Why Does My PC Sound Worse than BD or DVR? How Do I Improve the Sound?

grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
edited July 2014 in Going Digital
As you can see this question has nothing to do with the speakers or the AVR or the power amp. The BluRay payer sounds delightful. I can burn BD disks on my PC (ASUS), then play them on BD player and sound is solid. But when I play the same source music files on PC it sounds worse. The imaging is lacking, soundstage, voices are not natural. Its a flat, boring sound. I can use equalization on my PC, but that really doesnt solve the problem.
Here is my setup.
home_theater_2.png

The PC is connected to the AVR via an HDMI cable. All settings on PC are OK. Control Panel shows the correct audio driver (Pioneer VSX AVR), surround mode (5.1), supported format is set to DVD quality which for some reason sounds better than 192kHz 24bit.
Here are my thoughts.
1) Audio / Video card on the PC is at fault. I am using an NVIDIA video card which was an upgrade from the stock card. May b an upgrade to a more expensive audio card will resolve the problem? But then again, I dont connect speakers directly to the PC, I use HDMI which goes to AVR, then to a power amp. So, why upgrade the video (or may be audio) card if it will be bypassed in HDMI out anyway?
2) Internal AVR DAC is at fault. The AVR (Pioneer Elite VSX-53) has an OK built in DAC. It works fine with the BD player and DirectTV, but may be I need to buy an external DAC to be placed between the PC and the AVR? But then the sound will STILL go through the AVR's DAC anyway.
As you can see I am at a loss here. What do you think?
Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
Post edited by grigorianvlad on
«1

Comments

  • dragon1952dragon1952 Posts: 4,685
    edited June 2014
    What PC audio player are you using? Also, if you used an external DAC between PC/AVR you would use the analog outputs on the DAC which would bypass your AVR's DAC. I use JRiver Media Center on PC, USB out from PC to a USB/SPDIF converter (like a M2Tech Hiface II) into external DAC then analog out with excellent results.
    ____________________________
    2 channel - PS Audio Stellar S300 amp, PS Audio DirectStream DAC, audio optimized NUC7i5 running Windows 10 Pro/JRiver MC24, Matrix X-SPDIF 2 USB interface, Blackbird SSD dock with 500 GB Samsung 860 EVO, Tom Tutay modded EE Minimax preamp, Furman Elite 15 Pfi power conditioner, Martin Logan Electromotion ESL speakers, Rythmik F12SE subwoofer, Kimber 4TC speaker wire, Gabriel Gold Reflection V2 IC's, VH Audio power cords, Wireworld USB and HDMI/I2S cables
    Computer - Windows 7/JRiver, Topping D10 DAC, Fostex PMO.4n monitors
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    dragon1952 wrote: »
    What PC audio player are you using? Also, if you used an external DAC between PC/AVR you would use the analog outputs on the DAC which would bypass your AVR's DAC. I use JRiver Media Center on PC, USB out from PC to a USB/SPDIF converter (like a M2Tech Hiface II) into external DAC then analog out with excellent results.

