New house, current HTPC not cutting it, what's the best way forward? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 08-07-2012, 03:42 PM - Thread Starter
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I've seen a lot of threads on various forums talking about what best software to do "x" and what best server hardware to do "y" and to be honest non of them really answer what I want to do. Possibly as I'm in the Uk and don't run a cable service maybe.

First off I have been running a Win7x64 PC in the study with Media Center and MediaBrowser for about 2 years now (LiveTV/TV Series/Movies). I have the HDMI from this box, into a splitter and that feeds the TV in the bedroom and the TV in the lounge. It's been fine, but the audio is only 2.0 (I've tried all sorts to fix it, but it's due to the EDID handshaking I believe).

I'm just about to move house and I have a blank canvas. So I'm looking for any advise on what would be the ultimate set-up to give me the following:
  1. Live/Pause/Recorded TV
  2. TV Series (DVD/BluRay Ripped)
  3. Movies (DVD/BluRay Ripped)
  4. Music (Some CDs, but mainly Spotify)
  5. Internet Streaming (Youtube, iPlayer, Ted, etc.)

I have a list of things I'm looking for:
  1. Distributed to at least 3 TVs in the house
  2. 5.1 surround in at least the lounge
  3. Be reliable enough to be used every day
  4. No "faffing" with the remote to switch sources. I'd like one interface to do it all in
  5. It's got to look like the mutz. MediaBrowser currently is very sweet to look at and wows anyone that sees it
  6. Stream live to to Android (Tablets & Phones ideally) - nice to have if I'm honest
  7. Oh and it has to be very user friendly for my not so tech savvy and impatient other half tongue.gif

I'm likely to drop the music playing from this list, as I think I'll go down the Sonos route for that and hook that into my Onkyo.

I've looked at lots of different options, but I can't seem to get a single solution to this (MediaPortal, XBMC, NextPVR). The only thing that comes close is having a media streamer with each of the TVs and then have a Sky+ multiroom set-up for TV (I don't have Sky today). If I carry on with the same set-up I have now I don't fix the sound issue. I could put a cheap HTPC box with the TVs and run the current software stack, but then I get fragmented recorded TV all over the place, unless I've missed something with the various backend TV recorders. I've bought the DVBLink Server and tried uPnP on the TV and that's just rubbish (The uPnP not DVBLink, that's been rock solid with the MediaCenter).

So what bits of kit do I currently have:
  • Win7x64 PC (Quad Q6600, 8GB RAM, 5 1TB HDDs on an LSI RAID5 config)
  • Separate Quad Core Q6600, 8GB RAM (currently this is running ESXi and WinServer2012)
  • 2 x BlackGold BGT 3595 satellite cards
  • 2 x Compro S350 satellite cards
  • VideoMate USB digital aerial tuner
  • Mede8er MED500X2 with a 320GB HDD
  • Logitech Harmony 900
  • WD TV Live Hub - Although I bought this for my parents, so I shouldn't really include this ;-)
  • Onkyo TX-NR509
  • Panasonic 46GT30
  • Toshiba 40" Plasma (can't remember the model)
  • QNAP TS-859 Pro (8 x 2TB HDDs)
I have a few more bits than this, but they are the main ones (I'm an IT consultant so I've collected a fair bit of kit over the years).

I've been tinkering with the USB VideoMate in a VMWare Workstation with various software solutions and I've found the XBMC with PVR to be really good, considering it's not release quality yet.

Ideally what I'd like to see is a device I can plug into each of the TVs that is fully functional with the above desires. Maybe I'm a little ahead of where the various, very talented, developers are, certainly having read recently about the XBMC Android stuff that's being developed currently (Although there is no mention of Live TV supported on them). If I have to buy some new devices then I'm happy to do so if it gives me a top notch solution. I don't really want to spend loads of money, I will have just moved house after all, but I have around £1,500 in my pocket, although I'm looking to buy some new speakers to go with the Onkyo when I move.

I'm very much a Microsoft man, so unless there is a really strong argument to go down the Linux route, then I'll stick with what I know.

It's rather a long post, so thankyou if you've managed to get this far and read all of my droll. I'm happy to entertain any suggestions.

