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HTPC as processor?

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Madders, Jun 2, 2003.

  1. Madders

    Madders
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    Here's a question for you! I have a HTPC with Revo 7.1 soundcard. What sort of quality could I expect from using this setup as a surround processor with windvd etc, hooking up a 7 channel power amp to the line outs of the soundcard? Currently I have the soundcard sending the SPDIF out signal to a Denon AVC-A10SE, I just wondered if there would be any improvement in sound using the DAC's on the revo soundcard or not?

    Look forward to hearing your views!

    Steve
     
  2. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Very much doubt that the sound quality even from a very good sound card within the internal environment of a PC with the usual switchmode power supply,processor running at 2-3GHz etc will be better than that from a Denon A10SE,running outside all that digital noise from the PC.

    I also have a HTPC(a UVEM) and use my Tag AV 32R to do all of the digital processing from DVD,and CD SP/DIF goes through a Perpetual Technologies upsampler prior to the processor.

    Easiest way to be sure though is to give it a try....I don't think there will be much contest.
     
  3. Jeff

    Jeff
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    The analogue output of a RME Digi 96/8 PST (or PAB) easily beats that of a Denon A1SE. In fact I think Branxx said it compared favorably with his MC12. The internal environment of PCs isn't generally a problem. When problems do occur it tends to be motherboard chipset related. The biggest problem with using a PC as a processor is the available software and the inability to decode external sources (although even this is possible with a bit of work).
     
  4. Nic Rhodes

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    £1K on a top flight sound card is worth competition for receivers upto 10x that. The HCPC route has many advantages but you should know the downfalls as well. Unlike many solutions however you can generally swap out the offending component and not loose silly money.
     
  5. Rob.Screene

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    With my Audiophile 2496 card, I compared 24-bit 44.1KHz S/PDIF to analog outputs in to my A10SE and I don't think I could tell them apart in a blind test.

    I only use S/PDIF for music because I use with WinAmp MAD and SSRC output plug-ins to upsample to 24-bit 96KHz and like to see the Direct 96KHz appear on the Denon! I've not compared to the
    analog analog at 24-bit 96KHz though.

    I'd say the Revolution's circle surround 2 might be a really nice way to get dolby pro-logic 2 alike through the older Denon's fine power amps.

    regards,
    Rob.
     
  6. Branxx

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    alex2,

    "Very much doubt that the sound quality even from a very good sound card within the internal environment of a PC with the usual switchmode power supply,processor running at 2-3GHz etc will be better than that from a Denon A10SE,running outside all that digital noise from the PC."

    You need some serious reassestment of your views regarding the audiophile possibilities of PCs (especially being moderator).

    Regarding the topic of the thread, I think Revo would most probably match the performance of A10SE. I hope Madders will try and report back to us.

    Which sound card is used in UVEM?
     
  7. nathan_silly

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    What has being a Mod to do with his views? Just because they're opposite of what you think?

    You can use PC, with all it's hair-pulling & stressful moments. I'll settle with my top-end processor, thanks.
     
  8. Jeff

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    I thought you had an MC-1?

    Branxx has almost rewritten the meaning of high end audio, the fact that he also uses PCs should tell you something. Don't knock what you don't know or understand.
     
  9. alexs2

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    Branxx.....just thought I'd take the time to reply to that little lot.....as has been pointed out,my views have nothing to do with being a moderator,and I do use a Perpetual Technologies P1A/P3A combination for CD replay and have compared it with both analogue out from my HTPC,and digital out fed into the PTech upsampler,then into the Tag.

    This particular DAC/DSP combination is(in most people's views,not just mine)bettered only by devices such as dCS's Elgar/Purcell,and certainly is the match of most of the midrange Levinson/Wadias.

    The digital card in the PC is an M-Audio revolution,which as you will know does not resample rates below 48kHz,and is capable of passing CD data unchanged to the SP/DIF output....obviously this doesnt equal the quality of devices like the LynxTWO for analogue output,but that wasn't really what I required.....in that respect all I wanted was a device that would deliver data which hadnt been up/down converted direct to the PTech.

