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5.1 sound card that works well?

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  • 5.1 sound card that works well?


    my trusty 10-year-old SoundBlaster Live! works very well on linux, but not at all on Windows 7 (alternatively: very crappy on win7 with an inofficial driver that likes to eat sound samples).
    My onboard sound works very well on Windows, but cannot do surround on linux because of some "universal jacks" that double as speaker-out, line-in, microphone and whatever, and I haven't found a way to configure them to "4 channels + line in" on linux. But I'm sure glad the manufacturer could save 20 cents by not adding three more actual jacks.

    Cue an asinine contraption of audio switches and everything. It works..ish, but has it's problems.

    Now my 4.1 speaker system starts faling due to old age, and one can only buy 5.1 systems nowadays. New soundcard it is. But which one?
    • 5.1
    • must work on linux with in-kernel alsa
    • on linux all channels must be individually adressable - I need to route some (stereo) apps to front right and rear right channels, because my projector points at the wall between the two corresponding speakers (should work, unless the card does some fake-stereo-upmixing. It certainly works on the SBLive).
    • hardware mixing would be nice, even though I'm not much into wine gaming since I reinstalled windows.
    • must work on windows (duh!), for games. No fancy DRM crap needed.
    • must have a working line-in (to connect my Wii). Recording via the SBLive results in some very poor sound quality for unknown reasons.

    Suggestions? Field reports?

    Going with a creative card again may be the safe way, but
    this only claims support for SBLive, Audigy 2 and Audigy 4, none of which are available at my favorite vendor. Said vendor offers a nice, cheap "Creative Sound Blaster 5.1 VX", but google find some results with "works" and some with "doesn't work". Meh.

    Another thing: some vendor is telling me that my reproductive organs lack magnitude if I don't buy a digital system. As far as I understand, this would digitally encode the 1m of cable between my computer and the subwoofer, but then it's converted to analog anyway and sent across 4m of wire to the speakers. Are there any actual advantages of a digital system (besides having a copy protection bit in there)?

  • #2
    Digital advantage - if you go with optical cabling, there's no chance of a voltage spike. Believe me I know, I've managed to burn the stereo-out jack in the back of the mobo.

    Oh, and there's the magnitude of the reproductive organs, too


    • #3
      ok, that's not enough of a reason to go for optical

      Somehow I completely missed this page:
      which says: hand off the SB 5.1 VX. Or anything called X-Fi or the Audigy SE. Which leaves me with a bunch of cards that aren't available for purchase any more. So apparently it won't be a creative card.

      Any suggestions?


      • #4
        What about the Asus Xonar range? I've seen reports of success in linux.

        About the digital advantage, it also should provide less noise since that 1m of cable theoretically picks up more noise if it's analog, although this should be in the 0.00000001dB range. The digital connection also guarantees a hum-free connection that could surface due to bad grounding with the analog connection. But none of this is as important as the implications in the size of your reproductive organs evindently.


        • #5
          I heard M-Audio has good linux support and also much lower noise on playb. and record vs SB. I also heard SB does pretty crappy analog for reason AND it has noisy output trying to mask it secretly via cutting off sound if no signal for more than 200msec.


          • #6
            If you go with digital, you can just go with the cheapest sound card in existence since it will have no effect on sound quality. All you need, therefore, is any old cheap sound card with an optical out. Analog is obsolete except for the last segment from amp to speakers.


            • #7
              Thing is that there's just 1m of cable to the amp, but ~4m of cable to the speakers. I'd expect the degradation from the first cable to be far less than the degradation to the speakers, thus it doesn't matter.

              Also picking a cheap digital card won't save much money, since I'll spend more on the digital sound system. The DAC has to be somewhere.

              Lastly, just picking a cheap random digital card does not solve the driver issues. I have an old, cheap card with digital output, but that solves neither driver trouble nor quality problems from the Wii's analog output.

              I still don't know what to buy since posts a la "I heard from a friend's uncle's roommate that product X is supposed to work well on linux" aren't too reassuring. :/ I'm a bit surprised not to find any direct experience here; are you all using onboard sound?


              • #8
                I've had great success with C-Media cards. If you are going digital out however, there isn't much point looking at anything extravagant. 5.1 output through digital is going to be limited to passthru AC-3 or DTS output on video playback unless you implement a software AC-3 encoder which can encode real time other 6 channel sources into a AC-3 5.1 stream. Sound quality of course is going to be dependent on the quality of the DAC stage on the receiver by going digital.