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Got HTPC - Still Need Fancy Receiver?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by Big Adam, Dec 29, 2004.

  1. Big Adam

    Big Adam
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    Hi,

    Subject to a good long audition at Sevenoaks, my proposed new system is:

    Self built HTPC outputting component video and direct feed SPDIF audio
    3x Monitor Audio Radius R225 (Centre, Left, Right)
    2x Monitor Audio Radius R180 (Rears)
    Sub (Model subject to audition)
    42" Plasma (Model subject to audition)

    Now my big dilemma is what should I be considering for amplification duties?

    High on my initial list is the Denon 3805 but with the HTPC taking on all the source switching duties do I really need all the whistles and bells?

    With a budget of 1000quid can I get better value by aiming for kit that ONLY handles processing and amplification?
     
  2. pragmatic

    pragmatic
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    You could do monoblocks and get the pc to do all the processing, and use your sound card to directly connect the monoblocks.
     
  3. dinoprada2003

    dinoprada2003
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    Hello Adam,

    Sorry to butt in, but how have you got your HTPC outputting component video? do you mean via your VGA input to your plasma or is there another way to connect your PC up via component that can be done? :)

    Ta,
     
  4. Big Adam

    Big Adam
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    Abit RX600Pro-HDTV :thumbsup:

    [​IMG]

    Still waiting on it to arrive from Dabs........and the thing I am MOST interested in is what exactly the little D-connector on the daughter card is (No info ANYWHERE on the net)

    I'll be happy with component but if that connector is HDMI.........

    Gazbarber, can you give me a link to an example of a good monoblock?
     
  5. pragmatic

    pragmatic
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    The only ones i know of are the Marantz ones and their about £150 each i think, but if you watch the classified section they come up all the time and are pretty cheap. Otherwise you could get a cheap older amp with less bells and wisles, for example the Marantz 7400 from peter tyson is about £400 and thats a real steal.
     
  6. Export Strength

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    Hi Adam,

    Thought I'd add a bit. The only way monoblock amps are going to work is if the sound card fitted to your HTPC has a six-channel pre-amp output - this would mean your PC would be doing all the audio processing as well as controlling the volume. You didn't mention this in your spec so...

    My advice would be to stick to your original idea of using a capable AV amp. This would provide you with plenty of alternative input flexability for the future - games, Sky HD, camcorders etc... I expect your HTPC will provide some of this anyway but you can never have to much!
    The video switching facilities always come as standard with these products so there's not much in the way of alternative options. Of course there are some but £££££...?
    With £1000 budget the product of choice, in my opinion, would have to be the Arcam AVR250. Quite simply it's a monster of an AV amp. Both the AVR300 (£1300) and AVR250 from Arcam have reset the benchmark for audio quality at this price. Infact unless you plan on spending over £3k these days theres not much around to better them.
    Sevenoaks should be able to arrange a demo for you. I have personally installed several systems almost identical in spec to the one you're proposing and they were all very, very good. Go for a REL Q201 or similar for a sub. As for screen I'll be happy to offer some constructive advice if you need it.
    Also, unless there is a specific reason for using 180's at the back I would go for side mounted Monitor Audio BFX (or better yet SFX) di-pole rears. They work better for cinema...

    Happy shopping.
     
  7. Big Adam

    Big Adam
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    Export,
    Thanks for feedback. My new Asus motherboard has both SPDIF out and also onboard 8-channel Azalia analogue outputs. I very much doubt the abilities of the onboard stuff so am veering very much towards the digital output for dedicated downstream processing.

    Amp/Receiver wise, I've got the following list:
    Arcam AVR250
    Denon 3805
    Rotel RMB-1075 (using PC intially then a dedicated processor)

    Forward Firing Sub wise, I've got the following list:
    Rel Q201
    Velodyne SPL-800 seriesII

    Plasma wise, it's probably:
    Panasonic TH-42PHD7
    Pioneer PDP-43MXE1

    and I'll add those BFX speakers to my rear options! :smoke:
     
  8. pragmatic

    pragmatic
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    Don't discount Yamaha, the 1500 would be more than up to the job actually the 750 would be. Also the new Marantz 8500 is gonna have DVI switching, not sure if it 'upconverts' anolauge sources to digial but is sure worth a look and should just be within your budget.