    I would still maintain that in the midrange system context,and given the quality of screening/construction of many PC's,a good offboard DAC is usually superior....IMHO


    BTW...whilst on this,your review of an array of high end PC soundcards was very good indeed,and certainly shows that subjective matters also play a part when reviewing high end equipment,be it PC based or stand-alone
     
  10. Madders

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    Thanks for all the replys guys. Branxx, I've just spent my lunch hour reading your post on the AVS Forum. Thanks for the great comparison test!! That's just the sort of thing I was looking for. I guess I need to do a lot more research on the subject! I actually have a UVEM made HTPC. Basically you select the components you want, and Phil puts it all together and tests it to make sure it all works. So far I have changed over my tv card, but now I want to - hopefully - use the HTPC as the processor/ pre amp of my home cinema so I can get a dedicated power amp such as the Arcam FMJ P7. I want to make sure, however that the audio quality would be a step up rather than a step back! I shall have to get the right leads and do a comparison test with my denon!

    Steve
     
  11. Branxx

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    alex2,

    Sorry if my reply sounded too harsh, but your comment caught me off guard.

    I had a pleasure listening to dCS Delius (without Purcell) at dannyc's not so long ago and it is definitely as fine piece of equipment. I also have a great respect for the company producing it and the technology they developed.

    What is relevant to the discussion on hand is that we used Delius as a control point against analogue out of LynxTWO Model B and RME DIGI96/8 PAD. Our views were posted here. In short there was no consensus that dCS Delius outperforms either of the sound cards and there was no reason to expect such an outcome. Even more surprising was RME being chosen a preferred for some music material, considering that this card can be now purchased for only £203.40.

    I accept that our test can be faulted on grounds of objectivity or scientific approach, but the fact remains that if the chosen sound cards where obviously not in the same league as dCS Delius several of us would have detected that straight away.

    In my opinion, buying that level of audio quality for only £200 (or even £1,000 for Lynx) is phenomenal value for money that is difficult to ignore.

    I agree on your comment that M-Audio Revo does not resample to 48KHz like some other AC-97 compliant sound cards, it does however still suffers from kMixer (component of Windows XP /2000 audio subsystem) meddling and requires use of ASIO or kernel-streaming compatible players to achieve full audio benefits on CD based material. This may account for AC3/DTs material sounding better than CD's. I don't own Revo, but I have its predecessor Delta 410 and extrapolating from there, for £70 for this card it is a absolute bargain.

    Both RME and LynxTWO are slightly at advantage in this area as they have drivers written to bypass kmixer and would therefore work well with any software player.

    Jeff thank you for your support. I am quite convinced that Nathan is largely in agreement with me on this subject as well, and I agree with him that PCs can be finicky.
     
  12. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Np Branxx...and I wasn't faulting your review,only saying that subjective elements are especially important in the context of high end systems.
    I think that many mainstream magazines with audiophile leanings would do well to conduct reviews in that fashion,using a panel of listeners,and good reference points.

    I think it's particularly difficult in that arena,where many products do virtually everything well(with some exceptions of course!),but almost all have a different sound,or bias to a part of the frequency spectrum,despite having little or no measurable differences.

    I would also agree that the value for money of some PC based products is amazing,compared to the prices of similar components in a shiny case.
    As to the Revo,the software player in my PC was chosen after quite lengthy chats with Phil Hale of UVEM to avoid the kMixer problems....it sounds good,but still benefits from the PTech upsampler/interpolator which performs a similar function to dcS's Purcell.
     
  13. Alaric

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  14. Branxx

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    Alaric,

    The new RME is model HDSP 9632 (not 9636). It is suppose to cost around £340. RME DIGI96/8 PAD is currently only £200.

    I have high expectations for the new card and I am hopping to get a sample to test within the next 2-4weeks.

    Last Wednesday I had opportunity to use Perpetual Technologies P3A DAC and it is the first piece of equipment I heard for a while that can perform on the level to match (and even exceed) DIGI96/8. My point: if you need an *excellent* sound card now buy DIGI96/8. Phenomenal value for money and impossible to go wrong (for that amount of money).

    Otherwise lets wait for another few weeks until the new card comes out.

    alex2, I didn't have P1A but you where right about P3A. Very nice clean yet worm sound. I liked it. The signal was fed via AES/EBU from RME DIGI96/8 card. s
     
  15. Alaric

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    Hi There,

    The card on that site is a 9636, and there is an LE version, which apears to be the same price, 200 as the pad...wonder what it is then ???

