Complex 5.1 Sound System Setup - How do I do it?

September 5, 2017 at 11:00:57
Specs: Windows 7
I am not sure if this has been asked before, but I'll give it a go anyway.
So I have this Yamaha MG10XU mixer, and it is a great little mixing box. I purchased it long ago for a myriad of reasons.

The first one being, I own an acoustic guitar and a friend of mine installed a little microphone inside it, and I couldn't plug it into my desktop computer directly, because the "mic in" (pink jack) at the end of my CPU was smaller than the plug at the ends of the guitar cable I purchased. I eventually found and purchased an adaptor pin that converts one male fitting to a smaller male fitting that fits into the "mic in" of my desktop computer's CPU, but then I heard a lot of delay and a little "hiss" noise that was being caused by the CPU's "mic in" jack, and that was frustrating as all hell.
So after going through tons and tons of forums, remedies and software pages online, I almost gave up. That's when another one of my friends told me to spend a little more than I am used to, and get this mixer that he owns. I took that risk, and surprisingly, my PC's sound quality was upped by like a billion times. I even got a cable with it that split my tiny little computer speakers into a left and right channel, which I plug into the mixer, and it sounds great.
The second reason why I purchased that mixer is that my siblings also play music as a hobby, and own some electrical instruments. This mixer has all the inputs required to accommodate all of our instruments during family reunion performances, plus it has 24 effects that are very useful.
I am not a professional musician, so I was really skeptical about getting one of these huge and expensive things just for these reasons, but this mixer really proved me wrong. It isn't all that expensive, and it sits perfectly on my table, right under my PC's monitor screen.

So anyway, that's why I have the mixer. I am sorry for consuming a lot of time of your's already, but I promise, I'll try to finish asking my problem in as less number of words as possible.

So, I have just two average multimedia speakers right now, which means it's a 2.0 sound system. If I wanted a 2.1 system, it would be easy to add a sub-woofer into the equation, connect it to the mixer, and then connect the two smaller speakers to the sub-woofer. However, I don't want a 2.1 system, I want a 5.1 system.

I play games, and I believe that a 5.1 sound system would really give me a virtual reality kind of feeling, with the game's environment and open world just creating a 3D sound kinda thing in my room. I know all games aren't compatible with 5.1 sound systems, but I am really willing to go through this extra trouble of making it work because it would totally be worth the thrill.

Also, as a person who loves and enjoys playing and listening to music, the 5.1 sound system would really light up my room. I can't emphasize enough how much I love the bass sounds in EDM tracks. I can have parties by myself within my room if I get a proper 5.1 sound system.

Finally, I also love watching movies. The only thing is, I don't have a TV, or a DVD player, and I don't wanna watch movies on a TV, with a DVD player. I would prefer watching it on my computer, without any DVD player blinking the movie title in my face, on it's LED screen.

That being said, I have 3 questions.
1. Which 5.1 sound system should I purchase to meet my requirements?
2. How should I go about connecting the 5 speakers and 1 sub-woofer to my mixer?
3. Where should I place all of these speakers in my room?

To whoever read all of it, thank you for taking the time to read this. I really appreciate it. If you have any doubts, confusions or questions regarding what exactly I have or am trying to achieve, please do ask me for clarification. To those who are gonna make suggestions about the sound system, please don't be afraid to suggest systems in the relatively expensive range ($100 to $150, approx.), but at the same time, please don't go overboard (with a system as expensive as $100,000 or something like that). Also, I request the admins to not close this topic till I get the solution arranged and tested in real life.

See More: Complex 5.1 Sound System Setup - How do I do it?

September 5, 2017 at 12:06:32
You would need a mixer with at least 6 different busses for outputs. I'm betting your is most likely a two channel bus for stereo mixing. Some 2 channel mixers will let you split between 4 channels (sub 1 & 2 or 3 &4) but that would still leave you without a 5th channel for the sub bass. You could run the bass through the monitor channel and turn it down in the mains but that would really not be the best solution. That being said you are going to need different equipment.

The cheapest way to do this (you're looking at several thousand for a mixer that would meet your needs) would be to purchase a sound card that is capable of 6 output busses. Then use recording software such as Adobe Audition. This is the cheapest mixing software with great features that won't break the bank. Some sounds cards even come with light versions of mixing software so you may not even need to spend money on that. Head down to your local music store (musical instrument store) and talk to the sales people about your needs, you can get descent multichannel sound cards in the $300-$500 range.

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September 6, 2017 at 12:49:36
THX 1138, the mixer that I have has no busses. It just has 4 regular channels with combo jacks, and 3 stereo channels with "left" and "right" line level input jacks. Those are directly sent to the main mix, phones and monitor outputs, and are controlled directly via the phones, monitor and master knobs. In short, no bussing or routing systems are on this mixer. This is more of a prosumer mixer, very economical and semi-professional. My friend is a podcaster, and he recommended this mixer to me because it worked perfectly for him. I never intended to purchase a mixer for professional usage.

So yeah, 0 bus channels on this one. And since we have clarified that, which mixer do you suggest for me to use in this case? I have already been to the local music store. There is only one here, and they do not possess any expertise in studio systems. They do know a lot about sound systems, but the 5.1 systems they own and recommend are very cheap and quite frankly, very consumer level. They look and sound like they won't last long. That is okay for a consumer who will use it for a few months and then get over it's shortcomings, but for me, any decay in the system would be a huge matter of concern.

