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Lynx Studio LynxTWO-B High-Performance Six-Channel (Output) Sound Card

Part III

February, 2006

John E. Johnson, Jr.

 

On the Bench

I measured the LynxTWO's performance, the same way I would measure the performance of a CD player, preamplifier, SSP, or power amplifier, but instead of the outputs going to the product under test, I simply routed the output connectors back to the input connectors. This is called a Loop Through. All tests were conducted using test signals generated at 24 bit/200 kHz sampling.

Setting the signal generator to 0 dB caused the LynxTWO to produce quite a bit of harmonic distortion, so I changed it to - 5 dB, which gave the following graph, using a 1 kHz sine wave. THD+N is less than 0.003%. That is superb. What this means is that the volume control sliders should not be turned up all the way when controlling output to a power amplifier (pretty much the same thing you get with any preamplifier).

Signal-to-Noise is 120 dB under these conditions. Again, superb. One of the reasons the S/N ratio is so low, is the 24 bit word length. If 16 bit samples are used, the S/N worsens, but this is the nature of the samples, no fault of the card.

At -10 dB THD+N decreases even further, and the S/N ratio is again very low.

The frequency response of two channels in the LynxTWO is compared here, using a left/right transfer function. The results show a close consistency between the two channels. The actual response is down about 1 dB at 90 kHz. You won't see this kind of response with garden variety sound cards.

The sound quality of the LynxTWO is, as you can imagine, much, much better than what I get with the cheap stuff. Yes, it is an expensive card, but if I want great video coming out of my computer, should I settle for less than great sound? I don't think so. Also, keep in mind that the outputs are fully balanced, which means you can make full use of balanced inputs on power amplifiers. Very few sound cards are fully balanced.

At this point, the only way I can play CDs through the LynxTWO with sufficient output is to send the analog out from the CD player to the analog-in on the Lynx. Although the Lynx then operates as an excellent preamplifier and volume control that can be used as a PC control of a power amplifier, four of the six channels are not being used. Secondly, the PC's internal CD and DVD players do not send more than two channels to the Lynx, and the input signal is not high enough to use.

Therefore, I would invite PC DVD and CD player software manufacturers to update their programs to input digital signals directly to the LynxTWO such that its outstanding DACs can be used to deliver top notch two-channel and 5.1 channel preamplified analog signals to multi-channel power amplifiers. This card is just too good not to be usable in PC-controlled media servers.

Conclusions

We are moving into a phase where computers will be sending video and audio to our home theaters for entertainment purposes. There has been a great deal of attention paid to various video cards out there, due to intense video games being so popular, but not enough attention is paid to sound cards.

The LynxTWO is a sound card that can keep up with any video card, in terms of quality. If you care about all aspects of the game you are playing, or the movie you are watching, or the CD/SACD/DVD-A you are listening to, with audio and video being supplied by your computer, ask manufacturers to make their player software compatible with a sound card like this one (a Dolby Digital/DTS decoding chip in the LynxTWO card itself would do the job as well). It is really something else.

 

- John E. Johnson, Jr. -

Follow-up:

This review was essentially an exercise to show our readers that we, as reviewers, have the same problems that you do, namely, getting everything to integrate properly.

So, I contacted David Hoatson, at Lynx, and worked it out, as a consumer.

Here is how to get it all to function correctly.

First, although the LynxTWO can co-exist with the PC's built-in sound card, you need to go into Windows' Control Panel/Sounds and Audio Devices, and select Audio. Then, you use the menu to select the Lynx card as the Default Device, rather than the built-in sound as the Default Device. Do the same under Voice. In the Volume panel, select Advanced under Speaker Settings, and select Speakers, then 5.1 Surround Sound Speakers in the Speaker Setup menu. The reason this was all confusing, was the fact that the two sound cards could be co-existent, and secondly, I was getting some signal into the card, but it was just not high enough, with the built-in sound card as the default in Windows, and the Lynx card selected as the default in my test software. Note that you will not be able to use your PC's built-in card with the Lynx selected as default, even though they are both installed. So, if you use your PC's sound system for VOIP (telephone and video calls over the Internet), you will need to go back into the Windows Sounds and Audio Devices menu and select the built-in sound card as default for that purpose.

In the DVD player menu, which for me is WinDVD Version 7, you have to go into the Audio menu and select the 5.1 speaker configuration. This will vary depending on the DVD player software program you are using.

In the Lynx Mixer, you need to make sure the M button (Mute) is not depressed in the channel columns you are using. This includes the first two columns in the Record/Play window, as well as the first six columns in the Outputs window.

Lastly, the various channels may not be in the usual order of left, right, center, rear left surround, rear right surround. The channel columns in the mixer are not labeled. You can figure out which is which by turning down the volume on each channel one at a time in the player's audio menu, and watching the volume indicator in the mixer change as you reduce it.

All in all, it is a trek to get a high-performance sound card to configure correctly for 5.1 output. Getting 5.1 sound seems more difficult than getting video with video cards, and I would like to see the whole process made easier for all of us. This could get even more complex when we start directing the whole thing from across the room with a remote control while watching movies.

My thanks to David Hoatson for being so cooperative and helpful.

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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