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