Home Theater Forum and Systems banner

1 - 20 of 21 Posts

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I'm wondering, how many of you out there are using a HTPC as a prepro? I can tell from the REW threads that there are quite a few of you :T! Please share your opinions, experiences, and configurations in this thread (also your pet peeves, failures and frustrations).
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
I used to but it's easier to push processing off to a pre/processor. It automates many things.
That it does ! I, however I've become more of a tinkerer. I used to do the same thing with an Onkyo 806 receiver, but now I've dropped using a receiver or prepro all together. Once dialed in, I not only dropped the prepro but all of my sources as well. The onkyo recently became a victim of the faulty HDMI board issue - it's easier to repair a PC than a receiver and less costly ;) ! Figuring out software or hardware issues in computers is much more simple...and I hate having that "sit on my hands" feeling I get when equipment breaks an goes in for repairs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
82 Posts
You're right about receivers and processors. They become antiques in just a few years. Look on Ebay and you'll find $2,000+ units from a few years ago barely bringing $350.

The biggest drawback to the HTPC these days is Dolby HD and the new formats that require HDMI for DRM. I only found one sound card from ASUS that supported it, and it is no longer available. Sadly, it could use only a proprietary version of Blu-ray playback software. So your options were very limited. I wonder if others have discovered something I didn't. There may be another solution.

If you want to use your HTPC for music playback of FLAC files etc. (which I do) then I would recommend a good sound card like the ASUS Xonar or HT Omega that has switchable op-amps. I can't say that one op-amp is any better than another, but they all have unique sonic signatures. Being able to switch them is an inexpensive way to tailor the sound to suit your taste. Being switchable means you won't have to do any soldering. Technically speaking, you could switch the op-amps on virtually any card if you're willing to solder.

My strategy to future-proof my system is based around disposable pre-amp/processors like the Emotiva UMC-200. Every few years you simply sell off the old unit and buy a new one. This strategy can be used to your advantage when combined with Ebay. For example, let's say you want to upgrade your system from a basic 5.1 receiver. Go out to Ebay and find one of those older $2,000+ receivers for $350 that has direct main inputs. These are usually a series of seven bus bars that connect the pre-amp to the amp section of the unit. Only higher end units will have this. Now, buy something like an Emotiva UMC-200 and plug it in, by-passing the older pre-amp section entirely. You know have a $2,000+ pre/proc/amplifier for around $850.

If you already have separate amplifiers then it's just a matter of changing out processors every few years. In the case of the Emotiva example the cost works out like this:

New Emotiva UMC-200 $500
3 years from now you sell it for ~$200 on Ebay
Use your Emotiva 25% off coupon for a new $500 processor = $375 - $200 (Ebay sale) = $175

$175 divided up over three years equals $4.86 per month to have the latest in technology.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,054 Posts
My thoughts are that a HTPC makes a lousy pre pro. I don't agree that receivers/ pre pros go out of date that quickly for example my Onkyo is now 6 years old and still very up to date and still plays all the audio formats that are relevant. A PC goes out of date much faster. A 6 year old PC won't even run windows 7 or 8 in most cases and is even harder to make run any of the new hardware needed to run HDMI and all the software that is required.
The other challenge with a PC is compatability. I can't tell you how many times a friend of mine has had issues getting something to work as it should because of handshake issues and lack of support to pass HD audio. Also you don't get any real auto room EQ on a PC whereas a receiver with Audyessey will do a much better job.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
My thoughts are that a HTPC makes a lousy pre pro. I don't agree that receivers/ pre pros go out of date that quickly for example my Onkyo is now 6 years old and still very up to date and still plays all the audio formats that are relevant. A PC goes out of date much faster. A 6 year old PC won't even run windows 7 or 8 in most cases and is even harder to make run any of the new hardware needed to run HDMI and all the software that is required. The other challenge with a PC is compatability. I can't tell you how many times a friend of mine has had issues getting something to work as it should because of handshake issues and lack of support to pass HD audio. Also you don't get any real auto room EQ on a PC whereas a receiver with Audyessey will do a much better job.
My motherboard is at end of life with a quad core in it......I've used this same PC for years!!!!! I just upgrade it as necessary. I wouldn't want to run windows 8 ;)!!!! My system has never had handshake issues when I used it with my onkyo or a Yamaha. And now with my software suite with JRiver , I just convert true hd and DTS HD Master to Lpcm ...no problem...playing directly from the disc at full resolution and bit rate (ffdshow will decode trueHd and it's free)! I've used YPAO and Audyssey, I liked them ...but achieved excellent results using REW and JRiver's DSP studio , and it's said that DIRAC kills Audyssey (a few high end prepros use a version of it rather than Audyssey). I'm not saying this is for everyone, but for a techie like myself..it's a money-saver.

I own two Asus Essence ST/H6's and an Omega HT Claro Halo XT. Even some prepros have attempted to become more like PCs by becoming modular. I got tired of the "gotta buy a new prepro" ordeal every two years or so. I went from fosgate 3A thx , to Citation 7.0, to a Citation 5.0 ( it added Dolby digital), to 4 different receivers as preamps...just too much. The PC doesn't have to play games or other things just do my entertainment :D . I've gotten rid of racks of gear just using my PC (I still use separate amps though). Oh and my PC runs windows 7 just fine...when they come out with a substantial OS upgrade that is well thought out for a techie, I'll start a new build, until then...I'm good.

