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Info: HD audio from PC

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So, I was thinking about getting a proper receiver for my home theater but I’m not sure if it would be worth it or what else I’d need to be able to get HD audio from my PC. Currently, I have this Panasonic home theater, which only has one HDMI connector, which I use to hook it up to my projector.

For watching movies on the projector, I also have my computer hooked up to the Panasonic HT via toslink through this ASUS soundcard (I have a separate set of 5.1 PC speakers hooked directly to the soundcard for when I’m using the PC normally with its monitors on the other side of the room).

Now, I’m very happy with the audio quality when I play BDs directly on the Panasonic (my living room isn’t huge and I live in an apartment building, so it’s booming enough for my needs) but the toslink PC audio definitely leaves something to be desired, because I can only get 5.1 audio from it through lossy Dolby Digital Live.

Since I prefer to play movies (including BDs) though my PC’s MPC-HC, because the PQ is better that way and it gives me a lot of options that hardware playback doesn’t (like adding grain on the fly, changing subtitle font and size or adjusting colors and contrast without f*cking with my projector’s settings), I’d like to get the same lossless audio quality I get from playing BDs directly on the Panasonic Home Theater system.

What are my options?

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The playback software you’re using doesn’t have a pass-through option to hand over the audio to the receiver untouched? I don’t see this as a hardware problem, either in the PC or the receiver. Just seems like a software problem. Whether that is simply a configuration issue, or if you just need to switch to something like Kodi for your playback/library software, I don’t know, as I am not familiar with the player you are talking about.

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I was hoping someone could help me with exactly that - what settings to use to get pass-through.
But it is a hardware issue as well, because you can’t get lossless 5.1/7.1 through toslink.

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Whoops, I skipped over the lossless portion of your question for some reason. Toslink’s bandwidth problem does bring up another issue. If you’re connecting the PC’s video via HDMI, why not also the audio? What type of video hardware is in your PC? My Nvidia stuff gives me the capability to shovel the audio over HDMI if I wish. I haven’t had any ATI/AMD hardware experience in so many years that I can’t say for sure, but I imagine they also have the same capability.

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Yeah, seems you also skipped over the having-only-one-hdmi-connector-in-HT part of my question 😉

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Well, looks like it’s time to stop lurking on the ROTJ Despecialized thread and actually try to contribute something.

It seems like you have a few options. Without considering a new AV receiver, you may be able to send a direct audio bitstream via your soundcard’s TOSLINK output with MPC-HC. This bypasses any processing your sound card would do and lets the home theater system deal with the Dolby or DTS encoded data directly, instead of converting it to PCM (or Dolby Digital Live). The only issue is that the bandwidth limit of S/PDIF doesn’t allow DTS-HD MA or Dolby TrueHD bitstreams. For this, you would need an HDMI connection, but it seems your Panasonic unit only has an HDMI out, not HDMI in. If you can live without DTS-HD MA or Dolby TrueHD, you can enable direct bitstreaming in MPC-HC using this guide, although you would have to leave DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD unchecked when you get to the last step.

If you do want to consider buying a new AV receiver, I would recommend future proofing yourself a little and getting one that supports the (relatively) new Dolby Atmos format and the (brand) new DTS:X format. There’s a fairly comprehensive list of recievers that support these formats here. Keep in mind that the prices there won’t always be accurate, since these things go on sale all the time.

There are a few features that you might want to consider to help you narrow down what you want:
-Price - Obviously
-Number of channels - You can save some money by not going too far beyond your current 5.1 setup, although adding more will definitely take advantage of the “object oriented” approach of Atmos/DTS:X
-DTS:X itself - There isn’t a lot of support for this yet, so deciding you want it will definitely limit your options, although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Fewer options makes choosing easier!
-HDCP - Some receivers still don’t support the newest HDCP standard (2.2) for their HDMI inputs, which you will need if you want to view any UHD (4K, 4K/3D) content in the future.
-Upscaling - Some can upscale video content to 4K
-Network features - Some are wireless, others require ethernet. Some have features that are bluetooth enabled, can play internet radio, and can even play audio files over your home network.
-Audessy/Other automatic optimizers - Some receivers come with microphones that measure the output/delay of your speakers and automatically configure your sound for you.
-Total Harmonic Distortion / Signal to noise ratio - Putting too much stock into this is how you end up spending a ton of money on a reciever. Without going into too much detail, these determine the quality of your sound output.

I did a lot of research recently while shopping for a new receiver and ended up going with the Denon S910W. In my opinion, it’s the best “budget” (~$500USD) receiver. I’ve had it for a few weeks now, and it does everything I want and more.

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Harmy said:

I was hoping someone could help me with exactly that - what settings to use to get pass-through.
But it is a hardware issue as well, because you can’t get lossless 5.1/7.1 through toslink.

