A little bit on the audio for the project.
You may recall, I've bought one of these Creative Xfi-5.1 usb in the hope of replacing my XFi Titanium.
It is definitely a major improvement on the onboard crackle hiss pop, but is seriously missing the refinements that come with the titanium, indeed any sound card today.
So I opened up an audio thread HERE
, to discuss alternatives for an mITX build audio. A lot has been thrown around and I have found some handy forum threads elsewhere on the net. I will try and summaries:
There are 3 possible options for Binaural (Emulated surround) over 2.1 stereo headsets/phones.1) Go total USB type headset.
These connect USB and convert audio signal via software to an emulated 5.1/7.1 over stereo headphones. Some models maybe found that actually have separate speakers for the channels within the headset. Gimmick/fake I honestly don't care, and from experience work, but it is down to the audio hardware in the headset to be the major factor. Since most are made by "gaming" proprietors, this build quality more often than not is lacking.
Eg of USB Headsets SteelSeries 7H USB
(these have major build flaws use at own peril), ASUS RoG Vulcan Pro
and the Corsair Vengeance 1500 7.1
All 3 kick goals in this field of audio.
2) Dedicated Gaming Amp + quality gaming headset.
These are products such as the Tritton AX 720
or the A40 Audio System
From what I can understand these system are all the go IF the source audio (optical) is 5.1/7.1 Dolby. So they are going to be great for out of the box PS3/Xbox or a PC with a pcie sound card.
But what about PC onboard Realtek ALC optical out?
ALC can output Dolby, you need to install THX TruStudio (by Creative) but is limited to 2.1 but can apparently upgrade for $. Alternatively buy a product that will use the Dolby Install use the Dolby Codecs ie PowerDvd. Source Here @ Tweaktown.
I have personally tried all this and still not see Dolby options in the Realtek control panels options.3)USB soundcard + quality gaming headset.
When all is said and done these are the real deal in doing what the above usb headphones try to achieve. A dedicated sound card using surround codecs (Dolby Live) or emulation (CMss). Actually the Creative THX usb 5.1 that I am using now was one of the founding usb Cmss solutions (circa mid 2000's). I think it shows with the software and hardware involved with it's build. The advantage of these setup is you can attaach your own quality headset to them.
So it's time to update. I see 2 contenders both of which using current gen hardware, codecs and software. DISCLAIMER - These are summations of reviews and discussion found on the netz.
a) Creative Recond3D USBPros:
Looks stylish, has amplified output, dolby hardware, thx/cmss binaural software, EAX gaming sound effects including OpenAL for older titles, 24bit/48kHz Studio quality (best in class), has volume adjust on unit.Cons:
Large footprint, Gamer hype and price tag ($100+), questionable Core3D software solutions (compared to hardware xfi), THX quality (tin can effect) and loss of rear sound cues in scout mode (Cmss overlay), IS limited to 5.1 emulation. Uses Dolby Digital LIVE but does not have DOLBY HEADPHONE. This is a biggy, for the "binaural experience", Dolby headphone creates sound stages and positional ques specifically for Dolby headphones. Does not have an optical out solution.
b) Asus Xonar U3 USBPros:
Compact, value ($50+) Has amplified output, Dolby hardware with FULL Dolby sound technology suite (binaural) including Dolby Headphone with 3 sound stages, emulates 5.1/7.1, Thx decode software, EAX gaming sound effects, Optical output solution for Amplifier connectivity.Cons:
16bit/48kHz output (DVD quality), no volume adjust on unit. GX2.5 EAX effects emulation is known to be dodgy at times, Thx is reported to be "off" in 2.1 but good in 5.1/7.1Personal thoughts:Option 1 -
I am not totally opposed to total usb solution (I have tried Logitech 35's). But there are 2 variables that can make a lot of difference between headsets. Quality binaural software encoding and speaker drive quality.Option 2 -
If I had a dedicated 7.1 pcie card or console, I would be all over this option. But lets face it. "You can't polish a turd" that is Realtek onboard and ALC driversOption 3 -
I have issues with both these solutions. I am skeptical of the Core3D/Recon3d, the move to xfi software in general and the binaural experiences reported. I don't like the direction Creative are taking, X-fi Titanium hardware will always be the benchmark AFAIC. In the Asus corner, I have not been impressed by Xonar in the past as far as headphones and gaming are concerned ( Xonar DX). To be fair though the software suite seems to have improved and at the time I most likely did not know how to take control of the features (being a xf-i fan boi :lol:) for my situation. Despite these concerns I think I will give the Xonar U3 a try as my mITX sound solution.
Here are 2 threads on the "head-fi" forums I consider essential in learning and understanding the binaural experience.Mad Lust Envy's Headphone Gaming GuideThe Nameless Guide To PC Gaming Audio (with binaural headphone surround sound)
Hope this post has been of help.
:thumbup:Edited by bobbavet - 11/7/12 at 4:35pm