Author Topic: Audio system options 101  (Read 1159 times)

davidsmoot

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Audio system options 101
« on: March 10, 2010, 04:50:27 am »
This might be too stupid a question but sometimes I don't even know the right terms to Google...

I know the technical side of programming and development a lot better than I know the multimedia side.  I am in the process of buying a new house and I finally have my own space.  I want a "good" sound system.  I'm not an audiophile but I know that I want something better than standard PC desktop speakers.

I know there are a lot of variables, encoding bitrate, channels, analog outputs versus digital.  Is anyone here aware of a webpage or resource that takes you through the basics.  I've got a lot of questions.

I have a core with an SPDIF output... Does that need to go to a receiver to get good sound?  Is my money better spent on a high end sound card or a basic receiver?  I've got several gadgets with Bluetooth A2DP capability, is it worthwhile to try to get that supported in my office soundsystem or is the sound quality so much lower it isn't worth it?  How does the audio quality of streamed music compare to the audio

Any help appreciated.  I've googled "home audio systems", "audio system tutorial", and a few other phrases but I can't seem to hit on a basic introduction to your options, tradeoffs, and pricepoints.

David

sonicwind

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Re: Audio system options 101
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2010, 07:06:43 am »
I am not the best person to answer some if not all of these questions. With that out of the way, you by no means need a high end receiver to get GREAT sound. Just my opinion, but electronics are so cheap and advanced now-a-days, you really get decent quality from medium to cheaper items. You should still do some component research to find out what are the best items for the price. I bought a cheap 5.1 speaker setup of 6 years ago. I can't remember the price, but it was a no-name brand for I think $300. It's been great and still is. You could definitely get better sound, then again, it's miles above PC speakers like you said and it sounds great with movies and music. I'm a big fan of digital, but I think most everything supports digital sound now. Don't by any Monster cables. You can get perfect cables supper cheap off the web. That's one type of item you can almost never get a decent deal on in a store, but the Monster cables, which are popular for some reason, have been shown repeatedly to be undetectable as far as quality goes in blind taste tests. And they taste awful, too.

I'm not sure about the sound card. I'm trying out the one on my moboard. You gotta make sure it's Ubuntu compatible, for sure.

Oh no, blue tooth sound is digital and perfect. I use it in my car. It's undetectable in difference from direct sound, unlike broadcast or radio transmitter setups.

Not sure I understand the full scope of the streamed music question. Do you mean off the Internet? That comes in lots of flavors. I think some places give free lower quality streams, and better ones for pay. I've been using Pandora (free) on my iPhone and it's around analog FM radio quality. Been meaning to check and see if a paid membership will get my higher quality. Any high speed internet has the bandwidth for perfect HD music, it's just a matter if whether the delivering site supports it. I just realized I hadn't noticed any reference to Internet streaming music in Lmce. That'd be a good feature. Wonder why it's not there? That being said, you probably just meant streaming your own music. The stream will be the quality of your files. CD will be top quality. If you rip to Ogg or Mp3, I suggest a minimum of 192kbps. I like 256, it's slightly over what I can detect.

In summary, SonicWind says: 256kbps (MP3 format), as many channels as you can, but probably stereo source is all you will have? digital outputs->yeah!, bluetooth->yeah!

I thinks someone else could give you more detailed input on specific sound cards and speaker brands and setups since my ears are kind of slutty.
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totallymaxed

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Re: Audio system options 101
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2010, 10:01:51 am »
This might be too stupid a question but sometimes I don't even know the right terms to Google...

I know the technical side of programming and development a lot better than I know the multimedia side.  I am in the process of buying a new house and I finally have my own space.  I want a "good" sound system.  I'm not an audiophile but I know that I want something better than standard PC desktop speakers.

I know there are a lot of variables, encoding bitrate, channels, analog outputs versus digital.  Is anyone here aware of a webpage or resource that takes you through the basics.  I've got a lot of questions.

