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HTPC Sound quality

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by BobbyBlaze, Sep 21, 2005.

  1. BobbyBlaze

    BobbyBlaze
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    Hi Guys :thumbsup:
    I know this isn't strictly a CRT thread but a lot of you use these, y'all are good folk who's opinions I value, and we're all fellow CRT'ers so share the gen. :smashin:

    Reading throught the Crtprojectors website on the downsides to using a HTPC, I came across this sentence:

    "Best possible sound quality is well behind a good stand alone DVD player."

    and as a pro in the scaler side of things :

    "DVD players sound far better than HTPC's. If audio is important to you or you have a high end sound system you will not like an HTPC."

    Is this true? I've just got hold of a PJ that would benefit from scaled video and am a bit choked if the sound quality on a HTPC is hardly better than an xbox or something because of audio jitter or noise etc. from the computer.

    What do you guys think? How does the sound of the two compare in your opinion? Does a top quality sound card sort this out or is a computer just not "hi-fidelty" enough when it comes to sound?

    Gotta say that my Pioneer 737 sure sounds sweet to my ears and my xbox sounds flatter than a week old can of coke.

    Here's hoping "the oracle" gives me some good news :confused:
     
  2. PsychoDogBeast

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    Hi there

    Ive been using a HTPC now for quite some time, ive had various types of souncards in my computer ranging from a hercules gametheatre xp for spdif out when i first started to a Audiotrak prodigy & maya44, Chaintech AV710 (which is now in my desktop pc and will stay for many years as it is the bargain of the decade if you can get hold of one :)), M-audio delta range and have now settled on a M-audio audiophile 7.1.

    when i comes down to PC audio, i guess it depends on how good is your hearing, how good is your source etc etc, I have hooked my HTPC up to my brothers system, which comprises of 2 x Tannoy SR840 power amps £3.5k each and a pair of Tannoy definition D700 loudspeakers using the computer as a pre amp, we were both very very happy when it camedown to the sound of the computers analogue output, comparing it to his dvd players sound (a Toshiba SD900E £2k when purchased) the dvd player didnt sound as good as the HTPC via blind listening.

    You may want to check out the HTPC forum over at avsforum.com, read the "my computer as a preamp thread", some of those guys over there are really hardcore, run computers/music servers with lossless audio rips to systems worth 100k for amps and speakers only :eek:

    Hope this helps, please note this is my opinion only, others may disagree :)

    James
     
  3. Erling

    Erling
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    I have been using a HTPC for a while now and having heard the same rumours as you, I did a sound comparison with the Pioneer DVD player I used before getting the HTPC (a Pioneer DV-545) a while ago.

    Soundcard is an M-Audio Revolution 7.1, outputting SPDIF to my surround decoder. With the Pioneer, I used the coax digital output. Everything in the setup, including the digital cable was the same for the PC and the DVD player.
    I used the PCM audio track of a music DVD (The Corrs Live at Royal Albert Hall)

    Wish I could tell you something better, but my experience resembles what you mention of your Xbox and DVD player - compared to the Pioneer, the PC sounded flat, dull and lifeless, with noticeably less details in the sound.

    Before all the engineer-types jump on me, telling that there couldn't possibly be any difference with two digital signals, let me just mention that I suspect more jitter from the PC being the culprit. The difference I heard pretty much resembles what I have heard with jitter-reduction measures in CD-players years ago.

    Need the scaling for my CRT projector myself, and don't particularly fancy spending $$$ on a scaler to match the PC, so I have been looking for possible ways to reduce jitter in/from the PC. Haven't come up with anything concrete yet unfortunately. :(

    If anyone has any suggestions or ideas, I'd love to hear about it.

    Cheers,
    Erling
     
  4. Mad Mr H

    Mad Mr H
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    I use a delta m 1010 card ONLY NOT the break out box. (I have one spare!)

    coaxial digital.

    I think the sound is very good - difficult to say but I dont think "flat" would come into my vocab to describe the sound.

    (btw - I get paid to set up time aligned mutli zone hi end audio systems many in excess of £250,000 - Im very happy with the sound from a pc)

    Im running sony 9000es amps and pre amp so not cheap kit but also not extreme high end.

    speakers are tannoy subs 2x15" , and some one off mid hi's which are a development which never went on sale - 5 sets made, I had 2 sets.

    I think you should consider what you have to spend. MANY "old school" people will sell a scaler and dvd player because to be honest theres more money in the sale and they dont understand pc's.

    I also have the SONY dvp 9000es - considered by some to be a bit old now BUT find a review and see how respected it is.

    Picture on the htpc rocks - it also allows me to run a seamless setup of pick hard drive stored dvd from my menu system and it plays it. easy.

