Upgrading my HTPC, moving to Linux - overwhelmed on HD audio - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 12-31-2013, 04:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Turned out long, as usual, so here TLDR: is there a guide showing what components do I need and what options do I have to get decent-quality HD audio from a Linux Mint HTPC/desktop computer to my 5.1 speakers via an AVR, or can you guys help me which to buy or need to change to get there?

Bonus question: do monitor and projector calibration ICC profiles generated within Win7 work in Linux Mint, and have the same effect?

Here the TLDR:
I currently run Win7 on my HTPC/desktop/gaming box. I'm planning to upgrade it while building a separate unRAID box for movie and TV series storage. I'd move to Linux Mint for all non-Photoshop and most gaming needs, and would prefer to stick with it for video viewing, as well. Videos would be streamed from the unRAID box.

Reading through all the XBMC and HTPC audio developments since I built my current system gets a bit overwhelming. It appears that current XBMC supports HD audio in both Win and Linux, and that bitstreaming is required for that. It is unclear to me what hardware, software and setup do I need to enable HD bitstreaming from a Linux box, though, and how to get all that to my 5.1 speakers via an AVR.

I would be outputting ripped video content up to 1080p and various HD audio codecs through Onkyo SR-705 attached to an Epson 1080p projector and 5.1 sound system. I watch blurays on PS4, so no need for BD support.

My GPU is an nVidia GTX 560, but might be upgrading that in the future, or if necessary. I'm not set on the mobo, but MSI Z77A-G45 looks like a good fit, which has 7.1 audio from Realtek ALC892 chip.

I currently run audio through a bundle of analog wires from SoundBlaster X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Pro (don't laugh, I didn't come up with the name :P) to the AVR. I'm not sure how its audio quality compares to that of on-board audio output via HDMI of a discrete GPU. I'm also not sure if the X-Fi would even run on Linux Mint, or be capable of bitstreaming audio via XBMC.

I would prefer to run everything through the GPU's HDMI to keep things simple, but would consider staying with the X-Fi card if on-board audio quality is crappy. I'm no audiophile and neither is my apartment set for great acoustics, but I like good audio.

Finally, I calibrate my monitor (native software) and projector (HCFR) with a Spyder. I might be upgrading to ColorMunki soon. I understand Linux supports ICC profiles. But does it interpret them exactly the same as Win7? In other words, if I use my current calibration scheme and generate the ICC profiles in Windows 7, can I use the same profiles in Linux Mint and get the same results on screen? I'd prefer to keep my calibration scheme as is, and not have to learn a new way with Linux.
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post #2 of 22 Old 12-31-2013, 08:04 AM
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The use of analog audio connections from an audio card is not bitstreaming. That term is used to say that a digital audio signal is sent unchanged through HDMI or S/PDIF (coax or optical). If you connect to the speakers by way of an audio/video receiver, the use of multichannel analog connections also precludes the use of any of the audio processing provided by most modern receivers, including Dolby ProLogic, DTS Neo and room equalization. In other words, use HDMI.

If you haven't seen it already, information about XBMC's AudioEngine and appropriate settings for bitstreaming are available in several XBMC Wiki entries:
http://wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=AudioEngine
http://wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=AudioEngine/HOW-TO:_Configure_audio

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post #3 of 22 Old 01-01-2014, 08:12 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

The use of analog audio connections from an audio card is not bitstreaming. That term is used to say that a digital audio signal is sent unchanged through HDMI or S/PDIF (coax or optical). If you connect to the speakers by way of an audio/video receiver, the use of multichannel analog connections also precludes the use of any of the audio processing provided by most modern receivers, including Dolby ProLogic, DTS Neo and room equalization. In other words, use HDMI.

If you haven't seen it already, information about XBMC's AudioEngine and appropriate settings for bitstreaming are available in several XBMC Wiki entries:
http://wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=AudioEngine
http://wiki.xbmc.org/index.php?title=AudioEngine/HOW-TO:_Configure_audio

Thanks, that clears it up quite a bit. So it looks like I can ditch my X-Fi since it is useless for bitstreaming purposes. I might still keep it for gaming, though.

