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post #1 of 50 Old 08-10-2010, 10:22 PM - Thread Starter
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HI

Im setting up an HTPC and would like some help with the audio. Can I get 7.1sound from the line out socket on the back of the PC or do I need a S/PDIF connection for this?

If I purchase a graphics card with HDMI and 7.1 sound will I be able to direct fdshow to decode dolby and DTS and pass it though the HDMI cable to the TV?

I don't really know anything about audio so any help would be most appreciated.
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post #2 of 50 Old 08-10-2010, 10:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cl0ud View Post

to the TV?

What's your audio system? TV usually supports only stereo via HDMI in.
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post #3 of 50 Old 08-11-2010, 12:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Well at the moment I don't have any sort of sound system however I will buy purchasing a high end system within the next 12 months.

Basically I'm relying on the TV speaker system at the moment, the TV has only 2 speakers which I believe it uses to simulate surround sound; I realize that this it in no way as good as having 7 physical speakers.

I will be using the HTPC for watching movies from DVD/Blueray disks and also from the hard drive as well as watching dramas from over the internet. I won't be using it for listening to music, just video content.

When watching movies I will want sound going out to a high end audio system but when watching dramas I really only want to use the TV's sound system. For this reason I thought it would be best if all audio from the HTPC to the TV and then from the TV to a sound system via the optical out. This way its easy to switch between the two using the TV's remote.

The PC only has DVI so I'm using a DVI to HDMI cable for video.

Can I get 7.1 sound through the line-out of the HTPC to the TV (the TV has an analog audio in next to the third HDMI port and I read this is for when using DVI to HDMI) which will then pass the audio to a dedicated sound system via optical out?.

If not then I can purchase a graphics card with HDMI and 7.1 sound but I read somewhere that fdshow cannot always pass the audio through the HDMI port of a graphics card even if the graphics card does pass audio as well as video.

Also the analog audio port next to the HDMI socket on the TV, is that for connecting to line out or connecting to S/PDIF out?
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post #4 of 50 Old 08-11-2010, 12:51 AM
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What's your HTPC? Specifically the model of your graphics card. What's your TV? It depends on both the graphics card and the TV what audio formats are supported over HDMI. TV's analog in is stereo only (ususally).

If you are going to buy a high end sound system, it may be an HDMI (1.4a) AVR (or prepro+amp) + 7.1 speaker system. You would want to add a good graphics card with HDMI (1.4a) to your HTPC and connect it to AVR; then it would support multichannel LPCM as well as DD/DTS/TrueHD/DTS-HD audio bitstreams.
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post #5 of 50 Old 08-11-2010, 01:43 AM - Thread Starter
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I see,

I got the PC free from work, its a HP DX2250 compaq, Athlon 64 dual core, 2gig DDR2, onboard realtec 7.1 HD audio. The graphics card is a Radion X300. Its kind of an old system but I thought I could buy a few parts and turn it into a decent HTPC.

Yeah I think a new graphics card with HDMI is the way to go, I was considering purchasing an HTPC motherboard with onboard everything instead but actually I prefer to use a addon graphics card rather than an onboard one for performance reasons.

The motherboard doesn't have a S/PDIF header socket even though the realtec website says the audio chip support it. Is there any otherway to get S/PDIF out?

My TV is a Sony Bravia 40V4000, HDMI 1.3 (or 1.2?) and supports optical out.
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post #6 of 50 Old 08-11-2010, 03:46 AM
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If the mb has an internal S/PDIF connector, then you can connect it to AVR or digital speakers using a bracket. Otherwise add a sound card with S/PDIF out. But you don't have any audio equipment that accepts S/PDIF now, and once you get a new AVR, you won't use outdated S/PDIF to connect HTPC to AVR anyway.

The current graphics cards use PCI Express 2.x that may have compatibility issues with your mb (PCI Express 1.x). If it works, then perhaps just adding a discrete graphics card (e.g. Radeon HD 5xxx) is enough now (stereo PCM over HDMI to TV) and in future (multichannel LPCM, DD/DTS/TrueHD/DTS-HD bitstreames over HDMI to AVR).
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post #7 of 50 Old 08-11-2010, 04:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cl0ud View Post

I will buy purchasing a high end system within the next 12 months.

