Home > Audio/Video, General > My Audio Video Setup

My Audio Video Setup

In this post I wanted to showcase my audio video setup and the reason why I chose those components. I hope it may help people looking to setup a decent htpc/audio system.

As a disclaimer I am neither an audiophile nor an expert in this area. I got introduced to all these equipments through multiple forums and websites and thought of sharing my experience.

My requirements

  • Wanted to have a decent audio system which is equally good for music and Movies.
  • Not interested in multichannel speaker systems as I don’t want to run cables across my living room.
  • Wanted to have a audio system which can take inputs from multiple audio sources and can switch between those inputs easily using a remote.
  • Wanted to have a single remote to control all the devices as I don’t like a pile of remotes and don’t want to look around for the right remote when in need.
  • Power consumption has to be low or devices should have some facility to turn off if not in use.
  • Wanted to have HTPC (Home Theater PC) kind of device: Should support the great application called XBMC which gives a Menu based GUI which can be easily controlled using a remote and the addons which comes along with it.
  • Wanted to stream Videos from my Android tablet to the TV so that I can watch it in the big screen.
  • Wanted to redirect the audio of cable TV/Settopbox to the amplifier.
  • Wanted a Decent CD/DVD/BD Player.
  • Wanted a Turntable?Grampahone player as I had some old records.

My Devices

  • Display/TV: LG 32LD650 LCD TV (2010 Model, basic smart tv features, youtube, facebook etc. But I hate searching for videos using the smart tv interface in that model, that’s why I wanted some other device). This TV has 3 HDMI Ports, 1 audio optical digital out, 1 audio co-axial out, 1 3.5mm analogue audio out , 2 AV inputs and 1 VGA connector for connecting computers. It also has a builtin LAN port for smart TV features.
  • Stereo Amplifier: Denon PMA-510AE (45w *2). I got a good deal for this amplifier and hence jumped on it before the offer was over. It has got 1 Phono input for turntables and 4 audio RCA inputs.
  • Stereo Speakers: KEF Q100 Bookshelf Speakers. [Went for it as the India price was less than the International prices. I was eying on its big brother KEFQ300, but demo at the shop convinced me the other way which saved me some money as well
  • Universal/All in one Remote: Logitech Harmony 300i. Up to 4 devices can be controlled using this one. It has a quite extensive database for different kind of remote controlled devices as well as it has a learning mode (If in case your device’s model is not there in the harmony database, then you can make this remote learn its functions by placing the IR Sensors of the device remote and the Harmony remote face to face and then configure the required functions via the software client.)
  • Low Powered XBMC/HTPC device: Raspberry Pi Model B. This is the heart of the Audio video setup. Raspberry Pi runs on very low power and it can be powered using a USB port and hence no need to turn off the device at all. I used an OS called XBIAN which is a debian based distro for raspberry PI which boots in to XBMC directly. I use XBMC only for movies and for audio playpack, I use MPD(media player daemon) which is a server app that can run on any linux (in my case xbian) and I use the MPC client in android called MPDROID(which is installed in my Nexus7) which can be used for selecting/searching/skipping playlists/artists. So for Music I will be using the high quality Schiit DAC and for movies I use the Fiio DAC.
  • Powered USB Hub: Belkin 4 Port Powered USB hub. I bought this for 2 reasons. One being, raspberry pi wont be able to power a 1 TB/2TB USB HDDs if connected to its USB ports. So I needed a USB hub with external power adapter. Another reason is Raspberry pi comes with only 2 ports and I wanted to increase it. All my movies are stored in a Western Digital Passport 1TB USB HDD and that’s connected to this hub
  • USB DAC(Digital to Analogue Converter): Schiit Modi. Pronunciation is as you expected 🙂 ..The reason why I bought this was the Onboard analogue audio  out (3.5 mm Headphone out) in Raspberry pi is of very bad quality (this is what I read from reviews) and hence it cannot be used as a good music player. Since my requirement was to use it as audio and video player, I wanted good sound. So I went for this purely based on the positive reviews.
    For people who are not aware of what a DAC the simple explanation I can think of is as follows. Most of the the motherboards or systems comes with a low quality audio chipset/DAC. This is to reduce the cost of the overall product, so for people who are looking for good quality audio, the workaround is to buy a external good quality DAC and use it. So this DAC will take the digital audio out from the Pi through a USB cable and then converts it to analogue and give it via a RCA Cable (which is the standard Red/Green wire). Now you may ask why can’t we fed digital out directly to amplifier. The reason is most of the integrated amplifiers(including mine) takes only analogue inputs, so there should be some intermediary device which can convert digital audio signal to analogue audio signal.
    Note: Currently XBMC on raspberry Pi as of now doesn’t support audio through DAC’s. So I cannot use this DAC for watching movies. Note that XBMC on a normal PC supports this. This is a limitation only for raspberry pi.
  • Co-axial/Optical DAC : Fiio DAC.For this there are 2 reasons
    1. As mentioned in my requirements I wanted to get the audio of my cable/Set top box through my amplifier. So for that why do I need a DAC? I should have directly connected the analog audio out from my set top box to one of the amplifier inputs. But I couldn’t do that as I needed a back up plan where if my parent come I don’t want them to worry about turning on amp and all these other stuffz to watch TV. So I wanted some way where  both the video and audio connection directly connected to the TV and when I require I can turn on the amp and play it through the amp. For this I had two options, one which doesn’t involve any cost and the other one which involves buying a DAC. First let me explain the method which doesn’t involve any cost, My TV has a 3.5mm headphone out which I can connect to my one of the amplifier inputs. But the problem was that the sound coming from that was not good enough/ I didn’t like it. So i took the second option and I was fortunate to have a TV with Digital Optical audio out. So Bought a optical/Coaxial DAC which will take the Digital optical audio out from my TV and converts it to analogue for the amplifier. This had one clear advantage I just need to sue the amplifiers volume control as when we take digital out, there is no audio processing which is done by the TV.
    2. Second Reason was Raspberry Pi which is my HTPC has a HDMI port which I was using for connecting to TV. For people who doesn’t know, if we use a HDMI port, then it can carry both AUdio and video signals, so we don’t need to run separate cables for audio and video.(Apart from this there are other advantages as well). Using a single HDMI cable we can send both video and audio.And I wanted to watch movies from the raspberry pi and the sound has to come from amplifier. With HDMI alone the sound will come from the TV built in speaker and I didnt want that, So this little device helped me with that.
    Now another argument/option which we can use is to buy a DAC which accepts both USB and optical/coaxial inputs. But good quality ones are very costly and I went for this approach as I wanted good quality in music than in movies. But I am very much happy for this purchase as the sound quality of this DAC is also excellent for the price.
  • Blue-ray Player: Panasonic BD220. I wanted a decent CD player/Blueray/DVD player and this one was available in US for half the Indian price which prompted me to buy this. The decision was completely based on reviews as this was one of the best player which has a good audio chipset(DAC) built in. My friend Vijay Wilson has compared this with a ARCAM CD player costing 50K and he said that this player was a clear winner.
  • Turntable/Gramaphone Player: Audio Technica AT-LP60.The reason for this was as I wanted to get the Nostalgia where I used to listen to the old Malayalam/German/English records which my Father used to play during my childhood days. Unfortunately I destroyed the old Gramaphone player(a german made one) when I started playing with the electronic stuffz. I bought this one also from US for a cheap price as in india the starting price itself is around 9K INR. Also for people who are planning to buy this, this one has a built in phono amp, so you can directly connect it to any amplifier or Home theatre in a box setup which can take an RCA input.
  • Nexus7 Android Tablet:  I use this for browsing as well as as my music player.

