HTPC & home theater builder in need of advice. - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 07:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Alright everyone, I have decided to set up my first "theater", and through the fact that I am moving into a new place and have to buy everything from scratch, I am getting the opportunity to truly design my first experience.

The cable provided by my rental agency is TW digital, channels 1-99. In the future when/if I get the other HD channels I might need something diff, but for now that's all I have and its free, so I kind of wanted to stick with it.

So what kind of tuner, if any, can do chan 1-99 in digital and DVR on my PC? Or am I stuck with getting a DVR box?


My setup GOALS:

#1) To be able to tune to any of the TV channels (via box or PC as per your recommendations) (and if box, the Time Warner one or anything retail you may recommend?)
#2) DVR if possible
#3) Play my PC games / Movies on projector (movies could even be streamed to PS3 and I'm told or PS3 can be hooked into home network I'm told as well?)
#4) Play my PS3 on Projector w/ streaming HD NetFlix / HuluPlus
#5) Have decent sound system that is great bang for the buck (no pun intended) and wont leave me broke. (I currently have 2 good speakers with 2 open copper leads (each) that I put in clamps in the back of my stereo and I don't know how to convert them to a more modern format, but can if told how.)



STEPS taken thus far:

#1) I have just purchased this 106" Gray projection screen.
#2) I have just purchased a PlayStation 3 250 GB
#3) I have purchased 6 PS3 Game titles (Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Little Big Planet, Uncharted, Uncharted 2, Armored Core 4, Armored Core: For Answer) if you wanted to know.
#4) I have a PC with a ton of storage and an ATI 4870
#5) I have SoundBlaser XtremeMusic for audio output.
#6) I have a 25 foot HDMI cable that currently feeds from my 4870 to my regular TV, but carries no Audio as a 4870 cant.
#7) I have a nice HDMI switch I can install to switch signal sources.
#8) I will be purchasing this projector within the next 6 days.


Could someone with more straightforward experience in this than I offer advice on:

#1) What hardware pieces I might be missing?
#2) How could I possibly convert my current stereo speakers? or what new ones to buy?
#3) Do I need a cable box w/DVR from Time Warter, or buy a retail one, or buy a Tuner card for PC that can take a standard coaxil input? (If card, then which tuner card?)
#4) Do you see anything wrong with my current setup?
#5) What cables will I need? RCA type? and from which piece of hardware to which?
#6) And last but not least.. in what order should I hook these up.. which piece of hardware to which?




I thank you kindly for any advice.
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post #2 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 07:52 AM
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You need cablecard... and google.
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post #3 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 07:56 AM
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Stick to your provider's (Time Warner) cable box. For pay TV, it's the easiest solution. If you're getting the box for free, it's also the cheapest.
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post #4 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 09:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Alright, so the choice is clear, the cablebox from TW. The box is not free but I'll live with it, if its such a hassle to get a decent cablecard.

And as for Google.. I wouldn't be here unless I had already looked up the problems.. how do you think I came to purchasing the items on that list?

The setup in my mind will function as such:

#1) I get the audio jacks from Home Depot and convert my stripped cables to left and right channel input.
#2) I hook the speakers up to the projector, hoping the audio transfers through switch. Else I attempt to have the cablebox as also an in-between, between the switch and projector, and hook the speakers to the box.
#3) I hook up the HDMI switch to the projector. (or through cable box HDMI input/output)
#4) I hook up the PC HDMI out, to the HDMI switch.
#5) I hook up the PS3 HDMI out, to the HDMI switch.

And there is a possibility that I will just need to get a stereo receiver so I can input into it from both PC and media center simultaneously.
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post #5 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 10:29 AM
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Get the hauppauge hd 1212, which will then turn your PC into a DVR. You'll still need the cable box to get the encrypted HD channels though.

On the same note I would buy a new video card, the Ati Radeon 5xxx series. Has audio and video capabilites. You don't need a whole lot of video card for playing videos or Hulu so a sub $100 will work fine. If you are gaming then the 5770 is pretty popular, or I would get one of the new 6xxx series ATI cards.

The projector doesn't have speakers so get a new reciever and speakers of your choice.
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post #6 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 10:44 AM
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Why do you say your 4870 can't carry audio over hdmi? It should be able to carry 7.1ch LPCM. I'm currently using a HD4550 connected (via HDMI) to a Yamaha RXV663B receiver (HDMI in). The output HDMI from the receiver goes to my display. So you probably don't need the soundcard.

