How did you hook up your media center PC?

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Jeff Block
How did you hook up your media center PC?

So, how did you hook up your media center PC?

Both audio and video... What were your options? Which ones did you choose? Why? Any regrets? Any advice?

Here's what the back of my MCE PC looks like...

What are all the various audio-related jacks for? Especially that funktified one on the left? The one that currently has a capble coming out is a monaural-to-RCA, but that seems like the minimalist approach. Any suggestions on a better one?

What's that almost-an-S-video-but-it's-not red connector on the video card? The one next to it is coax-in. The far left bundle is video-out, including s-video, DVI and RCA. So, what's the other one, if not s-video in.

Jeff Block
Okay, so nobody on earth

Okay, so nobody on earth seems to be able to tell me what the 9-pin pink video connector is on top.

On bottom, it's a firewire connector (odd for audio out, in my mind) on the left and 5.1 connectors on the right.

Works for me.

Matt Whitlock (not verified)
It goes to a breakout cable

It goes to a breakout cable accessory that breaks that jack into an S-Video, composite, or other type of connections.

Matt Whitlock (not verified)
Sorry, the pink 9-pin

Sorry, the pink 9-pin connector.

The firewire on Sound Blaster cards should be full featured for a PC. I wouldn't think of it in terms of audio only, since it probably supports all of the IEEE-1394 features. You may want to check the manual for what it does, just to be sure. You can find the manual at

It may also be in your interests to check which model this is. You'll find indication printed on one of the ICs on the sound board.

Paul Thomas
Jeff,I would really recomend


I would really recomend connecting your PC to your reciever digital. Your sound card should have SPIDF out. That is 500% better then connecting the 5.1 Analog over 1/8 jacks

Jeff Block
I have fatwire, but not an

I have fatwire, but not an SPDIF connector. There are converters out there, so I guess that's a possibility. For now, though, I think I'm going to let it slide, because I don't want to shell out the cash for the new video cards I'm eye-balling, let alone new cables / card for audio.

Besides, if I don't have the video up at top-notch, then not much sense in mucking with the audio.

Thanks for the suggestion, though, Paul!

Tie Guy
Jeff, From what I can see,


From what I can see, you do have an SPDIF output on your soundcard. It's probably that black one, but it's not in the squarish shape of the TOSLINK connector. If it's an optical connection, you'll need to purchase a TOSLINK to 1/8" optical adaptor to get it to work with your receiver. If it's an electical output, you need a 1/8" to RCA cable.

500% Paul... I wouldn't go that far. In fact, if it's an Audigy card, the 5.1 analog connection would technically be better since it would be a 24/192 connection instead of a 16/48 connection.

Jeff Block
So, question... It just

So, question... It just seems to me that using a 1/8" jack like that wouldn't give me very high quality. Is it truely optical, meaning using something like fiber? I thought the point of things like component video was to separate signals and avoid noise interference, etc. Doesn't it seem like slamming my enter 5.1 audio signal into that little bittie connector is moving the other way?

What am I missing?

Paul Thomas
SPDIF really doesn't need

SPDIF really doesn't need much bandwidth. Its all digital PCM modulation. I would think using a 1/8 to RCA would work just fine! If you do this and the recieve keeps switching back and forth from analog to digital then you will need alittle better cable. But I don't think it will. You could just use a 1/8 to stereo rca cable just tape off one of the connectors with some electric tape. Check with your sound card manual you should have a SPDIF jack somewhere, I mean hell look at all those plugs, atleast ones gotta work right? (=

Also on the video card, whats wrong with the ATI? Your just outputing analog TV. Doing that doesn't need much power. I would think the All In wonder is your best bet. That pink connector goes to a break out box. But many, many years ago I had an All In Wonder, and if you plugged an S-Video cable into the breakoutbox connector it worked just fine. So you might want to give it a shot. It can't hurt anything! The only thing you might want to check is see if the plug has an opening for the locater pin like SVideo does. If not give ATI a call and see if they will send you one.

Well 500% was just alittle figure, I do see your point on the different decoding rate, but I was mainly coming from the analog connection through unbalenced 1/8. 1/8 normally inducts a hiss.

Tie Guy
Paul, I've encountered the


I've encountered the hiss you speak of. I did a little playing and the hiss was dramatically worse on the box that was using the onboard sound. On the ones with separate sound cards, it was barely audible. I'll admit, I have a pretty nice 1/8" to RCA cable that has better shielding than the patch cord type.

Jeff, as far as the optical goes, you're getting stuck on the whole 1/8" thing. When you're talking optical connections, the adapter only changes the plug shape. The signal undergoes no change. It's not like an electrical adapter that can introduce additional noise. Paul's suggestion about using a 1/8 to RCA will only work if that jack doubles as a coaxial digital (electrically based) out as well. Or, if you're really worried about the connections, Creative sells some add-in accessories that attach to a header on the sound board.

Another thing to consider is that my experience tells me that the SPDIF jacks on these sound cards only output PCM stereo signals. I have yet to get one to output a dolby digital or DTS stream for decoding at the receiver, but I haven't put a lot of effort into getting it to work either (Paul, have you gotten this to work?). If I'm correct in my assumption, the only way to play back 5.1 audio is through the 5.1 analog connection. Plus, you could play back DVD-Audio discs that way, too.

