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HTPC and Music Quality
#296165 03/12/10 02:04 PM
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After using a cheap Onkyo CD player (~$200) for several months in my home theater, I have discovered the joys of a home theater PC. With the ability to neatly organize and instantly access my entire music collection, I don't think I can ever go back to using a simple CD player.

Here is my question to all of you great, knowledgeable people...does anyone have experience to share concerning the quality of music from an HTPC vs a dedicated CD player?

I had my CD player connected to my AVR (Denon AVR-1910) via coaxial digital audio cable and I now have my HTPC connected to the AVR via HDMI. If my understanding is correct, then both of these setups should be exactly the same...by using the digital audio connection, I am bypassing the onboard DAC's of both the CD player and the PC and using the DAC that is in my AVR, correct? The source of the data (CD player or PC) should not matter since they are just passing along the 1's and 0's to the AVR for processing.

Does anyone know if any software on the PC tampers with the digital data (any post-processing)? In other words, is the ripped file (assuming it is lossless and not compressed in any way) output from the computer in exactly the same form as if it was read directly from the CD? I'm using Windows 7 x64 and organizing/playing music through Windows Media Center.

Having said that, the sound coming from the HTPC sounds amazing...I have not yet done a direct compairison of HTPC to CD, but I plan on doing that this weekend. Almost all of my music collection is stored on the PC as WMA Lossless files (thank goodness for terabyte hard drives \:\) )

I think I'm going to sell my Onkyo CD player and I just wanted some opinions/suggestions as to whether or not this would be a good idea. Is there anytime a CD player could be superior to a HTPC, or will there be no difference at all?

Thanks to everyone for your time and opinions!

Re: HTPC and Music Quality
BWeasner #296177 03/12/10 03:25 PM
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It is nearly impossible to get a bit-for-bit transfer from Windows 7 for audio. It's mixer combines the output of each running program together, and resamples it all to a fixed frequency (usaully 48 kHz, but that can be changed in the control panel, you may want to bump it to 96 or 192 kHz).

That said, with the volume control set to 100% it does a very good job of preserving quality, it just isn't the identical information you'd get from a stand-alone CD player streaming the bits from the surface of a disc.


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Re: HTPC and Music Quality
ClubNeon #296195 03/12/10 06:04 PM
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Luckily our ears are not quite that picky and it still sounds identical to most of us


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Re: HTPC and Music Quality
ClubNeon #296270 03/12/10 10:09 PM
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 Originally Posted By: ClubNeon
It is nearly impossible to get a bit-for-bit transfer from Windows 7 for audio. It's mixer combines the output of each running program together, and resamples it all to a fixed frequency (usaully 48 kHz, but that can be changed in the control panel, you may want to bump it to 96 or 192 kHz).

I thought with Vista (Win7 release 1) microsoft pulled audio out of the os kernel and you could bypass the mixer? People made a big deal over this when Vista was first released.


Fred

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Blujays1: Spending Fred's money one bottle at a time, no two... Oh crap!
Re: HTPC and Music Quality
ClubNeon #296298 03/13/10 01:26 AM
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It figures that I can't get bit-for-bit accuracy...that would be too much to ask for! I think that I am willing to sacrifice a little sound quality for the convenience of using a HTPC, though. Still sounds darn good to my ears...

Re: HTPC and Music Quality
BWeasner #296299 03/13/10 01:28 AM
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By the way and completely off topic...I'm still very new to this whole forum thing. How are you able to "cut" a snippet from a reply and "paste" it into a new reply? Just curious...I've seen this done a lot and have no idea how to do it! Thanks!

Re: HTPC and Music Quality
BWeasner #296300 03/13/10 01:29 AM
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You can press the "Quote" button on the bottom of the post you're trying to use, then edit it in the quick reply. Or you can switch to full reply screen and do the same.


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Re: HTPC and Music Quality
BWeasner #296301 03/13/10 01:32 AM
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 Originally Posted By: BWeasner
It figures that I can't get bit-for-bit accuracy...that would be too much to ask for! I think that I am willing to sacrifice a little sound quality for the convenience of using a HTPC, though. Still sounds darn good to my ears...


With a new iCore i3 or i5, and the proper software you can bitstream movies with Windows 7, as far as music goes from within WMC, I'm not sure. but I can tell you its not far off, if not there yet. The windows audio masher is not in control anymore. there is an audio processor on the chip, a video processor too

Last edited by wordgasm; 03/13/10 01:41 AM.

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Re: HTPC and Music Quality
Glitchy #296312 03/13/10 02:56 AM
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I think you've misunderstood something you've read. Intel's CPUs do no have video nor audio processing. They may be fast enough to decode H.264 without an external processor (but I'd still prefer to use the one in the video card), but there's nothing dedicated on the CPU (actually there's nothing dedicated on the GPU either, but I like to off-load what ever processing I can).

Windows 7 still has the software mixer. It's obvious when you can control the volume of each individual program that's producing sound. There was a stink from a very vocal minority, they were quickly forgotten. Though there was a consolation, an API was provided for programs who want to bitstream, but they have to be specifically written to do so. If they just open the Windows audio device and start playing sound, they'll get the new mixer.


Pioneer PDP-5020FD, Marantz SR6011
Axiom M5HP, VP160HP, QS8
Sony PS4, surround backs
-Chris
Re: HTPC and Music Quality
ClubNeon #296329 03/13/10 04:48 AM
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 Originally Posted By: ClubNeon
Though there was a consolation, an API was provided for programs who want to bitstream, but they have to be specifically written to do so. If they just open the Windows audio device and start playing sound, they'll get the new mixer.

OK, that fits with my understanding, though I did not think through the implications. You can bypass the mixer, but most apps don't.

I wonder if there are any open source players in development that will do this?


Fred

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Blujays1: Spending Fred's money one bottle at a time, no two... Oh crap!
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