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Low Cost Sound Card for bit perfect output over S/PDIF


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As the thread title says. I need to buy a sound card very soon just to get the direct pcm stream out to my amp which has built in DACs.


I bought a very cheap card which seemed to be fine at first until I tried to change some settings to make sure I was bit perfect out. But like the saying goes, you get what you pay for. The control panel on the sound card is glitchy and seems to be stuck and will not let me select output as I wish. I get a meessage about a playback or record task going on that needs to finish before I can change from 48 to 44.1 or auto output. It's a crock, I have nothing going on.


So I need to pick up another better cheap card. Perhaps a Creative model, etc.


I just need the bit perfect output over S/PDIF.


Any good suggestion under $45.00


I'm running a Pent 4 with Win XP Pro btw.





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Have you looked at Asus. Not sure it's exact cost but an Asus Xonar HDAV1.3 Slim (as reviewed by Chris recently) should be close to that cost.


If you're prepared to buy second hand, an ESI [email protected] or M-Audio Audiophile 192 might be available.






...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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The cheapest soundard for decent digital out I can think of is a Chaintech AV-100 which is an Envy24 chip based s/card. Loads of info on the web about it. But is probably now only available s/hand. There are lost of clones of this type of s/card around and it will do 24/96 over optical out bit-perfect when the software is set up correctly.


Dearer Envy24 based cards will just give you mostly better analogue out which is not essential for you. Even the cheap cards like the Chaintech AV-100 have two oscillators to give you the full frequency range. If you can't find one, then I'd go for an M-audio 2496 or 192 s/card, as already suggested.


Personally, I would stay well clear of anything "creative", the cheaper Asus Xonar DS 7.1 might be a possible alternative.



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  • 7 months later...

Thanks Chris,


I did in fact end up using a Envy24 based card. A clone of the Chaintech likely.


The first computer I set up (an old Dell Pent 2) did not work well, it refused a memory upgade. So all I heard coming out of the cart to my amp was crusty static with the music in the low background.


I then found another old Dell, a Pent 4 2.19g, which had 500mg ram - which I was able to upgrade to 1gig (extra memory laying around never hurts).


Anyway, back to the card, it is a "PPA International" branded card (Envy24), it works wonderfully so far. The Dell computer is sluggish imo, and works slower than a another Pent 4 with 1G of ram I own. Screens in windows load slow, and other signs that this Dell is a pos even with a gig or memory in it.


I wanted my first server system to be set up cheap n' good, and without laying out too much money. I've bought two 2tb Western Digital "WD Elements" drives that are both almost full.


This card was about $12.99. I think it was a good deal, and the right choice for a for a low budget starter kit.


Here is the package (back side of package/driver disc) for those looking for entry level bit-transparent S/PDIF optical out, and an "Envy24" based clone. Less than $15 for "computer audiophile sound" is about as low as it gets.


Again thanks Chris for the Envy24 tip.




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  • 1 month later...



I got things working ok as last reported. But I was getting some DTS signals decoded coming out rather crusty sounding. Plus the computer, this Dell with 1g of RAM was a tad sluggish which is odd when it is running nothing but J River and a couple of external USB drives attached to it.


I took out the HDD and erased it, and reloaded XP pro OS, and the needed sw. I got the AISO4ALL driver, and set it up along with the cheap PCI card mentioned in my last posting. Now things are running 100% faster, and DTS is decoding clean and pure and perfect.


See I have about 30 of those 5.1 CDs issued by DTS, Wings, Clapton, Allmans, Steely Dan, etc. I was considering them and their stream to the DAC the real test of weather I was getting bit transparent signal through the S/PDIF cable to my DAC.


Now DTS is working/playing as well as all my FLACs from CDs.


This did take some various settings through trial and error. Some AISO settings, etc. I was actually beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get this no-budget system going right.


I spent $12.99 on PCI card, $6.99 on S/PDIF cable, computer was free, extra 500mb memory stick was taken from another older Dell (from the computer graveyard), 2 additional external 2 tb HDDs @ $89.99 each. I'm trying out a very old version of J River as a trial to decide if I am going to go with this player. It was free as well.


The reason that this computer I thought was a good one for the audio computer was that it is a black case, smallish tower, and a dead silent fan. It sits behind my stereo rack and is hard to see being black.


But I've done it!! I'm so proud of myself.


So now all I need is a $1,600 power conditioner, and a $2,400 DAC right!


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