Whole system (HTPC and theater) woefully outdated and don't know where to start on upgrades - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 37 Old 06-26-2013, 04:13 PM - Thread Starter
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This could be posted in all sorts of forums, but I THINK (and could be wrong) that my weakest link to be fixed, that is within budgetary grasp, is in the HTPC category.
I've been following this forum long enough to know that if I am being hosed in another category, you guys have the experience and know
how to get me pointed in the right direction.

I'm so out of the loop that I simply do not trust my thoughts on this. Was really hoping to get some sage advice and grounding on my situation.


Start with current setup:
5.0 speakers: DIY 2-ways, sealed (should be XO'd at 100-120hz)
0.1 sub: DIY 15" tumult with 2x18" PRs tuned to 18hz (and probably extends way way lower with room gain. Should probably be XO'd at around 60Hz).
Processor: Sherwood Newcastle AVP9080
5.0 Amp: Sherwood Newcastle AM9080
0.1 Amp: Crown K2 bridged (using sherwood to do system XO at fixed 80hz)
TV: Sharp aquos lc-5262u
Blue ray: Sony BDP-S350
HTPC: Intel Core Duo E8400 on Gigabyte P35-DS3L, 4GB, GeForce 8800 GTS, Win7N, 30GB SSD, 2x2TB WD Black as JBOD
Room: 12.5' W x 14' L. 2 viewers max 99% of the time


My thoughts on current gear:
5.0 Speakers sound great, but XO isn't ideal at all.
0.1 Sub is a beast that should be paired up with bigger speakers
processor is way out dated as far as technology goes. Functions well enough, though no HDMI hookups (I have to use digital coax in only).
0.1 sub is awesome, but it's only an amp
5.0 amp is probably a bit inefficient, but it is pretty solid and plenty of power for my smaller speakers
TV is adequate, though a punky modern vizio has far better image quality
I only use the Sony BR player when I want to use a BR (only about 20 disks compared to my 500+ DVD library)
HTPC works but no idea how much I am missing out on. I just use VLC as a player after ripping my library to Video_TS with dvdfab The JBOD is running out of room.


Thoughts on what I think I need to do but dont think I can do all that well within budget
I have an accrual budget of about $500/month and would probably cap at about $3k over the next 12 months
1) Although I gain nothing in performance, I think a 5 bay raid-5 NAS is in order and that should hold me over for years on space and sanity should a drive fail. Start with 3x3tb raid 5 and horizontally expand as needed to 5x 3TB WD Red.
2) I speculate that I am missing out a lot on my terrible HTPC and could gain by building a brand new one and do a lot of software things.
3) Eyeballing the Emotiva UMC-200. Would make connectivity way better. Solid room correction and XO management, and no more stone-age decoding



Thanks!
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post #2 of 37 Old 06-26-2013, 05:50 PM
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Why not repurpose the existing htpc as a UnRaid Server?

Pair with a new htpc and use XMBC.

The other thought is to use the htpc as the prepro. Eliminate the AVP9080 and BDP-S350 , skip the UMC-200. :

http://www.avsforum.com/t/1476117/how-to-replace-your-home-theater-pre-pro-with-a-htpc
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post #3 of 37 Old 06-26-2013, 08:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony_Gomez View Post

This could be posted in all sorts of forums, but I THINK (and could be wrong) that my weakest link to be fixed, that is within budgetary grasp, is in the HTPC category.
I've been following this forum long enough to know that if I am being hosed in another category, you guys have the experience and know
how to get me pointed in the right direction.

I'm so out of the loop that I simply do not trust my thoughts on this. Was really hoping to get some sage advice and grounding on my situation.


