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Stevemo 2013-12-07 08:20 PM

Windows 7 and output to receiver
Hi All,
I've had my HTPC up and running for the last year and everything has been great except for the audio output which is driving me nuts. My AV receiver is old and doesn't mix audio well so I want to leave it on "DIRECT" and do all of the mixing on the HTPC.

For example, I have a 7.0 system so when I'm watching movies I want to operate in surround sound with bass redirected to the front speakers and when I'm listening to music I want 7-channel stereo.

I think the solution is to use AC3Filter but I cannot get it to work properly with VLC, Media Centre, or Media Player. There is never a time when the audio level bars register any input/output.

Can anybody provide guidance on how to get this working properly? I am using Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and I have an AMD-ASUS board with optical out to a Pioneer VSX-815.

Thank you, Steve

four 2013-12-07 10:27 PM

IIRC, if you configure your AVR as running a 7.0 speaker system, it will send the .1 channel to FL and FR.
But anything above DD/DTS 5.1 cannot be sent over SPDIF (you need HDMI).

What is 7 channel stereo? DPL/Neo type of audio processing?

In the good old days I used AC3Filter with ZoomPlayer...:)

ExDilbert 2013-12-07 11:59 PM

AC3Filter probably won't be used by VLC, Media Centre, or Media Player. VLC has its own codecs built in. VLC must be configured in the VLC player settings. Not 100% sure but Media Centre, or Media Player may default to using MS codecs or the default system codecs (where no MS codecs are supplied.) With any player or codec, the audio output device options must be set correctly in the Windows volume mixer and sound device options. That's in addition to configuring any sound output and codec options that may be present in the program itself. It can be tricky to get it working at times since every program is different. Some provide a choice of codec to use, some (like VLC) use their own codecs and others may provide no options and just rely on system settings.

pnear 2013-12-08 12:46 PM

I tried to do some of this many years ago, so here are some tips from memory.

1. The default way that should "just work" is to use the analog outputs of your sound card to the analog 6-channel input on your old receiver. That way the PC handles all the decoding and sends it to the receiver.

I found that this was less than ideal with all the low-quality wires jumbled up behind my PC and receiver and started looking for another solution.

2. Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect. This is a capability of the sound card / chip on your computer and most *do not* have this capability. Basically the sound card takes the decoded 5.1 channel audio from you computer and re-encodes it so that your receiver can understand it.

You need to do this because the optical cable supports basically only two modes - direct PCM which is stereo (2-channels) only, or encoded audio which is either AC3 (dolby 5.1) or DTS. There is no such thing as 5.1 channel uncompressed audio on the older optical cables. For that you need the newer stuff that only works via the HDMI cable (that's another kettle of fish altogether).

There's a third option as well which you alluded to, and that's to use AC3Filter or ffdshow audio filters to re-encode the audio in software. I was able to get that to work, but it was a pain in the butt and only worked for both content and players that were able to use that filter for playback. Best-case scenario is that you'll be able to get movie files to play back through this, but none of the system sounds (like web players, etc). In the end I stopped using this method.

So there are your options. I fiddled with it for a while, then gave up and went with a new motherboard and receiver that supported HDMI and high definition audio.


Stevemo 2013-12-08 03:36 PM

Hi Four,
The 7-channel stereo is some sort of post processing that the AV receiver does but it isn't NEO, that light is not coming on. For some obscene reason Pioneer does not give you that option when connected via SPDIF...I have other post processing available on the unit with SPDIF such as gaming/music/etc. that completely make a mess of the audio. :(

Stevemo 2013-12-08 03:48 PM

From what I can tell I am on the same path as what you are both explaining. My receiver is not going to get replaced until I buy an LFE so I need to figure out how to make this work. Honestly, I would really prefer to get a 6-channel amp and go it alone with just an HTPC instead of having a middle man molesting the signals. I actually use a Harmony remote and bypass the AV receiver for video as it is.
I have found some good information based on AC3Filter and FFDSHOW using DS Filter Tweeker but the trail dies in 2011, nobody seems to be trying what I'm doing at this point in time BUT they are having a hell of a time with HDMI instead :rolleyes:. Everything seems to point to it being possible so I am going to re-install my OS and start over. It could be that I've completely broken the way windows is supposed to work by having a billion different codecs installed and removed.
Cheers, Steve

four 2013-12-08 06:15 PM

It is very, very - VERY! -easy to screw up the playback chain when you start installing
players, codecs, splitters, etc. and manage them directly with DirectShow filter apps.
And here is the worst part: once screwed up, only reinstall can fix it (with XP)!

