HTPC experts: is it feasible to replace a pre-pro with a HTPC? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 12-27-2012, 01:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Am wondering if it is possible to remove the pre-pro from the chain by using a HTPC?

At a high level the reason to do this would be to allow additional DSP on the audio signal before it hits the D/A converters. For example room correction, crossover, bass management, level matching, etc. Though all of this could be done in an external DSP if the LPCM can be got off the computer. So that's really the main question.

- play back blu-rays. don't necessarily have to be ripped
- decode DTS / Dolby HD codecs to LPCM
- video to go via HDMI to the source or to a processor like a Lumagen
- audio to go to a multi-channel USB / FW DAC (e.g. Prism Sound Orpheus) or maybe just a multi-channel digital out (e.g. Lynx AES card)

If so, how do you go about doing it (please give info on the software you are using) and what are the caveats? It seems there are HDCP issues but not quite sure if they affect what I am trying to do?


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post #2 of 11 Old 12-27-2012, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Nyal Mellor View Post

Am wondering if it is possible to remove the pre-pro from the chain by using a HTPC?
At a high level the reason to do this would be to allow additional DSP on the audio signal before it hits the D/A converters. For example room correction, crossover, bass management, level matching, etc. Though all of this could be done in an external DSP if the LPCM can be got off the computer. So that's really the main question.
- play back blu-rays. don't necessarily have to be ripped
- decode DTS / Dolby HD codecs to LPCM
- video to go via HDMI to the source or to a processor like a Lumagen
- audio to go to a multi-channel USB / FW DAC (e.g. Prism Sound Orpheus) or maybe just a multi-channel digital out (e.g. Lynx AES card)
If so, how do you go about doing it (please give info on the software you are using) and what are the caveats? It seems there are HDCP issues but not quite sure if they affect what I am trying to do?

In short, yes with a few caveats.

1)This is a matter of licensing to get access to the encryption keys to decrypt the content for playback. The AACS license compels the implementer to keep the stream protected at all times.

Assuming the first item is dealt with ...

2) The easiest would be the LAV filters, it saves the hassle of registering the codecs with windows manually. LAV needs have Arcsoft Total Media installed for the DTS-HD MA decoder.

3)Most modern PC video cards will auto detect the connected port. The only thing to check is to make sure the PC is putting the black levels you are expecting there is a choice between 0-255 (PC Video) and 16-235 (Consumer)

4)On the software side get Reclock from Slysoft and put it in WASAPI mode for unprocessed LPCM. Either USB or the Lynx are fine, If you are using the Lynx, keep an eye on the word clock, for best quality do not leave word clock unslaved.
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post #3 of 11 Old 12-27-2012, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Nyal Mellor View Post

Am wondering if it is possible to remove the pre-pro from the chain by using a HTPC?

The simplest "weed out" answer: Not if you've got other sources.
Quote:
At a high level the reason to do this would be to allow additional DSP on the audio signal before it hits the D/A converters. For example room correction, crossover, bass management, level matching, etc. Though all of this could be done in an external DSP if the LPCM can be got off the computer. So that's really the main question.

Room correction mostly, but also the others are all decades ahead in terms of functionality and refinement in pre/pros from where they are in a PC. There really needs to be driver/OS support for these things but there isn't. Room correction for example is only supported in a few apps (or maybe expensive add-on software) but it's all do-it-yourself, as in, capture the room response, generate an impulse response, etc.
Quote:
- play back blu-rays. don't necessarily have to be ripped

Easy (well not as easy as a standalone but not too hard)
Quote:
- decode DTS / Dolby HD codecs to LPCM

From external soures? Impossible.
Quote:
- video to go via HDMI to the source or to a processor like a Lumagen

FWIW, there's no good way to get unprocessed video out of an HTPC, for feeding something like a Lumagen.

What it really comes down to is this. An HTPC cannot replace a pre-pro/AVR. It's as simple as that. What is possible, is if you have no other sources you may be able to eliminate the need for a pre-pro, but that's about as far as it goes.