I have a core with an SPDIF output... Does that need to go to a receiver to get good sound?  Is my money better spent on a high end sound card or a basic receiver?  I've got several gadgets with Bluetooth A2DP capability, is it worthwhile to try to get that supported in my office soundsystem or is the sound quality so much lower it isn't worth it?  How does the audio quality of streamed music compare to the audio

Any help appreciated.  I've googled "home audio systems", "audio system tutorial", and a few other phrases but I can't seem to hit on a basic introduction to your options, tradeoffs, and pricepoints.

David

We almost always use Denon surround receivers in our installations as these offer excellent quality stereo & 5.1/7.1 audio for surround and have a well supported rs232 control capability. Any model from the Denon 2310 and above will serve you well as an audio component and will work smoothly as part of your LinuxMCE system.

The outputs from your Media Director depend on the audio hardware installed or that comes as part of the machine if its pre-built like a Revo. Analog stereo out of the stereo out-jack is the most basic, then you have pcm stereo over HDMI and then PCM stereo over spdif (coax or optical) or full 5.1/7.1 Dolby digital/DTS for DVD movies etc. All these audio options are setup using the AVwizard (look on the wiki for info on the AVwizard)

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davidsmoot

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Re: Audio system options 101
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2010, 02:21:19 pm »
Denon it is then... RS232 control is something I understand, my current project at work has me integrating 7 different custom RS232 protocols into a single format.  Don't know a lick of Ruby that seems to be the language of choice in MCE but I know RS232.  Maybe I can contribute something to the project once I get my house moving settled.

David

mythtified

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Re: Audio system options 101
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2010, 02:43:49 pm »
If I might add my two cents here  ;D , another thing is to make sure that your spdif output will actually do 5.1/7.1.  I think most will only do two front speakers, a center, and a sub woofer.  Even soundblaster cards required an additional piece of hardware to get true dolby 5.1/7.1 out.  It has been a while since I have used soundblaster so this could have changed.

merkur2k

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Re: Audio system options 101
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2010, 04:40:54 pm »
All SPDIF (as well as HDMI) devices support at least 5.1 DTS. And since it is a purely digital signal, the "quality" of the sound device in the computer makes no difference. Indeed, most of the time it is simply a passthrough device, just there to format the bits into the correct signal for the chosen media (HDMI, coax, or optical).
The best recommendation i can give is to stay digital if at all possible.

davegravy

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Re: Audio system options 101
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2010, 05:28:07 pm »
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) in most modern amplifiers and digital to analogue converters is generally less than 1%. Distortion introduced by even the best modern loudspeakers is far more than this.

I suggest you invest most of your money in speakers (primarily the left and right, surrounds are not so critical) and acoustical room treatments. These are the fundementals in your sound system, as well as the weak links in most setups.

Though this is slightly oversimplifying things, in order of importance I would say:

1) Room treatment
2) Speakers
3) Amplifier
4) D-A converter

Ethan Winer has a great acoustics article here for beginners: http://www.ethanwiner.com/acoustics.html. For optimal performance, if your budget allows, I'd suggest not getting an integrated receiver, and instead getting a separate amplifier + processor.

I speak (by the way) as an experienced recording studio operator / acoustical consulting engineer.

twodogs

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Re: Audio system options 101
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2010, 05:32:32 pm »
Don't know if you are near a big city, but here in Denver I frequently find Denon AV receivers on Craigslist. I picked up an AVR3805 for $240. It only has component video though. I will eventually replace it with a receiver that has hdmi switching. Another consideration is how many audio zones your amp can support. The AVR3805 has separate volume and input controls for 2 zones. I've got a 5.1 setup for my TV, with the other zone powering ceiling speakers in my roof porch. The sound is faultless.

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davegravy

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Re: Audio system options 101
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2010, 05:44:34 pm »
Though there are likely knowledgable people in this forum, I'd suggest that if you're interested in getting lots of good advice on a setup that will give you good sound quality within a given budget, you might post in the AVS forum (http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/).

The LMCE forum will likely specialize in giving you advice on a system that will be easily integrated into LMCE (be controlled by it). These are both desireable goals, but shouldn't be confused as being the same.

davidsmoot

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Re: Audio system options 101
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2010, 02:35:52 pm »
Wow, thanks guys for answering a vague question with exactly what I needed.  I now have a starting point for at least getting a bit smarter about this.  I'll move audio system questions to an audio forum.

David