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  • puntloos
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Soundcard digital pathways?
I was wondering,

If you use a soundcard's digital out and tell it not to equalize/eax/otherprocessing, is the digital quality 'perfect'?

Case in point I have a professional DSP hooked up to my SB audigy's digital out. If I were to upgrade the audigy (not that I have the $$$ but for argument's sake  ), would I get any improvement in the sound quality of my mpc audio playback?

Basically I hear some 'stories' from people that say 'yes' to the last question but I find it hard to believe that the digital ".wav" data from winamp would get distorted by the sound card that's hooked up to it. provided of course I don't use the onboard DAC's or some hardware DSP feature like resampling or spatialisation crap, but Im telling my computer to have all EQ's off and just play back the file.

Anyone know the answer here?

Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #1
Digital should be, well, bit identical.
But..,
Some crappy soundcards, like SB Live (don't know about Audigy1 and 2) do resampling even on digital output.
ruxvilti'a

  • jrbamford
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #2
then there is the kmixer and other filters that windows does.. or does it!?!?

I took the brave step of installing the kx drivers for the soundblaster family... they enable ASIO support which in theory is straight out.. I've gotten it working in foobar and would swear that i could hear a difference... not done an informal ABX test to that length, and i'm well aware that the big ugly placebo monster could be knocking at my door...

the kx drivers needed a full reinstall of windows to get in properly... there is a lot of complicated things in the drivers but on the whole its all working... I'd recommend it if you are up for a reinstall... after all its only another reinstall till you can reset it all
Binaural recordings of mine: http://binaural.jimtreats.com

  • Pio2001
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #3
It's very difficult to get a perfect digital playback on a PC.
Most of the times, you play 44.1 kHz and get 48 kHz instead in the digital output. And the conversion is lossy.

You can rule out all soundcards by Creative, Turtle beach, or Hercules (exept maybe used with ASIO support, like jrbamford says). The 24/96 soundcards by M-Audio and Terratec support perfect digital playback in Windows 98/me. Not sure about 2000.

Things get worse with Windows XP. In addition of one of the above cards, you'll need a player and a soundcard supporting ASIO (and/or Kernel streaming ?).

I know that some people here have studied this matter deeply and they'll certainly complete or correct these infos.

FWIW, I've got a Marian Marc 2, surprisingly capable of playing perfect digital in WinXP (as advertised), but the drivers are, well, barely drivers. DirectSound support is broken, no midi, no CD input, no gaming possible... I've heard (in here too, but I'm too lazy to search the post) that a very good soundcard, by RME, has similar drivers.

  • Patsoe
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #4
Quote
It's very difficult to get a perfect digital playback on a PC.
Most of the times, you play 44.1 kHz and get 48 kHz instead in the digital output. And the conversion is lossy.

You can rule out all soundcards by Creative, Turtle beach, or Hercules (exept maybe used with ASIO support, like jrbamford says).

The Creative cards don't do 44.1kHz even with Asio-playback. It's even worse: "...if the input stream frequency is already 48000, it is still resampled in order to avoid possible synchronization issues..." taken from http://kxproject.spb.ru/direct.php?language=en

Quote
The 24/96 soundcards by M-Audio and Terratec support perfect digital playback in Windows 98/me. Not sure about 2000.

Win2k is just about as crappy in that as WinXP. In Win2k, kmixer first appeared.

Quote
FWIW, I've got a Marian Marc 2, surprisingly capable of playing perfect digital in WinXP (as advertised), but the drivers are, well, barely drivers. DirectSound support is broken, no midi, no CD input, no gaming possible... I've heard (in here too, but I'm too lazy to search the post) that a very good soundcard, by RME, has similar drivers.

Yes, afaik only Marian and RME have this feature in their drivers (well, actually, they just rewrote part of the sound-interface of NT5).
Directsound is indeed very crappy with Marian drivers. But on my Marc2 there was a cd-input, actually...? (I sold it by the way, and got a Terratec 6fire at the same price ) Gaming isn't an option on RME cards either...
  • Last Edit: 28 July, 2003, 04:25:09 PM by Patsoe

  • puntloos
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #5
Quote
It's very difficult to get a perfect digital playback on a PC.
Most of the times, you play 44.1 kHz and get 48 kHz instead in the digital output. And the conversion is lossy.

One question about this: I can say for a fact (my DSP says so) that the Audigy digital out is providing 44Khz.

Are you saying that inside the Audigy it is converting up to 48 for some sync reason, then down to 44 again? 

  • jrbamford
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #6
apparently somewhere on avsforum there is a technique of embedding a DTS stream in a wave and playing it to verify whether its bit-wise identical.. ie.. whether your cinema processor is capable of decoding a DTS signal by the time the wave reaches it... i'll try to find links..

