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Discussion Starter #1
I am new to this forum and would be grateful to get some help with setting up a home media server.


I own a digital receiver which has a few optical and coaxial inputs, and accepts the usual stereo formats, including 192kHz/24bit, DD and DTS. I would like to put all of my CDs on a small computer connected to the receiver with an optical or a coaxial cable. The idea is to use the Windows Media Center controlled remotely.


Now, my questions:


1. Do I need a fancy audio card? I just want the PC to serve as a substitute for a DVD player and to output digital signal.


2. I have seen a similar setup using the AC3filter. I did not like the fact that the volume was adjustable through the computer. We played with my friend and could not change that. Adjustable volume means reprocessing the signal, and I do not want that. What are the best settings/software for my needs?


3. Will there be a problem with HD audio (non SACD or DVD-A)? I have a few CDs like that.


4. Same question but for DD/DTS encoded music DVDs. I guess they are copyright protected.


5. What is the best format to use to rip my CDs? I want a non-lossless format, like WMA (?). Do I even have the choice?


6. Any other tips?


Thanks in advance.
 

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Hi ABCxyz,


Welcome to the forum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ABCxyz  /t/1417651/help-needed-with-a-media-server-setup#post_22169668


1. Do I need a fancy audio card? I just want the PC to serve as a substitute for a DVD player and to output digital signal.
No. Any cheap card with a S/PDIF digital output, either optical or coaxial (I prefer optical) will do. Many PC motherboards have S/PDIF built in, but are simply not bought out to a connector. It's often just a case of buying a $10 connector/mounting-bracket.

Quote:
2. I have seen a similar setup using the AC3filter. I did not like the fact that the volume was adjustable through the computer. We played with my friend and could not change that. Adjustable volume means reprocessing the signal, and I do not want that. What are the best settings/software for my needs?
You do not mention what OS you are running, but in general, Windows reprocesses the signal. If you want lossless, you need to go out of your way to avoid having windows molest your audio. I use ASIO to bypass windows. All good players support ASIO.

Quote:
3. Will there be a problem with HD audio (non SACD or DVD-A)? I have a few CDs like that.
I don't understand. No CDs are HD. Maybe you mean music DVDs?


Anyway, S/PDIF is good up 24-bit, 96kHz in most cases, and 24-bit, 192kHz in a few cases. Check what your receiver supports, and configure the PC accordingly.

Quote:
4. Same question but for DD/DTS encoded music DVDs. I guess they are copyright protected.
Conventional DD and DTS are lossy formats, although there are HD versions. Some are copy-protected, others aren't. But in any case, when you rip them to your PC, you will be removing the copy-protection and you could transcode to the most appropriate format for your receiver.

Quote:
5. What is the best format to use to rip my CDs? I want a non-lossless format, like WMA (?). Do I even have the choice?
FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) for lossless, if that's what you meant. Steer clear of the proprietary formats, like WMA. If you really want lossy, then MP3 has the widest support.

Quote:
6. Any other tips?
Dump the Microsoft player and get something good, like Foobar, MediaMonkey, WinAmp or one of the other 400 better players.
 

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Discussion Starter #3

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkHotchkiss  /t/1417651/help-needed-with-a-media-server-setup#post_22169782


No. Any cheap card with a S/PDIF digital output, either optical or coaxial (I prefer optical) will do. Many PC motherboards have S/PDIF built in, but are simply not bought out to a connector.

You do not mention what OS you are running, but in general, Windows reprocesses the signal.
Thanks. There is a lot of useful info in your reply. I will build a PC for that purpose, the OS will be Win 7 x64. I guess I do not need a lot of CPU power and RAM but I need plenty of storage.
Quote:
If you want lossless, you need to go out of your way to avoid having windows molest your audio. I use ASIO to bypass windows. All good players support ASIO.

I googled ASIO and it seems it is what I want. How do I use it? Is that a format, software, etc.?
Quote:
I don't understand. No CDs are HD. Maybe you mean music DVDs?
No, those are some rare CDs that I bught 7-8 years ago, and my receiver can recognize the higher sampling rate/bit depth.

