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ASUS Mobo + Win7 x64 +AMD X4 = No HD Audio + Video stutters

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January 21, 2011 5:49:44 AM

Hi All,
Sorry for the long post but I truly am at my wits ends with this. I hope there is someone there to help me.....

So here's the low-down of my problems with additional details below :
1. When watching mkv's, HDTV stutters every few seconds for a few seconds
2. No HD Audio (5.1) through TOSLINK/SPDIF or HDMI

My set-up : Recently built HTPC with following specs
Mobo : ASUS M4A88T-M
GPU : ATI Radeon HD4250 built into mobo
CPU : AMD Athlon II X4 3.0 GHz
RAM : 1 x 4GB Patriot DDR3 1333 MHz
HDD : Seagate 1TB 7200 rpm
OS : Win7 64-bit
Drivers : Up to date
Receiver : Yamaha RX-V567
Speakers : Bose 5.1
TV : Vizio 47" 1080p (V47GVL or something like that, purchased in Dec 2007)
Connections : HTPC --> HDMI for Video & Optical TOSLINK for Sound --> Receiver -->Wired --> HT Speakers; Receiver -->HDMI -->TV

Details :
1. Now I dont understand resolution a whole lot but my TV is supposed to be 1080p. However, the HTPC suggests the output as 1268 x 720 making it a 720p image. This looks ok but I can tell the difference between this setting and 1920 x 1080p based on the Porsche themed wallpapers. If I bump my resolution up and then run an mkv, the video stutters every minute or so and then becomes smooth for a minute. This happens no matter if there is a lot of movement on the screen. Is this because the GPU is not powerful enough? Any suggestions to improve this? I've tried to disable everything else thats running in the background.

2. I cannot get WMP or VLC to output 5.1 sound. I d/l'ed a 5.1 test file in AC3 and WMP format. When playing the files, AC3 through VLC and WMP through WMP, the front 3 speakers work fine but the rear speakers dont work at all. The sound for those also comes out the front. I know my connections are right as, when I play a blu-ray, the receiver detects a 1080p signal with 3/2/0.1 sound. I've tried all the drivers and settings. I read somewhere they AC3 filter would help. Any opinions on this? Anything else I can try? Spdifer?

Am I missing codecs for Video/Audio?

Folks, Im really disappointed (and slowly getting frustrated) that I cannot get this to work. Any advice would be helpful.
January 21, 2011 10:47:38 AM

1.Yes, firstly you need to get a good GPU.
2.Yes, the AC3 Filter is a must and it needs to be configured correctly for the 5.1 to work, although it's not too difficult, but it's the thing you'll need the most.

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January 21, 2011 5:14:40 PM

Hi Alyoshka,

Thanks for your reply.

Is the HD4250 really that incapable of handling MKVs? Or is it a combination of the higher resolution and that its an mkv? If I were to get a dedicated GPU, what would the specs on that have to be?

Thanks in advance,
B
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January 22, 2011 2:12:47 AM

Not exactly just the GPU, like the HD4250 it's a IGP, it's not a bad GPU when it comes to just simple desktop graphics and simple stuff. But it falls back when you have a higher resolution with 5.1 Audio, I know a lot of people will differ and say no audio has got nothing to do with it, actually the whole set, the IGP, the Sound Card and the Speed is all correlated by the Mobo Processor, so everything is related, if one specification exceeds the normal levels , than that required higher computing power throughout and that eats up the computing power required for the other stuff.
It's not that the IGP will not handle MKVs, it's the Combination of High Resolutions and higher quality Audio being streamed over the Mobo simultaneously , that kind of brings periodic stack buffering and lags.

A good discrete GPU would be a GPU capable of handling 2 or more monitors at high resolutions, since it's an HTPC, I think we're looking for small size and form, passive cooling to avoid noise levels and yet keep the heat low and plus a lower current draw. So a single slot one would be a good one depending on the case you're using for the HTPC, though it may not cool as well as the ones that occupy double slots....., you need to look for a card, firstly within the budget, secondly having HDMI capabilities , low power guzzlers and thirdly high cooling low noise ones, GDDR5 cards are preferable.
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January 22, 2011 5:07:13 AM

Hi Alyoshka,

Thanks again for the reply.

More conversations lead to more questions...so here goes...

1. I read the AC3filter does not work with VLC player. Is that true? If so, is there another player I should consider?

2. How does the Galaxy GeForce 210 1024 mb stack up? It's available from microcenter for $28. I am using a microATX mobo inside the nmedia pc 5000 case.

