Completely lost when it comes to Audio

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  • #26183

    So I plan on building an HTPC that is pretty modest where most are concerned.  All I will really be doing is streaming movies from online and home server as well as playing a few Blue Ray movies. 

    My problem comes in when I try to decide what I should do for a sound system.  I need to have an Xbox and HTPC hooked up to it and be able to play at least 5.1 sound.  What should I have in my HTPC to be able to do this and what should I look for in a sound system?  Could an HTIB be able to do this?

    #30846
    swoon

    I recommend against HTIB systems unless your budget is very strict. The quality of the speakers and system is generally quite poor. With audio, you get what you pay for to an extent, at least.

    What you want to look for most likely is an audio video receiver (AVR) that can accept two or more HDMI inputs and output one HDMI to your display (assuming your display accepts HDMI, if not, let us know). I’m also assuming your Xbox is a newer model that has an HDMI output (again, if not, let us know).

    It would be hard to go wrong with a new Intel Sandy Bridge-based system. With your requirements, a new Pentium CPU such as the G620 should be perfectly capable of the tasks you specified and will also be able to send audio, including HD audio from Blu-ray disc (BD) to the AVR via HDMI. You could pair that Pentium with an Intel DH67BL or DH67GD and have a solid system.

    You could go with other systems and/or add discrete cards, etc. I’m not sure the cost/benefit is there for you based on the requirements you’ve set forth.

    #30847
    swoon

    BTW, you might want to give our podcasts a listen. In Episode 6, we discuss AVRs and what to look for. In Episode 7, we discuss lossless audio. Hopefully we did an okay job of explaining. I realize we have a tendency to just jump head first into topics sometimes without covering the basics so I apologize for that. Feel free to ask any questions here though.

    #30848
    AFguy

    Thanks I’ll give those podcasts a listen for sure.  The whole audio decoding thing is just a bit confusing to me to be honest.  I haven’t been able to do much research on it just yet.  I’m currently deployed so I find time to look at this sort of thing when I can.

    My Xbox and TV both have the required HDMI ports.  I was looking to go with HDMI over other cable solutions mainly because of the ease of it.  My budget is fairly strict for the audio portion of my build as I’m only set to about 300 bucks.

    #30850
    swoon

    Considering your budget for audio, I can understand why HTIB is an attractive option. Another possible alternative would be to find a fairly recent AVR and speakers used through Craigslist or eBay. You could even start out with just two speakers or three speakers (Left, Right Center) and add them as your budget allows.

    #30851
    AFguy

    So would a HTIB such as the LG LHB336 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882005065) be something that could handle this?  I could use an HDMI switch to add another HDMI input. 

    I have to admit the whole audio encoding and decoding is extremely confusing to me and I haven’t had much luck finding something easy to read on the matter.  Do you know of something that is good for new guy like me to read up on?

    #30852
    swoon

    It seems as though the LG HTIB system would be able to do what you are asking.

    Maybe you will find this guide helpful.

    #30853
    AFguy

    I actually just got done reading that guide and found another guide on here actually.  These 2 guides have been the most helpful sources of information I’ve been able to find ANYWHERE!  Thanks for the advice and pointing me in the right direction.

    #30857
    swoon

    No problem. I am glad they were helpful. We are always open to ideas for guides to write and topics or questions you might want to hear discussed on our monthly podcast.

    #30887
    swoon

    I saw this system and thought of your post. It’s a bit more than you originally specified in your budget, but I think it’s a better value in the important areas.

    #30890
    NitDawg

    I’m far from an AVR guru, but is there a general formula for the amount of power/channel needed for a given room size? Is more always better (I know you can always turn in down) but more along the lines of dynamic range (or are speakers a big part of that equation).

     

    #30891
    swoon

    [quote=NitDawg]

    I’m far from an AVR guru, but is there a general formula for the amount of power/channel needed for a given room size? Is more always better (I know you can always turn in down) but more along the lines of dynamic range (or are speakers a big part of that equation).

     

    [/quote]

    Speakers play a big role in the equation. The more sensitive they are, the less amperage is needed to drive them to the same volume as less sensitive speakers.

    When it comes to AVRs, any wattage claims should be examined closely if comparing. You must make sure that wattage ratings are taken at same resistance e.g., 8 ohms, at the same frequency, etc. Even with everything the same, if you’re only talking about 10 or 20 watts difference between receivers, it will mean almost nothing in terms of volume level that can be achieved (you need double the watts to achieve a 3dB volume increase). All things being equal, more is always better, it’s just not hugely important and when it is, it is probably a situation where the room is gigantic, the speakers are 4 ohm or less, etc. In those cases, it might be advisable to go for separate amps.

    In short, speaker resistance and sensitivity play a much larger role in clean volume output than an AVR’s power rating. Also, using a powered sub and setting speakers to “small” should help quite a bit to free up power on the AVR since it takes a lot more power to move the lower frequencies. 

    #30892
    NitDawg

    Solid info. Thanks Aaron! 

    #30894
    AFguy

    Thanks for the heads up Aaron.  I think for 70 bucks more I can justify a system like that for sure.  Have you had much luck with Denon?  I know Onkyo seems to be popular among you guys as well. 

    #30895
    swoon

    Yes. I have owned Denon receivers for the past 11 years. I recently bought the Denon AVR-2112 and am happily satisfied with it.

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