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What is *your* personal recommendation on a sound card for a HTPC? (1 Viewer)

Chris Bozeman

Mar 27, 2004
Recently I've built a new computer and have pretty much pulled out all the stops in building it. Below you'll find a full specification, but for now I'd like to discuss something I've been wondering about:

Right now the machine is using onboard audio which has an optical connection that feeds into my Sony receiver, an STR K850P, and I'm using the speakers that were packaged with the receiver and the 5-disc changer (it was a home theater bundle, HTD6600P or something like that). I'm also using Zoom Player Professional for DVD playback on the PC along with Nvidia's DVD Decoder Gold software on a GeForce 6600 and using beta drivers, which provides playback using Nvidia's PureVideo; this allows me to have fairly impressive video processing without a lot of work, but moreover, I get Dolby Digital 5.1ch and DTS 5.1 sound output fed straight into the receiver via the optical S/PDIF connection from the PC.

Now my only concern is that I might not be getting as good a sound quality as I would like due to the fact I'm using the onboard audio codec (Realtec AC97). I was looking at the SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum, Platinum Pro, and the Audigy 4 Pro. If there are better cards for DVD playback (with gaming as a secondary concern), could someone please recommend them? Also if it is commonly believed that the Audigy series are the best for HTPCs, then which one should I choose, and why?

As promised, here are the full system's specifications:

Dell UltraSharp 2005FPW 20" Widescreen LCD (1680 x 1050 resolution)
CoolerMaster CM Stacker Case
OCZ Powerstream 600, 600 watt power supply
ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 3500+ Processor
2048 MB Kingston HyperX DDR400 memory (in 512 x 4 chip configuration)
ASUS Extreme N6600 256 MB PCI Express video card (based on Nvidia GeForce 6x00 series)
Western Digital Raptor 74 GB SATA 10,000 rpm hard disks x 2 in RAID 0 array using NVRaid controller (138 GB total storage)
NEC ND-3520A 16X DVD-R/RW/DL DVD writer
Sony 3.5" Floppy Disk Drive
Logitech MX 1000 Laser Mouse
Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro

Scott L

Senior HTF Member
Feb 29, 2000
For movies I don't think you'll hear much of a difference but music is another story.

This card is creating some buzz in the HTPC crowd but my personal best buy is an Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1.

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