Help in building HTPC/Server

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neo

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Hey! I'm pondering to get or build a HTPC & I've no idea where to begin.
1.What are the ways to configure one?

2.What are the components required?

3.What are the good options readily available?

4. SQ being the primary requirment how would it compare to a mid end(arnd 100K) standalone cd player?Would htpc be a cost effective soution?

5.Will an external dac be a better ?

6. Would having just a blu ray drive suffice as a music tranport?

7. How will the picture quality compare?

This are a few questions that come to my mind at the moment.
Thanking you all in anticipation.
Cheers.
 

venkatcr

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Neo:

There are a number of threads discussion specific details including MOBOs, Processors, cabinets, add on cards, DAC, and even BD Players. Please browse through them and come back with specific questions.

The one thing I would like to add here is that, for music, if you use a lossless format such as FLAC, WAV, or AIF, you will not find any difference between the quality of a CD output and the quality of a output from a computer based system.

Generally the same is true for videos also.

I do hope you are aware that we are talking about some 40MB per song/file for music, and some 4.5GB per movie/file for movies at the minimum. You should plan for one or more very large disk drives. The best would be a SAN drive that provides expandability.

Cheers
 

bhaskie

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What is a SAN drive, Venkat?

i guess he meant Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive/device :)

"A SAN (Storage Area Network) is a network specifically dedicated to the task of transporting data for storage and retrieval. SAN architectures are alternatives to storing data on disks directly attached to servers or storing data on Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices which are connected through general purpose networks"
 

neo

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Hey! Venkat thanks for the reply.
I've gone through nos of discussions, yet Ive been unable to come to any conclusions or configurations. Most of the sound card discussed may 've been upgraded & so I guess there should be diff options, also Ive not found a thread wherein the whole config with observations have been discussed.
The questions in the starting i felt were pretty much specific but Ill ve to try to be more specific:D
Cheers

Neo:

There are a number of threads discussion specific details including MOBOs, Processors, cabinets, add on cards, DAC, and even BD Players. Please browse through them and come back with specific questions.

The one thing I would like to add here is that, for music, if you use a lossless format such as FLAC, WAV, or AIF, you will not find any difference between the quality of a CD output and the quality of a output from a computer based system.

Generally the same is true for videos also.

I do hope you are aware that we are talking about some 40MB per song/file for music, and some 4.5GB per movie/file for movies at the minimum. You should plan for one or more very large disk drives. The best would be a SAN drive that provides expandability.

Cheers
 
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thevortex

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Hey! Venkat thanks for the reply.
I've gone through nos of discussions, yet Ive been unable to come to any conclusions or configurations. Most of the sound card discussed may 've been upgraded & so I guess there should be diff options, also Ive not found a thread wherein the whole config with observations have been discussed.
The questions in the starting i felt were pretty much specific but Ill ve to try to be more specific:D
Cheers

I am pretty sure I have given my HTPC's complete configuration in Nitin Bose's thread regarding building a HTPC. Let me know if you are not able to find it.
 

bhaskie

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Here is my HTPC config as well as planned upgrades:
(please read this thread: Home theater PC (HTPC) or media PC

Here's mine (i assembled these from nehru place, Delhi in Feb 2008):
Motherboard - Gigabyte GA MA78-GM (google this for the direct link to gigabyte's site whre you will get info on the chipsets etc).
AMD 64 X2 4800+ (got the cpu for 3.5K, you can get a 2.8-3 gigs one now i guess)
2x1GB 800MHz DDR (enough memory, costs arnd 2K)
Coolermaster 600W power supply
zebronics antibiotics cabinet (the antec was more expensive!) - remember PSU is very important!
2x500gigs SATA HDD + 320 IDE HDD + 200GB external
2 SATA DVD drives (asus/samsung)

For blu-ray playback, am planning to get these:
Blu-ray SATA drive - Pioneer BDC-2202B 5x Blu-ray ($105) or Sony BDUX10S SATA Blu-ray

Auzentech x-fi HD 7.1 when it gets launched (hopefully this jan end) or
Asus Xonar D2X or Asus Xonar HDAV1.3

HTH

Cheers!
Bhaskie
Hey! Venkat thanks for the reply.
I've gone through nos of discussions, yet Ive been unable to come to any conclusions or configurations. Most of the sound card discussed may 've been upgraded & so I guess there should be diff options, also Ive not found a thread wherein the whole config with observations have been discussed.
The questions in the starting i felt were pretty much specific but Ill ve to try to be more specific:D
Cheers
 

venkatcr

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Neo, let me answer some of your questions.

