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Audiophile HTPC


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33 replies to this topic

#1 of 34 OFFLINE   Jake Garian

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Posted March 18 2004 - 05:36 PM

I am looking to create an audio-focused HTPC. I plan to rip my 800+ CDs to uncompressed .wav (or maybe FLAC) and play them back via a digital audio link to my pre/pro.

Here are the lessons I've learned so far:

Encode:
Use EAC to get exact rips of the CDs. Must use a script where the .mp3 encoder is usually listed in EAC in order to get it to create a .RIFF tagged .wav and a .mp3 file (via LAME in extreme VBR mode) at the same time: http: // pub90.ezboard.com/fturtlebeachfrm5.showMessage
?topicID=106.topic&index=2

[sorry - I have not posted 15 times yet so you must recombine the link]

Decode:
Use a nice card such as the Revolution 7.1 from M-Audio.

Question:
I've heard Windoze always intercepts the playback stream and sends it through a processor. Is there a hardware/software combo that will allow me sort my RIFF tagged .wavs by artist/album/genre/title, provide playlists, etc. (i.e. standard jukebox stuff) AND will result in unadulterated .PCM data being transferred from my clean .wavs to my pre/pro in the digital domain (coax or optical)?

Also, I want to use my standard def RPTV as the interface. Will use SVHS out from my Nvidea card. Hopefully the software portion of the solution will work at 800x600 resolution! If not, maybe I can use a laptop tied in via my wireless access point with remote desktop to control the HTPC?

Finally, I definitely want to be able to listen to streaming music via this setup. I love Shoutcast and Winamp, and hope the M-Audio can output the streaming .mp3s via it's digital outs? If so, will the output be PCM such that my pre/pro can handle it? Or do I need to wire up the analog outs as well?

Any help will be appreciated. Also, if anyone has a better idea for the encode step, please chime in. I'm not crazy about the complicated setup of EAC/ATWavTag/LAME combo, but I want good clean rips. My CDs are very clean, however, so maybe I don't need the multiple re-reads of EAC?

#2 of 34 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted March 19 2004 - 04:55 AM

PC audio isn't my specialty, so I can't address your audio questions. However, I am curious on how you will suppress the HTPC fan noise, which if present, will negate the audiophile experience.

*whirrrrrr* *swooosh* *whirrrrrr* *swooosh* Posted Image
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#3 of 34 OFFLINE   SethH

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Posted March 19 2004 - 05:43 AM

PC audio isn't my specialty, so I can't address your audio questions. However, I am curious on how you will suppress the HTPC fan noise, which if present, will negate the audiophile experience.


I don't know much about audiophile pc's either, but i know how to make one silent. If you really want a silent PC, but still have great cooling, there's only one way to go: Liquid Cooled Case Liquid Cooled Case . You can use this company for pre-built cases or you can make your own (i wouldn't recommend DIY unless you really know what you're doing as water can obviously damage computers).

Anyway, it will be silent and much cooler than a normal PC.

#4 of 34 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted March 19 2004 - 09:07 AM

That's not a silent case!

THIS is a silent case: http://www.nordichar....ZalmanTNN500A/

Posted Image

As for the original question, I think WinDVD will pass-through almost all PCM audio to your receiver, even for CDs. However, I have no idea if it would do so for .WAV files. Also, I've had trouble getting WinDVD to pass a proper DTS signal from a DTS CD to my receiver. I recall having to turn on DTS decoding so that it would remix the audio, which is obviously no good. Posted Image
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#5 of 34 OFFLINE   Jake Garian

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Posted March 20 2004 - 05:23 PM

Interesting stuff on cases, if a bit esoteric! I don't think I'll have much of a noise issue - the HTPC will be just a MOBO, Nvidea card, M-audio card, and single drive. The 500GB+ of storage is upstairs on my office computer and I have a 10/100MB Linksys routher between them. The HTPC shouldn't be any louder than my Dish PVR. Plus, all my HT hardware (except my amp) is inside enclosed furniture. Thanks for the ideas, though.

Anyone out there with info on getting raw PCM from .wavs out a digital connection? ...

#6 of 34 OFFLINE   ThomasL

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Posted March 21 2004 - 03:30 AM

Jake, since it sounds like you're planning on storing the ripped CDs (in whatever format) on a remote server, have you considered just using an Audiotron or Squeezebox device down in the home theater room in order to play back the collection? Since it sounds like you have a wired network, the Audiotron can now be had for $190 or thereabouts.

cheers,


--tom

#7 of 34 OFFLINE   StephenL

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Posted March 22 2004 - 05:56 AM

I'm using a Hoontech Soundtrack Audio DSP24 Value soundcard with optional digital I/O bracket, which provides bit-perfect output. The soundcard is connected via TOSLINK SPDIF to an Onkyo TX-DS898 receiver. I use the J. River Media Center player because it provides gapless playback between tracks (where audio on the original CD is continuous from one track to the next). I have about 300 CDs ripped to a 160GB hard drive using Windows Media Audio Lossless compression.

