I have recently been so unfortunate to have the home theater bug bite me. I have been a die hard audiophile but now it seems the video in me is coming out. So here is my dilemma... audio is still my #1 priority... even for movie soundtracks. I was thinking of buying a DVDO iScanPro as an inexpensive scalar but am also in the market for a new computer. Then I ran into this forum and it seems that a HTPC might be the answer. It sounds as if the video quality of a HTPC will blow away the iScan / Sony 7700 DVD combo into my Marantz VP8000. I have a few questions that I was hoping people could help me out with:
1) Are there any audio boards that output a high quality, low jitter digital signal?
2) Does the DVD drive in the computer make a difference? To me, most seem to be big pieces of plastic and compared to a top quality DVD player, I don't see how the transport could provide a decent signal?
3) I have read in various posts that a HTPC can become unstable and running / installing other software isn't a great idea. This poses a problem for me since I do a lot of software development and was going to use this machine for that purpose as well. Anyone have experience?
HTPC will out do most DVD players out in the market. You have to remember that the HTPC does everything in the Digital domain up to the time that it leaves your video card. Try and do custom resolution for line doubling, tripling or quadrupling on the fly with your dvd player. Won't happen. That in itself is why the HTPC look better, because of the ability to line double, triple, or quad the output. Some reports have compared it to Faroudja (sorry if i misspelled that) which is no small feat.
As for using the system for developement. I wouldn't. Since all it takes is one bad recompile to take your machine down or one bad lib call to take the cpu to 100% utilization until you kill that process. =/ For $2500 you can build a damn nice HTPC. I think almost all the goodies. You can do a search in the forums. Some member use there HTPC even to do onboard decode straight into amps.
As long as you're not compiling and watching at the same time, I don't see a big problem. The dual boot suggestion is good if you really want to keep them separate; you can keep the HTPC configuration in pristine condition, without hindering your development tweaks (or vice versa).
For audio, you should use digital out and decode in your preamp, if possible. Then the only issue you have to worry about is jitter, and that doesn't really affect DVD (AC-3) audio because of the way it's encoded. (5.1 audio is not constant bit rate, but rather compressed data, so jitter is irrelevant.) I would keep your high-end equipment for CDs and such, and just use the PC for DVD. HTPC video is especially great for a projector, due to the scaling issues mentioned.
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