What is your definition of a high-end system?
For many people (audiophiles especially), high-end doesn't begin until you hit the $5000 mark and beyond. Everybody has a different price-point, mostly because everyone has a different aural range, not to mention spending capability. And some people (like me) can't differentiate or appreciate subtle differences in sound that are available in a higher-end system.

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Originally Posted by cl0ud View Post

I will be using the HTPC for watching movies from DVD/Blueray disks and also from the hard drive as well as watching dramas from over the internet. I won't be using it for listening to music, just video content.

DVDs and BDs, both have 5.1/6.1/7.1 content. The audio quality doesn't depend on the number of channels; a stereo PCM audio track will have a higher quality than 5.1 DD/DTS. Online content, for the most part, is only in stereo.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cl0ud View Post

When watching movies I will want sound going out to a high end audio system but when watching dramas I really only want to use the TV's sound system. For this reason I thought it would be best if all audio from the HTPC to the TV and then from the TV to a sound system via the optical out. This way its easy to switch between the two using the TV's remote.

One of the reasons users have an AVR is because it provides a centralized audio control center for all equipment. Any AVR will do a better job of simulating surround sound from a stereo source than a TV. It is easier to route all audio to the AVR. In fact doing it the other way will not work, since most TVs (that I know of) will not output over the SPDIF connection from any input except the tuner. Or if they do, it will be only in stereo.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cl0ud View Post

Can I get 7.1 sound through the line-out of the HTPC to the TV (the TV has an analog audio in next to the third HDMI port and I read this is for when using DVI to HDMI) which will then pass the audio to a dedicated sound system via optical out?.

As 'renethx' mentioned above, a TV has only two speakers, you cannot apply/give more than two channels to a TV if it only has two speakers. The OS will see those two speakers connected to the PC and will allow only two speakers to be set up in the OS (applies to Windows).

Quote:
Originally Posted by cl0ud View Post

If not then I can purchase a graphics card with HDMI and 7.1 sound but I read somewhere that fdshow cannot always pass the audio through the HDMI port of a graphics card even if the graphics card does pass audio as well as video.
Also the analog audio port next to the HDMI socket on the TV, is that for connecting to line out or connecting to S/PDIF out?

'Analog In' is, well 'Analog'; SPDIF is digital - two different things. The port is most likely 'Analog In' for that HDMI input and it would be stereo only.
Here's something for further reading about HD audio in a PC.
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post #8 of 50 Old 08-11-2010, 05:31 AM
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Forget the crappy TV speaker, pretend they aren't even there. Get a logitech remote if you think turning on the AVR is too much of a pain.
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post #9 of 50 Old 08-11-2010, 05:54 PM - Thread Starter
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My wife and I haven't yet decided on which AVR to purchase as be both have different needs, i.e. I want something that will work well for movies were as she wants something that good for classical music.

A couple who are friends of our are I guess you could say audiophiles are advising us on which brands/setups will work best, we plan to spend a few thousand on an audio system. I think just must have spent well over a hundred grand on their audio equipment, they even have medical quatity cable/sockets fitted throughout their house to get the very best out of classical music. The don't know much about HTPC's so thats why I'm asking here, they are more of the old school type.

I realise the two speakers on the TV just won't cut it, but until we buy an AVR I need to use them in the meantime. I'm looking at the Radeon HD 5450 graphics card at the moment and after we buy an AVR I'll look at purchasing a sound card but doing that kinda makes the sound features of the graphics card redundant.

I want to avoid doubling up on things as much as possible but I need a graphics card with a HDMI out that I can also run audio through.

Lastnight I tried watching a movie with the line out connected to the TV but sound was pretty bad so I need to pass audio via HDMI to the TV.

