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5.1 Multi Channel Music on a Desktop System?

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boondocks

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Well, you could add a sound card (remember those?) like this: Sound Blaster ZXR

Get a set of 5.1 speakers like these: Logitech 5.1 Speakers

Then use Foobar or another program to play DVDs, DVD-Audios, DTS CDs, and ripped SACDs.
The center speaker can live under or over your monitor.

[ NOTE: These items are merely suggestions and not endorsements. ]
I was going back through the thread and reread your post, which reminded me....I still have two Creative Audigy 2 ZS cards boxed up. You may or may not recall that these came with software that enabled you to play DVD-Audio discs, which at the time I thought was the coolest thing since fusion jazz. The sound was great. At that time there was no other way
I knew of to play DVDA on the desktop. Alas, Creative pretty much started pulling away when Windows 7 came out, and abandoned altogether for Windows 10.
 

quicksrt

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You'll have more options and better bang for the buck looking for USB 2 audio interfaces.

PCI card audio interfaces are either going to be ratty cheap or on the expensive side. The expensive stuff is aimed at low latency requirements for live sound and live performance systems. There isn't much in-between nowadays. Laptops being popular is one reason. Audio interfaces aren't using USB 3 either. They're using thunderbolt for the high end connection. Again, aimed at low latency needing rigs for live sound use.
Ok, sounds great, save money, outboard, and USB 2. I really don't like the early reputation of Sound Blaster anything. Are they now hot shit in computer audio? I don't know where to start looking. But I like the idea of a device not required to of of Windows idea of High-Res, or MS's idea of compatibility. So this outboard thing might be useful for any of my machines. See, I have the Starship Enterprise with more than three computers going at once, three monitors on desk, and another across the room. But I needs this because I have old scanners and other hardware and some software running on older machines.

The sound card box will be running (I think) off a Pent D "Windows 7 Ultimate" machine. It has no USB 3, only 2.
 
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quicksrt

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I was going back through the thread and reread your post, which reminded me....I still have two Creative Audigy 2 ZS cards boxed up. You may or may not recall that these came with software that enabled you to play DVD-Audio discs, which at the time I thought was the coolest thing since fusion jazz. The sound was great. At that time there was no other way
I knew of to play DVDA on the desktop. Alas, Creative pretty much started pulling away when Windows 7 came out, and abandoned altogether for Windows 10.
You can send one my way, I think I can use it in my Win 7 rig.

Thx in advance.

J
 

jimfisheye

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Ok, sounds great, save money, outboard, and USB 2. I really don't like the early reputation of Sound Blaster anything. Are they how hot shit is computer audio? I don't know where to start looking. But I like the idea of a device not required to of of Windows idea of High-Res, or MS's idea of compatibility. So this outboard thing might be useful for any of my machines. See, I have the Starship Enterprise with more than three computers going at once, three monitors on desk, and another across the room. But I needs this because I have old scanners and other hardware and some software running on older machines.

The sound card box will be running (I think) off a Pent D "Windows 7 Ultimate" machine. It has no USB 3, only 2.
Connectivity-wise, an audio interface is an audio interface. They come with connections in the form of pci card, USB, firewire, and now thunderbolt. (I've seen a couple HDMI connecting models now too. They all look exceptionally cheap and feature only unbalanced outputs. Maybe still worth considering on a low budget. HDMI would be the bigger concern though. There's so much copy protection gone wild stuff going on with HDMI that it's just best to avoid it if you can. Your just going to end up getting into it arguing/demanding refunds on crippled products.)

Like any hardware connected to a computer, you need to have a driver installed. Most of the USB interfaces are what's called "class compliant" on the Mac (OSX), meaning they use a standard built-in driver included with stock OSX. The firewire/thunderbolt/pci versions usually need a driver install. Windows needs a driver install for everything as a rule. Most audio interfaces make a Windows version of their driver nowadays. Linux is starting to be embraced. It looks like professional audio will be moving to Linux as Apple dies.