    By the looks of it, the LE + a different expansion card the 8 port one would be best for htpc/hifi ???

    As for a card, atm i don't have a cinema....still in build and will be for a good few months, its just interesting the developments in that area as i still need a dedent sound card for my htpc - curently unused, as is the *two* barco's, the Mirage Om-6, Mc-2, 2x Om-R2's, the yamaha AX1 etc...*sigh*

    Cya,
    Lee (still holdin' onta the dream)
     
  16. dunkyboy

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    Hmm, this all sounds very interesting... I've been hoping to get m'self a Lexicon MC-1 nice 'n cheap (£1500) for a while now, but if I could get similar quality from my PC, I'm quite intrigued.... What's a good way to get started in the world of PC-based sound processing..? Is there a nice website or thread I can take a look at?

    Cheers,

    Dunc
     
  17. Branxx

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    For pure 2-channel reproduction I have consensus of several persons that RME gives stronger perfomance than my MC-12B.

    If we assume MC-1'sperformance does not exceed MC-12B in this regard than setting up a HTPC with DIGI96/8 gives you audiophile quality of mcuh higher quality. I think it is an easy and cheap way of settign a benchmark at an early stange of buiding an audio system.

    I suspect that many of you think I am exaggerating and there is no way a computer sound card can produce anything remotely comparable to a £9,000 music processor. What I am saying come from my own experimenation that is in many cases conducted with cooperation with other forum members. COnsidering the affordability of thsi particular sound card it sould be possible for many to 'risk' and venture in this direction. Many oforum members have already done so. Let's hear their experience.
     
  18. dunkyboy

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    Well, to be honest, I'm perfectly happy with my 2-channel performance. My £750 ATC preamp is absolutely fantastic, and I doubt an MC-12 or a PC soundcard could improve on it. But my Yamaha DSP-E800 AV processor is desperatly in need of replacing... Can a PC compare to said Lexicon for Dolby Digital/DTS decoding? Now that I think about it, it could get quite ugly, cable-wise (my HTPC is on the other side of the room from my sound system!) But I am curious...

    Dunc
     
  19. Orbital

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    Lo all,

    This is a cracking thread, it's a pity more of the posts on the forum aren't of this quality.

    I too am very interested in the possibility of gaining high end processor sound from the use of a PC. What sort of spec machine are we looking at here?
     
  20. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Branxx.....slightly off topic,but the P1A utterly transforms the P3A DAC,and raises the performance to another level,easily the equivalent of the midrange Wadia and Levinsons,and gives the dCS a good run for the money.

    Whilst I'm here,do you know of any good 24/192 cards that also decode either DVD-A or SACD that you could recommend?
     
  21. Jeff

    Jeff
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    Sounds cards (with a couple of exceptions) aren't capable of decodeing anything, you need software for that. So far there are no DVD-A or SACD software players available apart from the DVD-A player that is included with the Audigy 2 card. SACD is further complicated because I don't think DVD-rom drives are even capable of reading SACD discs.
     
  22. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Thanks Jeff....for what it's worth certainly a number of DVD drives in stand alone players read SACD/DVD-A,and I know Linn's somewhat expensive Unidisk reads all formats....with any luck it won't be too long before someone sees the benefit of putting all the decoding firmware/hardware etc on one card....even the record companies ought to be plased as it would keep the digital stream within the machine and avoid some of their copyright worries
     
  23. Piya

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    Branxx

    Your soundcard analogue o/p shootouts inspires me to buy the Revo soundcard, to experiment with my HTPC system.

    Before the Revo, I used Audiophile 24/96 to output digital streams to my budget Pioneer VSX-808rds. I was happy enough with the quality of the onboard decoding quality of the Pioneer.

    After reading your comparison, I thought I could get a better quality surround sound from the Revo's analogue outs. Howver, when I fed the analogue outs to the 5.1 analogue ins of the Pioneer I found that the sound was flat and inferior to the Pioneer onboard dac. I ask dm at AVS Forum for his suggestions ( http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=262901) and got a solution that I have yet to try. I'll let you know after I have time to tweak the system.

