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Optimal sound card/audio setup w Z-5500 Logitech sound system


Storm-Chaser
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Go to solution Solved by pioneerisloud,

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This is arguably one of the of Logitech's best sound systems. Very powerful. Figured if I'm going this route I might as well do this right. Since the audio out port on my motherboard is dead I was thinking of getting a sound card so I can take full advantage of sound quality and clarity. 

 

I was thinking PCI-e sound card and optical configuration for dolby digital? I'm not very well versed on good audio setups so any advice here is great.

 

I have a full length PCIe slot and two half length ones open.

 

image.thumb.png.ddee4ded0e2e553101b9003df6ef4b84.png

 

Digital inputs on back of z5500 control panel:

 

image.png.3a6f068344250d6f66d0f17f4d8c33b5.png

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9 minutes ago, Storm-Chaser said:

This is arguably one of the of Logitech's best sound systems. Very powerful. Figured if I'm going this route I might as well do this right. Since the audio out port on my motherboard is dead I was thinking of getting a sound card so I can take full advantage of sound quality and clarity. 

 

I was thinking PCI-e sound card and optical configuration for dolby digital? I'm not very well versed on good audio setups so any advice here is great.

 

I have a full length PCIe slot and two half length ones open.

 

image.thumb.png.ddee4ded0e2e553101b9003df6ef4b84.png

 

Digital inputs on back of z5500 control panel:

 

image.png.3a6f068344250d6f66d0f17f4d8c33b5.png

Stoked for you! I have the z906 5.1 and it thumps. 

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If you are doing digital out from the card, you will be relying on the D/A built into the Logitech. With that, make sure your focus is on that aspect. You don't want to pay a fortune for a card skewed to it's analog output since you would be throwing away money for something you won't be using.

 

That said.....I have no idea what to suggest. I have always been more focused on the analog capabilities in my looks at sound cards.

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Skip the sound card

 

 

The Fulla is the cheaper model. 

 

1/8 to triple RCA cables should work. 

 

Sound cards are generally overpriced for what you get, if you really want or require onboard sound then next time plan ahead if possible and use the money you would spend on the sound card on a better MB with better onboard sound. Still you can't beat going with a USB DAC. 

If you need soundsound then software should be good enough for that

Edited by Outsider
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6 minutes ago, Outsider said:

Skip the sound card

 

 

The Fulla is the cheaper model. 

 

1/8 to triple RCA cables should work. 

 

Sound cards are generally overpriced for what you get, if you really want or require onboard sound then next time plan ahead if possible and use the money you would spend on the sound card on a better MB with better onboard sound. Still you can't beat going with a USB DAC. 

If you need soundsound then software should be good enough for that

 

I've been shopping for a new audio solution lately to replace my SMSL Q5 Pro amp since it's not all that great. My research and feature shopping has led me to currently favoring a Schiit Modius DAC and an SMSL SA300 amp. Schiit wasn't even on my radar last week, but they seem to be adapting rapidly and making better audio equipment with each successive new product release. Schiit gear also doesn't look like * (quite the opposite actually), which is a big plus considering an ugly piece of kit is a nonstarter for me regardless of how well it performs.

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27 minutes ago, Outsider said:

The Fulla is the cheaper model. 

And it's literally Schiit...😎

TDM

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27 minutes ago, Outsider said:

Skip the sound card

 

 

The Fulla is the cheaper model. 

 

1/8 to triple RCA cables should work. 

 

Sound cards are generally overpriced for what you get, if you really want or require onboard sound then next time plan ahead if possible and use the money you would spend on the sound card on a better MB with better onboard sound. Still you can't beat going with a USB DAC. 

If you need soundsound then software should be good enough for that

Such an unfortunate name for a company lol. The Sound blaster AE5 is not a bad choice for the money in my opinion. 

 

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1 minute ago, ENTERPRISE said:

Such an unfortunate name for a company lol. The Sound blaster AE5 is not a bad choice for the money in my opinion. 

 

🤣 They're an American company. They knew what they were doing.

 

WWW.SCHIIT.COM

 

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28 minutes ago, Snakecharmed said:

🤣 They're an American company. They knew what they were doing.

