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disolusiond

"Media" PC

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So I'm thinking of building a media PC for the loungroom. Haven't even looked at parts yet, the idea only came to me last night. It will be used for music storage and as a player, both through speakers and headphones, and to play and store movies, all formats.

 

What I want out of the rig is for it to look the part stacked between my TiVo and PS3, to have a metric fuckload of storage space, to be whisper quiet (silent preferably), to have outstandind sound quality for music and also 5.1 home theater (the sound quality is the most important thing to me, I don't care what it costs) and to have a remote controle.

 

To start with it will be hooked up to my Bravia and to a set of Logitech Z-5500s, though the speakers will improve dramaticly down the track a ways, when I can affort the ones I want.

 

Any ideas on what components to but to get away with this on a budget of sorts? I don't want to spend any more than I have to on anything except the sound card (as I mentioned before I want the best sound quality possible), you can go nuts there.

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if you care about sound ditch the z680 and drop some cash on a system with hdmi pcm input and just use hdmi output from the pc

the surround system should also be able to amplify the signal to your headphones

 

take a look at the small pc builds in the parts guide may give you some ideas which will give us a better idea of what you are aiming for and ho much you want to spend

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Id go (if you dont care about price, want it small and dont want gaming power) id start with something like this:

 

ASUS E35M1-I Deluxe Mini ITX Motherboard $229.00

OCZ Agility 3 60GB SSD 2.5 $109.00

Western Digital Green 2TB WD20EARX $159.00

Auzentech X-Fi Forte 7.1 $169.00

 

Sub-Total: $666.00

 

Baring in mind that these are deluxe components and you could save many many pennies by choosing less expensive parts. eg I'm pretty sure that asrock make an ITX E350 that doesn't have inbuilt wifi for just over 100.

 

Then I'd find a case that suits you, maybe like this if you wanted them to fit in with the other stuff in your unit:

 

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_p...oducts_id=14571 - if you want very very small

 

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_p...roducts_id=6675 - comes with a remote and looks like a slim line bluray player

 

or if you didn't want to go quite as small as ITX then you could go MATX and have more expansion slots and more storage space like:

 

http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_p...oducts_id=16529 - if you went this route you could save money and go a mATX for factor mobo like http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_p...oducts_id=17025 but there are still cheaper ITX variants

 

 

*** forgot memory Id grab $25 bucks worth of ddr3 and call it a day

Edited by UberPenguin

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I am fartarsing about with this ATM.

I went with

Antec Fusion Remote HTPC Case with Remote

http://www.antec.com/Believe_it/product.php?id=NzE4JjU=

400W "Gigabyte" PowerRock Power Supply

AMD A4-3400 Dual Core Fusion APU, Socket FM1, 2.7GHz

http://www.amd.com/us/products/desktop/apu...instream.aspx#3

ASRock A75M-HVS FM1 M/B

http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?model=a75m-hvs

4gb ram

Pioneer bd player/burner

Samsung 2tb hdd

60gb ssd boot drive

Leadtek Winfast DTV2000 DS dual TV Tuner

http://leadtek.com/eng/multimedia/overview...p;pronameid=530

Old version Aywun Radi v6 cpu cooler with arctic cooler PWM fan fitted (just fits in the case, however the new version is too tall).

Win 7 HP 64 bit

Logitech harmony 1100i remote

http://www.logitech.com/en-au/remotes/univ...es/devices/6378

Shintaro 2.4GHz Wireless Keyboard with built in trackball

http://www.shintaro.com.au/products/06_key...KEYRF/index.php

 

Ok some thoughts on what I have

 

The Fusion Remote Case

Has room for two 3.5" HDDs plus a 2.5 in HDD under the optical bay

Will take up to a mATX mobo only.

 

Good idea with the Soundgraph stuff, allows remote power on etc, pity the Imedian software is a bloody yuck.

 

Case is quiet but I have noticed some wooshing noise when I shoved it in to the semi enclosed tv cabinet. Not obtrusive but it is there. May have to move it out again where it appears quieter (airflow inside cabinet causing the issue perhaps?).

 

Was hoping to use Media Portal for the video stuff etc, but had major issues with it, mainly in that it seems to keep losing the TV tuner and can't find the channels, whereas Leadteks Winfast and Windows Media Centre seem fine.

 

Getting BD playback working in Media Portal is a pain too.

 

So will be using Windows Media Centre and the PowerDVD link in for it for BD playback. Bugger, I hate the bloated pice of crap that is PowerDVD.

 

Still trying to configure the Harmony 1100i to do all the media centre stuff as it has to be configured to work through the Imon receiver on the case and all that. It's taking quite a while to get it sorted and is doing my head in a bit.

Haven't tried BD playback as yet but AVIs etc seem to be ok.

 

I will use the KB for just PC type things.

 

Just using the onboard sound integrated in to the FM1 CPU which feeds the audio and video through HDMI to the TV and Pioneer Amp and some big old stereo floor cabinets. Will wait and see what I think of the audio quality before going the add in card route. May get some half decent 2.1 speakers later on, but I am not an audiophile so will probably be happy with the built in sound card.

 

It's definitely turning in to a bit of an adventure and am tempted to go back to using the TVix PVR for AV media and separate BD player for DVD and BD playback, but I am trying to reduce the number of devices I have filling this house.