Note that some sound cards resample 44.1KHz audio to 48KHz and Windows Kmixer performs sample rate conversion, preventing bit-perfect output. This is easy to prove by playing a DTS audio CD and sending the digital output to a receiver or prossesor with a DTS decoder. Any resampling will corrupt the bit stream, preventing DTS playback. Some people claim that this resampling is audible on regular Redbook CDs. To achieve bit-perfect output you need a sound card that doesn't resample, a driver that bypasses Windows Kmixer and a player that works with the soundcard and driver.

I don't think that the M-Audio Revolution 7.1 will pass bit-perfect SPDIF PCM.

S-Video output will look terrible; you'll need RGB or Component video connection to your RPTV, or a dedicated computer monitor.
"It's most disappointing. I shall have to go all-out on some modifications."

#8 of 34 OFFLINE   StephenL

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Posted March 26 2004 - 04:15 AM

Sound card hack:

It's now possible to get bit-perfect SPDIF output from a $24.50 sound card by reflashing the firmware and installing drivers for a different sound card.

Detailed information:

http://www.forgotten....pageid=aurprod

http://www.avsforum.....hreadid=364771

http://www.avsforum.....hreadid=381552

http://www.avsforum.....hreadid=375357


I verified bit-perfect SPDIF PCM output from the Chaintech AV-710 (reflashed with Prodigy 7.1 firmware), J. River Media Center player and ASIO4ALL driver. Bit-perfect output verified by DTS CD audio playback.

Chaintech AV-710 sound card
http://www.newegg.co....120-103&depa=0

ASIO4ALL Version 1.8
http://michael.tippa...ne.de/asio4all/
ASIO4ALL Control Panel > Audio Device: Prodigy 7.1; other settings default.

J. River Media Center Version 10.0.90 beta.
http://www.musicex.c...r/download.html
Tools > Options > Playback > Ouput Mode: ASIO; Settings > Wuschel's ASIO4ALL; Channel Offset: 0.

Operating System: Windows XP SP1

Proceed at your own risk.

Edit:
Important Update! It's no longer necessary to reflash the Chaintech AV-710 firmware for bit-perfect ASIO SPDIF output. See my next post.
"It's most disappointing. I shall have to go all-out on some modifications."

#9 of 34 OFFLINE   Angelo.M

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Posted March 26 2004 - 08:03 AM

Jake:

My $0.02; this is how my office music server is configured.

Rip/Encode:

CDEx ripping and encoding. I use "standard" ripping, not "paranoia, full" (heresy, I know). I encode to "alt preset standard" for VBR files of reasonable size and quality.

Decode:

Chaintech AV-710, using the latest drivers from the Via Envy site. I haven't tried the "Prodigy mod" with the ASIO drivers.

Software:

J. River MediaCenter

Output:

Analog out to a harman/kardon PA2000 amp, in 2 channel (100W x 2) bridged mode, with a pair of JBL S38IIs.

Audiophile? Arguable. Bit-perfect? I guess not. Sounds great? Yes.


#10 of 34 OFFLINE   Jake Garian

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Posted March 29 2004 - 10:42 AM

Angelo - Thanks for your 2 cents - I hear what you're saying and wonder sometimes if I would ever hear the difference myself. My Anthem AVM20 seems to do an almost transparent A/D - time/bass management - D/A on my current analog sources (I always use my sub, even with 2-channel). If I'm going to spend the energy to rip 1000 CDs, though, I just can't stand to do anything other than achieve bit perfect!

Thomas - I was close to pulling the trigger on the Audiotron until I realized it did not support lossless WMA. I am ripping via EAC/Lossless WMA (this is a change since my initial post - lossless WMA uses less space than WAV and handles tags correctly) for the same reasons as above. And so far, I have not found a "media hub" that supports lossless WMA and/or provides a decent NTSC interface. So, a dedicated PC is the direction I'm currently headed in, although I'm constantly monitoring the evolution of dedicated HT Media Hubs. (The upcoming Philips Streamium looks interesting.)

Stephen - Bingo! That is the type of info I was fishing for. I'm not worried about risk - I am buying a rather bare PC just for this purpose and the cost involved is not large. I hope you don't mind if I email you directly with more questions?

