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Sick of going through my 300+ CDs for my single-disk CD player so I’ve decided to build a cheap HTPC out of parts from my Mom’s old Athlon 1.4ghz. I’m not sure if I want to use her case (mid-tower, BIG) or get a smaller one that will fit into my entertainment center better. I will be reusing her Mobo (Epox, cost $120), processor, 256megs of ram, DVD drive, video card (voodoo3 hehe) and will be adding a new hard drive (thinking 200 gig) and the Chaintech AV-710 7.1 sound card.


I have a Panasonic SA-XR25 receiver that’s purely digital and would like to rip the CDs onto my hard drive (possibly use a lossless compression), transfer the digital signal to the Panasonic, and let the Panasonic process it. When feeding the digital Panasonics a pure digital signal the sound quality is staggering! I’d like to keep quality loss at a minimum. My brother is the kind of guy that thinks he knows everything and was preaching about lossless compression to me yesterday but I wanted the opinion of you guys first. Sorry if I’m babbling and I’ll get right to my questions :)


1. In order to keep the best possible sound quality, should and CAN I do a CD rip without compression? My brother tells me lossless is a perfect copy and I won’t be able to tell the difference. He said it uses 50% of the normal disk space and I’m not sure if this will be a huge issue or not. Go lossless or non-compressed? Which lossless do you prefer? I’d like to use freeware programs but if I have to pay, I will. Basically I’d like to send my receiver an optical signal that would be identical to the one coming from my current CD player.


2. My Mom’s computer has a Pioneer DVD drive that ran about $70 3 years ago. I think it’s a 4x read. I have an Infocus X1 projector that has the Faroudji(sp) processor built-in. It displays a better image via S-Video and upconverting it, rather than sending it a 480p via the component or RGA input. That’s what everyone tells me and I was wondering if I could get better image quality from the HTPC than my DVD player? If so, what do I need to do? Remember, Athlon 1.4ghz and a Voodoo3 video card :)


3. Any recommendations on a case, preferably from Newegg, that is small and will support a full-sized motherboard? I don’t feel like putting a huge case in my entertainment rack. Being quiet helps, too.


4. Last question, I promise! I think it would be cool to have a small 6-12†LCD screen hooked up to the HTPC if I decide to only use it for audio, making me not have to turn my X1 on just to listen to music. Any cheap solutions for this? I can build a wood frame/case for it no problem. Links or any info is appreciated!


Sorry for the long post. I’m sick and bored at work, and only got 2 hours of sleep last night. I have ran a couple of searches in the forum but can’t find any “good†information.


Thanks!
 

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A couple of answers


Go lossless with compression. No reason not to compress. And lossless is, well, lossless.


An HTPC may or may not look better. Only way to find out is to try for yourself


My standard case recommendation is to use a boring case and put it out of sight, rather than paying for a pretty case that you can put in your entertainment rack.
 

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You should definitely use lossless compression for archiving your music. The most commonly referenced compression schemes are: Flac, WMA lossless and Monkey's Audio. All of them are free and you can find plugins for the major music programs (Winamp, Foobar, J River...). Personally I use Monkey and J. River (~$30) and like the combination very much. Most of the lossless compressors claim up to 50% compression, but in practice I think around 60% is more usual. Note that the complexity of the music effects the amount of compression. On average I am running about 3 CDs/gig, so a 200 gig hard drive should be plenty for 300 CDs.


You should probably think about some form of backup for your library, as it would suck to have to re-rip 300 CDs in the event of a hard drive failure. The simplest way would be to use an external drive as a mirror.


As far as the case, I am with Salmoneous. Get a cheap one and hide it out of sight. I run my media server in my basement and have it networked to my HTPC in the entertainment center. This lets me keep a small, quiet computer upstairs and keep the fan-loaded server out of earshot.


In addition to having my HTPC connected to the television, I also have a 12" touchscreen that I use to browse my music. Definitely a plus, as it means you don't have to fire up your TV just to listen to music.


widman


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