Real Sound from my MP3s and Internet Movies!
Its so simple even a caveman can do it!
Geico thought of that clever slogan, and I probably shouldn't use it.
The Bottom Line:
It is an easy way to let the music escape your computer and be heard on your home theater like it should be.
I purchased this sound card as a replacement for a previous Sound Blaster that died. (It did so after 3 years plus of service, so I'm not complaining, it was more than likely damaged in my move last fall).
I love music. I love movies. I also want to listen to my music and movies in the best possible setting. MP3s by their very nature are compressed music, but played back on a good system, only an audiophile like me would notice the difference between the original CD and a 128 kbits/sec compressed MP3. Nevertheless, you won't catch me listening to my MP3 collection on computer speakers. I hate computer speakers, I have never heard any that measure up to a real honest to goodness full sized speaker home theater set up. I like my music to be on MP3s, because it makes it incredibly easy for me to quickly locate and play my favorite music by song, genre, album or artist. Computers can do things with organizing music that I just can't. Hit a button, I get a few hours of jazz. Do a search, get all the songs with LOVE in the title. You get the idea.
But how do I get the MUSIC out of my computer and into my home theater system?
That is where SOUND BLASTER comes in. This little box allows me to plug into my computer using a USB port and into my home theater system using either an optical cable or a digital coaxial cable! Now, my Computer is hooked to my receiver just like my DVD player, CD player, X Box and Cable Box! I get the same surround sound or DSP effects or straight stereo over my full sized audio speakers and 100 watts / channel receiver by using an assigned digital input on my receiver. Now, whe I play MP3s, I listen on my home theater system, and not on some crummy little computer cubes pretending to be music delivery systems.
How do I install this, it sounds all complicated !
Ah, external soundcards, I love them. I don't like to open my computer. I did once to install some extra RAM, but in general, I am a bit phobic about messing around inside.
1. With the external soundcard just plug in the SUPPLIED USB cable into an available USB port and the labled input on the soundcard.
2. Two don't plug it in, it runs on the USB port and NEEDS NO POWER! My older external sound card had to be plugged in, this one doesn't. Cool!
2. (the last no. 2 didn't count!), Run an optical cable or a digital coaxial cable from the labled output on the soundcard into a free optical digital input or coaxial digital input on the back of your receiver. The digital cables support Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround.
Alternate If you insist on using those computer speaker systems, this has outputs for 5.1 surround sound computer speakers as well.
3. Install the drivers and software, which is pretty self explanatory. Insert Disc, press buttons as indicated.
I was listening to my MP3s over my home theater system in short order.
Why Else Do You want Good Audio Out?
Now that Netflix offers Video on Demand free with their rental plans, I can watch their movies on my HDTV /computer monitor and listen in simulated surround sound. Netflix delivers its movies online in PCM stereo, which my receiver can do any number of things with.
What Else Does it Do?
If you use computer speakers or don't have surround sound modes on your receiver, the software included with the Sound Blaster also allows you to create artificial sound fields like theaters, jazz clubs night clubs etc. It also comes with playback software for audio (but not video) which I guess you could use if you didn't like Windows Media Player or Real Player or one of the dozens of other MP3 playing programs.
It also has a headphone mini pin output, so you can listen on your headphones. There is also an OPTICAL Input, which means you can rip CDs from your regular CD player onto your computer.
Did I have any problems?
Yes, I did in fact. I still have NOT figured out how to get DTS sound. The sound blaster does not explicitly state that it will deliver a DTS signal, but since it supports 5.1 surround sound and has two digital outputs, I thought that it would support both. I also honestly DON'T know if the problem lies within my DVD program WinDVD Platinum 8 or the soundcard. WinDVD Platinum 8 (its a fully working, but trial version, I downloaded after installing this soundcard) says it supports DTS and Dolby Digital Surround. I threw a new Dresden Dolls DVD, Live at the London Roundhouse, in my Memorex DVD player/burner and tried it out. When I played the Disc in Dolby Digital 5.1 my receiver recognized the signal, displayed Dolby Digital 5.1 and played it in surround sound. However, when I selected DTS, the player played it, but my Receiver logged it in as PCM and not DTS. I know it is not my receiver, because when I play the same disc in my Pioneer Elite 45A DVD player, the DTS display lights up, and I can hear the DTS soundtrack.
I had expected to be able to view DVDs in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, but I have not figured out how or why I am not getting a DTS signal. It will play a DTS DVD, but again, its downsampled into a PCM signal.
Sound Blaster's External sound card is about the EASIEST WAY to get great sound out of your computer, and send that digital sound info to your home theater system where it belongs! It even supports Dolby Digital 5.1. If it supports true DTS, I haven't figured out how yet. Overall though, this product is above average, and I am happy with Sound Blaster sound cards.