The one thing that the links you provided don't answer is what requirements are put on the hardware. In other words, what features do the mobo and/or GPU need to have to ensure I can bitstream? There is a list of mobo and GPU combos in the first link, but it's quite limited, and don't include the general purpose mobos and GPUs I'm looking at.

edit: most nVidia GPUs seem to support bitstreaming. I have GTX 560, and am considering an upgrade to 760. Mobo support is still a big question mark.
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post #4 of 22 Old 01-01-2014, 09:02 AM
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Given a current-model Nvidia card, motherboard support is irrelevant. The HDMI audio interface hardware is provided in the graphics card and accessed over the same PCI-e interface. The HDMI audio software drivers are included with Nvidia's graphics drivers.

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post #5 of 22 Old 01-01-2014, 09:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post

Given a current-model Nvidia card, motherboard support is irrelevant. The HDMI audio interface hardware is provided in the graphics card and accessed over the same PCI-e interface. The HDMI audio software drivers are included with Nvidia's graphics drivers.

Ah, got it! Sounds like getting 5.1 HD audio out will be simpler than I anticipated.

I might still keep my X-Fi for game and music listening, if the audio quality is better than the on-board audio of whatever mobo I'm getting.

Thanks again, this was very helpful!
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post #6 of 22 Old 01-01-2014, 10:31 AM
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You're very welcome!

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post #7 of 22 Old 01-02-2014, 06:32 PM
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Yes, I have audio coming over my HDMI into OpenELEC, worked out of the box with no configuration issues. Easy.
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post #8 of 22 Old 08-23-2014, 05:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jouko342 View Post
Quote:Originally Posted by Selden Ball 

Given a current-model Nvidia card, motherboard support is irrelevant. The HDMI audio interface hardware is provided in the graphics card and accessed over the same PCI-e interface. The HDMI audio software drivers are included with Nvidia's graphics drivers.


Ah, got it! Sounds like getting 5.1 HD audio out will be simpler than I anticipated.

I might still keep my X-Fi for game and music listening, if the audio quality is better than the on-board audio of whatever mobo I'm getting.

Thanks again, this was very helpful!
So did you succeed in HD Audio bitstreaming through Nvidia card and Linux Mint? I am in the same position but bitstreaming isnt working.
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post #9 of 22 Old 08-23-2014, 10:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akhil7j View Post
So did you succeed in HD Audio bitstreaming through Nvidia card and Linux Mint? I am in the same position but bitstreaming isnt working.
What playback software are you using?
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post #10 of 22 Old 08-23-2014, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Dark_Slayer View Post
What playback software are you using?
XBMC with pulse audio as mentioned in the wiki. For testing i tried VLC and pre installed video player but no luck.
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post #11 of 22 Old 08-24-2014, 09:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akhil7j View Post
XBMC with pulse audio as mentioned in the wiki. For testing i tried VLC and pre installed video player but no luck.
?

Initially you also tried just using XBMC as well, correct? Is that what you mean with the pre installed video player?

In XBMC, what output device (and passthrough device) did you select for Settings->System->Audio Output ? Screenshot works fine
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post #12 of 22 Old 08-24-2014, 06:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akhil7j View Post
XBMC with pulse audio as mentioned in the wiki. For testing i tried VLC and pre installed video player but no luck.
PulseAudio does not support HD Audio

Quote:
PulseAudio does not support DTS-HD, TrueHD. If you need those codecs, stop pulseaudio prior to starting xbmc. Every other combination that might have worked for your _before_ was pure luck.
Try starting XBMC in a terminal with the below command:

Code:
AE_SINK=ALSA xbmc
If you want I will post my workaround.
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post #13 of 22 Old 08-24-2014, 11:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jawilljr View Post
PulseAudio does not support HD Audio

Try starting XBMC in a terminal with the below command:

Code:
AE_SINK=ALSA xbmc
If you want I will post my workaround.
Tried AE_SINK=ALSA xbmc to run xbmc and just played a Dolby Digital and DTS video. No luck. Bitstreaming wasn't happening rather xbmc was decoding the audio.

