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Looking to improve my sound solution

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hey guys, I've never really dived into audio, so I'm asking for help smile.gif
For the last 13 years I've used the Creative Inspire 5.1 5100 PC speaker set as my surround sound solution (I know, please don't laugh...) I first had a sound card (Creative something, can't remember) with it because onboard sound didn't support 5.1 at that time. Later on I sold the sound card and used the onboard audio when I upgraded my motherboard, and still am in my current Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard. I'm investing in a new Skylake PC build soon, and figured why not improve my audio as well?

After lots of reading the last couple of days I've come to the conclusion that I need to get new speakers, and probably a DAC. I've come across some analogies that good overclocking CPU's aren't worth it without proper cooling and such. But since I've never really dove into audio I'm not even sure what kind of specs I'm looking for, let alone be able to compare speakers + DAC and knowing what works.

After finding a couple of spec lists on the internet such as wikipedia, this post on the Logitech forums (scroll to specs). But I'm still not sure how everything fits together. Or how some of the values of the specs are good.

This is what I've learned:
The typical human hearing range is from 20hz to 20kHz (some say 22kHz), higher frequencies are produced easier by electronics, lower frequencies are harder (requires the ability to move a lot of air). Because of this, speakers are split up into satellites (mid to high frequencies) and sub-woofers (low frequencies). To be able to drive these speakers you need something that convert digital audio input to an analog audio signal that the speaker can convert to air vibrations so that our ears can hear it. This is done via onboard audio, sound card or a DAC, each have their pro's and con's and their price tag attached to it.

This is what I'll be using my PC for mostly that involves sound:
- gaming
- watching series/movies/anime
- listening to music (mostly trance/electronic and the occasional pop song)

And here's the things that (I think) I want:
- 5.1 speaker set
- DAC

My budget is about €400.

Some other questions / random thoughts I have:
Would I need to buy cables/plugs to be able to connect everything to each other or do they come with the speakers/DAC? How would I connect a DAC to my PC?
If someone could help me walk through how sound usually travels through a PC system out of the speakers with more detail, that would be appreciated smile.gif
How would the new speaker set compare to my old one, can I just compare it's 6 Watts RMS @ 10% THD, with with 84 SNR, to the next and say this one is better?
Would it be possible to get a 2.1 solution first and expand later to 5.1? (if my budget seems too small for example)
Maybe a sound card instead of a DAC depending on my budget?
Would I need an Amplifier as well, why would this be better than increasing the volume in windows (please be gentle to me asking this question)?
How good would the SupremeFX (2015) sound chip of an Asus Z170 motherboard be?
When buying a headset later, would it require much changes to the setup based on speakers?

If you need more information for helping me decide how to solve this problem I'm happy to answer your questions smile.gif
Hopefully you guys can help me learn to appreciate better audio solutions for PC.
Edited by n2k3 - 10/6/15 at 3:10pm
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post #2 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by n2k3 View Post

This is what I'll be using my PC for mostly that involves sound:
- gaming
- watching series/movies/anime
- listening to music (mostly trance/electronic and the occasional pop song)

You can not have everything.
Gaming setups do not work best for music or movies.
Movie setups do not work best for gaming or music.
Music setups do not work best for gaming or movies.

You kind of have to decide where you want to make tradfeoffs.


And here's the things that (I think) I want:

- 5.1 speaker set
- DAC

You will be hard pressed to find a quality 5.1 DAC, as DACs are almost exclusively used for converting 2 channel (stereo) digital signals to 2 channel (stereo) analogie signals.


Some other questions / random thoughts I have:
Would I need to buy cables/plugs to be able to connect everything to each other or do they come with the speakers/DAC? How would I connect a DAC to my PC?

Cables, depends, some devices come with them, some don't. You'll likely have to buy some.

That depends on what outputs you PC has and what inputs the DAC has. Generally, USB connections between PC and DAC yield the best sound quality.



If someone could help me walk through how sound usually travels through a PC system out of the speakers with more detail, that would be appreciated smile.gif

That's a little to complicated to answer in a general way. It all depends on what the source material is, what components are used and what inputs and outputs are available in the components. Perhaps what you narrow down you choices this can be answered.

