Please guide me on my next generation Home Theater - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 11-10-2012, 11:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi there people,

I set up a home theater in 2001 and I want advice on source/processing components for an overhaul.

My current system has four full range speakers powered by 2 monoblock amps and a new JVC DLA-X30 projector. I am very happy with the audio part of the chain but until now my only means for volume control has been through the only head unit for the system, a high end (for the time) Technics DVD player (the DVD-A10, which has some buried preamp functionality).

Fast forward to 2012 and I now want to give myself the capability to play Blu-ray, DVD, as well as a library of video media files (.mkv, .avi, .mp4 etc.)

I haven't followed the evolution of things too much as I have been quite happy limiting my use of the home theater to watching DVDs (my A-10 was hacked to give an SDI output and this has been feeding an HTPC with an SDI input PCI card with onboard scaling done in the HTPC with Dscaler).

So when I think through my options I see:

Option 1: Buy a Blu-ray player that also handles large external hard drives and can play the media files I have. Take the HDMI out of this and run it into a cheapish AVR that can function as a preamp pass through to give me volume control for the audio and pass out the video to the projector over HDMI.

Option 2: Buy a Blu-ray player to cover my blu-ray and DVD needs, build another HTPC to handle my media file needs, and run both into a cheapish AVR that can function as a preamp pass through to give me volume control for the audio and pass out the video to the projector over HDMI.

Option 3: Something you up to date experts recommend that I haven't thought about yet.

Thanks to any and all to give me a start in going down the right path. I've seen last night I could pick up a Samsung BD-E5500 blu-ray player with a USB input for a large external drive which also plays media files, along with a Denon AVR-1312 or an Onkyo TX-SR309 for about 600 bucks. The Samsung and one of those AVRs could give me Option 1.

Option 2 would cost more as I would need to buy the components for an HTPC. Obviously here I could take advantage of the full capabilities of a PC to improve playback of media files. I have to say that on our bedroom system upstairs I have been outputting media files from a laptop into our LCD television and have been very impressed with the quality of playback of 700 MB .avi files after I installed a suite of shareware softs described
here.

In a way then I sense that the Option 2 is the option that will give me the best technical result and make best use of the new DLA-X30 projector I am getting, but my old system with an HTPC was always a hassle for my wife to operate so I realize anything with an HTPC in the chain will be that much less user friendly. I am also kind of price sensitive....I'd like to get my source unit(s) and processing/volume control sorted for under 1,000 bucks if possible.

So sorry for the length of this post but to all you separates and integrated component geniuses out there.....thanks to give me a helping hand bringing me up to speed on my best way to go in 2012.

Dave M

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post #2 of 8 Old 11-11-2012, 09:05 PM
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Sounds like you want to use multiple sources, so an AVR would be pretty necessary. Make sure it has preouts for all channels to send signal to your amps, most below $500 only have a subwoofer preout. Both of those models you listed have this limitation. You would have to jump up to the Onkyo 717 model to get the preouts you want, this is less expensive than the cheapest Denon with preouts. There are, of course, other good brands, too.

Since you have a lot of PC-based material, you may want to look into a Roku or AppleTV box. Those are pretty user-friendly for streaming from a computer, and are both under $100. You would want to compare to your file formats to shop for these. Or look at the PS3 or other BD players that can stream via networking, not needing to use USB with a separate hard drive.
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post #3 of 8 Old 11-11-2012, 10:00 PM
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Tie all your sources into 1 box, and output to amplification.

Blu-ray (drive) inside the HTPC. You can then rip your BluRay collection to HD, and stream around your house (or phone, or iPad)

If your HTPC has a BluRay/DVD/TV Tuner, there's no reason for another box.

Add in a nice audio card (Xmeridian / Xonar Essence ST / Claro II) and run analog to your amps. Should 11.2 channel sound be the "next big thing" just buy an updated sound card and keep your HTPC.

The HTPC is to Receivers, as DVD was to VHS.
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post #4 of 8 Old 11-11-2012, 10:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks Spiky and Jason, very helpful and thoughtful replies.

Spiky, one question I've always had on my mind whenever I see the word streaming is that I assume that "streaming" has meant the signal is coming to the unit over wifi, or that in the case of internet streaming it is coming from the net. In either case the little I have read from time to time has basically been saying "streaming isnt there yet" - meaning the bandwidth wasn't there yet to have large media files play seamlessly when "streaming". But I am wondering if the streaming you refer to for a Roku or an Apple TV box is wifi streaming or if you can hook those up via a LAN cable. If so, the LAN cable should be more than capable of transmitting the file fast enough, so that even a large BD rip will play without glitches. Sorry if that seems like a completely stupid question but I have been out of HT for so long my only association with "streaming" has been that it works but its not good enough for large video files. Thanks to give me your thoughts and I will explore those boxes along with any others you might suggest.