Not sure what you mean about converting your speakers. Are you thinking of soldering on RCA ends to the speaker wires, and plugging them into the RCA outs of a device for sound? This won't work - you need an amp of some sort (such as in a stereo receiver), unless your speakers have built in amps (unlikely if they just have a pair of wires). If you didn't mean this, I'm not sure there is any other format other than the speaker wires you mentioned.

You may want to upgrade your receiver to something with HDMI support. You didn't mention what stereo you have now?

This is how you could hook things up. If you get a receiver with 3 or more inputs, you can skip your HDMI switch.

PC HD4870 HDMI -> HDMI cable (audio/video) -> Receiver HDMI in 1
PS3 HDMI -> HDMI cable (audio/video) -> Receiver HDMI in 2
Cablebox HDMI -> HDMI cable (audio/video) -> Receiver HDMI in 3

Receiver HDMI out 1 -> HDMI cable -> Display (ie Projector or TV)
Receiver speaker terminals -> speaker wire -> speakers

If you use a receiver to switch your sources, your audio and picture will follow whatever input you chose on the receiver.
Depending on the receiver, it may also allow you to take analog sources (Composite, Component, Svideo) and display them over HDMI (eg Yamaha RXV667)

Another thing you may consider for you HD4870 output is Monoprice's DVI Doctor. There were some issues with older ATI drivers where if you switch away from its output, or turn off the display, that when you came back it may not properly output anymore. There may be other software solutions (or newer drivers), but this got rid of a lot of headaches for me, and I haven't bothered to see if these issues have been fixed by AMD/ATI. Even though it is DVI in and out, it will pass through HDMI audio, you just need to use HDMI from your video card (either the dedicated HDMI port, or the ATI DVI to HDMI adapter (not a generic one)), and then use two HDMI to DVI cables.
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post #7 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 10:54 AM
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As other mentioned, get a receiver and a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup. Use the receiver as your HDMI switch, plugging your pc, ps3, cable box and projector into it.

As far as recommendations, need to know how much $$$ you're willing to spend, what size room, is it a dedicated theater, etc.

What brand / model are these speakers you currently have?
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post #8 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 12:03 PM
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If you can stretch another $300 on your projector budget, the new Epson 8350 is a much better buy. There's also currently a classified ad for a Viewsonic Pro8100 at $845 shipped, which will off even greater picture quality.
Both of the above have a lot of placement flexibility too, especially the Epson.
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post #9 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 01:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fitbrit View Post

If you can stretch another $300 on your projector budget, the new Epson 8350 is a much better buy. There's also currently a classified ad for a Viewsonic Pro8100 at $845 shipped, which will off even greater picture quality.
Both of the above have a lot of placement flexibility too, especially the Epson.

Tell me if I'm not judging these right but:

The Epson is 50k:1 contrast and 2000 lumens.
The ViewSonic is 13k:1 and 1000 lumens.
The Optima HD20 is 40k:1 and 1700 lumens.

The Epson is deff nice, but its $300 more, and their lamps are $100 more than Optima's as well.

I know at 13k vs. 40k, I'll notice the blacks difference, but 40k vs. 50k, I am not sure.
-----------------------------------------
Quote:
Originally Posted by pvrnorth View Post

Why do you say your 4870 can't carry audio over hdmi? It should be able to carry 7.1ch LPCM. I'm currently using a HD4550 connected (via HDMI) to a Yamaha RXV663B receiver (HDMI in). The output HDMI from the receiver goes to my display. So you probably don't need the soundcard.

Maybe its my television, I have a 37" Olevia from 3 years ago. But it just doesn't carry audio from the DVI-to-HDMI output. I thought it was the card though.


Quote:
Originally Posted by brainley View Post

As other mentioned, get a receiver and a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup. Use the receiver as your HDMI switch, plugging your pc, ps3, cable box and projector into it.

As far as recommendations, need to know how much $$$ you're willing to spend, what size room, is it a dedicated theater, etc.

What brand / model are these speakers you currently have?

Ok, you and the others have convinced me. I'll get a receiver to function as both an HDMI switch and audio input. If I cant get my 4870 to carry the audio, I'll split the output from my nice headphone amp and carry the signal to the receiver via a regular headphone jack input line they use for ipods.

The speakers I have came off of an old stereo model called the Panasonic AK47, they feel very nice and warm, if a little bassy, but are wooden and in great condition. Its just two speakers, I might need an authentic 5.1 setup eventually though, and advice with that is welcome.

