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Old 01-03-2011, 08:31 AM   #1
MobiusPizza
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Default Of surround sound, PC gaming and HDMI

This may sound off-forum for some but as there aren't any audio forums here in anandtech (What happened to the soundcard reviews we used to get?), and what I am about to say is quite technical. The e-mail I sent to AMD got escalated but it's been a week without reply.

Long story short, I was going to make my dream HTPC which also handles PC gaming, when I read that the AMD Radeon HD6xxx series supports bit streaming of Dolby TruHD / DTS-HD MA loseless surround sound, I jumped ship.

I've purchased an entry level Onkyo TX-SR308 with HDMI inputs but no analogue multichannel inputs. I was hoping I could hook up my PC with it through HDMI and have surround sound, without the need of special sound cards through my HD6950 GPU. I am disappointed.

It seems games nowadays use OpenAL to handle sound with new Windows audio subsystem implementation. Radeon doesn't seems to encode DTS/Dolby audio from games, nor there are any sound card in market, not even Asus Xsonar HDAV. Yes bit streaming from BluRay playback is supported, but I have a dedicated BluRay player already. All I wanted is surround sound from PC, gaming or say playing multichannel flac audio files, that I can hook onto my hometheater speakers with the Onkyo amp.

This is very frustrating. Anyone can offer insight on how I can proceed with minimum burden on my wallet? One can buy HDMI to analogue but I can absolutely not find any multichannel analogue to HDMI solutions. None of the soundcard for PCs I believe embrace HDMI fully as to either passes multichannel PCM audio and at the same time compatible with Windows implementation to make Windows aware this is indeed a multichannel sound card; or encode analogue channel to lossy Dolby/DTS 5.1, let alone loseless Dolby TruHD/DTS-HD. This to me is silly since it's much cheaper to make a sound card without DACs and just a FPGA to do the encoding direct from PCI-E or PCI while deceiving Windows to believe that it's a analogue audio card.

FYI, in Windows, one cannot specify the number of sound channels for SPDIF/HDMI interfaces listed in audio control panel, it's only possible for analogue connections. The moment the soundcard present itself as HDMI interface, say goodbye to multichannel audio for applications other than DVD/Bluray. It seems to only able to pass through but not perform encoding of Dolby/DTS stream. I am not sure who to blame for this PC audio mess.

Thanks very much
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Old 01-03-2011, 10:53 AM   #2
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Did you look for any audio settings in your video card control panel ?
Have you tried different combinations ?

I myself will in the near future try audio over hdmi as well. But i do not know much about it.

This may not be related, but maybe it can help you out...

http://www.xpmediacentre.com.au/comm...over-hdmi.html

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/...dmi-audio-3870


EDIT:

Do you not need to setup the motherboard and the gfx card to pass through hdmi sound ?
Have you done something similar as this :

Quote:
What motherboard and CPU combination are you running? Does the HD 5670 have an SPDIF header at all?

After further investigation it seems that to get Dolby True HD etc, the ASROCK motherboard has a SPDIF HDMI header on board which needs to be connected to a graphics card with HDMI output to get Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD sound.
Can it be a DRM issue ?

What software do you use ?

Quote:
With Power DVD 9 Ultra, you cannot select "Non-decoded HD Audio to external receiver" until the Blu-Ray with appropriate HD soundtrack has started playing.
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Last edited by William Gaatjes; 01-03-2011 at 11:03 AM.
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Old 01-03-2011, 01:18 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply but I am afraid it's not a simple issue. The links you posted are mainly topics dedicated to HDMI pass through or bit stream of HD codecs, e.g. Dolby TruHD or DTS-HD MA, from already encoded sources, such as BluRay discs.This is no problem as mentioned, AMD HD6xxx GPU and Asus XSonar HDAV soundcard, even the upcoming Sandybridge platform will be able to do so.

I couldn't care less about BluRay as I have a dedicated player already. My question is on 3D gaming and general Windows application, which do not encode DTS-HD for example, which means what I get is stereo on games or foobar or Adobe Audition.
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Old 01-03-2011, 01:51 PM   #4
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Ah, well i cannot help you then i am sorry to say,
I think that it is an issue of having to pay for the right to use the technology and i doubt that this Dolby TruHD or DTS-HD MA encoding technology is provided in windows. If it is, it is not supported by openAL because then someone has to pay for the royalties. Maybe it would be in the audio stack of windows 7 and that is again not used by the game. The only solution is that openAL will allow an sort of plugin model where the codec can be selected and used. If the codec is for sale then this could be an possibility. But i have hardly any understanding of this. I only play and like old puzzle type games as soul reaver and shadow man.
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Old 01-03-2011, 02:31 PM   #5
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i think this has to do with the legal/regulatory BS associated with HDMI...why can't you just use s/pdif?

btw, i know my turtle beach SRM sound card lets you specify the number of channels with s/pdif in the driver control panel. at one point i was using this output to my z-5500 or my home theater receiver (depending on where the computer was). make sure there isn't some option in the ati drivers, or that there isn't some kind of supplementary audio control driver you can download.
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Old 01-03-2011, 05:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by f4phantom2500 View Post
i think this has to do with the legal/regulatory BS associated with HDMI...why can't you just use s/pdif?

btw, i know my turtle beach SRM sound card lets you specify the number of channels with s/pdif in the driver control panel. at one point i was using this output to my z-5500 or my home theater receiver (depending on where the computer was). make sure there isn't some option in the ati drivers, or that there isn't some kind of supplementary audio control driver you can download.
The reasons are quite pedantic. I just don't see why the support for emerging carrier format: HDMI is so bad with PC. I agree HDMI has lots of BS associated, but it's the only format capable of lossless multichannel sound. While lossless multichannel content is nonexistent except BluRay or of course ripped mkv files, having a connection of loseless surround in PC means the audio modes doesn't need to switch which my Receiver does at the moment when it jumps between stereo and 5.1, and it pops as a result. And that I can play whatever flac files of whatever encoded rate without worry about losing information. E.g. DTS-HD MA is 192kHz.