    I had thought of that but the problem is I want to use HDMI signal, not analog outputs. I have an extensive collection of 5.1 surround remastered music , about 900 albums. They are in *.dtshd format. I can listen to them directly in VLC media player - the only software that plays them in surround mode just like stereo *.mp3s) or burn them to a BD or DVD and play them in BD player. First sound sucks (VLC player on ASUS), the second rocks (BD player). Both connected to the same AVR.
    To my knowledge there is only one DAC that accepts HDMI (NAD M51). But then if I output it to the AVR in SPDIF it will still go through AVR DAC. I may have to go your route and forget about surround to enjoy a better sound (even though in stereo).
    But still - there is no guarantee that even in stereo and an external DAC it will actually sound better.
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • dragon1952dragon1952 Posts: 4,685
    edited June 2014
    I would think that it's got to be the sound card or media player then, or some combination thereof. I don't know anything about VLC but a quick Google shows sound quality issues. Have you looked at any of the tutorials for optimizing VLC audio?
    ____________________________
    2 channel - PS Audio Stellar S300 amp, PS Audio DirectStream DAC, audio optimized NUC7i5 running Windows 10 Pro/JRiver MC24, Matrix X-SPDIF 2 USB interface, Blackbird SSD dock with 500 GB Samsung 860 EVO, Tom Tutay modded EE Minimax preamp, Furman Elite 15 Pfi power conditioner, Martin Logan Electromotion ESL speakers, Rythmik F12SE subwoofer, Kimber 4TC speaker wire, Gabriel Gold Reflection V2 IC's, VH Audio power cords, Wireworld USB and HDMI/I2S cables
    Computer - Windows 7/JRiver, Topping D10 DAC, Fostex PMO.4n monitors
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    I am interested in your setup. So, M2Tech Hiface II outputs to coaxial stereo? Is there any software to install for this to work or does it install directly from the unit when you connect it? How else can I output audio through USB (other options/products) to an external DAC? Which DAC would you recommend (within reason, $-wise?)
    Thanks
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • dragon1952dragon1952 Posts: 4,685
    edited June 2014
    Yes, the HiFace plugs directly into a PC USB port and then a digital coax connects it to the DAC. There are a ton of DAC's with USB interfaces now days so you don't really need to go with the USB/SPDIF converter....you can go directly PC USB to USB DAC, however the USB DAC's with the best USB implementations are usually more costly. My Grant Fidelity DAC has a USB interface but it sounds much better using the HiFace to SPDIF. I got both for around $400 used. The HiFace uses a driver that you have to install and point towards. Another converter you can get cheap is the Musical Fidelity V-DAC II.
    You have quite a few inexpensive options for used DACs and converters .... here's a link to Audiogon classified ads for DAC's and converters filtered to $500 and less for an example.
    http://app.audiogon.com/listings?page=1&no_listing_types_auctions=false&no_listing_types_classifieds=false&items_per_page=50&order_by=created_at%20DESC&location_filter_radius=25&to_price=500&filter_category_id[]=37&min_condition=1&max_condition=11&listing_types_auctions=1&listing_types_classifieds=1
    ____________________________
    2 channel - PS Audio Stellar S300 amp, PS Audio DirectStream DAC, audio optimized NUC7i5 running Windows 10 Pro/JRiver MC24, Matrix X-SPDIF 2 USB interface, Blackbird SSD dock with 500 GB Samsung 860 EVO, Tom Tutay modded EE Minimax preamp, Furman Elite 15 Pfi power conditioner, Martin Logan Electromotion ESL speakers, Rythmik F12SE subwoofer, Kimber 4TC speaker wire, Gabriel Gold Reflection V2 IC's, VH Audio power cords, Wireworld USB and HDMI/I2S cables
    Computer - Windows 7/JRiver, Topping D10 DAC, Fostex PMO.4n monitors
  • pretzelfischpretzelfisch Posts: 161
    edited June 2014
    How does other music sound when played through VLC. My guess is that the pc is doing the 5.1 processing and not your AVR
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    Hey, Pretzelfisch! Good to hear from you. Other music (stereo, original recordings) still sounds bad, same as remastered. The stereo to surround processing is not done in real time. Same principle as converting from lets say a WAV file to MP3. One time deal.
    So, it is not the remastering software . Any sound played on the PC sounds the same.
    it isnt as bad as someone would listen and say 'hey, this sounds terrible". they may not even catch the difference for the worst from BD. But I hear it because I spend lot of time with this equipment and music files. the difference is not dramatic, what I am saying.
    What I need to know is if upgrading to a better video/sound card will resolve this problem. that would be ideal. This way I can use the same DMI from the PC to watch mkv files and listen to music playlists, stereo and surround. I would not want to go the DAC route because what I have been hearing is that DAC's differences are overblown, they are purely theoretical. If not, they are the result of the placebo effect (buyers self-hypnosis). Noone will tell the difference between a basic DAC (the one I have in my Elite is slightly better than that) and a $20,000 DAC in a blind test.
    Anybody upgraded their PC video card to improve HDMI quality?
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    Also, as Dragon, mentioned this is probably the PC related issue as other sources (DirectTv and BD) sound much better, and they use the same internal DAC as the PC which sounds bad. Method of elimination!
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • pretzelfischpretzelfisch Posts: 161
    edited June 2014
    do you know what kind of sound card your system has do you have a SPDIF out put. I have never thought highly of sound processed through the video card. I have had my pc hooked up with SPDIF using a creative sound blaster audio chip. both systems have had very good results.
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    "I have never thought highly of sound processed through the video card."

    That is actually a real possibility . I have not though of that! Thank you.
    The video card is an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550ti. Here is the link: www.geforce.com/hardware/desktop-gpus/geforce-gtx-550ti

    Here is what it looks like.

    Boardshot_GeForce_GTX_550_Ti_Bracket_1000x580.png
    nvidia_geforce_gtx_550_ti_02_thumb.jpg


    it has a regular PC monitor (VGA it is called?), HDMI and some other output which I dont know. What is it?

    I just read some reviews and they say it is a mid shelf GAMING card, so audio was not the main concern when they were making it.
    You mentioned you had an audio card added to your PC. So, if I experiment with adding an upper shelf audio card (not sure if I have an empty slot there) it may increase quality of sound?

