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Reliable digital surround sound from a laptop: what is recommended?


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So here is my dilemma: A properly calibrated home theater receiver is waiting to reproduce surround sound (Left-center-right and two rear speakers). I wish to rely on Toslink for this job, as the THX Select2 certified receiver has several of these inputs available. And the receiver is specified to handle 96 KHz sources (e.g. DTS, PCM), and a long list of Dolby Digital formats.

 

But the laptop I am about to get, incredibly, has no S/PDIF coax or toslink optical. So I need to get an adapter. Could be USB, Firewire, ExpressCard/34. And it's Windows 7.

 

Several devices are selling on Ebay claiming to do S/PDIF (often with the C-Media chipset), some at the 48 KHz rate, some at 96 KHz.

 

Now my goal is to a) spend little money and b) get a lot of good audio from a). Good audio in this case is surround sound.

Hifi purists will all be gone after reading that I suppose, leaving the pragmatic "let's get the correct sound out of each speaker at 0.05% THD and that'll be really just great" types like me.

 

So my question is, have you purchased a low-cost device that does the job properly time and time again? That the 5.1 indicator lights up on the receiver all the time?

 

I would like to know about it!

 

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