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SecretSquirrel
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Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:02 am

I "cut the cord" long ago, 2008 timeframe, as we just don't watch that much TV in my house. Not to say that we don't watch any TV, just not enough to justify $100+ per month for cable or satellite service. I have had all four versions of the Roku boxes as well as a WDTV live, various streaming capable DVD or BluRay players, and classic HTPCs. None of them have really met all the requirements of the house.

Primary Requirements:
Netflix
Amazon Instant Video
DVD playback (network accessible ISO images)
No transcoding via a Windows PC
Broadcast TV
Wife friendly

Secondary Requirements:
ESPN
Minimal "hackery"


Up until recently, I've been using a Roku 3, a WD TV Live, and the tuner in the TV. That covered all the primary requirements except the "wife friendly" part. Giving instructions on 6-10 button sequences on the remote in order to go from Netflix to broadcast TV doesn't qualify as "wife friendly". The higher the WAF (wife acceptance factor), the lower to objections to my geeky toys. :lol:

We recently bought a new house (new to us) that came with a full home theatre. This prompted me to start reviewing my setup as the theatre did not have a tuner for OTA TV. A bit of searching found Tablo for the OTA tuner (I got the two tuner version). It has an app for the Roku so that solved the OTA TV issue, though I'd still need a second WDTV. The WD TV Live has always been a bit flakey software wise, and the user interface leaves something to be desired. That, plus the fact that the high end universal remote for the theatre was going to compound the wife problem made me start looking at the whole media player landscape again.

Here is what I settled on for hardware: Amazon Fire TV.
With a few third party apps, it does everything I need. The Tablo is supported, and there is a Netflix App. Obviously it give access to the Amazon services. The thing it really brings to the table over the Rokus is the ability to install Kodi (XMBC) for playback of media on the local network. It has powerful enough hardware to playback the media I need without a second PC doing transcoding. I installed Firestarter as the home screen so now the wife has a single device and a single set of applications, with reasonable interfaces, by which to access all the local media for the house as well as the various streaming services. I also subscribed to SlingTV as doing so gives me access to the ESPN and the SEC network, which covers the majority of the sports we watch. Though, I will say, I may drop the SlingTV subscription for March through August as we are mainly a football house.

The only item that is still in work is an IR remote for the Fire TV. The remote that comes with it is Bluetooth based. It is actually a pretty nice remote, but a single remote is part of the WAF and, honestly, I appreciate it too. I have a Flirc USB dongle on order. It is supposed to integrate pretty seamlessly with the Fire TV.

Figured I'd post this here so that anyone else is search of a similar solution could benefit.

--SS
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:49 am

SecretSquirrel wrote:
Here is what I settled on for hardware: Amazon Fire TV.
With a few third party apps, it does everything I need. The Tablo is supported, and there is a Netflix App. Obviously it give access to the Amazon services. The thing it really brings to the table over the Rokus is the ability to install Kodi (XMBC) for playback of media on the local network. It has powerful enough hardware to playback the media I need without a second PC doing transcoding. I installed Firestarter as the home screen so now the wife has a single device and a single set of applications, with reasonable interfaces, by which to access all the local media for the house as well as the various streaming services.

How does it handle HD content encoded in VC1 and MPEG2? I've been using a Raspberry Pi 2 for local media playback (with Kodi/XBMC coincidentally), and without the hardware decode keys it completely chokes on those codecs. Even with a faster processor, I can see the Fire TV having a hard time without hardware decoding.

Also, what does the Kodi/XBMC installation entail?
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tanker27
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 2:11 pm

Curious. I too want to know the answers about the Kodi install. If you can get kodi then dang sure it will play any wrapper (avi, mkv, etc) you throw at it.
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SecretSquirrel
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 2:48 pm

The Egg wrote:
SecretSquirrel wrote:
Here is what I settled on for hardware: Amazon Fire TV.
With a few third party apps, it does everything I need. The Tablo is supported, and there is a Netflix App. Obviously it give access to the Amazon services. The thing it really brings to the table over the Rokus is the ability to install Kodi (XMBC) for playback of media on the local network. It has powerful enough hardware to playback the media I need without a second PC doing transcoding. I installed Firestarter as the home screen so now the wife has a single device and a single set of applications, with reasonable interfaces, by which to access all the local media for the house as well as the various streaming services.

