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HTPC to rival top end CD and DVD players, is it possible.

chalkdust

Active Member
Hi, this question has probably been asked in one guise or another I would have thought so I'll apologise in advance. I am looking to buy a totally new front end amd was wondering if anyone had any experience of a good HTPC based around a top end audio card, and if so any recommendations. Is there any marked improvement in sound quality the more you spend or is there a cut of point when it comes to bang for buck so to speak. I am primarily looking for sound first quality. Any input appreciated.
 

rmask

Novice Member
I have the following


Sound
ESI [email protected], using spdif passthrough, asio enabled foobar2000
you can use any other from ESI (m-audio is also good) if you want multichannel analogs

DVD
Plextor px-716, with silent mode enabled in plextools (even tray opens slowly and noisless)

MB+CPU
any amd cpu and quality mobo (asus, msi, abit, epox, gigabyte) will do, packed with quality cooling systems (I use fanless coolers)
downclocking cpu for less heat is recommended (your priority isnt games anyway, right ?)
itx is also an option for fanless designs (you'll have to buy better cooler than in standard packages)

HDD
any new sata2 samsung will do
Using rubber "mounts" is very important (reduces vibration greatly)
(I've picked up 4 hdds from different manufactures to test the silence)

Case
Cooler master CM Media 260

PSU
any fanless will do
I use ANTEC phantom 350W

OS
XP Pro and your favorite frontend
check (http://htpcnews.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=3166)

Speakers and AMP
in my signature
 

owain_thomas

Active Member
RME 9632 soundcard here, great quality, not cheap but does a great job and does multichannel through analogue outs. cost me about £230 off ebay, plus £150 for the 4 channel output board to make it multichannel.
 

owain_thomas

Active Member
@ Rmask,

any comments ont the analogue output of the ESI card, I've never seen one before, looks quite interesting?
 

rmask

Novice Member
owain_thomas said:
@ Rmask,

any comments ont the analogue output of the ESI card, I've never seen one before, looks quite interesting?
http://www.esi-pro.com/
http://www.esi-pro.com/viewProduct.php?pid=43&page=1

The card uses an 8-channel multibit 24-bit 192 kHz DAC AKM AK4358 with reduced sensitivity to jitter, positioned by AKM for professional equipment

http://www.asahi-kasei.co.jp/akm/en/product/ak4358/ak4358.html

Dynamic range: 112 dB. THD+noise: -94 dB. 8 times 24-bit digital filter with an slow roll-off option (this option is disabled to provide ideally even frequency response).
 

owain_thomas

Active Member
can it do multichannel analogue out (like from theatertek for example)? does look quite interesting for the money. have you compared it to any other pc cards that you can comment on (RME, lynx, maudio, etc)?
 

rmask

Novice Member
no this one can only do stereo (I only use analogs for recording and asio playback via spdif, directly to amp )

as most of music i listen (cds and loseless alternatives) are stereo
and dvd audio is passed through spdif
I'm perfectly fine

I've compared to lynxONE, Tascam US-224, RME Digi96/8 PAD, audiotrak maya mkII, soundblaster audigy 2zs (this crap shouldnt be on the list)

First three are three, two times more expensive than [email protected] but didnt sound that different (In fact, Its hards to tell the diference with my equipment and I installed only one at a time).

Maya is "noticeably" (I had this card for two years in my older pc) worse, less detailed sound

and about creatives crap i wont write :)

Feel free to ask for details
 

alexs2

Well-known Member
chalkdust said:
Hi, this question has probably been asked in one guise or another I would have thought so I'll apologise in advance. I am looking to buy a totally new front end amd was wondering if anyone had any experience of a good HTPC based around a top end audio card, and if so any recommendations. Is there any marked improvement in sound quality the more you spend or is there a cut of point when it comes to bang for buck so to speak. I am primarily looking for sound first quality. Any input appreciated.
Of the better cards,the Lynx and the RME are the best,but also the most expensive,and especially the Lynx,even in it's cut-down form.
Both will give a good DAC a run for its money,but the Lynx is generally rated as excellent.

I use an Audiotrak Prodigy in my HTPC purely as digital throughput to an offboard upsampler,and then to a TAG AV32R/DP,as that card had the best ASIO etc at the time,and allowed me to bypass the awful Windows KMixer.

I've also tried the analogue output of this particular card and wouldnt rate it as anywhere near the TAG/upsampler combination,but it shouldnt be at the price!

DD/DTS etc is output via SP/DIF on mine via a RealMagic DVD player card to the TV.

I'd say in overall value terms,the RME is probably the best,but the Lynx is the better card.
 

owain_thomas

Active Member
cheers rmask, I'll keep that card in mind as I will probably need to build a reasonably priced PC for stereo only playback. where did you get yours from - somewhere you'd recommend?

Did you alter the card to change the analogue outputs? was it easy enough to do? Must say that looks like a good solution to allowing balanced and unbalanced outputs on one card (which I presume is what it does?)
 

The Dude

Distinguished Member
MAudio FW410 for me... awesome sound, streets ahead of my old 2496.
(Analogue output from my 2496 was comparable with my MF XDAC)

7.1 analog outputs, Optical/Coax SPDIF, 2x Volume controlled headphone outs, and 2xFW interfaces.. :thumbsup:
 

rmask

Novice Member
owain_thomas said:
cheers rmask, I'll keep that card in mind as I will probably need to build a reasonably priced PC for stereo only playback. where did you get yours from - somewhere you'd recommend?

Did you alter the card to change the analogue outputs? was it easy enough to do? Must say that looks like a good solution to allowing balanced and unbalanced outputs on one card (which I presume is what it does?)
from local dealer (I dont live in uk)

Switching between balanced and unbalanced is very easy. You can check online manual, but all you need to do is to remove backplate and "pull out - plug in" the upper part :). Thats it, no changes in software
 

owain_thomas

Active Member
thanks for that rmask, very informative posts.

sorry for hijacking the thread a bit chalkdust (suppose its fairly relevant to your OP though). :)
 

realitybites

Standard Member
Sure is Owain, always picking up stuff once the banter gets going. Some interesting options there (interesting in as much as this is all new to me and I've never heard of any of them) gives me a good choice. Can anyone tell me where all the cost involved in the higher endcards goes?
 

rmask

Novice Member
realitybites said:
Sure is Owain, always picking up stuff once the banter gets going. Some interesting options there (interesting in as much as this is all new to me and I've never heard of any of them) gives me a good choice. Can anyone tell me where all the cost involved in the higher endcards goes?
150euro (100pounds) and waaay up you want to go :)

Btw creative's soundblasters dont fall into this category as they do have a few expensive, but crappy sounding ones

You want to look into:
http://www.lynxstudio.com/
http://www.rme-audio.com/
http://www.emu.com/products/
http://www.tascam.de/en/index.html
http://www.maudio.co.uk/
http://www.esi-pro.com/
http://www.digigram.com/products/index.htm
http://www.tcelectronic.com/
 

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