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Media Players for Multi-channel Audio and Music Video

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HomerJAU

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I want to start a series of threads and posts on QQ for those members that may be curious to find out how to digitise and play their multichannel music via a Media Player. Specifically, how to play hi-res multichannel music on current equipment by adding a single little box to an equipment rack (via a HDMI connection).

It’s not going to favour a specific hardware vendor, in fact I will show what can be done using free open source software called ‘Kodi’, since I have been using that for more than 2yrs now and it has some great features that many of QQ members will love. Of course, some members are already using Kodi and I’d encourage them to add further info and opinions too.

I will concentrate on multichannel compatibility for music (audio only and music video). Suitable hardware will play quad, 5.0 and 5.1 - many will play 7.1 and new Dolby Atmos/DTS:X via HDMI pass-through.

This is something that is quite easy to do and can be quite inexpensive (starting at around USD100 to get perfect digital mch audio with no loss of fidelity). Users can have instant access to their music collections, play something with the touch of a button and create play lists containing any media, even mixing audio and music video. A couch potato's dream :)

I’m going to cover a few topics over a few weeks, following something like this:
  1. Intro: Why use a Media Player? (Pros and Cons)
  2. Kodi for Multichannel Music Playback (specific features and example hardware)
  3. Media File Formats, organisation & storage (How to play music in Kodi)
  4. Converting music Media for Media Player Playback (with reference to many existing threads and posts on QQ)
  5. Kodi Customisation: Artist Slideshows/Biographies, Disc Art etc
  6. Remote Control Apps for Music
Here’s a few typical screen grabs when using Kodi for music (audio only – there’s a fair bit of extra info and automated artist slideshow when music is playing – if you want to have a TV going)

Playing Albums: (audio only – there’s a fair bit of extra info and automated artist slideshow when music is playing – if you want to have a TV going)

Current song with artist slideshow:


TV screen has various view option. This one shows Artists:



Here's another Artist view (as a list with user fanart):



Playing Music Videos:

A view of Music Videos:


Click a Concert/Video above shows tracks:


Select a track above and it plays (1080p HD in this example) and 5.1 surround:



Using a the free Kodi Remote Control App: (Browse and Select media from an iPad/iPhone/Android Phone/Tablet etc - while playing current selection):

Remote App for interaction with the media player: (or you can use a convention wireless remote) - this is an iPad screen grab:


Or browse and select music or videos without a TV interface:



If anyone has thoughts on this topic or suggestions to what should be added please post away!

I'd also welcome any help from fellow QQ members already using Media Players to 'spread the word' here.

Garry
 
Last edited:

JonUrban

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Excellent idea and the start of a new forum section, moderated by Garry (HomerJAU)

Hopefully I will learn something, and others will too! :)
 

PK

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I’m going to cover a few topics over a few weeks, following something like this:


  1. Intro: Why use a Media Player? (Pros and Cons)
  2. Kodi for Multichannel Music Playback (specific features and example hardware)
  3. Media File Formats, organisation & storage (How to play music in Kodi)
  4. Converting music Media for Media Player Playback (with reference to many existing threads and posts on QQ)
  5. Kodi Customisation: Artist Slideshows/Biographies, Disc Art etc
  6. Remote Control Apps for Music

Garry
Sounds like a "For Dummies" book which would be right up my alley:D Thanks
 

HomerJAU

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Sounds like a "For Dummies" book which would be right up my alley:D Thanks
Thanks PK. It's hard to work out at what level to pitch this. But my goal is to get many QQ members into this new tech as it really is so rewarding and a great add-on to our hobby. Its something I use every day too. My best investment for a very long time.

I'd rather start this section with something simple, then build from there. For some experienced users this will be too easy and others it will seem quite difficult. So feedback and patience is required.

I'm no expert but I've been 'playing' with media players for surround music for about 3 years now and so I probably know more than some but less than others. But I really do want to share this with our membership here. I'm now retired so I have plenty of spare time (ex computer programmer so I'm comfortable with IT, I have no affiliation with any vendors etc)

For those of you that are interested and motivated (and have some spare time), it won't take too long or much cash to get something going. Once you get a media player, install some s/w and convert a couple of albums you'll see the immediate potential I'm sure.

Then it's just how far do you want to go? Do you just do your DVD-As? Add your music videos? Just do your favourite discs? ....

This should be seen as a community effort. I'm expecting us all to learn and hoping others will contribute too.
 

GOS

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Garry, this is a wonderful idea for a thread and I'm sure it will be filled with lots of great pointers. Thanks for taking the effort.
 

Analogueghost

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How does KODI handle high resolution files? DSD?
Kodi will take any high res FLAC or other lossless file and play it perfectly. Most commonly, high resolution signals in Kodi are sent out as bitstream and/or PCM via HDMI to your AVR, although I've seen reference to some people using USB DACs in some forks/builds of the software. I generally let Kodi decode everything to PCM, personally. A USB DAC should simply take over as your soundcard in Kodi, but I've never tested it myself. Might be a good direction for Garry to investigate in this awesome new thread.

