Thread: Soundcard FAQ
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Old 9th December, 2002, 04:15 PM
Aedan Aedan is offline
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Join Date: September 2001
Location: Europe
Posts: 13,075

Connection Questions

What is analog/lineout?
The analog output(s) are sometimes known as Line Out. This connection is a standard voltage level that allows the soundcard to be connected directly to the inputs on an stereo amplifier or something similar.

What is digital out?
Digital output is often in the form of a S/PDIF or Coax connection. This requires connecting to a seperate (or outboard) DAC in order to turn the digital signal back into an analog signal that the speakers/amplifier can understand. Often using an outboard DAC will improve the sound quality, as the converters no longer have to operate inside the electrically noisy environment within the PC.

What is S/PDIF?
S/PDIF stands for Sony/Philips Digital InterFace. It is a consumer standard designed to allow audio to be passed in digital form to other equipment. It supports several different formats, 2 channel uncompressed audio (such as CD audio), 5.1 channel Dolby Digital, 5.1 channel DTS, 6.1 Dobly Digital EX.

At the minimum S/PDIF will provide 2 channels of audio to another device. Better soundcards can also provide Dolby Digital and DTS from DVDs. The best soundcards can mix the surround audio into a Dolby Digital stream for a surround decoder to decode. If you want to plug your Surround Decoder on your cinema system into your PC, this is the best way to do it.

S/PDIF is generally provided as either an optical port or a RCA style connector.

What are Dolby Digital and DTS?
Both Dolby Digital and DTS are methods of providing digital surround sound. They compress up to 7 channels of audio into a single digital stream, which can be sent to another piece of equipment over a single cable or fibre optic.