Feedback for new HTPC build + Audio confusion - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 10:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello All,

Long time viewer, first time poster. I would like some feedback on a new HTPC I'm about to put together, as I'm a little confused over 1 particular thing relating to audio. First of all, here's the build:

Case: Silverstone ML04
PSU: Antec VP450F
MB: Asus F2A85 series (not sure exactly which one yet)
CPU: Amd A10-6700 (65 w)
RAM: 2 x 4 GB DDR3
SSD: 120 GB
Blu-Ray: Asus BW-14D1XT

Probably a Zalman CNPS8900 cpu cooler
Probably a couple of Noctua 80 mm case fans

So 2 things I have questions about:

1) First of all - any comments on the build? I know it may be a little overkill for an HTPC, but I want something that will last a few years. If anybody wants to bash of the AMD choice, I have setup several AMD APU systems for friends, and also my computer at work, and quite frankly they work great for the money. This computer will not be used for gaming, only BluRay playback, youtube, Netflix streaming, etc. The APU will allow me to not buy a discrete graphics card, which will keep the case simpler and cooler. Also, the cost of the MB + APU is about the same as an Intel based MB + cheap i3 + cheap video card.

2) AUDIO: I have never hooked up an HTPC to a decent home theater system, only ever computer speakers or HTIAB (current setup connected to a Logitech Z5500 5.1, with a creative sound card that's a few years old). It's fine, but I want this one to be better. The HTPC I'm putting together now will be connected to the following: Pioneer Elite VSX-42 receiver, and either a Paradigm CT100 5.1 system or a Klipsch RB-41 5.1 system, paired with a Sony 60 inch LED TV. Obviously I want the best possible audio output, and this is the one thing I don't quite understand. I can spend $200 easily on a nice sound card, but I'm reading in a lot of posts that I'm better off just feeding the audio signal out via HDMI and letting the amp's DAC process the signal, so no added sound card in the HTPC. Could someone please clarify the benefits / drawbacks to this? I know plenty about computers, but quite frankly not so much about decent audio equipment. I had assumed until I started reading that I would be purchasing a high end sound card - but maybe not?

Thanks in advance,
-Alex

EDIT: Will be running Win 7. I don't think that will make a difference vs Win8, but just saying. Also probably PowerDVD Ultra for Bluray movies, and VLC for most other stuff, unless someone else has better suggestions.
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post #2 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 10:50 AM
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That machine is a little overboard for an HTPC but should handle HD Audio via HDMI just fine after being properly set up to do so.

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post #3 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 10:53 AM
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And no bashing on that AMD for sure. It can run madVR out of the box for high quality video processing.

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post #4 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 11:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi Sammy,
Thanks for the reply. Do you know: Is HD audio over HDMI the best way to go? Let the amp process the audio signal? Or is a high end video card better? I've seen several arguments either way. From what I've read, it seems that if you have an amp more than a few years old, you're better off with a good sound card, but if you are buying a new amp, the amp itself can handle the audio conversion just fine. Would you agree with that?
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post #5 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 11:10 AM
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If you're not gaming, you probably don't need an A10. You could easily drop down to the A8 or A6. I got an A10-5700 because I use it both as an HTPC and to do some gaming. I'm not the type that cares to play at really high res. with full-blown detail so it works well for me.

Why not just stick with the 120mm case fans that come with the ML04? Or are the 80mm ones in addition to the ones that come with the case? I have an ML05, but I think they're mostly the same. I leave the two 80mm fan slots at the back of the case unused. I use a Big Shuriken 2 Rev B as my CPU fan, and it keeps the A10-5700 plenty cool and quiet. I think the Zalman should be sufficient but possibly louder. If you drop down to A8 or A6 you probably would even be OK with the stock fan.
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post #6 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 11:15 AM
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i guess it depends on your receiver. With a really low end receiver, you could get better sound with a sound card and analog perhaps.
But I think in general, digital hdmi audio is the way to go.

instead of vlc player, you may be interested in this:
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1357375/advanced-mpc-hc-setup-guide
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post #7 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 11:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ASaringer View Post

Hi Sammy,
Thanks for the reply. Do you know: Is HD audio over HDMI the best way to go? Let the amp process the audio signal? Or is a high end video card better? I've seen several arguments either way. From what I've read, it seems that if you have an amp more than a few years old, you're better off with a good sound card, but if you are buying a new amp, the amp itself can handle the audio conversion just fine. Would you agree with that?

