My long-time project of creating a computer based high-end surround pre-amp/processor and audio- and video source has now officially started. It’ll be a mix of newly purchased components and pieces from my current HTPC for the electronic bits and then a custom designed and manufactured chassis made from aluminium and brass.
The Mediastation is built to provide the highest possible audio and video quality while using as little energy as possible. I’m using an AMD Be-2350 CPU, an Auzentech soundcard (the X-Fi 7.1 Forte) feeding an amplifier with an analog signal, an Asus HD4350 Silent HDMI graphics card for hardware 1080p decoding and processing, a 5.25″ Blu-Ray drive and a couple of hard drives together with an mATX motherboard and an ATX power supply. These components need to be housed in a good looking, solid small case that is noiseless from a normal viewing and listening distance (2m). The end result is a system that can rival the very best stand-alone high-end audio pre-amps, processors and audio- and video sources using less power than many digital-broadcast set-top boxes.
When using hardware acceleration on the current generation of graphics cards there’s no need for a powerful CPU, even an Atom can just about manage to play Blu-Ray titles using decent graphic circuitry. Both AMD and NVIDIA score about even (and very good) in Silicon Optix HD HQV tests but the ATI Avivo UVD2 seems to display more detail at the cost of a slightly cooler-colored image. My choice of the Asus HD 4350 card comes from the fact that it’s passive, inexpensive, draws less power than the NVIDIA competitors and has a HDMI output. I’m certain that the image quality is spectacular and the CPU off-loading is equal with either manufacturer.