Friday, 18 October 2013

'Free' Receiver Upgrade

My venerable Pioneer VSX-D2011 has served me well. It’s a 7.1 receiver with 100W per channel but is firmly rooted in the analog age with no HDMI support and no HD audio decoding.

As part of a general home theatre upgrade, it’s marked for replacement (I have my eye on the Marantz AV8801 processor) but with new projector and speakers also on the cards, funds are tight.

I drive my theater from an HTPC and have recently migrated to MediaPortal as my media software of choice. MP has support for BluRay playback and I have an old M-Audio Delta 410 multichannel PCI card available. Hmmm. I wonder…

It turns out this works GREAT!

Installing Slysoft AnyDVD allows MediaPortal play back DVD or BluRay discs. With the bundled LAV filters, I can elect to bitstream various flavours of digital audio to specific outputs (spdif, hdmi etc.). However, by switching off bitstreaming, LAV will decode all the formats including the high res. BluRay flavours and send discrete channels to the 8 analog outputs of the Delta 410.  These are in turn connected to analog in on the pioneer. Modern audio standards on 10 year old hardware. Not too shabby!

Now, there are some drawbacks. The Pioneer Multichannel Inputs are not completely free of processing so there’s digital manipulation there. Also, sampling support on the receiver tops out at 48kHz so no 96kHz joy for me. Also, I’m using basic Directsound in Windows 8 which is not ideal.

Next steps are to install ReClock to see if I can get WASAPI supported for hopefully a cleaner, more direct path.

OK, I don’t get fancy decoding lights showing up on my receiver but, to my ears, it sounds great and, at the end of the day, that’s really all that maters, isn’t it?

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