1.What are the ways to configure one?

I will let people like TheVortex and Bhaskie work with you to put together a configuration for you. They are better at it.

2.What are the components required?

Here are the bare essentials:

a) MOBO & processor
b) 2 GB RAM
c) 500GB to 1TB drive
d) High end sound card
e) A BD Drive and a CD Drive or a DVD and CD Drive. If music is important, I would recommend a CD drive as I have seen EAC struggling with DVD drive, but working very smoothly with my Sony CD drive.
f) A good flat monitor. There is a thread on this somewhere, and I have also seen very reasonably priced FullHD 16:9 monitors from ViewSonic and BenQ.

3.What are the good options readily available?

Again I will leave it to TheVortex and Bhaskie.

4. SQ being the primary requirment how would it compare to a mid end(arnd 100K) standalone cd player?Would htpc be a cost effective soution?

I have already answered this question. If you use EAC, and store your music as FLAC, WAV, or AIF, the sound quality will be nearly identical to a good CD Player. BTW I just noticed you have mentioned 100K for a CD Player. Is this for the player alone? Wow, that is a lot of money for just a CDP.

5.Will an external dac be a better ?

This is debatable. But if you use sound cards from companies such as M-Audio, Digital Audio Labs, it will be a very close match. Here is what a seasoned consumer has to say.

I have had multiple high end DACS, CD transports, D/A converters, DVD-A and SACD players in my system over the years, have a Walker Proscenium turntable with Kondo IO-J cartridge for analog playback, and, believe it or not, prefer my HTPC with M-Audio 1010 card using Music Center with its DSP and ASIO for playback

(http://archive.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=236215)

Even Stereophile has acknowledged the DAC within Squeezebox to be very very good.

Mind you I have just mentioned two names that came to my mind. There are lots of other brands and models.

6. Would having just a blu ray drive suffice as a music tranport?

A BD player will work well for Blu-Ray discs as well as SD DVD, But I would suggest a CD Drive also for reasons I mentioned above with regard to EAC.

7. How will the picture quality compare?

I have read a number of members here heaping praises on PC based video. So no worry on that count.

Cheers.
 

neo

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Thanks a lot bhaskie, venkat & vortex.
@venkat yes i was talking of standalone cd player arnd 1 lac & that is a lot of money but sadly in this unreal& heartbreaking audio world it is termed as mid end in a lot of configs:confused:

Anyways your ans have really helped me focus on the path to look at.
But here come the next set of questions, i hope they are a bit more specific.

1.I understand i'll have to get a separate audio & video drives if i want a good stereo performance. What are the good options for a cd drive & Blu ray drive?

2. What are the sound & video cards should i look at? Will i need a separate graphics cards a well?

3. @ Bhaskie why an AMD & not Intel.? As Ive had really bad experiences with the former. What are the motherboard & processor i should look at?

4.If i have HTPC will in need to have a device like TVix, pop corn hour, squeeze box etc? Which one of them is the better option?

5. What are the softwares that Ill require?

6. Ill be using the pioneer 428 as a display Im guessing this should be okay? & from what in know of a normal pc can be attached to it .

7. What is the price range that Im looking at?

TIA
Cheers.
 

venkatcr

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Yes i was talking of standalone cd player arnd 1 lac & that is a lot of money but sadly in this unreal& heartbreaking audio world it is termed as mid end in a lot of configs:confused:

I don't agree to this. There are lost of good CDPs from companies such as Marantz, NAD, CA, Arcam, Primare - all at much lower prices.

1.I understand i'll have to get a separate audio & video drives if i want a good stereo performance. What are the good options for a cd drive & Blu ray drive?

I am a bit confused here. Are you still looking for an HTPC? In that case, you will be playing the movies and music from the hard disk, and not the drives. The drives are needed for ripping CDs and DVDs into hard disk based formats. The reason I suggested a CD drive also is because I have seen EAC coming across some errors when it uses a DVD drive. But this is a not a strict requirement.

Drives are available from Sony, LG, Samsung, Philips and a lot of other brands. Theitdepot - India's First Online IT Store will give you some idea. I am sure there are other sites.

