[QUOTE=thfenn;2110441]OK, being a newbie I guess I get to ask questions like this about using a computer as your stereo/home theater:
I’ve got old but good (at the time) stereo equipment (25 year old 60 watt per channel Kenwood amp and Onkyo tuner (yes, with a dial knob), and 12 year old Boston Acoustic floorstanding speakers (they cost about $800 12 years ago). The amp and speakers are connected with very thick copper cables (coax, I guess), but you strip off the insulation and stick tightly twisted copper ends into little clips on the backs of the speakers and amp).
I recently decided to turn a new off-the-shelf HP desktop into a giant IPod, meaning I burned 350 CDs or so using Windows Media Player, stuck one end of a Y cable into the computer’s speaker jack and the Y end into the amplifier’s AUX/CD input and play all my music with WMP or ITunes through my old stereo. It’s now even a great home theater as I bought an LCD projector, attach the projector to the monitor output on the computer and watch movies on my living room wall, also with WMP, or WinDVD.
It all works/looks/sounds great, at least to this newbie’s eyes/ears.
Disk space is not an issue, so when I burn the CDs I use the WMA Mathematically Lossless option - meaning songs run around 25 MB each. Somehow I managed to convince myself that the other more efficient burns (variable bit rates or even the 128 Kbps) didn’t sound as good as the ‘highest quality’ bit rate.
Question 1: Is using the Mathematically Lossless option Stupid? (For portability, I just have ITunes convert what I want from my WMA library into the M4A files Apple uses (4-5MB per song) and sync my IPod)
Question 2: I wasn’t sure what input jacks to use on my amp. When I used the inputs for a turntable the sound system was incredibly sensitive - distorted and way too loud. The inputs for the tape player were OK, but seemed a little muffled. The inputs for the AUX/CD device and the tuner seemed to work fine. Since I still use the tuner, I chose the AUX/CD inputs. Does that make sense?
Question 3: What, at this point, would be the single largest hindrance to the quality I currently experience? I mean, if I wanted to take the next step up, would I put in a better sound card? Stop using that Y cable between the standard speaker jack on the computer and my amp? Use something other than Windows Media Player? Concern myself with the CD/DVD drive itself? Get a new amp or speakers?
P.S. I’m doubting it’s the cables, but on the subject of coax vs optical there’s an informative, sometimes funny, sometimes rude discussion on this topic in this thread.
Question 4: Believe it or not I actually like watching movies on my living room wall through this projector I bought. Talk about big screen TV. But is there a better DVD viewing package than WMP or WinDVD that I should use? Or, given the fact I’m watching movies through a good LCD projector, is the software pretty immaterial?
Question 5: Naturally, when I’ve got the projector attached, I’ve got the computer monitor unattached. Is there a way to see both? I mean, is there a Y cable that would go from the video output on the computer to both a monitor and a projector? Or should I just by a switch box so that I at least don’t have to connect/disconnect everytime I want to use one or the other?
I realize this has gotten a bit long - just looking for help on my migration into the 21st century.[/QUOTE]
In my experience, using a splitter (Y cable) to do anything can degrade the quality. For your video: There are video cards you can buy that have two outputs, meaning you can have your projector and computer monitor running at the same time or simply that you won’t have to unplug anything when you want to switch between the two.
For your sound, you might benefit from a nice soundcard, although it’s hard to say. If you’re running from a 1/8" headphone jack to a Y splitter, I would suspect that you aren’t getting the best you can out of your sound. What audio inputs does your amp have? Even if you got a card with RCA outputs (M-audio 2496 for example I believe) if would likely sound better than a split headphone output.
Hopefully this helped
Now, on note of my topic, I’ve decided it’s time Ig et a new computer anyways, and a Mac Pro suites my needs best. Although I’m having a hard time ripping a CD into FLAC and playing Flac files (doable, but a hassle) I’ve decided I’ll just run Windows XP in a virtual machine. The machine has dual quad core chips (8 cores) and will have 16gb of ram and 4tb of internal drive space, so it should run most of what I throw at it pretty well.
The good news is that it has a good quality optical out, so that solves that problem. Thanks for the help you’ve all given, it made my choice a little simpler
I still need to decide the best way to store/play my files though. If I want to use the files on my iPod they will need to be in mp3 or AIFF format. For playing off my computer, the primary use at home, would it be best to stick to FLAC and play them through windows (Foobar2000) or convert them to AIFF and play from the mac side of things?