I tried changing settings with various combinations below. No luck.
Changed XBMC audio to HDMI Denon AVR
Changed channels to 2.0 from 5.1
Changed xbmc audio back to PulseAudio server and channel to 2.0
changed system audio settings to HDMI Digital stereo from HDMI Surroung 5.1.
Few more but no luck.

Screenshots of normal xbmc run audio out and system audio settings are attached.

Note when i run AE_SINK-ALSA xbmc the audio out shows Playback/Recording through Pulse Audio Sound server
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post #14 of 22 Old 08-24-2014, 11:40 PM
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Guess it's worth asking which gpu at this point. Nvidia doesnt have hd audio bitstreaming in some of its high end gpus (as silly as that sounds)
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post #15 of 22 Old 08-25-2014, 04:35 AM
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I'm migrated from Windows 7. Bitstreaming was working perfectly. GPU is Zotac GT620.
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post #16 of 22 Old 08-25-2014, 10:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akhil7j View Post
Tried AE_SINK=ALSA xbmc to run xbmc and just played a Dolby Digital and DTS video. No luck. Bitstreaming wasn't happening rather xbmc was decoding the audio.

I tried changing settings with various combinations below. No luck.
Changed XBMC audio to HDMI Denon AVR
Changed channels to 2.0 from 5.1
Changed xbmc audio back to PulseAudio server and channel to 2.0
changed system audio settings to HDMI Digital stereo from HDMI Surroung 5.1.
Few more but no luck.

Screenshots of normal xbmc run audio out and system audio settings are attached.

Note when i run AE_SINK-ALSA xbmc the audio out shows Playback/Recording through Pulse Audio Sound server
In XBMC enable expert mode, and enable Passthrough, the nchoose the appropriate device.
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post #17 of 22 Old 08-25-2014, 11:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jawilljr View Post
In XBMC enable expert mode, and enable Passthrough, the nchoose the appropriate device.
Finally, Dolby D and DTS is displaying in AVR. Thanks everyone for support.

So, HD Audio wont work, right? But thats ok because I only have few HD Audio movie files. I usually play BDs from my Pioneer BDP-450.
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post #18 of 22 Old 08-25-2014, 07:49 PM
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Knowing your gpu (and that your using alsa for xbmc - good catch jawilljr) it should work

What are your settings from this page? Remember to scroll down -- this is just a wiki shot, not intended to be recommended settings

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post #19 of 22 Old 08-26-2014, 12:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Dark_Slayer View Post
Knowing your gpu (and that your using alsa for xbmc - good catch jawilljr) it should work

What are your settings from this page? Remember to scroll down -- this is just a wiki shot, not intended to be recommended settings
I'll do a screenshot of my settings. Enabled passthrough and selected DTS, Dolby capable receiver.

I'm having another issue now. The Video playback is not smooth. I don't know how to describe it but it looks like frames are not in sync. When there is a fast scene I see a horizontal line on the upper half of the screen. huh, i really don't know how to explain it.

Just to add, VLC and default media player works fine. Problem is only with XBMC.

Last edited by akhil7j; 08-26-2014 at 12:43 AM. Reason: updating
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post #20 of 22 Old 08-26-2014, 09:19 AM
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Even this is sorted now. Enabled adjust display refresh rate to match video.
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post #21 of 22 Old 08-29-2014, 07:49 PM
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Pulse Audio does not do HD audio. You need to install ALSA if you want HD audio.
Some people completely uninstall Pulse Audio but then you won't get audio if you want to watch a video on a browser. No system sounds either. So it's best to have both, PA and ALSA.
To get ALSA show on xbmc's audio settings, I had to start xbmc from a terminal with the command that the other guys posted already. AE_SINK=ALSA xbmc. Only then I was able to see the HD audio settings when I chose the right setting for ALSA.
I can't remember what it was called n ow because I no longer use Linux in my HTPC. I had an nvidia GT610 card and was running Ubuntu 14.04.
Things may have changed since then but I doubt it.
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post #22 of 22 Old 08-29-2014, 08:02 PM
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Also, I found the thread on xbmc forum that explains everything about PA and ALSA for Linux

http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=183436 Lots of good info there.
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