Start with current setup:
5.0 speakers: DIY 2-ways, sealed (should be XO'd at 100-120hz)
0.1 sub: DIY 15" tumult with 2x18" PRs tuned to 18hz (and probably extends way way lower with room gain. Should probably be XO'd at around 60Hz).
Processor: Sherwood Newcastle AVP9080
5.0 Amp: Sherwood Newcastle AM9080
0.1 Amp: Crown K2 bridged (using sherwood to do system XO at fixed 80hz)
TV: Sharp aquos lc-5262u
Blue ray: Sony BDP-S350
HTPC: Intel Core Duo E8400 on Gigabyte P35-DS3L, 4GB, GeForce 8800 GTS, Win7N, 30GB SSD, 2x2TB WD Black as JBOD
Room: 12.5' W x 14' L. 2 viewers max 99% of the time


My thoughts on current gear:
5.0 Speakers sound great, but XO isn't ideal at all.
0.1 Sub is a beast that should be paired up with bigger speakers
processor is way out dated as far as technology goes. Functions well enough, though no HDMI hookups (I have to use digital coax in only).
0.1 sub is awesome, but it's only an amp
5.0 amp is probably a bit inefficient, but it is pretty solid and plenty of power for my smaller speakers
TV is adequate, though a punky modern vizio has far better image quality
I only use the Sony BR player when I want to use a BR (only about 20 disks compared to my 500+ DVD library)
HTPC works but no idea how much I am missing out on. I just use VLC as a player after ripping my library to Video_TS with dvdfab The JBOD is running out of room.


Thoughts on what I think I need to do but dont think I can do all that well within budget
I have an accrual budget of about $500/month and would probably cap at about $3k over the next 12 months
1) Although I gain nothing in performance, I think a 5 bay raid-5 NAS is in order and that should hold me over for years on space and sanity should a drive fail. Start with 3x3tb raid 5 and horizontally expand as needed to 5x 3TB WD Red.
2) I speculate that I am missing out a lot on my terrible HTPC and could gain by building a brand new one and do a lot of software things.
3) Eyeballing the Emotiva UMC-200. Would make connectivity way better. Solid room correction and XO management, and no more stone-age decoding



Thanks!

Maybe I missed it, but did you state what, exactly, you'd like to do with your gear? What are your needs / interests? Who are the primary users (and what are their interests)? What are your design goals?
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post #4 of 37 Old 06-26-2013, 08:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Tedd, thanks for the info, but I want to maintain a robust system without having to do lots of fiddling.

AJ, I've been out of this "hobby" for many years and am, for lack of better word, ignorant of what can be done these days. Using my old knowledge and what I've been able to read up on, I made an assessment, but I don't trust my judgement. I was hoping to get steered in the right direction from someone more fluent in current technologies. To answer your specific question, I don't know what I am missing out, but I know I am. I want a to maximize semi-limited funds to get a good return on investment. This is for 100% home theater for 2 people. As mentioned, most of the collection is currently DVD, but that will slowly move to BR. While running low on HD space on my HPTC (which is my current storage for movies), I thought about a NAS, then thought about upgrading the HTPC, then the downward upgrade bug spiral hit all over :-D
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post #5 of 37 Old 06-27-2013, 01:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony_Gomez View Post

AJ, I've been out of this "hobby" for many years and am, for lack of better word, ignorant of what can be done these days. Using my old knowledge and what I've been able to read up on, I made an assessment, but I don't trust my judgement. I was hoping to get steered in the right direction from someone more fluent in current technologies. To answer your specific question, I don't know what I am missing out, but I know I am. I want a to maximize semi-limited funds to get a good return on investment. This is for 100% home theater for 2 people. As mentioned, most of the collection is currently DVD, but that will slowly move to BR. While running low on HD space on my HPTC (which is my current storage for movies), I thought about a NAS, then thought about upgrading the HTPC, then the downward upgrade bug spiral hit all over :-D

Ok. Let me clarify.

First.. given enough time, patience and resources, anything is "possible". If you've spent time on this forum, you know how many different configurations there are from very simple single-machine HTPC's to ridiculously complex multi-htpc systems running differing operating systems all for different purposes and fed by servers and NAS boxes of a dozen different flavors.

Second, I don't know what you mean by "missing out". I run two HTPC's and a windows home server. I have a RAID 5 array where my content is stored. My arrangement works very well for me. Now, am I missing out on things? Yes. I don't use XBMC. I don't use flexraid. I don;t have a graphics card that's 3D capable. I could have all of these things, but I choose not to. My needs drive my decisions about what technology I employ. Yours should, too.