See what an anamorphoscopic lens can do,
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post #4 of 11 Old 12-27-2012, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by stanger89 View Post

What it really comes down to is this. An HTPC cannot replace a pre-pro/AVR. It's as simple as that. What is possible, is if you have no other sources you may be able to eliminate the need for a pre-pro, but that's about as far as it goes.
Well said. That's the bottom line.
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post #5 of 11 Old 12-27-2012, 08:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Tong Chia View Post

In short, yes with a few caveats.
1)This is a matter of licensing to get access to the encryption keys to decrypt the content for playback. The AACS license compels the implementer to keep the stream protected at all times.
Assuming the first item is dealt with ...
2) The easiest would be the LAV filters, it saves the hassle of registering the codecs with windows manually. LAV needs have Arcsoft Total Media installed for the DTS-HD MA decoder.
3)Most modern PC video cards will auto detect the connected port. The only thing to check is to make sure the PC is putting the black levels you are expecting there is a choice between 0-255 (PC Video) and 16-235 (Consumer)
4)On the software side get Reclock from Slysoft and put it in WASAPI mode for unprocessed LPCM. Either USB or the Lynx are fine, If you are using the Lynx, keep an eye on the word clock, for best quality do not leave word clock unslaved.

Makes sense.
1) MakeMKV seems to work for this?
2) LAV splits the MKV into it's component audio and video parts right?
3) So plug Lumagen into HTPC video card output. Straightforward.
4) What's the purpose of Reclock? Seems like a video stream tool?

What playback software do you use to manage all this? JRiver seems nice and full featured and comes already with LAV type filters as well as additional EQ, crossover, bass management functionality.

Really I am only interested in doing one thing well...playing back movies at reference audio and video level at a lower cost than a top notch pre-pro. I think HTPC stands to many people for much more, but to me it would be just about movie playback.


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post #6 of 11 Old 12-27-2012, 09:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Nice review of JRiver here: http://hometheaterreview.com/jriver-media-center-software-reviewed/


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post #7 of 11 Old 12-27-2012, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Nyal Mellor View Post

Makes sense.
1) MakeMKV seems to work for this?
2) LAV splits the MKV into it's component audio and video parts right?
3) So plug Lumagen into HTPC video card output. Straightforward.
4) What's the purpose of Reclock? Seems like a video stream tool?
What playback software do you use to manage all this? JRiver seems nice and full featured and comes already with LAV type filters as well as additional EQ, crossover, bass management functionality.
Really I am only interested in doing one thing well...playing back movies at reference audio and video level at a lower cost than a top notch pre-pro. I think HTPC stands to many people for much more, but to me it would be just about movie playback.

1) MakeMKV will do for the purpose.

2)Yes plus more, it is also the video and audio decoder

3)Yes.
If you watch movies mainly, the player you choose must be able to set output to the correct resolution of the video stream, namely 480p and 1080p. Jriver can do this as can MPC-HC another popular player here.
The Lumagen can take the output and scale it up.
You also have a choice of RGB or YCbCr, choose the latter for Lumagen so that it can do the correct chroma upsampling to full 4:4:4.
HDMI 1.x will not allow 4:2:0 output so the PC does some of the chroma upsampling. There is a very high quality renderer, MadVR that you could use on the PC side for the initial 4:2:0 -> 4:2:2 conversion.

4)Windows can mess with and resample the audio, reclock enables the exclusive audio device mode to stop this from happening.
You will need this for almost all players except JRiver which has the WASAPI mode built in as an option. Stop by Slysoft's website, it might be worth your while.

I use JRiver MC16. If you are interested in PC based room correction, JRiver will work with Dirac Live, quality is on par with Audyssey, if not better.

I suggest taking a close look at MadVR, its features such as scaling with suppression of ringing is similar to what you get on the Radiance. Its creator, madshi had the Radiance (I think he still does). If you plan on checking out its advanced features you would need a decent video card like a GTX460/560/660 or the AMD 7850, for 4:2:0 -> 4:2:2 conversion, you can use it with any recent video card or integrated video made in the last 18months.
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post #8 of 11 Old 12-27-2012, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Nyal Mellor View Post


What playback software do you use to manage all this? JRiver seems nice and full featured and comes already with LAV type filters as well as additional EQ, crossover, bass management functionality.
Really I am only interested in doing one thing well...playing back movies at reference audio and video level at a lower cost than a top notch pre-pro. I think HTPC stands to many people for much more, but to me it would be just about movie playback.

Many of us on this board have gone receiverless... Audio card in our HTPCs -> Amplification

Although there are many software players out there that offer good video, the audio portion is still somewhat primitive. JRiver is the only software that has full featured audio too.