    For large screen I'm more a projector fan but i suppose the darkened room isn't always practicle where as a plasma is, more 'bang for the buck' with a pj though.
     
  9. Tejstar

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    Or how about the Pioneer AX5Ai?
     
  10. Big Adam

    Big Adam
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    Might consider a PJ for the future but for day-to-day watching it's a plasma first. :)

    That Marantz is a bit of a beast! Will look out for reviews. I don't need any upconversion as the HTPC will have VGA, DVI and Component outputs (and will handle all all the switching capabilities)

    It still bugs me that if I go for a receiver I'll be paying for lots of functionality that i'll never use? :suicide: Perhaps I should give the Rotel (or similar) serious consideratrion :rolleyes:

    And the Pioneer AX5i is over my budget....unless I find a bargain.
     
  11. Tejstar

    Tejstar
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    Wasn't your budget £1k? Click here
     
  12. Big Adam

    Big Adam
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    Adds Ax5ai to audition list :blush:

    :smashin:
     
  13. whats_this

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    I have also been considering ditching an integrated to run my hcpc off a power amp, and from my research it seems to be possible, using a high quality sound card with 6 analogue outputs. However these high quality sound cards are fairly expensive £300-900 and beyond. It also means you are relying on the dolby digital/ DTS converter in the computer to process the sound.

    The benefits are that you obviously can invest in better amplification as you do not need an integrated amp.

    Everything is controlled from your pc.

    The analogue output of these cards can match beat £1000 cd players for sound quality at a fraction of the price.

    In your hcpc you have The best dvd image possible, amazing cd playback, a video processor, audio processor, with upgradeability and pvr functions etc games. Hidef via downloads.


    the most amazing thing to me; price! for £2000 you can have all these things which can possible rival a £5000- separate system, maybe not quite as good and defiantly not as user friendly, but pretty darn close. (if youve already got a hcpc you could probably upgrade it with a £300 sound card and get a dedicated power amp, mayb a rotel 1075 almost inside your thousand pound budget. Need to check though 4 u, not entirly sure which card in that price range but i shall have a look for you)


    However the downside is that it takes a lot of time and effort to set up a hcpc perfectly, especially when its doing the audio aswell as the image (were talking about weeks of work possible months, Pcs can be very problematic and require patience to get spot on; It has taken me months, not solidly obviously, just to do research on all this) Especially when you want to do things via remote and automate the thing.

    The other inconvenience is that you are limited to the number of inputs you can have although the lynx 2 C looks very good for inputs (£££££)

    And then there is all the little tweaks processors provide, bass management etc, frequency cut off (waiting for some really good hcpc software to do this)

    But the big problem is no one is really sure how good the decoding on a hcpc is , no one has actually done a proper comparison (to my knowledge) of a hcpc DD/DTS decoding vs a decent dedicated processor through the same power amp. Pls anyone with info pass on

    So there are advantages to each, i have recently splashed out on a projector and so my hcpc adventure has been pushed back slightly but my current plan is when funds allow to buy a quality sound card and then take it round a friends house and compare to his Tag processor, although he doesn’t know yet. Lets see if he reads this.

    If you want any more info feel free to pm me and i am more than happy to pass on what I’ve learnt

    For more info have a look round avsforum.com and the hcpc achieve here
     
  14. dinoprada2003

    dinoprada2003
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    So my HCPC hooked up to my PJ via a vga lead playing a dvd via power dvd is the rival in terms of image quality of a £1000 standalone dvd player then?
    :eek:
     
  15. pragmatic

    pragmatic
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    With the right software, anything you can do in hardware with a few exceptions you can do in software, just a little(lot) slower. Rememer the processing power of a modern pc wipes the floor with pretty much every piece of av equipment.
    Even after windows and the spyware have taken their chunk you still have a monsterous processing machine that with the right software can do pretty much anything.
    I was looking for a DTS/DD encoder softwarefor the PC but it seems to be pretty dificult to come by and in the end it would be easier just to plug the output of the pc to the 5/6/7.1 input of an amp.
     
