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5.1 Multi Channel Music on a Desktop System?

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doctors11

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I'm an older guy with very little tech savvy so bear with me. A couple of years ago I discovered the world of multi channel music and have been building a small but growing collection of SACD's, DVD-A's, and BluRay audio discs. I play them on our small home theater but I think I'd like to be able to also play them in our small home office. So I have a bunch of noob questions, in no particular order, for you guys...

Does anyone run 5.1 on their desktop? If so, where do you place the center channel? I was thinking of buying one of those monitor adjustable mounting brackets that fasten to the wall so I can move it just above the center speaker.

I'd like to buy an A/V receiver and a universal BluRay player for that room. If I not only wanted to listen to these disks there but also wanted to watch movies, and get Youtube audio from this system, how would I hook all that up to the computer and monitor?

And lastly (for now), I was thinking, after tons of research, of going with Totem Acoustics Kin Mini speakers for front L and R, and for surrounds, with the Totem Flex for the center. Maybe a small Rythmic sealed sub. I've read about lots of different passive nearfield speakers recently. Some of the better ones don't have a center speaker available, some have centers that just look too big. I'm currently using an ancient 2.1 Altec Lansing and would like a big improvement.

Any and all suggestions greatly appreciated.
 

jimfisheye

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Does anyone run 5.1 on their desktop?
Exclusively.
If so, where do you place the center channel? I was thinking of buying one of those monitor adjustable mounting brackets that fasten to the wall so I can move it just above the center speaker.
Um... directly front and center. What are you actually trying to ask though?

I'd like to buy an A/V receiver and a universal BluRay player for that room. If I not only wanted to listen to these disks there but also wanted to watch movies, and get Youtube audio from this system, how would I hook all that up to the computer and monitor?
A bluray machine would be redundant. The computer is your playback device.

Two main options for configuration:

1. Computer with thunderbolt port -> thunderbolt to HDMI cable -> receiver HDMI input

Required:
Computer with thunderbolt port or unrestricted HDMI port.
Receiver with unrestricted HDMI input.

Pros
Slick hookup. Just TB to HDMI cable. Hit play on your favorite media player app. (VLC player for example.)

Cons
WATCH OUT for intentionally restricted products!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Computers before 2011 didn't have thunderbolt. That's a hard line in the sand.
Beware some of the Windows running machines that may have a "display port" with video only (it's the same physical port as thunderbolt)!
Beware some Windows machines that have restricted HDMI output ports that deliver video only!
Beware some surround receivers with restricted HDMI inputs that only pass video!

2. Old school Computer -> audio interface (firewire, USB, thunderbolt, or HDMI) -> analog connection from interface to receiver

Required:
Receiver with analog inputs.

Pros
You can find modest USB interfaces that will run with just about any computer. Even 15 year old machines. Even Windows machines.

Cons
Slightly more complex hookup.
Analog connections from DA converter output on the audio interface to receiver.


The gotcha product to avoid:
Surround receiver with no usable full quality inputs. There are receivers made than both have no analog inputs and no unrestricted HDMI input. These will have a stereo digital input than can at best only be used with lossy encoded surround formats (dolby and dts). You do NOT want to get stuck with a product like this!


Amps and speakers haven't changed much.
Goes without saying that you need to decide between passive speakers and separate amps (like a receiver with the amp channels built in - which is a popular configuration) and powered speakers with amps built in. You wouldn't want to be aloof to that and buy amplifiers twice for example.

The 2nd option is probably more aligned with powered monitors. Line level outputs from the audio interface straight to the line inputs on the amps in the back of the powered speakers.
The 1st option is more aligned with a surround receiver. TB to HDMI cable from computer to receiver. Sit back and hit play.
 

doctors11

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Thanks for all that Jim. My question about the center channel is simply that if I put it front and center it will block the bottom of the monitor. That's why I thought a wall mounting bracket for the monitor would be helpful.

As to all the other info you provided, most went over my head. Are you saying I'll be able to play SACD, DVD-A, BluRay Audio, BlyRay movies and concerts all without a universal Bluray player? I have a growing collection of these discs and will continue to buy them as I simply like the idea of putting in a disc and hitting play. If the player has two hdmi outs and the monitor has a hdmi in can I not just run the audio/video hdmi cable to the monitor and the audio only hdmi cable to the a/v receiver? If so that leaves how to connect the computer to the receiver? I'm early in the process and don't mind purchasing a new pc and monitor if necessary to make this work.

Thanks again!
 

J. PUPSTER

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Exclusively.