It isn't how old the amp is it is what the internals are on the amp. My 2008 AVR 889 can do it, probably as well or maybe even better than my 2012 AVR 2312ci. You don't need a high dollar card anymore either, especially with that APU, you will be able to decode on the PC too if you want or if you get into using reclock or something like that.

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post #8 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 11:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MlNDBOMB View Post

i guess it depends on your receiver. With a really low end receiver, you could get better sound with a sound card and analog perhaps.
But I think in general, digital hdmi audio is the way to go.

instead of vlc player, you may be interested in this:
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1357375/advanced-mpc-hc-setup-guide

BINGO!

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post #9 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 11:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SlantNGo View Post

If you're not gaming, you probably don't need an A10. You could easily drop down to the A8 or A6. I got an A10-5700 because I use it both as an HTPC and to do some gaming. I'm not the type that cares to play at really high res. with full-blown detail so it works well for me.

Why not just stick with the 120mm case fans that come with the ML04? Or are the 80mm ones in addition to the ones that come with the case? I have an ML05, but I think they're mostly the same. I leave the two 80mm fan slots at the back of the case unused. I use a Big Shuriken 2 Rev B as my CPU fan, and it keeps the A10-5700 plenty cool and quiet. I think the Zalman should be sufficient but possibly louder. If you drop down to A8 or A6 you probably would even be OK with the stock fan.

From what I see, the ML04 does not include case fans. That's why I would be adding them. a 120 MM does not fit, only 80 MM on the side. As for the choice of the A10, I wanted the most powerful 65 W APU I could get, just to future proof myself. Would the A6 or A8 make a difference in heat? They are also 65 W... Also, I say I won't be playing games, but you never know... I might want to throw on the odd oldie but goodie.
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post #10 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 11:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sammy2 View Post

It isn't how old the amp is it is what the internals are on the amp. My 2008 AVR 889 can do it, probably as well or maybe even better than my 2012 AVR 2312ci. You don't need a high dollar card anymore either, especially with that APU, you will be able to decode on the PC too if you want or if you get into using reclock or something like that.

Perfect, that's what I wanted to hear! Thanks Sammy.
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post #11 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 11:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MlNDBOMB View Post

i guess it depends on your receiver. With a really low end receiver, you could get better sound with a sound card and analog perhaps.
But I think in general, digital hdmi audio is the way to go.

instead of vlc player, you may be interested in this:
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1357375/advanced-mpc-hc-setup-guide

Thanks - regarding the HDMI, that's what I wanted to hear. I'll be getting a reasonably good amp, so I guess I'll stick with the HDMI and no secondary sound card.

And thanks for the VLC alternate - I'll check it out!
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post #12 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 11:44 AM
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I don't think you can play dts-HD/MA with VLC so you will need to use an alternate player such as MPC-HC when properly set up.

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post #13 of 18 Old 06-24-2013, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by ASaringer View Post

From what I see, the ML04 does not include case fans. That's why I would be adding them. a 120 MM does not fit, only 80 MM on the side. As for the choice of the A10, I wanted the most powerful 65 W APU I could get, just to future proof myself. Would the A6 or A8 make a difference in heat? They are also 65 W... Also, I say I won't be playing games, but you never know... I might want to throw on the odd oldie but goodie.

Sorry, my mistake. I confused the ML and GD series. I have a GD05, and the GD04 is what I was thinking of. Ignore that portion of my comment.

Yes, the A6 and A8 should make a significant difference in heat. The 65W TDP is really a guideline. AMD probably overshoots their TDPs--there was an old post arguing about whether this is actually the case, but with AC power readings in the 130-150W range, I think 65W is being a bit too generous. renethx is the expert here. Hopefully he'll chime in at some point.