2. What are the sound & video cards should i look at? Will i need a separate graphics cards a well?

Neo, please go to Home in HifiVision and use the Search button. You will come across two pages of Threads that discuss sound and video cards. If you do some research and come back with a few options, people like TheVortex, Cranky, and Bhaskie can pinpoint which one to buy.

4.If i have HTPC will in need to have a device like TVix, pop corn hour, squeeze box etc? Which one of them is the better option?

These devices are used to do wireless transmission of music and movies from the HTPC to one or more audio/video systems across the house. There are multiple options.

1. You can keep the PC near your music/video system and connect directly
2. You can have a Wifi network at home and use that to transmit the data.
3. You can use a special device such as Squeezebox.
4. You can use a iPod dock, transfer what you want to see or hear that day to a iPod, and use that.

7. What is the price range that Im looking at?

The options are large. Make a list of products you need, and then we can estimate. But you should be looking at between 50,000 to about 100,000 depending upon what all you choose. As I said elsewhere, please plan for a 1TB drive at the minimum. You have no idea how fast hard drives get filled.

Cheers
 

moserw

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@venkat yes i was talking of standalone cd player arnd 1 lac & that is a lot of money but sadly in this unreal& heartbreaking audio world it is termed as mid end in a lot of configs:confused:

For 1 lac, you can get a state of the art HTPC, throw in a DAC to connect to the PC (for mp3s in case you are looking to improve the mp3 SQ) and still be left with money to purchase tons of Audio CDs and DVDs.

I have done/doing the same for myself...
 

bhaskie

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Neo,

Some HTPC basics (to get rid of your confusion)

1. You don't need to buy everything at one go. Doesn't make sense, and you generally land up with outdated hardware. The whole point of going the HTPC way is using your hard disks for central data storage, getting access to all your audio and video at lightning speeds, no need to change CDs/DVDs/BDs :)

2. All you need is a good HTPC motherboard. As venkat mentioned, I have listed my specs in another thread. SEARCH! 2 gigs RAM is more than enough (dual channel, so 1GB x 2 sticks), 2.5-3 GHz processor.

3. Get a good CD drive (ASUS or the likes) for CD Ripping, DVD drive for DVD ripping. Blu-ray SATA drive (read-write) is for $250, no point unless you have access to enough bluray discs, so DONT rush!

3. Use EAC, rip your CDs into FLACs or APE, and store them in the hard disks.

4. You can easily get SATA RAID in a HTPC motherboard which allows multi-disk set up as RAID 0/1/0+1 depending on protection/ performance

5. Read the HTPC thread for recommendation on sound cards (search Asus Xonar, Auzentech for results). There is enough information.

Specific answers:

1.I understand i'll have to get a separate audio & video drives if i want a good stereo performance. What are the good options for a cd drive & Blu ray drive?
Rip data, play from HDD. Bluray drives I have already mentioned ealier. google those for prices/availability.

2. What are the sound & video cards should i look at? Will i need a separate graphics cards a well?
PLease read this review on the ASUS Xonar HDAV1.3 thoroughly to get an idea. Also, look up reviews on Xonar D2X.
http://www.elitebastards.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=613&Itemid=27


3. @ Bhaskie why an AMD & not Intel.? As Ive had really bad experiences with the former. What are the motherboard & processor i should look at?

AMD is cheaper. I have been using AMD mobos in 4 PCs for the last 8 yrs now (other than my lappie which runs on a PentiumM, all others are AMD). Mobos are cheaper. Performance has always been exceptional.
What bad experience have you had with AMD, can you share with us?

4.If i have HTPC will in need to have a device like TVix, pop corn hour, squeeze box etc? Which one of them is the better option?

No need for these unless you need wireless streaming etc. Dont get these now. You can build up the HTPC without these. Save money and trouble. Too many devices will only result in redundant hardware and increase points of failure.

5. What are the softwares that Ill require?
Most of them are free, some of them come with the HD sound card.
I use mplayer (exceptional scaling) and vlc for all video, foobar2000 for audio. This is an activity once you build the HTPC and want to play bluray etc. FFDSHOW does a lot of processing/scaling for your other applications, and it is free. Read up on this online, there are tons of pages on this.

6. Ill be using the pioneer 428 as a display Im guessing this should be okay? & from what in know of a normal pc can be attached to it .