Um... directly front and center. What are you actually trying to ask though?


A bluray machine would be redundant. The computer is your playback device.

Two main options for configuration:

1. Computer with thunderbolt port -> thunderbolt to HDMI cable -> receiver HDMI input

Required:
Computer with thunderbolt port or unrestricted HDMI port.
Receiver with unrestricted HDMI input.

Pros
Slick hookup. Just TB to HDMI cable. Hit play on your favorite media player app. (VLC player for example.)

Cons
WATCH OUT for intentionally restricted products!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Computers before 2011 didn't have thunderbolt. That's a hard line in the sand.
Beware some of the Windows running machines that may have a "display port" with video only (it's the same physical port as thunderbolt)!
Beware some Windows machines that have restricted HDMI output ports that deliver video only!
Beware some surround receivers with restricted HDMI inputs that only pass video!

2. Old school Computer -> audio interface (firewire, USB, thunderbolt, or HDMI) -> analog connection from interface to receiver

Required:
Receiver with analog inputs.

Pros
You can find modest USB interfaces that will run with just about any computer. Even 15 year old machines. Even Windows machines.

Cons
Slightly more complex hookup.
Analog connections from DA converter output on the audio interface to receiver.


The gotcha product to avoid:
Surround receiver with no usable full quality inputs. There are receivers made than both have no analog inputs and no unrestricted HDMI input. These will have a stereo digital input than can at best only be used with lossy encoded surround formats (dolby and dts). You do NOT want to get stuck with a product like this!


Amps and speakers haven't changed much.
Goes without saying that you need to decide between passive speakers and separate amps (like a receiver with the amp channels built in - which is a popular configuration) and powered speakers with amps built in. You wouldn't want to be aloof to that and buy amplifiers twice for example.

The 2nd option is probably more aligned with powered monitors. Line level outputs from the audio interface straight to the line inputs on the amps in the back of the powered speakers.
The 1st option is more aligned with a surround receiver. TB to HDMI cable from computer to receiver. Sit back and hit play.
Hi jimfisheye, do you know of any receivers that have all these inputs (for maximum options) analog inputs, USB, thunderbolt and HDMI (probably older legacy receivers?)
 

jimfisheye

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Hi jimfisheye, do you know of any receivers that have all these inputs (for maximum options) analog inputs, USB, thunderbolt and HDMI (probably older legacy receivers?)
I don't just off the top of my head, sorry. I've been using separate amps/speakers and audio interfaces for a long time.
I would look up Oppo stuff probably first though. They seem more about offering features than restrictions.

Analog inputs on most receivers will be unbalanced rca jacks. (Unbalanced can be just fine. Use as short cables as possible. Don't drape them over the TV.)
The USB input (if a receiver has one) will not be an interface connection. It will be a USB device connection (hard drives, flash drives) to play media from. A welcome progressive feature actually.
The HDMI port will be the interface connection for a computer. Again, watch out for video only HDMI!
I don't expect to see thunderbolt ports on consumer receivers. (Just like you don't see firewire or USB as a computer connection.)

HDMI is used almost certainly because it supports copy protection schemes. It can just shut off and leave you with silence and a blank screen.
This leads to scenarios where certain brands of devices don't talk to each other even though they should and you aren't pirating anything. So you really have to ask questions about HDMI and be prepared to return items and demand full refunds sometimes.
 
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quicksrt

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1. Computer with thunderbolt port -> thunderbolt to HDMI cable -> receiver HDMI input
Is thunerbolt found commonly on PCs, I though it was a Mac interface? And that USB3 would be a way to get a fast connection (other than HDMI) out of PC. OP does not state PC or Mac, but I guessed PC, my bad if I am incorrect.
 

J. PUPSTER

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I don't just off the top of my head, sorry. I've been using separate amps/speakers and audio interfaces for a long time.
I would look up Oppo stuff probably first though. They seem more about offering features than restrictions.

