File server – music server – HTPC

Now that I have my Lightroom workflow set up nicely and my iTunes library organised centrally… I’m getting aware of a new problem with my current hardware setup !!
Because of the use of DNG photo files and MP3 files that have a low compression, I’m using up disk space fast !! And due to the fact that I don’t want to loose these files, I’m also duplicating them onto another drive, so that drive is getting full also.
So it seems that I need some new hardware to accommodate this.

First of, let me give you a small overview of what I have available right now:

  • Laptop with 80gb ( 2 years old )
  • Desktop with 80gb ( many years old )
  • USB/FireWire external HD with 250gb
  • USB external HD with 500gb

What are my needs for the new system:

  • Less external devices ! ( those external HD’s are great but take up space )
  • Central networked system so I can get to my files from my laptop or other devices if needed

But given these features, there are several possible solutions. Let me sum up a few:

  • A networked external HD
  • A NAS, that will act as networked storage center
  • A low level server system ( linux kind ) with enough HD’s
  • A high level server system, guessing more like the Windows Home Server kind
  • A HTPC

So you see, to much options. Thus I have to define my needs in much more detail…
This brings me to following extra needs:

  • RAID would be a suburb option
  • Music streaming/serving

And that sums it up, so looking at these specs, I think a nice HTPC would do the trick. Because that way I can hook it up in the network and place it at my TV and Hifi set, making movie and music playback possible !
But I’m a n00b when it comes to building pc systems myself, so I’m a bit stuck on what hardware to choose.
Still, the first selection any HTPC buyer has to make is picking a case to put all the hardware in.

So I did some searching and let me present you the current choices:

Origen AE H6

htpc_shot5.jpg htpc_shot4.jpg

Zalman HD160

hd160_01_b0.jpg hd160_03_b0.jpg

Antec Fusion 430

fusion.jpg fusion-v2-b.jpg

Here again to much choice ;), but I have to start somewhere !
So any thoughts on what to pick and why, just leave a comment… now I’m of to my friend Google again to read some reviews 😀

[tags]HTPC, NAS, File Server, iTunes[/tags]

Home Cinema Setup

I’m a sucker for movies… so during the past years, I’ve been investing in a Home Cinema Setup ! Now that we live in a new house, the final pieces are coming together.

I have a good dvd player, a nice surround receiver, part upgraded 6.1 speaker setup and an universal remote control, so I don’t have to use 5 controls to watch one movie 🙂 .

Naturally I still have some issues about the setup, like the television should be replaced and the receiver actually lacks some new features that have come available during the past years. But that’s all future stuff, the one thing I would love to add right now is some home cinema decoration !!

Yep, I’m proud of my setup and I would love to show of some of the features available ! My current receiver has following 2 main sound processing decoders…

Logo_Dolby_Digital_EX_II Logo_DTS_ES

And during the search for my hardware I’ve found several sites where they sell this kind of Logo’s as shields for display !! One of these examples can be found here at Movie Decor Shop.

But there is one HUGE problem… I live in Belgium ( Europe ) and it seems that we are out of luck to get these props ! So my first question would be, does anybody have a trip to the USA planned this year ??

Getting a dead end is no fun, so I searched further and found out that some other guys also had the same problem… and they had a great solution ( even though I consider this a temporary solution I’m still sharing it, because it’s cool 🙂 ). They made some high res versions of the logos and just had them printed out like real pictures !! I have to say the result is pleasing. Here are the ones they’ve used :

DOLBY dts2

Not bad at all, but it’s not the final result I’m hoping for ! So if there is anyone out there that can help me get these shields, please help me out !!

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HiFi madness

Let me start by stating that I’m a bit of a techie !!
All kind of new toys make me drool… ranging from computers, cellphones till photo camera stuff.

Now one of the mean things that keeps me interested is hifi equipment, more precise home cinema equipment.
Currently I’m involved in the construction of our new home and with that, comes the outline planning of the audio structure !

So here is my story on how I set up my system from scratch ! I hope I can help other people with these tips and tricks :)…

‘In the beginning’ when I was first introduced to surround sound, I was hooked ! This was something I had to have at home… a must have need that needed to be fulfilled. But like so many things I rushed in to fast, to furious. ( But looking at this now, I guess that was a good thing after all )
Time frame was the first introduction of Dolby Digital, so Dolby Prologic was the most available audio signal processing on offer at the time. I didn’t do any research and was sweet talked into buying a Home Theatre In a Box of Celestion by a salesman at a local Hifi shop !

It consists out of a subwoofer and 5 speakers ( 1 front central and 4 surrounds ), with a build in dolby prologic amplifier in the subwoofer. It was sold at a very good price and it had everything I could wish for ( I thought at the time ) !
So one or two years pass and I was happy :), but then the I bought my first dvd player and with this came the knowledge that, allthough Dolby Prologic was very good, Dolby Digital would be the ‘standard’ for dvd movies to come !!

SonyDVP-S525D

So there I was, not so very happy anymore, watching Dolby Digital movies through my Dolby Prologic sound processor…
But the good thing about this was, that I learned my first lesson !

Tip #1 : Do a thorough research !

If I had learned a bit more about the Dolby Digital process, I would have waited a bit more with the purchase of my HTiB !! A Dolby Digital processor would have been the obvious choice.
On the other hand, the good thing is that I learned a lot in 4 years, following the Hifi scene ! So my second purchase and actual first upgrade, of my surround sound setup was a new AV Receiver packed with all the goodies I think I need.
Behold my 6.1 AV Surround sound receiver – the Denon avr 2802.

Denon avr 2802

When I bought my receiver, I’ve had read several reviews, followed several Hifi magazines and calculated my budget… and with this last item, also came the second lesson !

Tip #2 : Shop around !

Yep, just look further than your local Hifi shop. Surf the net, get several different price listings and I assure you can get your item a lot cheaper then first expected.
So with this second purchase I was able to overcome the Dolby Prologic burden. I bypassed the build in processor of the HTiB, this through direct linking the speakers to the new receiver ! So the first system wasn’t lost at all… it just got a bit upgraded 🙂

But the drawback of lesson 1 & 2 is, that after doing some research you’ll soon notice that the system you own is or ‘out dated’, or ‘underpowered’, or even worse ‘badly combined’ !
Mine is underpowered, I think I can get more ‘sound’ out of my receiver, than I’m currently possible… So I started dreaming and with this I drafted up the next possible upgrades my system could have. Tadaaaa lesson 3.

Tip #3 : Stop dreaming !

Yep, because even though I now know what my dream system would look like, I can’t ever be able to afford it !!
I checked several speaker sets, looked at different speaker cables and even had a glance at the new receivers made by Denon. And let me assure you, you will want to have more than your budget will allow 🙂

So, out goes the new receiver : Denon avr 2807

Denon avr 2807

So, out goes the speaker cable set : QED Silver Anniversary
But I’m keeping my dream speakers !! : B&W Speakers 600 series 3

bw_600_series_3_DM603_S3

So no new receiver and I downgraded my new cables to a set made by Ixos and I’m happy all over again.

Or… is 7.1 ever going to get a boost ? Or is SACD or DvD Audio ever going to get big ? Damn those Blu-Ray and HD-DVD discs…