Sound Blasticator is the ratty cheap end of things. You know how some of us are making claims that devices like modern AD and DA converters and mic preamps have risen to a level of quality that the differences aren't night and day anymore? Products like Sound Blasticator just might be a data point to refute that! :)

Someone mentioned Logitech speakers (hopefully in jest!)
Possible the worst speakers made save for any soundbar. Their gimmick was to trick people into thinking they needed a different kind of speaker for their computer. "Computer speakers". There's really no such thing. You can buy speakers with amps built in (powered monitors) all day long and they range from cheap to high end just like passive speakers. "Computer speaker" is a grifter term.
 

JonUrban

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Connectivity-wise, an audio interface is an audio interface. They come with connections in the form of pci card, USB, firewire, and now thunderbolt. (I've seen a couple HDMI connecting models now too. They all look exceptionally cheap and feature only unbalanced outputs. Maybe still worth considering on a low budget. HDMI would be the bigger concern though. There's so much copy protection gone wild stuff going on with HDMI that it's just best to avoid it if you can. Your just going to end up getting into it arguing/demanding refunds on crippled products.)

Like any hardware connected to a computer, you need to have a driver installed. Most of the USB interfaces are what's called "class compliant" on the Mac (OSX), meaning they use a standard built-in driver included with stock OSX. The firewire/thunderbolt/pci versions usually need a driver install. Windows needs a driver install for everything as a rule. Most audio interfaces make a Windows version of their driver nowadays. Linux is starting to be embraced. It looks like professional audio will be moving to Linux as Apple dies.

Sound Blasticator is the ratty cheap end of things. You know how some of us are making claims that devices like modern AD and DA converters and mic preamps have risen to a level of quality that the differences aren't night and day anymore? Products like Sound Blasticator just might be a data point to refute that! :)

Someone mentioned Logitech speakers (hopefully in jest!)
Possible the worst speakers made save for any soundbar. Their gimmick was to trick people into thinking they needed a different kind of speaker for their computer. "Computer speakers". There's really no such thing. You can buy speakers with amps built in (powered monitors) all day long and they range from cheap to high end just like passive speakers. "Computer speaker" is a grifter term.
That probably was me with the Logitech Speaker reference. I have one of their "5.1 systems" on my PC that I use with the a fore mentioned Soundblaster PCI board that I use as a playback monitor when I'm on the PC. I don't use my PC for audio listening as I have 2 "real" 5.1 systems downstairs in the living area. And as for the SB, there is no way I use that device for recording. I have been using MOTU's for years, and those are (at least mine is still) firewire to the PC and can record up to 24/192, although I usually just run 24/96.

Stuff like Logitech Speakers and SoundBlasters are not really supposed to be "audiophile", at least once you get past their advertising pages, but they do serve a purpose. I just could not see me setting up a receiver and real good speakers around my PC as I don't have the room or the critical need for such a setup as, like I said, I don't go up there to listen - only to work, and in my advanced age I can live with the fact that I am monitoring my work on plastic speakers and not Martin Logan's! :)
 

J. PUPSTER

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That probably was me with the Logitech Speaker reference. I have one of their "5.1 systems" on my PC that I use with the a fore mentioned Soundblaster PCI board that I use as a playback monitor when I'm on the PC. I don't use my PC for audio listening as I have 2 "real" 5.1 systems downstairs in the living area. And as for the SB, there is no way I use that device for recording. I have been using MOTU's for years, and those are (at least mine is still) firewire to the PC and can record up to 24/192, although I usually just run 24/96.

Stuff like Logitech Speakers and SoundBlasters are not really supposed to be "audiophile", at least once you get past their advertising pages, but they do serve a purpose. I just could not see me setting up a receiver and real good speakers around my PC as I don't have the room or the critical need for such a setup as, like I said, I don't go up there to listen - only to work, and in my advanced age I can live with the fact that I am monitoring my work on plastic speakers and not Martin Logan's! :)
This is my exact same situation; I hope to purchase those same speakers for my computer in awhile; right now I'm concentrating on getting a second system (mainly 4.0) set up in my office for the SMv2 and with a new turntable for SQ/QS. Then I'll be focusing more with looking for something like a MOTU to record through.