Third.. Nobody but you can steer you in the "right" direction because nobody but you know what that is. Tedd suggested unraid to you. Why? Because that's what the "right direction" was for him. You shot him down because you don't want to "fiddle". All well and good, but if you state your preferences and leanings ahead of time, we as members of the forum can tailor our suggestions to match those leanings as closely as we can. Right now, we're playing the "bring me a rock" game where we present rocks and you say "no.. not that rock, a different rock". That gets exasperating after a while.

My grandfather, who was a master carpenter, once told me that if you can't see it in your head, you'll never be able to build it. That advice applies to a lot of things in life. You need to be able to picture your entertainment system and articulate what the end result will look like. Only then will the "right direction" become clearer.
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post #6 of 37 Old 06-27-2013, 03:52 PM
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Use your existing PC for a server (Fkexraid, Unraid or Snapraid)

-

"Too much is almost enough. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards."
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post #7 of 37 Old 06-27-2013, 04:48 PM
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XMBC and UnRaid are robust enough. I expect 100% robust, with a large side order of user interface, out of any htpc. I use neither XMBC or UnRaid, but have friends who do use them.
They are solid suggestions that will extend the lifespan of existing hardware you already have in place.

CCleaner and Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) are two free computer programs you should look into, to keep any Windows pc robust.

If I had your current hardware, I personally would keep the multichannel Sherwood amp, K2 and sub. First step would be an Oppo BDP-103 and use it as a prepro, with 120 Hz crossover selected.
The computer would be broken down and reconfigured as a dedicated music player and use XMBC or J River Media as the interface. Next, a new htpc with hdmi, would be pieced together,
with the movies ported over to 3TB drives, and then the 2TB drives formatted and added in (and once again, J River Media as the user interface). If there's budget still left over, an IPad with JRemote on it,
might be considered.

I expect my htpcs to be robust, and the OS hidden. I expect a htpc to function as a dedicated piece of gear. I would have the computer boot straight to J River Media and have the infrared receiver
software load upon boot up. Setting the bios so the power button can shut down the computer, also goes a long way to creating a dedicated piece of home theater gear, out of a computer.

I hear you about the subs too. Went through this with my PMC speakers and Servodrive Contrabass subs. Sold the PMC's and bought some JTR T8's. smile.gif
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post #8 of 37 Old 06-27-2013, 05:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

Use your existing PC for a server (Flexraid, Unraid or Snapraid)

That most excellent suggestion got shot down out of hand, due to a perceived vision of lack of robustness and a lot of fiddling. I was going to suggest a Dune player, or other media extender coupled with a server.

http://www.curtpalme.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=32320

Still might want a fast pc to rip ISO's though....... wink.gif
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post #9 of 37 Old 06-27-2013, 08:19 PM - Thread Starter
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thanks all. Let me rethink and learn some more of this. I think I jumped ahead too fast without enough due diligence.

There are two things I can do in the meantime as a stop gap
1) additional HD (get the WD red 3tb/seagage 4TB NAS, which I would use anyways if going forward with flexraid, unraid or raid 5 etc)
2) replace my 8800GTS (direct x10) with the SAPPHIRE 100358L Radeon HD 7770. Price is right and from what I read, I should be perfectly fine using it in a PCI-e 1.0. slot for an HTPC without issues. I Also gather that I'll be able to use it for MadVR (can't with DX10) at pretty high settings (level 4 or 5?), but please correct me if I am wrong. I have no desire for 3D or 4k. Worst case scenario, I can use this to upgrade my older gaming PC lol. Most of my comps are sorta slowly aging/upgraded frankenPCs
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814202011

Tedd, as for ripping, I have a second i5 gaming rig in the other room that I can rip with if I go with your suggestion of something like the dune player smile.gif
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post #10 of 37 Old 06-28-2013, 05:02 AM
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Solid first steps. smile.gif

