I'm trying to play blu-ray disks using PowerDVD on a Win 7 Media Center PC connecting to my home entertainment system. The problems I'm having are with audio. My receiver was an expensive but now 5 year old Integra unit. It supports HDMI but only for video, so I have to connect the PC with analog connections.
I've been using a Montego DDL card and it provides multi-channel output but it only supports Dolby Digital 5.1. I need a card that will work well with PowerDVD and provide support for DTS and other sound formats.
I've been considering the Auzen Prelude card which seems to do what I want. Is this a good choice? Are there other cards I should be considering.
Blu-ray audio defaults to DD or DTS, but better discs will have Dolby TrueHD and/or DTS-HD Master Audio. You really, really want those. I was unable to find a card that decodes them and also has discrete line outs. Modern cards send everything to the AVR through HDMI/DVI or SPDIF. So it's back to the drawing board. If you're not interested in maxed-out Blu-ray audio, you'll have to decide just which "other sound formats" you want before you can pick a card. I browse Newegg.com to get ideas because they include a lot of information, you can sort and narrow, and they have reviews (for what they're worth) right there. They don't carry everything, though. If you do want maxed-out Blu-ray audio, get a modern AVR first.
Like Petrof said, you need a secure audio channel for HD Audio. Blue-Ray will not allow anything better than CD quality audio for 5.1 unless you have a secure device, then you get something like 24-bit 192khz lossless audio(Dolby TrueHD).
I bet it would sound awesome on a nice sound system.
FYI, New ATI 5800 series now supports these audio streams. Just take a new ATI card, plus HDMI into new audio receiver, plus into new TV and great video/sound.
Thanks for the advice, guys. I'll start saving for that receiver. It's not in this year's slow economy budget. In the meantime I'll make do with 5.1 and keep dreamin'. At least I understand my options now. Much appreciated.
The only cards that can decode TrueHD/Mater Theatre are the ASUS HDAV1.3 and the Auzentech Home Theatre HD. Right now, the Home Theatre HD is the better card of the two, although drivers may change this soon enough...
What Kewlx25 was hinting at was that devilish copy-protect scheme called High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP). This requires HDMI/AVI, mostly, and compliant gear all along the line, but that's a can of worms we can cross when you come to it.
OK, I'm getting the picture. But here's where I get confused. If I play a blu-ray DVD that does NOT have a 5.1 soundtrack, what is PowerDVD sending to my Turtle Beach Montego with 7.1 analog outs??? Mono, Stereo, or some primitive form of surround? And would buying a better sound card with analog outs like the Auzen X-Plosion 7.1 Cinema make any difference?
I'm afraid I don't know what's out there as far as Blu-ray titles and how their audio is encoded. I just now went to Bestbuy.com and looked at a couple of titles. One said its audio was encoded in DTS, and the other treated the matter as a secret. A Blu-ray disc is required to encode its audio at the very minimum in one of three formats: DTS, DD, or LPCM (often erroneously labeled "PCM"). That last one is a catch-all that can be anything from friggin' mono up to 7.1. There should be some sort of symbol thingie on your Blu-ray disc box that indicates what encoding is used on that title. I'm just guessing here, but I would imagine that any newer title from a known studio will be in DTS or DD and be 5.1 at least. A copy of Casablanca from Fred's Videos, Inc., might be in LPCM mono.
Boy, they sure make it hard to find out what their cards can do. I just looked at your card and the Auzen you name, and neither one decodes DD or DTS. They pass it through to your receiver through the SPDIF (digital out). So you are not getting true surround with your present setup. You don't say which receiver you have, probably because you're so embarrassed about how bloody old it is, but if it has an optical input and decodes those formats, use that.
I'm sure you noticed that I didn't really answer your second question. My wife was calling me for dinner, and, more to the point, I didn't know the answer. I've done a little poking around, and I still don't know, but I found out from Cyberlink's site that you can "immerse yourself in an audio wonderland". As I recall, Alice was pretty bewildered a lot of the time, too.
I guess PowerDVD sends a PCM stream. What it consists of is anybody's guess if all they've done is read the Cyberlink hype-instead-of-specs. I could have been wrong about your not getting true surround, but the wording at CyberLink is awfully weasely. You'd think they'd shout it from the rooftops if their app did what we want. I'd be thinking digital audio out, like I said.
You'd also asked about my receiver. This is a very painful story. It isn't ancient but at the time of purchase 5 years ago this Integra box was state of the art and cost >$2k. It supported the audio formats of the time including Neo and Dolby Digital. It even supported HDMI ins and outs. Best of all, it was supposed to be future proof in that the chassis supported various I/O cards and Integra could create new ones as standards developed.