Paul Thomas
I don't think its optical, I

I don't think its optical, I've never seen a sound card with optical built into the card itsself. My creative Labs card will output DD as well as DTS. But then I forget its not a "normal" sound card that most PCs come with.

Tie Guy
I did some checking on the

I did some checking on the creative website. Paul, you are correct that it is a 3.5mm to RCA electrical digital output. Thus, your suggestion will work as mentioned above. It can also connect to a small accessory box that can provide an optical output, which is where I was getting confused.

Still, creative recommends using the 5.1 analog out on receivers that contain such an input. It will only pass the entire multichannel stream on DVD, HDTV, and dedicated AC-3 files. Otherwise, it acts as a PCM stereo output.

Paul Thomas
Good find, Tie That sucks it

Good find, Tie That sucks it only passes Stereo PCM.

Matt Whitlock (not verified)
Paul said: I don't think its

Paul said: I don't think its optical, I've never seen a sound card with optical built into the card itsself.

I've found that Creative doesn't make a card with optical built in, but there are a few other companies that make sound cards...though probably nowhere near as good. What's interesting is that there are a few with bulit in optical connections; with toslink connector and all. See it here.

Ron Repking (not verified)
Alright, so while I can

Alright, so while I can understand about only half of what you guys are talking about, I thought I'd jump in with my configuration so that you can rip it apart for me.

Here's my setup:

TV Tuner Connection
On the right, I connected my Media Center to my TiVo using the S-Video in and composite cables for the audio. Only other option was coax it appears to me. This allows me to record TV shows/movies on my Media Center.

Media Center Audio Out
Next card to the left is the sound card. I'm using a 1/8" to RCA cable to connect to my Stereo Receiver. This allows me to hear the audio through my surround sound receiver. Not sure if there is a better connection here.

Media Center Video Out
The card with the blue cables coming out of it is my video card. I have a DVI out on the card, but no DVI in on my TV, so I had to buy a DVI to Component adapter from ATI. I plugged the adapter directly in the PC, then connected the blue component cable to the adapter and into the TV directly.

Any suggestions/comments/thoughts?

Tie Guy
I'd say that all-in-all you

I'd say that all-in-all you're doing pretty good. The one improvement you could make would be to try the digital audio connection that we've been talking about. According to what we've been able to figure out, you should move the 1/8" jack to the one labeled SPDIF out (probably the orange or the black one), and connect one of the RCA ends into a coaxial digital input on your receiver.

You may need to engage the digital output on the sound card. There will probably be a check box for this in your audio setup or mixer. My computer has a setting in the Creative Sound Mixer --> Advanced settings. Look for something similar.

Ron Repking (not verified)
OK, so nothing is labeled

OK, so nothing is labeled SPDIF, but the yellow one is labeled 'digital out'. I looked in the manual and found out this is SPDIF. If I reconnect the 1/8" jack to this output, I can then connect one of the RCA jacks (red or white, does it matter?) to the digital input labeled "Dolby Digital RF (AC-3 RF)". Does that sound right? If so, how do I get that source on my receiver when I turn on the sound? (It was previously connected to the VCR-1 inputs)

I also noticed in the manual that there is a Toslink digital audio connection on the other side of the computer, but I don't think that my receiver supports this connection.

Matt Whitlock (not verified)
The AC-3 RF jack on your

The AC-3 RF jack on your receiver is not to be used with standard coaxial digital connections. The AC-3 RF jack is there to maintain compatibility with laserdisc players that used that type of digital output.

Tie Guy
Toslink is referring to an

Toslink is referring to an optical digital connection. Surely if you have a digital receiver there's a optical digital input. Look for it and give that a shot.

Since Matt says you can't use the Dolby Digital RF, you should still be able to run that yellow "digital out" jack to a standard coaxial digital audio input. Our whole converstaion in this thread is about using that jack on a coaxial digital input. If you can get it to work, you've verified a lot of our yammering.

As far as getting the sound on the receiver, that depends on your receiver's features. I've seen some that have assignable digital inputs, and some that are fixed.

Ron Repking (not verified)
OK, so do I just connect it

OK, so do I just connect it to the SPDIF output and leave it connected to the VCR-1 input? I would have thought I would need a digital input on the receiver.

Tie Guy
Yes, you'd need to have an

Yes, you'd need to have an open coaxial digital input on the receiver. Unplug the cables from VCR 1, plug one of them into a coaxial digital input. You may need to assign the coaxial digital input to an available input, or find a coax input that is already labeled to an open input.

If it's not a digital receiver, then you won't be able to try this out.

Jeff Block
Wow, Paul's getting uppity!

Wow, Paul's getting uppity! :-) I'm on the road, but can't wait to try this myself. Ron, looks like you have the same sound card I do in your Media Center.

I'll post back when I have results to report.

Ron Repking (not verified)
My receiver is about 5 years

My receiver is about 5 years old. It is a Denon AVR-3200. I have both an optical and coaxial digital input on the receiver, but they are already in use by other components!

Given that, should I leave the sound card where it's currently plugged in and avoid the SPDIF connection?

I have an Spdif analog and

I have an Spdif analog and digital output on my computer. I bought an spdif to rca converter at

I am trying to hook this up the my audio reciever and I cant get it to work. All I get is static. If you know what I am doing wrong some help woudl be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Not much information to go on

Not much information to go on, bassplayer142.  Can you elaborate on what you're using the splitter for?


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