Thanks a ton for your time.
B
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January 22, 2011 5:26:09 AM

Files encoded using the AC3 filter require it to be decoded thru the same filter and if you have it on the rig, VLC will play it pretty well, the SPDIF pass through is the tricky part but for that the rig needs to be configured and setup with VLC and AC3, someone suggested in the afterdawn forum to use GOM player, but, I never used it, so I wouldn't be able to say for sure, though the name itself strikes me as one of those stupid players that fake torrents used to ask you to download, but people seem to be using it and are happy with the output.
You can use VLC and configure audio codecs to use the AC3 codec as a first priority.... though.

That seems to be a very decent card for a HTPC. Although you can get a slightly better card if the budget is given a little boost.
Something like this will solve all your problems....
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
OR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
OR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

For more discussions on the player to be used, I'd really suggest you read thru this particular topic here.....
http://forums.afterdawn.com/thread_view.cfm/776470
They have discussed quite a few players and 5.1&MKV files being played....
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January 22, 2011 9:45:49 PM

Hey Alyoshka,

Thanks for taking the time to keep the conversation going. Looking thru the threads you mentioned above, I d/l'ed the KMPlayer. It works well and did output a test AC3 file in correct 5.1 audio. I had to set the output to be in DD ProLogic II format and set my receiver to the same. I tried playing an mkv file and it looks like it's doing 5.1 but I'm not 100% sure. Tried looking for test mkvs online but can't find any. Could you point me to one? Also, is my understanding correct that the mkv file can have audio in one of many formats, ac3 , AAC, etc? Not sure of the different formats and bow exactly to wok with sound but would read up on anything you could point me towards.

For the graphics card, can't exactly spend $100 yet. If you think the GeForce would cut it, I may just get that for now.

Thanks a ton again,
B
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January 23, 2011 2:49:57 AM

If the present IGP is playing the files you want to play without a glitch and with the sound as you want it to, don't think of changing the IGP to a GPU......, wait till you manage to collect the dough and then go for anyone of the good GPUs , it would be rather pointless if you were to invest in something cheaper and end up with the same problems you're facing with an IGP, it would be an utter loss.

The different files that you might want to test are available here......
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1163456

and

http://www.matroska.org/downloads/test_w1.html

Check them up and see if you're satisfied with the results....
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January 23, 2011 9:02:33 PM

Hi Alyoshka,

Thanks for the links to the files. I d/l'ed the DTS file and it plays fine through the KMPlayer with sound coming from the individual speaker targeted. However, I had a couple questions as I learn about sound in more techie detail :
1. Even when the sound is coming out the individual channels, the receiver still shows the incoming signal to be 2 channel sound. Though when I play a Blu-Ray disc, the receiver shows 3/2/0.1 sound. Is this right?
2. I still cannot get a wma test file to play correctly.
3. I read somewhere that the ATI 5xxx series cards are the only ones that can bitstream correctly (or something like that). Does this mean that they are the only ones that can correctly pass sound?
4. In the KMPLayer to play the DTS file, I have to set it to ProLogic II. Is that correct? Is that what is meant by configuring the settings? Also, I am playing it without AC3filter installed on my machine.
5. MKV is just a file which can have sound encoded in any one of multiple formats, right? So its a matter of decoding the video and audio, right?
6. My mobo has a ATI HD Audio device and also a VIA audio device. Do I need to have both enabled?

I REALLY appreciate your guidance. Hopefully, I am not bugging ya too much.
B.
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January 24, 2011 7:15:55 AM

1. Yes, when a recording is n stereo, you'll see only 2 channels at the receiver , it'll then upmix, encode, and recode it to 5.1 or 7.1 speakers, thus the output is a virtual surround mix. ( hardware Controlled )

2. For the wma file you ought to use WMP, that'll work fine in it.

3. I wouldn't say the only cards to correctly pass sound, but, I'd say they do a good job of the A/V Synchronization at HiRes and HiFi Sound quality the encoding and decoding process on the 5 series is the most efficient single card solution presently available.

4.Yes , that is what is meant by configuring the setting, although having AC3 installed on the system is a perk since the DTS pass thru can be configured to skip or use AC3 as you wish.

5. Yes, MKV is one of the many kinds of video files that support multiple Audio tracks.. Yes, it's a matter of decoding the audio tracks, since most of us use the AC3 filter to correctly encode 5.1 audio into the Video stream, that means at the user end , they need to have the AC3 to decode it properly too.

6. Yes, you need to have both enabled but use only the HD for the primary device.
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January 24, 2011 9:21:50 PM

Hey Alyoshka,

Thanks for imparting all your wisdom.

