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post #1 of 13 Old 04-25-2014, 01:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello all,

 

Just wondering if the following is sound logic and a good build for a High Resolution Audio (HRA) Music server and HTPC.  Any feedback is appreciated. 

 

This is my first HTPC build.  Always wanted to do one and the more I read on this and other forums, the more possibilities and uses for these things overwhelm me.  It is mind boggling the different directions one can go with these.

 

My main priority right now is Sound Quality.  Any suggestions on how to get the best SQ I can will be appreciated (without breaking the bank).

 

Will not be doing much with video right now, but I want to have the possibility to do this in the future.  I have zero desire to play video games.   

 

This will be plugged directly into an receiver/processor via optical link, and a Vizio M-series 55" HDTV.  Will also be attached by Ethernet cable to a wireless router. 

 

I am not up-to-speed with wireless networking.  I don't fully understand how to wirelessly 'hookup' phones, tablets, etc., and I am not sure I'm very interested in that.  I don't use my phone as a iPod/walkman.  But I would like to stream content from this HTPC computer to the one in the home office wirelessly.  I would also like to access the content when I am out of town via a laptop or other devices.  The "Personal Cloud" thing/concept is appealing to me.

 

My ongoing system build looks like this...(and I already have some to the parts)

 

- Intel Pentium G3420 (Because this is affordable for me right now, and likely all I need for music)

- ASRock Z87M Extreme4 (for the Realtec ALC1150, ability to upgrade later, and its popularity on this forum)

- 8GB (2 x 4GB) of DDR3 12800, 1600mhz RAM, 9-9-9-24 timing (because I had it already - G.Skill ARES I think)

- PNY XLR8 120 GB SSD with a custom 5.25" drive bay bracket

- Windows 7 Professional 64-bit (OEM)

- Two Seagate 2TB Barracuda 7200 RPM HDD in mirroring RAID configuration (don't want to loose those expensive HRA files)

- LG Optical DVD Drive ($15)

- Antec Fusion Remote case - micro ATX size (I just the aesthetics of this case - I want mine to look like an audio component)

- Corsair CX500m power supply (this is likely overkill, but I already have it and a cx600M in my office computer, and its quiet)

- Zalman CNPS8900 CPU cooler to fit into the case

- Corsair 120mm Quiet series fans (I already have these)

 

I don't know which file management system I will be using. 

 

About video - with UHDTV, there seems like there may be changes in the near future.  I am willing to wait to see what coalesces from the turbulence.  I suspect there will be several UHD video cards to choose from in the future, when I decide to go that route - or more accurately, IF I decide to go that route.

 

Thank you ahead of time,

 

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post #2 of 13 Old 04-25-2014, 03:54 AM
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Two things that affect sound quality of an htpc (aside from speakers, room acoustics, etc.):

1. Noise from the htpc. The more important factor. Your system is likely to be noisy especially because of the RAID hard drives which you have for no good reason. Instead of RAID you should have a backup system which is your stated goal. RAID mirroring is a server technology to eliminate downtime when a drive fails.
But even with a minimalist set of components you need to think about positioning of the pc, silent fans and dampened hard drives.
2. The audio path from the HTPC to the speakers. But you haven't said enough about your objectives or eqipment. Will you have two speakers or more? Active or passive?
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post #3 of 13 Old 04-25-2014, 07:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by CSMR View Post

Two things that affect sound quality of an htpc (aside from speakers, room acoustics, etc.):

1. Noise from the htpc. The more important factor. Your system is likely to be noisy especially because of the RAID hard drives which you have for no good reason. Instead of RAID you should have a backup system which is your stated goal. RAID mirroring is a server technology to eliminate downtime when a drive fails.
But even with a minimalist set of components you need to think about positioning of the pc, silent fans and dampened hard drives.
2. The audio path from the HTPC to the speakers. But you haven't said enough about your objectives or eqipment. Will you have two speakers or more? Active or passive?

Thanks CSMR.

 

In response to your points...

1.  Did not understand that RAID would produce extra noise.  Will considerbackup system instead. Any recommendations as to how to do this?

 

Q: Are there any hard drives that would be recommended that are quieter than the Seagate 2TB Desktop Barracudas?  Was using them because they are $79 a the Egg right now with promo code.

 

2. The audio path from the HTPC to Speakers is simple.  HTPC -->Yamaha Receiver --> to Definitive Technology Speakers.  The HTPC will be sitting in the same enclosed cabinet with the receiver, connected by digital optical capble  - S/pdif out to S/pdif intput.  The receiver will serve as the DAC (I think).   The speakers are Definitive Technology BP-7004's  with a CLR 2500 Center, but will mainly be using a stereo setup (7004's).  Current room arrangement will not allow the BPX surrounds right now. 

