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 Post subject: AMD's Maui HTPC Platform
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 10:40 am 
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AMD's Maui HTPC Platform

FULL REVIEW OF A MAUI SYSTEM -- March 5, 2009
AMD Maui: Ultimate HTPC Integration

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 10:55 am 
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Those are some pretty small heatsinks on the motherboard! :o

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:17 am 
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They don't need to be big -- the 780M chipset is a more energy-efficient version of 780G.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:02 pm 
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That's definitely impressive :)

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 Post subject: Question...
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:42 pm 
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Realtek doesn't have much of a name as a high quality audio solution... or at least it hasn't. Have they been improving their audio quality substantially, or is this board losing points right from go?

Personally, I'd have been more impressed if they'd included via envy 24, c-media, or (sadly exiting the market) analog devices based audio.

It's my understanding that realtek based audio solutions definitely have issues with gaming... but gaming isn't the focus of this board.

In other words, please try to address this in any coming article. I'm really curious about the relative audio quality, vs say, a discrete solution based on the chipsets I've mentioned.

Atomic

PS: 'Issues with gaming' is probably deceptive. I apologize. I only mean that the sound QUALITY could be better... I've no knowledge of any unusual issues with say, getting a game to actually run, on realtek audio.

PSS: Am I way off base here? The amp card doesn't appear to have any inputs... is it receiving the audio data via the pci-e port, aka full digital audio until it hits the speakers?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 3:11 pm 
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-Def. a nice idea given AMD's great integrated graphics.
-Looking at newegg though, I don't see any HTPC's, just motherboard/soundcard/OS combos; i.e. it is for system builders who can get the individual parts themselves. If AMD coopereated with an OEM to make HTPCs then they would reach new markets.
-Unfortunate choice of processor; what't the point in a quad core in an HTPC? It won't be a low power system.
-I am wondering who the soundcard with integrated amp section is meant to appeal to. Low end speaker systems tend to be active. If it's to be paired with hi-fi speakers, the quality of the amp/preamp section will come into question. Is the volume control done properly? The speaker outputs look small and flimsy: do they take a decent thickness of speaker cable?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 1:34 am 
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If the audio chipset is same than with Gigabyte 780G series, Realtec Azelia 889a, that is easily best integrated audiocard I've heard. It beats many budget soundcards aswell.

Before this 780G MB I have in mainrig, integrated Audio was curse word for me. Not anymore. Of course what audio chip they use is completely dependable on manufacturer.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 9:37 am 
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couple of points:

a) whats the energy saving v 780g and v 790gx

b) will there be boards that have pci slots I got a pci tv card

c) come without the pre-amp -.-> I like the connectors but I do not need to spend all the money for the preamp, my sound system is not great and I cannot afford to upgrade that for a long while


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 9:59 am 
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Full details at MSI's spec page:
http://global.msi.com.tw/index.php?func ... od_no=1654

Also, to be more precise, the board uses the mobile version of the 780G chip. It's officially called M780G -- used in their notebooks. The details of its power consumption are not know, but it's a mobile chipset, you know the savings in energy are significant.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 12:01 pm 
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I have recently built a HTPC based on the 780G chipset, and it's generally very good. There are a couple of issues though.

1. Refresh rates

The default settings give you perfect 50Hz (PAL) and 24Hz (movie) outputs, but the 60Hz output is odd. It's a little less than exactly 60Hz but not 59.97Hz (NTSC) either.

An exact NTSC mode would be very handy. I experimented with RivaTuner but was unable to get an exact NTSC 59.97Hz. Also, 24Hz works but when I play back video using hardware acceleration the sound looses sync rapidly. 50Hz works perfectly.

For anyone with a 100Hz TV that has motion processing, this is particularly important. Even for those without, it is noticeable. The good news is that, at least on my Samsung 20 inch set, it detects 24Hz movies being played back on a 50Hz refresh rate and deals with them perfectly.