 

WWW.SCHIIT.COM

 

Really ? Made the assumption it was an unfortunate German to English thing haha.

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As others have stated, you really can't go wrong going digital.  A digital signal is a digital signal afterall.  Schiit products are absolutely fantastic, SMSL makes some great stuff too.  A DAC absolutely would work as that's what you'd be using the sound card for.  Sound cards CAN be nice themselves, it really depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

 

I've noticed on my setup, when I use pure digital outs to my SMSL, it sounds great.  I've noticed however too, that if I use my Xonar DG (old PCI card), that it really colors the sound and brightens everything up very nicely, and makes my speakers not sound quite so boring anymore.  However, that's not how its "supposed" to sound either.  I've noticed with my Creative X-Fi Xtreme Music that it colors the sound in a different way, really brings out the midrange of my speakers, and it adds in some fake surround effects on its own by default.  So, just from my own personal experience, the sound card of choice will also color your sound to a certain degree as well.

So, to properly answer your question, there really is no proper answer.  Digital audio is digital audio and you won't get much better than that.  However using analogue inputs WILL sound different, and it might actually be easier for games and other applications to use all 6 channels you have there if you use a sound card.  Personally, if I was going for a sound card again in a modern rig, I'd buy a Xonar of some flavor.  I really REALLY like my Xonar DG, like a lot, even though I normally use all digital.

Xonar sound cards DO offer you proper crossover controls using the analogue outputs, so you'd use "6ch direct" mode on the back of the speakers and run the 3.5mm analogue cables to it.  I'm not sure about other cards, my Creative cards don't seem to come with crossover options or functional EQ's.  I thought that was a pretty nice feature on the Xonar, and proper crossovers could allow you to fine tune that z5500 set to sound even better.

Edited by pioneerisloud
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1 hour ago, pioneerisloud said:

 Xonar DG (old PCI card)

I LOVED MY DG!

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4 minutes ago, Cerberus said:

I LOVED MY DG!

Dude, just because I have extra old junk from my little projects, I've decided to build a whole second Socket 939 rig just for music with my Xonar DG in it.  :lachen:  That's how much I loved the sound from the Xonar.

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1 hour ago, pioneerisloud said:

Dude, just because I have extra old junk from my little projects, I've decided to build a whole second Socket 939 rig just for music with my Xonar DG in it.  :lachen:  That's how much I loved the sound from the Xonar.

 

makes me wanna rebuild my first gaming pc, 754 sempron 2800+, 256mbx2 ddr, 7600GS in SLI, Xonar DG

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@Storm-Chaser if you're actually wanting a sound card, the Xonar DX, DSX, or Essence would all be fantastic options for an actual sound card (PCIe).  Looks like on ebay anyway, the Essence is about $95, DSX is about $70, and the DX is about $30.  The DSX and DX are both a little bit older but should still function fantastically.  The Essence I believe is a little bit newer?  You really can't go wrong with a Xonar sound card.  You'll have to compare the differences yourself, but for JUST getting good sound out of 5.1 channels, even the cheaper DX will do a great job.  It's more a matter of extra features from what I've noticed.

If you're looking for an external DAC, Schiit and SMSL both make really good DAC's.  I'm happy with my SMSL AD18 but its also got a speaker amp in it too though, and headphones amp.  You don't really need the speaker amp part of that, so I couldn't recommend it for your setup.  But they do make other DAC's that would work with digital or analogue outputs.  The thing that a DAC would have over a sound card in this instance would be a headphones amp in a lot of them.  That really would be a useful addition if you use cans regularly.  Sound cards SOMETIMES have a headphones amp, but if you want better you still have to buy a new sound card or an external DAC anyway.