I did have a question Jon, I noticed these cards (including the SoundBlaster I have now) have speaker outputs with one saying "Center/Sub"; so how is that split if you want both?
 

jimfisheye

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That probably was me with the Logitech Speaker reference. I have one of their "5.1 systems" on my PC that I use with the a fore mentioned Soundblaster PCI board that I use as a playback monitor when I'm on the PC. I don't use my PC for audio listening as I have 2 "real" 5.1 systems downstairs in the living area. And as for the SB, there is no way I use that device for recording. I have been using MOTU's for years, and those are (at least mine is still) firewire to the PC and can record up to 24/192, although I usually just run 24/96.

Stuff like Logitech Speakers and SoundBlasters are not really supposed to be "audiophile", at least once you get past their advertising pages, but they do serve a purpose. I just could not see me setting up a receiver and real good speakers around my PC as I don't have the room or the critical need for such a setup as, like I said, I don't go up there to listen - only to work, and in my advanced age I can live with the fact that I am monitoring my work on plastic speakers and not Martin Logan's! :)
All fair enough there.
I turned to the computer early on (I think it was around 1996) for all things audio and ended up going straight to professional products. The gimmicky stuff ("computer speakers" and such) followed. The early products were mostly only pro stuff. MOTU was one of the first firewire interfaces actually. I still use two 828mk3 firewire units and my Apogee Rosetta 800 is firewire. I see no reason to make a sideways move to thunderbolt just yet. I can run live sound with my computer based rig and hit the required low latency with these firewire interfaces. And with plenty of CPU headroom left for processing.

Man, the gimmicky stuff these days though... Best advice is: If they sell it at Best Buy, it's grifter garbage and you don't want it!

I've been using MOTU products since around 2000. I'm a happy customer.
You know, I've always looked at the RME interfaces. They look nice and have a solid reputation. But I ended up getting more bang for the buck with a combination of Apogee (for the AD and DA converters) and MOTU (for the digital routing). RME products seem to combine the MOTU digital flexibility with Apogee quality AD & DA stages and then offer one more feature than the similar MOTU box. And... you pay for that!
 
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JonUrban

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All fair enough there.
I turned to the computer early on (I think it was around 1996) for all things audio and ended up going straight to professional products. The gimmicky stuff ("computer speakers" and such) followed.
Man, the gimmicky stuff these days... Best advice is: If they sell it at Best Buy, it's grifter garbage and you don't want it!

I've been using MOTU products since around 2000. I'm a happy customer.
You know, I've always looked at the RME interfaces. They look nice and have a solid reputation. But I ended up getting more bang for the buck with a combination of Apogee (for the AD and DA converters) and MOTU (for the digital routing). RME products seem to combine the MOTU digital flexibility with Apogee quality AD & DA stages and then offer one more feature than the similar MOTU box. And... you pay for that!
One of the first audio cards I ever had was a Turle Beach MultiSound. It was incredible. I used it for MIDI and stuff and it had great instruments. Sadly, TB went from professional to consumer and then disappeared (AFAIK), but yes, I agree that it's always better to pay more to get more. It's the story of my life! :)
 

jimfisheye

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To put this all another way...

I'm telling everyone to shop for home hi-fi like a musician!

Musicians generally have no money.
They need to record and listen.
They aren't easily fooled by the grifter products from Worst Purchase.

So, while consumer electronics was looking for ways to cheapen things beyond absurdity and screw people (soundbars, computer speakers, etc), these companies came along and started making good bang for the buck products for poor musicians. Quality little audio interfaces. Reasonably priced speakers and powered speakers. The computer as command central.

Shop for your home hi-fi like a musician. :)
 

JonUrban

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This is my exact same situation; I hope to purchase those same speakers for my computer in awhile; right now I'm concentrating on getting a second system (mainly 4.0) set up in my office for the SMv2 and with a new turntable for SQ/QS. Then I'll be focusing more with looking for something like a MOTU to record through.

I did have a question Jon, I noticed these cards (including the SoundBlaster I have now) have speaker outputs with one saying "Center/Sub"; so how is that split if you want both?
Those outputs are dual channel.

The first is the Front Left/Front Right
Second is Rear Left/Rear Right
Third is Center/Sub

A 5.1 computer speaker system (!!) will have associated cabling that will plug right into these and you're done. It's one of the main reasons I went this way. Ease of use.
 

quicksrt

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To put this all another way...

