Author Topic: Getting 5.1 surround sound?  (Read 1918 times)

skeptic

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Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« on: April 16, 2010, 12:47:41 am »
I may be getting a bit off topic with this one, but I want a seamless LinuxMCE solution so I'm posting here.  :)

I believe I've found the TV I want (thanks for the suggestions in my other thread on TV suggestions), but it does not support surround sound in any way.  My intent is to use an ION based nettop as my MD, most of which only support surround sound via HDMI.  However, I want to keep the cost as low as possible and I do not want a big bulky receiver. 

One option is to buy a USB sound card and "high end" PC speakers like the Logitech Z5500 kit which pretty maxes out my budget.  Another option is to go with something like the Sony htss360 Blue Ray ready HTIB which gives me a slim receiver I have to look at and may or may not be controllable via LinuxMCE.  Even if I have to keep a second remote handy, there will not be any IR blasting in this setup.

I guess I'm just asking for suggestions on the least obtrusive and cheapest way to get 5.1 surround sound out of something like an Aspire Revo.

dcubox1

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2010, 10:18:31 am »
One option is to buy a USB sound card and "high end" PC speakers like the Logitech Z5500 kit which pretty maxes out my budget. 

I have a set of these bad boys and the sound out of them is amazing, Nice control unit too and a mother of a subwoofer!!
Rarely get these even up to half volume, the floor boards start to shake!!

I use an optical cable from my sound card, its tidy and the quality is brill.

If you are looking for a trade off between price/performance I wouldnt look too much further than these!

Thingie

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2010, 11:46:34 am »
I also have the Z5500 and it is really very good value for money. Watch out with USB sound cards because they are not very well supported. I have a Audigy2 NX at home and I could never get it to work correctly. Now I use an old soundblaster Audigy PCI card and I have perfect surround sound. If you're not able to build in a soundcard make sure the USB version you use is fully supported.

skeptic

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2010, 06:28:59 pm »
I know a USB sound card is not ideal, but in looking at various ION netbooks available the few that do actually have S/PDIF out seem to have a $$ premium. 

I've done some searching here and read posts ranging from 5.1 over a usb sound card worked out of the box, to it works but cuts out from time to time, to it works if you manually change some things, to it doesn't work at all.  The problem is other than one reference to a sblive 24 box nobody seems to mention which usb sound card they are using. 

Can anyone recommend a cheap usb sound card with optical out that will work with little or no hassle?

jimbodude

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2010, 08:24:59 pm »
Does the TV have digital audio output?  It may take care of the HDMI to SPDIF conversion for you...  I know some TVs act more like receivers in this manner, especially if the incoming signal is digital video/audio.

I'm not a huge fan of USB audio.  I had one made by Creative that was ok - not sure how it works with LinuxMCE's auto-setup stuff.  I remember that getting it configured for digital I/O manually was a bit flaky.  You might want to check and see if there is a header on the motherboard to add a digital expansion board.

skeptic

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2010, 12:17:10 am »
No HDMI in S/PDIF out on this TV.  In fact, I chatted with tech support and was told it has no surround sound capability at all.  There isn't even a way to get surround sound using the built-in tuner and digital cable, only stereo.  Not a much of an issue to me as my current main TV is only hooked up to a MD and a Wii. Would be nice though, more options if all I need is surround sound over HDMI from the MD.

Here is my current plan (I'm still open to suggestions):
Sharp  LC-C6077UN (60" LCD) HDTV
Acer Aspire Revo AR3610 (dual core Atom w/ION gpu and S/PDIF out)
Logitec Z-5500 5.1 surround sound speakers
Gyration 3201 remote (no USBUIRT)

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to control volume.  I'll probably tell Sara "no sound" which really means no external sound device, the speakers are connected to the MD itself.  Then I can set the speakers at a reasonable level and use the remote to adjust the mixer volume on the MD. 

There is a Zotac that is basically the same as the Revo for about $30 less, but it doesn't come with wireless keyboard/mouse.  It's rare that I use the keyboard/mouse on an MD, but often enough to make it worth it. 

Lexje

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2010, 12:06:40 pm »
Hi,

I'm using a Revo R3600 as an MD.
It works beautifully - when and if you get it up and running, which you will if you're persistent.
Maybe it's some lack of linux knowledge on my part, but..