Harmy - this is the reason that most audiophile home theater guys break up their systems into separate the receiver/amps and speakers. When it’s an all in one system - it’s very hard to modify/upgrade and “future proof”. Looking at the manual for the device, don’t see any way for you to get your lossless sound from your computer into this system as there isn’t input that can handle it. I think you are stuck needing to buy a dedicated receiver with more inputs. Then comes the fun part of trying to decide if you want to reuse the speakers that are wired for this system or getting new ones. In my honest opinion - I’d sell/dump this system and get a dedicated receiver with new speakers/sub.

I’m with DeadPirateJosh - Denon’s intro receivers are very good for the $. I love the sound of the Harmon Kardons but frankly I had markedly less audio issues with the Denon and PS3/BD connectivity. I’ve been running a Denon 1909 now for what 6+ years and I haven’t looked back…yet.

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dogdoctor said:

Harmy said:

I was hoping someone could help me with exactly that - what settings to use to get pass-through.
But it is a hardware issue as well, because you can’t get lossless 5.1/7.1 through toslink.

Harmy - this is the reason that most audiophile home theater guys break up their systems into separate the receiver/amps and speakers. When it’s an all in one system - it’s very hard to modify/upgrade and “future proof”. Looking at the manual for the device, don’t see any way for you to get your lossless sound from your computer into this system as there isn’t input that can handle it. I think you are stuck needing to buy a dedicated receiver with more inputs. Then comes the fun part of trying to decide if you want to reuse the speakers that are wired for this system or getting new ones. In my honest opinion - I’d sell/dump this system and get a dedicated receiver with new speakers/sub.

I’m with DeadPirateJosh - Denon’s intro receivers are very good for the $. I love the sound of the Harmon Kardons but frankly I had markedly less audio issues with the Denon and PS3/BD connectivity. I’ve been running a Denon 1909 now for what 6+ years and I haven’t looked back…yet.

I agree. You could still (re)use your current system as a standalone blu-ray player, and/or connect your actual speakers to the new AV amplifier, but I think that a new set of good quality (and not necessarily expensive) speakers should be a better option.

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ebike said:

I agree. You could still (re)use your current system as a standalone blu-ray player, and/or connect your actual speakers to the new AV amplifier, but I think that a new set of good quality (and not necessarily expensive) speakers should be a better option.

I thought of that too - but since Harmy says he uses his PC for most of the blu-ray playback, the current player/receiver is kind of redundant. The issue with his speakers is that, from what I can tell, is that they appear to have proprietary male plugs to attach to the back of the receiver. Whenever I see that I have not ever seen standard speaker wire running to the speakers. That would cause me to worry about simply cutting the plugs and running these speakers on a new receiver. I’m with you - I would get a new set of speaker as well and use the sale of the old system to offset the cost.

The end results will be a much better system that is far more customizeable and upgradeable for when future hardware changes are needed.

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Thank you guys!

I would keep the speakers and the player - the speakers do have proprietary connectors but they connect through standard audio cables - I know this for sure, because I had to extend the length of some of the cables.
And I do still need a BD player as well - for BD3D playback, for stuff that requires a menu, like bonus features and BD Live and stuff and I also need it for when my PC is busy rendering or something and I don’t want to put extra strain on it.

Another problem I have is that I need to still be able to use the normal PC speakers for when I’m not using the projector.

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I’ll be in the same PC situation in a bit. I still need a new soundcard but just received my new receiver, the Onkyo 626 refurbished from Accessories4Less. The receiver is the key difference in SQ, but be forewarned, new receivers are a total pain in the rear to calibrate. I’m still fiddling with mine. And it just doesn’t seem to want to do old school ProLogic matrixing without massive channel bleeding.

Eventually better speakers would be a good upgrade; mine are much older but still killer for bookshelves. (Klipsch kg .5) My sub is pretty old so it can’t quite get as low as newer units but still packs a nice punch. From everything I’ve read, the goal would be to eventually have floorstanding full range speakers for the front mains.

I hope to soon get an HDMI capable soundcard so I can just run my PC into the receiver and playback mkvs etc. without having to reconvert for PS3. AFAIK this is the only way to achieve modern lossless codecs from PC to receiver.

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Harmy said:

Thank you guys!

I would keep the speakers and the player - the speakers do have proprietary connectors but they connect through standard audio cables - I know this for sure, because I had to extend the length of some of the cables.
And I do still need a BD player as well - for BD3D playback, for stuff that requires a menu, like bonus features and BD Live and stuff and I also need it for when my PC is busy rendering or something and I don’t want to put extra strain on it.

Another problem I have is that I need to still be able to use the normal PC speakers for when I’m not using the projector.

