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no multichannel PCM via laptop HDMI: alternatives?
krabapple
post Sep 22 2009, 19:01
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So, I got this shiny new 2009 Acer laptop, all excited because I finally have
-line in (now I can try Room EQ Wizard, yay)
-S/PDIF out (2ch PCM and multichannel Dolby Digital and DTS out to my AVR, yay)
-HDMI out* (HD digital video, multichannel DD, DTS, PCM out to my AVR, yay)*

2ch PCM (operating at several sample rates if using hte S/PDIF codec) works fine, as does DD and DTS, via S/PDIF or HDMI.

But it turns out, I find (like many laptop HDMI implementations of PCM out it seems, if Google is to be believed), mine only supports 2-channel PCM (and apparently only at 48 kHz, though my many 44.1 and few 88kHz and 96 kHz recordings seem to play fine via foobar -- internal resampling? Or does software override?). Which is too bad because I have started to rip some of my multichannel DVD-A MLP tracks to archival hard drive. Using the DVD-A foobar plugin, those files do play back...but in stereo only.

Anyway, there doesn't yet seem to be such thing as an HDMI expresscard/PCMCIA card, so it seems my alternative here is to convert my multichannel MLP (or WAV, I can save them as either format) files to DTS or AC3.

Is there any freeware/shareware to do this ,

and/or any other options HA gurus can think of? Is there a chance in hell that a future driver upgrade could supply the missing multichannel PCM functionality to my HDMI port? Or is that a hardware issue?


(*FWIW it's a Realtek ATI HDMI Audio codec, associated with an onboard ATI Radeon 3200 chip though I'm not clear exactly how the HDMI audio codec relates to the video hardware).

This post has been edited by krabapple: Sep 22 2009, 19:03
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knutinh
post Sep 22 2009, 19:07
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You might want to try this thread:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1093445

Oh, and the whole "multichannel hirez audio over HDMI" thing is a perfect example why DRM is bad, bad, bad. How to take a simple technological problem and turn it into an expensive, customer-frustrating problem that seemingly will never end...

-k
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andy o
post Sep 22 2009, 19:28
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Yep, the ATI 3200 doesn't do multichannel HDMI. For laptops, only Nvidia does it (I have a 9200m GS, and from that generation, the 9600m GT also did it, also the newer laptop GPUs). The thing is that Nvidia's implementation doesn't work well with WASAPI and still has a number of bugs. The laptop HDMI devices (as opposed to the 8200/8300 IGP for AMD and 9300/9400 for Intel desktop mobos) didn't offer a 5.1 option for instance (only 7.1).

For desktops, ATI only offers the 4000 series cards, which incidentally are the best implementation of HDMI multichannel, they work almost flawlessly with WASAPI exclusive. The 5000 series are just around the corner, and according to Anand from Anandtech, next gen GPUs will have improved devices, capable of bitstreaming the bluray codecs.

There's also the Xonar HDAV range of cards, and the new Auzentech Home Theater HD, but those also don't work well with WASAPI exclusive, and for bitstreaming the bluray codecs they need their own special players, which are crappy and riddled with bugs, especially PowerDVD 9.

As for converting to DTS or DD, why not just use a USB audio device with DDL or DTS Interactive capabilities? You can even do that in software for certain programs/decoders, maybe there's even a foobar plugin?

This post has been edited by andy o: Sep 22 2009, 19:31
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krabapple
post Sep 22 2009, 19:54
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Thanks knutinh and andyo, that is pretty much everything that my research last night turned up, plus you've added a whole lot more.

QUOTE
As for converting to DTS or DD, why not just use a USB audio device with DDL or DTS Interactive capabilities? You can even do that in software for certain programs/decoders, maybe there's even a foobar plugin?



I'm aware these plugins and software (eg eac3to) exist, but not sure if they take multichannel .wav as input. If so, I'd be fine with that solution; would rather not have to add a USB external device just to get transcoded lossy mc output.

ADDENDUM: ISTR my 'card' offers Dolby Digital Live! in its S/PDIF output, which AIUI is an on-the-fly AC3 transcoder...I had turned that off in the initial configuration, but now I'm going to try that with multichannel PCM input and see what happens, when I get home.

