Is it possible to use a PC as a pre-pro? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 6 Old 06-05-2020, 05:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Question Is it possible to use a PC as a pre-pro?

I've never used REW but I've heard of it, and I plan on installing it soon on my Windows 10 tablet and learning how to use it to optimize my home theater. I plan on buying a home theater PC soon and I recently got the idea to use it as a multichannel pre-pro and connect it via line-level unbalanced analog audio connections to one or more audio power amplifiers, so that I would no longer need an AV receiver or a pre-pro. I'd play Blu-rays, watch Netflix, and play games on the PC, which would decode the audio and output it to the power amplifier(s). I'd also play games on my Xbox, which I would connect via HDMI to an HDMI input on the PC, which would decode the audio and output it to the power amplifier(s). I could also play games on my retro consoles: I'd connect my Nintendo GameCube via S-Video and line-level unbalanced analog audio to inputs on my PC, and I'd connect my PS2 via component video and digital optical audio to inputs on my PC. I'd connect my VCR to composite video and line-level unbalanced analog audio inputs on my PC. If I had to, I'd run my old devices through an external converter, which would connect to my PC. Other old devices I might want to connect: a tape deck for converting old home audio recordings to digital, a MiniDisc player for converting old MD recordings to modern digital files, and my old Macintosh for playing old Mac games that I still have (it could connect via its VGA and 3.5 mm. analog audio outputs). Using the PC, I could capture gameplay from the consoles and Mac. I could also stream it to Mixer, Twitch, and/or YouTube.
I think that Windows 10 can decode Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos, DTS core, DTS high-resolution audio, DTS HD-MA, and DTS:X. I guess that it would upmix 2.0 audio as well. Hopefully, for 2.0 music, there is an option like 'all-channel stereo'.
I'm aware of sound adapters and motherboards that offer 5.1 audio output via multiple line-level analog 3.5 mm. audio outputs. Is it possible to get spatial audio via multiple line-level analog audio outputs from a Windows 10 PC, where there is at least 5 main channels (front-left, center, front-right, surround-left, and surround-right), at least 1--but preferably more--subwoofer outputs, and at least 2--but preferably more--height channels (height-left and height-right)? That would mean at least 4 line-level analog 3.5 mm. audio outputs: one for front-left and front-right, one for surround-left and surround-right, one for center and subwoofer (or, alternatively, center-only), and one for height-left and height-right. Optionally, there would be one for subwoofer 1 and subwoofer 2, and maybe even one for subwoofer 3 and subwoofer 4. If there isn't a single adapter or card (be it a video adapter/card or a sound adapter/card) or a motherboard that provides this, is there a way to use multiple adapters/cards to achieve this?
If it is possible, then I could connect a PC to an audio power amplifier that has one unbalanced line-level analog RCA input for every full-range channel output by the PC; alternatively, I could connect a PC to multiple amplifiers that, in total, provide amplification for all of the full-range channels being output by the PC. I could connect the PC's unbalanced line-level analog RCA subwoofer output to a powered subwoofer's equivalent LFE input. If the PC has a second unbalanced line-level analog RCA subwoofer output, I could connect it to a second subwoofer.

Even if there isn't a solution that supports height channels, I wonder if there is a solution that supports at least five main channels and at least two subwoofers.

Of course, if I use a PC as a pre-pro, then I wouldn't be able to use room and speaker correction and equalization, such as Audyssey or AccuEQ, unless there is PC software that provides room and speaker correction and equalization, or unless miniDSP provides a product for this. The only such functionality that I am aware of on PCs is in Windows' sound settings. I don't know if I can use what I learn from REW to customize the sound on my PC to electronically correct room and speaker issues.
I also wonder about qualitative differences between how AVRs and pre-pros process data from inputs vs how PCs process data from inputs. For example, might an S-video input on a PC have better or worse analog-to-digital conversion than a mid- or high-level AVR or pre-pro?

TV: LG 47LW5700, AVR: Onkyo TX-NR787, speakers: DCM KX speakers:DCM KX-12 Series 2 (as front left and front right), DCM KX Center Series 2, DCM KX-6 Series 2 (as side surround left and right), sources: Xbox One S (with Kinect and Kinect for Windows adapter), Playstation 2 (fat model), Nintendo GameCube (model with digital AV output) with GameBoy Player, Panasonic VCR (PV-4661), PC: Microsoft Surface Pro (5th generation), phone: iPhone 7 Plus
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post #2 of 6 Old 06-05-2020, 09:36 PM
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Shot answer: possible, but not worth it.



Due to HDCP in HDMI, it's pretty difficult to get content into a PC. There are some ways around it, but you won't be able to discuss it here. If all your content is on your PC, it gets a lot easier. Unfortunately, that's easier and not easy. It's still going to take a lot of work and a lot of headaches. Even then, you probably won't match all the capability of a $500 receiver. Plus, you'd likely spent more money.


AFAIK, Dirac is still available as PC software for room correction.
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post #3 of 6 Old 06-15-2020, 06:26 PM
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I use my HTPC as pre/pro/receiver/whatever. It works great when your media is on the HTPC. I use REW for room correction with an ASUS Xonar STX II 7.1, although DIRAC is available to room-correct the PC as well. It works great, the room correction (along with room treatment) is a real winner! I use Parasound JC5 and ADCOM GFA5500 for front and rear amps, along with Martin Logan QuestZ fronts and Gallo CL2 rears, so the audio hardware is solid.

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post #4 of 6 Old 06-15-2020, 07:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew Neilson View Post
I think that Windows 10 can decode Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos, DTS core, DTS high-resolution audio, DTS HD-MA, and DTS:X.
Windows cannot decode Atmos or DTS:X.
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post #5 of 6 Old 06-16-2020, 12:25 AM
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Of course it is. Trinnov makes pre-pros using a PC as the central bad of their units. Granted they're expensive but very nice and very niche since they have to develop all the decoding software themselves.
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post #6 of 6 Old 06-16-2020, 07:17 PM
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So your solution for OP is to develop custom decoding software
Given infinite resources the answer to most things here is yes...
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