Some people are reverting to the old way of using their PC's analogue outs since a few motherboard and sound card manufacturers are starting to take their DACs and output stages seriously now.

DSD is transcoded to PCM, which is as good as we're going to get for now sadly. My understanding it that since some parts of the pure DSD signal flow and/or DoP encoding requires non-open source plugins we're not likely to see it any time soon. (Kodi itself is open source, meaning that everything contained in the official software package needs to be open source as well.) That said, the Kodi team has also said that no DSD playback will ever happen (which is has) and that there would never be an android version of Kodi (which there is), so anything could happen down the road. It might also show up as a third party plugin. Also, Kodi does support the ability to use other software as a "renderer," which reduces Kodi to a front end navigation system for that file type and allows you to choose other software to playback different formats, which might be an effective way to do this.
 

stormchaser

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I'm looking forward to this, as I need to figure out if I am missing anything by just having my PC output via coax to my MC receiver. To be clear, at this point, I really haven't ripped any of my hirez surround stuff to my HD (this basic thread may help me decide if there is any value to that other than not having to fool with changing discs in my OPPO).
 

Kal Rubinson

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Kodi will take any high res FLAC or other lossless file and play it perfectly.
Are there numbers for 6channel files?

A USB DAC should simply take over as your soundcard in Kodi, but I've never tested it myself. Might be a good direction for Garry to investigate in this awesome new thread.
Yes. I didn't ask about this because it is OT but I hope so.

DSD is transcoded to PCM, which is as good as we're going to get for now sadly.
Again, numbers DSD64, DSD128, DSD256.........?

Also, Kodi does support the ability to use other software as a "renderer," which reduces Kodi to a front end navigation system for that file type and allows you to choose other software to playback different formats, which might be an effective way to do this.
Again OT but most interesting.
 

HomerJAU

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Kodi will take any high res FLAC or other lossless file and play it perfectly. Most commonly, high resolution signals in Kodi are sent out as bitstream and/or PCM via HDMI to your AVR, although I've seen reference to some people using USB DACs in some forks/builds of the software. I generally let Kodi decode everything to PCM, personally. A USB DAC should simply take over as your soundcard in Kodi, but I've never tested it myself. Might be a good direction for Garry to investigate in this awesome new thread.
Thanks for your great answer Analogueghost!

I don't have an AVR that accepts DSD so I won't be able to do ant practical tests. Maybe a DSD enthusiast may chime in with any Kodi experience. Having said that, I am helping a friend here with his first Kodi setup and he does have a DSD AVR so maybe we can look at DSD too.

DSD is transcoded to PCM, which is as good as we're going to get for now sadly...
In my early days of SACD I decided I couldn't hear the difference between DSD (via analogue out) vs. DSD to PCM via HDMI so I've never pursued DSD further.

My setup (probably very typical for most MCH users) is:

Media Player -> HDMI -> AVR -> Speakers (and -> HDMI -> TV and Projector)

The AVR does all the heavy lifting. DTS-HDMA/Dolby Digital etc decoding, if required, D/A conversion, Amplification, Room/EQ Correction, bass management etc. Simple and effective.
 

HomerJAU

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Are there numbers for 6channel files?

Yes. I didn't ask about this because it is OT but I hope so.

Again, numbers DSD64, DSD128, DSD256.........?

Again OT but most interesting.
My current Kodi setup plays FLAC correctly at all 16 and 24 bit sample rates I've tried: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192kHz. It recognises and plays correctly all MCH channel layouts I've tried: Quad, 4.1, 5.0, 5.1, 7.1.

I can play 6 ch 24/192 from FLAC files or DTS-HDMA files.

Edit: For those of you not into numbers this means it's capable of correctly playing back MCH from all current source formats (once converted to a hard disc - DSD converted to PCM for SACD)
 

Kal Rubinson

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My current Kodi setup plays FLAC correctly at all 16 and 24 bit sample rates I've tried: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192kHz. It recognises and plays correctly all MCH channel layouts I've tried: Quad, 4.1, 5.0, 5.1, 7.1.

I can play 6 ch 24/192 from FLAC files or DTS-HDMA files.

Edit: For those of you not into numbers this means it's capable of correctly playing back MCH from all current source formats (once converted to a hard disc - DSD converted to PCM for SACD)
Thanks.
 

Analogueghost

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Again, numbers DSD64, DSD128, DSD256.........?
That's a good question. DSD playback is pretty new in Kodi and seems to be held at arms length by the dev team, so it will take quite a while for it to mature. I haven't even tried it out yet personally since my SACD rips aren't on my network drive yet. I'll download some sample files of the higher res formats to try out and report back.

My experience with PCM based formats mirrors Garry's. I've been able to play FLAC files with 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 4.1, 5.0, and 5.1 channels up to 24/96 without issue on appropriate hardware. (The first generation Raspberry pi choked, but that was an early software build for the platform. Probably works fine now.) My test file for video is an Akira blu-ray rip, which is TrueHD 5.1 at 24/192. Plays like a champ on most hardware.
 

LuvMyQuad

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As Garry knows, I started this media player journey about six months ago, and he has helped me out tremendously.

