So, would a media PC with say an AMD A6 CPU for the integrated graphics + an HT omega Claro (200 dollar soundcard) work well as a home theater system/media access system?
My only concern would be whether or not I could use the sound system with the TV on cable. Basically, I am asking if it is possible to turn a PC into a receiver, and would sound quality take a major hit?
You'd probably not notice the difference in sound quality. However, if you have an amp, then that would be the better bet. You can output from the HTPC using the HDMI cable, and if the onboard GPU is 5xxx or 6xxx series you can bitstream to the amp also. I'm not sure if a soundcard can do that. Also, if you have an amp for powering the speakers then why use a soundcard when you have the equipment already?
I don't have an amp, basically I am asking if I could build a PC that could match a receiver in sound quality, but have all the benefits of a media center, hulu, netflix, blu ray etc, is that possible?
I'd prefer an HTPC over a standalone receiver, to be honest. You can churn amazing quality from a PC as well, and few people have the money to afford valve amps and the accompanying speaker to actually hear the difference between the PC's quality and the receiver's.
Also, the pro of a PC is that you can service it yourself, and you have the option of both internet connectivity and storage of your favourite music/movies in equal quality without the delay of optical drives. Simply rip to image files and load onto a virtual drive reader whenever you're interested and you have Blu Ray quality video and audio with standard ease-of-HDD (or SSD if you have a lot of money) accessibility.