You can of course use both a sound card and a DAC.  Sound card IS a DAC on its own since DAC = digital to analogue converter, but usually external DAC's have better amps built in for headphones (and / or speakers).  Knowing ONLY about your z5500 set, I'd say sound card (Xonar is my favorite obviously here).  However if you DO use headphones regularly, an external DAC / amp with digital outputs (to hook the speakers up) might be a better option.  I do think a Xonar would help the speakers more though.  So really, it depends on your usages.  You CAN also just hook those z5500's up via optical or coax digital off the onboard audio and get the same sound as you would a DAC since the z5500's become the DAC using a digital input to them.  So you CAN just run a coax or optical cable to the z5500's and get "best sound".  A sound card would simply offer more customization to the sound since the sound card would be what's converting the signal to analogue.

 

TLDR:
Sound card = analogue outputs (since onboard has digital already you wouldn't use SC's digital outs).  Can color the sound (good thing).

DAC = Digital out from PC, usually has headphones amps, can output 5.1 analogue out on some.  Probably will not color the sound much.

 

Sound card gets my vote since the speakers themselves COULD use a tad bit of coloring / EQ'ing which a DAC will not do for you.  Or you can just run them digitally and see how they sound as is.  If they're underwhelming THEN add a sound card.  If you want headphones amping for game sessions, go for a DAC with a headphones amp built in....you'd still want to use digital to the speakers so the speakers will sound the same.  Sorry for long post 🙂

Edited by pioneerisloud
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23 hours ago, pioneerisloud said:

@Storm-Chaser if you're actually wanting a sound card, the Xonar DX, DSX, or Essence would all be fantastic options for an actual sound card (PCIe).  Looks like on ebay anyway, the Essence is about $95, DSX is about $70, and the DX is about $30.  The DSX and DX are both a little bit older but should still function fantastically.  The Essence I believe is a little bit newer?  You really can't go wrong with a Xonar sound card.  You'll have to compare the differences yourself, but for JUST getting good sound out of 5.1 channels, even the cheaper DX will do a great job.  It's more a matter of extra features from what I've noticed.

If you're looking for an external DAC, Schiit and SMSL both make really good DAC's.  I'm happy with my SMSL AD18 but its also got a speaker amp in it too though, and headphones amp.  You don't really need the speaker amp part of that, so I couldn't recommend it for your setup.  But they do make other DAC's that would work with digital or analogue outputs.  The thing that a DAC would have over a sound card in this instance would be a headphones amp in a lot of them.  That really would be a useful addition if you use cans regularly.  Sound cards SOMETIMES have a headphones amp, but if you want better you still have to buy a new sound card or an external DAC anyway.

You can of course use both a sound card and a DAC.  Sound card IS a DAC on its own since DAC = digital to analogue converter, but usually external DAC's have better amps built in for headphones (and / or speakers).  Knowing ONLY about your z5500 set, I'd say sound card (Xonar is my favorite obviously here).  However if you DO use headphones regularly, an external DAC / amp with digital outputs (to hook the speakers up) might be a better option.  I do think a Xonar would help the speakers more though.  So really, it depends on your usages.  You CAN also just hook those z5500's up via optical or coax digital off the onboard audio and get the same sound as you would a DAC since the z5500's become the DAC using a digital input to them.  So you CAN just run a coax or optical cable to the z5500's and get "best sound".  A sound card would simply offer more customization to the sound since the sound card would be what's converting the signal to analogue.

 

TLDR:
Sound card = analogue outputs (since onboard has digital already you wouldn't use SC's digital outs).  Can color the sound (good thing).

DAC = Digital out from PC, usually has headphones amps, can output 5.1 analogue out on some.  Probably will not color the sound much.

 

Sound card gets my vote since the speakers themselves COULD use a tad bit of coloring / EQ'ing which a DAC will not do for you.  Or you can just run them digitally and see how they sound as is.  If they're underwhelming THEN add a sound card.  If you want headphones amping for game sessions, go for a DAC with a headphones amp built in....you'd still want to use digital to the speakers so the speakers will sound the same.  Sorry for long post 🙂

 

A few corrections. Running a sound card and a DAC only is pointless unless you want the software for the soundcard as you can only use one DAC. A soundcard is just a internal DAC/AMP and headphone amp. An external one is just that, external, though by going external you can break up the DAC/AMP/HPA parts. Since the z5500 are powered they don't need an AMP they just need software to convert the signal to 5.1. 