I'm looking to spend hopefully around $100-$250 on a receiver, depending on how nice. And eventually around $400 on a speaker system. Which WILL be in a dedicated theater room (my new living room) BUT, I cannot get the really nice ones because I have a 2nd floor apt and I was warned about noise when I inquired as to the rules about mounting the projector. So, guess I'm looking for the best bang-for-the-buck type.. usually the really nice middle end ones that they wont feel downstairs through my floor.

So, any recommendations on the receiver? Or projector? or speakers?

Receiver budget: $100-$250
Projector budget: $1000
Theater speaker budget: $400
Food budget: $0
---------------------------

PS: I still do not know how to convert the speakers that have stripped wires that go into clamps into the format that the receiver might take. HOWEVER. Now that receivers are on the table, I've seen ones that have output through those bare cable clamps out there still.

I just wish I knew what the name for the clamps or the right audio jacks I need to turn the wires into is.
----------------------------

PSS: Thank you for all the help you're giving me guys.
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post #10 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 01:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Oh shoot I was wrong, the Optoma is 4k:1 not 40k:1

Is that why the lamps on the nicer ones burn out so much sooner?
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post #11 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 02:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Red View Post

Oh shoot I was wrong, the Optoma is 4k:1 not 40k:1

Is that why the lamps on the nicer ones burn out so much sooner?

Don't pay much attention to the manufacturer's contrast data; rather look at the reviews at projectorreviews.com and projectorcentral.com for the real scoop.

The Epson lamps are now known to be warrantied throughout the period your projector is warrantied. Some of the bulbs have been known to blow early, but Epson is amazing about replacing them for free, if you read the forums here.

The Viewsonic is suppsed to have a better PQ than the Epson according to someone who has both, and to be honest I'm struggling between the decision to buy that particular used Viewsonic and a new Epson 8350 - I think Cleveland Plasma has the best online price right now on the Epson... except if you're close to a HHGregg and are willing to buy very soon- it's $1299 minus 20% for a few days. Again, check out the official 8350 owner's thread for details.
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post #12 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fitbrit View Post

Don't pay much attention to the manufacturer's contrast data; rather look at the reviews at projectorreviews.com and projectorcentral.com for the real scoop.

The Epson lamps are now known to be warrantied throughout the period your projector is warrantied. Some of the bulbs have been known to blow early, but Epson is amazing about replacing them for free, if you read the forums here.

The Viewsonic is suppsed to have a better PQ than the Epson according to someone who has both, and to be honest I'm struggling between the decision to buy that particular used Viewsonic and a new Epson 8350 - I think Cleveland Plasma has the best online price right now on the Epson... except if you're close to a HHGregg and are willing to buy very soon- it's $1299 minus 20% for a few days. Again, check out the official 8350 owner's thread for details.

You guys are about to cost me an extra $300. The lamp on the Epson lasts 25% longer by their numbers than the Optima one, so in time, the lack of replacement will even out the savings. Is how I'm looking at it.

I still need to know what receiver to get though.
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post #13 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 02:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Red View Post

Tell me if I'm not judging these right but:

The Epson is 50k:1 contrast and 2000 lumens.
The ViewSonic is 13k:1 and 1000 lumens.
The Optima HD20 is 40k:1 and 1700 lumens.

The Epson is deff nice, but its $300 more, and their lamps are $100 more than Optima's as well.

I know at 13k vs. 40k, I'll notice the blacks difference, but 40k vs. 50k, I am not sure.


The HD20 is a DLP projector so placement is very limited where the Epson 8100 or 8350 is LCD based and has lens shift so easier to place the projector where you want in your room.

I've seen the Epson 8100 on clearance at BB for $980. Not sure how many they have left though.
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post #14 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 04:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Ok, so I'm buying an Epson 8350 now. Thanks for the advice all.


Now, does anyone have a receiver to recommend in the $100-$250 range?
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post #15 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 06:57 PM
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Possible receiver option - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16882117339

Pioneer typically makes decent equipment, it has 3 HDMI ins, supports the newer lossless codecs and is rated at least for 110 watts a channel.

You'd have to order tonight though to save another $15 off the $180 price
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post #16 of 27 Old 10-21-2010, 09:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Red View Post

Ok, so I'm buying an Epson 8350 now. Thanks for the advice all.


Now, does anyone have a receiver to recommend in the $100-$250 range?

I don't think you''ll regret the decision - the 8350 is definitely the best bang for buck right now, and blows the HD20 away according to comparisons by people who have tried both.