2. Frame rates of downloaded video

This is also very important for anyone with a 100Hz TV, because the motion processing won't work unless the frame rate matches the screen refresh rate properly.

It's common for recorded US TV shows to be reduced from 29.97Hz to 23.97Hz. Well, actually it should be exactly 2/3rds of 29.97Hz, or 23.97333 recurring Hz, but everyone seems to use 23.97Hz exactly. This causes big problems, especially on 100Hz TVs.

Ideally every third frame exactly should be dropped, but because the new frame rate is not exactly 2/3rds the original that doesn't happen. This leads to juddery motion, especially on panning shots.

You can correct it somewhat with Reclock, a DirectShow filter which alters the frame rate to something more suitable (usually 24 or 25Hz) and re-samples the sound so that the pitch does not change. This helps but even so does not cure the shuddering motion problems and the re-sampling can make music sound very bad.

Basically, there is no real fix, other than hoping someone will come up with a better encode which can drop exactly every third frame.

3. Compatibility with encodings

The hardware acceleration works with most encoded files, but not all. I guess this system with a quad core CPU doesn't have to worry about that too much.

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Last edited by MoJo on Sun Nov 16, 2008 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Question...
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 12:01 pm 
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TheAtomicKid wrote:
Realtek doesn't have much of a name as a high quality audio solution... or at least it hasn't. Have they been improving their audio quality substantially, or is this board losing points right from go?

Personally, I'd have been more impressed if they'd included via envy 24, c-media, or (sadly exiting the market) analog devices based audio.

It's my understanding that realtek based audio solutions definitely have issues with gaming... but gaming isn't the focus of this board.

In other words, please try to address this in any coming article. I'm really curious about the relative audio quality, vs say, a discrete solution based on the chipsets I've mentioned.

Atomic

PS: 'Issues with gaming' is probably deceptive. I apologize. I only mean that the sound QUALITY could be better... I've no knowledge of any unusual issues with say, getting a game to actually run, on realtek audio.

PSS: Am I way off base here? The amp card doesn't appear to have any inputs... is it receiving the audio data via the pci-e port, aka full digital audio until it hits the speakers?



Actually, the audio is based upon D2Audio's DSP.

I recently built a system based upon this board and it is AWESOME! Way better than traditional PC audio codecs and deffinitely on par with mainstream, high end consumer amps and receivers.

I have it hooked up to Infinity Primus L/R/C spekers in front and Difinitive Pro Cinema surrounds. Powered sub is Polk 10". It sounds killer, no pops, hisses, crackles. Very warm sound that can crank nice and loud without distorting.

In addtion to 780M chipset, MSI put down 128MB of sideport memory so blu ray and HD content is crystal clear and stutter free. No frame drops that I can tell. Looks beautiful when watching movies or HD TV.

I am using the 65W quad core in mine and it stays very cool/quiet.

Overall, I am very, very pleased with the overall design and integrated amplifier. It allowed me to ditch several boxes under my tv and get down to just my HTPC and Dish Network STB.

I keep waiting for MS to add DirecTV support so I can swap out my Dish box and run everything through HTPC.

I would suggest you guys listen to it before making any judgements. Hopefully the SPCR review will be posted soon so everyone can see just how good this thing really is.

Look at the user reviews on Newegg. There are a few that have bought and have been very happy with it besides myself.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 2:36 pm 
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croddie wrote:
-I am wondering who the soundcard with integrated amp section is meant to appeal to. Low end speaker systems tend to be active. If it's to be paired with hi-fi speakers, the quality of the amp/preamp section will come into question. Is the volume control done properly? The speaker outputs look small and flimsy: do they take a decent thickness of speaker cable?


You are right, it is basically a gimmick.

These days, choice of sound card is almost irrelevant. Most people will be using a purely digital audio output now, be it via HDMI or optical/coax digital audio link. Even if you just connect it to your TV, the HDMI audio link provides digital PCM 2 channel sound.

