Media Player Appliance - 5.1 Balanced Ouputs - AVS Forum
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Old 08-24-2012, 05:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Hope I've selected the right form. I currently use an HTPC. It works relatively well though not as easy as a typical DVD player. It was supposed to be, but let's not go there...

Anyway, I am now looking move on as my HTPC is getting a bit long in the tooth. However, I am reticent about rebuilding it or building another. Frankly it wasn't worth all the time and trouble to put together and configure, etc.

So what I'm looking to do is to replace it with a media player appliance. I know I won't find anything that will replace all the functionality of my HTPC, but I'm willing to give up a few things for the sake of ease of procurement and ease of use.

As far mandatory stuff goes, it's a relatively short list:

- 1080p capable
- plays any audio or video file/format a PC can (within reason)
- can stream from a media server like WMP or Plex
- play's BR disks
- has 5.1 balanced outputs (for all six channels), preferably using jacks and not XLR connectors
- is easy to use - along the lines of a dvd player

Something that would be, I think, quite close, would be the Dune Player Max, except it doesn't have balanced outputs. All the other players I've seen only have at most 2 channel balanced output.

I'm also not that interested in very high end players, but would be willing to spend roughly the same that it would cost to build a very decent modern HTPC (i.e. in the $1500 range).

The kicker seems to be the balanced outputs. And yes, I know I could get something with unbalanced and convert, etc. but I really don't want to. The balanced lines would be going straight to self-powered speakers. No pre-amp, no amp, no nothing.

I'd also be open to considering using more than one component, but so long as it doesn't involve painful config, etc.

So far, I haven't been able to find anything even remotely close. Any thoughts or suggestions would be most appreciated.
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Old 08-28-2012, 12:30 PM
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Doesn't exist. nothing has balanced analog outs.
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Old 08-28-2012, 03:06 PM
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You aren't going to find a media player with balanced outputs. (BTW, what kind of "jacks" are you looking for, if not XLR? Is there some other standard for balanced analog audio?)

Best you can do is get a pre/pro with HDMI input and balanced outputs. Since the signal will remain digital into the pre/pro, there will be no quality loss vs a single box.
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Old 08-28-2012, 03:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottJ View Post

(BTW, what kind of "jacks" are you looking for, if not XLR? Is there some other standard for balanced analog audio?)
I was going to ask the same question. I don't know of any balanced connection other then XLR.

Also, what powered speakers have balanced inputs? I would be interested is such beasts, for when the speakers need to be really far from the source, like the concerts in the park.

Is that your application? the only advantage that balanced has over unbalanced is noise-immunity over long distances, or in industrial environments. The audio quality is no better.
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Old 08-28-2012, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottJ View Post

You aren't going to find a media player with balanced outputs. (BTW, what kind of "jacks" are you looking for, if not XLR? Is there some other standard for balanced analog audio?)
 

 

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Originally Posted by MarkHotchkiss View Post


I was going to ask the same question. I don't know of any balanced connection other then XLR.

TRS.


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Old 08-28-2012, 07:51 PM
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Quote:
TRS.
Really?

I was thinking that a 1/4" would work, but that I had not seen it used before. I would think that it could cause a lot of confusion.

DMA999999, Is that what you're looking for?
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Old 08-28-2012, 07:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkHotchkiss View Post


Really?
I was thinking that a 1/4" would work, but that I had not seen it used before. 

That, too.


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Old 08-28-2012, 07:56 PM
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I'm confused, did the HTPC have balanced audio outputs?
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Old 08-28-2012, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkHotchkiss View Post

I was thinking that a 1/4" would work, but that I had not seen it used before.

Some pro power amps use them for input, alongside XLR.
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Old 09-11-2012, 12:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Sorry for the delayed response. Things got busy at work. OK to respond to some questions/comments:

- Sorry for the confusion, what I was thinking of when I was referring to "jacks" were TRS connectors, which I think look like 1/4 stereo plugs but with an extra segment. My current equipment has the so called "combo" jack (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:XLR-phone_jack_combo_connector.jpg) which accepts either TRS or XLR. I use the TRS (just because those were the types of cables I bought)

- @sean_w_smith - well, not completely accurate - one of the Dune models (or possibly forthcoming Dune models) has stereo balanced output, but not surround. I also found a couple of others (don't recall all the names) which had stereo but nothing more

- @ScottJ - any suggestions equipment wise? I was thinking of a Lexicon MC-12HD for the second part, but I'm rather fond of eating occasionally, and I'd have to give that up (along with everything else) in order to get one...