I don't want to always have to turn on an AVR everytime I want to use the HTPC because sometimes we just watch dramas for which the TV's audio system is fine. Plus sometimes I want to use the AVR when watching movies broadcast in through the TV. For this reason I thought it best to use the TV as the central point for audio and then I can use the TV remote to which between the TV audio and the AVR.

When using the TV in HDMI I can select if I want the TV to use its own speaker system or to output to digital system so I assumed that when connecting a HTPC to the TV via HDMI, the TV will just pass all of the channels onto the AVR via the optical out, is this not the case?

Also why do I need HDMI 1.4a? my TV is HDMI 1.3 which I believe is capable of 8 HD channels.
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post #10 of 50 Old 08-11-2010, 06:04 PM
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The AVR needs a direct connection to the PC for Dolby digital to work. TV's do not pass the DD signal, they down convert everything to 2.0 audio.

The logitech handles all the A/V switching with the press of a single button, switches the TV and AVR at the same time.
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post #11 of 50 Old 08-11-2010, 06:06 PM
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I never had medical quality sound in the hospital or docs office, so that sounds weird or as usual expensive or I think no such thing. You two need to decide the balance you want in audio or get separate systems. A basic hdmi 1.3 should suffice for now.

"The purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis." Spock, Mark of Gideon, TOS
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post #12 of 50 Old 08-11-2010, 07:52 PM - Thread Starter
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I didnt actually mean medical quality sound, thats just being silly, I meant the socket and cables are of medical quantity, something to do with how the electricity traveling through the cables affects the sound quantity of classical music. Maybe its the sheilding, I don't know much about it.

If TV's convert everything down to 2 channels, why then are tv shows broadcasted in 5.1 dolby digital? would the TV not down sample that to 2 channels before passing it on to the AVR? how is that different from an audio signal from HMDI? I just thought that if you can set the TV to send audio direclty to the AVR it shouldnt need to touch the audio coming in through HDMI, it just needs to forward it on to the receiver.

I've come a conclusion. If I buy a Radeon 5450 I can use the HDMI port in the meantime to connect to the TV and enjoy 2 channel audio. After getting an AVR I can connect the TV to the DVI port on the graphics card for video and connect the AVR to HDMI port on the graphics card for 7.1 HD audio.

Does that sound right?
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post #13 of 50 Old 08-12-2010, 12:51 AM
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Most TV support only stereo PCM with HDMI IN, so *passing* audio HDMI IN to DIGITAL AUIDIO OUT is also stereo. If you watch HDTV programs, then DIGITAL AUIDIO OUT can output DD as well as stereo PCM.

Anyway if you buy a AVR, you won't connect the PC to TV directly. You will connect PC to AVR (via HDMI), then AVR to TV (via HDMI). This way, you will be able to use both a new sound system connected to AVR as well as TV speakers (AVR turned off, audio pass-through to TV).

The difference between HDMI 1.3 and 1.4. Notably HDMI 1.4 AVR supports HDMI 1.4a 3D video formats. You won't use it however.

You may want to spend a little more money for HD 5570/5670 (overall better video). There might be a compatibility issue of a graphics card PCI Express 2.x with the older mb supporting only PCI Express 1.x, however (upgrade your mb).
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post #14 of 50 Old 08-12-2010, 02:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Most TV support only stereo PCM with HDMI IN, so *passing* audio HDMI IN to DIGITAL AUIDIO OUT is also stereo. If you watch HDTV programs, then DIGITAL AUIDIO OUT can output DD as well as stereo PCM.

Anyway if you buy a AVR, you won't connect the PC to TV directly. You will connect PC to AVR (via HDMI), then AVR to TV (via HDMI). This way, you will be able to use both a new sound system connected to AVR as well as TV speakers (AVR turned off, audio pass-through to TV).

The difference between HDMI 1.3 and 1.4. Notably HDMI 1.4 AVR supports HDMI 1.4a 3D video formats. You won't use it however.

You may want to spend a little more money for HD 5570/5670 (overall better video). There might be a compatibility issue of a graphics card PCI Express 2.x with the older mb supporting only PCI Express 1.x, however (upgrade your mb).