I also wish they upgrade SPDIF as it's limited in bandwidth so it cannot transport lossless multichannel.

I have some 96kHz encoded FLAC music ripped off through analogue means from SACDs. I also recently sourced a SACD with multichannel track. SPDIF of my motherboard doesn't like to output a high sampling rate as that.

I know some onboard sound cards do encode lossy DTS Connect 5.1 through SPDIF, but my motherboard onboard audio doesn't do this. I sold my old sound card thinking my new GPU can handle all audio, I guess I need to buy another soundcard with proper SPDIF handling then, which really sucks.

Thanks anyways
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Old 01-04-2011, 12:45 AM   #7
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i was gonna say...if you're just gaming and listening to cd-quality music then s/pdif should be just fine...but the SACD stuff you got goin on there is kind of a killer for s/pdif, at least assuming you want to listen to it at full resolution and 5.1.

yeah man unless you can find some kind of driver workaround/hack for your radeon's hdmi audio output, sounds like you're just gonna have to either suck it up or get a new sound card.
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Old 01-04-2011, 07:35 AM   #8
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Agreed.

Talking about "lossless" for gaming is worthless. There are very few, if any, that have or need lossless to be immersive. (Also, if you have enough time to sit there and listen to the tunes while playing, that game may not be worth playing in the first place! )

I would imagine that the only way you could get this info out is if you find a way to stream the data out and convert it outside the system. Are there any external devices you have heard of that only use a data channel to get the information out of the computer itself before it does the decoding? (Forgive my own inexperience with this....)
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Old 01-04-2011, 10:24 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnnihilatorX View Post
as there aren't any audio forums here in anandtech
Audio/Video & Home Theater
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Old 01-05-2011, 03:10 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ninjahedge View Post
Agreed.

Talking about "lossless" for gaming is worthless. There are very few, if any, that have or need lossless to be immersive. (Also, if you have enough time to sit there and listen to the tunes while playing, that game may not be worth playing in the first place! )

I would imagine that the only way you could get this info out is if you find a way to stream the data out and convert it outside the system. Are there any external devices you have heard of that only use a data channel to get the information out of the computer itself before it does the decoding? (Forgive my own inexperience with this....)
you mean like a USB digital to analog converter? sure, those aren't too hard to find...but that's essentially the same thing as buying a new sound card.
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Old 01-05-2011, 07:03 AM   #11
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Phantom, yes, that is what I am saying.

The only diff being that you are not limited by case space and some of the external decoders are a bit more oriented on the audio efficianado than the in-situ cards....

Aside from that, I wonder if there are any receivers out there that would be able to simply sync with the computer and decode that signal themselves... I am seeing dollar signs though.
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Old 01-05-2011, 08:58 AM   #12
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Is there any known way to pass analog multichannel audio (e.g. PC games) through HDMI to a receiver? I would be interested in doing this if it were possible. I currently use an X-fi Titanium HD with DTS connect over S/PDIF, but there is some amount of latency involved which I find annoying.
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Old 03-30-2011, 12:04 PM   #13
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Default Frustrating!

I'm in the EXACT same boat, and ignorantly assumed this wouldn't be an issue when I recently built a new gaming/htpc. I know this thread hasn't gotten any attention for a while, but after doing some research I'm thinking I'll have to buy a new sound card for surround sound gaming... Hearing there's latency with the DTS connect has me pretty much sick to my stomach. That's unacceptable!

What about Dolby Digital Live? Does anyone have experience with it? I'm looking at getting an HT Omega card or something similar... Input is appreciated.
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Old 03-31-2011, 05:21 AM   #14
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Could it be this?

Quote:
MSmith83
01-13-11, 03:23 PM
So, is it possible or not to get surround through HDMI?! arrrgggg

The 6850 should do it. The common problem I see is that the card is not configured properly.

To get multichannel PCM over HDMI with a graphics card that supports it, you usually have to set it up in Windows' sound options. It is common for the device to be known as "Speakers" in the options despite being an HDMI card.

Anyway, in the sound control panel, select the "configure" option for the relevant device and change "Stereo" to "5.1 Surround" or "7.1 Surround."
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01-14-11, 03:48 AM

Hooked up one of my gaming pc's to my Onkyo receiver the other day and played several games. Metro 2033, COD MW2, Just Cause 2, and Mafia 2 were all coming through loud and clear in 5.1 surround, and it sounded great. Using HDMI out of my ATI 5850 to the receiver, sending both video and audio. As MSmith83 pointed out, make sure you go to the windows control panel, click on Hardware and Sound, then under the sound heading, click on "manage audio devices". A window will open up and show you your sound options. On all 3 of my PC's, the "ATI HDMI output" option shows up at the top. Click on this to make it your default audio device. But don't think you are done! Make sure you click on "configure" and then select if you have 5.1, or 7.1. Run a test tone to check all of your speakers and then you should be good. Windows will take care of the rest. All of this is assuming you have Windows 7 as I do.
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Old 03-31-2011, 11:15 PM   #15
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You could always add analog inputs to the receiver. It isn't all that complicated.
Some manufacturers even mark the channels on the boards. Tap it at the DAC output and add a switch to select the analog channels. Analog to HDMI exist but the retail devices that do that are more than most people would pay, $2k+
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