See what Mr. Polk said about the future!

kanickerkanicker Posts: 86
edited November 2002 in Electronics
I know there was a reason I liked Polk Audio. This M. Polk guy and I see things the same way. A lot of what he says in this article might seem like heresy to many of you... but I have been trying to realize this dream with off the shelf parts for some time now.

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,3973,662193,00.asp

This is my first incarnation of a HTPC, and my two main concerns were: Low Noise and Low Costs. I’ll list it’s components and what I paid, then I’ll mention what changes I hope to make and why:

Enermax EG301P-VB 300Watt Power supply $33 @ newegg.com
Intel Celeron 1.7GHz &
Shuttle MV24N Motherboard $99 @ fry’s electronics
Zalman 6500B CPU Cooler (Dead slient) $30
256MB PC2100 RAM $34 @ Best Buy
Western Digital WD800JB 80GB $99 @ Circuit City
Lite-On LTD-163BK $35
SB Audigy OEM $50
ATI 8500DV All-In-Wonder $165 @ newegg.com

I feel I paid a premium to keep things quiet. The DVD drive only makes noise when seeking a CD-ROM; the power supply has the quietest fan (1) I have ever heard in a PS; and the Zalman not only keeps things cool, but the fan that hangs over the CPU spins at like 1800rpm, which I cannot hear at all. Costs were much higher than I would have liked. My goal was $500, and I think after the case, I was around $700. Let me tell you though, this machine is worth every penny. I have a TIVO-like functionality; I can play games that I enjoy (Madden 2k3, Atari and Sega Emulators); I can store my entire CD collection on the HD; I watch DVDs through component out (via ATI adapter) and it rivals the best output I’ve seen on any commercial player.

I run XP pro. I record audio using mp3s, at 192bit rate. For most of my music, that’s acceptable. For my Jazz, Classical, and ambient music, I’ve been using Microsoft’s mathematically lossless codec found in WMP 9. The music is pumped over a digital coax line to my HK 310 receiver.

I use an USB IR receiver made by Streamzap to interface with my Sony Commander 2100 controller. I can do most of what I need to do without a keyboard and mouse. Thus, my entire home theater is composed of a TV, my HTPC, my receiver, and 5.1 speakers.

My goals:
Find a sound card other than the Audigy. I feel it falls short in a few ways… maybe an Audigy 2, maybe an M-Audio card.
DVD-Burner. So I wont have to go out and get another hard drive. 80GB is not enough… what if I want to record a season of something?

I love the ATI card, but sadly, it’s the only thing making noise (GPU fan). I’ve been considering getting a fan-less Radeon 9000, then get a dedicated PVR card (like one from Hauppage.) with hardware encoding.

This is very brief; I could outline this project for pages. Yes, there were a ton of little issues. Yes, a Celeron is sufficient processing power (and very cool as well). I selected every component for a good reason as I spent months contemplating before I bought. My HTPC is now four months old.

I just wanted to see if anyone else has tried this here. (Mr. Polk, go ahead and just login as someone else and reply about this :) ).

I’d be happy to help someone else do this, or answer any questions.

This dream is near!
ht2.jpg 112.3K
Post edited by kanicker on

Comments

  • fireshoesfireshoes Posts: 3,212
    edited November 2002
    I've read about this some on avsforums, but I've never heard a htpc system, so I didn't know how well it worked. It's certainly cheaper to upgrade when new things come out! BTW, have you seen the Circuit City commercial where the guy is trying to use all the space in his entertainment center? Looks like you've got some extra space there! :)
  • Larry ChaninLarry Chanin Posts: 601
    edited November 2002
    Hi Kanicker (and Mr. Polk if you're out there):

    Thanks for the the link. Mr. Polk makes some excellent points and his comments are right on the mark. However, while I agree that currently PCs represent quite a bit of unrealized potential, I think his article should have conceded that home theater computers (HTPCs) are starting to meaningfully lead the way to the convergence that we all seek.