I've been running JRiver's MC18 in my HTPC for over a month now. I was using XBMC before, and MPC-HC before that.

Pros:
Great video
Slick user interface in "theater view"
Works with BluRay, MKV's, MP4's, etc.
Fantastic audio engine
Very flexible in configuration
JRemote works awesome from my iPad... Remote control over IP!
There's actual support for the product; from users and JRiver on their forum

Cons:
Initial setup can be confusing
Many many many configuration options
A few qol issues that have been easily fixed in other software, have no such simple solution in JRiver (or if there is a solution, it's burried in mountains of forum posts)
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post #9 of 11 Old 12-27-2012, 10:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Tong Chia View Post

1) MakeMKV will do for the purpose.
2)Yes plus more, it is also the video and audio decoder
3)Yes.
If you watch movies mainly, the player you choose must be able to set output to the correct resolution of the video stream, namely 480p and 1080p. Jriver can do this as can MPC-HC another popular player here.
The Lumagen can take the output and scale it up.
You also have a choice of RGB or YCbCr, choose the latter for Lumagen so that it can do the correct chroma upsampling to full 4:4:4.
HDMI 1.x will not allow 4:2:0 output so the PC does some of the chroma upsampling. There is a very high quality renderer, MadVR that you could use on the PC side for the initial 4:2:0 -> 4:2:2 conversion.
4)Windows can mess with and resample the audio, reclock enables the exclusive audio device mode to stop this from happening.
You will need this for almost all players except JRiver which has the WASAPI mode built in as an option. Stop by Slysoft's website, it might be worth your while.
I use JRiver MC16. If you are interested in PC based room correction, JRiver will work with Dirac Live, quality is on par with Audyssey, if not better.
I suggest taking a close look at MadVR, its features such as scaling with suppression of ringing is similar to what you get on the Radiance. Its creator, madshi had the Radiance (I think he still does). If you plan on checking out its advanced features you would need a decent video card like a GTX460/560/660 or the AMD 7850, for 4:2:0 -> 4:2:2 conversion, you can use it with any recent video card or integrated video made in the last 18months.

Thanks for the awesome and helpful response! You seem very knowledgeable regarding this subject.

- I like the suggestion of getting a video card to see if there is a lower cost option to the Lumagen.
- So Dirac Live works no prob with JRiver? Good to know. I would expect it to be better than Audyssey. From my time doing calibrations I have not had one example where an alternative room correction approach did not yield better sound quality.
- Do you use an external USB soundcard? If so which one?
- Rather than DIYing (lack of time and better things to spend it on!) I would like to get an off the shelf HTPC. I like the idea of getting an Assassin - they have obviously optimized their builds, are a young company trying to grow and put a lot back into the community. Do you think this spec is good, or what would you advise changing? If there are other company's who make good off the shelf HTPCs for <1k I would look at those too. I am based in US.
Prestige Series
Case: Premium Slim (17.32" x 13.39" x 4.13") w/ 300w Bronze Rated PSU (- $30.00)
Processor: Intel i5 3570k 3.4 GHz Ivy Bridge w/ HD 4000 Graphics
Motherboard: H77 (Intel) / A75 (AMD)
SSD (Recommended for OS Installation): 64GB
Hard Drive: None (- $120.00)
RAM (DDR3 1600): 8GB
Graphics Card: None (** will change this to include a card for MADVR)
Power Supply: Included w/ case
Optical Drive: Blu-ray Drive*
TV Tuner: None
Wireless Internet: None
Heatsink / Fan: Standard
Pre-Configuration Options: None - I'l try to configure all the software and codecs myself
Operating System / Windows 7 (Required if purchasing Assassin Ultimate Setup): None?


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post #10 of 11 Old 12-27-2012, 10:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorCalJason View Post

Many of us on this board have gone receiverless... Audio card in our HTPCs -> Amplification
Although there are many software players out there that offer good video, the audio portion is still somewhat primitive. JRiver is the only software that has full featured audio too.
I've been running JRiver's MC18 in my HTPC for over a month now. I was using XBMC before, and MPC-HC before that.
Pros:
Great video
Slick user interface in "theater view"
Works with BluRay, MKV's, MP4's, etc.
Fantastic audio engine
Very flexible in configuration
JRemote works awesome from my iPad... Remote control over IP!
There's actual support for the product; from users and JRiver on their forum
Cons:
Initial setup can be confusing
Many many many configuration options
A few qol issues that have been easily fixed in other software, have no such simple solution in JRiver (or if there is a solution, it's burried in mountains of forum posts)

Thanks for the info. Good to know that other people have 'been here, done this!'. One of my best clients uses JRiver in his 100k+ 2 channel system, coupled to a TotalDAC (I did not supply the music server and have very little knoweldge of Jriver as of this date!). Whilst my initial use would be for movies it might be nice longer term to see if I can't converge on a single front end for both movies and music. For music I use Mac Mini running Pure Music into an AudioPhileo USB.SPDIF converter. Works amazing!