    I think this is the way forward, still some work needed but overall gives me a much better setup and saves the £'s

    hope this was of some help to you.
     
  5. surrey lad

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    I used to use my HTPC running Theatertek as a DVD transport plugged in to my EAD pre processor and I found it to be as rewarding as any other DVD that I'd tried (as a transport) .

    Using a HTPC as a pre well that's different all together, not tried it so I can't comment.

    I use an M-Audio card ;)
     
  6. BobbyBlaze

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    Thanks for the replies, guys :thumbsup:

    I guess that's put my mind at ease a little but the crtprojectors piece was a little unequivocal. Has anyone got any experience of different soundcards, then? Ie. this one is the bomb as it sounds so much better than this one, which is sh!t?

    I know it would be nice to have it all it's just that I'm a little uneasy trading pq for sq when, after alls said and done, sq is what rocks the house :)

    Thanks again

    Regards,

    Rob
     
  7. shezzy2k

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  8. Mad Mr H

    Mad Mr H
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    If I remember correctly the M audio delta 1010 has a snr (signal to noise ratio) of 114dB.

    This is meant to be the best from ANY card available (several others at 110ish)

    I have had many other cards in the past and this is the best so far.

    When you are up at the high end cards it is often difficult to notice the differance.

    I have tried a number of "on board" digial outs on motherboards of £100+ but am convinced of the use of a dedicated audio card, likewise the same with a video card.

    (my current video card is an Nvidia Quadro FX4000) - not a card most people will use but I am testing its "edge blend" system for a twin blended projection.

    THE MOST important thing with any HTPC is to turn OFF ALL hard drive virtual memory systems, CONTRA to popular belief you DONT need loads of memory to play back DVD's - loads of memory is only a "great sale" for the salesman! (you can always add if your close to full use - check your memory use with windows memort monitor)

    I use DVD shrink to "rip" my dvd's to file

    this gives NON compressed (or compressed if you want but WHY? if you have a crt.....) .vob format files.

    I use powerdvd to replay these - NOTE many DVD "players" cant play .vob files

    I also use meedio (meedio.com) as my "shell" HTPC program, its OK with many plugins all free. used to be free now you have to pay but thats life!

    imon is worth looking at BUT is being developed and I hope will be better soon but does look good. the good thing about the imon system is the remote.

    BUT you can aways control your pc from your PDA......

    (Im now slightly off the crt topic - hope people dont mind!)
     
  9. Jeff

    Jeff
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    The Maudio 1010 is mid range for a sound card, there are many better cards including most of the Lynx and Rme range.
     
  10. Thunder

    Thunder
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    Graham, who can be found in the Tag forum and who is a bit of a boffin has built his own HTPC. He has as far as I am aware managed to get the SPDIF output of his PC down to similar jitter free levels provided by that on the Tag sync link! :eek: That is to say its almost textbook perfect. I would have a word with him for some ideas :smashin:
     
  11. Mad Mr H

    Mad Mr H
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    Hi, firstly I value all opinions and if I find a better card from this info will probably buy one.

    I would like to know WHY you think the 1010 is a mid range card?
    (PLEASE NOTE - my card is the FULL 1010 without using the breakout box NOT the 1010LT which is a mid range card - just in case that answers the question straight away.) I also wanted a card with on board spdif output and not a breakout box or cable.

    ok, so this is THEIR sales pitch for which I read "best value for money" and not "best i the world"

    these guys name M-Audio along side RME and LYNX as "High end"

    And yes again a sales pitch but I hope this shows I am not alone in my opinion of M-Audio.

    So I looked at the Lynx cards next (only fair and I have an open mind)

    I looked at the Lynx2-B card (hope thats the one everyone means)

    117dB snr - very good
    $1000.00 or £889 - high price but you pay for perfromance (sure I can find it cheaper but just a quick search for now)
    break out cable - not my favourite idea.

    Looking at the board it is a heavily populated board which for me is a good start (value for money) however the M-Audio board is not heavily populated BUT does all the balanced work in the external box this is on board.

    the spdif output is a poor design on this one im afraid - however build your own break out dedicated spdif lead and I would be happy - to get spdif from this you use 4 connections including an adaptor lead and breakout cable.
    I would have liked to see better quality xlr leads (personal opinion) - again this is designed as a digital recording system and not HTPC so you pay for hugh amount of items you will never need (the Delta 1010 is the same)

    Looked at the RME cards.....

    Confused that they have discontiued the Hammerfall 9652 - their TOP CARD!

    Hammeer fall light digi 9636 (+optional card gives you the original 9652 so I guess a sales led desicion above)
    Card is also printed RME DIGI 9636/52 so is as they say the same without the expansion card which you would not need for HTPC priced at £230 down from £335 - a bargin I think if the right card.....

