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'A\V Jukebox'

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
July 9, 2003 1:21:36 AM

I want to build a PC based 'A/V Jukebox.'

This PC will store and play Audio and Video files...that's it. I want both A & V to be of high quality (at least 5.1 audio, DVD/HDTV capable video) but I don't need overkill (I don't even own HDTV equipemnt currently). I think I need seperate Audio and Video cards to achieve high quality, but maybe not. The PC will connect to an A/V receiver. I think I need sVideo connectors for the Video output and RCA connectors for the Audio output, but maybe there's something better. I think I will start with one 160GB HD but want to expand to 4 or more ATA harddrives (which I will add as I need space), but I don't think I need RAID. I also don't think I need CDs, DVDs, or even a floppy (well maybe). I plan to run Win2k but would consider XP (my other machines are all 2k). I will need basic networking so that I can download files from another PC that's connected to the Internet.

So what I'm looking for is a recommendation for appropriate Hardware, including: motherboard, Audio amd Video cards, memory, CPU, power supply, cooling fans, case, and ???

Any specific product suggestions? What performance bottlenecks should I be concerned with?


More about : jukebox

July 9, 2003 6:01:42 AM

Very subjective...why not you give us your suggestion and we comment on the parts that you suggest rather than we tell you the whole system...
July 9, 2003 6:29:24 AM

Music and movie playback is no big whoop, so you could easily keep the price down if you wanted.

Certain movie formats can require some hefty CPU power, but movies dont usually come in this format (super high compression divx!!!). Mpeg4 is another one that could need some decent cpu power I think.
However if you want to watch truly high quality movies, youll want dvd rips basically.
If you plan to dload movies of kazaa and the like, lots of those are in mpeg format, but whenever possible, get the dvd rips.

Im gonna suggest you keep it under or around $500 bucks, not including additional hard drives.

I would recommend an nForce 2 based motherboard, 512 ddr333 (any brand will do, unless you plan on overclocking (via fsb)), and something like an Athlon xp1700, which can be had for around 45-50 bux.
If you feel you want a better cpu (which you shouldnt need for audio/video playback) u can always get a better one, but keep in mind the 1700 tbred b core overclocks like a banshee, easily getting up to 2600/2700 speeds with conventional air cooling.

For the graphics card I would suggest a Radeon 9100, or 9200 Pro. ATI cards have superior visual quality, and advanced motion compensation techniques, plus they have Fullstream, a nifty feature to make your low rez porn look good:)  These both have svideo output. They do not however, have inputs, like to record TV or movies illegaly, or from a camcorder or something.

If you want to do that, you can either get a seperate card, or an ATI all in wonder card.
Leadtek makes a nice tuner card (tv tuner, coax input, etc.)

Now the nForce 2 board, as an option, comes with a high quality audio processor, the nVidia Soundstorm APU.
It works with Dolby Digital 5.1, and has a digital output. It does not however support DTS or THX. If you plan on wanting those, go for, well, something that has them. The Audigy 2 maybe? Im not really sure.

Power supply: a brand name 350W or higher. If you plan to upgrade in the future you will most likely need to get a new power supply. 350W or higher should be the minimum you look at.
Cooling fans... get as many as will fit in your case, theyre cheap and help keep those temps down.

Case: what LOOKS good to you? If this is gonna be in your living room u probly want it to look nice.
There are TONS of cases to choose from, pick one you like and that fits your budget. Keep in mind it should be at least a mid-tower ATX case.


"Every Day is the Right Day." -Pink Floyd<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Willamette_Sucks on 07/09/03 02:37 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
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July 11, 2003 3:26:24 PM

Sorry I'm slow but I went into research mode...hope I'm not too late.

I've discovered:
* Asus A7N8X Deluxe MoBo - won't need audio or video cards for awhile, that saves money and it sounds like an excellent board.
* Thermaltake Xaser III - enough drive bays (12) and cooling fans (7) for a lifetime of systems, that saves more money in the long term.
* A Thermaltake 480W Silent, dual fan Power Supply ought to light it up.
* About a Gig of RAM (333 or 400) should cover it.
* I'll catch 160-200GB Harddrives on sale locally, I already have one.

...and I think I'm in business. Comes in just over $500, without Harddrives. Thank you guys so much for getting me started but there's nothing like time spent on research personally to populate the brain.

a b U Graphics card
July 11, 2003 7:36:13 PM

For Audio nothing beats <b><A HREF="" target="_new">RME</A></b> for audio quality. I know you say the Nforce2 is good enough (and it is among the best of the integrated) but you may want better, and more options. Under the RME's quality (well under IMO) is the Audigy 2, and close to it is M-Audo (7.1 support). These will allow you the Adition of things like DVD-Audio, and DolbyDigital-EX, and DTS (haven't seen a DTS-ES card anywhere), which you may want. BTW, what is the audio hooking up to, and how (you mention RCA [optical or coax digital an option?])
<b>WS</b> THX isn't a format, it's just a certification standard, and it's not really important/recognized for PCs (heck they won't even publish what it's covers, its sooo secret OOoooo), so it doesn't really matter if it is THX compliant (even though I do respect Lucas and the THX certification for Theatres and stereos/receivers it just doesn't mean much here).

