I was wondering how the community at large hooks up their PCs to 5.1 or 7.1 speaker systems.
I more less had decided on the Logitech Z906 5.1 system (~$400 CAD) that comes with a rudimentary receiver that simply decodes DTS or Dolby. However, looking into it a bit more I noticed that for a similar price point one could buy a system ("home theatre in a box") that comes with a proper richly functional receiver. I'm thinking of, for example, the Onkyo HT-S3800 (~$500 CAD).
The Logitech 5.1 system is clearly made with computers in mind as one of the input options is 3x 3.5mm analog stereo jacks, giving you the 6 channels of 5.1 audio. Likewise, there are a couple more models from Logitech and Creative, but that's about it. Any other current 5.1 audio system has no multi-channel analog input option. Everything is HDMI and more HDMI.
So, then I spent a lot of time researching about how all this works, including TOSLink, HDMI, etc. It seems as if there's no simple way of hooking up a PC to a 5.1 or 7.1 audio system to take advantage of the much touted 7.1 digital audio offerings of motherboards.
So, I'm wondering how you guys hook up your PCs to 5.1 or 7.1 audio systems. I'd really appreciate your input. Parenthetically, I'm thinking perhaps I'm expecting too much of current PC offerings. I'm building a new system after 8 years with my old one. Perhaps I'm assuming too much.
FYI: This is what I found out:
I understand that a lot of people are gamers and really the top priority is headsets with simulated surround (5.1 or 7.1) sound. And, I understand the technology and experience is starting to get quite good.
Analog inputs on receivers are now a thing of the past, though I've read that very high-end and expensive receivers still include them. I can't find any low or mid-range receiver that has multi-channel analog inputs (though they all have "legacy" 2-channel stereo inputs for each of several separate audio inputs, like for a TV or something). Everything is HDMI, with even low-end receivers coming with 4 or more HDMI inputs.
Receivers as well as most motherboards also come with an optical output for sound. It seems like this is basically on the way out as well as it is very bandwidth limited. You can get a stereo signal through, but also pre-encoded/compressed DTS or Dolby 5.1 audio--7.1 not at all.
The thing is, both DTS and Dolby 5.1 are "lossy" compressions. And, they are so by design. There never was room on a DVD for the fully rich, lossless, uncompressed sound of the original movie. But, today, with Blue-Ray's 35 GB of disk space (and BD HD's 70 GB), movies are now being distributed with the full theatre sound experince, i.e. 7.1.2 channels of lossless uncompressed goodness.
The problem is that although our motherboards could output all those channels via the back panel's 4 stereo analog jacks (i.e 8 channels), there's no receiver that accepts analog inputs. This seems like quite a technological dissonance. Even the few speaker systems designed expressly with PC users in mind are 5.1.
The thing is, how to get the 7.1 compressed (DTS. Dolby) or uncompressed (LPCM) sound out of the PC via HDMI?!
All our motherboards come with an HDMI output but that's hard-wired to the chipset's integrated graphics and audio. I plan on installing an Asus ROG Strix GTX 1070. Can one have both a discrete graphics card and the integrated onboard graphics enabled at the same time? I'm not even sure that matters. Can the integarted audio in the Z270 chipset be enabled by itself? Will the SupremeFX (Realtek) audio system see that HDMI port as an audio output target?
Otherwise, the GTX 1070 comes with integrated audio. The second HDMI port can be enabled as an audio output target. But, do I want Nvidia's after-thought of an audio chipset handling the audio. Then why would I care and pay more for Asus' SupremeFX.
Well, I wouldn't say that receiver's are the thing of the past. To me, they were, they are and will be the future of digital sound. A top of the line receiver costs hefty. It's loaded with a great amount DTS/Dolby Digital encoding function's. You have also Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB slot and ton's of other function's that I can't think of right now from the top of my head 😛 Let's not forget about some high quality speakers while a sub-woofer is the last thing you should think about. I have an Yamaha receiver and an 5.1 speaker setup. My hdmi cable is connected from the graphics card to LG TV because after all, HDMI cable's aren't just for display but as well sound. Next up, my optical cable is connected from my TV to the receiver. From my experience, I did have the optical cable connected before from my receiver to the motherboard and engaged a 5.1 setup from Asuses Supreme FX. The clarity of the digital sound was close as to LG TV however hands down, Nvidia HD sound drivers, with my LG TV internal decoder for Dolby Digital Plus and on top of that, the receiver's own DTS/Dolby Digital decoders, well, it's a lot better 🙂 Hey dude, if you enjoying listening to digital sound rather it's from a game, YouTube or mp3's, why not just go all out? 😛 It'll cost you a lot but the technology that you will possess will look and sound to you for many years to come, phenomenal.