This post has been edited by krabapple: Sep 22 2009, 20:04
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andy o
post Sep 22 2009, 23:38
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Yeah, DDL and DTS Interactive are on-the-fly transcoders, they were useful in the SPDIF days for multichannel audio (the only game in town for digital multichannel transmission with one cable). I had to google "ISTR". If you meant "it stands to reason", then it doesn't... not all SPDIF cards have that option. You can still do it in software with some decoders like ffdshow or ReClock which is a Directshow renderer with many very useful features.

I have a USB device the size of a dongle, the Sondigo Callisto, which was just for this purpose. Windows sees it as a multichannel device, but it just takes the multichannel PCM, and encodes it on a DDL or DTS-I stream.

The DTS stream is supposed to be 1.5 Mbps, and the Dolby one I think can't be higher than 448 kbps, if that's of any importance to you. DDL is much more easily available, though. The Callisto is discontinued, and it doesn't seem to work with Windows 7.

This post has been edited by andy o: Sep 22 2009, 23:40
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DVDdoug
post Sep 23 2009, 00:24
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QUOTE
...multichannel MLP (or WAV, I can save them as either format) files to DTS or AC3.

Is there any freeware/shareware to do this....?


WAVtoAC3encoder (FREE, open source, unlicensed) can convert from a multichannel WAV or from individual WAVs. I recently used it to made a 5.1 channel DVD soundtrack from 6 separate WAV files. I didn't do any ABX testing, but the quality seemed OK (at ~440kbps)... The quality of the original WAVs wasn't that great to begin with.

Corel Video Studio ($70 USD) includes an AC3 encoder, but it's not as easy to use as WAVtoAC3encoder, and I don't know if it can make a stand-alone AC3 file (it probably can).

SoundForge Pro ($400 USD) includes an AC3 encoder.

SurCode makes a DTS encoder ($250 USD) and an expensive professional AC3 encoder ($1000 USD).

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krabapple
post Sep 23 2009, 06:13
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QUOTE (andy o @ Sep 22 2009, 18:38) *
Yeah, DDL and DTS Interactive are on-the-fly transcoders, they were useful in the SPDIF days for multichannel audio (the only game in town for digital multichannel transmission with one cable). I had to google "ISTR". If you meant "it stands to reason", then it doesn't... not all SPDIF cards have that option. You can still do it in software with some decoders like ffdshow or ReClock which is a Directshow renderer with many very useful features.


LOL. Sorry, ISTR also means, "I Seem To Remember" and that's how I meant it. And indeed, checking right now (I'm using my Acer) I see it does have Dolby Digital Live (5.1) as an option for the Default Format using the Sound-->Realtek Digital Output (i.e., the S/PDIF not HDMI port) -->Properties -->Advanced. It also seems to have something called 'Dolby Home Theater v3" on another tab (-->DOlby) which gets checked automatically when DDL 5.1 is made the default format in the Advanced tab. Oh Vista/laptop/Realtek audio, will you never stop mystifying me?

Still won't be able try DDL out though until tomorrow...too late to fire up the 5.1 system.

This post has been edited by krabapple: Sep 23 2009, 06:15
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andy o
post Sep 23 2009, 07:43
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Duh, "I seem to remember" and "I seem to recall" were higher up on the list than "it stands to reason". should have guessed it but I read everything backwards.
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krabapple
post Sep 24 2009, 16:18
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Update: It works! (The Acer's onboard Dolby Digital Live on-the-fly AC3 encoding, I mean, with a foobar2k-decoded multichannel MLP file as input).
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krabapple
post May 4 2012, 17:23
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Reviving this because my Acer laptop's mobo has started going south. So, I'm looking to buy a new laptop for my general work and music play needs. For music I'd like one whose HDMI out can support multichannel lossless PCM out.... Would also like a line-in jack (instead of/addition to the usual mic-in)m, though this is not an absolute requirement. Would also like it to weigh ~5 lbs or less..my Acer is a >6lb beast. Prefer Windows OS to Mac.

Anyone know of a current laptop brand/model that fits the bill? I'm finding it difficult to determine just from online specs and reviews, whether laptop HDMI lossless PCM is still typically restricted to 2-ch or not. Can I presume a laptop with a Blu-Ray drive can do lossless multichannel? (Not that I really need a Blu-ray drive...)