Sent from my iPad using HTShack
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
887 Posts
I tried this but had many issues that put me back to using a receiver.
  1. Both my on-board audio and my Revo 7.1 card produced loud pops when waking, powering on, etc. I realize there are higher end cards that don't do this but the cost of one is on the order of a low/mid receiver by itself
  2. Noise floor issues with on-board card poor analog out quality
  3. Revo card had good noise floor and analog out but did not work properly with Windows 7
  4. I didn't like the analog out jacks with the headphone style male split to two RCA's. I feel like they are not a solid connection. Only very expensive sound cards have RCA outputs and I don't even know of any with more than 2 channels unless you buy another add-on card.
  5. PC wants me to select 5.1 or 7.1 audio to get lossless audio formats but then it plays every source through all channels. A receiver can be set up to auto select according to source material.
  6. When I setup PC for 5.1 or 7.1, MC7 frequently tells me audio codec is missing. I must switch back to stereo setup to get it to work. Strangely, this setting will still output 5.1DD bitstream. When I play a Blu-ray I need to manually switch back to multichannel out.
  7. I tried JRiver and it seems really cool but every time I get a couple hours into setting it up I get stuck with something like OTA TV or something else. Documentation was really poor last time I tried it. MC7 just works without the hassle.
  8. PC based blu-ray player software is terrible IMO and getting them to integrate with a media player is poor at best. No media players natively support blu-ray playback AFAIK. I prefer a standalone player until things get better.
  9. Setting up a remote control with an HTPC is much more difficult than with standalone components. Mine uses iMon and the software frequently fails. Network based apps for phones or pads seem a bit better but those are not rock solid either.
  10. I had color space issues. MC7 would override to use it's setting and PowerDVD would use something else. I ended up with crushed blacks frequently and found myself constantly adjusting settings when I was supposed to be watching content.
Once I switched back to a receiver things just work better for me. I don't have hours upon hours of time to be tweaking settings until things do what I want. I think I could get there with a HTPC pre/pro but I feel like I would be spending a lot more money and time than if I bought a nice receiver or preamp to begin with.

Don't get me totally wrong here, I still love my HTPC and I'm typing on it right now. I just didn't have great success implementing it as a pre/pro/source all in one.

PC pre/pro needs:
Soundcard $200-$500
Blu-ray playback software or ripper $100-$300
Good media player (JRiver) $100?
Separate multichannel amplification $700+

After all this a $1000 receiver with 135wpc sounds like a pretty good deal...
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
I just don't think a PC would put out enough pre amp voltage to run a good sized external amp without having to run it with it's gains wide open
Wow....the gains on the Adcom 5503 are wide open by default, but on my Yamaha MX-830 's my gain is only about a little more than half way up, on my sub amp (behringer ep4000) it's only a notch over 1/4th of the way up :idontknow: . With a quality card, no problem ...and many people use professional cards like the Lynx, RME, and Motu USB/FireWire cards. Studios use this type of stuff when they make the sound tracks. Most people don't explore what really needs to be done to pull it off ;)

Sent from my iPad using HTShack
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
[QUOTE="vann_d;665898". Don't get me totally wrong here, I still love my HTPC and I'm typing on it right now. I just didn't have great success implementing it as a pre/pro/source all in one. PC pre/pro needs: Soundcard $200-$500 Blu-ray playback software or ripper $100-$300 Good media player (JRiver) $100? Separate multichannel amplification $700+ After all this a $1000 receiver with 135wpc sounds like a pretty good deal...[/QUOTE] Sound card...yes you will need about a $250 card, JRiver is only $49 and it rips, amplification is a wash for me because I've always used separates - so for me, the price is $300 - $400 vs a $1000 or more receiver that will be obsolete with the next model (that will come out in 8 months). If I were to get back into the prepro world, the only economic choices would be from Emotiva (the UMC-200 is a nice product) and the Outlaw product. The other prepros out there are nice...but pricey.

P.S. There's plenty of playback software that cost under $100 and I mean well under $100 ;)

Sent from my iPad using HTShack
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
P.S. For everyone out there, the remote solution is also solved in my system. I used a WMC remote that works with JRMC, I've also used my cell phone as a remote as well as my iPad. I received an android tablet (7") for Christmas - perfect for me!!!! It's my new remote, not to big - not too small, graphic interface, and the PC can stream to it if I desire!!!!! I do this with Gizmo.