With an I5 in the other room, if you upgrade the htpc, then you might want to consider upgrading your gaming rig, and port the i5 over to
htpc. The e8400 could become the NAS. (More work, would use more power but more future expandability and beefier hardware).
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post #11 of 37 Old 06-29-2013, 04:06 PM
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Anthony, for what it's worth, my e3400 (C2D @ 2.6GHz), with an Asrock P45DE, and 4GB of 400Mhz DDR2 memory, is able to play any common media at the highest quality settings with an HD7770 video card (Jinc3+AR). With the right choice of components, it can also do it very very quietly. Newer processors and motherboards add nice features (SATA3, USB3, etc.), but the benefit for an HTPC is quite limited, so you've made the right choice!
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post #12 of 37 Old 06-29-2013, 06:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Eiffel, thanks for the info/verification. Looks like I'll be sitting happy for a while on the video side with my plan (7770). I just need to get some more SATA ports :-D My board has 4 and I'm already using a small SSD for OS, DVD and 2 nearly full 4TB drives. My case has room for more HDs and PSU is solid already. Plan so far is to go HTPC/media server in one (serves my PC in other room that my wife uses while painting). Looking at getting two more 3 or 4tb drives, migrate all JBOD files over, break the BJOD, then use (I think, but not 100% sure yet) Flexraid to run under W7 with the older 2TB WD black drives as part of the raid. I need to keep reading up but so far this sounds decent. From what I gather, I could at a later date, migrate all the drives into a dedicated flexraid/unraid server without losing any data or worrying about drive wiping. I'll get the new drives and GPU listed earlier next week and over the next few weeks, become a master at all the software/raid stuff that has come about the past many years.

(and wife is plenty ok with me spending money on these things, ...without hesitation. :-D)
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post #13 of 37 Old 06-29-2013, 07:25 PM
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Have a look at these speakers

http://www.diysoundgroup.com/waveguide-speaker-kits.html

 

They are efficient, low cost, and sound amazing. I would sell the amp and buy yourself a nice $500 receiver, that will power those speakers very well because of their high sensitivity.

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post #14 of 37 Old 06-30-2013, 03:53 AM
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While this means more boxes, I'd recommend splitting the NAS/Server and HTPC client functions. To me, this is a more robust solution.

I got myself a sub-£100 HP N54L Microserver (server class hardware with ECC memory, 4 drives + ability to add more by being a bit creative), running Windows Home Server 2011 to store my data, and do system backups automatically in an easy way.

My HPTC nearly silent 'client' only has a 120GB SSD drive and a 1TB data drive (which sees very little use). To keep in simple, and as I don't need a high availability 'RAID' system, it's running in default/JBOD mode.

I'm not sure how my solution would cope with 3/4 TB drives, but I suspect there are ways within the Windows environment or Linux
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post #15 of 37 Old 06-30-2013, 04:02 AM
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Considering Eiffel's input, you might want to look into a $50 Apricorn Velocity Solo. It's a 1X pci-e card that takes a ssd and also adds a SATA 3 port.
The Velocity Solo would move the ssd off an existing SATA port and add a SATA 3 port, effectively adding two SATA ports.

The Velocity Solo also comes with cloning software. If you updated the ssd to 120G, you could have your OS and programs on the ssd drive. Assign your swap file to
a partition on the SATA 3 port drive. Move the ssd to the older gaming computer, to house games.

The Waveguide suggestion also is a great suggestion, for the front three channels.
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post #16 of 37 Old 06-30-2013, 04:32 AM
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An alternative view to splitting into a NAS and htpc front end, is to invest in an inexpensive infrared repeater system and get the av rack out of the room entirely.
Lower noise floor, less heat gain in the room, and no light pollution from av gear displays.
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post #17 of 37 Old 06-30-2013, 06:46 AM
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Anthony, are you a DIY'er? Is this a bedroom with windows, or a light controlled environment like a basement room?

Have you considered anything like a DIY acoustically transparent screen using Seymourav XD fabric and low cost entry level 1080P projectors?

Mr Kazador's SEOS kit speakers as front three channels, coupled with recycling your 5.0 speakers as four surround speakers, coupled with a $500 receiver and
the upgraded e8400 plus your Sony Bluray player might be an option.

