Delays and the search for decent audio

As you might have guessed by the non existing happy post earlier this week the ProLiant MicroServer project has suffered some setbacks.  All components were in stock and the payment was made. Here the trouble began. A bank transfer which should have cleared within an hour took almost a week to clear. By now the server itself was no longer in stock and I’m currently still waiting for it. Harddisks, memory and gfx are en route and should arrive today. But without a server to connect it all to, there’s not much happening.

On top of that my plans for cheap  S/PDIF out were also foiled. Had my sight set on a Terratec Aureon dual USB stick. Analog sound would be pretty poor, but it came with an optical adapter which offered possibilities. Hooking it up to my amplifier means the amplifier’s DAC is used (which is by far superior to the cheap stick). Order placed and again payment troubles… sigh… This time a DDoS attack aimed at my bank. Over a day later the bank was back online, but the price of the Terratec stick had gone up 35% (WTF!?). And due to Mycom’s crappy ordering system you have to order again if payment fails. Well done Mycom, you’ve lost a customer.

However in a way this was a good development. I did some reading in the meantime and for some reason the Terratec stick doesn’t only offer analog stereo sound, but they also limited digital output to stereo. One of the requirements for the new server is that it must have pass-through S/PDIF for AC3, DTS, etc. So the Terratec was out. In Terratec’s defense, they mention this limitation in the specs. It’s just that I never expected this. What idiot limits digital output to stereo only?!

So what’s next? USB-wise I haven’t found a decent solution yet. No matter what, cost goes up. There are cheap low quality brands that I swore never to buy (might as well flush your money down the toilet). Another big name is Creative, which I also swore never to buy again (I’d rather chew off my arm). All USB things considered, this was quickly going nowhere…

A nicer, but more expensive solution would be to use an internal cards. The server has a PCIe x1 and a PCIe x16 slot. The x16 slot is taken by the gfx card leaving the x1 slot free for a low-profile card. Since my desktop PC already has an Asus Xonar DX which fits all requirements, I think that one’s the ideal candidate for trying. Considering it’s designed for proper analog output, it’s overkill for just S/PDIF usage. But given the choice between a cheap and crappy card or this one, I’d rather spend a bit more on a decent card that has a future beyond digital out. Besides, try finding a card that is low-profile and PCIe (very limited choice!). Whether it fits or not remains to be seen. It’s not the shortest card and it needs additional power, but we’ll see :)

Oh and in case you’re wondering why not use the HDMI output of the gfx card; HDMI is not an option. MY amplifier doesn’t have HDMI. Now I could route audio through the TV (HDMI in, S/PDIF out), but that introduces a very annoying delay between video and audio. I blame my Samsung TV for that as it has other troubles as well (as in not properly detecting the signal of a Popcornhour mediaplayer).

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