    Did it increase your sound quality? Which sound blaster card was it? I need to read up on them (sound cards in general, I mean).

    This is very educational, I thank you all, guys!
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    This one looks promising: ASUS Essence STX ($200)

    Help me understand connection options, please. I recognize only stereo analog (red and white). What are the rest? Any of them are 7.1 or at least 5.1? I understand there will be no video, but I need at least 5.1 surround

    Essence STX asus.jpg
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • pretzelfischpretzelfisch Posts: 161
    edited June 2014
    I have creative SupremeFX X-Fi chip in my ASUS Rampage III Gene mother board, I also have a creative live sound card in my media center pc.
    you could look at http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102063&cm_re=creative_labs-_-29-102-063-_-Product
    or http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102048&cm_re=creative_labs-_-29-102-048-_-Product
    honestly I don't know how much better the top end card is from the low end.
  • pretzelfischpretzelfisch Posts: 161
    edited June 2014
    This one looks promising: ASUS Essence STX ($200)

    Help me understand connection options, please. I recognize only stereo analog (red and white). What are the rest? Any of them are 7.1 or at least 5.1? I understand there will be no video, but I need at least 5.1 surround

    Essence STX asus.jpg

    this card left to right
    analog R/L out headphone out, line in, analog SPDIF out
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    this card left to right
    analog R/L out headphone out, line in, analog SPDIF out

    Is SPDIF the surround out? Gotta be because it the only non-stereo jack.
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • dragon1952dragon1952 Posts: 4,685
    edited June 2014
    I would not want to go the DAC route because what I have been hearing is that DAC's differences are overblown, they are purely theoretical. If not, they are the result of the placebo effect (buyers self-hypnosis). Noone will tell the difference between a basic DAC (the one I have in my Elite is slightly better than that) and a $20,000 DAC in a blind test.


    That is not correct. It may be that the DAC chips themselves may not have a whole lot of difference, all other things being equal, but it's the implementation and design of the entire DAC unit that's important, the power supply(s) the analog sections the filters and a million other things besides the chip itself. There used to be a line of thought along the lines your talking about but that was ages ago.
    ____________________________
    2 channel - PS Audio Stellar S300 amp, PS Audio DirectStream DAC, audio optimized NUC7i5 running Windows 10 Pro/JRiver MC24, Matrix X-SPDIF 2 USB interface, Blackbird SSD dock with 500 GB Samsung 860 EVO, Tom Tutay modded EE Minimax preamp, Furman Elite 15 Pfi power conditioner, Martin Logan Electromotion ESL speakers, Rythmik F12SE subwoofer, Kimber 4TC speaker wire, Gabriel Gold Reflection V2 IC's, VH Audio power cords, Wireworld USB and HDMI/I2S cables
    Computer - Windows 7/JRiver, Topping D10 DAC, Fostex PMO.4n monitors
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    dragon1952 wrote: »
    That is not correct. It may be that the DAC chips themselves may not have a whole lot of difference, all other things being equal, but it's the implementation and design of the entire DAC unit that's important, the power supply(s) the analog sections the filters and a million other things besides the chip itself. There used to be a line of thought along the lines your talking about but that was ages ago.

    I understand, but are all these differences AUDIBLE? Better yet, are they clearly distinguishable in a blind audio test? If I had a $100 DAC playing behind a curtain, and next to it a $20K one - will I be able to point out the right one at all times (or statistically close to that)? Lets say the same song plays a hundred times and at least 90 times I will say "yes, this is definitely the more expensive one".
    If not, the difference is not audible and I dont care about it. I understand there are certain improvements and they impress people who know what's what, but I dont want to "know", I want to HEAR!
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • dragon1952dragon1952 Posts: 4,685
    edited June 2014
    Given a resolving enough system, music you are familiar with and a room without any major acoustical problems, absolutely. But that's already been argued to death so allow me to digress.
    ____________________________
    2 channel - PS Audio Stellar S300 amp, PS Audio DirectStream DAC, audio optimized NUC7i5 running Windows 10 Pro/JRiver MC24, Matrix X-SPDIF 2 USB interface, Blackbird SSD dock with 500 GB Samsung 860 EVO, Tom Tutay modded EE Minimax preamp, Furman Elite 15 Pfi power conditioner, Martin Logan Electromotion ESL speakers, Rythmik F12SE subwoofer, Kimber 4TC speaker wire, Gabriel Gold Reflection V2 IC's, VH Audio power cords, Wireworld USB and HDMI/I2S cables
    Computer - Windows 7/JRiver, Topping D10 DAC, Fostex PMO.4n monitors
  • pretzelfischpretzelfisch Posts: 161
    edited June 2014
    Is SPDIF the surround out? Gotta be because it the only non-stereo jack.