 

 

 

Using an external one like the Schiit Hel is a DAC/AMP/HPA that connects via USB. It's safe to assume it has a better DAC then most mid or lower tier MB's, and 100% to have a better headphone amp. As I said if you want to run 5.1 you just use software to do it, will be no different then a soundcard or how a home theatre receiver does it. It just takes up space. 

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Outsider said:

 

A few corrections. Running a sound card and a DAC only is pointless unless you want the software for the soundcard as you can only use one DAC. A soundcard is just a internal DAC/AMP and headphone amp. An external one is just that external though by going external you can break up the DAC/AMP/HPA parts. Since the z5500 are powered they don't need an AMP they just need software to convert the signal to 5.1. 

 

 

 

Using an external one like the Schiit Hel is a DAC/AMP/HPA that connects via USB. It's safe to assume it has a better DAC then most mid or lower tier MB's, and 100% to have a better headphone amp. As I said if you want to run 5.1 you just use software to do it, will be no different then a soundcard or how a home theatre receiver does it.

 

 

Correct, I kinda went off trying to over explain earlier. 🤦‍♂️

Thing is though, if he's going to use digital outputs, why use a DAC at all?  Just use the z5500 DAC built in by running optical or coax to it.  I'm sure the z5500 DAC is better than onboard audio at least.  But yes, you're right still, that an external DAC would benefit headphones usage too and it MIGHT be better than the z5500 built in DAC, I haven't used a z5500 set in years so I forget.  However a sound card "could" be more useful for the speakers as it would be more capable of coloring the sound through EQ'ing and crossovers (sound card driver software).  Most external DAC's just pass straight sound through without coloring.  That's all I was getting at above.

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29 minutes ago, pioneerisloud said:

Correct, I kinda went off trying to over explain earlier. 🤦‍♂️

Thing is though, if he's going to use digital outputs, why use a DAC at all?  Just use the z5500 DAC built in by running optical or coax to it.  I'm sure the z5500 DAC is better than onboard audio at least.  But yes, you're right still, that an external DAC would benefit headphones usage too and it MIGHT be better than the z5500 built in DAC, I haven't used a z5500 set in years so I forget.  However a sound card "could" be more useful for the speakers as it would be more capable of coloring the sound through EQ'ing and crossovers (sound card driver software).  Most external DAC's just pass straight sound through without coloring.  That's all I was getting at above.

 

I say just jump into the deep end. Get the Yggdrasi, pair it with Freya + and add the Loki Max for EQ. I'd say add 5 Aegir's but that might be going to far lol

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Okay I have some research to do and I really appreciate the consultation here. At the moment I am going with analog only until the optical cable arrives tomorrow. 

 

I've now got a pretty dope setup with this addition. I was able to add my Z-625 system as well! So that's almost 1500W RMS peak and 300W total counting both subwoofers and 7 speakers! It shakes the wall upstairs. Love it. Neighbors probably hate it lol

 

 I will take some pictures so you guys can see what I am working with. 

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Just one question.  Is that a homemade halberd constructed from a t-post and a splitting axe head?  😎

TDM

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54 minutes ago, ArchStanton said:

Just one question.  Is that a homemade halberd constructed from a t-post and a splitting axe head?  😎

Haha, it's funny you picked up on that. You bet! It was my first welding project with a new arc welder. 

 

I can get medieval if that's what the situation calls for. lol

 

I like weaponry in general. Also have a pretty good gun / air soft collection going ATM.

 

 

image.png

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Cool setup for Logitech stuff.  I promise you, that's nowhere NEAR 1500w RMS, if it was you'd need a dedicated circuit.  Logitech severely overrates their equipment.  You probably have about 200w RMS in total or so between those two systems, as a more realistic estimate.  Wattage doesn't always equal output, you can get loud with 1w in the right enclosure with the right drivers.  However wattage does usually equal LOW lows on subwoofers (also enclosure and driver dependent).

Either way, should be a boomy setup.  Definitely consider a sound card for the EQ and crossover adjustments it provides for you, it'll help clean up the sound some.  If you're going optical, well nevermind.  Optical is optical regardless if its onboard or a sound card.  If you enjoy the Logitechs, that's what matters.

