The Media Machine upgrade that probably wasn't needed


floppybootstomp

sugar 'n spikes
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I recently upgraded my media machine. On reflection, I probably didn’t need to. Why did I upgrade? I had problems. Allow me to elucidate. First off, this was the former setup:

Asus M4N78-VM Motherboard
Asus GT 520 Silent 2GB Graphics Card
On Board LAN & Sound – Digital Optical sound output
AMD AM2 5050e Twin Core CPU 2.4Ghz
2Gb OCZ DDR2 6400C5 memory
WD Raptor 74Gb HDD for OS
Seagate Barracuda SATA II 3Tb Disk for storage
Antec Fusion Remote HTPC Case Black
Liteon Bluray DVDRW optical drive
Corsair 430 Watt PSU
Logitech Cordless Desktop E110 Keyboard & Mouse
Windows Vista Home Premium SP2 all updates applied
Latest drivers for graphics, soundcard & motherboard applied.
All relevant firmware up to date.
(Display & sound are LG 37” TV & Hi Fi)

The problem was Bluray disk playback was problematic. I tried different software And different OS’s (all Linux apart from the original Vista install) and Bluray playback was very hit and miss.

Most disks would play back but without sound. I tried ‘trial’ copies of different media players within Windows, I tried VLC within Windows and VLC within the Ubuntu media distro using VLC. None of them worked well, if at all.

I was using the optical output from the board’s sound chip into an external DAC and then to an amplifier which worked fine with everything bar Bluray disk playback. I also tried an Asus mid priced sound card which also didn’t work and though the software for the sound card showed an output I could hear nothing.

The one exception was VLC within Win Vista, it worked (after applying the mods needed) but it overtaxed the hardware and sound and playback were stuttery with frequent unwanted pauses when viewing.

My main computer also has a Bluray drive and all Bluray disks work fine on that, sound and vision. As my main system is based around an i7 processor I came to the conclusion that I needed a more powerful hardware setup in my media machine so went on this upgrade path:

Old innards removed:

i3001.jpg


From a box sent from E-Buyer:

i3002.jpg


The motherboard. Not a lot in the box - board, manual, backplate and a pair of SATA leads. That's it:

i3003.jpg


CPU/cooler/RAM in place:

i3004.jpg


Mounted in case:

i3005.jpg


i3006.jpg


The BIOS. This is quite an odd Bios to navigate, different from most others:

i3007.jpg


I figured a quad core i3 @3.2Ghz and 8Gb RAM would do the biz and I decided to use the i3’s graphics. I was wrong.

Fired up new system, tried various OS’s but my problem remained unabated, the problem was exactly the same. I was using the new motherboard’s onboard sound optical output and the i3’s graphics.

I must say the graphics from this motherboard/CPU combo are superb. A huge improvement over the Nvidia 520/2Gb memory card I was using previously, which surprised me.

So, I was feeling a bit cheesed off and wondered what to do. Grabbing at straws I installed a ‘trial’ copy of Win 7 Ultimate 64 Bit, updated it but the problem was still there.

So I started looking at all software settings and noticed in the sound setup that my TV was listed as a sound device, it’s connected via an HDMI cable. So out of interest I selected the TV for sound out and turned on the TV sound level for it’s internal speakers.

And blow me it worked. All Bluray disks played back with sound through the TV’s speakers.

So I thought awhile and realised I took the Xbox360 sound from the TV’s optical out via another (cheapo) DAC to an input on my Hi Fi. I turned down the volume control on the TV thus muting the TV’s speakers and switched Hi Fi to TV input.

And it worked, quality sound from Bluray disks came through my Hi Fi. At last. So, sound out from computer went via HDMI cable to TV and from TV to Hi Fi via TV's optical sound out into a DAC.

So now I’m wondering two things: If I had used an ordinary Monitor rather than a TV connected via HDMI would the optical sound output from Bluray disks have worked?

And did I waste around £200 unneccessarily upgrading a perfectly fine and capable media machine?

The answer to both is probably ‘Yes’ sad to say.

So I now have a spare Micro ATX media motherboard with onboard graphics and sound, an Nvidia 520 Graphics card that is fanless, runs cool and has 2Gb memory onboard (designed for media machines) an AMD dual CPU at 2.4Ghz and 4Gb DDR2 RAM sitting around doing nothing.

Odd that the sound software on two motherboards and a separate soundcard should all be ‘confused’ at seeing a TV as a sound device.

Oh well, although I may not have needed to upgrade I will say that this Intel i3-based system runs like slurry off a shovel, it’s really a great little system. And I’ll mention the graphics again, for media playback they are really very very good.

So, that’s my tale, hope it may give you all some pointers should you encounter a similar situation.
 
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Interesting read Mr Flopps & nice pictures.
Glad all worked ok in the end.:thumb:
 

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