  16. whats_this

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    Yea very probably, many people have ditched the arcram players to use hcpc. The reason why a hcpc is so good is that you can achieve 1:1 pixel mapping for your display, meaning that the projector/plasma doesnt have to do any scaling. A hcpc, when set up right, can possible be as close as possible to a £1000 player connected to a £1000 scalar i would imagine and then have enough power to do everything else.

    gazbarber there is a dd/dts decoder that you can get with theatertek see here

    http://store6.esellerate.net/store/ProductInfo.aspx?StoreIDC=STR473523819&SkuIDC=SKU9430788019&pc

    Think you can upgrade to it if your already running theater tek. Similarly you can get Ac3 filter

    http://ac3filter.sourceforge.net which gives you

    Main features:
    Full AC3 standard compliance.
    S/P DIF passthrough support.

    Decode MPEG2 PES streams.
    Multichannel output support.
    LFE support.
    Dynamic Range Compression (DRC) support.
    Overflow control and automatic gain control.

    Gain levels control.
    Bitstream information (channel format, bitrate, sample rate, coupling freq and maximun freq).
    Input/output levels.
    Matrix mixer with direct control of mixing matrix.
    Stereo to multichannel mixing.
    DolbySurround/ProLogic/ProLogicII downmixing.
    Delays for each channel.
    Equalizer.

    Not entirely sure if ac3 filter can decode dd/dts itself but i had a feeling it did, cant quite remember, anyone know?

    Hope that helps
     
  17. Big Adam

    Big Adam
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    And that's exactly what's holding me back from going the dedicated HCPC + Power Amp route.

    I know my HCPC can produce a wonderful video source and I know it can output a pure digital audio source (to an integrated amp). But there is very little info out there on affordable HCPC audio processing.

    BTW, a big thumbs down to the Peterborough Sevenoaks branch today. Went in there to discuss my options. Assistant rolled his eyes when I mentioned using a HCPC as my source and told me I was making a big mistake. :lesson:

    When I mentioned the amps/receivers I was considering, he basically wrote them all off bar the Yamaha. When I told him that I'd like to audition at least 3, he said that I should basically buy the Yamaha 'on trust'.

    I told him that he would not expect me to buy a car 'on trust', so considering I may be spending the best part of 6-7 grand in his shop, did he really expect me to 'trust' his judgement of the Yamaha?

    I'll go back to Sevenoaks again but will avoid this Yamaha fan-boy. :thumbsdow
     
  18. pragmatic

    pragmatic
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    AC3 and DD are the same thing, if that helps.
     
  19. whats_this

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    lol good on you mate for not taking any bs from sevenoaks. Not that happy with my local sevenoaks either, find them a bit pushy at points, although i did almost destroy their demo room (with a asw750) and then didnt buy anything; might be why they dont like me anymore nut back to the point.

    I plan to be doing a test of a top hcpc audio decoder vs a processor some time in the next 6 months or so, funds and impulse buying allowing obviously.

    Been posting all over the place to try and find if anyone has done this sort of thing, waiting for a response over at avsforum, but watch this sig for a UK dedicated hcpc website coming some time next year hopefully

    edit: probably should of put job and girlfriend allowing 2.
     
  20. dinoprada2003

    dinoprada2003
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    Hello and thanks "whats this",

    Is there anything I can do to improve dvd play back picture quality or is it just a case of using power dvd or theatre tek and thats it?
     
  21. whats_this

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    theatertek will give you an excellent image, but to get the best you will need to use ffdshow to do the post processing, although it does take up a heck of a lot of your cpu, the faster yuor hcpc the better for ffdshow. Not an expert on ffdshow, was actually just looking at it at the theatertek.com forums to figure out what im doing know ive got my projector
     
  22. dinoprada2003

    dinoprada2003
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    Cool but I thought it was only for Dvix/Xvid playback?
     
  23. whats_this

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  24. tom_nieto

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    I found that pixel mapping my panasonic ptae200 provided worse results than using the onboard scaler. The image just seemed a lot smoother by running a higher resolution into the projector and letting it deal with the excess. Perhaps if I were using a proper piece of software to play the film on it might have givem better results, but the difference was clear as day to me, and for little or no effort on my part the picture improved hugely.
     
  25. JohnS

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    Mark Ward on the forum has recently ditched a Lexicon in favour of an RME card with analogue add on board for multichannel out to his active Blueskys. He thinks its far better than the Lexicon for DVD's via Theatretek 2.0.6.

    The biggest problem with this route remains the ability to produce DPL2 or AC3 from Sky etc, you still need a processor for this at the moment. For the time being its much easier to feed spdif to a processor.
     

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