How would the new speaker set compare to my old one, can I just compare it's 6 Watts RMS @ 10% THD, with with 84 SNR, to the next and say this one is better?

Those specs are absolutely terrible. Pretty much anything would be better

Would it be possible to get a 2.1 solution first and expand later to 5.1? (if my budget seems too small for example)

I'm going to suggest that you skip all that multi-channel mumbo-jumbo forever and go with a 2.1 setup.

Maybe a sound card instead of a DAC depending on my budget?

That all depends on what sound card and what DAC

Would I need an Amplifier as well, why would this be better than increasing the volume in windows (please be gentle to me asking this question)?

The output from any computer (using either onboard or a soundcard) is a low level output and not no where near powerful enough to drive speakers.

You will need either speakers with built in amplifiers (powered speakers - like you have now) or an amplifier with passive (unpowered) speakers. There has to be an amplifier somewhere.

How good would the SupremeFX (2015) sound chip of an Asus Z170 motherboard be?

"Which is bigger Red or Blue"? There is no answer to your question either.

When buying a headset later, would it require much changes to the setup based on speakers?

Some headsets can be driver directly from onboard sound, a sound card, or a DAC, some require a separate headphone amplifier

If you need more information for helping me decide how to solve this problem I'm happy to answer your questions smile.gif
.

Edited by billbartuska - 10/6/15 at 7:32am
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post #3 of 19
As billbart suggests, you really need to set a budget/budget range and work from there.

You also need to state space limitations. Is there room for a receiver + freestanding speakers, or do these need to sit on a desk?

FYI for the same amount of money, headphones usually sound better than speaker setups. If you're planning to get a headset down the line, maybe you could just skip the speakers altogether.
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post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by billbartuska View Post


Thanks for the provided information billbartuska and brucethemoose!

Based on that here's my response with additional info (Hehe yea... I know my current setup is terrible...)

In order of importance it'll be: gaming (60%), movies/series (30%), music (10%)
The PC will be in my bedroom (3 meter wide by 4 meter long) and I will be sitting in front of a desk (2m long and 80cm deep).

I'm not that into headphones, especially in summer when its getting hot. Plus I like the freedom I have with speakers. Also considering other people that might want to hear sound when watching movies/series smile.gif

As the purpose of my setup would be mostly gaming, and movies/series, I was hoping I would be able to get a decent (PC) 5.1 speaker set. These types of content usually have 5.1 surround sound redface.gif
How about this combination, Logitech Z906 + Creative Sound Blaster Z? This is to keep the 5.1 wish via a sound card instead of an external DAC. I guess I would need an amp with this, since the speakers are passive, correct? I would connect the speakers to the sound card with a S/PDIF digital optical cable that I would also have to buy.

Hopefully I'm not being too stubborn about a 5.1 setup. If you would, please explain why I should skip all that multi-channel mumbo-jumbo forever as you would call it billbartuska biggrin.gif?
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post #5 of 19
I'm not sure I can ever recommend a 5.1 computer speaker set. Definitely not a Logitech one. I'm not sure what specifically you could get for your budget, but look into a more affordable (possibly used) 5.1 A/V receiver from a respected brand like Yamaha or Denon, as well as some affordable bookshelf speakers. Perhaps start with 2.1 and expand to 5.1, which is simple with an A/V receiver. When you eventually get surround speakers you might want to go for bipolar multidirectional ones.
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post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by n2k3 View Post

Thanks for the provided information billbartuska and brucethemoose!

Based on that here's my response with additional info (Hehe yea... I know my current setup is terrible...)

In order of importance it'll be: gaming (60%), movies/series (30%), music (10%)
The PC will be in my bedroom (3 meter wide by 4 meter long) and I will be sitting in front of a desk (2m long and 80cm deep).

I'm not that into headphones, especially in summer when its getting hot. Plus I like the freedom I have with speakers. Also considering other people that might want to hear sound when watching movies/series smile.gif

As the purpose of my setup would be mostly gaming, and movies/series, I was hoping I would be able to get a decent (PC) 5.1 speaker set. These types of content usually have 5.1 surround sound redface.gif
How about this combination, Logitech Z906 + Creative Sound Blaster Z? This is to keep the 5.1 wish via a sound card instead of an external DAC. I guess I would need an amp with this, since the speakers are passive, correct? I would connect the speakers to the sound card with a S/PDIF digital optical cable that I would also have to buy.