Analog inputs on most receivers will be unbalanced rca jacks. (Unbalanced can be just fine. Use as short cables as possible. Don't drape them over the TV.)
The USB input (if a receiver has one) will not be an interface connection. It will be a USB device connection (hard drives, flash drives) to play media from. A welcome progressive feature actually.
The HDMI port will be the interface connection for a computer. Again, watch out for video only HDMI!
I don't expect to see thunderbolt ports on consumer receivers. (Just like you don't see firewire or USB as a computer connection.)
I seem to remember reading somewhere that HDMI video only issue tripped up Jon on his latest computer build?
So it sounds like you're suggesting going from the computer to an Oppo DVD or Blu-ray player and then to an AVR or separates?
I have an Oppo 205 but it's not in my computer room (not near the computer), I have an older Dell computer with Soundblaster card with Firewire, analog 5.1 (out to speakers), Line-in connector (stereo?), 4 USB 2.0 (for drives etc.), S/PDIF (Toslink), & eSATA. Pretty sure the software handles at least 5.1 @ 24/96. No HDMI, and I don't know of any Firewire to HDMI adapters. I believe there are some older Sony maybe Pioneer receivers that have Firewire, but I've never used Firewire. I currently have Foobar2000 with much of my surround titles already ripped to USB SSDs.
Sounds like I need to do much more research to get my computer audio up to snuff!
 

JonUrban

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Well, you could add a sound card (remember those?) like this: Sound Blaster ZXR

Get a set of 5.1 speakers like these: Logitech 5.1 Speakers

Then use Foobar or another program to play DVDs, DVD-Audios, DTS CDs, and ripped SACDs.
The center speaker can live under or over your monitor.

[ NOTE: These items are merely suggestions and not endorsements. ]
 

J. PUPSTER

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Well, you could add a sound card (remember those?) like this: Sound Blaster ZXR

Get a set of 5.1 speakers like these: Logitech 5.1 Speakers

Then use Foobar or another program to play DVDs, DVD-Audios, DTS CDs, and ripped SACDs.
The center speaker can live under or over your monitor.

[ NOTE: These items are merely suggestions and not endorsements. ]
Yup, I think my current Sound Blaster may work with those kind of speakers, just have to check into it? That would probably do me, and save a lot of futzing around.
By the way Jon, how is that new computer build of yours going?
 

doctors11

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quicksrt I have an old Lenovo pc that I would be willing to upgrade if necessary to make this work.

JonUrban thanks. I'm looking for quite a bit higher quality speakers than that. I started researching what high quality speakers work best on a desktop, up against the wall in a nearfield environment. I've read about every review I could find including Audience The One, Quad S1, Harbeth P3-ESR, Golden Ear Aon 2, Gallo Strada 2, Rega RX-1, Wharfdale Reva 1, Salk Wow 1, Totem Kin Mini, Ascend SIerra Luna, Silverline Minuet Supreme Plus, Proac Tablette 10, Role Audio Kayak, Neat Iota, etc. I like the Totem idea because it's one of the least expensive, has great reviews, and has a decent and fairly small center channel.

So if I can be able to play my discs in this office set up, watch concerts and movies, and get sound from Youtube etc. here too, I'll be a happy camper. Can any of you suggest a universal player and receiver that would connect easily to a pc and monitor? I'm thinking of ruling out NAD and Anthem because I'm too technologically challanged to work with a laptop to figure out the room correction.

Many thanks!
 
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JonUrban

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quicksrt I have an old Lenovo pc that I would be willing to upgrade if necessary to make this work.

JonUrban thanks. I'm looking for quite a bit higher quality speakers than that......!
That's cool. I can surely relate

By the way Jon, how is that new computer build of yours going?
It's rocking. I have that very sound card indicated above and I have been using it for conversions and manipulations, along with converting stuff to 5.1 .flacs for the car. I don't use it for serious listening, but for file checks and editing, it's great.
 

jimfisheye

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I seem to remember reading somewhere that HDMI video only issue tripped up Jon on his latest computer build?
So it sounds like you're suggesting going from the computer to an Oppo DVD or Blu-ray player and then to an AVR or separates?
No. Computer straight to HDMI receiver.
This is designed to work. Any unit that doesn't function has a video only HDMI port or has audio disabled some other way. You take these back and get your money back! Trying to work around this by inserting other devices to try to strip off the copy protection codes that are shutting the HDMI connection down (and assuming it's this scenario and not a video only port) really should not be acceptable. "Your product has a bug." is an acceptable response when this comes up.

Total convenience and happiness and light with a single TB to HDMI cable when it works.
Some products or combinations of certain stubborn examples will make you think this is just wholly impossible!
Read the manuals before you buy. Email their tech support and customer service and ask specific questions.

Going the other route and using an audio interface eliminates ALL of the copy protection gone wild garbage and just works.
This route leads to doing your own thing with amps and speakers. Receivers typically include amplifiers... and you wouldn't want to be buying such things twice and leaving one set just sit there.

