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Old 26th September 2003, 08:02 AM   #1
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
Default HT without a HT receiver

I have heard that some DVD players have 5 audio ouputs with its own decoder so that you can build your own pre/power amps and get your own home theatre without buying a comercial AV receiver.

2 questions:
1. is this possible / feasible?
2. does anyone know of any specific DVD suitable for this use?

Why would I do this?
1. save the cost of the receiver
2. comercial HT receivers are either very expensive or make a lot of compromises with power supply and heatsink - some also use fans
3. I want to put in good quality bindings posts, etc which seem to only be included on high priced units
4. this allows me to also use bi-amping (again, only high priced units have pre-out/main in to all channels to allow this)

Thanks in advance,
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Old 26th September 2003, 08:18 AM   #2
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Well the DVD player would have to have a volume control for one thing. Not many of the lower priced onboard decoders have this feature (easily accessible). You could look into a standalone decoder made by technics several years ago that was basically a dolby digital decoder with a volume controll built in. I think brand new they went for like $300, so they should be much less than that by now. Can't remember the part number but something like SH-AC3000 or something like that. Anyways it at least got a good review by Audio or Stereo Review. Harmon Kardon's and Yamaha's have had binding posts and pre-amp outputs all almost all their recievers for years. Check out Harmon Outlet for an idea.
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Old 26th September 2003, 08:55 AM   #3
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Volume control - I was intending to make preamps to handle that, that will do fine won't it?

Would I be missing out on anything significant with this approach? (apart from the bells and whistles that aren't really necessary)

I have considered getting a 2nd hand separate decoder, although when I start doing that, I wonder if I'm really saving any money, or if this approach would be worthwhile.

Suggestions, comments anyone?

Has anyone tried something like what I'm suggeting?
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Old 26th September 2003, 11:36 AM   #4
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No, you could just use a 24 step rotary knob or something and make a relay controlled volume control. That way one main rotary knob can control as many channels as you want. Usually if the DVD player has a decoder built in it can handle boost and cut (for example the LFE).

You could also use relays to switch other video/audio feeds.

So basically a box with a bunch of relays, a bunch of resistors and a pot

Like I said you can buy descent AV recievers with Dolby Digital and DTS and stuff for ~$300, hell I've seen ones as cheap as $180 (not nice though!). You could then go through and systematically upgrade parts.
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Old 26th September 2003, 02:35 PM   #5
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$180!!!!! ... that is definately in the USA!!!!!!

It's AUD $1000 to get a HT receiver that actually has preouts! (unless you go 2nd hand)

Where could I find out about this rotary knob thing? ... is it a passive volume control?

What is a relay controlled volume? ... are they relays there to switch from different sources? What are they doing?

upgrading a cheaper HT receiver ... I could get it 2ndhand (I would'nt want to touch anything with a warranty ....) ... so in other words, get one and start messing with it, putting in better binding posts, intercepting the pre - power amp interface and putting in preout/main in connections, etc ... hadn't considered that, but it sounds like a good idea actually. Not sure if I'm up to the challenge just yet, but sounds interesting!

thanks for the tips
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Old 26th September 2003, 03:55 PM   #6
tiroth is offline tiroth  United States
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It sounds like you and I have similar desires. I've been using a Technics SH-AC300 processor to do volume control and pre-outs; I then use external active crossovers and amps. These units can be had in the U.S. as cheaply as US$50 used and are actually of rather high quality, if not exactly hi-fi. I have some info on my website. There is also the more expenive 500d version which supports DTS.

I think this is easier than POOGEing a digital receiver as the receiver has a lot more extraneous garbage in it.

What I am currently working on is an all-in-one-box DIY solution, using either a Technics decoder, Extigy board, or something similar for AC-3 decoding. I'll use my own DACs and implement volume control outside of the processor. The prime benefits other than sound quality is the flexibilty to bypass the processor in PCM mode, and to have access to a digital pre-out for room EQ.

My biggest to-do is the uC side...I need to implement volume control for the three AD1853 DACs.
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Old 26th September 2003, 05:23 PM   #7
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Default audioXpress

a few months ago audioXpress magazine had a volume control project, if i remember correctly, that was for multiple channels (surrounds, etc.) and included a main volume as well as volume controls for each speaker. i forget if there were other features. but i thought i'd mention it in case you're interested.

i believe it was actually aimed at SACD usage. doesn't seem to matter though, a channel is a channel.

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Old 26th September 2003, 06:24 PM   #8
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There are a fair number of units that have DD and DTS decoders on-board. I think the number has increased with the growing acceptance of DVD-A and SACD - if you have to have 5.1 outputs for the hi-res surround formats, why not throw in DD/DTS as well, since I suspect it only costs a couple bucks.

The question is how much do you want to spend? The cheapest I've heard of that has garnered decent word-of-mouth on AVS is the cheapie pioneer universal DVD/DVD-A/SACD player - it runs under $200 US (don't know the model number).

I have the Pioneer 45A which is good and available now for about $300 or so.

Up from there somewhere is the Denon 2900, but that runs almost $1000.

As everyone has pointed out, the only real problem is volume control. I also have no reference to compare the quality of the decoding/output vs the typical receiver. I suspect that there are only a couple chips that handle this, so it should be comparable but I haven't verified that.
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Old 26th September 2003, 08:39 PM   #9
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The 5.1 output DVD-A/SACD players are great. I have a Sony DVP-NC650V. The decoding is all on board. Don't use any of the downmix settings as DTS, AC3 and SACD-Multi is automatically sent to the 6 surround outputs. There are no "soundfield" options like on the cheap HT receivers, but I don't consider that a drawback. Really, who needs stuff to sound like a "church" or some other wacky environment. It's quite an unwarranted option on the other machines.

If you follow the spec speaker placements for surround sound, you will get what you need but just adding amplification and speakers. I use active studio monitors. Ultra-accurate and very inexpensive when compared with hi-end gear.

Most of the cheap HT receivers use some kind of PGA for volume control. You could do just as well with a 6 input 6 output preamp/mixer/attenuator. I use a 4-buss mixer right now with a phantom centre and the sub mono and low-passed from L/R channels.

You'll know you did it right when Norman Osborne and the Green Goblin have an unbelievably spatial argument in Spiderman.


Those who claim to be making history are often the same ones repeating it.
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Old 27th September 2003, 09:17 AM   #10
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What do you think of things like all the soundfield options offered by yamaha HT receivers? I have read a little about them (only advertising stuff I must admit), but they seem generally well regarded ... yes, I'm inclined to agree that I dont' really want it to sound like a church - that kind of artificialness, when trying to digitally create an environment with totally different acoustics that is out of scale and character with your listening room, isn't effective IMO.

The consensus seems so far that DVD players that have a decoder are just as good. But what about the separate decoders such as those offered by the Yamaha? I have seen some for $300 or less, can a DVD player offer the same thing as an extra without making compromises that are noticeably inferior?

So we have three possibilities:
DVD with inbuilt decoder
separate decoder (which I can get 2nd hand fairly cheap)
HT receiver

Forgetting bells and whistles, are there any quality differences?

Thanks for your help so far guys, it has been great
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