Your mobo or pci-express card (like xonar HDAV) will have HDMI out and coax out and optical out which you can plug into the display or AVR or amp. Also, these audio cards have 7.1 analogue outs to plug into AMP or AVR analogue ins.

7. What is the price range that Im looking at?
Depends on the power supply, cabinet (super quiet ones are expensive), RAID or no raid, number of HDD, but within 75K you will have enough hardware to get a smile on your face and play (almost) all media.

I'd spent 25K last feb (I already had HDD etc) to buy just enough hardware to play everything except blurays.

cheers!
 

bhaskie

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For 1 lac, you can get a state of the art HTPC, throw in a DAC to connect to the PC (for mp3s in case you are looking to improve the mp3 SQ) and still be left with money to purchase tons of Audio CDs and DVDs.

I have done/doing the same for myself...

moser dude, you are gonna confuse him more. getting a DAC is again another activity, and you can buy something like squeezebox for a decent DAC, or the expensive ones that come for $1000.
I would rather get something like the ASUS Xonar D2X which has decent BB1796 DAC and use its analogue outs. comes for below $200 and does a very good job. ( I am quoting $$$ since I dont know indian prices :) )

Getting a HTPC for mp3 is not a very good idea. they sound pitiful, and GIGO applies anyway (garbage...). One should never use media with lossy compression on high end hardware. Right?!
 

moserw

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moser dude, you are gonna confuse him more. getting a DAC is again another activity, and you can buy something like squeezebox for a decent DAC, or the expensive ones that come for $1000.
I would rather get something like the ASUS Xonar D2X which has decent BB1796 DAC and use its analogue outs. comes for below $200 and does a very good job. ( I am quoting $$$ since I dont know indian prices :) )

Getting a HTPC for mp3 is not a very good idea. they sound pitiful, and GIGO applies anyway (garbage...). One should never use media with lossy compression on high end hardware. Right?!

I am sorry if I am adding to the confusion. I was only stating what I had done/doing with my system since I listen to music on my PC having moved/in the process of moving all my CD collection to the PC.

Coming to the Asus Xonar for its cost of $200 you could also get a sound card with digital out (Rs. 1200 to Rs. 1500 I think) and an external DAC like the Beresford for $100 that will also come in handy for handling more inputs/sources. This works out cheaper than the Squeezebox too.

Finally, would not agree about mp3 being garbage. I make no claims of being an audiophile but I do know my music and I can certainly say most will be hard pressed to tell the difference for mp3s ripped at 320 to 384 kbps at VBR on a mid-fi system and I would no way categorize a HTPC as high-end hardware by any stretch of my imagination at least not for audio. Hopefully not starting flaming here, but that's IMHO.
 

moserw

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bhaskie,

Have you used any Auzentech cards? If so how would you rate them? I am undecided between an Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 and the Asus Xonar, but particularly looking for HD Audio so that rules out the Auzentech...
 

bhaskie

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bhaskie,

Have you used any Auzentech cards? If so how would you rate them? I am undecided between an Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 and the Asus Xonar, but particularly looking for HD Audio so that rules out the Auzentech...

nope, but I know a couple of guys with the X-fi chipset cards (creative ones) which is used by auzentech. those are not as good as the xonar d2x. however, i wouldnt comment since i havent heard the prelude. if you keep aside HDaudio decoding, i think there are several more options in the market as well.

this is what you are looking for:
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/20696-9-auzentech-prelude-asus-xonar

and this:
http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/audio/4192-asus-xonar-d2x-vs-auzentech-prelude-x-fi.html
 
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neo

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Hey! Venkat, Thank a lot for the answers.

The Primare Cd 31 retails arnd 1.4k & the lesser model is arnd 80k . Which I do not believe is a low price for a lot of people. The rest of the brands you mentioned do have reasonably priced as well.
Any ways after spending arnd 50k-100k on a media server & using loss less formats what is the quality of sound that I can expect.

Yes Im def looking at HTPC I wonder why are you confused??
It may be a silly question but what is EAC?

Yes I will be planning for at least 1TB.
Cheers
 

neo

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Hey Moser!What is your set up? Is it mentioned anywhere on this forum?
Pl give link or details.
Thanks

For 1 lac, you can get a state of the art HTPC, throw in a DAC to connect to the PC (for mp3s in case you are looking to improve the mp3 SQ) and still be left with money to purchase tons of Audio CDs and DVDs.

I have done/doing the same for myself...
 
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