Originally Posted by fitzcaraldo215
A most interesting thread and thanks to all for your contributions and insights. Like most of you, I am interested in a solution that would be a complete, higher quality placement for my prepro, currently an Integra 80.2.
My take on all this is that we are not quite all the way there at this point. The output side of the equation seems to be addressed. I would likely opt for an ExaSound Mch DAC via USB right now, but my mind is still open to AES/EBU out, though that approach is no less pricey with decent DACS.
JRiver, which I use now via HDMI into my prepro, would seem to have all the settings for speaker distance, sub xover, etc.
Room EQ, check, via Dirac Live, Acourate, etc. They are likely to be better than the Audyssey XT/32 I now use, plus they offer higher upper limits than 48k on sampling frequency.
Video processing is something of a question mark, unless an expensive external video processor is used. But, my understanding is that this is not a big issue with Blu-ray, which is usually just a pass through. I hardly ever watch DVDs, and my top priority is Mch music, anyway. I would not be too keen about messing with that mind boggling plethora of gamer video cards. (These guys are killing themselves with an outrageous, mind numbing proliferation of stuff that is so similar in specs. ) I am not at all sure that they have what it takes to bring out the best in movies, either. But, I would go there if I had to. Worst case, JRiver plus my monitor do the video processing, which is probably going to be more than adequate. It seems some people have stable HTPCs that work fine and others have real problems getting them to work. My HTPC using JRiver and outputting via a Lynx AES card to 12 channels of AES DAC is stable and sounds great. But it's not really a cheap solution when you add up all the parts.
Apparently, and here is where it gets foggy for me, the big remaining issue is getting the input side to work for external devices. HDMI input to the PC would be ideal, but DHCP prevents that. De-embeders seem to compromise what gets through by too much. And, I doubt we will see DHCP support in a PC Card. So, this would seem to preclude the functionality I need to get my cable box, Netflix streaming, and SACD player to work into the HTPC. Yes, SACD could possibly be done via an Oppo 93 Vanity board (I have heard it and it sounds great) with multi coax, but it seems difficult to find an easy to use Mch coax input card and get that to work into JRiver for real time playback. I am also uneasy about TV capture cards or anysee to handle broadcast video at this point. Am I wrong about this?
So, it would appear that the HTPC dream would work well and fairly straightforwardly, but only with media already captured in the PC and playable with JRiver or a similar software tool at this point. That seems like it can work well with quality above most prepros. But, playing or viewing external media with full resolution are the stumbling blocks that prevent me from embarking on a full HTPC project.
I might just have to wait for a better prepro to appear. The ESS Sabre DAC idea appears to be gaining some momentum there per the latest Yamaha and Krell. But, they both appear to lack top quality room EQ at present. Perhaps Onkyo/Integra or Denon/Marantz will move in that direction and provide the step up in audio quality I am seeking using a less DSP sampling rate limited Audyssey. For obvious cost reasons, a Datasat is out of the question.