    I am confident that with the right setup and configurations, HTPC has the potentials to be equal or better than the mid to hi-end surround sound processors.

    I'm planning to buy a 5 channel Rotel RMB-1075 power amp to be used with my HTPC.

    Cheers

    Piya

    HTPC: Duron 850 MHz | ATI 8500 64 MB DDR | 256 MB DDR memory | M-Audio Audiophile 24/96, Revo | PowerDvd 4, WinDVD Platinum, ZoomPlayer2.9, all with latest patches | PowerStrips3 | Grundig Xentia 32" Widescreen with vga input @856x480 | Pioneer VSX-808rds(to be replaced by the upcoming Rotel RMB-1070.
     
  24. Madders

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    Well, I hooked up my Revo card to the 6 channel ext-in of my Denon AVC-A10SE. The sound was okay but not up to the standard of the denon's processing it seemed a little too "soft" and indistinct, however it wasn't to far off. I have therefore decided to go for the RME soundcard and 4 I/O board which I just ordered. I'm sure that, reading all the reviews, it should better my Denon's onboard processing!

    I know all my dvd processing can be done using my player software, however, how can I get the Sky+ digibox dolby digital signal processed internally? I will be hooking the digibox up using the spdif input on the RME soundcard, and running it through dscaler.

    I look forward to your responses!

    Thanks,

    Steve
     
  25. Branxx

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    I word of warning to all you guys experimenting with multi-channel set-ups.

    I was deliberately concentrating on 2-channel quality not only for simplicity but also due to number of unforeseen problems that may spring on you once the multi-channel operation is invoked.

    I am keen to hear your experiences but do not expect a smooth ride.

    I have also just god AEB-8, the eight channel daughter card for the RME DIGI96/8.

    My instinct would be that the REvo should be easiest to set-up in this context. I have successfully set Delta410, including the LFE in 6.1 configuration.
     
  26. Madders

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    An update on my trials with my Denon A10SE...I downloaded Sonic Foundry (Now Sony Screenblast) Siren yesterday, and the improvement of the playback sound quality compared to my Winamp software was amazing! The sound quality is very very close to my Arcam CD23 going through my Denon..Can't wait to try my new soundcard...:)

    Branxx, thank you for the word of warning regarding the rocky road ahead! Yes I am not expecting an easy ride whilst I see how I can utilse my HTPC. I am not getting rid of my amp just yet, as it has the 6 channel pass through option, I can test whether the HTPC is improving the sound or not - and also if the thing works or not! If I can get everything to work through the one box, then ideally I would want to get a power amp to go with the HTPC, however I think that that is a long way off.

    The challenge of getting things working better is great fun though! ;)

    Cheers,

    Steve
     
  27. Branxx

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    Madders,

    I think you are still not getting the best out of Revo. In normal operation Revo suffers the kmixer interference. If however, it is still close to your A10SE, the rusult say more about Denon than Revo.

    Sonic Foundry Screenblast is an excellent player, but it does not have ASIO support. Try J River Music Center, Foobar or ASIO plug in for WInAMp.
     
  28. alexs2

    alexs2
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    I have the ASIO plugin for Winamp here and apart from Winamp's clunky interface,the quality is very good,especially so when the digital out is upsampled/interpolated....havent had the program for long,so may try a few different skins etc for ease of use.
    Certainly an improvement over the grainy sound from WMP 9.
     
  29. MuFu

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    alexs2, if you don't like the Winamp interface (I don't either), you should give foobar2000 a try:

    http://www.foobar2000.org/

    It's very sparse but alot more powerful that Winamp, IMO. Just make sure when you install it that kernel streaming is included and activated ("Jump-to-Time" is another useful feature). The upsampler offers a choice of any sampling frequency your soundcard's DACs support (if you want 192k you just type in "192000S/s" for example) and a variety of dithering options.

    Piya and Madders - make sure you don't have any form of dynamic range limitation enabled in your software player.

    MuFu.

    P.S. I'm quite sure the Revo can surpass most ~<£1000 receivers for stereo use, given the right software and a decent power stage.
     
  30. Branxx

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    Madders, goind back to your original question, does Revo with Foobar sounds better than A10SE?
     

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