- @MarkHotchkiss - see above re jacks. I have M&K monitors and subs with balanced XLR inputs. They have unbalanced as well but I would very much prefer to use the balanced inputs. I'm very familiar with the debate as to the actual or perceived benefits of balanced connections but would prefer not to revisit that debate once again.

- @Solfan - yes, it does. I use an E-Mu 1812M, which can do 5.1 balanced output. I've been quite happy with the audio quality, despite it being a bit long in the tooth. Also, just to clarify, TRS is not quite the same as standard 1/4". There is an extra "segment" on TRS jacks as compared to 1/4" from what I understand and they work on different levels - i.e. I think bad things would happen if you tried to plug in a TRS balanced connection into a standard 1/4"...

Looks like I'll be speccing out parts for a new HTPC. Ugh.
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Old 09-11-2012, 01:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dma999999 View Post

- @ScottJ - any suggestions equipment wise? I was thinking of a Lexicon MC-12HD for the second part, but I'm rather fond of eating occasionally, and I'd have to give that up (along with everything else) in order to get one...

How about Emotiva? (Coming soon.)

Also Integra makes a pre/pro with balanced outputs.
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Old 09-11-2012, 01:57 AM
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Hi Dma,
Quote:
Originally Posted by dma999999 View Post

. . . I have M&K monitors and subs with balanced XLR inputs. They have unbalanced as well but I would very much prefer to use the balanced inputs.
Ok, I would have to agree. If the equipment already supports balanced, then there is no reason to forgo that.

Quote:
. . . I use an E-Mu 1812M, which can do 5.1 balanced output. . .
I also have an E-Mu (but stereo only), but I don't use the balanced i/o simply because none of my other devices are balanced.


But to your original question. As you have found, the media-player market isn't very sophisticated with regards to audio. But there are some excellent AVRs and pre-pros out there, and some do have balanced audio outputs. So one option would be to get a media-player that can bit-stream the audio to a good pre-pro or AVR through HDMI. Many of the Dune models, some of the Popcorn-Hour models, and even the NeoTV can give you that. My feeling is that even a mid-range AVR has better DACs then all of the media players (except maybe Dune Max).

EDIT:
Just looked back, and noticed that Scott has already made this suggestion. So I'm just seconding it.
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Old 09-11-2012, 07:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks Scott and Mark for the comments. Looks like the only option is as both of you have described - media player with a digital link to a pre/pro. Rather unfortunate insofar as I don't really want or need the latter. The Emotiva looks interesting though, and not as crazily priced as others I've seen with balanced outputs (which have been few) - thanks for that Scott. I looked through the Integra site but wasn't able to find a unit with 5,1 balanced outputs.
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Old 09-11-2012, 08:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dma999999 View Post

TRS is not quite the same as standard 1/4". There is an extra "segment" on TRS jacks as compared to 1/4"

Nope, they're absolutely identical. smile.gif The pictures of some newer jacks can be misleading:

They push a spring-contact directly onto the sleeve segment, for a much more solid ground contact. It only looks like it's there for some other signal segment.

A lot of older TRS jacks didn't have that extra spring-contact, they would instead simply make ground contact through the panel-mount and be done with it.
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Old 09-11-2012, 09:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Solfan View Post

Nope, they're absolutely identical. smile.gif The pictures of some newer jacks can be misleading:

Sorry - my bad. You are of course absolutely right Solfan.
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Old 09-11-2012, 06:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dma999999 View Post

I'm very familiar with the debate as to the actual or perceived benefits of balanced connections but would prefer not to revisit that debate once again.

I haven't read that debate but I swear all my hair-pulling ground-loop issues disappeared the day I switched to [almost] all balanced connections biggrin.gif
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Old 09-14-2012, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Solfan View Post

I haven't read that debate but I swear all my hair-pulling ground-loop issues disappeared the day I switched to [almost] all balanced connections biggrin.gif

Well, without getting too much into it, very often folks will ask why someone is looking for balanced outputs. When the response comes, inevitably this leads to various explanations of why balanced connections aren't necessary, etc. - e.g. only needed for longer runs; only if you have cables running near potential sources of noise; not worth it if everything else (or even one element) isn't balanced. That's all that I can remember, but it usually just goes on and on and on, detracting from the original point of the post or thread. So to the extent possible I try to avoid that as much as I can...
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