I am a little confused by your first reply. You say that the incoming signal to the receiver is in stereo (2 channel) and then gets recoded to 5.1. So this is not truly 5.1 sound then? Does this mean that my problem isnt really solved?

Should my receiver really be showing 3/2/0.1 in order to have true surround?

Also, my friend got the Dell Zino 410 - the one with the 5450 IGP built in. Is that machine going to perform better than mine in outputting sound? By better I mean, will it be able to decode more files natively? Or are the two systems the same, he just cant tell that he's not getting 5.1 or is just using the receiver to upmix?

And finally, is there a good site/thread I can read through to get a better understanding of what I should be looking for (so I dont constantly hog up your time). I would really like to keep this conversation going but feel that I should be doing some of my own reading too.

Thanks,
B.
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January 25, 2011 3:49:43 AM

Yes, this is not truly 5.1 sound, but that is not for all the files playing, for some files that were encoded to keep the size of the audio track down, we can use a Stereo or Stereo Downmix filter, but for other files where the track is in 5.1, it'll be truly 5.1 sound. It's called enhancing the viewers/listeners experience using virtual surround.

Actually , yes, your receiver should be showing 3/2/0.1 in order for the real deal.

Actually the Zino is a HTPC, so, logically it should perform entertainment tasks better than your PC, but, I have my doubts, why?, well because it's a Branded PC and as usual the customer is not getting the bang for his buck, so at some point or the other the Zino is bound to suck.
The onboard sound decoder supports Analogue Stereo and as it says upto 7.1THX..... :)  Which I really doubt, cos he'll always have some configuration issues with it which Dell is not going to be able to solve, so his PC should perform at par with your if not worse, I would never say better than your PC in 99% cases.

I might not be able to help you out with the site, but I might be able to show you the road.
Check a few stereophile magazines or sites, they'll give you good information on the hardware that you need, basically.
And then we have Toms, to solve the computer hardware issues.

Everything said and done, I would also suggest you use really good quality cables for interconnecting the equipment you have. They do make all the world of a difference.
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January 25, 2011 9:15:49 PM

Hi Alyoshka,

Well...I have some good news to report. I was reading around yesterday and came upon a few threads that said to (a) turn off the jack detection in VIA HD Dock, (2) In VLC, set the audio to come out of A/52 via SPDIF and (c) connect the comp to the receiver via Toslink.

And IT WORKED!! :-)

I tried playing a couple different files yesterday and my receiver showed each file with a different 5.1 enoding format, DTS Ex something, DD PLII....I saw two videos - in one the sound was 3/2/0.1 and in the other it was 3/3/0.1 (not sure what that is). In any case, it seems to work now!! :-)

Thanks a ton to you for steering my in the right direction.

Now on to your last post :-)
Im surprised that you say the Zino would be on par with my HTPC. I was hoping to get more out of mine since the specs are a little better (Qud core vs Dual on the Zino, 4BG RAM vs 2GB on the Zino). I guess there is more to performance than just the processor and RAM. The IGP on the Zino is decidedly better than on my PC.

Also, for the cables, currently, I am using the HDMI cables that came with my Sony DVD player to go from PC to Receiver and another HDMI that I got (not sure from where) for Receiver to TV. My PC is connected to Receiver via a Belkin Optical Toslink for sound. Im thinking these should be good for now - what are your thoughts?


I had two questions that I did not know the answer to and so am thinking of asking you...
1. I was explaining to a colleague that when playing an MKV at 1080p, the video flows smooth for a few seconds and then just ever so slightly stutters for a few seconds. The stuttering is so subtle you almost dont notice it. Further, this doesnt happen at 720p. At 1080p, it happens whether the onscreen video is full of action or just people talking. From our earlier conversation we pegged it to the IGP. However, he wondered if it could be some sort of throughput issue. And so, Im posing the question to you...could it be a throughput issue?
2. I dont understand Toslink and am confused by the terminology. Toslink is just the connector and is a form of SPDIF correct? Does that mean you can get non-optical (electrical, perhaps) toslink and optical toslink? I think I have an optical toslink connection since I have a red light at the toslink connection in my mobo that comes out the other end of the cable that goes into the receiver. Does this seem right?
3. Is sound supposed to be cleaner/better from Toslink or HDMI?

As always, thanks for reading through my long posts and replying back with equally long, valuable information.

Regards,
B.
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January 26, 2011 4:56:41 AM

I said at par with your system or lower, not higher.....
:) 

1.It's a throughput issue. Very logical, the point it figuring out where it's happening. It's the IGP where this was happening since your processor is more than capable of playing everything fine, it was the IGP which caused the stutter due to buffer drainage and refilling ..... though it's slight but it's still there. That's what's called a throughput issue when there is a bottleneck somewhere.... it's bound to break a clean flow of data for a few milliseconds at some point or the other.