I now have my entire music collection on NAS with the exception of SACD's and Bluray disks. The BR issue can be remedied by purchasing a BR player that I can connect to my PC, at which point I would be able to copy BR disks as well. The SACD issue is still an issue, and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.

My experience as a newbie would suggest you not worry about starting with too basic a set of topics. Even relatively simple things should be discussed. For example, what type of directory structure and file naming conventions are you going to build your music library with. Over the course of time, I have changed those options a few times as I got further into it. There is a learning curve involved in assembling and using the software required to rip various kinds of media that you are likely to encounter. I use one package for CD's. I use another for DVD-A's, and yet another for DTS. It takes some time to figure this all out. Fortunately most of the software required is freeware.

Tagging is also important. Kodi will not load music files into its library unless it is properly tagged. This is not to say it wont play those files, they just wont load into the library and be capable of producing all the neat functions that Garry shows in the screen shots above. For example, Kodi will play DFF files, but since they aren't tagable, they wont load into the library.

I learned early on (again, from Garry) to be sure to tag prior to loading music files on the NAS, because if it is done after placed on the NAS, the files become fragmented. I also learned early on, that if I want rip both the 2.0 and the 5.1 tracks from a DVDA, the album title tags for each need to be something like "Album (2.0)" and "Album (5.1)". Else all the tracks will show up in the library as being contained in the same album. Of course, depending on your preferences, that may be something you want, preferring to tag each song title as 2.0 or 5.1).

I am very much looking forward to Garry and some of you others being involved in these threads.

EDIT: for those of you that might want to read about my journey (so far) down this rabbit hole, check out this link
 

LuvMyQuad

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After looking for a reasonably priced but high quality HTPC to serve as my media player for a while now, I finally found and settled on one of these.

For under $200 shipped, I have a 4th gen quad core i5, SSD with Windows 7 installed, 4 gig memory, WI-FI, HDMI out, and an HDMI capture card, all in a decent looking box. Its supposed to be new. I did some research and this looks like an OEM hardware box made for a WOW TV collaboration suite that has been re-purposed as a HTPC. The specs seem more than up to the task, and the price was very reasonable compared to a similarly outfitted NUC. I'm not sure how I might use the HDMI input yet, if at all.

The seller is still listing them with 3rd gen processors and no HDMI capture starting at $100 if anyone is interested.
 

quicksrt

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After looking for a reasonably priced but high quality HTPC to serve as my media player for a while now, I finally found and settled on one of these.

For under $200 shipped, I have a 4th gen quad core i5, SSD with Windows 7 installed, 4 gig memory, WI-FI, HDMI out, and an HDMI capture card, all in a decent looking box. Its supposed to be new. I did some research and this looks like an OEM hardware box made for a WOW TV collaboration suite that has been re-purposed as a HTPC. The specs seem more than up to the task, and the price was very reasonable compared to a similarly outfitted NUC. I'm not sure how I might use the HDMI input yet, if at all.

The seller is still listing them with 3rd gen processors and no HDMI capture starting at $100 if anyone is interested.
I'm going for something like this except I am looking at i7 with 16g of memory. I want to be able to pump video through it, and will need fast search through 10 TBs of media files. So it might not be overkill with the 16 Gs of ram. Looking at JRiver as my player.
 

marpow

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I'm going for something like this except I am looking at i7 with 16g of memory. I want to be able to pump video through it, and will need fast search through 10 TBs of media files. So it might not be overkill with the 16 Gs of ram. Looking at JRiver as my player.
I am taking notes. I am obsessed with gathering info on the whole subject at hand.
 

HomerJAU

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I'm going for something like this except I am looking at i7 with 16g of memory. I want to be able to pump video through it, and will need fast search through 10 TBs of media files. So it might not be overkill with the 16 Gs of ram. Looking at JRiver as my player.
An i7 or 16GB RAM will not help with fast searching your 10TB of media. Disc speed will limit your search, especially if it's 5400 rpm USB or NAS drives or if you are on a wifi or 100Mb network.

You won't need an i7 for video either. My i3 4th gen handles bluray 1080p video and DTS-HDMA or Dolby Atmos without a glitch. HD video decoding is done on modern processors not in software.

Even new el cheapo 1GHz processors can do 4K video decoding onboard and produce 'perfect' video via HDMI 2.0 with complete 4K media players selling for under $100.
 

quicksrt

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An i7 or 16GB RAM will not help with fast searching your 10TB of media. Disc speed will limit your search, especially if it's 5400 rpm USB or NAS drives or if you are on a wifi or 100Mb network.

You won't need an i7 for video either. My i3 4th gen handles bluray 1080p video and DTS-HDMA or Dolby Atmos without a glitch. HD video decoding is done on modern processors not in software.

Even new el cheapo 1GHz processors can do 4K video decoding onboard and produce 'perfect' video via HDMI 2.0 with complete 4K media players selling for under $100.
You really drove my comments right off the tracks. Of course the 16 g of memory is used for a lot more than media searches, yet you don't comment on that.

Of course I am using much faster drives than 5400 rpm speed. And of course I have the major paths of potential resistance hard wired.

Hummmm.
 
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