recommendations for higher end video and audio cards for pc?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Tony Loewen, Nov 22, 2003.

  1. Tony Loewen

    Tony Loewen Stunt Coordinator

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    Good afternoon and a cheery hello!

    I'm pretty new to the forum here, and to HT in general. I do, however, have a pretty strong tech background and tons of ambition. I've always been pretty strong on the audio end, and just jumping into the whole theater concept now.

    First, a little background. I'm am electrical tech for hydro up here in Manitoba. I have just accepted a permanent job way up north in Gillam (look it up on a map sometime, and you will see why I might want to set up one killer home theater.... it is about 3 or 4 hundred miles from anywhere worth going, barring wilderness, which I happen to love). I've just started ripping my collection of DVD's and CD's to my computer for ease and convenience, and we are using the video out on my GeForce2 MX 400 card with *satisfactory* results, but we can always do better. Right now I just have an SB Live! sound card, and we can definitely do better than that. I am ripping the DVD's to high bitrate divx with ac3, plus I still watch DVD's on the computer's drive, and want to take full advantage of everything I can. I figured I've spent well over $4000 on this computer I'm sitting at, so I want to start using it as the supercomputer it is supposed to be.

    It's a pentium 4 2.00 GHz with 768 MB ram and plenty of storage (240 GB at the moment, I hope to invest in a RAID soon). The only problems is the piddily 64MB video card with s-video out, and the severely limited SB Live! sound card. When we finally do make the trip up to Gillam, we will have much much more disposable income, as it's pretty much unlimited overtime, and I would like to come home and kick back and relax in my personal theater, maybe have some friends over and watch some movies or satellite and have a couple of drinks at the bar, so I want a really killer setup.

    We will be investing in either a dlp or lcd projector, and I am already scoping some of these out. Also, we will be getting a fairly high end dolby receiver (haven't looked too much into this yet). So here's my question to you guys out there. What would be some of my better options for interfaces between the computer and the video/audio devices? Dolby 5.1 is, of course, a bare minimum as far as sound goes, with my sights set on perhaps THX 7.1 or near equivalent. As far as video goes, I would like something near the best there is. Anyone out there have a similar set-up, or any advice on what I should be looking at? Just for fun, we can say there is no real upper end as far as price goes, unless we get too too ridiculous, but I can always have something to shoot for, I guess...

    Thanks alot in advance, and I hope you guys out there can help me do this thing up right!
     
  2. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer
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    I would look at Pny Video cards and use Sound Blaster Audigy 2 card 6.1 surround (DD-EX & DTS-ES). The Pny cards IMHO are one of the best out there and the video quality is awsum. Hope this helps ?
     
  3. Tony Loewen

    Tony Loewen Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for your help, Dave. I will be checking into each.
     
  4. AdrianC

    AdrianC Auditioning

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    If you want a really powerful video card and audio card, get an ATI Radeon All-In-Wonder 9700 or 9800 for video and a Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro. The two together should run about $600 with the 9800, or $480 with the 9700. The difference between 9800 and 9700 is pure speed. If you don't need the extra speed, get the 9700.
     
  5. Joe Hsu

    Joe Hsu Supporting Actor

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    For HT purposes, I would look at ATi's line of cards, whether it be AIW or not (depends on if you need/want the tuner). For audio purposes, I would do some searching and researching on the M-Audio Revolution 7.1. Many people use this for an audio card, and some have even modded it to make it better. For HT, you don't need a huge breakout box, since most likely you'll just be utilizing the digital output.

    Congrats on the job, and good luck building the system!
     
  6. Tony Loewen

    Tony Loewen Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks guys, I've been looking at the ATI cards as well. The AIW seems to be a little above the PNY/nVidia cards in performance, and also in price. I do, however, want the performance. A guy at work here was talking about a 7.1 card he had got from Robotniks Canada for around $200 I think. He was supposed to be sending me some info on it.

    Anyways, I'll keep ya posted on the system as it grows. If any of you like fishing or hunting, Gillam's a hell of a place to visit!

    Cheers, and thanks again.
    Tony
     
  7. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer
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    You didnt let us know where Gillam's was located [​IMG]
     
  8. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    I second the Creative Labs Soundblaster Audigy Platinum.

    Moving to HTPC/computer area
     
  9. Gordon Moore

    Gordon Moore Second Unit

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    Hey Tony,

    Gillam eh, walk 50 paces and you've crossed the whole length of the main drag [​IMG].

    You can order M-Audio products from designer graphics in Winnipeg (if you're shopping local)

    designer graphics


    Other local suppliers:
    Also, computer boulevard:

    Computer Boulevard

    lesser known but really competative:
    Itech Systems

    And my fav (these guys are awesome):

    mlhsystems

    Get a PYN or ATI (non AIW) card and then throw a tuner card like this in your system and you should be good to go
     
  10. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    If you want to save a few bucks, you can get an ATI Radeon 9600 Pro instead of the 9800 Pro. The 9600 Pro has become the latest "best bang for the buck" video card on the market.
     
  11. Tony Loewen

    Tony Loewen Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello again guys,

    Thanks for all the input. I've been checking out the M-Audio card today, it looks like it's pretty good. I still have to check out the Audigy Platinum.

    Hey, while I'm at it with the cards, in your guys' opinions, what would be the best way to get the sound from the computer into my head? What I mean is, with any card that supports the dolby 7.1, do I then have to go out and invest in a Dolby 7.1 receiver, or can I run the SPDIF into any multichannel receiver and get the surround? I apologize, I'm just starting out with this. I don't want to have to go into an electronics store and have to deal with some guy on commission that will try to screw me seven ways from Sunday if I don't know what I'm talking about.

