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Home Theatre resurrection
4, Setup HTPC:
HTPC (Home Theatre Personal Computer):
I start building this HTPC already 8 years ago, the only related to Home Theatre that I have kept. It's built in a Zalman chassis with heavy power supply with high efficiency to let the cooling fan rotate slowly. The only sound from it is when the hard disks are working, I shall replace one of them with a SSD disk later.
From the beginning this HTPC controlled everything, only needed a remote keyboard. The speakers was with amplifiers built in. When I bought the Infinity speakers I needed a receiver and had to add one more remote control. Even later I added an external DVD / BD player, then I added a third remote control. And the TV needs a fourth remote control. A fifth remote control the lights and the subwoofer on/off. Back to the chaotic remote control era.
The main purpose with this HTPC will be to display our photos in 4K resolution and when we are surfing on the internet, without Netflix and YouTube which we do direct from the TV. We have also a lot of family videos recorded with different cameras. From old analog VHS to modern HD digital video cameras. No 4K camera yet.
The HTPC is the item that is most complicated to setup.
Here are more information about Home theater PC at Wikipedia:
I have the HTPC connected to the HDMI 1 input. I can't connect it to the receiver because its HDMI standard is version 1.4, on the limit to handle 4K.
First I setup the HTPC's graphic card, it was very easy, it adjusted itself when I started the 4K TV to 4K (3840 x 2160). It can support 24, 25 and 30 fps (Frames Per Second). That was a big surprise, I didn't believe this almost ten years old computer could handle 4K, but we replaced the graphic card maybe 5 years ago. What a view to see the Window start screen on a big 4K screen !
HTPC connected to the receiver:
My receiver is old and only has HDMI v1.4, that standard say it's on the limit to handle 4K and only at max 30 fps. When reading in the receivers manual it say that the maximum resolution is HD (1920x1080). When I did a test that was also the case, it could not handle the 4K resolution. Otherwise it had been an alternative to direct connect the HDMI cable to the receiver and then also transfer the audio at highest possible quality. Of course I can buy a new more modern receiver, but after that even more new standards come and I always have to buy new receivers, not for the sound but for the video switcher. I do a work around for this and use my old receiver.
HTPC connected to the 4K TV through HDMI and audio output as PCM:
Reading in the manual for the TV, it says it handle up to 48 kHz sampling and in some special case 96 kHz. But it says also it only handle 2 channels. Just wonder what they mean, the TV only has two speakers and a subwoofer out. But when doing pass through it just should send out what it get in.
I set up the audio system in the HTPC to max 48 kHz sampling (windows audio setup), the number of channels is to two channels. Have to do some test with different sources to see how it behave. I had to update the drivers of the audio system in the HTPC, it was a bit tricky to find these old drivers. The system in the computer is Windows 7 64-bit pro. Find a 250 MB file that took very long time to download and even longer time to install. Restarting the computer but still no sound. Check the settings, found that the output audio render in the HTPC was not enabled for the TV, it show up as 65 TV. After that the first sound came out from the TV speakers, when I changed the TV audio output from TV speaker to amplifier in the TV system setup I got the sound out from the receiver, YES, it works.
Now I have got the 2-channel (PCM) sound to work.
HTPC connected to the 4K TV and audio output as AC3 / DTS 5.1:
When the source has multi channel sound, Dolby Digital (AC3) or DTS 5.1 I want that signal unaltered connect to the receiver, this signal is called bitstream as opposed to PCM above. Bitstream is a compressed format.
When the HTPC is direct connected to the TV I must in some way separate the audio signal and let it go to the receiver. One solution is to let it passthrough the TV and use the ARC channel in the HDMI cable and to the receiver. I setup the TV for passthrough and AC3 / DTS 5.1 multichannel sound (in this Hitachi TV they called it compressed sound), but the receiver was quiet. After some reading I remember that ARC has a limited transfer speed of 0.5 to 1 MHz, the HTPC put out 1.6 MHz. I can lower the transfer speed but that will then also lose some quality. The newer eARC standard is much faster and could have done this.
Here are more information about ARC / eARC at Digital Trends:
Here are more information about Passthrough at Rtings:
I have one HDMI and one DVI output on the HTPC, but can not use both in 4K, it's not powerful enough. But I also have an SPDIF output which handle the 1.6 MHz transfer speed. What I did, I still have the HTPC connected to the TV through the HDMI cable that deliver the video. I added one more cable and connected the SPDIF outlet on the HTPC and the other end direct connected to the receiver. I setup the receiver to take only the sound from the SPDIF input.
The HTPC has a SPDIF connecter of coaxial type. The yellow cable which is a phono cable for video that I use for the coaxial SPDIF.
The coaxial SPDIF cable connects to the receiver. To the right is the two optical SPDIF connecters, I use one of them to the TV SPDIF. In the receiver you can direct any of these inputs to some video input.
Here are more information about SPDIF at Hardware Secrets:
Now we have the basic function of the Home Theatre system working. Lot of tweaking in all the items to get the image look better and also to use the full power of the multi channel system. So far we have seen all Star Trek movies we have on Blu-Ray (which don't use the HTPC) and it looks fantastic. Our photos looks even better at 4K setup. When surfing on YouTube and 4K material it's a fantastic experience. What's not so good is the not so black background from a LCD TV, but it have some adjustments with the dynamic light that lit up the LCD screen. Maybe that will help it to look better.