I recommend taking inventory and making a plan from that.
For example, if you already have your own separate amps for your speakers, might want to consider the audio interface route.
Older computer or budget machine without all the fancy ports? Consider the audio interface route again. (You at least have USB 2)

Audio interface's are going from firewire to thunderbolt for the "higher end" port. Not USB 3. As a rule anyway. There are probably a couple exceptions.
The fast interface port is only needed for low latency use. Low latency use is only needed for live sound applications. (Literally running live sound or a live performance rig.)
You don't need any of that to play back media. USB 2 interfaces are more than enough. Even 24/96 5.1 is actually pretty low throughput for this stuff.

If this helps:
Many of these products are combo products. For example, an HDMI sporting surround receiver is an HDMI audio interface, 6 or more channels of DA converters, an analog preamp, and 6 or more channels of amplifiers all in one box.
The game is:
Buy the right combo and/or separate units to have the pieces you need without buying some expensive pieces twice.
 
Last edited:

bevergerner

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Hello,
I use a Windows 10 computer with an AMD Ryzen 7 2700X CPU which is supported by 32 GB of RAM. My graphics card is a NVIDIA geforce 1050 GTX.
From my PC it goes via HDMI into an AVR, the Yamaha RX A 3070.
From there into a Sony TV - also via HDMI - which serves me as a screen.
So I can hear and watch CD, Bluray and files from harddisk. For this I use the software Foobar for video and for video (concerte) the Potplayer.
I have my center behind the TV on the wall on a shelf. This works very well for years. Watch video, concerte, music and TV.
Oh yes, for the connection to an analog receiver, I have an ASUS xonare essence stx sound card, which allows cinch the connection of an analog receiver.
Good luck with your search for the right configuration.
For further questions you can send me a mail

Greetings from Germany / Europe

Jörg
 

quicksrt

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No. Computer straight to HDMI receiver.
This is designed to work. Any unit that doesn't function has a video only HDMI port or has audio disabled some other way. You take these back and get your money back! Trying to work around this by inserting other devices to try to strip off the copy protection codes that are shutting the HDMI connection down (and assuming it's this scenario and not a video only port) really should not be acceptable. "Your product has a bug." is an acceptable response when this comes up.

Total convenience and happiness and light with a single TB to HDMI cable when it works.
Some products or combinations of certain stubborn examples will make you think this is just wholly impossible!
Read the manuals before you buy. Email their tech support and customer service and ask specific questions.

Going the other route and using an audio interface eliminates ALL of the copy protection gone wild garbage and just works.
This route leads to doing your own thing with amps and speakers. Receivers typically include amplifiers... and you wouldn't want to be buying such things twice and leaving one set just sit there.

I recommend taking inventory and making a plan from that.
For example, if you already have your own separate amps for your speakers, might want to consider the audio interface route.
Older computer or budget machine without all the fancy ports? Consider the audio interface route again. (You at least have USB 2)

Audio interface's are going from firewire to thunderbolt for the "higher end" port. Not USB 3. As a rule anyway. There are probably a couple exceptions.
The fast interface port is only needed for low latency use. Low latency use is only needed for live sound applications. (Literally running live sound or a live performance rig.)
You don't need any of that to play back media. USB 2 interfaces are more than enough. Even 24/96 5.1 is actually pretty low throughput for this stuff.

If this helps:
Many of these products are combo products. For example, an HDMI sporting surround receiver is an HDMI audio interface, 6 or more channels of DA converters, an analog preamp, and 6 or more channels of amplifiers all in one box.
The game is:
Buy the right combo and/or separate units to have the pieces you need without buying some expensive pieces twice.
What file types does your Yamaha AVR reject (via HDMI) if any? Dsf, some surround formats?

I ask because I have a friend who has a very nice Yamaha feature loaded model from only a few years ago, and I want to drag him into the music server world via JRiver / PC.

He plays files via thumb drive, but it goes into his Sony BluRay player rather than the AVR at the moment.
 

quicksrt

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Well, you could add a sound card (remember those?) like this: Sound Blaster ZXR

[ NOTE: These items are merely suggestions and not endorsements. ]
I’d like to get something like this card w/o headphone amp, and shave one half the cost off of it. Is the desktop controller something really needed as well, or is it a deluxe paper weight?
 

quicksrt

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Going the other route and using an audio interface eliminates ALL of the copy protection gone wild garbage and just works.
This route leads to doing your own thing with amps and speakers. Receivers typically include amplifiers... and you wouldn't want to be buying such things twice and leaving one set just sit there.

