[SOLVED] How impactful is digital 5.1 surround sound really vs. analog?? (PC GAMING SPEAKERS)

zach377

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Nov 27, 2009
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I'm just getting into the basics of a 5.1 speaker system for my primary purposes of PC gaming. All I can say is wow! The complexity behind surround sound is far more than I appreciated. After several hours of research, I finally feel as if I know enough to ask a question:

1. Traditional 5.1 speakers feature analog connections, whereas higher end/newer models include digital/optical output. How impactful will the difference in sound be for your average (non-audiophile) such as myself? As I understand it, the analog speakers will essentially be converting the digital sound information into analog channels at the loss of some precision. Would a fair comparison be like watching an HD video through an SD monitor? Or is there a better analogy?
I'm wondering if the accuracy of the digital 3D soundscape may actually be very perceptible (and important) for games, where one is actually using sound to judge your positioning to other entities within the game. But if it's not a huge deal, there could be a couple hundred $$ savings in it, especially if it saves me from needing a new sound card. Which brings me to:

2. Could I use the HDMI output on my Asus B450 Pro4 MoBo to connect to a digital 5.1 system? Or would I need to purchase a sound card? How would I go about finding that out? (There is no HDMI on my GFX card; I'm using DVI for my video).

Lastly, I'm all ears to any general recommendations. I'm looking for powered systems to avoid the need for an amp/receiver. Currently I'm considering the Logitech Z606 as my analog option, or the Z906 if I decide to go digital.

Cheers, and thanks for reading!
 
1. Traditional 5.1 speakers feature analog connections, whereas higher end/newer models include digital/optical output. How impactful will the difference in sound be for your average (non-audiophile) such as myself? As I understand it, the analog speakers will essentially be converting the digital sound information into analog channels at the loss of some precision. Would a fair comparison be like watching an HD video through an SD monitor? Or is there a better analogy?
I'm wondering if the accuracy of the digital 3D soundscape may actually be very perceptible (and important) for games, where one is actually using sound to judge your positioning to other entities within the game. But if it's not a huge deal, there could be a couple hundred $$ savings in it, especially if it saves me from needing a new sound card. Which brings me to:
The only difference between using the analog or digital input of the receiver is where you're moving the digital-to-analog conversion.

For computers in some cases, the analog output can pick up a lot of noise in the computer, which can make its way to the receiver and be amplified. So the noise floor is raised. Switching to the digital input makes it so that the speakers don't pick up the noise from the computer, assuming the computer isn't generating a massive amount to begin with (which it shouldn't, otherwise you have bigger problems).

2. Could I use the HDMI output on my Asus B450 Pro4 MoBo to connect to a digital 5.1 system? Or would I need to purchase a sound card? How would I go about finding that out? (There is no HDMI on my GFX card; I'm using DVI for my video).
I believe the HDMI output is only available if you have an APU installed.

As far as I know, sound cards do not provide HDMI audio output.

Lastly, I'm all ears to any general recommendations. I'm looking for powered systems to avoid the need for an amp/receiver. Currently I'm considering the Logitech Z606 as my analog option, or the Z906 if I decide to go digital.
The Z906 only supports optical audio, and optical audio has enough bandwidth to support only 2.1 channels if using uncompressed data. It can support 5.1 surround using a Dolby or DTS codec, but the application also has to support those codecs, which I can't name any game off the top of my head that does.
 
1. Traditional 5.1 speakers feature analog connections, whereas higher end/newer models include digital/optical output. How impactful will the difference in sound be for your average (non-audiophile) such as myself? As I understand it, the analog speakers will essentially be converting the digital sound information into analog channels at the loss of some precision. Would a fair comparison be like watching an HD video through an SD monitor? Or is there a better analogy?
I'm wondering if the accuracy of the digital 3D soundscape may actually be very perceptible (and important) for games, where one is actually using sound to judge your positioning to other entities within the game. But if it's not a huge deal, there could be a couple hundred $$ savings in it, especially if it saves me from needing a new sound card. Which brings me to:
The only difference between using the analog or digital input of the receiver is where you're moving the digital-to-analog conversion.

For computers in some cases, the analog output can pick up a lot of noise in the computer, which can make its way to the receiver and be amplified. So the noise floor is raised. Switching to the digital input makes it so that the speakers don't pick up the noise from the computer, assuming the computer isn't generating a massive amount to begin with (which it shouldn't, otherwise you have bigger problems).

2. Could I use the HDMI output on my Asus B450 Pro4 MoBo to connect to a digital 5.1 system? Or would I need to purchase a sound card? How would I go about finding that out? (There is no HDMI on my GFX card; I'm using DVI for my video).
I believe the HDMI output is only available if you have an APU installed.

As far as I know, sound cards do not provide HDMI audio output.

Lastly, I'm all ears to any general recommendations. I'm looking for powered systems to avoid the need for an amp/receiver. Currently I'm considering the Logitech Z606 as my analog option, or the Z906 if I decide to go digital.
The Z906 only supports optical audio, and optical audio has enough bandwidth to support only 2.1 channels if using uncompressed data. It can support 5.1 surround using a Dolby or DTS codec, but the application also has to support those codecs, which I can't name any game off the top of my head that does.
 

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