Quote:
FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) for lossless, if that's what you meant. Steer clear of the proprietary formats, like WMA. If you really want lossy, then MP3 has the widest support.

Dump the Microsoft player and get something good, like Foobar, MediaMonkey, WinAmp or one of the other 400 better players.

Yes, I meant lossless. I guess I just use the player of my choice for ripping?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ABCxyz  /t/1417651/help-needed-with-a-media-server-setup#post_22170144


. . . I will build a PC for that purpose, the OS will be Win 7 x64. I guess I do not need a lot of CPU power and RAM but I need plenty of storage.
Then just look for a motherboard that has S/PDIF, and make sure it comes with a connector for S/PDIF. Sometimes it's standard, sometimes it's an option. You're right, you don't need a lot of CPU, but you also don't need all that much storage. Using FLAC for compression, you can fit over 6,000 CDs on one 2TB drive. At $120 per drive, that's 2 cents per CD.

Quote:
I googled ASIO and it seems it is what I want. How do I use it? Is that a format, software, etc.?
It is just a software protocol, so it means that all of your software components need to support it. The better audio players support it, so you just need to be sure that the audio-driver supports it. That might take some research for sound on the motherboard, but it would be clearly spelled out for an add-in sound card.


Then its just a matter of telling the player to output to a specific ASIO "channel", and telling the driver to route that channel to the S/PDIF output. No Microsoft involved.


By the way, Windows 7 added an enhanced audio path that does support lossless, but I don't know anything about it beyond that it now exists. That approach might be better supported by the motherboard sound drivers, as it's the "microsoft" way.

Quote:
No, those are some rare CDs that I bught 7-8 years ago, and my receiver can recognize the higher sampling rate/bit depth.
I still don't understand, as CD hardware can't support anything better than 16-bits at 44.1 kHz. Maybe they are recorded on DVD media? Or maybe they were re-mastered at a higher sample-rate and then decimated down to the CD rate. In any case, if they are CDs, then you won't have a problem.

Quote:
Yes, I meant lossless. I guess I just use the player of my choice for ripping?
No, the good players are good at playing, but the good rippers are way better at ripping.


Look at dbPowerAmp ($39) or ExactAudioCopy (free) for ripping and tagging. They are in a class of their own. EAC set the standard, and dbPowerAmp matched it. They are both easy to use, but dbPowerAmp is easier to setup and configure.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks a lot.


The HD CDs that I have might be music recorded on DVDs. I will check them when I get back home, I am away from home now.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
One more question. I may want to put the computer farther away from the receiver than I thought. In that case, I have to run a really long digital cable through several rooms. What would work better in this case? I guess coaxial will be a better solution? What type of cable would work (a TV type)?


Another option would be wireless streaming but I want to leave this as a last resort.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ABCxyz  /t/1417651/help-needed-with-a-media-server-setup#post_22178230


What would work better in this case? I guess coaxial will be a better solution?
That would depend.


The signal can typically run a longer distance over coax, but if the devices on each end are on different circuits, you might get a ground loop. With analog audio, this is made obvious by a loud 60 cycle hum, but with digital, it simply doesn't work. Silence. Some manufacturers put isolation in there coax inputs or outputs to alleviate the problem, and others don't. You can only try.


The optical option eliminates any chance of a ground-loop. But optical can be problematic if you don't have a single long cable. There is a lot of light-loss with each connection, so just one connection at each end should be the goal. There is also light loss with sharp bends, so you need slow, smooth bends in optical cable.

Quote:
What type of cable would work (a TV type)?
For coaxial, any good quality 75-ohm cable would work. That includes video cable and cable-TV cable. I use to use the cable-tv wires in my walls for S/PDIF since I don't have cable anymore.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
After some research, I found out that some (or all?) motherboards convert 44.1kHz to 48kHz. I would expect the signal to be transmitted the way it is. Should I buy a motherboard that does not do this?
 
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