Laptop to Receiver without HDMI [Help!!]

Discussion in 'Audio/Video & Home Theater' started by k37an, Jan 17, 2013.

  1. k37an

    k37an Junior Member

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    (My first post)

    Hi,

    I am a newbie and starting to setup my home theater. I want to know how to connect my laptop which doesnt have an hdmi out to Onkyo HT S3500 and still get all 5 speakers to work (currently if I connect a Y cable L/R it produces only 2.1 sound and not 5.1) ?

    Any help is appreciated.

    HT - (http://www.amazon.com/Onkyo-HT-S3500.../dp/B0077V88V8)

    Thanks,
    K37an
     
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  3. jtvang125

    jtvang125 Diamond Member

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    You can try a 5.1 usb sound card.
     
  4. s44

    s44 Diamond Member

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    It will work, except...

    If all you want is to play back movies and shows already surround encoded in DD or DTS, then just get a card with a digital coax/optical/mini-optical output and connect that to the back of the AVR. Heck, it's possible your laptop has one of those built in! (Macbooks have a hidden mini-optical, or used to anyway.)

    If you want to do 5.1 gaming or the like, you'll need a card that supports real-time encoding *into* DD or DTS. That's called "Dolby Digital Live" (DDL) or "DTS Connect" (DTSC). It's very *un*likely your laptop has that built in. I believe the $40 Xonar U3 is your cheapest option for that (it only has DDL, though -- getting the superior DTSC would be more expensive, if it exists at all).

    With some receivers you could just plug in 5.1 analog, but your low-end HTIB receiver doesn't have that option.
     
    #3 s44, Jan 17, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2013
  5. sdifox

    sdifox No Lifer

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    #4 sdifox, Jan 17, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2013
  6. Koing

    Koing Elite Member <br> Super Moderator<br> Health and F

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    My 2007/08 Macbook has optical out on the headphone jack. Just plug that in to your receiver.

    Koing
     
  7. k37an

    k37an Junior Member

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    So I have mac with optical output built in support (from system prefs-)

    S/PDIF Optical Digital Audio Input:
    Connection: Combination Input

    S/PDIF Optical Digital Audio Output:
    Connection: Combination Output

    So will connecting the optical out from mac play 5.1 surround in receiver?

    Also, for other laptops which don't have an optical out, will something like this help: http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Sound.../dp/B0044DEDCA. I can connect this via usb to my other laptop and optical cabel from this sound card to receiver..

    I just want to be extra sure before buying something like this..
     
  8. s44

    s44 Diamond Member

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    Yes, for video content only. (No games etc.) Also, you'll want to buy a cable like this.

    Yeah, but that's way too much. If you're not gaming (and you probably shouldn't try on any machine old enough not to have HDMI), pretty much any USB audio card will do.
     
  9. k37an

    k37an Junior Member

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    Thanks a ton s44 :) It was really helpful.

    I am planning to buy xbox/ps in a couple of months, so probably the one link i gave would be a good option.

    Also I am curious what becomes different when i connect the optical cable (like you pasted) to receiver and a Y RCA cable to receiver, that in optical-cable case it plays 5.1 surround sound and other case it doesn't ?

    My laptop isn't too old - http://www.dell.com/us/p/inspiron-15/pd (this one im thinking of attaching permanently to HT). Please advise if the sound card mentioned before will cause any issue with this?

    Once again, help appreciated.

    Thanks,
    k37an
     
  10. fuzzymath10

    fuzzymath10 Senior member

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    I think it's not relevant in the OP's case but some receivers (such as mine) have analog 7.1 inputs so it should run surround fine with pairs of Y adapters. Optical/coax doesn't work because it will only support stereo uncompressed digital sound. HDMI can usually run more than two uncompressed channels.
     
  11. s44

    s44 Diamond Member

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    The RCA stereo cables run an analog line-level version of the exact signal the amp/speakers should output. The optical cable (or digital coax, if you use it) runs a digital signal encoded into either Dolby Digital (DD) or Digital Theater Sound (DTS) -- which are codecs for 5.1 (lossily compressed) audio. (DTS, though not used as much, has more bandwidth for theoretically less-lossy compression.) Optical can also carry uncompressed 2.0, but that doesn't help you.

    One issue I discussed is that laptops and a lot of sound cards can't encode into DD or DTS on the fly. (DD-Live and DTS-Connect are the feature names saying they can.) Fortunately most DVDs, all HDTV, and some streaming movies have DD/DTS-encoded audio tracks built in.

    However, the *best* audio carrier is actually HDMI, which can carry a 5.1 or 7.1 digital signal *without encoding or compression* (optical doesn't have the bandwidth to do that). However, the only movies that are encoded with lossless 5.1 or 7.1 are Blu-Ray or Blu-Ray rips, and any laptop with a Blu-Ray drive should have HDMI out anyway. Surround gaming *is* a useful HDMI audio use though, which is why the PS3 has it...

    As for audio cards, I'd buy the $40 Asus one *I* linked, or a $30 Behringer UA202 or something even cheaper from China... $60 on a Creative card is overkill; you might as well save the money for a new laptop with HDMI.
     
    #10 s44, Jan 18, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2013
  12. k37an

    k37an Junior Member

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  13. nsafreak

    nsafreak Diamond Member

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    We need more information, what video files are you trying to play back and get 5.1 sound on? Keep in mind that the majority of online content is not 5.1 so using something like Netflix isn't going to provide 5.1 unless you're using something like an XBox or PS3 which Netflix sends Dolby Digital audio for some of their videos for.
     
  14. k37an

    k37an Junior Member

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    Hi,

    I was trying to play music from Spotify. Also I tried the Dolby 5.1 test from youtube. Both are playing 2.1 and not 5.1. Tried to play with several settings in HT but no luck...Should I try playing anything else?!
    In this case too will I need sound card? In previous discussion I was suggested only to buy optical cable in case of mac?

    Thanks,
    k37an
     
  15. sdifox

    sdifox No Lifer

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    did you try playing a dvd movie?
     
  16. k37an

    k37an Junior Member

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    I tried playing .avi, .mkv movies from Mac using Vlc Player, but not real dvds.
    If you take a look at previous thread, I was suggested to buy toslink-to-min toslink cable for mac - which I plugged in in my Onkyo receiver. It doesnt play 5.1 (or even 3.1), it just plays 2.1 :(