I'm telling everyone to shop for home hi-fi like a musician! :)
Should for your computer rig like it's home audio!

I started with a Turtle Beach soundcard with a 1970s "silver face" Marantz receiver (just using the preamp) and a high end 1070s model Pioneer Turntable for needle drops to computer. The Altech / Lansing computer speakers (I have three sets I like these so much) are connected up to the computer (they are nice computer speakers with real bass), but that receiver always had small Infinity set of speakers. Moved up to a Tascam 6-channel recorder, a better turntable, and a Yamaha receiver I found at thrift store for $25.00.

My recordings are sounding better, the Marantz did not have as silent a noise floor as the newer Yamaha, The Tascam is a notch better than the Turtle Beach for recording, and so I have always avoided the computer junk. I laugh at USB Turntables, why bother with that late junk when you can get the real thing.

I just never had a music server player on my desktop until recently, and never played 5.1 from desktop always played from server computer with real Hi-Fi gear.

So, I'm way ahead of Logic Blaster Casters. But would not mind a very cheap "Creative" brand thing for simple 5.1 playback (no recording) if the price was peanuts on the dollar. I need connection to a 5.1 receiver with 6-channel RCA inputs.

So thanks but no need to tell me how to shot for gear other than suggest real model numbers, links, and prices. I'd like something in the $15 to $30 dollar range for surround output from PC with JRiver media center 23. $20 is realistic for stunning brilliant 5.1 off of a Windows 7 machine with 4Gs of RAM. :cool:

So here is a cheap internal model:


and here is the external box:


Am I better off with one over the other? I do need to conserve desk rack space.
 
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quicksrt

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I remembered that I was using a Asus Zoner DG card several years back just for stereo audio on PC and it was a clean card, but it did not get along with most of my computers. The one it did get along with was running Win 7, which is the one I want to do full on 5.1 output on. So I dug out that card dropped it in and the divers were still on the PC and it sang like a songbird as it installed "your hardware is ready to use."

It has the three stereo mini jacks for 6 chans out, JRiver is installed and activated on this PC as well, and it's now all ready to go. I just need to clear out the other drive of clutter and load it with nothing but surround albums, tapes, discs, rips, and I am set to go so long as everything works as planned.

I think $16 for the Zoner DG I can recall. So that's nice no cash outlay right now, and I have two receivers in a rack that will cover Fronts and Surrounds, computer speakers are the good ones Altec-Lansing, remember those which Compaq used to include in their classy computer sets. Nice bass, and I have two Infinity speakers that are mounted on the wall way to the L and R of my monitor. I am thinking the Infinitys are fronts and small desktop Altec-Lansings for surrounds or rears I like to call them. I'll leave the cables to the surround/rears long so that they can be moved in back of me if I feel like it.
 

quicksrt

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I remembered that I was using a Asus Zoner DG card several years back just for stereo audio on PC and it was a clean card, but it did not get along with most of my computers. The one it did get along with was running Win 7, which is the one I want to do full on 5.1 output on. So I dug out that card dropped it in and the divers were still on the PC and it sang like a songbird as it installed "your hardware is ready to use."

It has the three stereo mini jacks for 6 chans out, JRiver is installed and activated on this PC as well, and it's now all ready to go. I just need to clear out the other drive of clutter and load it with nothing but surround albums, tapes, discs, rips, and I am set to go so long as everything works as planned.

I think $16 for the Zoner DG I can recall. So that's nice no cash outlay right now, and I have two receivers in a rack that will cover Fronts and Surrounds, computer speakers are the good ones Altec-Lansing, remember those which Compaq used to include in their classy computer sets. Nice bass, and I have two Infinity speakers that are mounted on the wall way to the L and R of my monitor. I am thinking the Infinitys are fronts and small desktop Altec-Lansings for surrounds or rears I like to call them. I'll leave the cables to the surround/rears long so that they can be moved in back of me if I feel like it.
Ok - not exactly a rousing round of applause for my 5.1 desktop rig, but I got it going tonight with JRiver on an ancient Dell Pent D with 4Gs of ram . Turned out I only used one stereo receiver which handles the Infinitys (for rear channels), the front channels are self powered and I went from the Xoner output right to the powered Altec-Lansing speakers.

