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Sound Card for 2.1 Speaker Setup?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Hi, guys. Well I've been reading a bit on sound cards here in OCN, and I'm having trouble deciding whether I should get 1 or not and if it will solve my "problem". Basically I only use my Logitech Z623 2.1 THX certified speaker system so I'm wondering if I'll notice any difference over my on board Realtek ALC898. I'm aiming to get an Asus Xonar DGX since I don't plan on spending a whole lot on a sound card. Seeing as this card is on the budget end, it makes me wonder even more if it can make any difference over the on board. Based on what I've read, majority of the people who purchase sound cards use high-end headphones for a 5.1 or 7.1 experience, I am only using my 2.1 speaker system.

The main reason I'm thinking of getting a sound card is because when I watch movies, I increase the volume to hear their voices, when suddenly explosions happen and the background music/sound is overly loud. If I reduce the volume, I won't be able to clearly hear the voices of the characters. I'm hoping a sound card could balance the sound more and provide a clearer experience. I'm not an audiophile or anything, I just want to make the most out of my Z623.

I won't be purchasing a sound card if it won't make much of a difference on my z623.
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post #2 of 5
Trust me, it's in the audio track of the movie that unbalances the action-dialogue volume levels.
All the movies I have watched use it to boost the impression of the action scenes for the viewer.

And the subwoofer makes this even worse... Most of the money used on 2.1 sets go to the subwoofer
Edited by Tiihokatti - 8/3/13 at 1:14am
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post #3 of 5
The sound card in itself doesn't affect the mixing and mastering or channel balance of multi-channel sound in any way, unless you use some type of DSP that does something to the channels (Dolby Pro Logic), frequency response (Crystallizer, X-Fi), or some type of a compression (I'm not entirely sure do they have some weird ass marketing jargon term for that too). Some sound cards offer software features like this in their drivers, but you might get the same features as a plug-in to some media players like VLC.

This plug-in MIGHT offer you a solution if you can use VLC for movie watching, have a look: http://www.ab9il.net/digital-audio/vlc-audio-dynamics.html
Quote:
These settings are usable in typical listener environments. Sound louder than -20 dB is compressed with a fast attack, fairly fast release. A 3 to 1 compression ratio ensures that listeners can hear sounds at normal levels, without being blasted by loud content.

But yeah, a sound card in itself won't solve your issue. Drivers/effects/software not taken into account, all a sound card is is just a different digital to analog converter. It might have better signal/noise ratio (usual integrated solutions are good enough for non-enthusiast use anyway), less distortion, an integrated low-impedance headphone amplifier, more connectivity.. but it's not going to do any magic to the sound in itself (or it shouldn't). I hope that cleared it up!
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post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by seepra View Post

The sound card in itself doesn't affect the mixing and mastering or channel balance of multi-channel sound in any way, unless you use some type of DSP that does something to the channels (Dolby Pro Logic), frequency response (Crystallizer, X-Fi), or some type of a compression (I'm not entirely sure do they have some weird ass marketing jargon term for that too). Some sound cards offer software features like this in their drivers, but you might get the same features as a plug-in to some media players like VLC.

This plug-in MIGHT offer you a solution if you can use VLC for movie watching, have a look: http://www.ab9il.net/digital-audio/vlc-audio-dynamics.html
But yeah, a sound card in itself won't solve your issue. Drivers/effects/software not taken into account, all a sound card is is just a different digital to analog converter. It might have better signal/noise ratio (usual integrated solutions are good enough for non-enthusiast use anyway), less distortion, an integrated low-impedance headphone amplifier, more connectivity.. but it's not going to do any magic to the sound in itself (or it shouldn't). I hope that cleared it up!

Wow this answers a lot. +rep, awesome input, thanks for the help!! I'll just save cash on something else as I believe I don't need a sound card. I use VLC so I'll take a look at that and see if it solves my issue. So then I'd like to ask when a sound card would actually be needed? Like say if for example someone makes use of a 5.1/7.1 setup or with high-end headphones? Or just if someone is REALLY particular about his music and how they sound?

Edit: Tried the link you posted, it seems to do the trick but I have to balance some things, I'm finding the explosions a little too quiet now. Nothing a tweaking won't fix. I hope I can understand it more though, what each setting does that is. Awesome I didn't know VLC had these settings and more, which I hate that I completely do not understand any of them. :|
Edited by BeastRider - 8/3/13 at 6:04am
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post #5 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeastRider View Post

Edit: Tried the link you posted, it seems to do the trick but I have to balance some things, I'm finding the explosions a little too quiet now.
If you want to adjust the amount how much highest volumes get turned down, change the ratio. 3.0:1 is quite a lot, you could try 2.0:1 and see if that does it for you. If you want to adjust the minimum required sound level that initiates the compression, adjust threshold. The default setting in the link is -20dB, which means -20 decibels from full scale. -0dB is the loudest point that can be stored in a file, and having the compressor threshold set to -0dB would basically mean no compression takes place unless the sound is clipping and distorting. Set it too low (like -40dBFS) and it's going to start muffling out normal dialogue when someone starts shouting for instance. I suggest leaving the threshold where it is now and instead playing with the ratio. Attack adjusts how fast does the compression take full effect, and release is the amount of time it takes to stop compressing the audio after the loud part over the threshold has stopped. I suggest leaving those where they are, unless you easily notice that the compression remains too long after a sound and is leaving "quiet" passages after loud sudden sounds.
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