Jason, so you seem to be saying I can do everything with a single component - an HTPC. That is interesting for me to explore as well as I am quite at home with building computers - have probably built 10 or so by now. Whats new to me in what you suggest is building in the preouts directly into the HTPC. I will check out those audio cards you mention to make sure they have pre outs. My question for you is are there any softs that have come along that make the user handling a much more polished experience? For me its not so much an issue but I'd like if I can to get things easier for my wife.

Thanks again guys,

Dave M

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post #5 of 8 Old 11-11-2012, 10:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dave in gva View Post

Jason, so you seem to be saying I can do everything with a single component - an HTPC. That is interesting for me to explore as well as I am quite at home with building computers - have probably built 10 or so by now. Whats new to me in what you suggest is building in the preouts directly into the HTPC. I will check out those audio cards you mention to make sure they have pre outs. My question for you is are there any softs that have come along that make the user handling a much more polished experience? For me its not so much an issue but I'd like if I can to get things easier for my wife.
Thanks again guys,
Dave M

No problem Dave.

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Some audio devices use the mini preouts (3.5mm) for each channel, but still analogue (Xmeridian / HT Claro). The Essence ST has a daughter card that adds familiar HT preouts for all channels (H6 daughter card).

The software has come a long way in the past few years. It used to be you needed a different software player for different types of media. Example - PowerDVD for physical media, Media Player Classic to play MKV's and Windows Media Center for the TV tuner.

Not so anymore....

Plex, XBMC, JRiver's Media Center all offer turnkey solutions, depending on your specific needs. They'll all even scrape your media library, organize it for you, download coverart / bios / fan pics and place it in the appropriate places. The interface is beautlful... Looks more like a HT appliance than a computer.
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post #6 of 8 Old 11-12-2012, 08:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks Jason.

A receiver-less system could be cool.

How does volume control work then? Do you program something like a Harmony remote to allow you to raise or lower volume in XBMC or Mediariver or whatever software platform you are using?

Dave

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post #7 of 8 Old 11-12-2012, 10:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dave in gva View Post

Thanks Jason.
A receiver-less system could be cool.
How does volume control work then? Do you program something like a Harmony remote to allow you to raise or lower volume in XBMC or Mediariver or whatever software platform you are using?
Dave

It's quite cool. After years of having a receiver... It's kinda weird not turning one on. I keep my HTPC running 24/7, so I just turn my TV on/off.

There are a variety of ways of controlling volume, and also remote controlling your HTPC.

I have a Logitech wireless IR keyboard and mouse. The keyboard has media function keys (volume +/-, play/pause/stop/ff/rw). It works out of the box for those functions.

There are many choices in physical remote controls. Anything that works with WMC (windows media center) will work fine, and should come with a IR-> USB dongle. Here are some examples:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16880101007
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16880121003
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1AZ0DT1851

You can even get a remote with a miniature keyboard and mouse built-in... like this:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=775036&Q=&is=REG&A=details

Even cooler still.. If you have an iPad/iPhone or Android Tablet/Phone, you can get Apps that will control your media center software. The features and GUI vary depending on app. Some are free, some are minimal in cost.

I use this app for my iPad since I'm using JRiver MC18: http://www.jremote.net/
Before JRiver, I used XBMC. This remote is a great one: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/xbmc-constellation/id437807301?mt=8

The great thing about these "remote" apps for your media softare, is full integration via your wireless network. There are no line of sight requirements, since it uses ports on your wireless network to control the software. It also turns your HTPC into an appliance, where you navigate your library from your handheld device of choice, press play and it lauches on your TV. It's REALLY slick. Some can even stream and live convert videos from your HTPC TO the remote, allowing viewing of your media on your handheld device.
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post #8 of 8 Old 11-12-2012, 07:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dave in gva View Post

Thanks Spiky and Jason, very helpful and thoughtful replies.
Spiky, one question I've always had on my mind whenever I see the word streaming is that I assume that "streaming" has meant the signal is coming to the unit over wifi, or that in the case of internet streaming it is coming from the net. In either case the little I have read from time to time has basically been saying "streaming isnt there yet" - meaning the bandwidth wasn't there yet to have large media files play seamlessly when "streaming". But I am wondering if the streaming you refer to for a Roku or an Apple TV box is wifi streaming or if you can hook those up via a LAN cable. If so, the LAN cable should be more than capable of transmitting the file fast enough, so that even a large BD rip will play without glitches. Sorry if that seems like a completely stupid question but I have been out of HT for so long my only association with "streaming" has been that it works but its not good enough for large video files. Thanks to give me your thoughts and I will explore those boxes along with any others you might suggest.
I actually don't use any of those boxes, I've got an HTPC instead, directly wired. But the $99 versions have wired ethernet, too. The latest models can handle 1080p streaming over N wifi or wired, people say it works great. Of course, you'd have to have a good N access point or router, too. I haven't bothered with wireless streaming since I have the computer and a BDp. And ethernet run throughout the house.

That HTPC-as-everything option does sound pretty cool.
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