Seperate Components or HT PC ??

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by DanielH, Feb 21, 2004.

  1. DanielH

    DanielH Auditioning

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    Just wondering which would offer better quality sound, video, and options ? Any input would be appriciated
     
  2. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    What are you trying to do?

    Certainly an HTPC provides probably the best bang for the buck in most situations w/regard to video.
     
  3. Biff

    Biff Agent

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    Daniel,

    I'm new here and making new discoveries every day, but I was around for the advent of Surround Sound in the home and last year put together an "under $20,000" home theatre system that I feel is just terrific BUT I've also recently installed a bedroom "system" with a great, but not expensive HDTV and a "Home Theater in a Box" - the whole thing under $2,000 and the HT in a Box at $600. So, although a newbie here, I feel qualified - at least - to give you an opinion.

    First - do you have a budget? Second - how large is the room in which you'll be using the equipment? Third - do you have or do you expect to have an HD monitor and so you have a cable or satellite service that offers HDTV (and do you wish to receive over-the-air HDTV broadcasts?

    Just some questions to ask yourself before reading what is definitely a humble opinion.

    (And I'm going to assume that you wouldn't want to plunk down more than $10,000 so I'm not even going to get into the high-end stuff where you could easily spend $100,000.)

    If you have an HDTV system, and this system is for your primary viewing area, I would look at component systems that include a receiver with multiple input/output port options. At a minimum component input and output, optical input (and output, if possible) and s-video input (and, of course, standard RCA stereo and video ports). You can get a very reasonably priced - and powerful - receiver for $400 bucks (such as some Kenwood models) and I, personally, wouldn't even consider paying over $5K (my receiver was $2K and has more bells & whistles than I'll likely ever use). And you can add a DVD player - with progressive scan - for as little as $100 (although for better signal processing, I would look at models in the $200-300 range: mine was $1K and I'm very happy with it but I don't know that I couldn't be just as pleased with any one of a number of players in the $200-300 range). ANd you'll likely just use the VHS machine that you have, I'm assuming and that leaves speakers. And that's where the component system gets costly (or can get costly). If I were you (unless you have reasons to do otherwise) I would look at home theater speaker packages that include all 6 speakers. The choice you make here would be dependent on your budget and room size and while you can get $200 packages, I would consider those in the $400-600 (and I'm not even gonna disclose what I paid for mine - let's just say that I think now, upon reflection, that I paid far more than I should have for quality far in excess than I am capable of hearing).

    So there's a component system - although there are quite a number of good audio system packages that can become home theater packages that, with the addition of a DVD player, you can get for $500-600.

    Now for the "Home Theater in a Box"...
    ...that's the route I chose for my bedroom system for a couple of reasons. The primary reasoning, to begin with was price: I set aside $2,000 for both a 30" HDTV and an all-in-one DVD Home Theater System. I chose the TV first and that left me with $900. Because my bedroom is just a standard sized bedroom, I didn't need a lot of fire-power in the system and as my bed has the headboard against the wall (as most beds are situated in bedrooms) I definitely didn't need 6.1 sound capabilities. I called my "advisor" at Crutchfield and he recommended a Samsung HT-DB600 system which has worked out great for me - it lacks true rear speakers, relying on rear speakers built into the front speakers to reflect the rear sound off walls, and I have found the sound to be exactly what I needed and wanted. I had a problem with the first DVD/receiver, but it was replaced within two days, and I'm extremely happy with it. It has just the ports I need to work with my HDTV and, although I've never had a carousel DVD player, it's nice a nice feature when, for instance, I have a 4 disc season of "Friends" that I'm watching.

    I've seen (and heard) a number of really crappy Home Theater in a Box systems, but there are a number - usually in the $500-800 price range that, to be honest, sound as good to me as my living room system (a friend of mine just recently bought the Onkyo HT-S767C system, for instance, and while he still has analog TV and it was impossible to compare picture quality) the sound from the DVDs we were watching was top-notch).

    So - I would say that you can get either a mid-priced component system or a mid-priced all-in-one DVD system and expect the same quality out of each. The only problem I can foresee with the all-in-one systems is that the 'receiver' portion is much more limited as far as being able to add equipment and capabilities in the future. I would also suggest that - whatever you buy - make sure that the retailer has a generous return policy so that if you DON'T like what you hear and see, you can return the equipment and select a different model or brand to evaluate.

    Just my 2ยข - I woefully lack the technical knowledge of most people here, but I think my "sound & vision" assessment is equal to most consumers.
     
  4. WayneO

    WayneO Supporting Actor

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    Biff, nice post, but I think you confused "HTPC"(Home Theater PC) with the "HTIB"(Home Theater In a Box)...:b
     
  5. FeisalK

    FeisalK Screenwriter

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    wouldn't a HTPC need a receiver for audio processing as well - or at least a resonable multichannel amplifier.