Sent from my iPad using HTShack
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
You're right about receivers and processors. They become antiques in just a few years. Look on Ebay and you'll find $2,000+ units from a few years ago barely bringing $350. The biggest drawback to the HTPC these days is Dolby HD and the new formats that require HDMI for DRM. I only found one sound card from ASUS that supported it, and it is no longer available. Sadly, it could use only a proprietary version of Blu-ray playback software. So your options were very limited. I wonder if others have discovered something I didn't. There may be another solution. If you want to use your HTPC for music playback of FLAC files etc. (which I do) then I would recommend a good sound card like the ASUS Xonar or HT Omega that has switchable op-amps. I can't say that one op-amp is any better than another, but they all have unique sonic signatures. Being able to switch them is an inexpensive way to tailor the sound to suit your taste. Being switchable means you won't have to do any soldering. Technically speaking, you could switch the op-amps on virtually any card if you're willing to solder. My strategy to future-proof my system is based around disposable pre-amp/processors like the Emotiva UMC-200. Every few years you simply sell off the old unit and buy a new one. This strategy can be used to your advantage when combined with Ebay. For example, let's say you want to upgrade your system from a basic 5.1 receiver. Go out to Ebay and find one of those older $2,000+ receivers for $350 that has direct main inputs. These are usually a series of seven bus bars that connect the pre-amp to the amp section of the unit. Only higher end units will have this. Now, buy something like an Emotiva UMC-200 and plug it in, by-passing the older pre-amp section entirely. You know have a $2,000+ pre/proc/amplifier for around $850. If you already have separate amplifiers then it's just a matter of changing out processors every few years. In the case of the Emotiva example the cost works out like this: New Emotiva UMC-200 $500 3 years from now you sell it for ~$200 on Ebay Use your Emotiva 25% off coupon for a new $500 processor = $375 - $200 (Ebay sale) = $175 $175 divided up over three years equals $4.86 per month to have the latest in technology.
very good comment!!! I'm a witness as I have a Citation 5.0 sitting in my storage house :( ! That was an expensive processor!

Sent from my iPad using HTShack
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,054 Posts
the price is $300 - $400 vs a $1000 or more receiver that will be obsolete with the next model (that will come out in 8 months).
You keep saying that but how so? My receiver is 6 years old and is not obsolete. A $500 receiver with pre outs is all you need and far more user friendly than a HTPC.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
887 Posts
Please identify the blu-ray playback software that is well under $100. I need a new one and I sure haven't found any. I know many use MPC-HC. I have it but you must first rip the blu-ray with AnyDVD-HD (which costs €120 for lifetime updates) before you can watch the film.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Please identify the blu-ray playback software that is well under $100. I need a new one and I sure haven't found any. I know many use MPC-HC. I have it but you must first rip the blu-ray with AnyDVD-HD (which costs €120 for lifetime updates) before you can watch the film.
http://www.leawo.com/blu-ray-player/. I've tested this and it's pretty good :) ( I was on the original beta test), for $39.95 - put the disc in and play, not a bad option. DvdFab also has a player for $49.95 and then there's WinDVD Pro 11 for $49.99, I could go on and on, but these I've either owned or tried with disc (not ISO files or conversions). As for AnyDVD - you don't need it for these, but if you needed something like that - there are other products that cost less...but hey with the offerings I've suggested - you don't need it.

Sent from my iPad using HTShack
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
82 Posts
Another way to remote control your HTPC is via Remote Desktop client. I control mine on my Microsoft Surface with Microsoft Remote Desktop. It's a free download from the store. You can also use it to control NAS, Home Server, etc., and all from the comfort of your listening chair. :bigsmile:
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
You keep saying that but how so? My receiver is 6 years old and is not obsolete. A $500 receiver with pre outs is all you need and far more user friendly than a HTPC.
Is your 6 year old receiver HDMI 1.4 compliant? Let alone HDMI 2.0, I became 1.4 compliant with a $50 2gb video card - people who do 3d must buy a new player and receiver to go along with that 3d monitor. Now if you are currently satisfied, none of this applies. Now concerning ease of use - User friendly is in the eye of the beholder - I never have to switch inputs, everything is a graphic interface (to include album art), no switching disc for music, and Blu-ray Disc jump to the main feature. My PC DVR can time shift for hours on hd channels (my cable box would only let me go back 30 minutes). That...to me is simplicity..it's user friendly to me, and it also reduces the amount of components...especially when running separates (only need AC for the amps, PC, router, and hdhomerun).....before I had the cable tuner, BD player, separate CD changer, processors, and the amount of cables ....wow! I'm not trying to get anyone to switch (initial setup does take time - but for me it's fun, because it's something I built..just like DIY speaker builders, sure they could by some 802d's, but to build something comparable yourself?! That's a statement!)

It's all in the eye of the beholder, almost like Custom PCs vs Mac.

Sent from my iPad using HTShack
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Another way to remote control your HTPC is via Remote Desktop client. I control mine on my Microsoft Surface with Microsoft Remote Desktop. It's a free download from the store. You can also use it to control NAS, Home Server, etc., and all from the comfort of your listening chair. :bigsmile:
just downloaded it yesterday - haven't set it up yet :D !!!!

Sent from my iPad using HTShack
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
404 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
You keep saying that but how so? My receiver is 6 years old and is not obsolete. A $500 receiver with pre outs is all you need and far more user friendly than a HTPC.
P.S. Where are you finding $500 receivers with full preouts?

Sent from my iPad using HTShack
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,054 Posts
1 - 20 of 21 Posts
Top