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Advice for new HTPC build (1 Viewer)

mdl

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I'm looking for advice on building a fairly simple HTPC. My primary goal is to rip all my CDs and be able to play them more easily. That part nearly any system will be able to do, so that's easy. The harder ideas include:
  • Play uncompressed 7.1 LPCM over HDMI to my Marantz 7015 (e.g., to run REW).
  • Copy SACD ISO images to the hard disk and then send the raw bits over HDMI into the Marantz for DSD decoding and 5.1 audio playback.
I thought multi-channel LPCM over HDMI would just be plug & play...silly me! My new Windows 11 laptop refuses to play anything but stereo over HDMI to the Marantz, even though I checked the EDID and found that the Marantz is correctly advertising 8-channel uncompressed PCM audio. I think the laptop's drivers must be restricting me to stereo, but I haven't figured out yet were the problem actually comes from.

I don't have many SACDs, but I would love to be able to play them somewhere other than my Blu-ray player. It plays them just fine, sending the DSD over to the Marantz for decoding and DAC, but it has no front panel display to tell me what track I'm on. I can turn on the TV, but I'd rather not when I'm just playing audio. I understand that copyright restrictions prevent me from ripping SACD to FLAC like I can with my 2-channel CDs, but I am hoping there is some way to copy the SACD to an ISO image and beam the bits to the Marantz like the Blu-ray player does. It seems like that would avoid copy protection concerns because the protected DSD bitstream is not getting modified on its way to the Marantz.

Are these goals feasible? If so, what CPUs/motherboards are good at these kinds of things? I want to use this machine for other purposes, and am hoping that I can get away with integrated graphics for low power consumption, say, like an AMD 5600G.

Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide!
 

DaveF

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I expect 7.1 LPCM is doable with anything from the past 5+ years. SACD I have no knowledge of. But I only know the movie-streaming side of HTPC; I don’t pay attention to audio per se. With a 2016-era i5 based PC “server” and an Nvidia Shield streaming box, I can play 4K HDR with TrueHD and Atmos audio no problem.
 

mdl

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I would think that DSD would be similar to Atmos on the PC side - just grab the bits and send them over the wire, no decryption or decoding needed. But that doesn't guarantee support, unfortunately. Do you have any suggestions on how I can research if this is supported? I am obviously trying general web searches, but haven't found much concrete information.
 

DaveF

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Sounds like you’re limited to whatever the default music player is on your laptop.

I don’t play anything directly from my PC. I use it as a server and play from streaming clients.

You can install playback software that supports multi-channel. Spotify or Apple Music might work. Or the Netflix app. Just to see that you can get more than stereo.

You could install server and client for Plex or such to test for multi-channel and bitstreamed music.
 

mdl

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I actually started just with the Windows audio settings window with its "test" buttons. You can click on every speaker and (try to) play a test tone. Only L & R worked. All the others played no sound, but the Marantz's display blinked like it was confused.

I also tried REW, which recognized that I had configured Windows for 5.1, and tried to play test tones. Once again, only L & R worked. I tried several audio output options in REW, but none of them worked.

I think Audacity should also be able to play any kind of output I'd like, but I didn't try that when the other attempts flopped.
 

DaveF

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I don’t know Windows very well — not well enough to diagnose multichannel playback problems (I used it as my server but haven’t used it for playback since moving to Shield as client five years ago).
 

John Dirk

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I actually started just with the Windows audio settings window with its "test" buttons. You can click on every speaker and (try to) play a test tone. Only L & R worked. All the others played no sound, but the Marantz's display blinked like it was confused.

I also tried REW, which recognized that I had configured Windows for 5.1, and tried to play test tones. Once again, only L & R worked. I tried several audio output options in REW, but none of them worked.

I think Audacity should also be able to play any kind of output I'd like, but I didn't try that when the other attempts flopped.
Overall, I think you're asking a bit too much from a standard Windows 11 PC [SACD manipulation/playback] but you should definitely be able to decode 7.1 audio [even Atmos] with the correct hardware and drivers.

It sounds like the laptop did send "something" to the other channels but the Marantz had trouble decoding it. You might need to review your HDMI settings on that end.

I don't think REW natively supports multi-channel sources in Windows unless you have an after market ASIO driver. You can try this open source solution but I've had mixed results.

 

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