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Active Digital Monitor - Onboard Chip/Extern

Hey guys,

my question is simple, but as I guess as controversial as every question concerning Hifi.

Is there any advantage of an discrete Audiointerface compared to an Onboard-Soundcard if you transmit digital data via a optical fiber connector (Toslink) to a fully digital (digital amp) active studio monitor?

The only thing I could think about is the quality of drivers concerning the use of the exclusive mode of WASAPI.

Thanks in advance
SuperSu

Re: Active Digital Monitor - Onboard Chip/Extern

Reply #1
I'd yet have to see where that makes a difference.

It's a bit like asking whether using a USB hub is better or worse than connecting something directly to a USB port on your computer.
Aside from usability aspect, the data is already digital in both instances. So, both times the data leaving the computer must be identical.

An S/PDIF interface doesn't do any conversion as such, it's merely a form of digital transmission. S/PDIF for 48kHz at 24bit/sample and two channels is about the maximum S/PDIF can handle.

It is possible to pass other formats through S/PDIF (S/PDIF-Passthrough) such that multiple channels can be passed to a decoder in a compressed fashion, this is used with Dolby Digital/DTS. This essentially, transmits the compressed data without any decompression to the hardware decoder, which is then used to decompress the data, and eventually pass that to the DAC.

Assuming your studio monitors accept PCM over S/PDIF, your S/PDIF interface simply takes the PCM stream it receives from whatever decoder (if it's compressed at all), and simply transmits it down the optical fibre, there's no DAC/ADC action on that end.

Re: Active Digital Monitor - Onboard Chip/Extern

Reply #2
48kHz at 24bit/sample and two channels is about the maximum S/PDIF can handle.

It was originally specified to a maximum of 48kHz and 20bits (not 24), but better hardware has increased that to 96/24 on TOSLINK with no issues and 192/24 on coax. TOSLINK can go as high as coax, but it depends on hardware. ADAT Lightpipe uses the same connectors and fiber cables as TOSLINK, and allows 8 channels of 48/24 or 4 channels of 96/24.

So in theory you could run uncompressed 7.1 48/24 sound over a TOSLINK cable. Nobody does this though, so surround sound formats over S/PDIF are de facto limited to DTS at the most.

Re: Active Digital Monitor - Onboard Chip/Extern

Reply #3
Thank you both very much already.
I should have clarified that in advance.

I want to transfer Tidal FLAC 44/16 via exclusive WASAPI to my monitor.

So there's nothing to worry about using a cheap china onboard souncard.

Re: Active Digital Monitor - Onboard Chip/Extern

Reply #4
It was originally specified to a maximum of 48kHz and 20bits (not 24), but better hardware has increased that to 96/24 on TOSLINK with no issues and 192/24 on coax. TOSLINK can go as high as coax, but it depends on hardware. ADAT Lightpipe uses the same connectors and fiber cables as TOSLINK, and allows 8 channels of 48/24 or 4 channels of 96/24.

Aside from practicability, it's kinda puzzling, how the rather lackluster coaxial audio cables, with RCA connectors on either end, have a higher throughput, than the optical fiber with those JIS F05 connectors. I can only assume, that the relative slow throughput was merely down to "cheap" optical components and light modems?

Re: Active Digital Monitor - Onboard Chip/Extern

Reply #5
Thank you both very much already.
I should have clarified that in advance.

I want to transfer Tidal FLAC 44/16 via exclusive WASAPI to my monitor.

So there's nothing to worry about using a cheap china onboard souncard.

So this is it ?

Re: Active Digital Monitor - Onboard Chip/Extern

Reply #6
So this is it ?
Well, WASAPI will simply forward the decoded PCM stream. You cannot really send encoded FLAC through S/PDIF. Your monitor will simply see a 44.1hHz, 16bit/sample, 2ch PCM stream.

So there's nothing to worry about using a cheap china onboard souncard.
Tbh., your expensive, dedicated, external, USB-3.1 sound card, with superb ASIO drivers, is also quite possibly made of the same "cheap" Chinese electronics, except it gets a bit more quality control.

As I said before, there is no DAC/ADC action going on, until the signal reaches your monitor. There's digital signals only get modulated for whatever transmission medium they use.

If you were to need a higher margin, as we've discussed here, i.e. higher sample rate, greater bit depth, more channels, that what the limitations of your internal S/PDIF interface are, only then I'd opt to get a new, external interface.

Re: Active Digital Monitor - Onboard Chip/Extern

Reply #7
Thank you for the detailled answer.

Currently I use a RME HSDPE AIO:
http://www.rme-audio.de/en/products/hdspe_aio.php?from=singlemessage%27%27A%3D0
You think a card like this uses the same chips like a onboard soundcard? ;-)

I plan to have a new smaller system (mITX) where I would use onboard chips.
But now I'm happy to hear that for the basic music playback with digital transmission, there's nothing to worry about.

 

Re: Active Digital Monitor - Onboard Chip/Extern

Reply #8
Currently I use a RME HSDPE AIO:
http://www.rme-audio.de/en/products/hdspe_aio.php?from=singlemessage%27%27A%3D0
You think a card like this uses the same chips like a onboard soundcard? ;-)

Yep, it probably does. What sets that card apart from your on-board sound chips, is the DACs, and ADCs, and that's actually where most of the extra circuity on your card comes from. Apart from that, your card has higher capabilities when it comes to S/PDIO, i.e. it supports higher sampling rates. However when it comes to most of the actual internals of managing digital signals, there really isn't much difference. Your card probably uses some sort of ASIC with ip-cores similar or even identical to those used on the sound chips used on whatever mainboard. It is also capable of ADAT via S/MUX4, giving you two channels at 194kHz, or four channels at 96kHz, at 24bits of depth. All those extra features, such as MIDI (and that one is quite obvious), and many more, is what sets that card apart (but the greatest one are its DACs and ADCs, with proper caps, and discrete components).

The underlying protocols (which is S/PDIF, AES/EBU, ADAT through Lightpipe), is essentially the same as an on-board soundchip capable of S/PDIF, however due to licensing issues, and things like mere ASIC real-estate, they usually only put S/PDIF with an adequate limitation (48kHz, 16bit/sample, at 2ch), and more often than not: only S/PDIF output your card on the other hand, has obviously an input, which can accept many more protocols. In fact I'm wondering if you can send AES/EBU over all acceptable physical layers (balanced electrical, coaxial, and optical).

That aside: if you simply want to go overboard: simply get a studio mixer, which is capable of 128 channels at 32bit/sample and at 196kHz sampling rate. Those usually connect to your computer over USB-3.1, and use the digital output of that to go to a rack-mounted, dedicated DAC used in opera and theatrical productions.

You can always "go bigger" and more insane, but you're really missing the point nonetheless: The audio goes back and forth through that USB-3.1 connection. So in essence, every crappy USB-C interface is a better way to move audio data back and forth. Too bad most output devices don't accept that...
But alas, there's always HDMI.

 
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