    As Chris said, the most obvious reason for a HTPC is digital video, but more and more players nowadays are capable of outputting DVI (Bravo, Samsung etc)
     
  6. Biff

    Biff Agent

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    Whoops! My Bad! (See, I am more than capable of showing my idiocy - I read "component" but just took that as meaning "component system vs, "Home Theater System" (HTPC, I read as a typo - meaning "Home Theatre Package Cystem" ignoring the PC as obviously meaning "Personal Computer"! (Um, it does mean "Personal Computer" doesn't it? Good Lord, with all the acronyms, I get confused or I'm just becoming acronym dyslexic...). All those years of using "HD" for "Hard Drive" and now you can have an HD DVR w/250 Gig HD - and I just finished reading about 3 different flavors of HDTV (in a textbook written in 1999 - before one flavor became the "official" pick! And then there are component video input and output ports contending with the usage of "component" audio/visual systems... it's technological nomenclature run amok!

    Still - I stand by my opinion! (Even though it had nothing to do with the question... and that's kind of pitiful, hunh?)
     
  7. Darren Mortensen

    Darren Mortensen Stunt Coordinator

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    Daniel,

    If you can get the latest copy of Home Theater Builder magazine, there is an in depth article on how to build your own HTPC.

    I never really considered a PC in my HT... probably because I was intimidated by them. However, after researching and reading... the HTPC has vast potential and capabilities; especially for automating a dedicated system and maximizing video display.[​IMG]
     
  8. DanielH

    DanielH Auditioning

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    Darren,

    Thats where I got the idea from, I was just wondering if it would be worth it, it seems like they put a lot of money into it.
     
  9. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    HTPC can be done quite cheaply with just a home PC. An HTPC only replaces the DVD source and video processor, you still need a receiver or pre/pro and amps for all the audio. Other sources can also be hooked into an HTPC to utilize the video processing and you can automate everything if you want.

    If it worth it? Definitely; if you have a good display especially. You can spend 2K and easily beat 20K faroudja video processors.
     
  10. Cuong

    Cuong Agent

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    I currently have my pc hooked up to my system but i find that i am using it less and less every day. The pq out of a good stand alone dvdp and the sound coming out of a sascd player cant be beat in my opinion. The cost of the pc alone you could purchase a dvd/cd player for.
     
  11. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    I agree with the sound part, since you cant get sacd at all from an HTPC.

    But the picture part, then you certainly haven't taken advantage of your HTPC, because the pq should be IMMENSELY superior. WAAAAAY better.
     
  12. Cuong

    Cuong Agent

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    Come on Chris the highest resolution that dvds give is at 480 the dvi input is not even an issue here. You can never do better than the source. IMHO.
     
  13. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Have you seen 480 blown up to 10 feet wide? It looks like CRAP. You need heavy video processing, something that DVD players can't do except for a few of them, and those don't to it well. Standalone video processors can cost tens of thousands, an HTPC does it all for ridiculously less.

    The difference is *staggering* in a system that can handle those high resolutions. You can even feed highdef through there and process that up as well.

    The benefits to CRT projection in flexibility in fine tuning exactly the resolution and refresh you want along with AR control is WAY better than anything you can get with a DVD player.

    1x1 pixel mapping for digital displays likewise maximizes that PQ by bypassing the internal scaling that is usually pretty crappy.

    You should take the opportunity to see a theater driven by an HTPC, because it seems you've not experienced this. 480p fed to my CRT projector looks, well, like total crap. I will be running almost twice that resolution, and the difference between stock 480 and processed up resolution is IMMENSE.
     
  14. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    But you're right, DVD processed up to say, 720p will not look as good as a high-def source in 720p os the same thing. But both are worlds better than the original 480 from the DVD.
     
  15. Cuong

    Cuong Agent

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    I guess I havent expeienced it yet. Now Im interested is it done with software? I have a nice videocard top of the line two years ago its far from crap 256 megs of ram nvidia gforce ti4600. Help me see the light. Iam a sceptic but I have been wrong before. OK you got me IM wrong most of the time. [​IMG]
     
  16. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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  17. Greg_R

    Greg_R Screenwriter

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    ATI Radeon cards from that era had the best PQ due to better overlay quality (which is different than the desktop PQ). You should be using the VGA output (not any on-card S-video outputs). Here are some pieces of software that you will want to investigate:

    - Powerstrip (for custom resolutions and refresh timings).
    - SW DVD player (Theatertek, PowerDVD, WinDVD, etc.).

    P.S.> If you are using a non-HD capable display then all of this may not be worth the hassle.
     
  18. Cuong

    Cuong Agent

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    Hey Greg the dvi is good to right?
     
  19. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Just to make it clear, everything Chris Wiggles says is true and valid, but the benefits of HTPC only really apply to front projection, and it MUST be capable of HDTV resolution (HTPC makes NO sense with a set capable of only 480i). If you have a "small" rear projection TV or a "dinky" direct view CRT, don't bother with HTPC.

    I watch DVD on my front projector scaled to 1280 x 720p by my HTPC.
     
  20. Roden

    Roden Auditioning

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    There are other advantages to having having a PC hooked up to your system. I am currenly building a new house and am setting up a HT. I have layed network cables throughout the house including a point to my HT. This way I can use the PC to play MP3s and movie files from my main computer through my Home Theater system. I can also surf from my couch with a remote keyboard and mouse. The resolution does look pretty crappy though if you don't have a HDTV.
     

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