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Audio Upgrade - Premium Asus/Creative card or external AV receiver?

 
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 08-19-2017, 11:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello

I am currently running a set of analog Teufel Motiv V speakers (5.1) using just the onboard audio on my Asus Maximus VIII Hero.

The speakers are passive but driven by the amps integrated into the set's active subwoofer. So all I have is cables connecting the motherboard's analog outputs directly to the phono plugs on the subwoofer. All processing and digital/analog conversion obviously at the PC.

I am looking to upgrade my PC audio at the moment. Up until last year when I built this PC, I was using a Creative X-Fi Elite Pro sound card which gave me excellent sound quality with the same speakers. Unfortunately it was using a legacy PCI interface and had to go when I built the new PC, hence using onboard audio. At the time, time and money meant I couldn't look into finding a PCI-E alternative sound card for this build.

Now that I have the opportunity to do so, I am considering the best option to upgrade. I can either simply purchase a new premium sound card such as the Creative ZxR or AE-5 and just connect the phono inputs on my current speaker set to that, or use the HDMI out on my nVidia card to stream 5.1 LPCM audio to an AV receiver, and do all processing and digital/analog conversion on there (and have the built in amp drive my speakers and the pre-out connected to my subwoofer).

The benefits of using an AV receiver setup are that I would get native DTS/Dolby Hi-res track decoding by bit-streaming from blu-ray rips rather than using down-sampling software decoders, and more importantly the digital to analog conversion will happen away from the electrically noisy interior of my PC. AV receivers will have bass management and equalizers, and that is all I really need - the software sound effects on Creative cards were never used by me and I consider them to just be gimmicks so no loss there.

The main concern I have is the quality of the components used in the DAC. PC Audio hardware manufacturers do a great job of marketing their cards and on paper the specs certainly look very impressive - (for example 124dB SNR on the latest Creative cards I believe). I have no idea though how the parts in AV receivers compare. There seems to be little to no information on those components in the spec sheets of AV receivers.

I thought I'd ask on a PC users forum to see what people's experiences are with AV receivers as there are likely more people here who are in a position to compare to add-in cards and onboard audio than those who have only really dealt with TV/home theatre setups.

If I purchase an entry level/middling AV receiver, am I likely to get audio at least as good as I would from the likes of high end Creative cards?

I am looking at this receiver as an example:

https://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio_visual/av_receivers_amps/rx-v483_u/

It will cost three times as much as a Creative card ZxR card. Would the audio be at least as good?

Thanks

Odai.

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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 08-19-2017, 01:40 PM
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I'm not familiar with that speaker set. Are the speakers all powered by the amp in the sub? If so, I wouldn't expect a worthwhile improvement connecting them to a receiver since they'd be using the built in amp and bypassing the receiver's. You'd basically be using the receiver as a sound card without using its amp. Unless that's what your plan is. If so, you'd be better off getting a sound card and running 6 channel analog. The sound blaster cards you mentioned have emi shielding so there won't be any interference from inside the case.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 08-19-2017, 06:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Sorry, I meant that the amp built in to the receiver would power the speakers, while the sub pre-out would be connected to the sub - the speaker amps built into the Teufel subwoofer would therefore remain unused.

I would therefore be using the AVR as a DAC and amp for the satellites (and in the case of blu-ray rips, as a decoder too).

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 08-19-2017, 06:17 PM
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These are the speakers you're talking about, eh?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Teufel-Motiv-Digital-speaker-sets-x/dp/B002PCPT2K

What's the little "Decoderstation 5" box for? Is it just a glorified volume adjuster?

In your position, it seems like the improvement is most likely due to the DAC used and or any noise generated from the audio outputs on the motherboard. Many times, the shielding isn't all that great, which would explain the audio improvement you get.

Personally, I think upgrading your sound system would be a better investment. That's where I would start.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 08-19-2017, 09:05 PM
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I don't think adding a receiver to a speaker setup like that is worth doing. But if you do then I'd replace the speakers along with it. The cheapest and easiest route is to just order a sound card and see if you like the sound, since you said that it sounded good with the x-fi.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 08-20-2017, 06:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the responses guys.

The speakers I have are actually the non-digital version of the ones linked above - so the subwoofer (and integrated amps) and the satellites only (no "DecoderStation"). I think in the digital version the amps are still in the subwoofer, and the "DecoderStation" is just a hardware Dolby/DTS decoder and DAC. In my case, all digital/analog conversion and decoding is in my PC.

I did some more reading since starting this thread and it seems even the most expensive AVRs have SNRs that top out at about 108dB - compared to the 124dB of the sound cards available today.

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