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Trying To Set Up 5.1 Surround Sound

#1 User is offline   ShenziSixaxis 

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 09:15 AM

I have no idea if this is the right spot in the forum to put this, but then again I'm pretty much a "I have no idea what I am doing" thing.

So basically, I got myself a new laptop a while back that supports up to 7.1 surround sound, a customized Sager NP9170, and just last week I finally got around to getting a 5.1 headset, a Sharkoon X-Tatic Pro. Been using the headset with my PS3 via optical since I got it since all my AC games are for it, but now I'm getting into the mood for some Skyrim again, which I now play on PC. This is where things get interesting.

My laptop has four 3.5mm jacks on the side: headphones, mic-in, S/PDIF, and a fourth one that I'm not sure about. First off, I cannot for the life of me figure out what the hell this S/PDIF thing is. From what I can tell from hours of wasted googling, it's basically any digital output format. That... doesn't help me.

I noticed on my PS3 that when turned on, the optical out port has a nice red light in it. The S/PDIF port on my laptop has the same light, but it's round in shape like a headphone jack. I've looked on the HDTV we have as well and it has a "Digital Audio Output (Optical)" jack that is also rounded out, though not lit up (perhaps because it's not chosen to be used). The reason I note this is because it's confused me to all hell about what optical is and even more on the S/PDIF thing.

SO BASICALLY I'd like to use the X-Tatic Pro with my laptop but I don't even know what cables and adapters I may or may not need and I figure I'll get better help here than through more aimless googling.
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#2 User is offline   waldojim 

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 12:00 PM

Ok, you are apparently being introduced (crudely) to the world of competing standards. There are two major connectors for both TOSLINK and SPDIF. There is a round connection, and square connection. I don't know of any adapters for this issue, but you should be able to find cables that will help. The interface problem is quite secondary, though, to the larger issue. You very likely won't have surround sound from your games over that interface.

This is where the industry cleverly sells products with a feature set, then fail to mention that a key, and necessary bit is missing - "Dolby Digital Live Encoding". Of the sound cards on the market, only the very highest end products include DD Live encoding. Most Creative cards do NOT include it, most laptop cards do NOT include it, and even a solid portion of the Asus Xonar lineup do NOT include it. End result here, is that most games won't actually play in surround sound over the digital interface. Only games with a built in DD encoder would manage it.

the best chance for actual 5.1 audio, will be from the headphone jacks. Analog surround sound works every time.
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#3 User is offline   ShenziSixaxis 

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 01:10 PM

I await the day that there are not so many connectors for things.

But anyway, I do recall finding a cable on Amazon that had both TOSlink things, one end square and the other resembling a normal stereo jack. I think that may work for me with my laptop. Either way I'll be picking up one or two since that's what the TV uses and hey, can never have too many cords. ( this )

With the Dolby Digital Live Encoding thing, it looks like I might be able to just pay a few bucks to get some software that'll take care of that if I end up needing it. I'll have to figure that out later on.

BUT, if the TOSlink cable I noted above doesn't work for me, what about external sound cards or USB adapters (such as this)?
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#4 User is offline   LiveBrianD 

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 01:25 PM

Nope, that's TOSLINK on one end, and the other end is for systems that happen to put out an optical toslink signal via the 3.5mm audio jack as well. (like macbooks)
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#5 User is offline   waldojim 

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 02:11 PM

View PostShenziSixaxis, on 27 December 2012 - 01:10 PM, said:

I await the day that there are not so many connectors for things.

But anyway, I do recall finding a cable on Amazon that had both TOSlink things, one end square and the other resembling a normal stereo jack. I think that may work for me with my laptop. Either way I'll be picking up one or two since that's what the TV uses and hey, can never have too many cords. ( this )

With the Dolby Digital Live Encoding thing, it looks like I might be able to just pay a few bucks to get some software that'll take care of that if I end up needing it. I'll have to figure that out later on.

BUT, if the TOSlink cable I noted above doesn't work for me, what about external sound cards or USB adapters (such as this)?

That might work depending on the sound card. The main one that I know of, is from Creative, and it only works on specific models of their cards. That cable you found should work.