    yes that's correct.
  • pretzelfischpretzelfisch Posts: 161
    edited June 2014
    I understand, but are all these differences AUDIBLE? Better yet, are they clearly distinguishable in a blind audio test? If I had a $100 DAC playing behind a curtain, and next to it a $20K one - will I be able to point out the right one at all times (or statistically close to that)? Lets say the same song plays a hundred times and at least 90 times I will say "yes, this is definitely the more expensive one".
    If not, the difference is not audible and I dont care about it. I understand there are certain improvements and they impress people who know what's what, but I dont want to "know", I want to HEAR!
    at about the 100 level I think you are getting to very high diminishing return ratio for anything you would audibly detect.
  • pretzelfischpretzelfisch Posts: 161
    edited June 2014
    does this computer have beats audio on it?
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    dragon1952 wrote: »
    Given a resolving enough system, music you are familiar with and a room without any major acoustical problems, absolutely. But that's already been argued to death so allow me to digress.

    I understand each pair of ears (and that substance between them called the audiophile brain) is different, so are the room acoustics, audio gear components, interconnect/cables and tens of other things. So, I am hoping to go the DAC route one day.
    But at this time - like I said before - since my current DAC plays well with some digital signals, but not others I see no point in replacing it. I better start working on the source that has the problem, the PC with the week audio card.
    PretzelFisch, buddy, can you give 2-3 alternatives as far as those sound cards are concerned. Which one is a bargain but will most likely still sound great. Then which one should you upgrade to from your SoundBlaster? Then which one good , costing between $300-$400 . I will choose one of those. The trouble is I know nothing abut it so I need some pointers.
    Thanks a lot guys for this wealth of information and especially thanks for providing it in such a civil and pleasant manner. If this was an AVS forum we would have probably be throwing stones and insults at each other ;-)
    Respect to those who give respect without asking for it.
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • villianvillian Posts: 412
    edited June 2014
    What are your software settings on the PC? There's MANY things that are easily overlooked and completely change the output of digital audio on a PC. Run something and double check via the AVR what signal it is receiving.
    Too many good quotes to list..waiting for some fresh ammo. :)
  • StantonZStantonZ Posts: 393
    edited June 2014
    It's all about the sound card and HOW it interfaces with your AVR. I have a (really old) laptop connected to my Amp via SPDIF and it sounds GREAT; you have already confirmed the DACs in your AVR aren't the problem.
    As was suggested, try a SPDIF out (either WAV or AC3) may solve your problem.
    Yamaha RX-A2050 AVR (5.0.2)
    (4) Polk Monitor 10B's w/SoniCaps, Mills, and RDO-194 tweets (R/L F/R)
    (2) Polk Monitor 4's w/peerless tweets (Top Middle)
    Polk CS300 center channel
    Analog: B&O TX2 Turntable, Nakamichi Cassette Deck 1
    Digital: Pioneer CLD-99 Elite LD, Panasonic DMP-UB900 UHD Blu-Ray
    LG 65EF9500 4K OLED
  • billbillwbillbillw Posts: 5,819
    edited June 2014
    I think you need to set your PC to bitstream the source. Settings for this vary, but are usually found in the playback software. I went through this recently with building a few HTPCs. When the PC converts to PCM and sends it out via HDMI, it sounds very flat, when I bitstream Dolby Digital/DTS, etc., it sounds great. I'm not sure if VLC has ability to bitstream without adding filters. I use XBMC and it works perfectly once you set the audio outputs correctly and check all the boxes for DTSHD, etc.
    Main 2-ch:
    Sony SS-M9; LSA Statement Amplifier; VPI HW-19 Mk3/Sumiko Premier FT-4/Audio Technica AT15SA; Pass Labs DIY Pearl Phono; Sony SCD-C333ES SACD Changer; TEAC UD-301 DAC; Dell/WYSE 5010 (running Daphile); Sony ST-SA5ES Tuner; Nanotec Golden Strada speaker cables (SR+#79 Shotgun); Audioquest Coral interconnects
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    billbillw wrote: »
    I think you need to set your PC to bitstream the source. Settings for this vary, but are usually found in the playback software. I went through this recently with building a few HTPCs. When the PC converts to PCM and sends it out via HDMI, it sounds very flat, when I bitstream Dolby Digital/DTS, etc., it sounds great. I'm not sure if VLC has ability to bitstream without adding filters. I use XBMC and it works perfectly once you set the audio outputs correctly and check all the boxes for DTSHD, etc.