Unfortunately there's reality. They never created new I/O cards. They just provided this so that installers could trick it out at the time of purchase with what they needed. The box does support HDMI but only for video pass-through. The receiver ignores any audio signal on the HDMI inputs. I've learned most of this only recently as I tried to set up this media PC.
Of course the receiver does support optical coax for audio. When I run HDMI directly from my PC to my TV for video and optical coax from the PC sound card to the receiver, the sound is great and the picture is great. Unfortunately, they are out of synch. My impression is that the TV is getting the video in real time but that the receiver takes time to decode the audio signal. Pretty much the only thing I haven't tried is running HDMI from my PC through the receiver and then to the TV. It is possible that the receiver delays the signal to match the audio decoding time, but I think that's very unlikely.
So that's how I came to buy the Montego DDL sound card and rely on the analog outs. The sound isn't as good as before, but at least its in synch. What's more the card was decoding Dolby Digital and sending the output through the analog outs of the card. Then in December I upgraded the PC to Win 7 and discovered that there were no Win 7 drivers for that card. After a month they released beta drivers which I'm running now. They work, but they don't appear to support Dolby Digital anymore, they appear to just be passing through whatever PowerDVD sends when I set it to support an 8 speaker environment. I'm working with their support team on that question.
I'm painfully aware that it would make sense for me to buy a new receiver. Unfortunately, in today's economy this year's budget doesn't include the bucks for another major purchase.
Truer words were never spoken typed. It reminds me of the early days, tweaking autoexec.bat and config.sys files with "BLASTER=". You sure got hosed by Integra. I can see why you don't like to talk about it. It was very brave of you to do a Jerry Springer for us here like that.
So your card does, or, rather, did decode DD? I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if they want to let the marketing department run the whole show, fine, but they should at least talk to the people at the company who know what the product is. All their site says is "Dolby Digital Live", which is not the same thing as "Dolby Digital". You'd almost think they want us confused.
I believe that your Montego card uses the same chip that I have, the C-Media CMI8768+. That company has a driver download page with a Windows 7 beta driver for its sister chip the CMI8768 but not for it. That driver might work, except no DDL support, which you're not using, anyway, I think. It's worth a try.
I have a Sony AVR, a bit of a dinosaur, too, in that it, like yours, only passes through HDMI. Deep in the Byzantine bowels of its menu maze is an A.V. Sync option, which is supposed to correct the timing of the audio. Fingers crossed you have overlooked that option in your Integra MkII Doorstop, and that it works.
You may want to consider investing in a real blu ray player or a ps3. If your receiver cannot decode HD bitstreams, the HDMI in will still be able to accept Linear PCM (uncompressed HD audio), something your PC can't do.
The main problem is that HD PC is a real pain given all the DRM restrictions.
Professional Receivers are fitted with external Inputs(i.e. 7.1 analog inputs for PRE-AMP). The purpose of that is for you to be able to use the same Mian Amp to new generations of Pre-Amp that supports new technology such as HDMI and TRUE-HD.
One option for you is to use Asus Xonar card that has True HD analog output. The 7.1 True HD analog output can drive your receiver. PowerDVD and arcSoft Total Media Theatre support 7.1 True HD audio. You are looking at ~$200 of investment with this solution.
Professional Pre-Amp (That supports HDMI and True HD 7.1)to drive your OLD receiver will most likely be in the >$600 range. That will work also.
That's a great idea. I'll definitely explore that.
Since I last posted here, I contacted Cyberlink asking about their supported audio formats. They wrote back mysteriously ignoring my question but telling me to upgrade to a new version of PowerDVD 9 they were sending me. The installation involved first a laborious uninstall of my existing version including registry changes and deletion of some buried directories within my system. Once I completed that, I installed the new version only to discover it refuses to play Blu-Ray disks at all. It throws a "script error." So I wrote Cyberlink back at which point they told me my system doesn't really support PowerDVD anyway. When I wrote back again saying my system did support PowerDVD prior to the upgrade and asking what to do, they wrote back with an answer to the question I'd asked at the start.
In short, Cyberlink's tech support is the worst I've ever encountered. The idiots they've hired or outsourced to don't even read the questions you ask. They just look for a canned answer that seems vaguely related. Pathetic.
I've since switched to WinDVD which plays Blu-Rays very well on my system.
I'm liking the idea of the Asus Xonar card, though. The cost is manageable and it sounds like the audio will be more than good enough to get me through to next year when I'll buy a new receiver.