How does it handle HD content encoded in VC1 and MPEG2? I've been using a Raspberry Pi 2 for local media playback (with Kodi/XBMC coincidentally), and without the hardware decode keys it completely chokes on those codecs. Even with a faster processor, I can see the Fire TV having a hard time without hardware decoding.

Also, what does the Kodi/XBMC installation entail?


I can't speak to HD content handling yet as I don't really have any MPEG2 HD content yet. All my ISOs are from my DVD collection. The BluRays are still played the old fashioned way, in a stand alone player. I pulled down a couple of HD MPEG2 and VC1 demo clips and if I get a moment this evening, before the football game, I'll give them a try.

As far as installing Kodi, it couldn't have been simpler. I used Firestarter and followed this: https://github.com/sphinx02/FireStarter ... eTV-needed).

--SS
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 4:56 pm

tanker27 wrote:
If you can get kodi then dang sure it will play any wrapper (avi, mkv, etc) you throw at it.

I'm sure it will play, but 1080p VC1 with software decoding will be choppy at best, and a slideshow at worst (with my Pi 2 it was the latter). In order to get hardware decoding I had to purchase a decode key for both VC1 and MPEG2 (about $4.50 for both) and plug them in to Kodi/XBMC (apparently H.264 is free). This was done via the Raspberry Pi website, but hopefully you can do the same thing for Fire TV using a different method. So far with very limited research, I haven't seen anyone else mention doing it, so I'm a bit pessimistic.
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 5:25 pm

The Egg wrote:
I'm sure it will play, but 1080p VC1 with software decoding will be choppy at best, and a slideshow at worst (with my Pi 2 it was the latter). In order to get hardware decoding I had to purchase a decode key for both VC1 and MPEG2 (about $4.50 for both) and plug them in to Kodi/XBMC (apparently H.264 is free). This was done via the Raspberry Pi website, but hopefully you can do the same thing for Fire TV using a different method. So far with very limited research, I haven't seen anyone else mention doing it, so I'm a bit pessimistic.


I don't have any VC1 content, but as a test I just downloaded and played the Big Buck Bunny big_buck_bunny_1080p_VC1_WMA3_25fps_8600K.WMV sample with Kodi 15.2 rc on my FireTV 1. I did not see any problems at all. I have not had any problems with playback or streaming. It is on a wired connection.

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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:26 pm

So far, it has stumbled on a 1080p24 MPEG2 of "Elephants Dream" which, to be fair, is and extremely high bitrate -- 35-45Mbps. It played a 1080p30 VC1 @25Mbps just fine. It also seemed to have problems with 1080p30@24Mbps H264 video from some video work I did last summer. This was the raw video straight off the camera.

I've got a BluRay drive on order that should be here tomorrow. I'll try a BluRay rip when I get a moment and see how it does.

One thing to remember is that the Fire TV is android based so the capabilities from a hardware perspective are somewhat different than your regular Linux (Raspberry Pi for example) system. The underlying SOC on the Fire TV supports hardware acceleration, but Amazon chose not to license it so it isn't enabled.

--SS
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:52 pm

In terms of its hardware capabilities, the Pi is much closer to the FireTV than to a regular desktop or laptop computer. If it didn't have media decoding handled in its GPU, I expect the Pi would give nothing but a slideshow when attempting to render any higher-resolution video on the CPU. You can see this easily if you use a media player such as VLC on the Pi that isn't set up for hardware accelerated video.

The Pi will handle h264 video (encoding and decoding) at 1080p, 30 fps by default - the foundation paid for a blanket license for all Pis that are manufactured. The graphics processor for the Pi can also handle MPEG2 and VC1 decoding, but the foundation didn't pay for those licenses as they assumed (and I think this has been borne out) that those will be used by a much smaller segment of their user base. Any Pi user can buy the licenses (as The Egg did) relatively inexpensively, though.

When the original Pi first came out, Kodi (then still XBMC) ran Amazon Instant Video very well, and I happily used it for that. About six months afterwards, Amazon changed some aspect of their video streaming and it locked out the Pi. Found that remarkably annoying.
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:03 pm

I was originally going to go down the Pi route and was even planning on buying the MPEG2 and VC1 licenses. The inability to run Netflix or Amazon video on it makes it less than perfect though. If I have to go back to a two box solution, one for streaming and one for local media, I'll likely use a Roku for streaming and a Pi 2 with Kodi for local media. I'd really rather have a single box though as it simplifies so much.

