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Optical Out OK or Do I need another sound card?
incurablegeek
post Jan 12 2014, 22:27
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I have an HT Omega Claro sound card on one computer but wish to play FLAC tunes via MediaMonkey on another computer (from internal hdd not via ethernet).

Silly question: Do I need a sound card or can I simply use the ASUS Crosshair V motherboard's Optical Out to interface with my Onkyo TX-8050 Optical In?
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KozmoNaut
post Jan 12 2014, 22:41
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QUOTE (incurablegeek @ Jan 12 2014, 22:27) *
I have an HT Omega Claro sound card on one computer but wish to play FLAC tunes via MediaMonkey on another computer (from internal hdd not via ethernet).

Silly question: Do I need a sound card or can I simply use the ASUS Crosshair V motherboard's Optical Out to interface with my Onkyo TX-8050 Optical In?


Short answer: Use the optical out on the motherboard. Don't bother with a sound card.

Long anwser: If you're using the optical out or the coaxial SPDIF out, the quality of your soundcard doesn't really matter beyond the bare minimum of "not defective".

As an example, I was using the analog output from an ASUS Xonar DG that I was quite happy with, unfortunately it crapped out on me. As a backup, I switched to a USB DAC that I have had for a while (Edirol UA-1X), but despite external USB DACs being touted as "noise free", I was still getting some processor noise. A ferrite bead on the USB cable helped a bit, but not completely, it was still transmitting some noise, by virtue of being a galvanic connection.

I switched back to the onboard audio on my motherboard, which is horribly noisy on the analog outputs. But by using the optical output (both for the digital signal and to cut the galvanic connection) and a FiiO D3 DAC, I now have completely noise free sound, despite the well-deserved reputation for crappiness of onboard soundcards.

The reason the soundcard doesn't matter with digital outputs is that you're not using the onboard DAC and therefore you don't have any analog signal to introduce noise into. The digital signal is much more robust against this type of noise. I'll bet the DAC in your Onkyo is both better designed and a lot better shielded than the one on your motherboard, not to mention the fact that it's not bathed in the RF noise and EMI that is present inside a computer.

What you're really paying for with good sound card is the quality of the analog parts, the DAC and the shielding from RF and EMI. None of that is relevant if you're just feeding a digital bitstream directly to an external DAC.

In short, you don't need a fancy sound card if you're only going to use the digital outputs, just use the one on your mainboard. The end result will be exactly the same. And don't bother with fancy toslink cables, the one I'm using was $3 and it works perfectly.

This post has been edited by KozmoNaut: Jan 12 2014, 22:50
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