All the decoding/downmix processing will be done by the CPU for multichannel sound. The only issue really is the OS - for Windows XP you are probably stuck with kmixer when it comes to video, but since most video formats use 48000Hz sound or Dolby Digital there will most likely be no processing done on it anyway. I'm not sure about Vista, but I hear it's better (no pun intended).

For audio ASIO4ALL or kernel streaming will get you bit-perfect output, again making the sound card irrelevant.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 2:54 pm 
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MoJo wrote:
You are right, it is basically a gimmick.

These days, choice of sound card is almost irrelevant. Most people will be using a purely digital audio output now, be it via HDMI or optical/coax digital audio link. Even if you just connect it to your TV, the HDMI audio link provides digital PCM 2 channel sound.

But for someone who wants minimum fuss and fewer boxes under their TV, the idea of a decent quality audio amp in the HTPC to power whatever speakers you want is seductive. I speak from experience -- I have a Denon mid-fi receiver to power tower spkrs -- along with DVD player & hd pvr. It'd be real nice to get rid of the receiver, really used only to power the spkrs when watching movies or other shows with good audio. Very few powered speakers sound good enough to me, while there are lots of good passive ones... and the additional power cord to the speakers lowers WAF.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 3:17 pm 
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MikeC wrote:
MoJo wrote:
You are right, it is basically a gimmick./quote]
But for someone who wants minimum fuss and fewer boxes under their TV, the idea of a decent quality audio amp in the HTPC to power whatever speakers you want is seductive.


I think that's the problem though - you are never going to get anything that good from something built onto a PC motherboard, for all kinds of reasons.

In particular, it will be very hard to come up with a design that gives plenty of noise isolation, does not generate too much heat and provides enough power to run a sub, or even larger woofers reasonably.

There is a reason amplifiers, particularly multi-channel ones, are that big. This design looks similar to a T-amp, which if you read reviews of you will find is not ideal for movies (although very good for music on smaller speakers).

Another issue is inputs. Presumably everything is PC controlled via the soundcard, so no remote control access while the PC is turned off and no pass-through or input selection for things like games consoles, if you care about that kind of thing.

Finally, if you want a 5.1 system you will probably want quite a bit of processing when listening to stereo sound, and probably even when using 5.1. From the looks of it the processing options in this system are not as good as on a good dedicated receiver.

To be honest, even if you don't want a full size receiver or amp, a little T-amp would probably be a much better bet for stereo sound. That's what I'd suggest for listening to music. For movies where you probably want a sub, there are some good powered 2.1 systems in the £100-150 range.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:28 pm 
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Frankly, I think you are discounting this before you have even heard it or seen any reviews.

As a mainstream audiophile (I don't consider myself a super high end guy, but certainly can hear the sublte differences between speakers, amps, etc.). While I would not spend 5K on an Amp, I would spend up to 1K on one and in fact have done that in the past.

I thought I would give this thing a try and I can emphatically state that the performance of this integrated amp is just about as good as my Denon Amp that I bought a few years ago.

While the power output might be less, I can easily crank it loud enough to hear it clearly from any room in my home (my house is 3400 sq. ft). It has more than enough power for my home theater room.

As mentioned, I am driving Infinity Primus for my Left, Right and Center channels along with Difinitive Pro Cinema 100s for my surrounds. While not super high end speakers, they are not bad ones either and are true high fidelity speakers. Not your typical HTIB type speakers by any means. This little amp has more than enough power to drive these without problem. Audio is crystal clear (no noise, distortion, hiss, pops, etc.) even at volume. The design seems to be very well isolated.

According to the D2 Specs, Signal to Noise measures >105dB and THD+N measures 0.1%. Not bad specs at all and if these are truly measured specs, then the design is very well isolated and much better than traditional PC audio.

My research has shown that amps in this range are priced around $700 and higher.

