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Home Theatre / Media Setup

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I'm looking to update my ageing home theatre setup, and ideally extend it to general media, but it's not something I have any real knowledge of so would really appreciate any opinions and suggestions from you guys. My current setup is:

  • A half decent TV which I will re-use
  • A cobbled together set of wired 5.1 speakers, which I really want to replace with wireless
  • a half decent (but ancient) 6.1 amplifier, which I am happy to bin/replace or re-use

There are multiple devices which I will need to run through this setup, including DVD player, Sky TV, games console(s), Apple TV. But I would also like to set it up so that we can stream music (mainly, but perhaps also movies etc) direct from any of our iPhones or iPads, and possibly even the Apple computers that we have, in a way which will utilise surround sound where possible, or stereo elsewhere whilst making the most of the speakers around the room. As far as speakers go, I'm happy with 5.1 or 7.1 if it's really worth the extra investment.

So I'm kind of after a home theatre / media server setup which can run on my home network. Bluetooth is not really an option to be honest as we have too many devices, and disconnecting one to connect another is a monumental faff.

I've looked briefly at Linux XBMC, but since I don't know enough about this stuff to even have an overview, it seems like a lot of wading to do when someone here can probably just say, "You need to look in this direction...". Last time I looked there was just Linux MCE, which was a bit overkill, but I see now there are multiple different distributions, of which XMBMC looks to be closest to what I need.

Any thoughts?

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I forgot to mention budget. There isn't one really, but ideally I'd like to stay below the £500 mark, unless that's completely impossible. I'm guessing £300 for speakers, £100 for a box to run the media server (in fact I probably only need a case, as I have masses of components kicking around), and about the same for an amp, if I still need one.

I'm also very happy to buy used speakers.

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Go to "Richer Sounds" I have nothing to do with Richer Sounds, although I think they can recite my Visa card number.

I got a Yamaha amplifier which was the cheapest 5.1 amp I could find after the Onkyo burst (which cost five times as much). I couldn't hear the difference! Onkyo fixed it for nothing, even though it was outside warranty. So hats off ot Onkyo! They value their reputation, but it produces a lot more sound than my house needs! The Yamaha was quite OK!

Get a Western Digital WD-TV box. It seems to work well, and they have paid to license the HD-Master codec.

Just my tuppence worth!

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Yep, the amp is SCART but the TV is HDMI all the way. I had a look at the amps Pin mentioned and immediately realised we're looking at an upgraded one, but that's fine. I've also realised that my sub woofer, and 3 front speakers are actually quite good quality and that it's not a problem for them to be wired. So perhaps I can save some cash there to spend elsewhere.

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Yep, the amp is SCART but the TV is HDMI all the way. I had a look at the amps Pin mentioned and immediately realised we're looking at an upgraded one, but that's fine. I've also realised that my sub woofer, and 3 front speakers are actually quite good quality and that it's not a problem for them to be wired. So perhaps I can save some cash there to spend elsewhere.

I can't say how long they will last, but the Yamaha amp sounded as good as the old one that cost a lot more! I don't have a big house and don't need 3000 Watts! It was entirely adequate! I have large front speakers as I like music.

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AV Amps technology changes so quickly, it's not worth going too posh. Buy a known brand! All will have HDMI now!

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I'm the same, Pin - I don't need it loud, just decent quality and nicely functional.

They will be loud enough if you have decent front speakers! Like I say, the Yamaha was excellent for the money. I also had a Marantz one many years ago, Good sound but no HDMI. Eventually it popped! Wasn't worth fixing. Pity really!

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Pin...how does an Amp burst?

The centre channel went "buzzy"! I thought about having it fixed, but it was well out of date! Well about 4 years old! Not like top quality "hi fi" stuff which seems to last for years!

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Keep your eye on Hot UK deals for a HP ProLiant Microserver and Install xbmcbuntu on it. You will need to add a little more ram and a low profile video card with hdmi out but it will be future proof.

Server has 4 bays so can also be used as a storage media server and the o/s can handle sickbeard (and it's various forks) and sabnzb as your knowledge base expands and you look to automate everything.

Bit of a steep learning curve at first but plenty of help sites out there both for both linux and xbmc and they are both free. Well worth the effort you put in when you get to the stage it collects all your media for you.

One to get you started.. http://www.htpcbeginner.com/install-xbmc-on-ubuntu/

The hardware if you can get the microserver on offer with the addons of ram and the video card should come in <£200

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Keep your eye on Hot UK deals for a HP ProLiant Microserver and Install xbmcbuntu on it. You will need to add a little more ram and a low profile video card with hdmi out but it will be future proof.

Server has 4 bays so can also be used as a storage media server and the o/s can handle sickbeard (and it's various forks) and sabnzb as your knowledge base expands and you look to automate everything.

