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How to build a PC-based home theater (HTPC)

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Modern home computers can perform many different functions, one of which is the playback of multimedia content. In most cases, we listen to music and watch movies using computer acoustics and a monitor, which is not always convenient. You can replace these components with your home theater by connecting it to a PC. We will talk about how to do this in this article.

Home Cinema Connection

Home cinema users mean different sets of devices. This is either multi-channel acoustics, or a set of a TV, player and speakers. Next, we will analyze two options:

  • How to use a PC as a source of sound and image by connecting a TV and speakers to it.
  • How to directly connect existing cinema speakers to a computer.

Option 1: PC, TV and speakers

In order to reproduce the sound on the speakers from the home theater, you will need an amplifier, which usually acts as a complete DVD player. In some cases, it can be built into one of the speakers, for example, a subwoofer, module. The connection principle is identical in both situations.

    Since the PC connectors (3.5 miniJack or AUX) are different from those on the player (RCA or “tulips”), we need an appropriate adapter.

Connect the 3.5 mm plug to the stereo output on the motherboard or sound card.

“Tulips” connect to the audio inputs on the player (amplifier). Typically, these jacks are referred to as “AUX IN” or “AUDIO IN”.

The speakers, in turn, are plugged into the appropriate DVD jacks.

To transfer an image from a PC to a TV, you need to connect them with a cable, the type of which is determined by the variety of connectors available on both devices. It can be VGA, DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort. The last two standards also support audio transmission, which allows you to use the built-in speakers in the TV set without using additional acoustics.

If the connectors are different, you will need an adapter, which can be purchased at the store. There is no shortage of such devices in the retail network. Please note that adapters may differ in plug type. This is a plug or “male” and a socket or “female”. Before buying, you need to determine what type of jacks are present on the computer and TV.

The connection is extremely simple: one “end” of the cable is connected to the motherboard or video card, the second to the TV. In this way we will turn the computer into an advanced player.

Option 2: Direct speaker connection

Such a connection is possible if the amplifier and computer have the necessary connectors. Consider the principle of action on the example of acoustics with 5.1 channel.

  1. First we need four adapters from 3.5 mm miniJack to RCA (see above).
  2. Next, with these cables we connect the corresponding outputs to the PC and the inputs to the amplifier. To do this correctly, you must determine the purpose of the connectors. In fact, everything is quite simple: the necessary information is written near each nest.
    • R and L (Right and Left) correspond to the stereo output on a PC, usually green.
    • FR and FL (Front Right and Front Left) are connected to the black “Rear” jack.
    • SR and SL (Side Right and Side Left) - to gray with the name "Side".
    • The center speakers and subwoofer (CEN and SUB or S.W and C.E) are connected to the orange jack.

If any slots on your motherboard or sound card are missing, then some speakers will simply be unused. Most often, only a stereo output is available. In this case, the AUX inputs (R and L) are used.

It should be borne in mind that sometimes, when connecting all 5.1 speakers, the stereo input on the amplifier may not be used. It depends on how it works. Connector colors may vary. Detailed information can be found in the instructions for the device or on the official website of the manufacturer.

Sound setting

After connecting the speaker system to the computer, you may need to configure it. This is done using the software included with the audio driver, or using standard operating system tools.

Conclusion

The information in this article will allow you to use the equipment at hand for its intended purpose. The process of creating a symbiosis of a home theater with a computer is quite simple, it is enough to have the necessary adapters. Pay attention to the types of connectors on devices and adapters, and if you encounter difficulties in determining their purpose, read the manuals.

