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Discussion Starter #1
Well, I've seen a lot of people who have problems outputting digital audio from their computer if they are converting it to analog. The whole idea in using a HTPC for most is for two purposes. You'll want to preserve all the 3D audio features, and at the same time be able to use Dolby Digital and DTS. This simply cannot be achieved through the use of the digital out on your sound card with s/pdif passthrough. The AC-3 and DTS tracks are preserved that way, but you lose all 3d sound for games, via AC-3 and Directsound. This method makes us rely on Dolby Pro-logic for surround sound in games which doesn't cut it for most.


I know that there are a lot of people who want to have their HTPC as a gaming device as well. If this is the device you are going to want to be using a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS soundcard so that you'll be able to take advantage of all the current 3D sound engines. If you don't want to use this card and instead want to use a Turtle Beach Catalina/Santa Cruz, or a M-Audio 5.1/7.1 you will still probably want to have the use of all the features of the sound card for processing 3D audio.


As a result of this you are going to need to hook the sound card up using the Analog outputs of the sound card to the receivers multi-channel inputs. This will allow the computer to send the discrete audio channels to the receiver so that you can take advantage of all the different audio formats.


Now I know that most of you probably already knew what I stated above, but for those who didn't now this is where at the current time it gets complicated. If you want to run Microsoft Windows Media Center 2005 you have to have a DVD decoding program installed on the computer. I personally recommend NVIDIA's DVD Decoder which can be found at http://www.nvidia.com . Some other options are Cyberlink's PowerDVD and Intervideo's WinDVD. These latter too are great options for normal home theater use, but I've found that NVIDIA's option serves the most potential as it's intended for use with Windows Media Center 2005 or Windows Media Player which is most people's focus these days with HTPC's.


Most people's initial plans I've found are that they'll just use the NVIDIA decoder and set it to S/PDIF out to Creative's drivers and let the Audigy 2 ZS do the decoding of the digital audio. This is great in theory, but in practice there is a major flaw with it and it causes skipping and problems with playback. So here is the solution that I have found.


I've found it necessary to replace NVIDIA's audio engine with a program called AC3Filter http://ac3filter.sourceforge.net . Install this program and then configure it for 5.1 output. I've found that the program does a great jobe in my preliminary testing of deconding both AC3 and DTS. So don't use the S/PDIF passthrough.


Next you have to set Media Center to use AC3Filter as it's default audio decoder. This has to be done through the registry:


(DISCLAIMER: At this point I've probably lost most people who don't know what they are doing. If you have never worked with the Windows registry make sure to back it up incase you screw something up. This is the heart of a Windows computer and you should be careful)
  1. Go to Start -> Run -> Regedit.exe
  2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\\SOFTWARE\\Microsoft\\Windows\\CurrentVer sion\\Media Center\\Service\\Video
  3. Change PreferredMPEG2AudioDecoder into {A753A1EC-973E-4718-AF8E-A3F554D45C44}[/list=1]


    Now play a movie and you should be able to experience Dolby Digital or DTS audio. Now know that this method only supports DD and DTS (5.1 formats), not DD-EX or DTS-ES (6.1 and 7.1 formats).

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    Some other notes:


    If you need a 5.1 analog cable go to Ram Electronics and if you need a 1/8" Mini-phono to RCA adapters go to this page on Ram Electronics .


    Hopefully a lot of this info will not be needed once NVIDIA figures out how to implement Dolby Digital/DTS decoding into their DVD decoder.


    PowerDVD and WinDVD are great for playing DVD's inside of their own interface, but if you use their decoder inside of MCE2005 they'll just do stereo output, and it may sound like surround sound, but your soundcard is just making a fake surround sound. Listen for the correct sounds coming out of the channels and you'll hear what I mean.


    FFDshow is awesome but I couldn't get it to work as the default audio decoder correctly. Just set it's audio configuration for DTS and AC3 to disabled. Be aware though that while upgrading this it might try to take over the registry as the default MCE2005 audio decoder, so you might have to check that out. Not 100% sure about this.

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    I guess just lastly let me know if this was helpful to you. I spent a bunch of time trying to figure this out so I hope that this is of help to some people.