    With personal computers being so imperfect, what could possibly motivate people such as you and I to pursue HTPCs?

    The answer is economy and impatience. The desire to get the best Audio/Video performance for the buck when reasonably priced, high performance commercial products don't exist yet.

    In my case my motivation was I had purchased a high definition TV, but there wasn't enough high definintion programming available to suit my needs. Home theater enthusiasts with bank accounts the size of Matt's were buying $30,000 video scalers to take DVDs and scale them to high definition resolutions. Guess what? I didn't have 30 Gs to spend, and I didn't want to spend $800 on a crappy scaler.

    Since I'm not as computer literate as you, I purchased an HTPC from Digital Connections. It could do video scaling that rivaled the fancy stand alone scalers for a tenth of the cost. The trade-off was ease of use.

    As Matt points out, the PC is a sort of Swiss Army Knife that can do lots of things. One thing my video scaler can do is surf the Internet so that I can post to you on Matt's web site on a 60 inch TV. Waay Cool!!:cool: Bet those high-priced scalers can't do that. :D
    An other thing it can do is run acoustic analysis software, better than any stand alone Real Time Analyzer.

    My M-Audio sound card can rival the best stand alone audio components and nothing is sacrificed in passing the sound of my DVDs through it to my preamplifier/surround processor.

    Speaking of preamplifiers and looking a little into the future, M-Audio has released a sound card that, in addition to digital outputs, has 8 analog outputs. PowerDVD software can decode various types of multi-channel surround processing, i.e., Dolby Digital Pro-Logic II, dts, etc. So what do you get when you combine this hardware and software? The first preamplifier in a PC. Producing a full featured software-based preamplifier is the "Holy Grail" for many audiophiles.

    When this high-quality sound card was released I asked one of the experts over at the AV Sciences Home Theater PC forum, what was the big deal. The answer was that they expect to be able to get unrivaled audio performance, better than the best stand alone preamplifiers. When you consider that my Lexicon MC-1 has a list price of $6,000 and the Lexicon flagship MC-12B model is now selling for about $9,000, we can see why these guys are starting to get excited at the prospect of performing similar processing in their HTPCs.

    In conclusion, to echo Mr. Polk sentiments:
    Personally, I can't wait for the day when a robust, user-friendly, purpose-built computer replaces all of my audio and video gear and gives me the technology I want with the same level of performance and satisfaction I have always demanded from my home entertainment systems.

    He of course is correct to say we're not there yet, but to those of us willing to sacrifice a little ease of use in exchange for value, I think we're a lot closer than Matt realizes. ;)

    Larry
  • goingganzogoingganzo Posts: 2,797
    edited November 2002
    ok lets say i want to take my comp and hook it up in my theater i have a amd 1800 a g force 2 gts 512 meg of 2700 ddr and 200 gig fo hard drive space and a sound blaster live value card i have a cd rom and a cd rw


    i think i would have to add a dvd rom and upgrade my sound and video what else would i need and what sound and video card would be recomended? most i see eather have s video or dvi but my tv dont have a dvi input it has a 180i input but no dvi
    Gonzo's World
    BenQ 8700+
    115in screen
    PS3,X-Box 360 and Wii
    Sunfire Theater Grand III
    ADCOM GFA-7607
    four avalanch 18 subs 26.12l of displacement
    Crown xti 4000
  • Larry ChaninLarry Chanin Posts: 601
    edited November 2002
    Originally posted by goingganzo
    ok lets say i want to take my comp and hook it up in my theater i have a amd 1800 a g force 2 gts 512 meg of 2700 ddr and 200 gig fo hard drive space and a sound blaster live value card i have a cd rom and a cd rw


    i think i would have to add a dvd rom and upgrade my sound and video what else would i need and what sound and video card would be recomended? most i see eather have s video or dvi but my tv dont have a dvi input it has a 180i input but no dvi

    Hi ganzo:

    First, you might want to reconsider the idea of using your existing PC unless its a spare and you're prepared to do some retrofitting. Regardless of whether you plan to listen to music or movies, noise is our enemy. As kanicker pointed out it is very important to keep things quiet. For example, in addition to having quiet components, the interior of my HTPC was lined with fire retardant, sound absorbing foam.