 

I also have an Emotiva UMC-1 processor and UPA-500 amplifier that could be put into service instead of the Yamaha Receiver.  I like the Yamaha Receiver because of its ease of use and in A/B comparisons, it sounded about the same in my setup as the UMC-1 and UPA-500.

 

The main objectives are to have a quiet HTPC that is capable of high sound quality play back of high resolution stereo audio files right now, that can be expanded as funds allow, into a good "all in one" HTPC capable of good video playback and storage, in an expanding wireless networked system.  Sorry, but I am new to this, and that is about as specific as I know how to get at this point.

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post #4 of 13 Old 04-25-2014, 08:03 AM - Thread Starter
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I guess what I am really asking for is...

 

1)  Is this Intel Pentium G3240 enough processor for my purposes now?

2)  Is there a better way to protect the data besides RAID?  If so how?

3)  Am I choosing the right motherboard to achieve good sound quality with the ASRock Z87M Extreme4 with Realtec ALC1150?  Do I really need this $120 piece or would something else suffice?

4) Are the proposed system components, aside from the processor sufficient for use as a future "all-in-one" HTPC/Media server solution? 

 

Thanks again in advance...

 

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post #5 of 13 Old 04-25-2014, 01:49 PM
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If you send audio digitally over S/PDIF, you don't have to worry about sound quality. Just make sure you use WASAPI exclusive mode (that bypasses Windows Audio Engine). The only role of the onboard audio chip is transmit the audio signal to the receiver over optical cable (no DSP nor DAC involved), so even it does not matter what audio chip you use as long as the S/PDIF transmitter of the chip supports all sample rate/bit depth of your audio files. MSI H87M-G43 with ALC892 is a good choice whose S/PDIF supports up to 192kHz / 24bit too.

Pentium is a good choice. If you want to save some money, even Celeron (e.g. G1820) is enough. Or go with Core i7 (for 4K decoding, encoding, transcoding, SVP etc., none of them is in your scope, though).

To protect data, I would back them up in external HDDs (e.g. in a USB enclosure or another computer) and online storage.
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post #6 of 13 Old 04-25-2014, 02:36 PM - Thread Starter
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renethx,

 

ThanK you for your input, I will check out the MSI board and investigate the capabilities of the S/PDIF out of the ASRock Z87M Extreme4, H87M and H87M pro4 boards too. I had no idea that the output capabilities of the S/PDIF could be different.

 

My budget right now limits me to less than $200 total for MB and processor.  I want the LGA 1150 socket because it will allow me to upgrade whatever processing power I might need in the future - all the way up to a i7-4770s if necessary if I expand into 4k decoding, encoding, transcoding etc. 

 

Per the other commenter suggestion and yours, I am going with a an external HDD connected via USB.  TigerD just put a 2TB on for $69.99.  That should suffice for now.

 

Thanks again,

 

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post #7 of 13 Old 04-25-2014, 04:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinklemash View Post

Thanks CSMR.

In response to your points...
1.  Did not understand that RAID would produce extra noise.  Will considerbackup system instead. Any recommendations as to how to do this?
Extra noise because it's an extra drive in the system. A good backup system depends how often your media changes. If not often, just backup manually to an external drive now and again.
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Q: Are there any hard drives that would be recommended that are quieter than the Seagate 2TB Desktop Barracudas?  Was using them because they are $79 a the Egg right now with promo code.
I haven't kept up to date with tihs. I tend to use 2.5" 5400RPM drives which are quieter and power efficient, but actually how they are placed in the case can be more important because the case can amplify drive noise.
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2. The audio path from the HTPC to Speakers is simple.  HTPC -->Yamaha Receiver --> to Definitive Technology Speakers.  The HTPC will be sitting in the same enclosed cabinet with the receiver, connected by digital optical capble  - S/pdif out to S/pdif intput.  The receiver will serve as the DAC (I think).   The speakers are Definitive Technology BP-7004's  with a CLR 2500 Center, but will mainly be using a stereo setup (7004's).  Current room arrangement will not allow the BPX surrounds right now. 
Then the PC doesn't matter. It will not affect the output audibly as the receiver is doing the DAC, volume control and amplification.
Quote:
The main objectives are to have a quiet HTPC that is capable of high sound quality play back of high resolution stereo audio files right now, that can be expanded as funds allow, into a good "all in one" HTPC capable of good video playback and storage, in an expanding wireless networked system.  Sorry, but I am new to this, and that is about as specific as I know how to get at this point.
Any PC is powerful enough for high res audio playback, even 20 years ago this was true.
For video playback you want a processor with hardware decoding of the main formats, which yours will have.
Anything can be wirelessly networked.
So your system will be fine as a general purpose htpc when you want to make it that. Even lesser systems (current atom generation processors) can do all this.
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post #8 of 13 Old 04-25-2014, 05:00 PM - Thread Starter
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CSMR,

 

Thank you again for your input and explanations.  