    My last thing that I'm trying to figure out which would make my HTPC complete would be if I could figure out how to make my DVD decoder overscan the video to compensate for underscan due to the resolution being set exactly to my screen size of my 61" Samsung DLP. If anyone knows how to do this I'd appreciate a heads up. Thanks, and I hope this helps you guys. If it helps a ton of people I'd hope to get this stickied along with some other threads that talk about what kind of software is available for HTPC users.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Quote:
Originally posted by Ozy666
What about using Soundstorm or Dolby digital live to get 5.1 encoding over the SPDIF?
Definitely the best option, but as of now there are no add-on SoundStorm sound cards. I have a sound storm running on one of my computers and it's my favorite set up, but I want to build more powerful computers now with Athlon 64 CPU's, but nForce4 doesn't have SoundStorm. There have been rumors though of NVIDIA at some point releasing PCI-Express SoundStorm cards. I think that this would be ridiculously cool, but until they do, i think that we need to start looking at Creative, M-Audio, and Turtle Beach.
 

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I am using a SoundBlaster audigy2 zs for my HTPC. I have the Nvidia DVD decoder set to SPDIF and I use the spdif connection on the back of the audigy for viewing DVDs. I also have the analog connections from my sound card run to the multi-channel in of my receiver for game use.


In the Audigy control panel you have to turn off it's decoder to make this work. This can be accessed under the creative audioHQ. Click on Device controls and then go to the decoder tab. Check the box next the text “SPDIF pass though.â€


Once this is done you should be able to let your home theater receiver do the decoding for DTS and Dolby material. When you want to play games, just set your receiver to the multi-channel input.


I use the above method and it works flawlessly for both games and movies.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Quote:
Originally posted by nmyeti
I am using a SoundBlaster audigy2 zs for my HTPC. I have the Nvidia DVD decoder set to SPDIF and I use the spdif connection on the back of the audigy for viewing DVDs. I also have the analog connections from my sound card run to the multi-channel in of my receiver for game use.
The problem with this though is that I set up HTPC's for people other than myself. I also like to set up HTPC's to be used with Harmony Remote's There is no easy way for me to explain to people that they need to change the input on their receiver for the two different modes. I think that you need to keep it to one output from the computer to keep easy for usability.


Although the set up is complicated with the analog out to get AC3 decoding working correctly on the computer, it in the end is much easier for the user, and that is the most important part of an HTPC. If I was just intending to use it for myself I wouldn't even need the microsoft interface. I could just use PowerDVD and be done with it.


I'm an IT Consultant, and I do freelance work which as of late has been setting up quite a few HTPC's. I'm always looking for the best solution for my customers and in the end I find myself benefitting as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Wow, so apparently I haven't been paying enough attention. I just thought that once NVIDIA supported Dolby Digital and DTS decoding they would add this functionality for people who had already purchased the player or at least offer an upgrade path. I just purchased the new platinum version. NVIDIA can now do DTS and AC3 decoding all in their DVD decoder. So I guess unless you are cheap and don't want to pay NVIDIA for their excellent product ignore what I wrote above.
 

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Hey SpeedDemon- Does that mean that one wouldn't even need a sound card if the motherboard has got the analog outs? I mean, if the NVIDIA decoders are decoding the audio streams, then wouldn't the analog outs on the mobo into the reciever work just fine?


Thanks for the info.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Quote:
Originally posted by GrantMeThePower
Hey SpeedDemon- Does that mean that one wouldn't even need a sound card if the motherboard has got the analog outs? I mean, if the NVIDIA decoders are decoding the audio streams, then wouldn't the analog outs on the mobo into the reciever work just fine?


Thanks for the info.
They would to get the job done, but the sound quality might be terrible. I just put together a HTPC in a Antec Aria case yesterday for one of my customers and I used a DFI K8M800 motherboard and the onboard sound was just terrible. It was so bad in fact that I decided it was unfair to give them a computer with audio that bad since they also are going to be hooking it up to a 5.1 system, so I gave them an old SB Live! 5.1 card of mine for free.


