come from the rear)
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  7. #7
    FLAC PhilG's Avatar
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    eugenweij, You are speaking of needing multi channels to handle more than one source output at the same time, that is easily done, more amp channels, more speakers. We were speaking of a single source needing multi channels to accurately reproduce a movie etc recorded in a multi channel format and how to interconnect the source to the amps
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  8. #8
    Constant Bitrate eugenweij's Avatar
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    for that an optical input is going to be costly

    it can be done, my MB supports 5.1 output through 3 3.5mm jacks , each jack can be connected with a adapter cable from 3.5mm to rca , you will need a 6 channel amp or several amps for it but it can work , only question is will it be worthwhile ? but thats a personal thing if you believe thats worth it
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  9. #9
    Low Bitrate SierraStroker's Avatar
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    I'm also considering going this route, but only if I can do it cost effectively. The main reasoning would be for watching movies but I do also have a handful of 5.1 music. I can see where staying digital right up to the amp would improve signal quality and virtually eliminate ground hiss or other interference.

    I've still got more research to do on the subject so keep us posted on what you end up doing and how it turns out.
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  10. #10
    Maximum Bitrate rray's Avatar
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    I just got my setup installed and now that I have gotten a few setup bugs out of it, am very happy.

    I used an atom 2800 board, but choose a USB DAC to output 2 channels and a JBL MS-8 processor to build my soundstage. I have the Logic 7 mode on which is kind of like a home theater mode, but really does a great job.

    I would offer up that you research the DAC / Processor solution if you want to use an Atom in your system.

    Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk 2

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