Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Question of Audio

We'll having just thought to myself that playing through the TV speakers would be ok... just out of interest, I did a bit of research on the question of how to get some kind of audio system hooked up.

Well.... things have changed a bit in the last, um 15 years since I last bought a decent stereo system. Back in my heyday, an amp had maybe 10 inputs at the back, mostly RCA plugs carrying analogue signals... nowadays, an amp seems to have been renamed as a "Receiver" and has maybe 40 plugs on the back!

Frankly, its a bit of a shock - Video is a piece of cake compared to the jargon around audio systems.

The Radeon graphics card supports:
" Output protected high bit rate 7.1 channel surround sound over HDMI with no additional cables required
Supports AC-3, AAC, Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio formats"

Sounds impressive!

The motherboard supports:
"Realtek ALC888B codec

High Definition Audio
Support for S/PDIF In/Out"

From what I gather, an AV Receiver is sort of like a hub where the HTPC or Blu-ray sends its output which then distributes it to speakers and the TV. Unfortunately, there are more caveats than you can poke a stick at, but it seems to boil down to this: If you want something that takes HDMI that combines audio and video as input, you pay big time.

The High Definition Audio seems to be output from the Mobo from the 3 analogue jacks at the back and is configured from the onboard sound drivers.

S/PDIF in/out - Sony Phillips Digital Interface. These sockets are on the Mobo but don't connect to anything at the moment. I understand that mostly these are coax RCA or sometimes optical (aka 'Toslink') connectors.

Frankly, I suspect that going full HDMI for audio is out of my price range at the moment, as its $300+ for the receiver and upwards of $1500 to match speakers.

But the digital nature of S/PDIF interests me... maybe a receiver can be found that can be done for less than HDMI and not much more than the analogue version?

An alternative is to maybe get a Home Theater in a Box (HTIB) - but somehow they're a little too "Harvey Norman" (a big consumer electrical chain) for my liking, and the ones that I've glanced at seem to just take analogue inputs. I sort of like the challenge of getting something that is all digital until the last possible moment.

Then again... maybe the TV speakers are fine (for now).

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