I just switched back from the Fire TV to my Roku 3 as ESPN Now was showing video artifacts. So far they haven't shown up on the Roku.

I really wish someone would actually make a box that was designed to do both from the start.

--SS
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:52 pm

The Kodi wiki has a pretty good how-to guide for installing on the FireTV. I bought my sister one in 2014 and installed Kodi without any problems, although I already had the adb utility on my desktop, which made it easier. I hadn't heard about Firestarter until now, it seems like it cleans up some of the untidiness of running Kodi on a FireTV.

I bought an Odroid C1+ the other day as a media/emulation device, but if the media playback isn't up to snuff I may just grab a FireTV to handle that. Between Firestarter and Amazon enabling mounting USB drives in mid 2015 it seems to have become a great platform.
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:20 pm

way2strong wrote:
The Kodi wiki has a pretty good how-to guide for installing on the FireTV. I bought my sister one in 2014 and installed Kodi without any problems, although I already had the adb utility on my desktop, which made it easier. I hadn't heard about Firestarter until now, it seems like it cleans up some of the untidiness of running Kodi on a FireTV.

I bought an Odroid C1+ the other day as a media/emulation device, but if the media playback isn't up to snuff I may just grab a FireTV to handle that. Between Firestarter and Amazon enabling mounting USB drives in mid 2015 it seems to have become a great platform.


The only little annoyance with Firestarter on the Fire TV 2 is that when you hit Home, the Amazon launcher shows for a moment. This assumes you didn't root your Fire TV and just side loaded Firestarter. It's a minor thing though. My one concern is that if Amazon turns of the ADB logging that Firestarter uses, it will be back to having to root the box. If it turns out that there are enough problems that the Fire TV isn't my main platform, I'll probably go ahead and root it.

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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:52 am

SecretSquirrel wrote:
I was originally going to go down the Pi route and was even planning on buying the MPEG2 and VC1 licenses. The inability to run Netflix or Amazon video on it makes it less than perfect though. If I have to go back to a two box solution, one for streaming and one for local media, I'll likely use a Roku for streaming and a Pi 2 with Kodi for local media. I'd really rather have a single box though as it simplifies so much.

That's exactly the setup I'm using, and your post on Fire TV piqued my interest for the same reasons. The Pi 2 works well for local playback, but the setup isn't the most elegant and it has a couple minor quirks. For instance, I can navigate on the Pi using TV controls via HDMI-CEC (on my Logitech Harmony remote), but the side effect is that the Pi 2 steals focus and automatically switches the input to itself when I turn on the TV. It's probably my stereo receiver actually doing the input switching, but it's still very annoying and I haven't figured out how to stop the behavior without disabling functions.

We wouldn't have to go through any of this crap if someone would just make a box with decent local media playback that didn't suck at everything else. They're all more or less using the same type of hardware, many are using the same apps (from Youtube, Netflix, etc), so you wouldn't think it would be so difficult to get the software right.
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:05 am

The Egg wrote:
tanker27 wrote:
If you can get kodi then dang sure it will play any wrapper (avi, mkv, etc) you throw at it.

I'm sure it will play, but 1080p VC1 with software decoding will be choppy at best, and a slideshow at worst (with my Pi 2 it was the latter). In order to get hardware decoding I had to purchase a decode key for both VC1 and MPEG2 (about $4.50 for both) and plug them in to Kodi/XBMC (apparently H.264 is free). This was done via the Raspberry Pi website, but hopefully you can do the same thing for Fire TV using a different method. So far with very limited research, I haven't seen anyone else mention doing it, so I'm a bit pessimistic.


looking at the hardware:

MediaTek Quad-core up to 2 Ghz
Dual-core @ 2.0 GHz + Dual-core @ 1.6 GHz

it should be more than enough to play VC1 content
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:17 am

^ Give it a shot. The VC1 content I'm playing is very high bitrate because it hasn't been re-encoded. I think you'd be surprised to find out the amount of CPU horsepower required to play full bitrate 1080p VC1 smoothly via software.
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Wed Jan 13, 2016 12:07 pm

So the Blu-Ray drive came in yesterday and got installed. Tried rips of Transformers: Extinction (17Mbps AVC), X-men Origins: Wolverine (22Mbps AVC), and Iron Man 2 (30Mbps AVC). They all played without any issue, at least for the few moments I watched of each. This morning I stuck Terminator Salvation in the drive. It is a 25Mbps VC-1 disc so this evening I should have some idea whether the Fire TV has the horsepower necessary.

