HTPC Surround Sound For Dummies (2 Viewers)

Tesla

Portal Pro
January 30, 2009
138
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Texas
United States of America United States of America
With a dedicated (proper) receiver/amp you can use whatever dedicated sub-woofer you want.

With a HTiB or PC speaker set you are locked into what ever they give you (a matched set). The only exception would be if they specifically allow you to add additional speakers or components as options. To add a stand-alone sub-woofer to a HTiB, it would have to have a "sub-woofer out" port.

With a HTiB, the sub-woofer has to do it's thing as well as compensate for the fact that the small speakers really don't have properly sized woofers. They are minimal systems ... they will never sound as good as a dedicated component system with proper speakers and power.

With a HTiB, I think some of the power circuitry that is normally in the amp part is moved to the sub-woofer box to keep the amp part smaller. Like I said, a matched set. With a PC Speaker set, ALL the power circuitry it typically in the sub-woofer box.

In conclusion, with a little hacking you MIGHT be able to swap out the 5 small speakers (at additional cost) but the HTiB will likely not have enough power to drive them. I highly doubt you can swap out the main sub-woofer box.

Either get a HTiB or PC Speaker set and use it as is, or take that money and put it toward a dedicated component system. Use AVSForum ... the fact that it is for a HTPC doesn't matter because you are using Digital In. I can help you start building it here or over there (just point me to the thread).

For instance, you could get a nice basic amp, one set of bookshelf speakers, and a nice sub-woofer for about $600. You probably have an old set of speakers to use as surrounds temporarily (and a third one to use as a center). After you save some more money, buy a real Center Channel speaker. Next, move the new bookshelf speakers to surrounds, and buy a nice set of main left/right speakers. This is just an example, but hopefully you get the idea. You can build and modify your sound system just like a HTPC. When you buy a new component, buy a good one and you should be able to use it for many years.

Plus, you can use the sound-system for more than just the HTPC.

EDIT: Just re-read your post ... While you might be able to use Digital Out from the PC to the HTiB and leave your exsiting PC Speaker set attached to the PC's 1/8 analog ports ... whether they both will output and work and the same time and whether the 2 sound streams will be in sync with one another is the question. I kind of doubt it. On a properly setup system, the sound is decoded and outputted from one place.
 

FantaXP7

Portal Pro
February 3, 2009
204
1
What pc speakers exactly do you have? I am really familiar with cambridge soundworks stuff. Most likely you will not be able to use it for an alternate sub.

Check out this onkyo htib Newegg.com - ONKYO HT-S3100 Black 5.1 Channel Home Theater System

It is like the one my father has but a bit cheaper. The receiver still has many more options than the crappy sony, phillips and whatever else non-receiver making brand htib has and also much more power. You can also attache whatever speakers you want because there are no proprietary clips on the back of the receiver. The receiver in this onkyo htib is very minimalistic nowadays, however, I had a receiver maybe 6 years ago with very similar inputs and it cost me about $500. The norm these days is HDMI switching on the back and Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio. You will still get amazing sound from this receiver though with regular dolby digital and dts.

Personally, I think this would make for a great beginner set especially at that price. This is ofcourse if you are looking for something as cheap as those basic htib but with greater power and sound.

I will say that I agree through with Tesla. Buying a decent amp and starting with some speakers laying around is pretty much what I started with. You will also end up with more compatibility in the future if you buy your a decent amp. You know that pic of the cambridge sound works speaker you have in you profile pic? I use a pair of those for my surround right now. They would work nicely, and if you wanted to, you could buy the newer, more stylish version of that speaker for 29 a piece...which is a steal for how well they sound! They can be placed anywhere, center or main left and right. Good beginner speakers.

Cambridge SoundWorks: High Performance Speakers, Home Theater Systems, Table Radios, Multimedia Systems and More

There's a link. I know I keep preaching onkyo/cambdrige sound works, but that's because they provide a great bang for your buck. If you wanted to keep things on the cheaper side, I would look else where for a sub. They subs are greater, but there lowest priced sub is at $250.
 

Tesla

Portal Pro
January 30, 2009
138
4
Texas
United States of America United States of America
Fanta,

Yes, that's what I was thinking ... a basic 5.1/6.1 amp like my 5 year old Panny Amp (without the HDMI and newer Blu-Ray class HD audio decoding to save some bucks). And yes, it will still play Blu-Ray fine.

The Onkyo HT-S3100 is a nice find. Plenty of power for the included speakers (and even larger if you want to swap out a pair or 2 later). I would barely call it a HTiB ... not like others I have seen. It also has the Digital IN that he needs.

For $100 more, you can get the HT-S3200 that includes HDMI (but lowers the power a bit). For his use, more power might be better (depends on what all he is hooking up).

If only it had a line-level sub-woofer output. But, as long as you can control the sub-woofer volume separately, I guess it doesn't matter. I think most stand-alone subs still provide both line and high level anyway. Nothing to worry about DCWP ... just planning your Sub-Woofer upgrade (in a couple of years) for you :D
 

dcwp

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  • October 9, 2006
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    Astana
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    Thanks so much for all the help and patience as I try to figure this all out. I have to admit that when I started thinking about an audio upgrade, I had no idea how pricey it would be. With most things related to the HTPC, $200 is more than enough to get a substantial upgrade - going from basic SD to 1080i for example. But what I've come to realize is that I shouldn't treat audio as a component like a video card, but rather as a display device like a flatscreen.

