MPC-HC Audio Configuration

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How to configure Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 audio for optimal audio quality with MPC-HC and Netflix

If you own 5.1 speakers that support DTS or Dolby Digital and you have a decent sound card the settings on this page should work for you. If you're high on Marijuana and you are concerned about this being too technical, fear not! I got you covered, trust me! Plz read on

Configuring Windows 8.1 audio settings correctly can help to improve Netflix or MPC-HC audio, this is a big deal. There are many different ways you could configure MPC-HC in terms of audio, you can tell MPC-HC to pass through bitstreaming formats like AC3 or DTS directly to SPDIF-OUT so that your speakers handle it, or you can configure Sound Blaster to automatically encode audio as Dolby Digital or DTS. You could also tell it to use some awful fucking setting that some random person on the Internet said to use (that could be me for all you know). But I'm not! I totally know about 95% of what I'm talking about!

To further complicate things, there are also a lot of ways you can configure Windows audio. This page is meant to be a starting point for configuring MPC-HC for the best possible sound while playing back videos, by doing this you will also improve NetFlix's audio quality, or any streaming audio for that matter. You can also use this guide for other media players such as PotPlayer. The first part of this guide also applies to Netflix and streaming audio, and will take advantage of surround sound. Honestly, Netflix has done a damn fine job with their audio quality and if you don't configure Windows or your sound card right, you may not be getting the best audio quality.

This page assumes a few things, mainly that you are using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, also Windows 10 . It also assumes that you have mid range to high end speakers and a decent sound card. I have and use the following components:

My Sound Blaster Z sound card is using a TOSLINK Optical cable to my Logitech Z 906 5.1 speakers. If you have a TOSLINK digital audio cable you can choose SPDIF-OUT if you prefer to let your speakers handle the raw audio from whatever file you are playing. If you choose this option then the audio will go straight to the external receiver so some of the Sound Blaster enhancements won't do anything. If you have high end speakers and a basic on board sound card then this might be a good option, so it is worth testing out on your own. Also you should use Windows 10 for suprior audio quality (lol seo).

I've configured Windows 8.1 to use "Speakers" as the default playback device. If you are using analog cables then you will want to select the first option under the default playback device list. If you can use a digital connection to your speakers I still suggest using the Speaker option instead of SPDIF-OUT, for the reasons mentioned above.

Since I have roommates, I don't always use my loud ass speakers I will sometimes use my Sony MDR-1R headphones, to make it easy to switch back and forth I plug my headphones into the Z 906 headphone jack located on the Z 906 volume control thing. My Z 906 will decode audio if needed so if the video or game does not support DTS or Dolby Digital my receiver can handle the audio and instead of playing through 5.1 it will just play through my headphones. Anything you view in your browser will also take advantage of the audio settings, sites like Netflix provide very good audio quality, so making sure your PC and speakers are configured correctly is not a waste of time.

Some people may argue that it's best to plug your headphones directly into your sound card, and there may be some truth to that, however, it can be a huge pain in the ass to have to constantly switch settings for Windows, Sound Blaster and MPC-HC, so the configuration below is meant to be an easy to use, easy to switch between configuration that still provides good audio quality.

Windows 8.1 SPDIF-OUT Playback Configuration

I don't use any analog connections from my PC to speakers, just a single Digital Audio cable from my sound card to Z 906 and if I want to use headphones I just plug my MDR-1R set into the headphone jack on my Z 906 control pod. The images below show how I have configured Windows 8.1 for my setup. If you have a similar configuration then you should be able to use the same settings as me.

If possible you should make sure that you have selected 24 bit audio with 96000 HZ audio quality under the advanced section for "Speakers". Using 24 bit audio and a higher sampling rate can help improve Netflix streaming audio quality, a lot of this depends on the bitrate of the video you are streaming, but with HD releases I noticed awesome quality when I used the settings in this section.

Sound Blaster Z Configuration

The images below show how I have configured my Sound Blaster Z. I am using Logitech Z 906 5.1 DTS / Dolby Digital speakers. I found that the best audio was produced when I configured my sound card to send everything to "Speakers". If you use headphones a lot you can simply plug them into the Z 906 headphone jack on the right side of the volume and input control thingy. This configuration makes it easy to switch between 5.1 and headphones without having to change 50 different audio settings between Windows 8.1, Sound Blaster control panel and the audio options in MPC-HC. Netflix doesn't really have any audio configuration options, so any settings for Sound Blaster should apply to a Netflix stream.

If the images are too small, you can click on them to view their full size. Basically I have Surround and Crystalizer enabled under the "SBX Pro Studio" section. If you decide to use SPDIF-OUT instead of Speakers for the default playback device then you might want to set Smart Volume to "Loud" since SPDIF seems to a lot quieter than using the "Speakers" for the default playback device. By raising the Smart Volume setting to Loud you can slightly improve the default loudness of audio, however some of the highs and lows might go away. I selected 5.1 speakers since, well, I have 5.1 speakers. Under the Cinematic section in the Sound Blaster Control Panel I have selected "Dolby Digital" since my Z 906 speakers can handle Dolby Digital and / or DTS directly. You should try out DTS as well, personally I can't notice much of a difference in quality between the two, but in some cases it might make sense to switch back and forth depending on your personal preferences.

At this point, we've configured Windows audio and also configured Sound Blaster's stuff. Moving forward, you should not have to mess around with these settings, the only thing left to do is configure MPC-HC.

MPC-HC Audio Configuration for 5.1 THX Speakers

Configuring MPC-HC is pretty easy to do. The first step is to select the audio renderer that MPC-HC should use for output during playback. I've selected device #6 which is direct sound Sound Blaster Speakers. If you have digital speakers / receiver and a TOSLINK cable you can also use SPDIF out, however I found that if you use Speakers the audio still sounds just as good. I then configured MPC-HC's audio decoder to not bitstream DTS or Dolby Digital since we already configured the Sound Blaster Z to encode everything. Since the Logitech Z 906 speakers don't support any other formats I left them un checked.

Under the mixing tab, I selected 5.1 speakers, but did not select the "Enable Mixing" box since I will let my speakers and sound card handle that. I did however select Dolby Pro Logic 2 since it sounds cool. At this point MPC-HC should be ready to rock and the audio quality for Netflix streaming video should also be very good.

How to configure MPC-HC for optimal audio quality with headphones

If you have a similar configuration to what I've explained above, the good news is that all you should have to do to get good audio quality with headphones is to simply plug them into the Logitech Z 906 Headphone Jack. You can leave the output at SPDIF OUT since the receiver will decode whatever it needs to and send the audio to your headphones instead of the speakers.

If you want to plug your headphones directly into your sound card, this method will work as well, and if you use Sound Blaster Z the Pro Studio control panel should automatically detect if you have headphones plugged in, and switch the speaker options from 5.1 to headphones. If you configured Windows 8.1 to use "Speakers" as the default play back device, and configured MPC-HC to not pass through AC3 or DTS then you shouldn't have to change anything when switching from 5.1 speakers to headphones.

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