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I know its been said many times before but there is a large difference in the output of a REAL soundcard v onboard. Even with terrible speakers. That being said I've only really compared analogue soundcard outs to digital onboard/gfx hdmi/analogue onboard NOT DIGITAL soundcard v HDMI/DIGITAL onboard but the difference is huge even to people who know nothing about sound.

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my understanding is pcm over hdmi is the raw digital signal then the amp dose the work instead of the soundcard so there should be no difference in quality

if the amp doesnt suport pcm then the signal may be getting converted by software to something that it dose support (not sure about this)

digital via optical or spdif is different as i think it has to be encoded to fit more than two channels so using mb for this loses a lot of quality

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the difference is that the amp would have to do the processing and unless you're willing to shell out for something decent (like a denon) then the internal processing of a $100+ soundcard will net better results as cheap amps like sony and pioneer are just terrible at actually processing the signal. I also believe that the digital outputs of an HDMI enabled soundcard are processed before sending to help improve the sound.

 

lossless means nothing unless you have $4000+ sound hardware that is able to reproduce the sound quality, everything else needs tweaking and that's where a sound card really shines. Mind you onboard hdmi from a video card is limited to 48000 hz playback so its not entirely lossless. Coax digital is compressed as it doesnt have the bandwidth - if you're a real audiophile on a budget you get far better results using analogue.

Edited by UberPenguin

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i found the driver problems from my audiy 2 werent worth the small difference in sound when paired with logitech z680 so the card has been in a box for years

now using pioneer vsx-519 and hdmi out of gtx480 and am rather happy with it obviously its not going to compete with more expensive systems but for $750 and no need to waist money on a sound card im content with it and fail to see how the money spent on a soundcard cant be better spent elsewhere

http://www.jbhifionline.com.au/hi-fi-home-...receiver/462779

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The quality has changed by a vary large amount since the Audigy 2 (I know I have one, and moved form it to an XFI and the results were simply stunning and again to the card in my sig and my housemate moved to a Xonar DX from my old audigy 2) and with good companies (asus/azuentech) there aren't the driver problems. The quality from the sound card is significantly better through analogue (and it is lossless if you get a good one) with any speaker setup.

 

In essence I agree with you, although I'd probably choose a different system myself, that if it was a choice between a soundcard and a better speaker setup like the one you posted then I'd get the speaker system but that's not what I'm saying, I'm saying that there is a noticeable difference between a soundcard and onboard with any given dedicated speaker setup (as in any speaker setup that isn't inside a monitor or laptop and are above $40 in price that include separate powered speakers).

Edited by UberPenguin

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fair enough

azuentech still has creative drivers at the core of there software unfortunately but it sounds like things may not be as bad as they used to be

and i agree that a good sound card should make a noticeable difference on something half decent like the z-5500

i was just thinking that since the op made it very clear they wanted to move to better sound that starting with a something like a denon amp and speakers may be a better place to start rather than sprucing up the old speakers

Edited by Dasa

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I would suggest you maybe buy a cheap second hand computer off gumtree or something if its just being used for a media box...

there is no point paying for new hardware unless you want to for some reason.. but you said you don't want to spend much money.

media servers do not need much power..

 

my old desktop is sitting in the corner of the living room, using 2900xt hdmi out to my tv

also using my current desktop there at the moment, been enjoying skyrim on the bigger screen with hdmi out of my 5770s

tv outputs the audio into a cambridge amp that I use to drive some speakers

all works very well and is just 1 cable in or out of the tv.

Edited by p0is(+)n

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I guess I should mention that the Z-5500s willl be around for a while. I wont replace them until I can spend serious money on a amp and speakers, probably around $5000 as was mentioned in one of the posts. I don't see the point in spending anything in that area unless it's on quality equipment. I would have spent it when I bought the 5500s but didn't have that much $ spare at the time, nor do I now.

 

I guess in reality I can pick parts for a budget build with no problem, it's just the sound card I need help with. I will bnuild it myself, more for something to do than any thing else. I'm pretty fucking bored lately. Now that I think about it this thread would have been better suited to the audio and display section of the forum. So yeah, as a revised question, what sound card would you recomend considering the equipment I'll be using for at least the next 2 years?

 

Forgot to say thanks, so thanks :-)

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for your z-5500s just get something that will do the right outputs eg. optical or co-ax depending on what you choose.

i doubt that you will notice any difference between on board and a $100 soundcard in quality/clarity.

 

i used to have z5500s so i know how they sound.

Edited by p0is(+)n

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If you're a few years away from upgrading the Z-5500's then I wouldn't bother investing in a high-end sound card now. Much as I love my Z-5500's I really don't think you're going to hear much difference through them between on-board audio and a $200 plug-in card. Tech is always developing, so by the time you can afford the speakers/amp then sound card tech will have grown also.

 

Example - I bought an Audigy 2ZS back in the day. I also bought what was then a high-end Pioneer amp with 5.1 surround system ($5k retail). Now my amp is missing HDMI, only has one optical in, doesn't support some of the newer Dolby lossless formats, etc. Likewise the Audigy doesn't have optical out, has EAX issues, only supports a single 24 bit audio stream, etc.

 

Wait until you need it and you'll have something that's far better suited to your future amp ;)

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I'm currently using logitech z506s I there is a huge difference between onboard and dedicated sound card (see sig) but I would recommend analogue outs though as the digital out of just about any device doesn't sound as good until you get some really good audio hardware.

Edited by UberPenguin

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