2. Toslink is a Original creation by Toshiba that's why the name and it's only Optical Fiber. SPDIF is different since it uses any of the means either via optical fiber or coaxial and it's a Sony/Philips patent. Yes, you have an Optical SPDIF out on the Mobo.

3. Now that's a very tricky question...... The Toslink is mostly dependent on the source and receiver and length of cable plus quality of it, the HDMI is going to encode and decode directly based on the encoding quality. They are both digital and have a very high level of clarity thus differentiating between the two is really difficult, but, HDMI is capable of carrying both Audio and Video so it has higher data capabilities than the Toslink without noticeable distortion.
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January 27, 2011 6:09:33 PM

Hi Alyoshka,

Me again...

THANKS A TON for all your help over the last several days. I've learnt a ton from you can cannot thank you enough.

Here goes this session..
1. While I could get my comp to output sound over the Optical Toslink connection when playing mkvs, I cant get it to output regular sound thru there (like youtube videos, system sounds etc). Is there a way to do that? Or is it going to take more poking around the system?
2. Just to confirm, since my receiver does say 3/2/0.1 sound when playing mkvs over Toslink, this is the real deal right? Not the same upmixing that I was hearing earlier? I ask because I cant set the Optical Sound's output to anything but stereo in the setting and I read somewhere that Toslink is inherently in stereo.

Thanks a bunch,
Dhawal.

PS : Lemme know if Im taking too much of your time and I can start a new thread.
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February 2, 2011 8:50:34 PM

Hi biotechie,

I just thought I'd chime in. I'm very interested in this thread as I'm planning to build a media PC capable of playing mkv files out to HDTV.

I have been watching mkv files on my PC for some time now and experienced a similar problem of stuttering during playback. I found that my 7200RPM drive was the culprit (or some combination of hardware related to the drive). I decided to really boost my drive speed and installed a couple of 10K Velociraptors in a RAID 0 config. I've never had a problem with the video stuttering since.

Great thread - I learned a lot. Thanks!
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February 3, 2011 2:13:37 AM

Ok, Sorry bio, I just got back to town and will get to you later in the day.....
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February 13, 2011 11:41:44 PM

I have an Asus M4A88T-M that I am currently typing from with a 255 x2 and 2x2GB of Patriot RAM @ 1333. It can play 1080p without stutters no problem (CPU: ~26-28%); your stutters are not CPU/RAM/motherboard caused since I have either identical or inferior hardware and I have no problems whatsoever. On top of that, I used a Seagate 2TB LP drives as my boot (first 75GB) and data storage (second partiton); this is ALSO a really bad setup but STILL works fine. I recently changed to a Hitachi 5K3000 2TB and it works fine as well.

As for audio more than 2.0 channels, you might want to investigate converting audio to LPCM before sending it across the HDMI. With my setup, I wanted to output DTS-MA but the 4xxx series doesn't support it (I believe it's licensing issues). So, I convert the DTS-MA internally on my PC, and send it out to the reciever. I don't get the DTS light turning on (as the audio is no longer encrypted), but I still get all the channels.

I'd investigate if something isn't playing nice by trying to benchmark things one at a time; that harddrive would be my first item to test, stutters as large as you speak of are almost positively bandwidth related somewhere along the path. Get HDTach or something and see if you get a nice smooth (ish) transfer. Also, where are your movies stored ? If they're on a NAS or another computer, you might want to look at network cards (especially if they're wireless). I know Windows Experience Index is sorta trash, but what do you get in that? I get 6.5, 5.9, 4.1, 5.3 and 5.9. Might want to disconnect random stuff if you're getting big file transfer stutters; CD/DVD/BD-ROM, any USB stuff attached, PVR card, etc.

Your hardware should be fine, so it must be something else. Here is my EXACT hardware list:
Asus M4A88T-M
AMD X2 255
Patriot 2x2GB 1333 RAM (it's their 2000 MHz RAM, underclocked and undervolted)
Hitachi 5K3000 2TB
Asus PCE-N16 wireless (which I don't use at present)
Antec 350w PSU (whatever comes with a Antec MicroFusion 350)

Reciever is a Denon 3808

Videocard is using 2D Driver Version 8.01.01.1114 and Direct3D Version 7.14.10.0806 (copied from catalyst control center).

Edit: I know I am in way late on this convo, but I thought I'd share since your PC and mine are near identical.
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