    As far as I'm aware, the card, coupled with the software and the CPU's processor will do the decoding for me, so would I have to drop alot of money on a receiver that has a 7.1 decoder built into it? If not, what would some of your recommendations be into a receiver (or combination of receivers) that would get the job done for me? Would it be a pretty shoddy idea to just amp the individual channels off the back of the card? I hope I've explained this right and don't look like too much of a newbie [​IMG]

    Dave: about Gillam, if you can track down a Manitoba map, it's about 130 miles east of Thompson on the only road up there. Thompson is pretty much 130 miles north of the uppermost part of Lake Winnipeg. After that, its about another 160 miles by rail to Churchill, Polar Bear Capital of Manitoba, right on Hudson's Bay. As the crow flies, it's probably 460 miles at a bearing of 12 degrees True (just east of north) from Winnipeg. It's way the hell up there!! Outdoorsmans paradise.

    Gordon: I was trying to go to that Designer Graphics place, but it just comes up with a page that says that they are not taking orders at this time. I think I'll check back in, though. As long as they can get a competative price, I would rather support local business. Funny, eh? I'm considering 460 miles by air "local".

    Thanks again guys! BTW, this forum is one of the best things I've ever stumbled across!
     
  12. Dave Moritz

    Dave Moritz Producer
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    You can go one of two ways. You can use a really good pc card and pc speakers to go with it. This is if you are only building a ht system built around your pc and you will basically be the only one watching movies for the most part. The other route would entail getting a sound card that is compatible with DD and DTS. That will pass a DD and DTS data via the digital output to a reciever that will do all your decoding. You can then decide what level of speakers you want to go with the reciever. This in my opinion is much better and more flexible than using powered pc speakers. You would be able to also hook up sacd, d-vhs and other sources to your reciever. home speakers are also of much better quality and reproduce sound much better than speakers made for pc's. But basically by using the reciever for your pc, home speakers and a subwoofer. You will have a pc on steroids or what you can call an audio terminator (Austa Lavista Baby) [​IMG]

    I have heard good things about the ATI cards but perfer the Pny cards. To my knowledge the Pny cards have a better frame rate than the ATI and a slightly better video quality. I am not saying the ATI does not perform well or that the video is not impressive. If ATI has improved there cards over Pny and improved there driver support. Then I to would consider ATI when I am ready for a new card.

    Let us know how it goes and how your project turns out ?
     
  13. Tekara

    Tekara Supporting Actor

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    hmm. . . okay, so PNY makes there cards with nVidia Geforce chips, differing models use differing chips. and Geforce cards are easily outperformed by ATI's offerings, especially when image quality is pulled into the picture. what i mean by that is that nVidia has been sacrificing the picture quality of their video cards so that they will pull higher frames per second. I cannot currently reccomend any Geforce card, especially PNY's.

    I will however reccomend the ATI radeon line, currently ATI's cards are the top performers and the image quality is superb. the 9800AIW would be perfect for a home theater if money is not of major concern.

    and for pc audio I will always reccomend using home theater speakers. even a cheaper home tehater in a box would sound better then a "PC speaker" set of the same price. I would reccomend using a digital connection between the computer and a reciever.
     
  14. Tony Loewen

    Tony Loewen Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey Dave, thanks again, bud.

    You had mentioned the audigy 2 card before, that is DD and DTS enabled and would suit my intended set-up well?

    About video, I had kinda heard the same sort of thing that Rob is talking about. That is to say that the nVidias are more "gamer" cards where cpu load is a bigger deal, and that the image quality of ATI is better, but it hogs more resources. I could, of course, be wrong on that.

    With my audio set-up, yes, it is definitely going to be a full room theater with a lcd or dlp projector, in a sound-deadened(sp?) room, so I do want killer audio. I am just kinda looking at price comparisons, and what I was wondering if it would be cheaper to get a higher-end dobly 6.1 or 7.1 receiver and run it off the digital output (about $4000 for the 7.1 THX receiver I was looking at, hitachi maybe?), or to get a few (3 or 4) straight amps and run one for each the front right and left, middle right and left, back right and left, center and sub, and run these off the small jacks off the back of sound card. If the difference wouldn't be much, or the sound quality would suffer greatly, then I would rather deal with one remote for audio instead of 3 or 4 [​IMG]

    My original plan, and the one I'm still leaning towards, is to use the PC as a glorified video and audio source, and process the signals externally.

    Still waiting to hear my transfer date, if anyone out there has experience with union jobs, you can probably understand the hassles and hold-ups. I can't get started on the set-up until I move and start making the bigger coin, so I'm getting a bit impatient. But at least I'm getting some really good input!

    Thanks for the help everyone, and I'll keep everyone posted as I go. I'm really hoping to have one hell of an entertainment center after everything is said and done!

    Tony
     
  15. Gordon Moore

    Gordon Moore Second Unit

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    I think the more flexible route with audio is to get a quality pre-amp/amp combo and just use the spdif to pass the digtal signal along. (less cable hassle as well [​IMG] ). Then sky's the limit as to which sound card strikes your fancy.

    If the PC is going to be your hub...have you thought about cases, cooling, motherboards, etc...?

    MLH sells the Dvine (htpc) series of cases from Ahanix

    http://mlhsystems.ca/momex/NavCode/Hardware/ID/Cases

    which fit nicely next to any other piece of audio/video equipment.

    Don't rule out on-board audio. Nvida Nforce/2/3 boards allow real-time 5.1 encoding (like the x-box does)as well as providing a spdif (this provides some interesting applications for gaming).

    Are you looking at Intel, AMD (Barton, Opteron )?
     

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