    Secondly, at the risk of stating the obvious, a home theater computer is intended to be permanently connected to your A/V system. So if you plan on using your "productivity" PC and wheel it from the den every time you plan to watch a DVD, obviously that's going to present a major inconvenience. My HTPC is a black desktop version that matches my A/V components and permanently sits in the rack with them.

    Larry’s Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC)

    Thirdly, most "productivity" PCs are loaded with a lot of extraneous "productivity" programs, which will tend to make your PC more unstable than a PC strictly dedicated to home theater.

    (If you plan on just experimenting with an interim configuration, no problem.)

    As you surmised to benefit from using your PC you are going to need to upgrade both your video and audio cards. In addition, that means if you have a conventional analog TV you’re in need of an upgrade to a digital HDTV. (You stated that your TV does 180i, I assume you meant 1080i. If so, you’re OK. You don’t need a dvi connection to playback DVDs on an HTPC.)

    To get a wealth of information on the subject of HTPCs might I suggest this FAQ:
    HTPC FAQ - Member Made Just For You!

    Here’s some ideas on sound cards:

    I use this:
    M-Audio Audiophile 24/96

    If you’re interested in that "down the road" preamplifier in a PC approach, you might check out this:
    M-Audio Pro 24/96 Digital/Analog 4x10 Sound Card

    Digital Connection is a company that specializes on convergence products. Here’s their FAQ on HTPCs and a burb on “The best video card”.
    They recommend a Radeon series video card:
    Here’s a page with four Radeon cards that will work for DVD playback:
    Video Cards

    This should get you started in your research.

    Larry
  • goingganzogoingganzo Posts: 2,797
    edited November 2002
    i have my old pc with i would use my old comp in my curent comps place it is older but plays most of my games good and i would use it for file shareing then i would use my curent comp as a htpc/gameing pc on the big screen my tv is 1080i it is a 65 inch ws with the 5 input hd and thanks for the links
    Gonzo's World
    BenQ 8700+
    115in screen
    PS3,X-Box 360 and Wii
    Sunfire Theater Grand III
    ADCOM GFA-7607
    four avalanch 18 subs 26.12l of displacement
    Crown xti 4000
  • danger boydanger boy Posts: 15,888
    edited November 2002
    another thought.
    sometimes i use my PS2 for DVD's it has s-video out and optical too. guess i don't need anymore dvd players. with two Toshibas, the PS2 and the one in the Dell, 4 places to watch movies.
    PolkFest 2012, who's going>?
    Vancouver, Canada Sept 30th, 2012 - Madonna concert :cheesygrin:
  • Larry ChaninLarry Chanin Posts: 601
    edited November 2002
    Originally posted by danger boy
    another thought.
    sometimes i use my PS2 for DVD's it has s-video out and optical too. guess i don't need anymore dvd players. with two Toshibas, the PS2 and the one in the Dell, 4 places to watch movies.

    Hi danger boy:

    There's of course nothing wrong with using your PC's DVD-ROM drive to view movies on your monitor, but Mr. Polk's article dealt with the convergence of A/V entertainment devices with computers to get the best of both worlds.

    So, for example the trick is to be able to get gonzo's 65" widescreen TV to display DVD movies at high definition resolutions, and to get his multi-channel, surround sound audio equipment to play the DVD sound tracks, and to take his standard satellite programming and make it look almost like high definition.

    All this can be done today with a home theater PC and proper A/V equipment. Mr. Polk thinks a perfect implementation of this is off in the future. I think it here now if you are willing to accept a bit of inconvenience. Even the inconvenience can be reduced it you buy a programmable remote control to integrate the various devices.

    Larry
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