Pass through of sound by the Amazon Fire works, sort of. I'm not sure if it is the Fire, the receiver, the source material, or some combination. 7.1 Dolby TrueHD material gets decoded on the Fire and passed through as multichannel PCM. All seven channels are discrete, but the surround and rear surround channel sets are swapped. This seems like a long standing bug in Kodi from what little reading I did. Note that the receiver does support Dolby TrueHD. 7.1 DTS-HD MA material gets played back as 5.1 material. As best I can tell, it's being sent to the receiver as a 5.1 DTS stream. Not sure if this is a misunderstanding between the FireTV and receiver or not. I've been meaning to move my Pioneer from the living room to the theatre as it is being woefully underutilized by the 2.0 setup in the living room. Just haven't had the time.

I need to go through my Blu-Rays (I don't exactly have a lot) and see what I have that have 7.1 sound tracks to give them a try.

I'm thinking I'll go ahead and order a Pi 2 today for a comparison to the FireTV. I really want to avoid two boxes but, at this point, a Roku 3 + Pi 2 w/ Kodi may be the best solution. We shall see.

--SS
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Wed Jan 13, 2016 1:00 pm

@ SS - The sound issue could really be any of the things you mentioned. Kodi has some detailed sound settings that you might want to mess around with. If you've got a capable receiver, it's generally best to just do a straight passthrough of the audio stream and let the receiver do all the processing/decoding. It could also have something to do with the way you're ripping the source audio, but unfortunately that discussion is a little too grey-area for here.

One thing worth mentioning about the Pi 2: Playback is smooth via local USB, but I get small random stutters when playing via network. Apparently the high-bitrate stuff I'm playing has the Pi's CPU right on the edge (even with hardware decoding), and the extra bit of network processing is just enough to introduce the occasional jitter.
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Wed Jan 13, 2016 5:25 pm

The Egg wrote:
@ SS - The sound issue could really be any of the things you mentioned. Kodi has some detailed sound settings that you might want to mess around with. If you've got a capable receiver, it's generally best to just do a straight passthrough of the audio stream and let the receiver do all the processing/decoding. It could also have something to do with the way you're ripping the source audio, but unfortunately that discussion is a little too grey-area for here.

One thing worth mentioning about the Pi 2: Playback is smooth via local USB, but I get small random stutters when playing via network. Apparently the high-bitrate stuff I'm playing has the Pi's CPU right on the edge (even with hardware decoding), and the extra bit of network processing is just enough to introduce the occasional jitter.


The source audio is downloads of 7.1 speaker mapping test files for the respective encodings, so I didn't rip them. As they are audio test tracks, while perhaps a bit grey tinged, they certainly aren't downloaded movie rips. All my movie testing has been with direct rips from disc to NAS, no recoding and no downloading of any sort. I won't get into the tools, etc, though I do at least own all the original media. But, enough about that.

I've played with the Kodi audio settings and have direct passthrough enabled. However, the FireTV is an android base system which seems to have issues and limitations with direct pass through. Part of what makes me think there is at least something involving miscommunication between the FireTV and receiver is that Kodi believe the receiver doesn't support Dolby TrueHD and so it re-encodes it as multichannel PCM on the fly. I do wonder about the audio sources I am using though. Since the receiver does report DTS when playing the DTS-HD track, and I am theoretically just passing the audio bitstream straight through, either the receiver doesn't support 7.1 DTS-HD MA, which would be odd, or perhaps the bitstream really is only 5.1. I plan to go through my Blu-Rays to see if I have any 7.1 encoded content and if I do, hopefully it will contain a speaker test track so I can play it direct from Blu-Ray, as well as from the FireTV.

I ordered another Pi2 today. From what I have read, it does a much better job at audio passthrough, so I should know more this weekend.

--SS
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Wed Jan 13, 2016 10:28 pm

Well, the FireTV seems to handle VC-1 content ok. I watched the first 10 minutes or so of Terminator: Salvation without a hiccup. It's a 25.6Mbps stream. Still chasing the missing two channels on DTS-HD MA audio tracks. The speaker test track does report as having 8 channels when looking at the metadata so it may be that either the FireTV or Kodi running on it is only passing the DTS core through to the receiver.