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2 minutes ago, pioneerisloud said:

Cool setup for Logitech stuff.  I promise you, that's nowhere NEAR 1500w RMS, if it was you'd need a dedicated circuit.  Logitech severely overrates their equipment.  You probably have about 200w RMS in total or so between those two systems, as a more realistic estimate.  Wattage doesn't always equal output, you can get loud with 1w in the right enclosure with the right drivers.  However wattage does usually equal LOW lows on subwoofers (also enclosure and driver dependent).

Either way, should be a boomy setup.  Definitely consider a sound card for the EQ and crossover adjustments it provides for you, it'll help clean up the sound some.  If you're going optical, well nevermind.  Optical is optical regardless if its onboard or a sound card.  If you enjoy the Logitechs, that's what matters.

Yeah my math was definitely off, looking back. Logitech *claims* 505W RMS for the Z5500 and 400W for the Z625. Then the subwoofers: Logitech claims 188 W for the big subwoofer and IIRC 130 W for the small z625 subwoofer. 

 

What is a little odd is that the z625 subwoofer actually hits harder than the 10" z5500 does in some songs. Logitech made a mistake here in that you cant really crank the subwoofer up without cranking the volume, and sometimes you just want the low tones, so that's a bit annoying, (z625 system you can push the subwoofer a lot harder and keep the volume down) but I'm very happy overall. 

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9 minutes ago, pioneerisloud said:

Cool setup for Logitech stuff.  I promise you, that's nowhere NEAR 1500w RMS, if it was you'd need a dedicated circuit.  Logitech severely overrates their equipment.  You probably have about 200w RMS in total or so between those two systems, as a more realistic estimate.  Wattage doesn't always equal output, you can get loud with 1w in the right enclosure with the right drivers.  However wattage does usually equal LOW lows on subwoofers (also enclosure and driver dependent).

Either way, should be a boomy setup.  Definitely consider a sound card for the EQ and crossover adjustments it provides for you, it'll help clean up the sound some.  If you're going optical, well nevermind.  Optical is optical regardless if its onboard or a sound card.  If you enjoy the Logitechs, that's what matters.

Can you offer any recommendations for making it more boomy? It's superb right now, but I think I can make it even better with the right enclosure, or the right subwoofer positioning relative to walls or whatever. The subwoofers seem to kick harder when you have them positioned right. And on the desk and table is not ideal.

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3 minutes ago, Storm-Chaser said:

Yeah my math was definitely off, looking back. Logitech *claims* 505W RMS for the Z5500 and 400W for the Z625. Then the subwoofers: Logitech claims 188 W for the big subwoofer and IIRC 130 W for the small z625 subwoofer. 

 

What is a little odd is that the z625 subwoofer actually hits harder than the 10" z5500 does in some songs. Logitech made a mistake here in that you cant really crank the subwoofer up without cranking the volume, and sometimes you just want the low tones, so that's a bit annoying, (z625 system you can push the subwoofer a lot harder and keep the volume down) but I'm very happy overall. 

Logitech made quite a few mistakes in those setups, but alas....they're "gaming" setups, not exactly "audiophile".  Completely different worlds there.  For a gaming speaker setup, they're fine.  The reason why the smaller sub "hits harder" is due to enclosure tuning, the z625 is tuned higher than the z5500 is.  The z5500 is tuned, I'm guessing, right around 40Hz or so from my last listen to a set.  The z625 is going to be tuned closer to the 50-60Hz range.  Higher bass frequencies "hit harder" with less power, so they sound "boomier" for music and gaming.  Lower frequencies require more power generally.  That's why a home theater subwoofer, like a 15" that extends down to say 18Hz, probably has a 500w-1000w RMS amplifier attached (real 1000w RMS).

It's just a different realm of audio than what I'm used to.  They're fine for their cost and their intended use.  I wouldn't do any critical listening on them without seriously fine tuning their EQ and crossovers, but for just blasting some music or enjoying explosions in a game......they'll work great for that.

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