AVR's will pass HDMI signal even when turned off?
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post #15 of 50 Old 08-12-2010, 03:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Servicetech571 View Post

AVR's will pass HDMI signal even when turned off?

It may be called "Standby" (still 40W or so power consumption) that supports HDMI video/audio pass-through to the TV. To turn it off (i.e. 0W power consumption), the only way is perhaps unplug it off the wall.
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post #16 of 50 Old 08-12-2010, 02:09 PM - Thread Starter
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I see, thanks everyone for your help, I have a clear picture now about how it should work and was thinking about it in more detail lastnight. Since I want audio direct from PC the TV when the ARV is completely off, i.e. switched off at the wall i'll need a graphics card which can output audio through its HDMI port but because I can only send stereo PCM then one with basic audio and very good video processing features is probably what I need to buy at the moment.

Because of our living room setup, I've realized that I'm going to probably need two AVR's, putting most money into one suitable for classical music and I'll buy a cheaper one for HT. I'll also buy a really good sound card with HDMI out to connect directly to the AVR connect the TV directly to the PC via HDMI from the graphics card, this will also take care of the HDCP issue.

With this setup I can also connect the TV to the AVR as well for broadcast shows. Using software in the PC I can switch between the sound card and graphics card as the sound output device depending on what we are watching.

I checked the specs on my board from the HP website, it supports PCI express 16x so I should be ok there. Do you know if its possible to buy a graphics card with HDMI out and to have the onboard sound output through that HDMI port?
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post #17 of 50 Old 08-12-2010, 02:44 PM
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You can buy graphics cards with HDMI that support carrying the audio as well as video. You just need to select the "video" card as your audio output device in the Sound Control panel.

One thought might be to use a graphics card with HDMI out (supporting both audio & video) to your tv, and then get a good sound card dedicated to sending audio to your music listening system. Then use somehting like Girder or EventGhost to switch the audio output device based on the application that you are using.

I think it would help if you better explained your room setup, the number of speakers you'd like to have, any other details, etc... I don't understand why you would need two AVRs. I'd probably keep my electronics to 20-30% of the budget and put the rest of the money into the speakers.

----
Another option: find a sound card that supports output to both digital and analog at the same time. I think my X-meridian does this. Connect the digital out to your music AVR and then just run the analog out to your tv. This also solves the issue of switching between audio output devices.
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post #18 of 50 Old 08-12-2010, 04:34 PM
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Since this is my first post, I couldn't include a link. Search "anandtech adaptive vector." There's a worthwhile discussion of video cards. The 5450 would be sufficient, the 5570 better, and the 5670 ideal.

The entire discussion is interesting, so it might be worthwhile to follow the links back to the original review.
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post #19 of 50 Old 08-12-2010, 05:57 PM - Thread Starter
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My living room is setup in such away that its a bit difficult to have 7.1 speakers but after some rearragement I could probably manage it, otherwise i'll be looking at 5.1 which is probably fine for my needs, 7.1 would be nice though.

I really want a graphics card that uses passive rather than active cooling simply because of noise but once you start getting into the more high spec cards you need active cooling. I probably want to buy the best passive cooled card I can find since I don't really want to get into alternative cooling systems such as water, etc.

I think Naylia suggestion about getting a sound card with both digital and analog outputs sounds like a good option as that will suit all my needs.

By analog output do you mean Line-Out of S/PDIF out? Im not clear that the difference between these two.

Also what is this Dual-stream 1080p playback or Dial HD-SD playback? is that something I need?
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post #20 of 50 Old 08-12-2010, 11:01 PM
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@cl0ud

HDMI audio solution by a sound card with HDMI is a waste of money. The ultimate purpose of digital audio is convey the information 100% faithful to the original source to the AVR, and this can be achieved easily by any cheap graphics card with HDMI audio (or any onboard audio S/PDIF for S/PDIF). The supported audio formats by HDMI and S/PDIF are:

- HDMI: multichannel LPCM, Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD MA/HRA (not every HDMI audio solution supports all of them)
- S/PDIF: stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS

Dolby Digital, DTS, DTS-HD HRA are lossy (i.e. part of the information is permanently lost in compression), while Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD MA are lossless (i.e. contains all the information of the original source). If you are concerned with quality, you'd better avoid S/PDIF. The exception is stereo music (well the majority of music sources are stereo); S/PDIF is perfectly fine for this and onboard audio codec's S/PDIF is perfectly fine. (Nevertheless I don't see a reason to use S/PDIF.)

