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GuntherBkk
6 Indium

Alienware M17x R4 with Sound Blaster Recon3Di

I have been spending all my free time of the last week to find me an answer I can actualy work with about a technical aspect of my Alienware M17x R4 and it realy seems hard to come by

I have an Alienware M17x R4 and if I go to my device manager I see as sound devices the following:

- Nvidia High Definition Audio

- Nvidia Virtual Audio Device (Wave Extensible) (WDM)

- Sound Blaster Recon3Di

I guess this last one, the Sound Blaster Recon3Di is actualy the one controlling the sound to me laptop speakers and also the one controlling the 3.5mm jacks on the side of the laptop?

My Logitech G930 broke and I am looking into other options to replace this broken headset with. Because I am a gamer I immediatly thought of gaming headsets and prefferably wireless and surround. In this quest I stumbled upon the Astro A50 Gen 2 (Virtual Surround) and support told me it requires a soundcard capable of Dolby Digital Live. The Razer Tiamat 7.1 isn't wireless but it offers a true or discrete surround experience because it has 5 drivers in each earcup instead of the Astros just being stereo headphones emulating surround. In the case of the Razer Tiamat I still haven't got a reply back to what this set needs as incoming signal.

Since my M17x R4 has one 3.5mm optical jack (S/P Dif) I guess the Sound Blaster Recon 3Di offers some sort of digital encoding but what exactly does it support and what type of signal can it send through that S/P dif? Guessing isn't enough, it realy bothers me it is realy hard to find information about this. If they all used the same standards it wouldn't be that much of an issue but seeing there are different options on the market  I would expect the technical details of these used soundcards to be available somewhere. Certainly because they are being used in a 3000 dollar laptop!

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4 Replies
8 Krypton

RE: Alienware M17x R4 with Sound Blaster Recon3Di

Hello. I suggest that you post on the Alienware Club section of this forum because there are gamers there who might be better able to help with your gaming needs. If you post there be sure to mention that you already posted on the Laptop Audio board so they won't just direct you back here. I don't deal much with Alienware audio but will offer what I can.

The nVidia listings in Device Manager are for for HDMI audio which is part of the graphics of the laptop. But I don't know what Wave Extensible is so there might be an additional nVidia function I don't know about.

As you say the Creative recon is your sound card. Ask on the Alienware Club if it has Dolby Live.

Ask about its surround output too. For it to provide the Razor with true surround, the Recon would have to be capable of outputting 5.1 audio. Some of the Dell regular models used to do that -- by being able to re-configure all 3 audio jacks to be 5.1 surround output jacks --  but none of the current ones do. I don't know about the Alienwares and as you say there is no documentation to speak of.

The Razer Tiamat 7.1 says it has 7.1 surround but I think to get that you would have to have a desktop computer with 4 audio output jacks plus a mic jack. The M17xR4 has 3 analog audio jacks. They may or may not be configurable for surround sound. If they are configurable you need to leave one as an input jack for the headset mic if you use the mic during gaming. That would leave 2 potential output jacks for a total of 4 channels. Actually I would be surprised if the laptop's headset jacks are configurable for surround since they are already multi-purpose jacks.

Spdif has been around a long time and there is probably a pretty good article explaining it on Wikipedia. It is a digital audio transfer medium, meaning that it can port digital audio directly to another device without first going through the sound card's digital-to-analog converter (DAC). That means that the receiving device must have its own DAC.  Spdif is basically a 2 channel protocol but it can carry encoded surround channels too. That means that the receiving device also has to have a surround decoder if surround sound is involved.

Headphones that have their own DAC are often called "digital" headphones and usually are usb audio devices -- not to be confused with analog headphones that have a usb plug for the purpose of drawing power from the usb port. I don't know if any digital headphones have a spdif port as a feature.

I agree with you about Dell's disregard for proper documentation. It must just be part of its corporate culture because it has been this way as long as I have been doing this -- over 10 years.

Jim Coates -- 15 years on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

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GuntherBkk
6 Indium

RE: Alienware M17x R4 with Sound Blaster Recon3Di

Thanks Jimco,

I posted it on the Alienware Club boards as you suggested 

I am still waiting to hear from support of Razer regarding their Tiamat headphones and how it exactly works or better said, wich type of signal it needs. My guess would be just Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS. 

The problem I already noticed, yes you are correct, would be connecting it as it requires five 3.5mm jack outputs where the M17x R4 only offers four including the S/P Dif so all in all I fear that will be a no go. The Astro only needs the S/P Dif to be connected but I am being put on hold untill I figured out the types of Dolby the soundcard supports.

I can solve this with an external 5.1 or 7.1 soundcard but I am not interested in that. I really dislike wires (take this very litteral as there is nothing connected to my laptop which isn't wireless) and kinda bought an Alienware because of it being minimalistic while still offering enough for gamers...otherwise I would surely just have bought me a desktop

Though I know about S/P diff and its capabilities I also know that S/P diff on laptops doesn't necessarily mean the same as they mean in the world of audio. I was actually surprised to see it comes in an optical 3.5mm jack connection and that made me unsure what to expect from it but guess it only is a difference in connector but with the same characteriscs as a regular TOSLINK or Coaxial S/P Diff

Thank you for your feedback

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8 Krypton

RE: Alienware M17x R4 with Sound Blaster Recon3Di

I also know that S/P diff on laptops doesn't necessarily mean the same as they mean in the world of audio.

Well, the spdif specification does not change when it is implemented in a laptop versus a stand alone audio device, so I think it is the same. If the jack on the laptop is a a mini then you might need a miniToslink adapter to use it with a standard optical cable..

Jim Coates -- 15 years on the Dell Laptop Audio boards -- since 2/6/04 

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GuntherBkk
6 Indium

RE: Alienware M17x R4 with Sound Blaster Recon3Di

Well, the spdif specification does not change when it is implemented in a laptop versus a stand alone audio device, so I think it is the same. If the jack on the laptop is a a mini then you might need a miniToslink adapter to use it with a standard optical cable..

I guess you are right again. I was just unsure because I also never heard of a 3.5mm optical jack output for an S/P dif which made me more suspicious than I had to be. When it comes to PC's and its technologies I already had my fair share of surprises and learned the hard way never just to assume anything anymore over the 20 years I worked with them

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