Patsoe.. arse thanks for the info.. i'd missed that.. that its resampled AGAIN even if its 48khz is annoying.. I will be jumping ship to another soundcard at some point i think.. i will have to be careful tho as along with occasional games (especially half-life 2 soon) i want perfect music, and perfect cinema sound.. by perfect i just want it working, no glitches, no lip sync issues etc...

I DO believe i can hear a difference between ASIO output of foobar and everything else.. BUT i also do wonder about the placebo of it all... but its enough to make me think that i'd like to have a card that leaves it untouched..

again some post on avsforum was talking about a soundcard which bypasses kmixer with waveout and directsound.. not sure how its possible... i will try to get the link for you more knowledgable types to digest
Binaural recordings of mine: http://binaural.jimtreats.com

Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #7
Bypassing kmixer is possible with DirectSound.
The soundcard just needs to support hardware mixing.

Kernel Streaming also bypasses kmixer.

ASIO bypasses everything and works great, but sound gets nuked on high HDD usage
regardless of buffer size
Also it emits noise when another application tries to use sound device.
  • Last Edit: 28 July, 2003, 06:34:37 PM by AstralStorm
ruxvilti'a

  • Patsoe
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #8
@jrbamford: I was re-reading the link I provided, and noticed that it is explicitly about recording from SPDIF-in. Before, I concluded this would be so for all audio-streams on the board, but perhaps that's not true for the outputs...?

@pointless: what drivers are you using? If the DSP says its 44kHz, then it is, I'd think. Interesting.

  • puntloos
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #9
Quote from: Patsoe,Jul 28 2003, 02:40 PM
@jrbamford: I was re-reading the link I provided, and noticed that it is explicitly about recording from SPDIF-in. Before, I concluded this would be so for all audio-streams on the board, but perhaps that's not true for the outputs...?

Indeed. I noticed that too.

Im already registring at the KX forums to ask this exact question

@pointless: what drivers are you using? If the DSP says its 44kHz, then it is, I'd think. Interesting.[/QUOTE]

Oh it is, no doubt about it. The only question is, is it 44 from 'winamp' to 'spdif out' or is the silly audigy coding from 44 -> 48 -> 44 -> out. Incidentally all standard audigy drivers have a the spdif hardware output setting window.. its in the eh.. well haha I forget the name (not behind my own computer right now) some audio control panel with a green print board as logo.

In that last case (44-48-44) it'll be smarter for me to set my DSP to 48khz...

  • jrbamford
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #10
puntloos.. if you can afford possible reinstall i'd say give the kx drivers a whirl.. i am very happy now... and enabling ASIO with foobar as i said i think helps the quality... i'll be interested to find out if the output is resampled.. hopefully not..

ASIO does nuke with heavy usage.. funnily too... occasional crackle but i actually got the music slowing down over 20 seconds when installing something the other day... how can you use ASIO with load with music packages if this stuff happens on playing to just 1 channel

Need to find out in foobar where the ASIO latency settings are.. programs like cubase allow you to get to the kx drivers latency window.. i dont know how to do this within foobar... latency being higher helps for stability and for just plain playback i assume latency can be fairly large.. i aint planning on any mixing..
Binaural recordings of mine: http://binaural.jimtreats.com

Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #11
Sorry, even setting latency to 512samples/sec (max - 12msec at 44.1kHz)
in my Aureon Space card control haven't solved the problem...
Reduced it slightly. (I get a buzz - higher latency = shorter buzz.)
  • Last Edit: 28 July, 2003, 10:35:12 PM by AstralStorm
ruxvilti'a

  • puntloos
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #12
It would be cool if you could switch between the two drivers without rebooting.....

  • dgover2
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #13
Quote
Bypassing kmixer is possible with DirectSound.
The soundcard just needs to support hardware mixing.


Now I'm even more confused than ever because Terratec tell me my DMX 6Fire doesn't resample unless I enable Sensaura 3D, but hardware mixing is only available when Sensaura 3D is enabled.

-dave

  • Halcyon
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #14
Let me try and summarise (please correct if I'm wrong):

- All Creative cards resample their PCM bitstream digital output to 48kHz (or interim 48kz before outputting 44kHz). This cannot be circumvented with any drivers. DTS 44.1kHz is not PCM bitstream, it's raw and can be outputted 1:1 bit perfect on some Creative cards.

- On most cards, even 48kHz output data gets resampled to 48kHz causing jitter and requantisation errors (noise and distortion). This is due to the PCM data being fed through KMixer (on W2K or later). RME and Marian sound card drivers know how to bypass this. Kernel Streaming drivers for some cards know how to bypass this (?)

- Terratec DMX6fire can output 44.1kHz digitally bit perfect as 44.1kHz without resampling. I've tested this myself. Sorry! Can't remember if Sensaura was on or off (I *think* OFF, but can't be sure anymore).

