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Can I do this? Surround sound decoding


Active Member

If this has already been answered elsewhere please feel free to point me in the right direction, but I couldn't find quite what I was after...

I'm trying to build an HTPC for my parents who want a "minimum number of boxes" approach and have some severe space limitations for housing kit. As a result I'm looking at the possibility of using a soundcard, internal or external, to do the 5.1 decoding for video and audio playback (CDs in 2.0 though). Ideally I'd have liked to remove this hassle by using an offboard processor or AV Amp but they're just too darn deep for the space I have available :mad:

So, is there a way to use a decent quality soundcard to provide onboard decoding (with appropriate software) to allow me to drive a 5 channel power amp and run a 5.1 / 2.0 set-up? I'd like to have the ability to set the delays for the rears but can do this manually rather than needing an auto-setup like the AV amps - an overall variable delay to resolve lip-synch problems would also be needed. HD sound formats would be a bonus, but the emphasis is on DTS or DD formats to be honest.

Thanks in advance



Active Member
The answer is yes you can almost any quality soundcard will allow you to do what you want as well as sound cards that are built into the motherboard. All all sound cards have a pre amp stage so you can plug them straight into a power amp without the need to go through an AV processsor or AV reciever, but you would have to use the analogue outs.

If I was you my main worry is the usability of the software for your parents. Windows and MCE really leave a lot to be desired in this case, it seems that it is MCE acceptable programs or non mce programs and you can not drive wondows via the remote. So you will have to compromise.

Then check with the soundcard drivers I have come across drivers that will not auto sense format. i.e to play 5.1 you had to set the drivers to 5.1 to play 2.0 you had to set the drivers to 2.0 or it automatically output upsampled 2.0 to 5.1 when playing a cd. Then there is standby mode with MCE, the list could go on and on.

Think carefully or you could be the busiest technical support department known to man.


Active Member
Many thanks for the reply Ralph. I'm using a mobo with onboard sound now to do some trials, and will then probably upgrade to a full sound card to get the improved quality this will (I assume) produce.

With regards usability I certainly take your point. I'm looking to use MediaPortal which, as I understand it, allows each "type" of media playback to be associated with its own software. What I'm hoping is that I'll be able to identify the sound format required for each media type in the relevant package, thereby removing the need to reset the soundcard output each time. As for being the busiest technical support department, it'll only be adding media centre to PC, electrics, plumbing, painting...:rolleyes:

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