For external audio with Dolby Digital Live, 5.1 support, etc, look for something like this Creative product: http://www.amazon.co...eywords=usb+5.1
"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'" -- Isaac Asimov

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#6 User is offline   ShenziSixaxis 

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 10:05 PM

I think what I'll do no matter what is go ahead and buy that external card you linked to. In a lot of my googling, that was recommended to people looking to do something like what I'm trying to do.

View PostLiveBrianD, on 27 December 2012 - 01:25 PM, said:

Nope, that's TOSLINK on one end, and the other end is for systems that happen to put out an optical toslink signal via the 3.5mm audio jack as well. (like macbooks)


Okay so it IS what I thought it was. Any idea if I could use it alone for 5.1? I'm not entirely sure on that myself since the booklet that came with my laptop only suggests how to output 5.1/7.1 via analogue... but then why include some sort of TOSlink output?
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#7 User is offline   waldojim 

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 11:50 PM

View PostShenziSixaxis, on 28 December 2012 - 10:05 PM, said:

I think what I'll do no matter what is go ahead and buy that external card you linked to. In a lot of my googling, that was recommended to people looking to do something like what I'm trying to do.

View PostLiveBrianD, on 27 December 2012 - 01:25 PM, said:

Nope, that's TOSLINK on one end, and the other end is for systems that happen to put out an optical toslink signal via the 3.5mm audio jack as well. (like macbooks)


Okay so it IS what I thought it was. Any idea if I could use it alone for 5.1? I'm not entirely sure on that myself since the booklet that came with my laptop only suggests how to output 5.1/7.1 via analogue... but then why include some sort of TOSlink output?

For 2 reasons.
1. Because DVD/Blu-ray content is already compressed, and is already capable of being sent over fiber.
2. Because you can send fully uncompressed stereo audio through it, and thus allow you to use external DACs for added quality.
"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'" -- Isaac Asimov

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#8 User is offline   smax013 

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 10:53 PM

View Postwaldojim, on 27 December 2012 - 12:00 PM, said:

Ok, you are apparently being introduced (crudely) to the world of competing standards. There are two major connectors for both TOSLINK and SPDIF. There is a round connection, and square connection. I don't know of any adapters for this issue, but you should be able to find cables that will help.


Here what an adapter looks like:

Posted Image

At least one of my digital optical audio cables came with a similar adapter.

Since it is an optical (i.e. "laser" light) signal, it is just a physical adapter that changes the end physical connectors, but still allows the light to pass through.

I need such an adapter for use with my Macs (the headphone jack also doubles as an optical out port on Macs).
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#9 User is offline   smax013 

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 10:58 PM

View Postwaldojim, on 27 December 2012 - 12:00 PM, said:

This is where the industry cleverly sells products with a feature set, then fail to mention that a key, and necessary bit is missing - "Dolby Digital Live Encoding". Of the sound cards on the market, only the very highest end products include DD Live encoding. Most Creative cards do NOT include it, most laptop cards do NOT include it, and even a solid portion of the Asus Xonar lineup do NOT include it. End result here, is that most games won't actually play in surround sound over the digital interface. Only games with a built in DD encoder would manage it.

the best chance for actual 5.1 audio, will be from the headphone jacks. Analog surround sound works every time.


FWIW, that headphone that the original poster mentioned has a Sound Control Unit. I don't know if that will change the situation or not...I just don't know enough to really comment.

http://www.amazon.co...0/dp/B009YBWXHY
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#10 User is offline   waldojim 

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 01:21 AM

Seeing as it supports analog in, I would just go that route and be done with it.

For the sake of asking, how does that set work? I have been looking for a more universal headset for my xbox and PC... also, can you use the mic with it for game chat?

This post has been edited by waldojim: 31 December 2012 - 01:21 AM

"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'" -- Isaac Asimov

Steam Machine: MSI 970A-G46, AMD Phenom 955 @ 4.0Ghz, 8GB Gskill ram @1600mhz, 128GB Plextor M5s, EVGA GTX 550Ti
Laptop: Alienware 14, Intel i7-4700MQ, 8GB DDR3 ram, Nvidia GTX 765M 4GB DDR5, Plextor M3 256GB SSD, 1080P IPS display, Killer GigE, Killer 1202 wifi
Hackintosh: Gigabyte H61m-HD2, Celeron G1610, 4GB Patriot ram @1333Mhz, Asus GT210, WD 1TB Black, Silverstone ES50 500watt PSU, OS-X Mountain Liion
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