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Dedicated sound card vs. video card for bitstreaming audio to AVR


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Apologies if this is the wrong forum; of the subforums listed, it seemed like the best fit. I have an old Asus Xonar HDAV1.3 card, and I use it to bitstream audio to my AVR (Yamaha RX-V3900). From what I understand, even when bitstreaming, certain audio file types are still decoded onboard (for example, FLAC). Based on that, I'm using my soundcard to handle this responsibility, rather than my video card, (Radeon RX-470) which is also capable of sending all of the usual sample rates to the AVR (44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192), because I've always been told that a dedicated card will perform better under certain circumstances.

 

That said, getting this older soundcard to interface with my Z170 mobo was a pain, and required a PCIe to PCI adapter that chews up one of my precious PCIe slots in my HTPC. Given the fact that I'm limiting my ability to expand the build in the future by wasting a PCIe slot for a PCI slot, and furthermore given the known issues with Asus' Xonar drivers (I use UNI, but there are still issues with that as well), is it even worth it? Will I really be able to tell the difference? Does decoding FLAC to bitstream as PCM really alter the sound so noticeably?

 

Apologies if this is in the wrong place, please let me know if I should move it to another forum. And thanks in advance for any feedback.

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Apologies if this is the wrong forum; of the subforums listed, it seemed like the best fit. I have an old Asus Xonar HDAV1.3 card, and I use it to bitstream audio to my AVR (Yamaha RX-V3900). From what I understand, even when bitstreaming, certain audio file types are still decoded onboard (for example, FLAC). Based on that, I'm using my soundcard to handle this responsibility, rather than my video card, (Radeon RX-470) which is also capable of sending all of the usual sample rates to the AVR (44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192), because I've always been told that a dedicated card will perform better under certain circumstances.

 

That said, getting this older soundcard to interface with my Z170 mobo was a pain, and required a PCIe to PCI adapter that chews up one of my precious PCIe slots in my HTPC. Given the fact that I'm limiting my ability to expand the build in the future by wasting a PCIe slot for a PCI slot, and furthermore given the known issues with Asus' Xonar drivers (I use UNI, but there are still issues with that as well), is it even worth it? Will I really be able to tell the difference? Does decoding FLAC to bitstream as PCM really alter the sound so noticeably?

 

Apologies if this is in the wrong place, please let me know if I should move it to another forum. And thanks in advance for any feedback.

 

Perhaps I am misunderstanding you, but it seems you have both the Asus and the Radeon available for sonic comparison. So, if you cannot yourself hear a significant difference, then you have your answer.

 

I believe that the Asus card is quite old in "computer years". It once solved a problem that no longer appears to need solving vs. current GPU cards or Intel Integrated Graphics. I would tend to think, no, the Asus is not worth it, but I have not heard a comparison.

 

I currently use USB into an Exasound E28 DAC. But, previously, I used HDMI to a prepro from Intel Graphics 4000 then upgraded to a Radeon R9 270. The Radeon sounded slightly better to me and delivered somewhat better video quality. I still use the Radeon GPU for HDMI video, but the USB/Exasound audio is noticeably much better.

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Yes, internal DAC's on a motherboard or PCIe card are yesterdays news. Better SQ is being achieved on an external DAC. Thus with todays built in graphics on the Mobo, there is no need for a PCIe video card either, as far as audio/videophiles are concerned.

Although some are using a video card for further processing power of audio DSD upsampling.

(JRiver) Jetway barebones NUC (mod 3 sCLK-EX, Cybershaft OP 14)  (PH SR7) => mini pcie adapter to PCIe 1X => tXUSBexp PCIe card (mod sCLK-EX) (PH SR7) => (USPCB) Chord DAVE => Omega Super 8XRS/REL t5i  (All powered thru Topaz Isolation Transformer)

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Yes, internal DAC's on a motherboard or PCIe card are yesterdays news. Better SQ is being achieved on an external DAC. Thus with todays built in graphics on the Mobo, there is no need for a PCIe video card either, as far as audio/videophiles are concerned.