I recommend taking inventory and making a plan from that.
For example, if you already have your own separate amps for your speakers, might want to consider the audio interface route.
Older computer or budget machine without all the fancy ports? Consider the audio interface route again. (You at least have USB 2)

Audio interface's are going from firewire to thunderbolt for the "higher end" port. Not USB 3. As a rule anyway. There are probably a couple exceptions.
In regards to older computers, I’m on computer #5 now, and started out with only tos/link to receiver (stereo & DTS only), and worked my way up to a Dell Optiplex low profile model, and installed a HDMI port (it featured Display Port only), and jacked the ram to the max, and was flying high in a couple of hours once I had the first Oppo (audio interface route). So older computers can and should be considered if they can take a HDMI card into their pci-e slot when it’s not there already.

The HDMI pci cards sold standalone are often the models that do not reject audio pass. I think.

I see you are a Thunderbolt fan, I know.
 

boondocks

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An illustration, if you will, of how things can go right, and how things can go wrong.
For years my desktop playback has been from whatever analog outputs the motherboard has (currently Asus Z170) into my older Sherwood receiver. It's been trouble free until now, but the right rear output of the Sherwood has diminished to almost nothing.
Here's where the fun started: I swapped out the Sherwood for my old Onkyo TX-NR609, but it has no analog inputs. (BTW I previously used this receiver with my HTPC, where it was driven by the HDMI output of a 6450 video card. Worked just fine for bitstreaming from Foobar/PowerDVD/whatever!)
Anyway I have a newer Onkyo pulling double duty as HTPC/HT receiver so that freed up the 609 to use with my desktop pc.

The Onkyo NR609 is fed via HDMI from my pc's AMD 390X video card. The Onkyo, unlike in it's previous partial duty as HTPC receiver, had problems immediately;
Although my pc stays on all the time, my receiver does not. I use the video pass-through HDMI port on the receiver so when switched off the signal from the video card gets through. Problem is, switching on the receiver sometimes changes the video resolution to 640x480. Yuck! ....no idea why. Also instead of 5.1 sound after switching on the receiver, it often does not "see" the Onkyo as being an active HDMI capable device and so defaults to -shudder- stereo!
Fortunately a reboot or two clears these problems up. I say "fortunately" because that's all that kept me from getting out my BF Hammer this week and smashing the Onkyo to little pieces.
Now, the Onkyo will do 4K upconverting, but I have that turned off.

TL : DR short version;
Anyway, my point is that IF everything works correctly, you COULD forgo using a sound card, as even my HTPC's ancient 6450 works just fine for bitstreaming DTS-HD, DSD, etc, (although not 4K video-you need a serious video card for that).
But this model of Onkyo receiver is known for some HDMI problems (even though it worked fine with my HTPC) so I can only blame it as I can hardly see what else it could be.

So merely by using HDMI you start stepping in it; although it should be no problem. Also I've found installing the Realtek HDMI driver helps with recognition problems (I know you're there but I can't see you). I'm going to look for other versions and see if anything works better than the AMD/ATI driver I use.
Also, using your sound card's analog outs into a self powered speaker system as Jon mentioned works pretty good as well if you don't have a spare receiver with analog inputs (soon to be curiosities)
 

JonUrban

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I’d like to get something like this card w/o headphone amp, and shave one half the cost off of it. Is the desktop controller something really needed as well, or is it a deluxe paper weight?
For me? Paperweight. I never even took it out of the box (well, maybe I did once to look at it)
I spent the extra bucks to get the improved specs. Not sure why it was important, but I figured I was in spending mode so I went for it.
 

quicksrt

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For me? Paperweight. I never even took it out of the box (well, maybe I did once to look at it)
I spent the extra bucks to get the improved specs. Not sure why it was important, but I figured I was in spending mode so I went for it.
I've decided I want my SURROUND music collection to be playable on desktop PC with JRiver as well as the unit in living room. Can you or anyone suggest a 5.1 playback card (no recording needed) for PCI-e slot. Win 8 I think is on that computer. Or a USB3 outboard card if such a think exists. I thin k it's going to be like Jon got, but I nwant the specs, newer model, lower price, and no recording input needed. No deluxe paper weight either.
 

jimfisheye

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You'll have more options and better bang for the buck looking for USB 2 audio interfaces.

PCI card audio interfaces are either going to be ratty cheap or on the expensive side. The expensive stuff is aimed at low latency requirements for live sound and live performance systems. There isn't much in-between nowadays. Laptops being popular is one reason. Audio interfaces aren't using USB 3 either. They're using thunderbolt for the high end connection. Again, aimed at low latency needing rigs for live sound use.
 
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