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post #11 of 11 Old 12-28-2012, 02:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nyal Mellor View Post

Thanks for the awesome and helpful response! You seem very knowledgeable regarding this subject.
- I like the suggestion of getting a video card to see if there is a lower cost option to the Lumagen.
- So Dirac Live works no prob with JRiver? Good to know. I would expect it to be better than Audyssey. From my time doing calibrations I have not had one example where an alternative room correction approach did not yield better sound quality.
- Do you use an external USB soundcard? If so which one?
- Rather than DIYing (lack of time and better things to spend it on!) I would like to get an off the shelf HTPC. I like the idea of getting an Assassin - they have obviously optimized their builds, are a young company trying to grow and put a lot back into the community. Do you think this spec is good, or what would you advise changing? If there are other company's who make good off the shelf HTPCs for <1k I would look at those too. I am based in US.
Prestige Series
Case: Premium Slim (17.32" x 13.39" x 4.13") w/ 300w Bronze Rated PSU (- $30.00)
Processor: Intel i5 3570k 3.4 GHz Ivy Bridge w/ HD 4000 Graphics
Motherboard: H77 (Intel) / A75 (AMD)
SSD (Recommended for OS Installation): 64GB
Hard Drive: None (- $120.00)
RAM (DDR3 1600): 8GB
Graphics Card: None (** will change this to include a card for MADVR)
Power Supply: Included w/ case
Optical Drive: Blu-ray Drive*
TV Tuner: None
Wireless Internet: None
Heatsink / Fan: Standard
Pre-Configuration Options: None - I'l try to configure all the software and codecs myself
Operating System / Windows 7 (Required if purchasing Assassin Ultimate Setup): None?

The proposed config is reasonable.
If you plan on adding the video card
1)Power supply should be upgraded to 500W
2)Check the PC case can house a dual slot 10" long card and keep it adequately cool
3)Optionally consider 128Mb SSD as they are the sweet spot price wise and you get some room for future expansion.

As for a video card the Nvidia GTX660 or AMD7850 if you plan on using the MadVR anti-ring filters.

If realtime DSD->PCM conversion is useful, the i7 processor something like an i7-3750 should be considered

If you plan on getting the Orpheus, check for and/or add a Firewire interface to the build, preferably something with a Texas Instruments (TI) chipset .

I build my PCs from partially constructed setups with the motherboard and case such as the ones from Shuttle. Assassin's offering looks like a good starting point.

USB audio is a great idea but the market for high quality USB multichannel DACS is still quite immature, I suggest taking the time and moving one step at a time.
The guys at Jriver reviewed the Exasound e18 and it works reasonably well, this is a 8channel USB DAC.

When adding proaudio gear, you will need a mapper, typically with an ASIO interface to aggregate, route and map the output channels, this is the biggest stumbling block to HT use in the home. RME has the most widely used with Jriver's ASIO mapper. Lynx (AES-16) is another option. USB is not the best route with the proaudio gear, right now. Firewire is more mature and is viable provided the ASIO interface supports it, this is relevant for the Orpheus.

I am looking at the Lynx Aurora8, Mytek 8x192 and the Orpheus.

You mentioned in another response about interest in merging the 2ch and Multichannel setup, JRiver has a lot of good features here and is one of the few frontends that can playback DSD and convert to PCM.
The latter is important as room correction only works on PCM.

Direc Live RCS is nicely integrated into windows, it shows up as an audio interface, just pick it in Jriver. If you go down this route, i would be interested to know how it compares to the other options in the market namely an outboard Dirac Live processor, Tact/Lyngdorf and Trinnov.

Both Jriver MC18 and Dirac Live RCS are new, but they offer try-before-you-buy options. This is the preferred method to see if it will work for you. The later is a $650 package.
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