--SS
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 14, 2016 3:43 am

SecretSquirrel wrote:
Well, the FireTV seems to handle VC-1 content ok. I watched the first 10 minutes or so of Terminator: Salvation without a hiccup. It's a 25.6Mbps stream. Still chasing the missing two channels on DTS-HD MA audio tracks. The speaker test track does report as having 8 channels when looking at the metadata so it may be that either the FireTV or Kodi running on it is only passing the DTS core through to the receiver.

Interesting. The FireTV CPU must be a good bit more powerful than the Pi2, or possibly the new version has some hardware decoding help by default (I have a hard time mentally quantifying ARM cpu power, even if you throw all the specs at me). See if you can test it with a few more titles. I'd also be interested in how it handles 1080p MPEG2, even though those are much less common (I've got about 9).

After looking into it on my Pi 2, Kodi does seem to be having some issues with the dual stream "HD" audio codecs. It correctly identifies them when browsing through the library, but my stereo receiver only reports receiving the core DTS stream (like yours), and with Dolby it reports receiving PCM (though in the correct number of channels). I went through the arcane buried settings a number of times and it should only be doing passthrough, but it also looks as though that area of the software hasn't been updated in some time (it only mentions the older DD Plus, and nothing about DTS-HD passthrough specifically). I'm only running a 2.1 setup and generally only pull the core audio track anyhow, but there are a few instances where I would like the extra fidelity (some of the blockbusters, or titles with outstanding soundtracks).
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 14, 2016 5:29 am

The Egg wrote:
Interesting. The FireTV CPU must be a good bit more powerful than the Pi2, or possibly the new version has some hardware decoding help by default (I have a hard time mentally quantifying ARM cpu power, even if you throw all the specs at me).


Yup, FireTV is a lot more powerful than the RP2. Double the clock speed, with a much more powerful CPU architecture.
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 14, 2016 7:32 am

The Egg wrote:
SecretSquirrel wrote:
Well, the FireTV seems to handle VC-1 content ok. I watched the first 10 minutes or so of Terminator: Salvation without a hiccup. It's a 25.6Mbps stream. Still chasing the missing two channels on DTS-HD MA audio tracks. The speaker test track does report as having 8 channels when looking at the metadata so it may be that either the FireTV or Kodi running on it is only passing the DTS core through to the receiver.

Interesting. The FireTV CPU must be a good bit more powerful than the Pi2, or possibly the new version has some hardware decoding help by default (I have a hard time mentally quantifying ARM cpu power, even if you throw all the specs at me). See if you can test it with a few more titles. I'd also be interested in how it handles 1080p MPEG2, even though those are much less common (I've got about 9).

After looking into it on my Pi 2, Kodi does seem to be having some issues with the dual stream "HD" audio codecs. It correctly identifies them when browsing through the library, but my stereo receiver only reports receiving the core DTS stream (like yours), and with Dolby it reports receiving PCM (though in the correct number of channels). I went through the arcane buried settings a number of times and it should only be doing passthrough, but it also looks as though that area of the software hasn't been updated in some time (it only mentions the older DD Plus, and nothing about DTS-HD passthrough specifically). I'm only running a 2.1 setup and generally only pull the core audio track anyhow, but there are a few instances where I would like the extra fidelity (some of the blockbusters, or titles with outstanding soundtracks).


I believe, that unless you have a 7.1 receiver, it isn't going to advertise support for a 7.1 stream, in which case the 5.1 core is all that will get sent. I think... maybe... I did determine that the lack of 7.1 I've been chasing is due to Android. Apparently it can only pass through the DTS core, which pretty much makes it a none starter for my theatre. Looks like I may have to do the Pi2 there, which would actually be somewhat ok as it will always be a multi input solution, with a stand alone BD player being one of the other inputs. The FireTV might still make it for the living room though, when 5.1 playback is more than sufficient.

--SS
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 14, 2016 9:49 am

SecretSquirrel wrote:
I believe, that unless you have a 7.1 receiver, it isn't going to advertise support for a 7.1 stream, in which case the 5.1 core is all that will get sent. I think... maybe... I did determine that the lack of 7.1 I've been chasing is due to Android. Apparently it can only pass through the DTS core, which pretty much makes it a none starter for my theatre. Looks like I may have to do the Pi2 there, which would actually be somewhat ok as it will always be a multi input solution, with a stand alone BD player being one of the other inputs. The FireTV might still make it for the living room though, when 5.1 playback is more than sufficient.