The receiver Brianley posted is hard to beat on price, if 5.1 is enough for you. I have the Pioneer 919 model and it's a very nice sound, but has an HDMI issue when connected to my Acer Revo and touchscreen via HDMI.
I'll be moving to an all-Onkyo house soon, as my first experience with their high-end receivers left me astounded. I've heard of some issues with HTPCs and their lower end models, but the 5007 has no EDID/HDMI issues at all, unlike my Yamaha 663.
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post #17 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 12:50 AM - Thread Starter
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I don't think you''ll regret the decision - the 8350 is definitely the best bang for buck right now, and blows the HD20 away according to comparisons by people who have tried both.

The receiver Brianley posted is hard to beat on price, if 5.1 is enough for you. I have the Pioneer 919 model and it's a very nice sound, but has an HDMI issue when connected to my Acer Revo and touchscreen via HDMI.
I'll be moving to an all-Onkyo house soon, as my first experience with their high-end receivers left me astounded. I've heard of some issues with HTPCs and their lower end models, but the 5007 has no EDID/HDMI issues at all, unlike my Yamaha 663.

I saw an opportunity and I took it. I purchased this HTIB, and 100 feet of 16 gauge speaker wire.

For $400 this solves both my receiver & speaker problem. YES, I know, they are not crem de le crem of the speaker world, but little steps...

I also got 2x M->M 15 ft HDMI cables, and 2x M->M 6 ft HDMI cables.

Also I looked into the 4870 and the settings that let you transfer the sound, now, either the current TV I have or the 25ft cable I got were not able to do it. However, both are about to be replaced, and I'm crossing my fingers really really hard that I'll be able to do both audio and video out via DVI-I -> HDMI

I continuously thank you all .. and will be picking up that projector tomorrow.

How did you find that site btw? It didn't show up in google store search or bizrate, amazon, ebay or anything when I tried to google the product. Good price find!
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post #18 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 08:14 AM
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And so it begins... Should be a much better solution than what you were originally planning.

Just for future reference, if you need more cables, check out monoprice.com - good quality stuff for CHEAP.
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post #19 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 08:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Red View Post

I saw an opportunity and I took it. I purchased this HTIB, and 100 feet of 16 gauge speaker wire.

For $400 this solves both my receiver & speaker problem. YES, I know, they are not crem de le crem of the speaker world, but little steps...

I also got 2x M->M 15 ft HDMI cables, and 2x M->M 6 ft HDMI cables.

Also I looked into the 4870 and the settings that let you transfer the sound, now, either the current TV I have or the 25ft cable I got were not able to do it. However, both are about to be replaced, and I'm crossing my fingers really really hard that I'll be able to do both audio and video out via DVI-I -> HDMI

I continuously thank you all .. and will be picking up that projector tomorrow.

How did you find that site btw? It didn't show up in google store search or bizrate, amazon, ebay or anything when I tried to google the product. Good price find!

DVI does not support Audio only HD video. HDMI is the only one that supports Audio and Video. HDMI is basically a DVI connection with audio included. You need a video card with a HDMI output.
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post #20 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 08:44 AM
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The ATI 4xxxx series include a DVI -> HDMI adapter and does support audio over DVI.
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post #21 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 09:44 AM
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The ATI 4xxxx series include a DVI -> HDMI adapter and does support audio over DVI.

Ok, yes if you have the adapter that comes with the card then yes it supports audio. Otherwise DVI does not support Audio.
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post #22 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 11:14 AM
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Yes, if you card has DVI outputs you need to use the ATI DVI to HDMI adapter. If you don't have one, you should be able to find one on ebay.

If you still have trouble with your new setup, make sure you have the drivers installed correctly. The ATI driver package should install the HDMI audio driver. There are other threads on this forum that you could read up on this.
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post #23 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 01:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by pvrnorth View Post

Yes, if you card has DVI outputs you need to use the ATI DVI to HDMI adapter. If you don't have one, you should be able to find one on ebay.

If you still have trouble with your new setup, make sure you have the drivers installed correctly. The ATI driver package should install the HDMI audio driver. There are other threads on this forum that you could read up on this.

BINGO.

I found and tore apart the ATI 4870 box I put away, and in the deep recesses of the cardboard dungeon they built below where the card lay on, I found their DVI-I -> HDMI adapter!

Wish I knew this puppy was here when I bought that specific DVI -> HDMI cable, it cost me extra!

Thank you all again.

Fortunately, I was smart enough to buy 2x 15 foot M>M HDMI cables this time
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post #24 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 02:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Red View Post

Alright everyone, I have decided to set up my first "theater", and through the fact that I am moving into a new place and have to buy everything from scratch, I am getting the opportunity to truly design my first experience.