Am I completely off the mark? I need to understand these too. I could test Audigy2, but lack proper cabling right now.

regards,
Halcyon

  • KikeG
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #15
Waveout is bit-perfect on Win9X, given that the mixer sliders are set at max. On Win2K and WinXP, kmixer prevents bit-perfect output unless: 1) you use kernel streaming or ASIO. 2) you have a card that supports hardware acceleration and also set wave sliders at max. I haven't totally corroborated 2) yet, but there's some evidence from other people that this is true.

But all this is only true in case of non-resampling cards when playing 44.1 KHz data. Resampling cards will always mangle 44.1 KHz data no matter what you do.

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....topic=5755&st=0
  • Last Edit: 29 July, 2003, 03:58:52 AM by KikeG

  • puntloos
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #16
Bump!

(hah.. 3 year old topic..)

Guys, Im STILL struggling with this question, and since Im now trying to put together an audiophile stereo, this issue has gained a lot of importance to me.

therefore, the question rephrased:

What are the settings/drivers etc with which I can make my sound blaster audigy output an EXACT digital copy of the digital data winamp (or foobar2k) outputs. I do NOT want it to resample etc etc
add: if impossible, please suggest a soundcard that CAN do this properly

  • CSMR
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #17
What are you doing with Quad speakers and an Audigy sound card?!

  • odyssey
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #18
add: if impossible, please suggest a soundcard that CAN do this properly


- Terratec DMX6fire can output 44.1kHz digitally bit perfect as 44.1kHz without resampling. I've tested this myself. Sorry! Can't remember if Sensaura was on or off (I *think* OFF, but can't be sure anymore).


Am I missing someting?
Can't wait for a HD-AAC encoder :P

  • probedb
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #19
What are the settings/drivers etc with which I can make my sound blaster audigy output an EXACT digital copy of the digital data winamp (or foobar2k) outputs. I do NOT want it to resample etc etc
add: if impossible, please suggest a soundcard that CAN do this properly


I don't think you can from reading the other replies. ALL soundblaster cards resample in hardware.

Thing is a cheap card like the Chaintech AV710 will do bit-perfect. It has no ASIO drivers so download ASIO4ALL and use that as the ASIO driver...worked fine for me though for some reason occasionally it didn't click in but that was an old version of ASIO4ALL and I haven't had the card for a while now. Also it's only optical out if that's a problem? But it did work and you'll find various threads on here and avsforum about it.
  • Last Edit: 07 August, 2006, 10:28:17 AM by probedb

  • Axon
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #20
BTW, I have an RME DIGI96/8 PAD, and I can attest to the no-resampling policy of the drivers. I can also say that the drivers kind of suck. They do not support standby or suspend/resume (the card loses all I/O if you go into standby), and they haven't been updated in like 3-5 years or so. Granted, the card is obsoleted, and the drivers are very minimalistically built, but still....

  • puntloos
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #21
Am I missing someting?


Yes. You're missing the 'I haven't tested this myself' bit. Id like to be SURE that the card does it properly before I buy it.

What are you doing with Quad speakers and an Audigy sound card?!

Well obviously Im not skimping on component quality but if the audigy does what it needs to do it is fine for my purposes. I have no use for audiophile DA convertors (or whatever) on the sound card, all I need is a bit-perfect digital out (and perhaps optimized, high-quality volume resampling.. but winamp can do that for me, right?)

Anyway in the end I would like to hear about a normal card with proper drivers that CERTAINLY does bit-perfect output. So far Ive heard quite a few 'possibly maybe hopefully'-s.. however those terratecs might be the way to go

(Im considering to put the new card next to the audigy btw, sounds like a useful plan to have one digital perfect card that only gets used for winamp, and having the audigy make 'windows sounds' ('DING' sucks at high volumes through my 989s )
  • Last Edit: 07 August, 2006, 10:47:15 AM by puntloos

  • CSMR
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #22
I think all so-called professional or semi-professional cards can give you bit perfect output through ASIO. They can also output windows sounds. No need to have two cards.

  • puntloos
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #23
Plus oh yeah the terratec DMX6fire isn't being sold anymore

I think all so-called professional or semi-professional cards can give you bit perfect output through ASIO. They can also output windows sounds. No need to have two cards.


Well no I mean I DONT want them to output 'ding'  If I have 2 soundcards, I can tell windows to 'ding' on the soundblaster and have winamp(foobar) be the only app to send audio to the pro card and into my main speakers.

Could someone perhaps LIST us a few pro cards that don't need wonky ASIO drivers, work dependably, dont have 7.1 surround recording etc etc?

I need:
- stereo
- 24bits/192Khz
- Preferrably but not explicitly necessary: good DA convertors
- and the main requirement: bitperfect digital out

That's all. Assuming those demands are met, the cheapest possible card fits my bill.

  • probedb
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Soundcard digital pathways?
Reply #24
Did everyone just ignore me? I mentioned a $25 card that does bit-perfect out....