Hopefully I'm not being too stubborn about a 5.1 setup. If you would, please explain why I should skip all that multi-channel mumbo-jumbo forever as you would call it billbartuska biggrin.gif?

Just get a half decent 5.1 home theater system or put on together yourself.

If you give me a link to a speaker store that you can buy from, I can try to put one together.
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post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by n2k3 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by billbartuska View Post


Thanks for the provided information billbartuska and brucethemoose!

Based on that here's my response with additional info (Hehe yea... I know my current setup is terrible...)

In order of importance it'll be: gaming (60%), movies/series (30%), music (10%)
The PC will be in my bedroom (3 meter wide by 4 meter long) and I will be sitting in front of a desk (2m long and 80cm deep).

I'm not that into headphones, especially in summer when its getting hot. Plus I like the freedom I have with speakers. Also considering other people that might want to hear sound when watching movies/series smile.gif

As the purpose of my setup would be mostly gaming, and movies/series, I was hoping I would be able to get a decent (PC) 5.1 speaker set. These types of content usually have 5.1 surround sound redface.gif
How about this combination, Logitech Z906 + Creative Sound Blaster Z? This is to keep the 5.1 wish via a sound card instead of an external DAC. I guess I would need an amp with this, since the speakers are passive, correct? I would connect the speakers to the sound card with a S/PDIF digital optical cable that I would also have to buy.

Hopefully I'm not being too stubborn about a 5.1 setup. If you would, please explain why I should skip all that multi-channel mumbo-jumbo forever as you would call it billbartuska biggrin.gif?

The Z906 has an internal amp (so it's active), SPIDF bypasses the soundcard and compresses the sound at the same time (which is bad), and I personally wouldn't even get a soundcard for 5.1 PC speakers.

Also, you didn't mention a budget tongue.gif But I'll assume $400+ since you mentioned the Z906 + Creative Z + amp.


Like boredgunner said, for that money, you should get a receiver + some decent passive bookshelf speakers. Though I do like the Definitive SM45 speakers in front of me right now, I'm no expert in that area, so don't ask me which ones you should get biggrin.gif
Edited by brucethemoose - 10/6/15 at 10:39am
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post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by n2k3 View Post

As the purpose of my setup would be mostly gaming, and movies/series, I was hoping I would be able to get a decent (PC) 5.1 speaker set. These types of content usually have 5.1 surround sound

As others have said, a decent, used 2 chennel amp and some bookshelf speakers (maybe a sub later) will get you far better sound quality than anything multi-channel in your price range. And at that sound quality level on-board or sound card won't matter. Save your money and go with on-board.

"You can only hear the difference if you components will play the difference."
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post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by n2k3 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by billbartuska View Post

Thanks for the provided information billbartuska and brucethemoose!
Based on that here's my response with additional info (Hehe yea... I know my current setup is terrible...)
In order of importance it'll be: gaming (60%), movies/series (30%), music (10%)
The PC will be in my bedroom (3 meter wide by 4 meter long) and I will be sitting in front of a desk (2m long and 80cm deep).
I'm not that into headphones, especially in summer when its getting hot. Plus I like the freedom I have with speakers. Also considering other people that might want to hear sound when watching movies/series smile.gif
As the purpose of my setup would be mostly gaming, and movies/series, I was hoping I would be able to get a decent (PC) 5.1 speaker set. These types of content usually have 5.1 surround sound redface.gif
How about this combination, Logitech Z906 + Creative Sound Blaster Z? This is to keep the 5.1 wish via a sound card instead of an external DAC. I guess I would need an amp with this, since the speakers are passive, correct? I would connect the speakers to the sound card with a S/PDIF digital optical cable that I would also have to buy.
Hopefully I'm not being too stubborn about a 5.1 setup. If you would, please explain why I should skip all that multi-channel mumbo-jumbo forever as you would call it billbartuska biggrin.gif?

Logitech Z906 with SB-Z is one option.