Don't install any codecs!

Start with a player that has nothing of its own. ZoomPlayer is (was?) a good candidate.
It gives you control over every minute detail of the playback chain. You'll get tired fiddling with it...:)

And if you are really missing something, install ffdshow and start enabling one by one what you need!
If memory serves, the latest ffdshow had full AC3Filter functionality by itself.

If you want visual presentation of the playback mechanism in WinXP, install GraphEdit...

ExDilbert 2013-12-08 10:14 PM

For codecs, less is usually better. Only install codecs when they are absolutely required. AC3Filter is required for AC3 (Dolby) audio in some software players. I've yet to run into any scenario where FFDshow is a requirement. It may be useful to someone who really knows how to use it but it's usually better just to install best in class individual codecs (and as few of those as possible.) Using FFDShow is kind of like using a Swiss Army Knife to whittle a toothpick. It will do the job but a simple penknife is a lot easier to use, especially when unfamiliar with all the tools. For digital output, the trick is to enable digital bypass for any audio output the receiver (or TV) can handle and disable any it cannot. Otherwise, do as little audio processing as possible. The receiver will handle the rest.

four 2013-12-08 10:32 PM

AC3Filter (just like VLC) is a minefield of potential patent violations and
therefore never was and never will be a requirement to treat DD audio...

ExDilbert 2013-12-08 10:55 PM

The required AC3 codec is not included in Windows. Unless another AC3 codec is installed, from a commercial DVD player or other source, one will be required. Among the freely available AC3 codecs available, AC3Filter is a good choice.

If the patent issues were very important, programs like VLC and AC3Filter would have been taken down by now. Since so many freely available programs are so widely available, the patent owners may not be concerned about free software. However, companies selling programs for profit usually must pay for their use.

four 2013-12-09 09:48 AM


Originally Posted by ExDilbert (Post 1930378)
If the patent issues were very important, programs like VLC and AC3Filter would have been taken down by now.

That is theory that Dolby/DTS would love to become practice. It won't in this case...

To keep it short: software maker has to have revenue, has to be located in a country where the patents are valid
and can be enforced and there is at least a non-zero chance to prove it is not a clean-room implementation...
None of this applies to AC3Filter. It is free and comes from Russia. That is enough to know the guy will never be sued.
The "distributed" development of VLC, ffdshow, etc. makes them even less vulnerable...

Now, if Microsoft includes AC3Filter in Windows (and makes it a requirement!) they would have a lawsuit on their hands the next day...

Stevemo 2013-12-09 08:14 PM

Hmm, I am now in a fresh install of Windows 8.1 x64 and AC3Filter still cannot intercept the audio from VLC Player. Also, the goal is not to pass through anything, I want to rig it to use 7 speakers at all time.
On an unrelated note, windows 8 is just a skin so there's nothing to be afraid of. You can get to the desktop and use it just like you would use windows 7. The only difference is the obscene colour schemes.
I will continue to poke around with this and provide updates as I discover things.

Stevemo 2013-12-09 08:31 PM

Interesting, I can get AC3Filter to show some life with Media Player Classic. It thinks it is remixing the audio but it is just coming out in Stereo on the receiver so I am getting closer. When I pick "Use SPDIF" the audio disappears and the playback shows slow (counts 1 second every 3 seconds or so).

ExDilbert 2013-12-09 10:47 PM

I've seen misconfigured audio interfere with video playback. It means you are close but something is still not correct. Once again, you need to enable audio pass through when using digital output, such as S/PDIF. Anything else is suboptimal. That's basically the only change that needs to be made in AC3Filter. In Windows, the correct output device needs to be enabled. VLC Player uses built in codecs so it will not use AC3Filter. VLC Player audio options must be configured in VLC Player.

Stevemo 2013-12-09 11:53 PM

Thank you for hanging in with me!
I did find a fix to the slow playback, I had to set up Media Center Classic exactly as shown on the AC3Filter website.
The final stumbling point seems to be PCM over SPDIF is always stereo as mentioned previously. No matter what I fiddle with the receiver is stuck saying "PCM 96" on the display and plays STEREO (well, it can play its lame upmix's but it won't play AC3Filters upmix that I'm sending it). I suspect I need to get Analog cables to wire the 8-channels directly into my receiver to get around this. Am I correct in assuming that AC3Filter can mix the signals via the Analog? Who even makes these cables? I've looked on ebay and couldn't figure out what they are called.
I watched Austin City Limits on PBS using 7-channel stereo last night and it was absolutely awesome, I hope to get this sorted out on the PC soon enough.
Cheers, Steve

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