Na, the receiver is only about a year old and can process everything. Whether I've actually got 2 speakers or 7 speakers attached shouldn't be an issue, and the receiver should accept and process DTS-HD either way (especially if Kodi is just doing passthrough as it should).

With that said, I found this Kodi wiki page for audio settings, and I wasn't seeing the bottom 2 settings when I was messing around on my Pi 2 last night, even though I did a fairly thorough search. I'll have to take another look later (maybe I just needed to scroll down or something).
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 14, 2016 1:23 pm

The Egg wrote:
SecretSquirrel wrote:
I believe, that unless you have a 7.1 receiver, it isn't going to advertise support for a 7.1 stream, in which case the 5.1 core is all that will get sent. I think... maybe... I did determine that the lack of 7.1 I've been chasing is due to Android. Apparently it can only pass through the DTS core, which pretty much makes it a none starter for my theatre. Looks like I may have to do the Pi2 there, which would actually be somewhat ok as it will always be a multi input solution, with a stand alone BD player being one of the other inputs. The FireTV might still make it for the living room though, when 5.1 playback is more than sufficient.

Na, the receiver is only about a year old and can process everything. Whether I've actually got 2 speakers or 7 speakers attached shouldn't be an issue, and the receiver should accept and process DTS-HD either way (especially if Kodi is just doing passthrough as it should).

With that said, I found this Kodi wiki page for audio settings, and I wasn't seeing the bottom 2 settings when I was messing around on my Pi 2 last night, even though I did a fairly thorough search. I'll have to take another look later (maybe I just needed to scroll down or something).


Did a bit more reading while waiting on my car to be serviced this morning. Apparently neither the Pi 2 nor the FireTV have the capability to pass through DTS-HD MA or TrueHD streams. If you have "Enable Passthrough" set, Kodi shows you streams for which your hardware platform has support. Since the Pi 2 and FireTV don't support TrueHD passthrough we don't see it as an option. In the case of DTS-HD MA streams, they can't pass through the HD streams but they can pass the DTS 5.1 core so that's what you get. Both platforms are able to support decoding of the HD streams to 8 channel PCM, at least for 48Khz streams. The takes the receiver's decoder out of the picture. It just gets a multichannel PCM stream.

Unfortunately, at least for TrueHD streams, the surround channels are mixed up on the FireTV. Will have to see if it is the same on the Pi 2. From what I have read, it sounds like I just want to turn off passthrough and let the player decode the stream and send it to the receiver as a multichannel PCM stream. Not ideal as it requires more horsepower on the player, but it at least preserves the proper number of channels and, for normal bitrates, is still lossless.

--SS
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Mon Jan 18, 2016 12:21 pm

My Win7 HTPC is getting an upgrade, too. With the imminent death of Win 7's WMC, I had to make a switch that would allow me DVR and mp4/mkv playback. I settled on a Roku Roamio OTA with a Plex NAS. Not cheap, but I get almost all my flexibility I had. The sale on Roamio's with lifetime subscription for $299 and my $60 in AmEx points I could use at Amazin made it easier.
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 21, 2016 10:51 am

Did some more poking around over the last week.

Turning off pass through on the FireTV fixed the issues it was having with the "Elephant Dream" MPEG2. It also seems to kind of fixed the mixed channels on TrueHD 7.1 audio. If I turn off pass through, the FireTV outputs, at most, 6 channel PCM. The surround channels get played out of my rear surround channels instead of the side surround as they should be, but at least the side and rear surrounds come out of the same speakers after downmixing. So, it looks like as like as I am ok with 5.1 DTS or less, the FireTV does everything I need it to. I need to check for corruption in the ESPN stream again to see if it was just an issue with that particular event of if it is a general problem.

For the Pi2, I went ahead and order the VC1 and MPEG2 licenses. Without them, it wasn't capable of smooth playback. With them, no problem. Well, the playback was smooth anyway. On the Pi2, there is an option to "decode 8 channel sound" that is active when pass through is not. So, I can set pass through enabled and uncheck "DTS capable receiver", in which case I get 8 channel sound for DTS-HD MA and TrueHD, with all the channels in the right spot. Unfortunately, this also means that the Pi2 is decoding 5.1 DTS as well. If I let it pass through any DTS, then on the DTS HD it just falls back to passing through the DTS core. Then we have stability... or lack of it. In the 10 minutes I was testing, I had to power cycle the Pi2 three times. Once it rebooted on it's own. Now, to be fair, I think the power supply it is plugged into is a bit week -- I just grabbed the first one I could find. A good 2A rated supply is sitting on my desk and I need to try it. I also need to get the Flirc configured and tested.