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HTPC configuration

I want to note right away that the components for HTPC are purely individual. The set of components depends on your goals, means and dimensions of the room. You can even use used accessories for your HTPC using old hardware in the new case. Below is the minimum configuration:

  • 2-core Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz processor (minimum)
  • 2 GB of DDR3 memory (it is not economically feasible to buy an older memory (DDR, DDR2)) for Windows 7 or 8. To use one or another operating system depends on the tasks performed. Someone will prefer Linux, another will install Windows 8 with the XBMC shell.
  • A DVD drive for your DVD collection or a BluRay drive if you still prefer optical media (Asus, Pioneer - I focus on these companies because they are stable and quiet in practice).
  • Hard drive 3.5 ″ 500 GB (the most optimal size). To store your movie collection in the form of various rips (bdrip, dvdrip), use a volume of 1 TB or higher, especially if you prefer BDRip 1080i video files (Western Digital [Green Power], Hitachi, Samsung). As a system drive, you can choose a small SSD, the excellent price / quality ratio of OCZ SSD drives. Owners of NAS servers can be limited only to a solid-state drive - SSD.
  • Entry-level graphics card with DVI output on ATi or nV chips>
    • Connect to a TV or projector (thoroughly study the characteristics when buying a TV, the presence of audio and video interfaces of interest, frequency (Hz), etc.)
    • Connecting to an AV receiver (using the receiver you can connect both PS3, XBOX 360 and a vinyl player so that everything is in one place and uses the same audio and video sources)
    • High capacity media drives
    • Silent operation

    Additional functionality:

    • Ability to record live programs in real time and on schedule
    • Broadcast media to multiple clients

    The most popular shells for HTPC

    A 3.5-inch hard drive must be installed using special damping pads (in good cases they are present by default), otherwise the noise from it, at least when turned on, will be too loud. Quiet operation can only be achieved if each component is carefully selected and all noise sources are isolated. But it should be remembered that the use of acoustic insulation increases the risk of overheating, especially when it comes to small-sized computers, and passive cooling works reliably only in very low-performance PCs, often significantly increasing the cost of used cooling systems. In addition, inadequate ventilation significantly limits modernization options.

    In addition to a video card with a PCIe interface, such a computer system must provide the ability to connect at least one additional PCI expansion card or PCI Express. If you make high demands on the quality of the analog audio signal, then you will also need a high-quality sound card. When choosing a motherboard, we provided for the presence of its digital audio interface SPDIF or Optical Out. Built-in audio cards do not always provide digital multi-channel sound in the format required by an existing amplifier. An alternative way to install internal expansion cards in a PC is to use external devices connected via USB or FireWire. Such TV tuners and sound cards will be especially convenient when using compact cases, but most often at the expense of quality.

    Step-by-step instruction

    Let's take a closer look at each of the components necessary to create a Media Center PC.

    You have a couple of options for your business in the media center. The case will be the visible part of your HTPC, so it is up to you how much you want it to fit with the rest of your home theater system. Given this thought, you can spend from $ 75 to $ 800 only on a computer computer. It all depends on what you want and how you want it to look. In an effort to reduce the cost of this guide, the Silverstone LC20 ATX Media Center is a recommendation.

    It has everything you need for a PC media center, with plenty of space inside to connect your home theater and everything else. The only drawback of this case is the single bay optical drive. This is not a problem for this assembly, but if you need to have several optical disks, then you can look at another case.

    The AMD Athlon X2, 4850e processor is a solid unit. It is still a very efficient processor, clocked at 2.5 GHz per core. The price of the 4850e is very reasonable and that combined with the lower power consumption of the chip makes it a good choice for Media Center PCs.

    Motherboard

    It was an easy choice - the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H goes well with the AMD processor. This board was created for HTPC and is very stable. This board uses the 780G chipset, which has full hardware decoding acceleration for H.264, VC1 and MPEG-2. Seeing how decoding is one thing that can really slow down an HTPC can really help maintain smoothness.

    The newer version is the Gigabyte GA-MA785, it has a 785 chipset (to improve the theater experience).

    Checkout your Micro ATX motherboard AMD GIGABYTE GA-MA78GM-US2H The Micro ATX compact form factor makes it the perfect choice for use in a compact home theater package

    Power supply

    Seeing how the Media Center PC can be a constantly-on computer, you need very efficient power.

    The Antec Earthwatts EA380 power supply is efficient. This power supply is 80 PLUS certified and provides enough power for the system, while at the same time it works cool and quiet.

    CPU heat sink

    You will want to use a radiator that can be started without a fan to reduce noise. Since it is very useless for overclocking an HTPC, it was not too difficult.

    The Cooler MasterGeminII RR-CCH-ANU2-GP was created to operate without a fan and still keep your processor in top condition.

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