While many people may very well drive their audio over HDMI or even TOS link. I think the audio out of this is certainly better than TOS link since SPDIF specs limit it to 16/44. I for one can clearly hear the difference between 24/48 over 16/44.

Therefore, I would suggest that people use the analog of this card over TOS link. As for HDMI, most of the multichannel chipset support over HDMI is not all that good right now. I don't think the G45 is getting favorable reviews in this area. The nVidia chipsets jury is still out. The 780 is limited to 2 ch uncompressed, 5 channel compressed. As such, I would still recommend the analog of this card out over HDMI. Sure, more wires, but at least you can get studio quality audio out.

For a sub $200 mobo + amp card, this does one hell of a job.

Sorry, but is seems like you are pre disposed to an opinion without ever giving this a fair shot.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 7:05 pm 
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For the record, definitely perfectly prepared to good news about this sucker. It's just that I see 'Realtek' and immediately receive negative response from the 'inner chimp'... it's the same IC that regularly throws poo at onboard audio solutions, and old via chipset motherboards, etc etc etc.

That said, if the audio ends up digital from origin to the speaker out on the amp, it's all good.

But if so, why does the motherboard have a full set of audio analog out on the back? If it was made specifically to work with this d2 card, why the effectively redundant output?

In any case, I was just hoping the review would contain some comparitive listening tests vs some other audio solutions, if possible. Realtek is (in)famous for their overall audio quality, and I'm curious how this sucker will stack up.

I do like it though. It's a nice, compact, all-in-one solution... I'm just curious how the audio quality stacks up.

Seems I've started a firestorm... heck, I didn't even suiton... sorry guys.

Atomic

ps: If the audio stays digital until it hits the analog outs on that amp card... that card is seperated from the mobo... if they isolated it well enough, it could sound quite decent. Personally, I wouldn't have minded seeing an rf shield over that area of the amp, but if the distance is really short on-card, it might not need it. I'll admit right here though, that I'm NOT an expert on this level of audio, and leave it at that.

ps2: Here's a plug for the Klipsch Pro-media 2.1's... one of those 2.1 systems roughly in that price range mentioned, although sometimes obtainable for far less... got mine for $99... They sound great, fairly compact, unlike any 5.1 installation (too many wires), and they definitely have enough 'punch' to do the job. I routinely listen to music/movies/anime on mine, and have absolutely no issues recommending them. Be warned, they're a bit delicate, so you have to take care of them, in particular the control pod with the volume controls. Beyond that, they're a great, no-frills solution, where the greenbacks got spend on actual product quality, and not on flash/gimmicks/fake chrome.


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 Post subject: off-topic
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 7:09 pm 
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MoJo wrote:
It's common for recorded US TV shows to be reduced from 29.97Hz to 23.97Hz. Well, actually it should be exactly 2/3rds of 29.97Hz, or 23.97333 recurring Hz, but everyone seems to use 23.97Hz exactly. This causes big problems, especially on 100Hz TVs.

Ideally every third frame exactly should be dropped, but because the new frame rate is not exactly 2/3rds the original that doesn't happen. This leads to juddery motion, especially on panning shots.

What is this phenomena you're talking about? When does every third frame get thrown out - during the encoding stage? And is there a typo in your figures? 23.973 is a more like 4/5ths of 29.97 than 2/3rds.

This might have nothing to do with anything, but I know that the precise rate for NTSC video is 30/1.001 (29.970029 etc.) frames per second or 60/1.001 (59.940059 etc.) fields per second. I'm not sure if these facts (or anything else from this excellent guide will help you fix what's going on, but I wish you luck!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:19 pm 
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TheAtomicKid wrote:
For the record, definitely perfectly prepared to good news about this sucker. It's just that I see 'Realtek' and immediately receive negative response from the 'inner chimp'... it's the same IC that regularly throws poo at onboard audio solutions, and old via chipset motherboards, etc etc etc.