This post has been edited by krabapple: May 4 2012, 17:28
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andy o
post May 6 2012, 08:29
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It's easy nowadays. Pretty much everything new with an HDMI output will let you do it. In those days, apparently ATI was putting in an audio device that was SPDIF-equivalent, but since the 4000 series in desktops and 5000 series in both desk/laptops, all ATI/AMD devices can do multichannel, and from Intel, since the Arrandale/Clarkdale CPU, and even before that starting with the G35 chipset.

There are some differences though, and the NV devices have this annoying bug (to me, not to others) that it cuts audio when it's not playing, and it can take up to a couple of seconds to come back, making for example pausing very annoying, especially videos. Also, forget about short Windows chimes but that's minor. This is most noticeable when using WASAPI exclusive though, but you need to use it if you want your receiver to switch number of channels according to the source.

Besides that, it's a good time to buy a laptop, new parts all around, but I recommend worrying about the stupid renames AMD and NV are pulling right now on their mobile parts. Make sure you get one of the new 28nm cards. With AMD it's sort of straightforward, anything 7700m or higher is new, anything 7600m or lower is a rebadge of 40nm parts. With Nvidia, it's way more complicated, especially for the low/mid end, but at least the 650m or 660m are sure bets.

If you don't care about graphics too much, you can just get by with a brand new Ivy Bridge CPU (a.k.a. Core i7/i5 "third generation"). If you do care about graphics, switchable graphics might be something to consider to improve battery life, and in that NV wins hands down. AMD doesn't offer standard driver updates, basically you are at the miserable mercy of the laptop manufacturer.

This post has been edited by andy o: May 6 2012, 08:33
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krabapple
post May 9 2012, 17:09
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Thanks, andyo.

Are the HDMI PCM streaming capabilities determined by the graphics processor, or by the audio hardware/drivers, or by the core processor?

I'm trying to make detailed inferences from specs like this -- e.g., for a Dell Latitude E6320 laptop that is one of my limited number of choices if I buy through my work account :

Processor: Intel® Core™ i5-2540M (2.60GHz, 3M cache)

Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics 3000

so, neither AMD nor Nvidia?

The GPU is of the Sandy Bridge generation rather than Ivy Bridge, based on information found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_HD_Graphics
and here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of...rocessing_units


Graphics are not a big deal for me, audio data streaming is. This laptop will feed an AVR from its HDMI port a lot of the time. In addition to plain old 2channel and various AC3/DTS files, I have a backlog of multichannel PCM rips I'd like to listen to via foobar2000/WASAPI

This post has been edited by krabapple: May 9 2012, 17:14
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washu
post May 9 2012, 21:04
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QUOTE (krabapple @ May 9 2012, 12:09) *
Are the HDMI PCM streaming capabilities determined by the graphics processor, or by the audio hardware/drivers, or by the core processor?


The HDMI audio capabilities are determined by the graphics processor, which may or may not be part of the CPU. Basically, the graphics processor appears as a video card AND a sound card to the system. This is a completely separate device from traditional sound cards or built in sound. Since almost all computers now have a built in sound card it will appear to have two. Just make sure you are using the correct one for the HDMI audio.

As far as I'm aware the Intel HD graphics that are built into their CPUs support multichannel HDMI just fine. I am using an HD 2000 GPU with HDMI, but since my receiver does not support multichannel PCM I cannot test that to be sure. I can confirm that two channel PCM and AC3/DTS passthrough work.

The variant of the HD graphics should not matter. Better ones will have faster graphics performance, but should all support HDMI audio the same. Even the low end Celeron should work for your use case.
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andy o
post May 10 2012, 19:53
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Yes, Sandy Bridge does support HDMI audio. I haven't had experience with modern Intel HDMI audio though, only with the old G35, so I don't know if there are any bugs. Intel's drivers are way behind AMD or NV though, even considering that a lot of people complain about those two as well. Right now, there's a bug in the Intel graphics driver that messes with black/white levels. There's a switch to switch output between 16-235 (video) and 0-255, but it doesn't seem to be working well from what I read in forums. Apparently DVI works as it should (0-255). AMD and NV aren't perfect about this as well, but there are workarounds for the most part.
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