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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,


Please forgive my ignorance on the subject; I want to build a HTPC for dvd/cd playback. My question has to do with the choice of an audio card for the machine.


A little background on where I'm coming from. I write music for film/tv for a living and am love the sound from my active nearfield monitors (Genelec 1031a's and a pair of Mackie hr824's). When researching on components for a Home Theatre that I'm building, I realized both Genelec and Mackie have 'Home Theatre' Solutions now. I was planning on getting 4 mackie Hr824's for Front and Rear L+R, a Hr626 as a centre channel and a HRS 150 for the LFE. Since these monitors are active, I don't need an amplifier. My question arises at this point as per the need for a dedicated dac/pre-amp. Having a HTPC handle the DVD/CD playback, I'm wondering if I bought something like the 410 from m-audio if I could just take the outputs from the card to my speakers. This is assuming that any of the Software DVD Players can decode DTS and Dolby Digital and send that to the 410 for output. Any issues with this? Drawbacks - volume control? Are there any serious advantages to taking a spdif/coax or optical output to a dedicated DAC and then to the speakers (I understand that this has everything to do with the quality of converters on the audio card)?


Sorry for the long post, I'm really interested in finding an elegant solution.


Thanks in advance for any thoughts.


Best,


Michael Warning

Toronto, Canada
 

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Hi Michael,


First off I think that you should consider 4 HR624s (plus the 626 centre) instead of 4 HR824s. They're much cheaper and apparently have a better midrange than the 824s (because of the smaller driver). The big HR150 sub will bring up the low end (two HR120s is another option). The new M-Audio Revolution is a better solution than the 410 for for HT use (24/192 DACs, Circle Surround II option) but it lacks a digital input if you need one. Both cards have individual channel volume control. I don't think you need to use an external DAC - you can go straight to the speakers. A couple of things though: 1) If you choose the Revolution, you need breakout cables with a stereo 1/8" mini-jack on one end and RCA plugs on the other end; 2) You'll need to convert the unbalanced line-level signal to balanced signal levels to feed the rear speakers (and any other speaker more than about 10 feet from the source).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for your advice Colin!


I was just starting to read reviews on the 624's. I am concerned about the unbalanced 3.5mm jacks on that card. Even the 411 with it's RCA connectors seems dodgy (I suppose coming from my studio background it seems this way). Are we limited to M-audio products here? Or will any multi-channel audio interface work? Perhaps one with balanced xlr outputs?


Any ideas?


Mike
 

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I quite understand how you feel about the unbalanced connectors. The only way to get fully balanced outputs for 6 channels is through an external rack (or through multiple two channel cards with balanced outputs). Of course there are several rack systems available. The M-Audio Delta 1010 is the only rack system I'd recommend for home theater use because it's the only one that provides comprehensive bass management. However, the 1010 doesn't provide individual channel level control (although some software players can provide this function).


M-Audio will probably refresh their professional line in a few months and the new rack systems will most likely have DACs that would put existing standalone DACs to shame. In addition, the new professional line will have more features geared for HT use.


I'm somewhat in the same boat as you. I'd like to use the Mackie monitors and I'd like to have balanced out on all channels. However, I don't want to drop $500+ (US) on a Delta 1010 when something new might be just around the corner. If you need something right now, I'd go with the Revolution and get familiar with the HTPC thing. At $99, the price is noise compared to the speakers. I'm sure you will be pleasently surprised with what you hear (despite the unbalanced channels). You can then upgrade to the next generation rack system at a later date.
 

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To be honest I don't have a lot of experience with external DACs. Perhaps someone else could help out here. Bear in mind that at some point in time you may wish to listen the DVD-A discs through your PC. There are a few software DVD-A players on the horizon (who knows, we might even see a software SACD player someday). The point I want to make is that SP/DIF does not have the bandwidth to carry DVD-A or SACD content (not to mention the legel problems in carrying these signals digitally anyway). If you go with an external DAC, you won't be able to play these discs through your HTPC.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I guess the revolution has digital out aswell? I could have the best of both worlds I suppose? I guess until I hear that card with the 3.5mm jacks, I'll never know if it'll work for me.