That said, if the audio ends up digital from origin to the speaker out on the amp, it's all good.

But if so, why does the motherboard have a full set of audio analog out on the back? If it was made specifically to work with this d2 card, why the effectively redundant output?

In any case, I was just hoping the review would contain some comparitive listening tests vs some other audio solutions, if possible. Realtek is (in)famous for their overall audio quality, and I'm curious how this sucker will stack up.

I do like it though. It's a nice, compact, all-in-one solution... I'm just curious how the audio quality stacks up.

Seems I've started a firestorm... heck, I didn't even suiton... sorry guys.

Atomic

ps: If the audio stays digital until it hits the analog outs on that amp card... that card is seperated from the mobo... if they isolated it well enough, it could sound quite decent. Personally, I wouldn't have minded seeing an rf shield over that area of the amp, but if the distance is really short on-card, it might not need it. I'll admit right here though, that I'm NOT an expert on this level of audio, and leave it at that.

ps2: Here's a plug for the Klipsch Pro-media 2.1's... one of those 2.1 systems roughly in that price range mentioned, although sometimes obtainable for far less... got mine for $99... They sound great, fairly compact, unlike any 5.1 installation (too many wires), and they definitely have enough 'punch' to do the job. I routinely listen to music/movies/anime on mine, and have absolutely no issues recommending them. Be warned, they're a bit delicate, so you have to take care of them, in particular the control pod with the volume controls. Beyond that, they're a great, no-frills solution, where the greenbacks got spend on actual product quality, and not on flash/gimmicks/fake chrome.


Don't think you necessarily started anything, just trying to provide some more info. My previous response was to MoJo who seemed too ready to dismiss this solution without cause. Don't judge this based upon previous inferior attempts by other companies. The MSI and D2 guys did a pretty damn good job on this.

There are effectively 3 different audio codecs on this board. ATI for the HDMI. Realtek for the SPDIF and D2Audio for the analog amp or pre amp card. The D2 DSP is actually down on the motherboard as well. There are 2 different card options (7.1 Pre Amp) or 5.1 Amp. Both rely on the D2Audio DSP to do all the digital processing then pass those processed signals out to the amp/pre amp card installed. The amp card is not stand alone (neither is pre amp). It requires it to be used in conjunction with the mobo.

Therefore, the only time the realtek device is actually used is if someone routes audio out the SPDIF instead of the amp or pre amp card. If you are using the installed cards, all audio is handled by the D2 chip.

I.E. Audio is significantly better than ADI, Realtek or any other typical PC audio solution. Hence the SNR and THD specs.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 12:07 am 
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Java Jack, have you bought the 5.1 amp card? Can you post a picture of the speaker connections?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 3:41 am 
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http://www.msicomputer.com/product/p_sp ... &class=npc

There is a good shot on the MSI website at bottom of the page.

I am using 16 AWG. trimmed and braised. You might be able to get 14 in there, but that would be pretty tight.

I do like how the block unplugs from the card so you can easily wire up speakers then plug block into the back of HTPC.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 4:30 am 
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Thanks. I can see only 10 connectors, i.e., 5 channels on that connector. I understand the subwoofer comes out from one of the RCA connectors on the mobo, right?

(BTW: English is not my first language, what does "trimmed and braised" mean?)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:26 am 
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Yes, sub output is the yellpw RCA connector between the 2 channale Inputs/Outputs.

Trimmed and Braised just means that I trimmed back the sheilding to expose the bare wire, then I used a Soldering Iron to coat the ends of the wire so that it would not fray or anything. Makes it like a solid piece of wire.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:05 am 
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Java Jack wrote:
While many people may very well drive their audio over HDMI or even TOS link. I think the audio out of this is certainly better than TOS link since SPDIF specs limit it to 16/44. I for one can clearly hear the difference between 24/48 over 16/44.