There's also used gear forums and there's a for sale sub forum on the AVS Forum too. $3K can be a pretty healthy budget when you have some gear to sell off, leverage
pre-owned gear, and mix in some DIY.
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post #18 of 37 Old 06-30-2013, 06:56 AM - Thread Starter
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This room is semi light controlled and could be made to work with a projector. DIY is no problem (build my own computers, speakers and some furniture). I think what I need to do now, is start the ol' spreadsheet and compare pricing options with all thats been suggested, and determine which is the best solution(s) for long term (or enable long term).
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post #19 of 37 Old 06-30-2013, 07:18 AM
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The bad news is you have so many excellent options open to you. The good news is you have so many excellent options open to you. smile.gif
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post #20 of 37 Old 07-09-2013, 09:40 AM - Thread Starter
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At this point, I have done a lot of reading and have made a few informed decisions (Tedd, you were so right on your last post!). The first decision is that I'll run a combined server/HTPC (not separates). I'm planning to use the Fractal Design Define R4 ($79 on sale at newegg) which will accommodate a LOT of future HD expansion with FlexRaid. My current SilverStone LC13-E is a little tight for my needs.

It has also brought up a few questions which I'm not 100% sure on. JRiver, XMBC, and WMC are all still options and might drive the following 3 choices (I know some can run MadVR which might be nice since a majority of my collection are SD resolution DVDs).

HTPC use: I have zero desire for 3D and am quite confident that 4k resolution isn't going to be a factor for me for many years. My HTPC/Server setup is almost all for DVD, some bluray (which will increase over time), some streaming like Netflix or Comedy Central, and music (MP3, pandora and/or spotify). I also will rip my DVD/BR collection to either Video_TS (current) or maybe repackage into a non-compressed mkv. That's it. ZERO gaming.

I would sincerely appreciate if the following three options could have some commentary for what I use my HTPC for moving forward

Option 1:
Use current CPU and MB and replace the existing video card with a newer HD 7700.
Concern 1: (which may be unfounded) The MB PCI-E v1.0 video slot may be an issue with MadVR bottle neck (?).
Concern 2: MB only has 4x SATA 3Gb/s ports and will require expansion via PCI-e 1x slot for more SATA ports (at least 4) and be compatible with FlexRaid and >2TB drives. (also bottle neck?)

Option 2:
Upgrade CPU to an i3 with HD4000 iGPU and MB with 8 SATA ports such as the ASRock Pro4-M
Concern: Why not do option 3 for about the same price?

Option 3:
Upgrade CPU to an and IVB Celron and MB with 8 SATA ports such as the ASRock Pro4-M. For video, use a HD 7700.



Note: I already have a 2x2GB DDR2 and DDR3 sticks that will work with any option above. Also have a nice Zalman heatsink which is fine for LGA 775 and 1155. Also have a nice ~silent 600 watt SeaSonic PSU
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post #21 of 37 Old 07-09-2013, 03:51 PM
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Option two also comes with a future card upgrade path.

Would it be worth waiting for a Haswell i3 cpu, and pair with a Haswell board?? The HD4600 would be a better choice.
(I believe 1155 heat sinks work with 1150, and the DDR3 1600 and power supply are fine here too.) You'll also want to
look at how any motherboard handles it's loading of pci-e slots and how filling them effects the bandwidth of each pci-e
slot.

Very nice case!
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post #22 of 37 Old 07-09-2013, 04:55 PM
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You made a nice choice on the case. I paid $109 for the windowed version around 6 months ago. Very spacious and lots of room for expansion + great airflow.

I would go with Option #1 as an HTPC and Option #3 for your new Server wink.gif.
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post #23 of 37 Old 07-10-2013, 02:08 AM
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A solid enough option, but a one box solution was the first decided upon "given".

The existing Silverstone htpc would make for a very nice digital music player, with an IPad, IPhone, or Android
device as a touchscreen controller, when paired with JRiver Media.

http://www.avsforum.com/t/1473076/spec-an-audiophile-pc-with-me-using-caps-3-0-as-a-starting-point-adding-hdmi-for-multi-channel-hi-rez-audio

http://www.avsforum.com/t/1476117/how-to-replace-your-home-theater-pre-pro-with-a-htpc

The two threads above, show where the high end of htpc is heading. Which makes me thinks that buying into a Haswell motherboard for another $30,
gives you some very interesting potential growth options down the road.