    HDSP 9632 £350.00
    110dB snr - not bad

    digi 96/8 pad - ACTUALLY seems better than the new 9632 card - suggest you hang on to that one!
    AND it IS still a current model....



    So for my money I would still consider an M audio 1010 card (NOT THE 1010LT) - about £125.00 gets you just the card NEW if you can find them and well worth it.
    (I have a spare!)

    OR I think look at the RME range, for me the Lynx range is excellent but does not fit the real need for HTPC and you are paying for soo much that you will never need (unless you dual use it and run a recording studio as well)

    Any other opinions?
    Hope that was of help

    Web sites (Mods - not a sales link - direct to manufactures sites)
    www.Lynxstudio.com
    www.M-audio.com
    www.rme-audio.com

    As always each system is only as good as the weakest link, I have spent many years working with pc's from early digitized sound in the 1980's so always open to the next suggestion.

    (sorry other CRTers - but I do think this is an important part of the entire HT set up - graphics cards are just as important and closer to the CRT topic - anyone?)
     
  12. Jeff

    Jeff
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    RME cards tend to be more realistically spec'ed than M-Audio cards, but to be honest both sound pretty crap compared to something like an Apogee Mini DAC.
     
  13. Mad Mr H

    Mad Mr H
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    ................Thump............ouch! :clap: :clap: :clap:

    Hurt myself laughing so much I fell off my chair :) :D :D :D :)

    Jeff really...........

    A mobile 2ch unit for £750.00

    Why did I not think of that.....now wait I could buy 3 and get 5.1 and use it in the garden with my laptop and a nasty DLP..... ;)

    or are you in the "2ch is all you need" audiophile old boy room?
    (in which case it would never get near the room with my esl quad's)

    Thank you for the full and conclusive explanation! "pretty crap" sure does highlight the bad points.





    there that should be enough to start the fire........ :oops:
     
  14. Jeff

    Jeff
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    Who said quality comes cheap?, you get what you pay for. You only need 2 mini dacs, you can get away with something fairly basic for the rears. ;)

    My own setup consists, a Meridian 568.2, 2 mini dacs and an Arcam C30. Don't get me wrong HTPC offers great value for money but it can only get you so far.
     
  15. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Jeffs experience is the same as mine. RME would be my choice (now gone from here), as I use it infrequently I use just M-audio audiophile 7.1, it is okay but well behind what is possible.

    Re all those quotes SN ratios, some what HCPC dependent, I have measured 110dB cards at sub 96dB with some power supplies!! It is how you use them that matters not the numbers game.

    I like the piccy from HCPC, Jeffs especially, but could never get sound to compete with my DVD or CD players so I moved on.
     
  16. Mad Mr H

    Mad Mr H
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    It's OK I had read Jeff's "I hate M audio" posts from the past and it would appear that many people had issues with them.....

    If you buy the newest technology these days the customer is used as the research testing....only way these companies can get products out prior to competition.....

    Mobile phones were the real start of that I think....


    Any one who has a 1209s has my respect.

    I only have a 1208,1208/2 & 1208s (still looking for a pair for my blending project - That I blame Roland 4!)

    Anyway what I wanted to do was go down the PC route and see how long the road is.....

    So far.

    HTPC is hard drive less - booting from a silent compact flash card.
    CPU is fans less, let down was my Quadro FX4000 graphics card with MASSIVE FAN - another project!

    My media server is over 5TB and full, quad xeon,(not needed but I have 3 of these lying about here so used one so far) done loads with raidcore for the arrays (since they had major "issues" and lost 3Tb of my data - still worked together and now very stable)

    audio and video chain changes here every few weeks as I tend to try out new stuff all to frequently.

    mains is "cleaned" by my own little box of tricks Delta filters etc.

    and I wont go on with the kit list but everything here has a mod of some sort - most work, some get put back but I can at least say I tried it.....

    Nic love the signature..........pass me an excessive amount of overkill !!!
     
  17. BobbyBlaze

    BobbyBlaze
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    Thanks Guys,

    didn't mean to start a war or anything and, as with most things, opinions are bound to differ.

    Just a quicky though. Is using a computer as a pre-amp the same thing as using analogue outs from the sound card ie. getting the soundcard to do the DAC and then plugging the output into the amp via phonos rather than digitally via coax or optic cable?

    If so, this is the route I was thinking of going anyway as I've noticed the DAC's on my DVD players are better than the ones on my amp ie. playing a CD sounds better through the analogue outs rather than the digital ones.

    Can anyone confirm this to make sure I'm on the same page?

    Cheers,


    Rob
     

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