Software Tools used

  • Xbian: Debian/Raspbian based OS which runs on raspberry PI. This has got XBMC package installed by default and boots in to XBMC.
  • MPD & MPC : Media player Daemon and media player client for music playback.
  • MPDROID: MPD client for android can used in phones or tablet.
  • YATSE Remote: An android application which is a network based XBMC remote and allows playing videos from tablet to XBMC.

Xbian/XBMC Addons

A Block diagram representation of my audio video setup

My Audio Video Setup

Some Pics of my setup. Its a slideshow, click on the photo to pause or move.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Disadvantages of this setup

  • Very difficult to set it up for a non-technical people.
  • Old people or people who are not familiar with electronic gadgets will have a tough time to use this setup. (Especially the universal remote itself is difficult for people who haven’t heard about it. I always have to educate my parents on how to use it).
  • Too much of cabling and devices involved which some people may not like.
  • Currently all the OS’s which are released for raspberry pi are still undergoing optimizations, so its not very snappy/smooth interface when compared to a normal PC. But being used both I can confidently say that the delay/sluggishness is not that bad.

Advantages of this setup.

  • All the advantages of XBMC and raspberry pi are valid here as well. I am not going to discuss all. The most important one for me is the user interface which XBMC provides, and the subtitle download functionality.
  • Since the raspberry PI consumes very less power, it can be used as a torrent downloader as well as a NAS (Network Attached Storage) apart from the existing Audio & Video functionality.
  • Using Yaste android app, you can send youtube videos/other videos/music to the raspberry pi/XBMC and thus can be viewed in the TV. Also this avoids the typing hassles using remote.
  • Raspberry PI and XBIAN supports HDMI CEC, which means if you have a HDMI CEC TV(LG calls it as simplink, panasonic as Vierra connect and Sony as Bravia sync), you can use the TV remote to control the XBMC.
  • Being an Ipod Nano owner I can say that raspberry Pi + SChiit Dac will any day beat ipod as a audio source and which means u get a decent audio source.
Categories: Audio/Video, General
  1. Sandeep
    October 12, 2013 at 11:29 PM

    Nice and detailed, thanks Joseph.

  2. Antony Zacharia
    April 15, 2014 at 8:17 PM

    Good one jerin


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