In reality though you can run it much higher than that, for example I experimented with 24/192 before settling on 16/44 and oversampling on the DAC end.

Quote:
The 780 is limited to 2 ch uncompressed, 5 channel compressed. As such, I would still recommend the analog of this card out over HDMI.


Why would you want anything else? Most TVs have only stereo speakers built in, and for multichannel you just send the unmodified compressed stream from the source material directly to the receiver.

The only time you would want uncompressed 5.1 is if you had some weird 5.1 DAC that didn't have AC3/DTS decoding, but these systems are not really aimed at legacy equipment like that. For example, there is no analogue TV out on 780g, only VGA and digital outputs.[/quote]

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 Post subject: Re: off-topic
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:08 am 
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zoatebix wrote:
What is this phenomena you're talking about? When does every third frame get thrown out - during the encoding stage? And is there a typo in your figures? 23.973 is a more like 4/5ths of 29.97 than 2/3rds.


Yeah, sorry, my mistake, it's actually exactly 4/5ths.

The problem is that to get an exactly 4/5ths frame rate every fifth frame should be dropped. In practice the frame dropped varies because the resulting frame rate is not exactly 4/5ths, and it messes up motion on screen and is particularly noticeable with 100Hz TVs.

I don't know why people do it when encoding - the 1/5th savings when the resulting file is ~1.2GB for a 45 minute programme just isn't worth it.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:30 am 
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MoJo wrote:
Java Jack wrote:
While many people may very well drive their audio over HDMI or even TOS link. I think the audio out of this is certainly better than TOS link since SPDIF specs limit it to 16/44. I for one can clearly hear the difference between 24/48 over 16/44.


In reality though you can run it much higher than that, for example I experimented with 24/192 before settling on 16/44 and oversampling on the DAC end.

Quote:
The 780 is limited to 2 ch uncompressed, 5 channel compressed. As such, I would still recommend the analog of this card out over HDMI.


Why would you want anything else? Most TVs have only stereo speakers built in, and for multichannel you just send the unmodified compressed stream from the source material directly to the receiver.

The only time you would want uncompressed 5.1 is if you had some weird 5.1 DAC that didn't have AC3/DTS decoding, but these systems are not really aimed at legacy equipment like that. For example, there is no analogue TV out on 780g, only VGA and digital outputs.



The whole point of this platform is to not use your TV speakers and instead drive high quality audio directly into your AVR via the 7.1 analog outs or 5.1 directly to your speakers.

Also note, that while the 780G does not support analog out, this plaform does support component video.

As for compressed audio formats, the world is changing. More and more BD discs are supporting DTS-Master and True HD audio formats which require more bandwidth, etc. SPDIF is unlikely to be able to support that. HDMI muilichannel uncompressed is still an unknown issue.

With a platform like this, it is a possiblity to decode that direclty on the HTPC and then pass that audio directly to the amp/speakers or over the 7.1. Yes, there are potential DRM pitfalls, but it appears that this design does have a protected audio path and therefore has the potential to support Dolby True HD and DTS - Master audio.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 1:18 pm 
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MoJo wrote:
There is a reason amplifiers, particularly multi-channel ones, are that big. This design looks similar to a T-amp, which if you read reviews of you will find is not ideal for movies (although very good for music on smaller speakers).


I would assume that the amps is class-D (dunno what you mean by T-amps?). So no, there is no good reason for why amps are that big. Bang & Olufsen use class d in some pretty good (and pretty expensive >15.000USD) speakers. But they can be made smaller and cheaper (alone the reduced weight).

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 1:56 pm 
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Schroinx wrote:
MoJo wrote:
There is a reason amplifiers, particularly multi-channel ones, are that big. This design looks similar to a T-amp, which if you read reviews of you will find is not ideal for movies (although very good for music on smaller speakers).


