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I want to use a cheap USB sound card to connect my Raspberry Pi (which has only HDMI and stereo out) to my home cinema receiver (which has no HDMI input), in order to get digital surround playback.

Since I'm only going to output digital audio, is the quality of the sound card actually important for the quality of the sound I will get?

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Why don't you just use the stereo out from the Pi? – martineau Jan 8 '13 at 14:47
Not enough for a answer, but one reason to have a good sound card is to use a DSP to get things like sound effects (see OpenAL) mixed together digitally without loss of quality. – Scott Chamberlain Jan 8 '13 at 14:59
I don't want to use the stereo out because it's poor quality and just stereo, instead of surround. – Sietse Jan 9 '13 at 8:58
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I don't think it matters much, as in your case the sound card would passthrough the sound (i.e. digitally) and not process it. Obviously, the card must support digital audio passthrough.

In the end, that is also what you're trying to achieve I assume, as the receiver would do a better job than the usb sound card.

Here is some related info: The baseline is that a cheap usb sound card is the best solution, as an hdmi audio-extractor is way too expensive in the grand scheme of Raspberry Pi-things (being low cost).

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Yes, that digital passthrough is exactly what I'm trying to achieve. I just wanted to verify that my reasoning was correct. Thanks! – Sietse Jan 9 '13 at 8:59

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