Upgrading to 5.1 Surround Sound (or better?)

By Aurora-Storm
Aug 22, 2013
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  1. Hello all,

    I received some wonderful help here in replacing my graphics card (which is working out absolutely smoothly) and so I'm wondering if any of you would have any recommendations for going from stereo to surround sound for my computer.

    I'm a bit of an audiophile, so I'm looking for something that can produce the greatest audible range of notes/sounds in the best clarity/richness/resonance possible - basically I'm flat out looking for the best QUALITY of sound. I don't necessarily need a subwoofer that hammers the floor, but I'm looking for something as crisp and immersive as possible, hopefully within about 300 dollars for the speakers (willing to spend more for something fantastic that is built to last). Stereo just isn't cutting it when I know that a few extra speakers can add a LOT of atmosphere to my games and music!

    I have two cheapy (~$70) Bose speakers right now. I miss my second-hand 3.0, haha.

    I'm less familiar with peripherals than with the hardware itself, so whatever information you need - additional specs, how many slots the back of my tower has - whatever you need to recommend me something that will work with my system, just let me know.

    Windows Vista Ultimate, 32 bit
    Intel Core 2 Quad CPU, at 2.40GHz
    4.00 GB RAM
    CX600 Corsair PSU
    "NVIDIA High Definition Audio"...

    Under sound card, my computer is just listing "NVIDIA High Definition Audio"... yikes. Does that mean this system doesn't even have a proper sound card? It's a ~6 year old pre-built Dell. Top of the line when it was released, but a bit old, even with the upgraded graphics and PSU.
  2. St1ckM4n

    St1ckM4n TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 3,197   +555

    You're not an 'audiophile' if you just know a few buzzwords like "clarity". Music is not encoded in surround (99%+ of cases), so that won't help you with immersion. Also, powered stereo monitors will give you the best quality for music. If you want surround sound for games, however, see below.

    You have some options:
    1. Use analogue outputs (like headphone plug, you should have at least three at the back of your PC for this to work) connected to a high-end Logitech or Creative etc 5.1 system.
    2. Purchase a sound card (make sure it will fit) with Dolby Digital Live encoding, use the optical output, and connect to any surround sound system that has Dolby Digital Live decoding. This will give you the best quality.
    misor and Aurora-Storm like this.
  3. Aurora-Storm

    Aurora-Storm TechSpot Member Topic Starter

    Uh, yes, I am an audiophile. See literally: love of audio. Thanks for taking me down a notch by claiming my use of vocabulary consists of "buzzwords" (by editing your post to add that?); sorry that I'm not hip-deep in the tech culture like you are. You don't have to know each and every word of evolving lingo to claim that you're as in love with sound as I claim to be. The bottom line is that I was looking for the best quality and best range of sound possible within a reasonable price.

    This computer is primarily for gaming, so yes, that's a large part of what I was looking for. My tower does have several analogue outputs - there are six slots, one for mic, and only one that works for my two-speaker Bose. The other four look like they're analogue too, though.

    I haven't heard stellar things about Logitech audio quality, but I'll give them and Creative a look anyway. I'll definitely research Dolby Digital Live encoding in conjunction with speakers and sound card.

    If anyone has recommendations for sound cards compatible with DDL at a reasonable price, that'd be mighty helpful.
  4. St1ckM4n

    St1ckM4n TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 3,197   +555

    Apologies for the tone of my first sentence. :(

    Logitech top-end THX certified speakers are pretty good sound quality, coupled with both analogue and digital inputs. Of course, if your budget is higher, a home theatre system to suit will be good also.
  5. Aurora-Storm

    Aurora-Storm TechSpot Member Topic Starter

    That's alright, I was having a dour morning so I probably overreacted.

    I'll make sure to keep those in mind, I must have been looking at the reviews on lower-end Logitech devices. With any luck I'll be able to immerse myself in more research and reviews shortly... before I start playing A Machine For Pigs, anyways. ;)
  6. GhostRyder

    GhostRyder TechSpot Guru Posts: 1,822   +389

    I just got a nice 5.1 system though I wanted some serious output (1000 Watts). Logitech will be one of the best brands for it as I have a friend who purchased this after liking the idea of going with 5.1 Link.

    Its a good system and he games on it, only real downside is the total output cant go too high. Question is how much do you want to spend, my system is quite pricey, its a sumsung Blu-ray/Receiver combo that outputs in 5.1 at 1000Watts. Its a very nice system Link
  7. Aurora-Storm

    Aurora-Storm TechSpot Member Topic Starter

    After some research I've decided that the 5.1 Z506 from Logitech are definitely NOT within the range of what I'm looking for, quality wise. I'd rather shell out more and get more than be missing out on a better quality music/gaming experience. The Sony set you linked to, GhostRyder, is closer to what I was thinking of.

    I've been reading up on the Logitech Z906, and for the price by all means it looks like a very decent mid-range system for me to upgrade to. Newegg lists them at 350 (100 off the Logitech site) which isn't bad. More than I was hoping to spend, but not outrageous. The trouble with this system would mostly be replacing all the wiring with 16 gauge copper, finding an optical cable and finding/building my own mounts if I choose to put them on the wall. A few reviews mention that the front left and right cones aren't big enough to really give midtones (vocals, mostly) as full a sound as possible, but considering everything else that's probably something I could live with. Also seeing some complaints that it starts to get wonky at high volumes, but that isn't going to be an issue for me.

    Second order of business would be a good sound card to go with this set of speakers, presuming no one warns me against them. First though, does anyone have suggestions for speaker sets comparable to Z906, either that offer better overall quality or a cheaper price for quality on par with that set? Or is this the best quality I'll find for the price (after replacing all the cables and utilizing a sound card, of course)?

    Link to the Z906 on Newegg: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...ark=&IsFeedbackTab=true&Page=1#scrollFullInfo

    Additionally: not to sound like a dolt, but what the hell are tweeters? It sounds like I'm going to want to add those for my music.
  8. St1ckM4n

    St1ckM4n TechSpot Evangelist Posts: 3,197   +555

    I'll let others suggest sound cards to you, but you need to ensure both it and the receiver support Dolby Digital Live, if you want to play games in surround sound via optical.

    Tweeters are little speakers that only deal with high frequencies. They are found in most modern cars now (up front, near dash, on side pillars), as well as on the top of high-end home theatre speaker towers.


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