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Best Audio and Video Cards for Blue-Ray?


ZenZoo
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Happy Holidays!!!

First off, I'd like to say congratulations for your worldwide recognition! Cudos!

I recently found your site while I was reading an article in Home Entertainment Magazine under the article "Computer Audio 101". It was an interesting read, but didn't talk much about the PC portion itself which is what I'm working on now.

 

I built my first HTPC a few years ago and about to start my next project. Completely Fanless and totally silent... however, I'm a little stuck on the best Audio and Video Cards.

The kicker is that I want to be able to see and hear the benefits of Blue-Ray and HD-DVD. I know HD-DVD is dead... but you can pick them up for about $2 or $3 each now and LG has a decent combo player. But I digress...

 

As for Video, several of the new boards from Asus and Gigabyte are coming with HDMI and are HDCP compliant. What should I be looking for and what should I stay away from? Is it similar to on-board audio which I have stayed away from? Any suggestions on the best video cards for movie playback, etc. where playing games is not really an issue.

 

As for Audio, I used an older card in the past which allowed me to use ASIO which was way better than the on-board audio. How's the on-board audio now days and can you bypass the K-Mixer and have lossless audio out or do you have to use an external card. If so, is there one that will still be good for Blue-Ray and HD-DVD's?

 

Best Audio quality is still the primary objective. Currently I have about 3,000 cd's in WMA Lossless, so I have already commited myseld to PC rather than MAC.

 

Hopefully this wasn't too long winded... any and all help would be greatly apreciated in getting me heading in the right direction again. Much thanks!

 

Best regards,

Kelton

 

 

 

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Hi ZenZoo.

 

This site is more audio than video focused, so your audio questions for music playback are easily answered. I believe most readers on this site will point you towards using the optical / digital output from your PC's soundcard to an external DAC, or maybe an external firewire/USB card/DAC. In Vista you can use ASIO or WASAPI to bypass any OS audio processing. Software - my money is on Media Monkey though I'm currently using iTunes with the Apple Airport - another way of preventing those bits being changed by the OS.

 

On the video front I'm not sure it's quite so simple. I'm using an AMD 780G based board and enjoying very very crisp HD-DVD and BD images at 20-40% CPU usage. However, 24p still appears to be an issue; ... and I can't seem to find 24p anywhere on the ATI website !! But - I'm continuing to research this on the web.

As for getting HD audio from the BD / HD-DVD to your amp - you'll need to use the HDMI port from the graphics card to get the audio to your receiver so the audio for your films will be output in a different way from your music.

 

Matt.

 

HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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Hello Matt,

 

Thank you for your reply. It sounds like you have almost got yours dialed in on HD Audio and Video. I have fallen behind a little on technology in the last couple years.

As of now, the main things I need to focus on are:

1) all my files are in WMA Lossless so I'll stay on the PC route rather than Mac.

2) I'd either like to use on-board sound card on a new MB "IF" there is a way to bypass KMixer "AND" get bit perfect digital out. Some say it is impossible to get bit perfect output with Vista - but I have no experience with Vista. Are you using WASAPI to bypass any OS audio processing? Can this be done successfully with the on-board sound card?

OR.....

3) Get the best Audio Card for my purpose of bit perfect digital out using ASIO (or other). My last card was an el cheapo, but was using ASIO with far superior results to the on-board card.

As for Sound Cards, I have heard a lot of good things about M-Audio such as the 2496 and 192. However, I'm not sure if these would be HDCP Compliant and play BD and HD-DVD properly.

On the other hand, the newer sound cards like:

a) ASUS Xonar HDAV1.3 say "Enjoy 100% Blu-Ray Quality Audio with HDMI 1.3 Compliance and Video Enhancement" and the

b) HT OMEGA Sound Cards,

...but these cards don't mention you can use ASIO other other and I still want the "bit perfect" output for audio!

3) If I chose to do HD-DVD Audio and BD Audio through the VGA Card using HDMI, would I just find some sort of adapter to go from HDMI to Optical Tosling or Digital Coax into my pre-amp or DAC?

Thanks again for yours and everyone elses help here. It certainly shortens the learning curve and helps avoid costly mistakes. Cheers.

 

Best regards,

Kelton

 

 

 

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Kelton,

 

Sorry, I may have misled.

 

My current setup is as follows:

 

Music: I-Tunes, output to Apple Airport then external DAC. This guarantees me a bit perfect output from I-Tunes which is otherwise not possible since it does not support ASIO or WASAPI. I can also use my soundcard and bypass any Windows interference by using ASIO or WASAPI within Media Monkey, Foobar and Wavelab. The setup is pretty easy and whilst I'm using Vista, XP is equally capable - check out Chris' budget music server.

 

Video: I am not achieving HD audio. The easiest way to do this is buy a graphics card that supports this. HD audio can only be output over HDMI, the other inputs on your receiver do not allow the bandwidth necessary to receive the data. (Well, you can decode within a BluRay player then output analogue into the analogue in's on your amp of course). I am currently outputting BD audio to my internal soundcard which, using Dogberts C-Media drivers which gives me a nice clean stereo output - but only at DVD quality. Alternatively you're correct - get one of the new audio cards that support HD output over HDMI and you're away. Whether this is bit perfect or not though, I don't actually know.

 

Your questions:

 

1 & 2 - WMA Lossless - sensible to stay with the PC then. Choose your audio playback software wisely; I'd recommend Media Monkey with ASIO or the waveout.dll - but I don't know which audio chip you have on your motherboard. Windows Media Player is not bit perfect so avoid! Vista and XP are both capable of bit perfect audio out.

 

3 - audio card - for music you'll need something supporting ASIO. I believe WASAPI bypasses Window's audio processing regardless of the card you're using - but not all software supports this either. If the Xonar supports ASIO, maybe consider that route.

 

4 - You can't feed HD audio into optical toslink or digial coax - they can't carry all the data. You need to use HDMI or decode using your chosen soundcard and output using analogue into the analogue in's on your receiver.

 

 

In summary: I'm not fussed about HD audio yet, so I'm sticking with my HTPC. However, if you don't have a receiver that supports HDMI input and therefore doesn't decode HD audio, but DOES have analogue inputs then your best bet is to buy a BD player that decodes HD audio internally and has analogue outputs. Unless of course you're PC soundcard can do this.

 

My issue is that, for all this messing around with PC's, I'm really happy with the audio (hang on, MUSIC) side of things - it's amazing. .. but before you even get to the HD audio side of things there are video annoyances on the PC to consider to. Lack of 24p support - I don't think any cards are working this properly yet .. which equates to PC's not being able to perform aswell as dedicated players on the video side of things.

 

I'm waiting for answers elsewhere on the video side but I'm not happy with my Gigabyte board which sports a AMD 780G, video playback is super crisp, it jumps out of the screen, till it pans a large scene ... then it's blurry judder !

 

I'll be fixing this with a new GFX card. Maybe.

 

But wish I'd have stuck with my Mac for music and bought a dedicated player for Blu Ray.

 

Oh - not wishing I'd stuck with the Mac for music over the PC - they're both equally capable .. just had a Mac - so should not have sold it !

 

Maybe a new GFX card will help things!

 

 

Matt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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