So, despite the subject line, I'm still in search of the "perfect" all-in-one media box. Assuming the ESPN issues dont' continue, the FireTV will do duties in the living room where multi channel sound isn't a concern. For media playback in the theatre, it looks like multiple boxes are a requirement and I'll have to find something with appropriate pass through support of local media.

--SS
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 21, 2016 1:41 pm

SecretSquirrel wrote:
I had to power cycle the Pi2 three times. Once it rebooted on it's own. Now, to be fair, I think the power supply it is plugged into is a bit week -- I just grabbed the first one I could find. A good 2A rated supply is sitting on my desk and I need to try it.

Definitely go with the good 2 amp power supply. The Pi2, much more than any of the first generation, seems to need more available current more often. You can run it on a 1A power supply, but even then it will automatically downgrade the power output to USB devices to try and manage stability.
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 21, 2016 1:54 pm

Do you have the original FireTV or the update with 4k? It's possible they added more channels with the 4k version.

Personally I love my FireTV and I only have the original one.

You can also side load retroarch and run emulators up to and including PS1 which is very impressive. I have only one problem really, the difficulty of mounting network shares in Android. If I could mount samba or NFS shares, it would be great.

The other smallish problem is running side loaded apps, it's annoying to load them or edit other apps to load the ones I want instead using Llama.
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 21, 2016 2:14 pm

SecretSquirrel wrote:
If I let it pass through any DTS, then on the DTS HD it just falls back to passing through the DTS core. Then we have stability... or lack of it. In the 10 minutes I was testing, I had to power cycle the Pi2 three times. Once it rebooted on it's own. Now, to be fair, I think the power supply it is plugged into is a bit week -- I just grabbed the first one I could find. A good 2A rated supply is sitting on my desk and I need to try it. I also need to get the Flirc configured and tested.

I've been using passthrough on everything for quite some time without issue, so you're probably right about the power supply (I believe you're supposed to have at least 1.5A; I'm using a 2A). I still don't understand why the Pi2 isn't capable of passing through DTS-HD, yet it's capable of decoding it to PCM via software. If it's a licensing issue I'd be fine with spending a couple bucks, but I can't seem to find a definitive answer anywhere. As it stands though, I'm generally only pulling the DTS core from my sources about 80% of the time anyway, as I just can't see the benefit on something like a cheesy comedy. A decade from now when drive capacities are multiple 10's of TBs, I'll probably get irritated about that choice.
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 21, 2016 3:08 pm

The Egg wrote:
I've been using passthrough on everything for quite some time without issue, so you're probably right about the power supply (I believe you're supposed to have at least 1.5A; I'm using a 2A). I still don't understand why the Pi2 isn't capable of passing through DTS-HD, yet it's capable of decoding it to PCM via software. If it's a licensing issue I'd be fine with spending a couple bucks, but I can't seem to find a definitive answer anywhere. As it stands though, I'm generally only pulling the DTS core from my sources about 80% of the time anyway, as I just can't see the benefit on something like a cheesy comedy. A decade from now when drive capacities are multiple 10's of TBs, I'll probably get irritated about that choice.

By the time that happens you'll want to upgrade the video to 4k anyways.
 
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Re: Finally found it: the all in one HTPC solution

Thu Jan 21, 2016 4:47 pm

BobbinThreadbare wrote:
Do you have the original FireTV or the update with 4k? It's possible they added more channels with the 4k version.

Personally I love my FireTV and I only have the original one.

You can also side load retroarch and run emulators up to and including PS1 which is very impressive. I have only one problem really, the difficulty of mounting network shares in Android. If I could mount samba or NFS shares, it would be great.

The other smallish problem is running side loaded apps, it's annoying to load them or edit other apps to load the ones I want instead using Llama.


I've got the updated version. Never bothered to try and do the NAS access with the underlying Android interfaces (your right that it sucks), I just installed Kodi and used it for accessing network shares. While the emulators do have a little bit of draw, this is really a media consumption box and the less random stuff it does the better. Makes it easier for the wife to use.

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