As for drives, be sure to have a fast mid-sized primary drive for your OS (so you can format add/remove drivers, etc without touching data), the secondary drive should be as large as you can get (120gb is a good start) for your dump/data files, and you should put your OS swap file here to give a little speed boost. It's also handy to allow you to back-up your C: drive when you wipe/clean-up/upgrade.
Yes, don't RAID, the slight increase in performance isn't really needed, and doesn't allow you as much flexibility. Start with those 2 drives and then add SATA drives as the system mature (and they lower in price)

As for CPU go with at least an XP2000+ or P4 2.4as a bare minimum for software encode/decode stuff. I prefer the P4 3.06HT for media PCs allowing you to do that in the background even while sometimes running other apps (and it won't become 'underpowered too soon)

a Gig of RAM (get the Fastest your mobo will support) will help in encoding and decoding activities. Usually a minimum for seriouss AV stuff.

With regards to the fans, 7 fans may 'sound' like a good idea, but they add to the background noise you will hear in the quieter moments of your movies/music, so try and make sure you get whisper fans. Perhaps even putting your case in a Glass-doored A/V cose would help reduce your perception of the cases noises. This may cause cooling issues, which you can help by putting most of your fans in the rear of the case (in bottom out top) which vent out the back of the AV case. You could even underclock a powerful CPU to reduce it's heat issues, but that's not a GREAT solution just a quiet one.
BTW Dual fans on the PSU makes little difference. It sounds nice but really not much diff. Thermaltake and Enermax area good choice for quiet 'whisper' PSUs.

Having a seperate EXTERNAL optical drive help to separate the PC and allows more isolation. Adding external controls (power, fans, etc) helps. But this may be going a little extreme for you, and an external drive usually doubles the price. Despite your saying you don't need CD, DVD etc I think a GOOD DVD drive is ALWAYS a good start (I personally think nothing is quite like having a Slot-load DVD drive [Pioneer in my case]). A DVD-burner would be good too. Perhaps a DVD-Combo drive that way you can at least add stuuf and also do some archiving (although limited to 700mb). However you best know your needs. Without a DVD drive though you will be stuck with compressed video/audio so the quality of the other parts will not matter too much.

As for Video cards, like WS said the ATIs are a good choice with the 8500/9000/9100/9200 all offering basic good video (the 9XXX series offering fullstream video smoothing for internet video). The All-in-Wonder cards (7500,8500DV, 8500, 9000, 97/9800) allow for a good all-in-one card and make most things easy. The 9700&9800 only if you want to game on this thing as well. At the same time some ATI Powered-by partners (like HIS) have VIVO versions of the above cards (9000,9100,9200) and as long as you don't need cable TV tuning that will give you most of what you are looking for S-video in S-video out. HDTV out can be handled by a dongle.
If you want TV tunning you can also consider adding a seperate PCI tuner card (this also makes later upgrades easier) I'd recommend checking <A HREF="" target="_new">Hauppauge</A> as a good option there. If you ARE a gamer then definitely think of either the high end ATI AIWs or a GOOD gaming card (the R9500Pro/9600Pro or better OR the FX5600Ultra or better [definitely NOT the FX5800Ultra!])in conjunction with the PCI video in card. That way it will give you the power to game that the above cards don't. However if this is not for gaming at all stick with the Lower end ATIs.

And yes XP is pretty much a MUST. Media PC isn't mecessary but nice as well, but it will require a hardware mpeg decoder/encoder, so you'll need to decide (also I'm not sure of it's availibility to individuals).

Also you might want to think about 802.11 a/g (b's a little slow) for connectivity, as well as some bluetooth appliances (keyboard mouse) to give a nice clean feel to the system.

Anywhoo, that's my two cents worth. (and 2 thousand words too ! :eek:  )

- You need a licence to buy a gun, but they'll sell anyone a stamp <i>(or internet account)</i> ! <A HREF="" target="_new"><font color=green>RED</font color=green> <font color=red>GREEN</font color=red></A> GA to SK :evil: 
July 11, 2003 9:15:54 PM

I like the Audigy 2 and will consider adding an audio card in the next budget cycle.

I also like RME's web site...seriously, first time I've heard of it but it looks good. Let the research begin...round 2.

The Jukebox will connect to a Yamaha A/V receiver, was TOL a couple years ago. The Yamaha pumps through Klipsch speakers, only 6 speakers and a center channel at this point. Of course there's a 200 disk CD changer and a DVD (both Yamaha), but I'm tired of storing/finding/buying/replacing/finding disks. It's mostly virtual now.

I just bought my first drive, 160GB. Also plan to go at least 2600 on the CPU for 333 bus will be AMD. 1GB of memory (paired) to take advantage of that, at 333 or 400.

Liking the ASUS V9520vs video card. Someone suggested matching the card to the MoBo, guess it can't hurt. No Games for me, but who knows...maybe when the cheerleaders come by...

I have 802.11g and a cable modem.

What's "Media PC", just a special PC or....?

Thanks for the words, all of them.