The HDMI audio formats supported by a graphic card is here.

A possible solution is:

- A graphics card with HDMI -> AVR (movies and music) & DVI (with a proper DVI-HDMI adapter for audio pass-through) -> TV (movies)

or

- A graphics card with HDMI -> TV (movies) & an analog sound card (e.g. ASUS Xonar Essence ST + Xonar H6) -> power amplifier (movies and music).

The former is simple and you will get good quality of audio in both movies and music via AVR. If you don't use AVR, you can still watch videos with TV. In the latter case, you use an analog sound card + amplifier for good music as well as movie. Here is a caveat: TrueHD/DTS-HD to LPCM is downsampled by a commercial BD player. A sound card with HDMI (Xonar HDAV1.3 and Auzen X-Fi HomeTheater HD are the only cards) without using HDMI is a solution to avoid it. Another caveat is that these cards are tied to a particular BD player (Xonar to TotalMedia Theatre, Auzen to PowerDVD). So you will lose freedom.

Stutter-free dual 1080p video stream via DXVA is possible with HD 5750 or higher. A DXVA stream + a non-DXVA stream is possible with any card (non-DXVA means you need a dual-core 2.5GHz or higher CPU). Dual HDMI audio stream is not supported by HD 5xxx.
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post #21 of 50 Old 08-13-2010, 04:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for that renethx that was very interesting.

So I need to buy a graphics card (probably the Radeon 5450 supporting 7.1 HD sound, 512 memory) and connect it directly to the AVR via HDMI. Since the graphics card also has DVI supporting HDCP I can connect video directly to the TV via DVI to HDMI, this part I understand.

The only question now is, I have onboard sound, the sound chip is a realte ALC861 which according to their website supports S/PDIF out but my motherboard does not provide the required header socket. In that case is using Line-Out the same as S/PDIF if not, what is the difference?
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post #22 of 50 Old 08-13-2010, 08:42 PM
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Line out and Spdif are not the same. Line out is an analog preamplified output whereas the spdif is a digital multichannel output. I use the spdif into my receiver and can listen to BluRay in DTS or Dolby Digital and HDTV in Dolby Digital and it sounds great. Only the newer big budget BluRays have the new HD 7.1 soundtrack and many are still 5.1.

"Medical Quality" interconnects and speaker wire are unnecessary and a complete waste of money IMO. It's essentially just jewelry and provides no audible benefit no matter how expensive you gear is. It's marketing and hype so the store selling you the audio equipment can squeeze a few extra dollars from you. Often it leads to more than a few extra dollars. As long as you're using the proper spec cable and proper gauge wire then brand and cost don't matter.
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post #23 of 50 Old 08-13-2010, 09:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

@cl0ud:

- HDMI: multichannel LPCM, Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD MA/HRA (not every HDMI audio solution supports all of them)
- S/PDIF: stereo PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS.

I have a question about multichannel LPCM. I recently added a bluray drive to my HTPC. I have a Radeon HD 4550 and the drive came with Power DVD 8 for bluray playback.

I understand that the 4550 can't bitstream TrueHD/DTS-MA, but it should be able to send 8 channel PCM right?

All I can get is either 2 channel PCM or Dolby Digital/DTS bitstream.

How can I playback the TrueHD/DTS-MA track via PCM? Do I need different playback software? Is Power DVD 8 the problem Is there a setting I'm not seeing? Or do I have to live with it until I update my video card?
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post #24 of 50 Old 08-13-2010, 11:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cl0ud View Post

Thanks for that renethx that was very interesting.