I would assume that the amps is class-D (dunno what you mean by T-amps?). So no, there is no good reason for why amps are that big. Bang & Olufsen use class d in some pretty good (and pretty expensive >15.000USD) speakers. But they can be made smaller and cheaper (alone the reduced weight).


A quick search led me to info on T-Amp that is some type of proprietary class d design. Company that developed it went chapter 11. Though a company called Sonic Impact makes some low power thing that is not even in the same ball park as to what we are talking about here.

You are right, this is a Class D digital switching amp. According to the info from D2, it is similar to what they did with the THX-Ultra 2 certified stuff, just lower power design for PC application. Basically, it is a way to bring high quality audio to the PC segment. From my experience, this design certainly meets that goal.

As to why other amps weigh 50lbs and are huge? That is because they are Class A, analog amps and therefore very inefficient. The best Class A designs lose about 50% of their power in the form of heat...that means big, heavy heatsinks. Yes, class A amps can sound incredible, that does not mean they are always the best solution for a given application. This design from MSI/D2 can easily hold it's own against some high end, mainstream amps on the market today.

I love mine and would suggest anyone considering buying/building an HTPC should seriously consider this platform.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 3:39 pm 
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MoJo wrote:
I think that's the problem though - you are never going to get anything that good from something built onto a PC motherboard, for all kinds of reasons.

I think you are right to have concerns, but don't be too prejudicial. If you open up many A/V receivers these what you will see inside looks a lot like a PC, sometimes even with various components on daughter boards. The use of switching PSU is becoming very common, especial in conjunction with Call D amplifiers (which themselves are becoming more common at the upmarket, like Pioneer's top of the line stuff using ICEpower).

MoJo wrote:
In particular, it will be very hard to come up with a design that gives plenty of noise isolation, does not generate too much heat and provides enough power to run a sub, or even larger woofers reasonably.

Using unpowered subs is a pretty esoteric application! Even for your point to woofers, it is all a question of speaker efficiency. If you've got 90 dB @ 1m or better, how much power do you really need at TV viewing distance, 10W/channel? This amp is rated at a combined 100W, so I think it can get the job done for a typical home theater setup. I'd have more concerns about large room music listening, but that is not the target application for this product.

MoJo wrote:
There is a reason amplifiers, particularly multi-channel ones, are that big.

The real reason is marketing. High end manufacturers purposefully make their stuff big and heavy because those attributes actually score them points on reviews, as the old school line of thought is that size and weight = quality. My Class D from Harman Kardon is gigantic for no good reason other than it would have been hard for them to have a $1500 list price on a 20lb receiver. I think things might be starting to change though. Rotel has a $2500 7 channel ICEpower amp that is the size of a DVD player and only weighs ~ 10lbs. On the other hand, Pioneer's new ICEpower receivers are still gigantic and weight 50lbs or more . . .

MoJo wrote:
Another issue is inputs. Presumably everything is PC controlled via the soundcard, so no remote control access while the PC is turned off and no pass-through or input selection for things like games consoles, if you care about that kind of thing.

I agree 100%. This is the big issue to me and why I see little point in an HTPC with a built in amplifier. On the other hand, I've only got one TV. If I had a second room where I also wanted an HTPC, then this might be a very compelling product for that scenario. Things would be better all around if cable/satellite companies would allow DCAS or similar software solutions to allow PCs full cable box functionality.

MoJo wrote:
Finally, if you want a 5.1 system you will probably want quite a bit of processing when listening to stereo sound, and probably even when using 5.1. From the looks of it the processing options in this system are not as good as on a good dedicated receiver.

I disagree here. When I listen to music on my 5.1 setup I listen to it in unadulterated stereo. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that with all the Direct Show filters available, processing options on the PC demolish those available on A/V receivers.

MoJo wrote:
To be honest, even if you don't want a full size receiver or amp, a little T-amp would probably be a much better bet for stereo sound. That's what I'd suggest for listening to music. For movies where you probably want a sub, there are some good powered 2.1 systems in the £100-150 range.