For a better price, find a used Logitech Z5500 (Craigslist or eBay).
You need a source (sound card) that comes with DDL (Dolby Digital Live) or DTS.
As yon need DDL or DTS to connect the sound card (using optical/coaxial) to the Z5500/Z906.
An Asus Xonar DS or DSX comes with DTS, the SB-Z comes with DDL.
Nice part about the SB-Z is it comes with a dedicated headphone jack.
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ENIAC
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post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by boredgunner View Post

I'm not sure I can ever recommend a 5.1 computer speaker set. Definitely not a Logitech one. I'm not sure what specifically you could get for your budget, but look into a more affordable (possibly used) 5.1 A/V receiver from a respected brand like Yamaha or Denon, as well as some affordable bookshelf speakers. Perhaps start with 2.1 and expand to 5.1, which is simple with an A/V receiver. When you eventually get surround speakers you might want to go for bipolar multidirectional ones.
You are probably correct, since I don't either. I'm not sure what I would get when buying the €275 speaker set from Logitech, all I can look at is some specs tongue.gif Especially since I've not really heard or experienced actual hi-fi sound it's hard to get my head around it? tongue.gif The thing is when going more towards home theater speakers, the number of possibilities is even greater. So its making it even harder to select parts (that actually fit together and don't bottleneck each other). But with the help of you and all the others, I suppose it'll be a better start than a PC speakers set thumb.gif Thanks for your suggestion!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjj226 Angel View Post

Just get a half decent 5.1 home theater system or put on together yourself.

If you give me a link to a speaker store that you can buy from, I can try to put one together.
Maybe one of these will help: tweakers.net, or hardware.info - home cinema and audio sets or hardware.info - speakers.
This will certainly help me looking in the right direction! Also if you would be so kind, could you explain some of the decisions you made when you selected some parts?
Thanks in advance thumb.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by brucethemoose View Post

The Z906 has an internal amp (so it's active), SPIDF bypasses the soundcard and compresses the sound at the same time (which is bad), and I personally wouldn't even get a soundcard for 5.1 PC speakers.

Also, you didn't mention a budget tongue.gif But I'll assume $400+ since you mentioned the Z906 + Creative Z + amp.


Like boredgunner said, for that money, you should get a receiver + some decent passive bookshelf speakers. Though I do like the Definitive SM45 speakers in front of me right now, I'm no expert in that area, so don't ask me which ones you should get biggrin.gif
If S/PDIF bypasses the sound card, why would anyone use it? I don't see the benefit, maybe just for a pass through to get the audio out? I knew about the compression, but I thought it wouldn't be that bad.
So if I were to buy a 5.1 PC speaker set, you would just use onboard audio, as I wont be able to benefit much from an sound card.
But following your and other people's suggestions, I won't be buying a sound card and a PC speaker set, but looking in the direction of some bookshelf speakers + receiver.
Quote:
Originally Posted by billbartuska View Post

As others have said, a decent, used 2 chennel amp and some bookshelf speakers (maybe a sub later) will get you far better sound quality than anything multi-channel in your price range. And at that sound quality level on-board or sound card won't matter. Save your money and go with on-board.

"You can only hear the difference if you components will play the difference."
Thanks for your suggestion! I won't be buying a sound card and a PC speaker set, but looking in the direction of some bookshelf speakers + receiver.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tacoboy View Post

Logitech Z906 with SB-Z is one option.

For a better price, find a used Logitech Z5500 (Craigslist or eBay).
You need a source (sound card) that comes with DDL (Dolby Digital Live) or DTS.
As yon need DDL or DTS to connect the sound card (using optical/coaxial) to the Z5500/Z906.
An Asus Xonar DS or DSX comes with DTS, the SB-Z comes with DDL.
Nice part about the SB-Z is it comes with a dedicated headphone jack.

Oh hmm.. I haven't even considered DDL or DTS, but I guess since I'm not going to buy PC speaker + sound card set anymore, I guess that won't matter? If it still would when going for bookshelf speakers + receiver setup, perhaps you could explain to me the difference between them?

---

Also it seems some people haven't seen my budget in my first post, so I'll repeat: its around €400. And since it's in euro's you should know I can't really order from amazon/newegg/craigslist/etc rolleyes.gif

Really grateful for all the suggestions, thanks!
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