I got the A10-5700 for the same reason you want the A10-6700, so I don't think it's a bad choice at all. Just be sure that you're OK thermally. I'd recommend the Big Shuriken 2 Rev. B. over the Zalman, but that's probably more of a concern in terms of noise rather than cooling efficiency.
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post #14 of 18 Old 06-26-2013, 09:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi All,

Thanks for all the feedback, I really appreciate it! I guess I will be passing on the separate sound card and feed the digital audio straight to the amp. Also, I've narrowed down more specifically the parts I'm going to use in the system:

Case: Silverstone ML04
PSU: Antec EarthWatts 380
MB: Asus F2A85-M/CSM
RAM: Kingston HyperX 2x4 GB 1600MHZ
SSD: ADATA SX900 128 GB
Blu-Ray: Asus BW-14D1XT
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master GeminII M4
Case Fans: 2 * Vantec Stealth 80mm

My last question is about the CPU because I can't find any definitive answer on the web (maybe because 2 of the processors are still too new). My choices in the AMD APU lineup are: A10-6700, A10-5700, A8-6500, and A8-5500. For an HTPC, the difference in specs is negligible. I would still like to put the most powerful processor I can in the system, but as SLantNGo pointed out, heat may be an issue. These processors all the the same 65 watt rating, but I'm wondering if anybody has any feedback from the real world in terms of temps. If for example one of the A8 processors will run significantly cooler than the A10, I would choose one of those. Otherwise I would just assume spend a couple of extra bucks and put in the best processor I can.

Thanks again!

EDIT: I would also consider an A6-6400K... Again this has a 65 Watt rating, but this is only dual core. Anybody have feedback on this processor? Do you think a dual core vs quad core in an HTPC will make a difference? Keep in mind I am spending the extra $$ on an SSD and 8 GB of memory, so unless it really won't make a difference, I would assume get the quad core vs dual core. But again, temps may factor into this decision.
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post #15 of 18 Old 06-26-2013, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by ASaringer View Post

Hi All,
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master GeminII M4

I originally considered getting the GeminII M4 also (mainly because the Big Shuriken 2 is so tough to find) but I strongly recommend the Big Shuriken 2 over the GeminII M4. It may look just like the Big Shuriken 2, but its performance is nowhere near: http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1278-page6.html

Especially if you are getting one of the A10s, you will want the much better cooling ability of the Big Shuriken 2.
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post #16 of 18 Old 06-26-2013, 09:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SlantNGo View Post

I originally considered getting the GeminII M4 also (mainly because the Big Shuriken 2 is so tough to find) but I strongly recommend the Big Shuriken 2 over the GeminII M4. It may look just like the Big Shuriken 2, but its performance is nowhere near: http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1278-page6.html

Especially if you are getting one of the A10s, you will want the much better cooling ability of the Big Shuriken 2.

Thanks for the reply Slant. I did look at the Big Shuriken, however I'm in Canada, and can't find one ANYWHERE, except for:

http://www.amazon.ca/Scythe-SHURIKEN-5-Heatpipe-Universal-SCBSK-2100/dp/B009EV8YIQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372264256&sr=8-1&keywords=big+shuriken

And $135 for a cooler is way too much. I guess I could import one from the US, but then I'm paying shipping and handling into Canada. Any way you cut it, I'll be paying a lot for it. My reason for the GenimII choice was mainly because it was one of the few low profile CPU coolers I could find locally.
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post #17 of 18 Old 06-26-2013, 09:35 AM - Thread Starter
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My other option is the Noctua NH-L12, but again it's a lot more expensive than the GeminII ($35 CDN).
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post #18 of 18 Old 06-27-2013, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by ASaringer View Post

My other option is the Noctua NH-L12, but again it's a lot more expensive than the GeminII ($35 CDN).
I can't recommend Noctua CPU coolers high enough. I bought one 4 or 5 years ago and it's been used in several different builds since then. Noctua has always provided the necessary adapters at no charge to enable the cooler to fit the newer CPU sockets as long as I've been able to provide a copy of the original receipt. FWIW, you get what you pay for. Their products are topnotch and extremely well made. I'd buy another one except for the fact that I'll never need to.
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