Now this isn't the case for all on-board sound. I've heard some that sound pretty good and it's all just subjective I guess. NVDIA Soundstorm sounds great IMO, but you would be better off just doing DDLive, and then there are those new Intel motherboards with intel's new HD sound thing, but I have no idea how those sound since 95% of the computers I build are AMD's.
 

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Regarding Soundstorm vs. Dolby Digital live...as far as I know, Soundstorm is done completely in hardware and has little impact on the CPU.


Dolby Live, I think, is a sotware encoding that will put a load on your CPU. I don't know how much it would slow down your games.


Ozy
 

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I have the new Intel motherboard with HD Audio and DD Live. The sound is just great all around. Intel's toolkit is very nice as well. I have no complaints so far. The board is feature-packed and I really enjoyed putting it all together.


The only minor issue that I have found is that the MCE remote's mute (and volume control) has no effect. You have to use the receiver controls. I can understand the volume, but the mute should work. Also, I'd like the analog out to work concurrently with the digital so I can use the TVs internal speakers for basic SD broadcasts like the news (and keep the receiver off). I know the intel board lets you create two audio profiles (for multiroom) but I'm not sure that's the way I want to go.


Here's the system (a client to my media server):


Case: Arisetec HT-200

PSU: Silverstone SST-ST40F

Mobo: Intel 925XEC

Proc: Intel P4 Prescott 3.0 LGA 775

Memory: 512MB GEIL DDR2

HD: Seagate 120GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA

TV Tuner: Hauppage PVR-150 (soon to be ATI TVWonder Elite)

HDTV Tuner: ATI HDTV Wonder

Video Card: Leadtek 6600GT

DVD: Asus DVD-E616P2

CPU cooling: Zalman 7000 ALCU (with the 7700 mounting)

MCE Remote
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by SpeedDemon
The problem with this though is that I set up HTPC's for people other than myself. I also like to set up HTPC's to be used with Harmony Remote's There is no easy way for me to explain to people that they need to change the input on their receiver for the two different modes. I think that you need to keep it to one output from the computer to keep easy for usability.
I use the above setup with a harmony remote. You can setup a custom activity for gaming that switches on the multi-channel analog input.


One serious downside to doing things the way you are suggesting is that it bypasses many of the automatic calibration eq settings built into some of our receivers. My 1014 for instance doesn’t apply any of these auto eq and setup calibrations to the multi-channel input. If I decided to do things the way you suggest then I loose one of the major features that makes my receiver (and by extension my home theater system) so killer.


Setting up another custom activity is quite easy with the harmony units and worth the benefits if you have a receiver that does auto calibration.



-Nathan
 

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Discussion Starter #13
That's a good point, but still just more than I see necessary. I don't see any downside to doing the AC3 processing on the computer side and then transferring to the receivers multi-channel inputs.
 

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I was able to modify my registry to use the ATI MPEG Decoder that

the ATI program uses for it's DVD player, so the DVD player in MCE is passing through DD.


From what I have found, the MCE Television/DVR program uses an MPEG2 decoder/encoder for the video and an MPEG1 decoder/encoder for the audio which is resulting in the audio coming out in Stereo.


I searched my registry last night to try to figure out what CLSID the player is using so I can change it, but I had no luck.


Is it not possible to change this codec?
 

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For all of you looking for a Dolby Digital Live encoding card, you may want to take a look at the HiTeC X-Mystique 5.1 DD Live card. I just bought one off of ebay and it works incredibly.


Does exactly what many of you are looking for, converts 2 Channel, 5.1 WMA and EAX encoded audio to Dolby Digital 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1. Best part is that it only takes a PCI slot.
 

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Can somebody confirm to me whether the nvidia gold or platinum decoders, will decode DD, DTS and allow me to output it via analogue to my 5.1 speakers in MCE 2005.

I currently have the basic nvidia codecs that do stereo only or passthrough. The nvidia faq states that you need an external reciever for DD, DTS ( http://www.nvidia.com/object/decoder_faq.html ) but the feature comparison, implies that the gold and platinum versions support dd and dts. IS this the case in MCE2005?



thx


RD
 

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Ok, first of all, I'm not a rookie having built my HTPC from the ground up, but I just can't get my system to do what I want. Maybe you can help me understand the solution, if any, to my dilemna.