- wireless is not supported by 0810 (at leas not out of the box, there may be other solutions?)
- in order for the diskless MD to continue to setup, I had to blacklist ath_pci (see here: http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=9810.0
- as the R3600 has no s/pdif, I have used a Terratec Aureon 5.1 USB adapter http://www.terratec.net/en/products/Aureon_5.1_USB_MK_II_2120.html which works out of the box. (It might complicate your life with the AVWizard chosing correct settings)
- I have a Sharp Aquos LC-42XL2E; I bought this set mainly following the idea it would be easy to support under LinuxMCE in view of the early demo video. I'm not unhappy with this set, but have found it extremely difficult to get properly configured. (I did use 2 monitors connected, 1 vga  + 1 hdmi)
(Not only with the Revo) The AVWizard offers me vga, hdmi, hdmi2, and LVDS.
It turned out the only connection working was the LVDS one.
I found that my Aquos has a button on its remote to switch WIDE MODE to DOT BY DOT or FULL. In my case this button made all the difference, unfortunately I found (no hard proof) that it often requires a powerdown of the Aquos to kind of reset this WIDE MODE. I do know this WIDE MODE can be controlled using RS232. (I use Sweex USB to serial)
- A distinct disadvantage I find is you can't seem to easily take out the internal HD which could be put to better use in case you use the Revo as a dedicated MD
- If possible check wireless keyb & mouse functioning under 0810...

Conclusion: Do I advise against the Revo? Certainly not, but don't expect everything to work out of the box. Of course your mileage may vary. I would certainly look-up Totallymaxed's posts, I think there might be a similar box of the Asus brand that may be better suited.

Best regards,

Erwin
« Last Edit: April 18, 2010, 12:10:17 pm by Lexje »

skeptic

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2010, 07:06:12 pm »
Thanks for the reply Lexje, some good info there.  My thoughts:

wireless/HD - Wireless boot does not work.  It's not a LinuxMCE thing, it's a wireless thing.  Wireless cards (typically) just do not support PXE boot.  Wireless also isn't a great solution for streaming video.  However, if you could setup LinuxMCE to boot from it's HD and use wireless N just for streaming media I think it would be handy and work fine.  Wireless shares bandwidth with all wireless devices, but for a limited number of devices where it's inconvenient to get a LAN drop (such as my guest bedroom) it would be a good option.  Unfortunately I don't think it's possible to setup 810 to boot from HD.  I wish it was. 

TV - I have a Sharp Aquos LC-LC6077UN sitting in my otherwise empty media room right now.  :)  If it's not fully plug & play with the AVWizard I will be coming back to this post and following your suggestions.  For testing I have setup my HP Mini 311 (ION based netbook) and the only output I can get working is VGA.  I haven't really put any effort into it as I don't intend to use it as a MD for that TV, but it seems ION gpus are not as fully plug and play yet.

sound - I'm almost completely sold on the Revo 3600 as it's dual core with s/pdif out.  Hopefully this will avoid the setup complications you mentioned as well as no need for a USB sound card.

keyboard/mouse - Does this not work for you out of the box?  The big reason I am leaning toward the Acer over the $30 cheaper Zotac is the included wireless keyboard/mouse.  If this doesn't work then I'll probably save the $30 and go with the nearly identical Zotac.

theteju

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2010, 04:55:42 am »
I have Asus xonar D2 sound card : works out of box
 
I am using spdif optical output from the card going to Z 5500.
I have logitech Z 5500 speaker system and able to control the volume via usb uirt : I made the system learned the ir codes apparently they are discrete.

I am very satisfied with my setup.

hope that helps.


Lexje

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2010, 01:53:18 pm »
keyboard/mouse - Does this not work for you out of the box?  The big reason I am leaning toward the Acer over the $30 cheaper Zotac is the included wireless keyboard/mouse.  If this doesn't work then I'll probably save the $30 and go with the nearly identical Zotac.

Hi Skeptic,

My R3600 comes with a wired keyb + mouse, so no comparing there.
Personally I'm a little skeptic over wireless keyb / mice, reason being that it's often difficult or impossible to issue key strokes during boot phase. (get into bios etc.)
Apart from that, I guess I'd prefer a Gyration keyb / mouse or keyb / remote as it has the advantage of having gyro...

Best regards,

Erwin

Thingie

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2010, 07:49:33 pm »

wireless/HD - Wireless boot does not work.  It's not a LinuxMCE thing, it's a wireless thing.  Wireless cards (typically) just do not support PXE boot.  Wireless also isn't a great solution for streaming video.  However, if you could setup LinuxMCE to boot from it's HD and use wireless N just for streaming media I think it would be handy and work fine.  Wireless shares bandwidth with all wireless devices, but for a limited number of devices where it's inconvenient to get a LAN drop (such as my guest bedroom) it would be a good option.  Unfortunately I don't think it's possible to setup 810 to boot from HD.  I wish it was. 


You could use a client bridge to solve the cabling problem http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=4921.msg29179#msg29179
But as mentioned before HD video is out of the question even 720p. You need a really good wifi connection to get a good result. If there are more users using the same bandwidth you are in trouble for sure. I've experimented a lot with this and never had a good result. Eventually I decided to go for cabling ( even it was very hard to get them to the right place) and was finished  quicker then the time I spent to get the wifi working.

jimbodude

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Re: Getting 5.1 surround sound?
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2010, 08:07:25 pm »
PXE over using a WiFi bridge will not work reliably, since WiFi has very high data loss rates - even if no one else is using WiFi near you.  Save yourself hours of frustration and make your system much more responsive and more reliable by buying some cabling and raceways.