Hooking up my PC to my receiver, where do i start?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by RentBaxley, Nov 16, 2004.

  1. RentBaxley

    RentBaxley Agent

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    I am TOTALLY new to this concept, and have tried searching but don't even know what to search for! Basically I have a ton of MP3 files on my IBM T41 that I woudl like to play through my home stereo receiver. I don't think that my computer has antyhign set up for doing this, so i imagine i would need some sort of converter.

    Can you all steer me in the right direction? Is there something EASY that I can buy to hook this up?

    thanks!
    R
     
  2. Jonny_L

    Jonny_L Stunt Coordinator

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    Get yourself a cable that has a phono plug on one end, like your headphones do, and on the other end RCA type plugs like a stereo or VCR would have. They're about $6 at a radioshack. Then plug the phono end into your pc soundcards out or speaker port and the other end into one of your receivers inputs and voila.

    For more information about playing with pc's and home theaters I find a good site is htpcnews.com [​IMG]
     
  3. Ken Chan

    Ken Chan Producer

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    If all you have on the laptop is a headphone jack, you'll get better results with something like this that uses the USB port.
     
  4. RentBaxley

    RentBaxley Agent

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    Thanks for the info Jonny. I thought that using the soundcard on your computer was a bad idea...that it would give lousy sound quality. is this true? If not, i think i already have one of those plugs!
     
  5. RentBaxley

    RentBaxley Agent

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    Thanks Ken. what else might a computer have for audio output?

    I have always worked with a business laptop, but I'm seriously considering a personal computer mainly for audio/video purposes. I would like to be able to hook it up to my HDTV/RPTV and my home stereo system. I'm leaning the I-Mac direction right now. Do you guys know where direct me to learn what my best fit might be? Or personal suggestions?
     
  6. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    iMacs are cool. I'm certainly a fan of Apple, but in this case I'd recommend something running Windows XP or Windows MCE (media center). If you're good with computers you could build a very good HTPC for under $1000. If you'd rather buy . . . keep your eyes open for some good deals with Dell and others. The iMac may work fine, but I'm not familiar with many programs for Mac which can handle your desired A/V functions such as scaling DVD's to proper resolutions for TVs or acting as a PVR, etc. There may be programs out there for the Mac that do all these things, but I've never heard of any (or looked for any, to be honest).
     
  7. Jonny_L

    Jonny_L Stunt Coordinator

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    The quality of the audio will mostly depend on your soundcard. Usually PC's are ok, and laptops are a 50/50 toss of the dice for their soundcards. I have my pc hooked up to do editing and use that very same method for the sound. It works very well. If you have one of those phono to RCA cables already I suggest giving it a try. If not, Ken's USB device is great too but the more $$ option.
     
  8. Greg*go

    Greg*go Supporting Actor

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    I have it set up the way Johnny does, and it works well for me. My only use for it though is to play MP3s through my system, so I'm not really testing the audio quality of the connection. If you're just going to be using it for MP3s for the short-term, this will definitely do the trick. M

    ost MP3s you "get" aren't good quality anyway, unless you personally ripped them yourself and made them in excellent quality. That's what I did with my 200+ cds. And I no longer have to worry about what to play when people come over, just turn the PC on random [​IMG]
     
  9. Darryl

    Darryl Stunt Coordinator

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    Headphone JackThe most common is the headphone jack already mentioned. It's limited to 2 channel stereo and varies in sound quality. For MP3s it is usually fine. If you're using this method, I recommend NOT turning the volume on your computer up all the way. Keep the computer's volume at about half and then use your receiver's volume control to adjust how loud it is. You are less likely to get distortion that way.

    S/PDIF Digital Out - Some sound cards also offer an S/PDIF, which is like the coax out on a DVD player (some have optical out too). This allows you to get a digital signal to your receiver, including multi-channel formats like Dolby Digital and DTS. In all cases I'm familiar with, the multi-channel is only available as a pass-through from a DVD. In other words, you'll be able to get the surround mix from a DVD, but you won't get surround sound from a game even if the game has multi-channel sound (like Doom3 has). You'll just get stereo for games.

    Analog RCA Out - Another possibility is a set of analog RCA line out jacks. These are the same jacks you'll see on the back of a VCR, allowing you to hook the computer up to the receiver just like you would a VCR. Some sound cards even supply 6 of these, so you can get 5.1 sound if your receiver has a set of 5.1 channel analog inputs. I think multi-channel analog outs typically provide surround sound for both movies and games, not just movies like s/pdif. The drawback here is that you have to have multi-channel analog inputs on your receiver, and they can't already be plugged in to another source such as a SACD/DVD-A player.

    Analog Mini-Jack Out - Some cards provide 3 or 4 sets of headphone jacks. Each headphone jack provides a stereo signal to a different set of speakers. For example, one headphone jack carries the signal to the front left and right speakers, while another jack carries the signal to the rear left and right speakers. This is basically the same as the RCA outs described above, but uses a different kind of cable to go from the computer to the receiver.

    Proprietary Digital Out - And yet another possibility is a set of 3 digital outs which go directly to "digital" speakers. You don't go through a receiver, but straight to the speakers. The digital signal is stereo PCM, and the speakers themselves have a DAC and amplifier in them. You can get up to 7.1 channel surround this way, and it works for both movies and games. The drawback is obviously the need to use special speakers instead of being able to integrate the computer into an existing sound system.

    This probably goes beyond what the intial post was asking for, but some of you might be interested in knowing what's out there. Here are some links to some of the more common products:

    Soundblaster (Audigy2)
    Terratec
    Turtle Beach
    M-Audio (Revolution)
     
  10. RentBaxley

    RentBaxley Agent

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    Thanks for the info Darryl!
     
  11. Dave Getson

    Dave Getson Stunt Coordinator

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    I inquired about this in the Video game hardware section, but I can ask a more general question here. Is there any way to hook it up to get surround playing games (ie: EAX)?
    Thanks!
     
  12. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    Dave, you would need a surround sound card and either hook up all the analog channels or use digital connection. I was told that some games don't support digital connection but I don't know how true that is.

    This might help:
    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htfo...hreadid=190009
     
  13. Dave Getson

    Dave Getson Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks, I'll check it out.
     
  14. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    For desktop PCs, a very inexpensive sound upgrade is the Chaintech AV710 card (under $25). It has an optical S/PDIF output as well as a "high resolution", 2-channel only analog output, that uses a Wolfson DAC. Perhaps not up the snuff of an outboard DAC, but good nonetheless.
     

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