Oh yea - one more important question - anyway to get streaming music output digitally in 44.1kHz 16bit PCM even though it is not streamed at that bandwidth? Or is analog out the only way to get streaming audio to my pre/pro for now? If this is so, what soundcard gives bit-perfect output from CD-spec files via the J. River Media Center AND gives high-quality analog output using J. River or Winamp or any other player?

Thanks all,

Jake

#11 of 34 OFFLINE   ThomasL

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Posted March 29 2004 - 12:29 PM

Jake,

you may want to look at FLAC as your lossless storage method since both the Squeezebox and Audiotron apparently handle this format (on the server side - not decoding a FLAC stream in hardware although the Squeezebox folks may indeed include this soon). As for video out to the TV, yes, none of these devices have monitor out or handle photos/video content. There doesn't seem to be a device that has both a built-in LCD display and a video out to display on a tv.

cheers,


--tom

#12 of 34 OFFLINE   Joe Hsu

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Posted March 29 2004 - 03:50 PM

Maybe you'd be interested in this thread then. Posted Image

#13 of 34 OFFLINE   Marty Christion

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Posted March 30 2004 - 09:55 AM

So while we're on the subject, does anyone know of a way to get DTS audio into a computer using the S/PDIF connector from a Laser Disc player?

#14 of 34 OFFLINE   StephenL

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Posted April 26 2004 - 06:27 AM

It's now possible to get bit-perfect ASIO SPDIF output from the Chaintech AV-710 without reflashing the firmware. This is possible with a new driver from Envy.

Chaintech AV-710 $24 at NewEgg:
http://www.newegg.co....120-103&depa=0

Envy driver v3.02d:
http://www.viaarena.com/?PageID=327

ASIO4ALL Version 1.8
http://michael.tippa...ne.de/asio4all/

For bit-perfect output you must use a player that supports ASIO, such as J. River Media Center, WinAmp or Foobar2000.

Set the Audio Deck VIA Vinyl Audio Control Panel for SPDIF output with automatic selection of Dolby Digital, DTS and PCM 44.1KHz and 48KHz:

1. Select 2 Channel.

2. Click on the Digital Out tab, check Enable Digital Output and select PCM Only. This gives you access to Sample Rate Select on the next tab.

3. Click on the Sample Rate & Immerzio 3D tab. Under Sample Rate Select check Automatic. Immerzio 3D Gaming Support must be unchecked for bit-perfect PCM.

4. Go back to the Digital Out tab and select AC3 or PCM with Auto Selection (48KHZ Only). This actually allows 44.1KHz and 48KHz if Automatic is selected on the previous tab.
"It's most disappointing. I shall have to go all-out on some modifications."

#15 of 34 OFFLINE   Angelo.M

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Posted April 27 2004 - 01:37 AM

Aces. Posted Image

This may mean nothing to my ears, but it's worth a crack at it anyway. Does WinAmp need a plug-in to use ASIO output?


#16 of 34 OFFLINE   Sami Kallio

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Posted May 01 2004 - 10:51 AM

I installed my new Chaintek card and connected the optical output to receiver. Sounds great but I do have one problem, playing DVD movies does not give out DTS/DD signal. S/PFID option on PowerDVD gave only noise, with DirectSound it gave out sound but not surround. J. Rivers player didn't either give out surround after I configured as mentioned above and picture didn't come up (PAL movie).

What is a good software for DVD playback with DTS and DD support?

I have installed ASIO4ALL and Envy drivers.

#17 of 34 OFFLINE   Sami Kallio

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Posted May 01 2004 - 01:57 PM

Got audio signal from PowerDVD but it is skipping over half of the audio. Not a performance issue as processor time is quite low at 30%. The other software (J. Rivers) obviously doesn't know how to play PAL so that's not an option (and I couldn't get it to pass DD/DTS signal).

#18 of 34 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted May 01 2004 - 02:11 PM

I think people have been getting WinDVD to work when streaming DD/DTS becomes an issue with ASIO or Kernel streaming. Try it out.

I have both players and prefer WinDVD's filters over PowerDVD's anyway.

#19 of 34 OFFLINE   Sami Kallio

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Posted May 02 2004 - 03:37 AM

WinDVD did the job, now I can use the PC for watching region free movies. Still won't be as good as a standalone player due to picture size problems. Since projector is getting signal from PC, it is projecting the whole 720x480 picture instead of the native resolution from DVD which can be smaller. Not much of a problem since it is a CRT projector and the stripes are black.

#20 of 34 OFFLINE   JohanD

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Posted May 02 2004 - 10:32 AM

I RIP my CD's to wav and then encode them using Monkey Audio. It is a lossless compression. Sounds very good.

http://www.monkeysaudio.com/
Free download. Full CD will compress down to about 250-300megs.