Thanks, Mike...
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post #2 of 8 Old 08-07-2012, 08:17 PM
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What can't your system handle now, its still a pretty strong setup. You can add a current generation graphics card and have completely up to date playback.
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post #3 of 8 Old 08-08-2012, 02:25 AM - Thread Starter
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You made it to the end then ;-)

I'm running an ATI Radeon 5670 in the WMC box, which I've never had any issues with

I'm happy with the system on the most part. WMC does a great job with the TV and MediaBrowser sorts the rest out. Where I have the issue is primarily with the 2.0 audio. I tried several EDID software hacks to resolve this and couldn't get Win7 to push out more then 2.0 unless I was plugged directly into the amp from the PC. I also don't know how easy in the new house it will be to run HDMI through the walls and keep the same splitter type setup.

I was kind of hoping that there would be a quiet device I can run on each of the TVs like a Raspberry Pi/ODroid/Via APC or WD TV/Popcorn Hour that would run a software stack that looks to my backend server that does the heavy lifting (with the tuner cards). I've googled till my fingers bleed, but I can't seem to find anything currently that does what I'd like. Honestly I was hoping I was missing something, or that a more informed HTPC enthusiast would be able to say "Wait till Oct/Nov as such and such will release Bobs your uncle media center and that will deliver everything".
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post #4 of 8 Old 08-08-2012, 09:46 AM
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Instead of splitting HDMI, why not use a Media Center Extender?

It is designed mainly for Live/Recorded TV, but will also play XVID, DIVX, MP3, MP4, some MKV. It will also give you flexibility to view dirfferent content on both TVs at the same time.

Withg a quad CPU you can add 3 extenders and have all 4 TV's working independantly from each other, but with unified guide, and recording schedule, just as it was intended by Microsoft.

Edit: And you will be able to get more than stereo sound out of HTPC and Extenders, since everything will be working as intended.

6 TV's in the house on FiOS and we only pay $4.99/month to connect them all!!! Power to the CableCard and WMC7!!!
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post #5 of 8 Old 08-08-2012, 10:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blueiedgod View Post

Instead of splitting HDMI, why not use a Media Center Extender?

I do have a couple of XBox 360s, and a couple of years ago I did trial using them and WMC, but I always found the interface to be a little laggy on them. They are original XBoxes too so they are noiser then trying to land concorde in the front room ;-)
As I'm in trialling mode again I might give them another shot to see if it was something with the set-up or it's better with the new XBox interface (It was the old blade style when I tried last).

I had completely forgotten about them, ta.
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post #6 of 8 Old 08-08-2012, 10:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeyTT View Post

I do have a couple of XBox 360s, and a couple of years ago I did trial using them and WMC, but I always found the interface to be a little laggy on them. They are original XBoxes too so they are noiser then trying to land concorde in the front room ;-)
As I'm in trialling mode again I might give them another shot to see if it was something with the set-up or it's better with the new XBox interface (It was the old blade style when I tried last).
I had completely forgotten about them, ta.

We still don't know what the echo can do. September will be a very telling month and potentially change the whole game.
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post #7 of 8 Old 08-08-2012, 12:03 PM - Thread Starter
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Did I hear an echo in here? (Sorry couldn't resist that)

Can't say I've ever heard of that. I will google that.

Ok, I've googled. I presume you're talking about this: http://www.streamernation.com/ceton-echo-media-center-extender/

It certainly looks like it could be interesting. I'll throw that into the mix and keep my eye on it, thanks...
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post #8 of 8 Old 08-08-2012, 08:06 PM
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I have a WMC 64 pc based on the intel i3-2105 that connects to a Pioneer SC-05 (kind of old now, but works great) which also is connected to a bluRay player and a couple of old DVD/SACD players, The Pioneer outputs to a Panasonic Plasma. The sound is great. Depending on the source audio, it outputs all the digital formats the SC-05 will handle. The only audio issues come from whatever source audio I am dealing with (e.g. channels that only broadcast in 2.0).

I am using the HDMI cable connection on the motherboard as the only connection between pc and receiver.

For content that is not copy once protected, I can stream recorded content from any pc in the house that made the recording and WMC groups all of the recordings into a single presentation as if all the content resided on the same pc.

Copy once content is, of course, the problem with WMC pcs at each TV. That's why I am looking forward to the Ceton Echo. Otherwise, WMC works really well for my needs.
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