So I need to buy a graphics card (probably the Radeon 5450 supporting 7.1 HD sound, 512 memory) and connect it directly to the AVR via HDMI. Since the graphics card also has DVI supporting HDCP I can connect video directly to the TV via DVI to HDMI, this part I understand.

The only question now is, I have onboard sound, the sound chip is a realte ALC861 which according to their website supports S/PDIF out but my motherboard does not provide the required header socket. In that case is using Line-Out the same as S/PDIF if not, what is the difference?

Yes, connect the HDMI port to AVR, then AVR to TV's HDMI IN 1 and the DVI port with this adapter to TV's HDMI IN2 (or DVI to AVR, HDMI to TV; does not matter). If you use AVR, watch (or don't watch) TV with HDMI IN 1. If you don't use AVR, watch TV with HDMI IN 2.

HD 5450 should be good, or go for HD 5670 if you can afford.

If the motherboard has an internal S/PDIF connector, you can connect it to AVR by this bracket. This might be helpful *in case* (this post) AVR can't recognize the graphics card when you turn off TV and listen to music.
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post #25 of 50 Old 08-13-2010, 11:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slowlybuilt View Post

I have a question about multichannel LPCM. I recently added a bluray drive to my HTPC. I have a Radeon HD 4550 and the drive came with Power DVD 8 for bluray playback.

I understand that the 4550 can't bitstream TrueHD/DTS-MA, but it should be able to send 8 channel PCM right?

All I can get is either 2 channel PCM or Dolby Digital/DTS bitstream.

How can I playback the TrueHD/DTS-MA track via PCM? Do I need different playback software? Is Power DVD 8 the problem Is there a setting I'm not seeing? Or do I have to live with it until I update my video card?

Settings > Audio > Speaker environment: (Current system setting) HDMI, and Output mode: PCM decoded by PowerDVD.
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post #26 of 50 Old 08-14-2010, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Settings > Audio > Speaker environment: (Current system setting) HDMI, and Output mode: PCM decoded by PowerDVD.

Thanks, but I tried that and it was only sending 2 channels of audio to my receiver (Yamaha RX-V665).

When I set output mode to AC3/DTS pass-through it bitstreamed DTS to the receiver.

Perhaps it is the source material? It was The Hurt Locker. I can't try now, because I sent it back to Netflix. Won't have source material, until Tuesday.
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post #27 of 50 Old 08-14-2010, 12:57 PM
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Have you checked "Speaker configuration" of the sound control panel? If it is stereo, every multichannel LPCM audio stream is downmixed to stereo by Windows. Make sure it is 7.1 channel.
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post #28 of 50 Old 08-14-2010, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Have you checked "Speaker configuration" of the sound control panel? If it is stereo, every multichannel LPCM audio stream is downmixed to stereo by Windows. Make sure it is 7.1 channel.

Thanks so much, I think that was the problem.

So that must mean the audio from my HDTV recordings were being outputted as bitstream, because I was still getting 6 channel audio from them as well as my DVD rips.

Thanks again, you are the best!

Edit: Ran out and bought a movie just to make sure, success!
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post #29 of 50 Old 08-15-2010, 03:11 PM - Thread Starter
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So I wouldn't be able to get Dolby or DTS 5.1 out of the line out? only 2 channel amplified stereo?

I've read somewhere that on some PC the line out doubles as a SP/DIFF, do you think that could be the case with my board? how can I test it? it just seems odd that a motherboard would have 7.1 HD audio with no way to actually take advantage of it.
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post #30 of 50 Old 08-15-2010, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by cl0ud View Post

So I wouldn't be able to get Dolby or DTS 5.1 out of the line out? only 2 channel amplified stereo?

I've read somewhere that on some PC the line out doubles as a SP/DIFF, do you think that could be the case with my board? how can I test it? it just seems odd that a motherboard would have 7.1 HD audio with no way to actually take advantage of it.

Surely SPDIF signals can be transmitted through a 3.5mm stereo jack. Check the users manual of your system.

But why do want to use S/PDIF at all? Which audio equipment do you connect S/PDIF to?
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