And there's some SEOS talk in this thread, about CNC boxes for these.

http://www.avsforum.com/t/1464536/beam-and-pole-interruptus-not-bigmouthindc-and-nygiantsfan23-launch-another-avs-ht/360

http://www.diysoundgroup.com/flat-packs-1/seos-flat-packs/eos-8-flat-pack.html
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post #24 of 37 Old 07-10-2013, 05:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the additional info.

Ya, a 1 box makes more sense for me (I think). If I had 2 boxes, they would both be in the same room anyways. In a single box, I can get up to 8 HHD which would be 27TB with a FLexraid solution and that should do me quite well for many many years at my current rate. This household only has 2 people and we only would stream to 2 rooms (HTPC room and game room). If I had a 2 box system, the media server, if not in the HTPC room, would go in the game room, and that would mean it would be full WiFi (cable modem enters the HTPC room). Technically, it wouldn't cost me anything for a 2 box system since I still have a 3rd computer in a closet (and I think it has a good PSU to couple with the already owned MB/ram/cpu). I would just need to run unRaid on HDD using PCI-E x1 v1.0 SATA expansion cards

The silverstone that I have, while initially intended for such, has space issues. almost any GPU that is worth getting over iGPU blocks the center 3xHDD cage. If I was using 2 boxes, then this would work out just fine.

I did read most of the second link you posted but still need to sort out a few thing.
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post #25 of 37 Old 07-10-2013, 08:25 AM - Thread Starter
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One thing that has been mentioned a few times is using the HTPC as an AVR and not even getting a standalone Pre/Pro. I haven't found good answers yet to how this would work with my cable service (I have basic cable via Comcast with HD. Box has HDMI and ghetto analog out). In the past, DRM has been an issue with HTPCs and cable companies. I'd need to be able to take the HDMI signal out of my Comcast box, pass through my HTPC (to strip audio...only need 5.1 sound) and then at minimum pass video to my TV (I don't think you can do any live processing to SD signals). DVR capabilities would be nice, but not required.
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post #26 of 37 Old 07-11-2013, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony_Gomez View Post

One thing that has been mentioned a few times is using the HTPC as an AVR and not even getting a standalone Pre/Pro. I haven't found good answers yet to how this would work with my cable service (I have basic cable via Comcast with HD. Box has HDMI and ghetto analog out). In the past, DRM has been an issue with HTPCs and cable companies. I'd need to be able to take the HDMI signal out of my Comcast box, pass through my HTPC (to strip audio...only need 5.1 sound) and then at minimum pass video to my TV (I don't think you can do any live processing to SD signals). DVR capabilities would be nice, but not required.

Get rid of the Comcast Box and make HTPC tune TV. Easy to do with a number of tuners available on the market.

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 #27 of 37 Old 07-12-2013, 11:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Hunting deals, recycling old parts, and chomping at the bit is leading to the following

Case: Fractal Designs Define R4
PSU: Seasonic x650 Gold
CPU: i-4670K
MB: Asus z87 Extreme6
Ram: G.Skill DDR3 1600
BR: LG WH14NS40
SSD: Samsung 840 Pro 128GB
HDD: WD 3TB Green X3, WD 2TB black x2

This will allow me to expand up to 3 more HDD. If I swap the older 2TB, that'll give me 21TB on flexraid using 3TB drives
I'll play with WMC, XMBC and JRiver and see what I like. GPU pending my experience.
I'll also look into a tuner to replace my comcast box.
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post #28 of 37 Old 07-12-2013, 01:52 PM
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Sweet build there.

I'd be watching Nylor and his htpc as a prepro AVS thread and his blog, before jumping into any amp/prepro upgrade.

http://www.avsforum.com/t/1476117/how-to-replace-your-home-theater-pre-pro-with-a-htpc

http://www.acousticfrontiers.com/home-theater-blog/2013/6/6/how-to-replace-your-home-theater-pre-pro-with-a-htpc
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post #29 of 37 Old 07-12-2013, 01:58 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm about 6 months from buying a pre/pro, so I'll be following too :-D
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post #30 of 37 Old 07-12-2013, 02:01 PM
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That's not a project for the noob to take on though.

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"Too much is almost enough. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards."
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