Originally Posted by Salvador
Not a deal breaker for me. Different people have different needs i guess.
If not, then i'll be in the market for a pre pro. I hope not because buying a dedicated prepro will cost more than $1000 more than if I get a soundcard.
You should seriously consider an Audyssey capable pre/pro or receiver. You may not believe it but Audyssey is a truly major improvement in SQ, greater than any other component in the chain aside from Speakers. When properly dialed in - and all it really takes is a few runs at most in slightly different positions - it vastly improves the SQ from the perspective of Bass Response, imaging, clarity, and pretty much any other factor you consider in the experience.
Audyssey is very different from what you find in Vista DRC; it uses up to 8 positions for the built-in MultEQ XT version and more if you buy the Pro kit. It extends beyond the sweet spot so others can get an optimal experience when not sitting in the sweet spot.
If you ever listened to a specific Amplifier, CD player or any other similar component and thought you heard a difference then you will be blown away by the difference Audyssey can make.
It is so stark you may even face the realization you had no idea what good sound is really all about. This can actually make you think you don't like it at first - your ears do after all adjust to what you are used to hearing and it can take some time to adjust if your system is too far off base. This is a classic YMMV situation, if your system is closer to flat in your room then it is actually easier to appreciate the difference.
Audyssey, IMHO, was worth every penny of the $1600 or so I spent on the Integra DTC-9.8. All the other features of this pre/pro were just icing on the cake - and I do use the balanced outputs and HDMI switching and so on. I have absolutely no regrets and cannot believe I lived without Audyssey in the past. No matter how good your HTPC solution is - and I gather you have done a very nice job of making it work - a pre/pro such as this will be a major improvement worth every penny. This is even more true if you use a lower cost receiver with MultEQ XT as opposed to the Integra DTC-9.8 class of true pre/pro.
Disclaimer: I do not work for nor do I have any association with Audyssey. I am just so amazed at how well it works I feel it worth letting others know. I do have experience with DRC as we use it in the products I design; I work for a manufacturer of BizJet audio systems and we incorporate a proprietary DRC system into our products that is similar to Audyssey. I was thrilled to be able to have similar technology in my home system.