    With that understanding, I think you're both right that I shouldn't try to start halfway and then build off a crappy system, but rather wait until I can afford a decent basic component and build slowly from a solid base. Just like when I decided to go with a decent screen I didn't just buy a bigger CRT to hold me over until I could afford LCD. Well, actually someone gave me a larger CRT (the one in my profile pic) in the interim, but the point is that I didn't waste money on a bigger but still mediocre display device. The reason for all the strange questions in this thread has been trying to figure out if there is a good way to start cheap.

    There may be cheaper options to start playing with surround, but they are all options that don't allow later building; even a decent PC speaker kit is above the 100-200 dollar range I was hoping to spend on audio. So I think I'll put the audio upgrade on hold indefinitely, at least until I can afford a receiver that I know will serve as a base for many years of upgrades to come. I'm just finishing up a major system upgrade and can't really justify another large purchase for a while, especially when my 2.1 system is just fine and nobody else in the house has any desire for an audio upgrade.

    But I do want to extend a HUGE thank you :D:D:Dto all of you who have helped me gain a better understanding of surround sound. I've been reading AVS for a few years and it's always been pretty intimidating, but now I feel confident enough to start posting there. :)

    Fanta - Honestly I'm not sure what model the Cambridge system is that I have. If it helps it's the one in this pic https://forum.team-mediaportal.com/...56d1236467893-diary-htpc-dabbler-hpim0399.jpg (my first attempt at HTPC ca 2005 AD). The bookshelfs in that pic go with the turntable above Charlie the dog. The Cambridge is really clear and plenty powerful for my space so I am happy to continue using it.

    Thanks again for the free education!

    I posted that before I saw your response Tesla. I appreciate you planning my upgrades so far into the future :D I'll be sure to check back in in a couple of years.
     

    Dodgy Bob

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  • July 10, 2008
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    One thing that occurred to me recently (why not before, I don't know) is that I can easily stash a component in the attic directly above the TV/HTPC. The previous owners of this house insulated and finished part of the attic so it doesn't get too hot or dusty, but the room is cramped and useless to me for anything but storage. I can easily put a receiver there and run the connecting lines down through the wall, achieving the invisibility my wife wants and the quality I want. Heck, if it weren't for the optical drive and power button, I could put the entire HTPC setup up there.
    Take a look at this. I think it's exactly what you need...
     

    dcwp

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  • October 9, 2006
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    Wow, that's very cool! I can't wait to see it once all the images are migrated to the right place. Right now the biggest deterrent for me not to g with an attic mounted system is the optical drive and power button. In this one, it looks like he actually goes into the attic every time he needs to load a disk. That could be dealt with by an external OD hidden behind the TV or even by ripping on a laptop and transferring over LAN to the server, but it would be an extra hassle. As for the Power, I can't think of a very good way to handle it from a different room. I find myself having to hard shutoff once in a while if the system freezes and going up to the attic would just add to the frustration. I know IMon makes an IR receiver that plugs into the power header on the MoBo and maybe I could use an IR relay to get from the living room to that, but I actually like my current remote setup and it sounds pricey just to get remote power control.

    Anyway, more great stuff to think about. Maybe I'll get excited about this sometime in the summer.

    Thanks for the link.
     

    Dodgy Bob

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  • July 10, 2008
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    Look down the thread. He's has the power button and DVD drive for the PC in the loft in the lounge.
     

    dcwp

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  • October 9, 2006
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    Ah, very cool. I hadn't noticed that before, just an earlier post where he said he had to run up to the attic every time he wanted to insert a DVD.

    I'll bookmark this thread for a later build some day. This week though I moved my HTPC into a Silverstone LC04 case so right now I'm happy to have it in the living room, sexy sexy. Some day when I've got more cash to play with and I've upgraded my sound, I'd like to put a client in the bedroom. Maybe that would be the time to put most of my hardware in the attic and use the LC04 in the bedroom, leaving the living room free and clear.
     

    SwissBuster

    Portal Pro
    June 27, 2008
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    I think a set of 5.1 speakers from logitech would do you just fine, they sound pretty good.
    I went through the same dillema as you. I was concerned about adding an extra box (the amp) under the TV as well as the cost of a decent 5 speaker set and amp. Whilst deliberating on this, a local store had a deal on the Logitech Z5500 so I decided to give this a go.

    I'm very happy with the setup. I'm using it is a large open plan living area (7m x 8m) and the sound is fine. I'm not an audiophile but need a decent sound quality.

    The Z5500 has a sub-woofer which powers the speakers and serves as an amp. This is a pretty large box that you have to hide somewhere (but not necessarily under the TV - mine is behind the couch). I'm not sure it would work if you put it in your attic, though. The satelite speakers are reasonable dainty and unobtrusive.

    I've connected the HDMI cable from HTPC to TV, and the sound then transfers out from the TV to the Z5500 with an optical cable. This choice was made because I can hide one (thin) optical cable under the skirting boards. I could have used the SPDIF out from my motherbaord but that meant too much tinkering in the HTPC box. Or I could have used the audio out jacks from PC but this meant feeding 6 cables to different parts of the room. The only downside on my setup is that the TV has to be on to listen to surround sound.

    I also use a Logitech Harmny remote so I can control both TV sound and surround sound with one remote. Before anyone asks, I'm not in an way connected with Logitech.
     

    dcwp

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  • October 9, 2006
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    Thanks for the note SwissBuster. Sometimes I feel like a spokesperson for Logitech and a couple of other companies that I tend to buy from. They just do a lot of things right and at a good pricepoint.

    I've looked at that system a bit and it looks good. I am fortunate to have a pretty good hiding spot for a sub so I think that will be easy when I get to it. Hopefully I'll get to start thinking about this seriously again soon, but for now I've recently joined the growing horde of people with much more free time but much less income. Once I've got steady work again I'll have to revisit this thread.
     

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