Although some are using a video card for further processing power of audio DSD upsampling.

 

I appreciate the feedback. I bitstream to my AVR currently, which has pretty nice Burr Brown PCM1791A DACs. So while I do occasionally look at the current external DAC options on the market, I'm content to keep my current setup for the time being.

 

I understanding what you're saying about the card not really mattering now that video cards can bitstream audio out via HDMI. My thought was that a dedicated card **might** perform better with some audio codecs that cannot be bitstream in compressed format, such as FLAC. In this scenario, the compressed FLAC would be decoded onboard to uncompressed PCM prior to being sent downstream to the AVR. I was thinking for a situation like that, there might be some minor sonic improvement using a dedicated sound card; but I have done some A-B testing and I'll be darned if I can hear the difference.

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Your never streaming FLAC or any other audio codec. It's uncompressed and streamed as PCM or DSD by your media player, preferable bitperfect to your AVR/DAC.

(JRiver) Jetway barebones NUC (mod 3 sCLK-EX, Cybershaft OP 14)  (PH SR7) => mini pcie adapter to PCIe 1X => tXUSBexp PCIe card (mod sCLK-EX) (PH SR7) => (USPCB) Chord DAVE => Omega Super 8XRS/REL t5i  (All powered thru Topaz Isolation Transformer)

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Your never streaming FLAC or any other audio codec. It's uncompressed and streamed as PCM or DSD by your media player, preferable bitperfect to your AVR/DAC.

 

Yup, I get that. I'm talking about the step that uncompresses the FLAC to PCM. This happens onboard the HTPC, before being passed thru to the AVR, as you said. But, I have a choice in regards to *which* HTPC component is doing the uncompressing (decompressing?): the video card, or the sound card. I was thinking using a dedicated card to uncompress it might improve SQ incrementally for FLAC; but I'm starting to think, based on your feedback, that it won't matter much.

A caveat, though: I can, and do, bitstream certain compressed formats from HTPC to AVR like DTS-HD MA and Dolby TrueHD. I know this because I can see those codecs on my receiver front panel, for instance when playing back full BD rip MKVs via MPC-HC. Streams that have already been decoded prior to being sent to the AVR just show up as PCM on the front panel (or DSD on this AVR, which can decode DSD natively-not from the HTPC, but from my Oppo BDP-93 via HDMI.)

But, you are of course correct with regards to compressed audio formats. And if that's the case, I'll probably ditch the Xonar and just let the Radeon card send everything to the receiver. I'll save some power consumption, and remove far and away the most painful/problematic component in my entire HT setup.

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Yup, I get that. I'm talking about the step that uncompresses the FLAC to PCM. This happens onboard the HTPC, before being passed thru to the AVR, as you said. But, I have a choice in regards to *which* HTPC component is doing the uncompressing (decompressing?): the video card, or the sound card. I was thinking using a dedicated card to uncompress it might improve SQ incrementally for FLAC; but I'm starting to think, based on your feedback, that it won't matter much.

A caveat, though: I can, and do, bitstream certain compressed formats from HTPC to AVR like DTS-HD MA and Dolby TrueHD. I know this because I can see those codecs on my receiver front panel, for instance when playing back full BD rip MKVs via MPC-HC. Streams that have already been decoded prior to being sent to the AVR just show up as PCM on the front panel (or DSD on this AVR, which can decode DSD natively-not from the HTPC, but from my Oppo BDP-93 via HDMI.)

But, you are of course correct with regards to compressed audio formats. And if that's the case, I'll probably ditch the Xonar and just let the Radeon card send everything to the receiver. I'll save some power consumption, and remove far and away the most painful/problematic component in my entire HT setup.

 

I am not sure about your theory on decompression of FLAC. I don't think that takes place in either card. I think it takes place in the player software in the HTPC prior to either hardware card.

 

But, I think you are moving in the right direction in ditching the Asus card.

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