Harmy - I’m confused. What do you mean proprietary plugs and standard cable. If you go to a basic AVR that can handle HDMI and Coax Digital Audio Codecs - you will need traditional speaker wire and/or banana plugs and speakers that can handle the appropriate wattage. An AVR that we are talking about will not use the proprietary plugs you speak of.

Rereading your original post:

PC Audio Card -> 5.1 computer speakers.
PC Audio Card -> toslink -> Panasonic BD/HT Combo.
Panasonic BD/HT -> HMDI -> Projector.

Do you ever connect the PC to the projector for video? And if so how?

And what you want is:

PC Audio Card -> 5.1 Computer Speakers.
PC Audio Card -> HMDI OUT -> AVR -> Speakers.
Pansonic BD/HT Device -> HDMI OUT -> AVR -> Speakers/Projector

Correct?

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Yeah, sure, the speakers are connected with traditional speaker cables but with proprietary male connectors on the receiver’s end, so I could either cut off the connectors or get new cables. Rither way, the speakers can be connected to a different AVR.

And I currently have what you describe :

A) PC Audio Card -> 5.1 computer speakers.
B) PC Audio Card -> toslink -> Panasonic BD/HT Combo.
C) Panasonic BD/HT -> HMDI -> Projector.

plus
X) PC Video Card -> DisplayPort -> 4K TV
Y) PC Video Card -> HDMI -> 1080p monitor (in dual desktop mode with the 4K TV)
Z) PC Video Card -> DVI-HDMI cable -> Projector (cloned with the smaller monitor)

And what I’d like would be:
PC Audio Card -> 5.1 Computer Speakers. (to be used with X and Y above)
PC Video Card -> HDMI -> AVR -> Speakers/Projector (to be used instead of B and Z)
Pansonic BD/HT Device -> HDMI OUT -> AVR -> Speakers/Projector

And I pretty much had all that figured out, I just need to know really, if (and how) I can get lossless HD audio from the PC that way.

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Harmy said:
And I pretty much had all that figured out, I just need to know really, if (and how) I can get lossless HD audio from the PC that way.

Yes, as long as you have PC Video Card -> HDMI -> AVR, you can directly bitstream the lossless audio through the HDMI. This can be enabled pretty easily in MPC-HC (in Options, go to Interal Filters, click Audio Decoders and under Bitstreaming check all the boxes for the audio types that you want to bitstream). As long as you have an AVR that can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA, this will do exactly what you want.

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Harmy - explain the picture in lay terms. What is the issue?

EDIT: Upon further searching I realized the issue but DreadPirateJosh is on it! I’m sure you’ll be able to get this to work.

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Okay, there are a few things I would try. First, try installing the newest version of MPC-HC, which should come with its own internal LAV filters.
https://mpc-hc.org/downloads/

If that doesn’t work, then you can manually install LAV Filters and add them as external filters in MPC-HC. You can download them from http://www.videohelp.com/software/LAV-Filters. The installation may also prompt you to install LAV Splitter and LAV Audio, leave them checked. In fact, you can go ahead and leave all the components checked, it should be fine. Then, in MPC-HC, go to Options -> External Filters, select Add Filter, and add “LAV Splitter”, “LAV Splitter Source”, and “LAV Audio Decoder”. Double clicking on any of these after you’ve added them should bring up their options, so double click on “LAV Audio Decoder” which should bring up your bitstreaming options.

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Of course, if you are already using your own audio decoder other than LAV, it may have its own unique settings in which you’ll enable bitstreaming.

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Oh, right - yeah, I use FFDshow. Already found the settings there. But I suppose I’ll have to switch it back over every time I want to use my PC speakers, huh?

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I would recommend a videocard capable of outputting proper 1080p24 through HDMI.
Because you want a judder free output right?
I don’t think nVidia has good enough clocks in their cards to do this reliably yet.
Go for a good HTPC videocard from AMD.

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Harmy, you shouldn’t have to switch any settings back and forth for it to work with your computer speakers and HDMI/SPDIF, since bitstreaming can only work with these (HDMI/SPDIF) type outputs. For speaker output, FFDshow will still do all the decoding.

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In case you are planning on re-using your current speakers that came with your Panasonic system (which seems like the case), you won’t be able to re-use the subwoofer. Any new AVR that you would buy expects the subwoofer to be powered, and your Panasonic sub is passive. You could fix this by purchasing a dedicated subwoofer plate amp to power your current sub, but that would be a waste of money, imo. If you’re going to spend any money on a subwoofer (which you will have to do under your planned setup), buy a decent sub instead of spending money to keep your old one alive.

You should be able to re-use the rest of the speakers without any issues. Looking at the manual for the Panasonic system, the speakers are 4Ω which most AVRs can power, although you might have to manually adjust some settings once you get it all hooked up. For example, the manual for my Denon says it can handle speakers that are 4–16Ω, but for speakers 6Ω or lower, you need to manually set the impedence so the AVR knows what to expect.