Nice handle.

Impressive (?) that you've only done 13 posts in 3 years.


Quote:
Originally Posted by The Red View Post

My setup GOALS:

#2) DVR if possible


Consider doing MythTV/Linux(32 bit); so figure one quiet 32 bit PC for that.

Check the Linux sub-forum at: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?f=76


Quote:
Originally Posted by The Red View Post

#5) Have decent sound system that is great bang for the buck (no pun intended) and wont leave me broke. (I currently have 2 good speakers with 2 open copper leads (each) that I put in clamps in the back of my stereo and I don't know how to convert them to a more modern format, but can if told how.)


Consider a 2nd PC for this.

Assuming 2 channel, forget about "hi-rez/hi-definition" and stay with standard CD (redbook), i.e. 16/44.1, rip CD to HDD using EAC (Exact Audio Copy) and flac compression.

I'm still in process on actually doing this; check "Build a Small and Quiet PC For Stereo Music" at: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...917&highlight=

FWIW the start to any new PC is a great case; current good deals to consider: http://www.newegg.com/Store/Category...Computer-Cases

My personal favorites are Lian Li aluminum with current deal being: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811112249

FWIW Newegg plays serious temporary pricing games, so odds are that the deal ($93 total) in my last paragraph won't be in effect too long. BTW, I've two of these cases.


Cheers

The best is the enemy of the good. Voltaire (1694-1778)

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post #25 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 02:51 PM - Thread Starter
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FYI, just spoke with Chris at Cleveland Plasma and bought the 8350.

I am in the market for a stand, shelf, or even ceiling mount right now, if you guys can recommend any.

You've been very helpful (if not just extremely costly!)
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post #26 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 03:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OtherSongs View Post

Nice handle.

Impressive (?) that you've only done 13 posts in 3 years.





Consider doing MythTV/Linux(32 bit); so figure one quiet 32 bit PC for that.

Check the Linux sub-forum at: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?f=76





Consider a 2nd PC for this.

Assuming 2 channel, forget about "hi-rez/hi-definition" and stay with standard CD (redbook), i.e. 16/44.1, rip CD to HDD using EAC (Exact Audio Copy) and flac compression.

I'm still in process on actually doing this; check "Build a Small and Quiet PC For Stereo Music" at: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...917&highlight=

FWIW the start to any new PC is a great case; current good deals to consider: http://www.newegg.com/Store/Category...Computer-Cases

My personal favorites are Lian Li aluminum with current deal being: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811112249

FWIW Newegg plays serious temporary pricing games, so odds are that the deal ($93 total) in my last paragraph won't be in effect too long. BTW, I've two of these cases.


Cheers

Thanks for the help, a lot of the steps there I've skipped (like the DVR will just be Time Warner's now). But I think as of today, other than a way to stand or mount the projector, I might be semi-done with building the system.

The only other thing I can think of is white speaker wire to match the walls, should have been what I did.

As for the handle, yea, it was given to me some years ago, in an unpleasant manner at the time, based on my origins from the USSR .. I have adopted it

And I think I was on this forum last, that long ago, because that's when I first joined it to figure out the best course in wide-screen monitors and the best tech. I always love to learn the in-depth details and feel I make wiser decisions off of it.

Like what happened in this thread, where I went from ordering an Optoma HD20 to an Epson 8350
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post #27 of 27 Old 10-22-2010, 03:12 PM
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I second the vote for MythTV since I have been running it for 5+ years. Things too a great turn for the better a while back with Nvidia's VDPAU. My current favorite frontends are the little Zotac ION boxes. I have a first gen MAG and just test ran a Gen2 ZBOX a couple weeks ago. Honestly, the first-gen MAG plays everything I throw at it unless I try to do fancy deinterlacing on 1080i broadcast signals. It handles Blu-Ray rips easily. HDMI out carries audio.

The backend is a bigger box that sits in a closet in the basement. Lots of big drives (6Tb RAID), a couple of analog tuners and a digital tuner. That is all I can run these days with the Verizon FiOS since only a handful of local channels are available unencrypted. Previously, with Comcast up until about 6 months ago, I had 2 digital and 4 analog tuners connected directly to the cable without any cable boxes. Even with the reduced tuners, we still record far more shows than we can possibly watch.

I have the frontends all set up to dual-boot Fedora (for Hulu and MythTV) and Windows (for Netflix), but recently bought a Roku to handle pretty much all of my non-MythTV needs...and then some :-) Good-bye Windows.
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