What reason is there to believe this wouldn't be as good as a T-Amp? You know the currently produced version of the T-Amp is a PCI card just like the one that comes with this system (except that it is just 2 channel and rated for a lot less power), right? With the right speakers, I'm sure this could compete with any powered 2.1 system, but it would likely be no cheaper, as good speakers do cost money.


Last edited by jessekopelman on Tue Nov 18, 2008 4:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:23 pm 
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This first impression is only after one afternoon of messing with the Maui HTPC sample from AMD, specifically the 5ch Power Amplifier and Intersil D2Audio DAE-3 (on the motherboard):

The sound quality through a pair of high quality hifi speakers (self-designed/built 7" Focal + 1" aluminum dome in 6' transmission line) was quite good from the start with CD quality music files from the network. The $800 Denon receiver that normally runs these speakers sounds a bit punchier (more power) but perhaps a bit brighter at the high end as well. The speakers have excellent mids/highs but tend to expose zippiness in the high end mercilessly, especially in that room, which needs a bit more damping to control the flutter echo. There's no lack of volume, tho I didn't check what happens with low bass sound effects in movies (not that I really care much for that kind of thing...).

Mid-afternoon, Jay from AMD sent over a new firmware file which I used to flash the D2Audio DAE-3 chip on the board in 15 seconds. Gain went up by 6dB (which meant I really should have turn the volume down to nil before restarting the music!). The resulting blast had the amp clipping -- clearly heard the amp, not the speakers, in distress -- before I yanked the AC cord. After recovering from the shock, booted, turned down the volume before playing some more: the sound got smoother, richer with the new firmware. I can see these guys doing all kinds of creative things with the firmware, even tailoring it to specific amps/speakers and maybe allowing compensation for room acoustics.

Overall, my first impression is that I'm in agreement with most others who have commented positively. The mobo + 5.1ch amp sells for $180 at Newegg. That seems like a bargain.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:50 pm 
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MikeC wrote:
This first impression is only after one afternoon of messing with the Maui HTPC sample from AMD, specifically the 5ch Power Amplifier and Intersil D2Audio DAE-3 (on the motherboard):

The sound quality through a pair of high quality hifi speakers (self-designed/built 7" Focal + 1" aluminum dome in 6' transmission line) was quite good from the start with CD quality music files from the network. The $800 Denon receiver that normally runs these speakers sounds a bit punchier (more power) but perhaps a bit brighter at the high end as well. The speakers have excellent mids/highs but tend to expose zippiness in the high end mercilessly, especially in that room, which needs a bit more damping to control the flutter echo. There's no lack of volume, tho I didn't check what happens with low bass sound effects in movies (not that I really care much for that kind of thing...).

Mid-afternoon, Jay from AMD sent over a new firmware file which I used to flash the D2Audio DAE-3 chip on the board in 15 seconds. Gain went up by 6dB (which meant I really should have turn the volume down to nil before restarting the music!). The resulting blast had the amp clipping -- clearly heard the amp, not the speakers, in distress -- before I yanked the AC cord. After recovering from the shock, booted, turned down the volume before playing some more: the sound got smoother, richer with the new firmware. I can see these guys doing all kinds of creative things with the firmware, even tailoring it to specific amps/speakers and maybe allowing compensation for room acoustics.

Overall, my first impression is that I'm in agreement with most others who have commented positively. The mobo + 5.1ch amp sells for $180 at Newegg. That seems like a bargain.


My first response would be to say "If it ain't tubes, it ain't shit!" but then I'm a throwback who likes to listen to vinyl (while playing Left 4 Dead, w00t!). I did find it interesting that a firmware update results in a 6dB increase in gain - glad you didn't fry your amp or speakers due to clipping.

I was more interested to see that the board supports OCUR tuners when built by an approved OEM. Now if I just knew an OEM that does OCUR and uses these boards...Mike?

-D

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