Hi-Fi-Insight News and Reviews (2)

Network Media Player

November 25th, 2009

Network Media Player

After having lived with Windows Media Player on my HTPC for the last two years, I have been looking for an alternative that will allow control via a suitable web browser so that video and in particular audio can be selected from either a laptop or a web enabled mobile phone. To my surprise, I only found two media players with a web interface, VLC and Media Player Classic/Home Cinema which is odd given the rise in home network media streaming.

Given that one of the requirements of the software is compatibility with Reclock so that kernel streaming can be enabled for bit perfect audio, Vlc can be ignored leaving only Media Player Classic/Home Cinema as a viable option. Media Player Classic/Home Cinema is an excellent media player but there is no real easy option of playing multiple audio files or selecting an album to play, however it does support playlists which adds a bit more flexibility. [...]

Posted in Home Cinema | No Comments »

Zotac 8400GS 512MB DDR2 VGA DVI TV Out PCI-E Graphics Card

September 20th, 2009

Zotac 8400GS 512MB DDR2 VGA DVI TV Out PCI-E Graphics Card

The Zotac 8400GS is still one of the cheapest Direct X 10 PCI cards around and can be picked from outlets like Ebuyer for under £25 which is fantastic value for money if you are wanting a cheap HDCP card capable of outputting 1080P from a Home Theatre PC.

Having purchased one of these cards, it took me a while to work out what sort of output the card does and this is something that has clearly confused a lot of people on the internet especially as this particular model has no HDMI dongle or SPDIF cable. By default the Zotac 8400GS 512MB DDR2 VGA DVI TV Out PCI-E Graphics Card comes with a VGA output and a DVI output. However when someone tries to connect the DVI output to an HDTV and the analogue outputs of the PC to analogue inputs of the sound card to the HDTV, they get no sound. In my case, I have no analogue inputs on my HDTV, I just get an annoying clicking noise coming from the TV when I plug the DVI output into the HDMI socket of the television. [...]

Posted in Home Cinema | 3 Comments »

Choosing the right digital camera

June 25th, 2009

Digital Cameras

Only four years ago some experts were predicting a slowdown in the digital camera market, claiming that it had peaked despite a 20% growth in terms of sales in 2005. Luckily for the industry and the consumer, this proved to be a false prophecy, and 2007 saw growth continue with a doubling of the forecasted percentage to 15%. This is due to two main factors, firstly the ever falling price of digital cameras and secondly the conversely improving quality of the pictures that can be captured by digital means. The digital camera has become low in price, incorporated into mobile devices to great effect and something which most people now own and use on a regular basis. Growth has also been driven by the emerging Asian markets which account for a large portion of new digital camera sales, changing digital cameras from boutique, expensive items to a run of the mill piece of kit in just 10 years.

With the market booming and so many different manufacturers, models and prices scattered about, it can be difficult to choose between cameras. However, there are a few key specifications that you should keep an eye out for when choosing a new digital camera, regardless of the price or the manufacturer. The first thing to consider is the mega pixel count. For years now, digital cameras have been marketed on the number of pixels which they can capture in a single shot. More pixels means in practice a higher resolution image which of course means more detail and larger shots, and getting a camera with a decent mega pixel rating isn't hard. In today's market you can pick up an entry level digital camera with an 8 mega pixel or 10 mega pixel sensor without paying very much.

It's not all about mega pixels though, and as you'll notice if you shop around there can be vast price differences between digital cameras which share the same basic mega pixel rating. This is because the quality of the image and the price of the camera is also affected by other factors. The most obvious secondary thing to look out for is the type of lens and zoom that the camera comes with. Some digital cameras will have something called digital zoom. What this means in practice is that rather than using the movement and relative position of the glass lens to zoom in on whatever you're shooting (known traditionally as optical zoom), a software trick within the camera will be used to increase the zoom instead. This will keep the cost of the camera down and mean less moving parts, but will also result in poorer long range abilities. Most digital cameras come with zoom functions, and if you pay more for a mid range model you should expect both optical and digital zoom functions. In terms of lens quality, various manufacturers have allegiances to traditional photographic lens producers, for example Sony's affiliation with Carl Zeiss. [...]

Posted in News | No Comments »

Shuttle SN68SG2 Home Theatre System

March 13th, 2009

Shuttle SN68SG2

Having used a Shuttle SN41G2 based AMD 3ghz XP machine to watch DVDs and listen to mp3s with, the time had come to upgrade to something a little more powerful that was capable of Blue Ray HD playback. I have always been a big fan of the Shuttle bare-bone systems both in the work place and at home, as their compact size makes them ideal for media and basic computing and I had not intention of buying a stand alone player.

The Shuttle SN41G2 had been an excellent machine with nforce on-board sound and graphics but also a spare AGP and PCI slot if you wanted a different graphics or sound card option. Bit perfect audio output is a must for me, so a spare PCI slot is essential as I have not come across any on-board sound cards that are 100% capable of this, and my C-Media 8768 sound card offers 100% bit perfect SPDIF in and out at a fraction of the cost of audiophile solutions with Drogbert's Homebrew Drivers. The Shuttle SN68SG2 features a Realteak 888 HD chip which although will output a 44.1khz signal via SPDIF only does through a driver switch and not automatically, so I am not 100% convinced this is "bit" perfect, however it will output 24 bit audio as well for those people with high resolution FLAC files. [...]

Posted in Home Cinema | No Comments »

Cambridge Audio DAC Magic

February 15th, 2009

Cambridge Audio DAC Magic
Cambridge Audio

Following yesterday’s post about bit perfect audio, I thought I would post details of one the best sub £200 external DAC available in the UK. The Cambridge Audio DAC Magic was launched last summer and immediately established itself as one of the very best DACs available sonically and also compatibility wise at its price point. Cambridge Audio have manufactured several external DACs in the past, but this one is possibly one of its best.
The Cambridge Audio DAC Magic has no less than three digital inputs that can either be optical or co-axial and a USB in connector as well and for output either unbalanced RCA phono sockets can be used or left and right balanced XLR connectors. Power to the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic is provided by an external regulated power supply.

The Cambridge Audio DAC Magic borrows much of its technology from the Azur 740/840 CD players and up-samples all inputs to a 24bit/192khz sample using a choice of three sophisticated filters which is licensed from a Swiss software company called Anagram Technologies. The result is a very neutral portrayal of sound which far exceeds its sub £200 price. [...]

Posted in Tweaks | No Comments »

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