Bit of a steep learning curve at first but plenty of help sites out there both for both linux and xbmc and they are both free. Well worth the effort you put in when you get to the stage it collects all your media for you.

One to get you started.. http://www.htpcbeginner.com/install-xbmc-on-ubuntu/

The hardware if you can get the microserver on offer with the addons of ram and the video card should come in <£200

I thought XBMC has been replaced with KODI?

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Keep your eye on Hot UK deals for a HP ProLiant Microserver and Install xbmcbuntu on it. You will need to add a little more ram and a low profile video card with hdmi out but it will be future proof.

Server has 4 bays so can also be used as a storage media server and the o/s can handle sickbeard (and it's various forks) and sabnzb as your knowledge base expands and you look to automate everything.

Bit of a steep learning curve at first but plenty of help sites out there both for both linux and xbmc and they are both free. Well worth the effort you put in when you get to the stage it collects all your media for you.

One to get you started.. http://www.htpcbeginner.com/install-xbmc-on-ubuntu/

The hardware if you can get the microserver on offer with the addons of ram and the video card should come in <£200

Cheers, that's useful. I'm wondering whether it might be cheaper to bung another HD into my gaming PC (which does nothing most of the time) and dual boot it with something like the distro you mentioned, so that it could function as the media server for most of the time. I can't remember what cpu I put in it, but think it's an I7, 16GB memory and a monster NVidia GPU. So it's got the nuts for it.

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Cheers, that's useful. I'm wondering whether it might be cheaper to bung another HD into my gaming PC (which does nothing most of the time) and dual boot it with something like the distro you mentioned, so that it could function as the media server for most of the time. I can't remember what cpu I put in it, but think it's an I7, 16GB memory and a monster NVidia GPU. So it's got the nuts for it.

When you get to the automation stage you will be thinking about leaving it on 24/7 so power usage should also be a consideration. It would need to be on 24/7 to grab the latest US series latest releases from usenet GOT and the like as soon as they are posted which invariably is a few minutes after they are screened in the US and in the middle of the night UK time.

Worth going down the headless server route as you can park it away in a cupboard and control it from your laptop/desktop. You need only ever visit it to turn it on.

There are a few HP Proliants on the flea bay if you use(HP Microserver) search term and at good prices. 63 currently..... I already have two and am tempted to get the next model up....

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It has but I am old hat ..... <_<

I've got one of those Android TV boxes that runs KODI for around 30 quid...seems to do the job...

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Raspberry Pi KODI or just to run NAS http://pimylifeup.com/raspberry-pi-nas/

I ran xbmc on PI for a while - found the interface a bit slow at times (okay when actually playing) - I replaced it with a NUC.

When you get to the automation stage you will be thinking about leaving it on 24/7 so power usage should also be a consideration. It would need to be on 24/7 to grab the latest US series latest releases from usenet GOT and the like as soon as they are posted which invariably is a few minutes after they are screened in the US and in the middle of the night UK time.

Worth going down the headless server route as you can park it away in a cupboard and control it from your laptop/desktop. You need only ever visit it to turn it on.

There are a few HP Proliants on the flea bay if you use(HP Microserver) search term and at good prices. 63 currently..... I already have two and am tempted to get the next model up....

If you want a proliant microserver (and they are incredible for the money) there is a cashback until the end of the month - works out as about 120 for the server (but you'd need an OS - fine if you use freenas or linux, say).

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Fantastic help, cheers guys.

I'm wondering if I might do this in 2 stages - first of all some new speakers, amplifier and the Chromecast thing will take care of the immediate sound issues, then add the media server later.

One thing I've been promising myself for years is that I would completely redesign my entire home network and all the connected devices, instead of just adding them one at a time in a cobbled on fashion. So the media server seems like a good opportunity to do that.

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The only reason I have the big front speakers is for music. If you only watch films you are OK with a subwoofer and a good sound bar! As for the media player, I have a WD one. It finds stuff on my PC disk shares and goes straight to the TV and amplifier

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Fantastic help, cheers guys.

I'm wondering if I might do this in 2 stages - first of all some new speakers, amplifier and the Chromecast thing will take care of the immediate sound issues, then add the media server later.

One thing I've been promising myself for years is that I would completely redesign my entire home network and all the connected devices, instead of just adding them one at a time in a cobbled on fashion. So the media server seems like a good opportunity to do that.

Sonos is another option for wireless, WIFI based speakers...The soundbar is a bit expensive though..You can connect a NAS drive to them..

http://www.sonos.com/en-gb/shop/connect?r=1

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I wouldn't go for WiFi speakers. I'd rather use real wire, but then I worked for a cable company! :wacko:

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