Thanks again Colin for your help.


Mike
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by synthoid
I guess the revolution has digital out aswell? I could have the best of both worlds I suppose? I guess until I hear that card with the 3.5mm jacks, I'll never know if it'll work for me.


Thanks again Colin for your help.


Mike
Yes, the Revolution has digital out. Good luck with whatever configuration you settle on. Don't forget to invite me over when you're through setting up your HTPC. I'm a "mere" 4 hours down the road in Ottawa. :D
 

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If he can afford the Mackiec speakers and the associated equipment that should go along with them, then why not the 1010 card? Has balanced out and in 8 channel analog, 24/96 DAC's and ADC's, SPDIF in and out, and at least master volume control. He should be able to set up volume pots on the individual speakers's inputs if they are not already there, and balance his system. Once the speakers are properly set up and balanced he shouldn't have to correct relative balance again, just master volume. At $599 the card is a steal compared to high end DAC's and with the right software does a superb job. Whwen the new card comes out, if ever, he should be able to get some bucks back on the 1010 in the used market. Why go for a low level card now?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hi Bill,


Thank you for your thoughts. I was looking at the 1010 myself, but dismissed it because I didn't think it was suited to HT usage due to its software. I like the idea of seperate volume controls for each channel and I like the thought of 24/192 operation for future dvd-audio titles. Obviously I will be using something like WinDVD or PowerDVD, and I guess what I'd like to know is what are the requirements of the soundcard to be supported with these players? Coming from a pro audio studio background, I am familar with some 'pro' cards that perhaps have better specs. The cheaper m-audio stuff seems to be geared towards HT usage and therefore has more appropriate software which is why they interest me.


Thanks again


Mike
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by synthoid
Just found an example of what I'm talking about.

http://www.audiomidi.com/common/cfm/...roduct_ID=2784


seems like a good solution? Thoughts? Anyone using this card?


Thanks,


Mike
I emailed the company (ESI) that makes this product some time ago. The rack has some nice features, like 24/192 DACs, balanced outputs and individual channel level control. However, it does not support bass management (and is incapable of doing so in the future) and therefore I've ruled it out for HT use.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by synthoid
Pardon my ignorance, but why is Bass Management soo important?


Mike
In it's simplest form, bass management allows you to direct bass from your monitors to the subwoofer at a certain crossover frequency. For the Mackie setup, you'd set the monitors to "small" and set a global crossover of about 60Hz or 80Hz, so that all bass below the selected frequency is handled by the sub. Every HT receiver and preamp on the planet provides bass management - in varying degrees of sophistication.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Branxx
Mike,


As you are in professional audio arena bass management can be easily achieved with some extra hardware like this Miller & Kreisel LFE-4 Bass Managment Controller .
This option did occur to me but it seems ludicrous to pay $900 (balanced version) for something that comes for free with the right soundcard (e.g. a Delta 1010). Furthermore, you're pretty much out of luck if you want to expand to 7.1 channels in the future.

Quote:
You should equally consider the latest STAudio DSP-3000 sound card with external DAC unit.
This "latest" card uses last generation 24/96 DACs. The 1010 is still be a better HT option IMHO.
 

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Brsnx: If 6you use MusicJukebox 9.0 or wWinamp they allow ASIO direct out0put to the 1010. You can even add some dither to MJ9 by going to 20 or 24 bit, and usampling to 88 KHz on the 1010. Thne volume control is done in digital without losing any of the oiginal bits. Bill
 

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The reason M-Audio is focused on so heavily in this group is that they are the only soundcard company that seems to get the needs of HT users (thanks to Cliff basically)...


With so much on the horizon I would be loath to sink money into HW which will very soon be old generation equipment...


My advice would be pick a M-Audio consumer card like the Revo now and in 6 months time evaluate your options as to what the high end of the M-Audio consumer and professional offerings will be... We are on the cusp of change... A card to tide you over may be the best advice at this moment in time..
 
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