This is where I'm at currently with my system:


- MCE 2005

- ATI HDTV Wonder PCI Card

- Nvidia Decoder version 67 (the Newest)

- Intel MB with Built-In SoundMax sound. The MB has both Coaxail and Optical outputs, I'm currently using optical out to my Receiver

- SoundMax Version 4

- Yamaha Receiver with both optical out from HTPC and analog output from HTPC


This is what I want to do and the problems I am encountering at this time:


- Use the DACs in my receiver to process MyMusic, ie, not analog and send to Zone 1. - This works great with my current setup.

- Use the DD decoding in my receiver to process the HDTV Wonder's 5.1 sound. - This works great with my current setup.

- Output Analog sound to my Zone 2 - This works great for MyMusic, but I get no audio from MyTV from the recorded HDTV signals, this is whether the show has 5.1 sound or not.

- FW/RW/PAUSE MyTV - This causes loss of audio from MyTV, until I hit the stop, then play button. I can live with this because I usually only do this when skipping commercials.


The problems with this setup is that I can't get audio in Zone 2, ie, no analog from MyTV from HDTV Recordings. Analog from Non-HDTV recordings works fine. Also, the FW/RW problem is annoying.


I tried upgrading the SoundMax driver to Version 5 and it fixed all problems, except I could not get DD5.1 sound from my HDTV recordings, so I went back to Version 4.


So what's next? Maybe the AC3 filter registry change with Version 5? Or maybe a new sound card will fix the problem. Looking from advice from those in the know.... HELP!!! :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused:


Thanks all for whatever advice you may offer!
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by RedDom
Can somebody confirm to me whether the nvidia gold or platinum decoders, will decode DD, DTS and allow me to output it via analogue to my 5.1 speakers in MCE 2005.
Platinum does output DD/DTS in analogue. I've never used gold version, but I believe it doesn't support DTS analogue.


The trial version listed on their website is a platinum version. You might want to try that out just to make sure.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by RacerChris
Ok, first of all, I'm not a rookie having built my HTPC from the ground up, but I just can't get my system to do what I want. Maybe you can help me understand the solution, if any, to my dilemna.


This is where I'm at currently with my system:


- MCE 2005

- ATI HDTV Wonder PCI Card

- Nvidia Decoder version 67 (the Newest)

- Intel MB with Built-In SoundMax sound. The MB has both Coaxail and Optical outputs, I'm currently using optical out to my Receiver

- SoundMax Version 4

- Yamaha Receiver with both optical out from HTPC and analog output from HTPC


This is what I want to do and the problems I am encountering at this time:


- Use the DACs in my receiver to process MyMusic, ie, not analog and send to Zone 1. - This works great with my current setup.

- Use the DD decoding in my receiver to process the HDTV Wonder's 5.1 sound. - This works great with my current setup.

- Output Analog sound to my Zone 2 - This works great for MyMusic, but I get no audio from MyTV from the recorded HDTV signals, this is whether the show has 5.1 sound or not.

- FW/RW/PAUSE MyTV - This causes loss of audio from MyTV, until I hit the stop, then play button. I can live with this because I usually only do this when skipping commercials.


The problems with this setup is that I can't get audio in Zone 2, ie, no analog from MyTV from HDTV Recordings. Analog from Non-HDTV recordings works fine. Also, the FW/RW problem is annoying.


I tried upgrading the SoundMax driver to Version 5 and it fixed all problems, except I could not get DD5.1 sound from my HDTV recordings, so I went back to Version 4.


So what's next? Maybe the AC3 filter registry change with Version 5? Or maybe a new sound card will fix the problem. Looking from advice from those in the know.... HELP!!! :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused:


Thanks all for whatever advice you may offer!
Anybody?
 

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Does your audio chipset allow simultaneous output of analog and digital? Meaning that when plugging in coax or opti audio, the analog may disable. There may also be a software setting to affect this result too. This is the case with some audio chipsets,onboard or not. My M-Audio Revo 7.1 is built this way. I am not real familiar with onboard audio anymore because I had so many issues when using it, and so few issues when using independent PCI audio cards. Let me know and I will try to help.


Regards, Jim
 
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