    Yes, someone told me about this feature, but in Foobar, not VLC. I configured it (a plugin, forgot the name) but it did not make a difference. Thank you, though.
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 16,710
    edited June 2014
    VLAD, its either your graphics card or the software lacks the right plug ins.

    Here is my computer setup:

    Graphics card: Asus 5450
    Software programs I use to playback my music: MediaMonkey (they have a free trial), XBMC (again free).

    I am a BIG fan of AMD video cards. Mine doesnt have lots of power, but I can use HDMI out on it to my AVR with either of those programs with no problem. In my ATI card I just make sure the HDMI Audio is set to out, and the software is responsible for sending the stream correctly over HDMI.

    So try using MediaMonkey or XBMC as both are free. MediaMonkey is more like Windows Media Center and easier to navigate if your on the physical computer. XBMC is more built for video, but works for audio as well. More Picture/Graphic driven rather than a file structure view like MediaMonkey.

    But I would NOT get a dedicated soundcard. I would either look to replace your graphic card or get a external DAC. There is a DAC-it for sale on the forum for 200 bucks that would work better than the dedicated soundcard, but its stereo only so your SOL on what your wanting. You dont have access to the section where its being sold, but if your interested send this forum member (11tsteve) a PM for the info on it.

    Also maybe try uninstalling/re-installing/updating your Nvidia drivers on the chance that fixes things. Otherwise its the software not properly sending out the audio right and thats fixed by using a different program, installing plug-ins/drivers for VLC that make it work right, etc.
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • villianvillian Posts: 412
    edited June 2014
    Yes, someone told me about this feature, but in Foobar, not VLC. I configured it (a plugin, forgot the name) but it did not make a difference. Thank you, though.

    Not sure about VLC because I don't use it and I think it's a totally self contained program, but anything using the audio decoder set by default for all other windows applications can be adjusted in the following way to bitstream DD/DTS/HD audio/etc..

    Lower right volume icon..right mouse click, (With AVR/HDMI plugged in and on) select "Playback devices", Click on HDMI once to highlight it in the resulting popup window then in the lower left corner of that window select "Configure". Go through those steps to turn on bitstreaming of whatever the AVR will support. I've had to do this on numerous HTPC's as well. If you've installed a codec pack or FFDSHOW you'll have to likely adjust the audio output tab in those programs to set it to output bitstream audio. Hope that helps somewhat!
    Too many good quotes to list..waiting for some fresh ammo. :)
  • grigorianvladgrigorianvlad Posts: 67
    edited June 2014
    I have been playing with Windows audio settings and Foobar and VLC audio output settings.
    Here is what is interesting.
    Foobar has this WASAPI thing you guys mentioned. When I change output bit to 24bit the sound gets worse. Windows driver for the AVR also has these choices, from 16bit, 44kHz (CD Quality) to 24bit 192kHz (Studio Quality).
    I expected Studio Quality to sound better, but no - the best sound I can get from this PC in Pioneer Elite AVR is the second worse - DVD quality. If I chose a higher setting the sound gets quieter , flatter.
    So, keeping in mind what WASAPI warning says:
    "... using bit depth - and KHz resolution probably - above your hardware capabilities will only result in degraded performance".
    Which hardware? The video card? The interface (HDMI out)? Some other other component?

    cardsettings2.png


    cardsettings1.png


    What do I need to upgrade in the PC to make it support 24bit 192kHz. it looks like currently DVD quality is the best it can do.
    Do or do not. There is no try. (Yoda)
  • dudeinaroomdudeinaroom Posts: 3,625
    edited June 2014
    What is your volume setting on your PC? ON some setups, having your volume set at anything less than 100% can compress the stream. Also does your mother board have a built in audio card? If it does there is a good chance it has an spdif connection on it. It would be either an orange colored rca jack, or an optical toslink connection. You could try one of these connections directly to your avr, but might have to enable it in your pc's sound settings, these will not show up as your avr. The same could be done with a dedicated sound card.
    TV speakers
  • disneyjoe7disneyjoe7 Posts: 11,520
    edited June 2014
    Not sure if someone here posted this but, like to rule out some issues before I buy something. Did you try to play a dvd from the computer to see if sound is flat? If ok there then a setup issue.

    Speakers
    Carver Amazing Fronts
    CS400i Center
    RT800i's Rears
    Sub Paradigm Servo 15

    Electronics
    Conrad Johnson PV-5 pre-amp
    Parasound Halo A23
    Pioneer 84TXSi AVR
    Pioneer 79Avi DVD
    Sony CX400 CD changer
    Panasonic 42-PX60U Plasma
    WMC Win7 32bit HD DVR


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