Playing around with it right now, and it's quite wonderful in quad. I should have set this up a few years ago, as I had most all of the hardware.

JRiver vers. 23 btw. I'll post some pix soon.
 

doctors11

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Many very interesting posts here...thanks! I guess I should ask, to help me narrow the choices, what speakers are you all using in your 5.1 desktop systems?
 

jimfisheye

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Many very interesting posts here...thanks! I guess I should ask, to help me narrow the choices, what speakers are you all using in your 5.1 desktop systems?
Apologies if I'm reading something into this but this sounds like a question influenced by the misconception that computers need some kind of "different" speaker system. (This came about when someone coined the term "computer speaker". They're just little powered speakers. Examples called "computer speakers" are usually just shitty ones!)

Get the best speakers you can afford as always. :)
Speakers are still the biggest factor in the system for the sound you'll hear.
 

doctors11

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Thanks Jim, no apology needed. No, I wasn't thinking of those...already have an old pair of Altec Lansing which are not bad for what they are. But I'm hoping to take it to a whole different level. Some concerns...the front LCR would be within a few inches of the wall. Does that eliminate rear ported? I've also read that with ribbon tweeters there is limited vertical dispersion. Not a problem if you're seated 10 feet away but what if you're a foot and a half away? My head is higher when I'm sitting up working, and lower when I'm relaxing, feet up on the desk.

Also suffering from research burnout. One side of me wants to go somewhat high end to start, maybe just a stereo pair of little Harbeths for example. Problem is if I really like them how do I build a 5.1 system around that? The other side likes the looks and idea of the compact "lifestyle" products, the best probably being the Monitor Audio Apex 10 or Gallo Strada 2. Problem there is you pay a fortune for these products.

Still no rush, I'm enjoying the journey.

Any thoughts?

Also, aren't some speakers better for nearfield than others?
 
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quicksrt

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I remembered that I was using a Asus Zoner DG card several years back just for stereo audio on PC and it was a clean card, but it did not get along with most of my computers. The one it did get along with was running Win 7, which is the one I want to do full on 5.1 output on. So I dug out that card dropped it in and the divers were still on the PC and it sang like a songbird as it installed "your hardware is ready to use."

It has the three stereo mini jacks for 6 chans out, JRiver is installed and activated on this PC as well, and it's now all ready to go. I just need to clear out the other drive of clutter and load it with nothing but surround albums, tapes, discs, rips, and I am set to go so long as everything works as planned.

I think $16 for the Zoner DG I can recall. So that's nice no cash outlay right now, and I have two receivers in a rack that will cover Fronts and Surrounds, computer speakers are the good ones Altec-Lansing, remember those which Compaq used to include in their classy computer sets. Nice bass, and I have two Infinity speakers that are mounted on the wall way to the L and R of my monitor. I am thinking the Infinitys are fronts and small desktop Altec-Lansings for surrounds or rears I like to call them. I'll leave the cables to the surround/rears long so that they can be moved in back of me if I feel like it.
Look at this under $70 for the PCIe version. This (PCI vers.) sounds very fine in my desktop rig, but I can't get DTS to decode at all just yet. maybe the DACs in this card just simply do not do DTS???

Look here:

 

J. PUPSTER

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Ok - not exactly a rousing round of applause for my 5.1 desktop rig, but I got it going tonight with JRiver on an ancient Dell Pent D with 4Gs of ram . Turned out I only used one stereo receiver which handles the Infinitys (for rear channels), the front channels are self powered and I went from the Xoner output right to the powered Altec-Lansing speakers.

Playing around with it right now, and it's quite wonderful in quad. I should have set this up a few years ago, as I had most all of the hardware.

JRiver vers. 23 btw. I'll post some pix soon.
How about those pix? And how do you like JRiver; I need to check that out some more myself.
 

J. PUPSTER

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I believe I've decided on an interface for my system:

Specs:

It's pricier than I wanted but supports Win. 7; which is on my main computer. Also would have preferred Firewire and USB 3.0 capability; can't always get what you want.

Any comments about why or why not this is a good choice is encouraged for support!!!
 
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