They recommended systems like Sony DAV-TZ145, and Logitech Z506. I didn't get to test them, but I watched reviews online and they seem to be all good. However, I am pretty sure that they will start decaying and the sound will only be amazing while the system is new. After frequent usage, the sound will most likely get weaker and less clearer, at which point I'll have to compromise on the bass and low volume down sides. Another reason why I wouldn't buy them, is because the Sony system I just talked about appears to come with a DVD player, and I think it would impossible to form the whole connection without connecting all speakers to the DVD player. Finally, they are all small speakers, which calls for wall mounting and wall wiring. I would prefer tower speakers, as they just stand on the floor, and the wire just stretches from the computer to the speakers, nothing too advanced.

They do own sound cards, but they're mostly just small audio interface boxes, like M-Audio (which I used for a small period of time but found it extremely frustrating), and Behringer. Usually they have 2 input jacks and one direct monitor knob. As you can guess, this isn't really a successful music store. Their business isn't thriving much around here when it comes to sound systems and equipment, which is why I will most likely have to resort to online shopping.

Anyway, I am at work, which is why I apologize for not really typing all of this clearly. I know it really sounds like a rant with me drifting away from one thought to another, but really, it's just me trying to balance everything in one moment, office life. Lol. I am really sorry if I'm being inconvenient, but to sum it up:
1. What should I purchase first? A mixer with 6 busses, or a sound card?
2. Which brand and model mixer/soundcard should I purchase?
3. After purchasing the right mixer/soundcard, which sound system should I purchase?
4. How should I go about connecting the cables and setting up the software for it to work properly with my "Windows 7 Ultimate" computer?
5. Why do I need recording software? I might sound dumb, and forgive me for that, but what does a recording software have to do with using a 5.1 sound system for gaming, movies and music? I can use that for making music, which I will, but why would I need it for the other stuff?

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September 7, 2017 at 10:31:54
Hi Christopher,

1. What should I purchase first? A mixer with 6 busses, or a sound card?
I would go for the soundcard first. Having a mixer capable of 6 outputs isn't going to do much good if you only have a 2 channel sound card.

2. Which brand and model mixer/soundcard should I purchase?
For mixers, Yamaha, Allen & Heath, Mackie Designs, or Behringer would be my preference.
For sounds cards, that could be a little more difficult. If you want surround in gaming and movies, something like Asus, or Creative Labs/Soundblaster. They have cards made for 5.1 and 7.1 surround and work good with video playback software that supports multi-channel surround. The inputs are not the best on these types of cards for inputs. They use stereo mini plugs so you would need to use adapters to get the plug size right and Y adapters to plug two input sources into one jack. Same with the outputs, you would need Y adapters to take 2 channels from one stereo mini jack.
The alternative would be to get a sound card made specifically for pro use/musical instruments. The downside to this type of sound card would be that it may not have all the proper codecs needed for multi-channel playback of games and movies.

3. After purchasing the right mixer/soundcard, which sound system should I purchase?
That's completely up to you. It all depends on your budget vs. the sound quality you want.

4. How should I go about connecting the cables and setting up the software for it to work properly with my "Windows 7 Ultimate" computer?
That will depend on what equipment you purchase. We'll cross that bridge when you decide what you going to get.

5. Why do I need recording software? I might sound dumb, and forgive me for that, but what does a recording software have to do with using a 5.1 sound system for gaming, movies and music?
You wouldn't for gaming or movies but I assumed you wanted to record music. Just playing an instrument though a 5.1 system isn't really going to do anything for surround effects. It's just going to be a mono signal. When you mix down your instruments in a recording, you can pan to different channels, create stereo effects like chorusing, delay, reverb, etc.

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September 9, 2017 at 04:02:55
Hey THX 1138,
Thanks for the detailed response. Now, what I managed to pick up from this was:
1. A sound card controls the quality of the sound, a mixer will just control where the sound goes, and how loud the sound will be in each speaker.
2. A sound card with 6 outputs is enough.

However, there are indeed mixers out there that have sound cards in them. The one that I use right now has a soundcard in it. That's the reason why I always use that instead of plugging anything into my computer's soundcard. Ever since I've started using that, all audio has been enhanced. There's no more hissing noise, no more stuttering, no more latency, and I guess the overall EQ is a little bit different.
Anyway, so the point is, there are mixers with sound cards in them. So, would it be okay to purchase a mixer with 6 bus outputs if it has a soundcard in it?

And also, keeping that aside, you told me that I should go for a soundcard. You also gave me some examples. However, I really prefer not to purchase any soundcards that I'll have to install inside the computer. I dread the thought of ever having to open up my CPU because I'm sure that once I close it, my computer will definitely not start. I am bound to mess something up.
So, I was thinking, how about an external sound card? Something like an M-Audio Interface, or Focusrite Interface, with 6 outputs. Would something like that work? If yes, do you have any good suggestions (preferably with links)?
I have a model in my mind already, but I'm not sure whether or not it'll work. It's called Scarlett 18i20, which apparently has 2 "monitor outs" and 8 "line outs". Not sure what all of that really means, but would it work if I were to invest in it?

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