 

The HDD Cage of my case (received it today) has silicone isolation mounts and padded slots for HDDs.  I am going to try a 3.5" drive first, but I definitely see your point about the 2.5" notebook drives - they are quieter.

 

The hardware question I have left is in response to renethx point about S/PDIF output and their ability to output 24-bit/192kHz - are they all capable of this, or just some?  If just some, how can you tell?

 

I have been searching threads on this forum and others, found one from 2008 on AVS but really no definitive answer.  The motherboard websites seem to be of little help.

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post #9 of 13 Old 04-25-2014, 10:36 PM
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Currently three audio chips are popular: ALC887 (low-end), ALC892 (mid-range), ALC1150 (high-end) and even
Quote:
The ALC887 supports 16/20/24-bit SPDIF input and output functions with sampling rate of up to 192kHz

BTW can't you use HDMI? HDMI (Intel, AMD) supports up to 7.1 (instead of stereo in S/PDIF) 192kHz / 24bit. NVIDIA HDMI too, but it does not support 88.1kHz / 176.2kHz. (The supported sample rate / bit depth / channel count depend also on the receiver you use.)
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post #10 of 13 Old 04-25-2014, 11:21 PM - Thread Starter
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I could use HDMI if I put the Emotiva UMC-1 and UPA-500 into service. 

 

My Yamaha receiver is from the year right before the introduction of HDMI.  It's has a lot more amplifier than even the 2xxx and 3xxx series does now.

 

That said, I need to check the DAC capabilities on the receiver.  I think I am good though as it has no trouble processing 5.1 and 7.1 from DVDs and BluRays respectfully.

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post #11 of 13 Old 04-26-2014, 12:49 AM
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Wrinklemash View Post

2)  Is there a better way to protect the data besides RAID?  If so how?

Renethx has the audio side of it covered better than I ever could, but I wanted to address the raid/backup question as I don't quite agree with what has been said in this thread.  Maybe my experience is vastly different than other people's, but I have about 14 drives between 1.5-4TB in size from the past 7 years and the only one that makes noise is a WD green from 2009 that "clicks" on when it spins up from its heads being parked.  It could just be the places I've lived/live now but I really don't think HDD noise will be an issue for you.

 

In regards to RAID/Backup, they're two different things but they overlap in some areas.  RAID (depending on which type of raid you use) is useful for large storage as it provides redundancy.  Lose a disk due to failure?  Your raid will keep trucking and allow you to replace the drive that malfunctioned (again, depending on which type, I'm assuming either raid 1 or 5 in this case) and rebuild the raid which restores the redundancy.  This does not protect you from software issues (or just raid controller issues in general), accidental deletions, etc.  Personally, for my collection I use a RAID 5 array which I backup with external hard drives.  I just consider the RAID to be protection from an inevitable drive failure.  What you do really depends on your budget and how valuable your media is (I.E. can you get it loaded back if it gets lost).

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post #12 of 13 Old 04-26-2014, 01:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Pylor, thank you for the thoughtful and insightful response regarding RAID.  It really helps.

 

The case I have (received it today) only allows two 3.5" HDD so I am limited to just a few RAID configurations (RAID 0 & 1 I think). Mirroring is appealing just for the convenience and safety provided by its redundancy. 

 

After previous comments, I decided to go with one internal 2TB HDD first and an identical size external backup drive (Seagate Expansion).  Doing so actually saved about $13.00. 

 

When I get the system setup, the first task is going to be uploading my music collection, which will allow me to take inventory.  I not sure what all I have.  In the event the hard drive fails before I purchase any online content, all I will really lose is time.

 

When I start purchasing music and media online it will occur in batches and be easy to backup.

 

If I where to the point of constantly purchasing and downloading a bunch of movies and more expensive content, I probably would have went with a RAID setup.

 

Also, bsides this proposed system, I have a home office computer that has plenty of drive space available.  I can just copy the files to it via the home Wifi network.

 

In short, I decided that I had other acceptable means of backup, but I still like the convenience aspects of RAID 1 and may implement it in the future.

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post #13 of 13 Old 04-26-2014, 03:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinklemash View Post

The HDD Cage of my case (received it today) has silicone isolation mounts and padded slots for HDDs.
Great!
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