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Integrating Audio ,Video And Computers

The following section will certainly not go over with many audiophiles. However, many innovations, such as the CD were initially dismissed by audiophiles.

This section actually has little to do with nOrh but it has a lot to do with the way we are all likely to get entertainment in the future.

When I first established this website, I stated that the DVD will become the replacement for both the CD and Laserdisk. I got a lot of e-mails saying I was crazy. It now turns out that this is already happening. I believe that the DVD will become even more a centerpiece for audio/video systems.

Today, computers are large/complex and clunky devices. It is hard to imagine today's computers being attached to an audio/video system. However, the future will have devices that are somewhat a cross between a computer and an appliance. These devices will serve as the centerpiece for our entertainment systems. My guess is that what will evolve will look more like a Sony Playstation or a Sega game machine than it will a computer.

Let's consider some of the possibilities.


Today, you can put a DVD player into your computer for about $100.00. A DVD stores from eight to ten times more information than a CD. This will allow more information to be stored on a single disk and it will allow for more exciting games. DVD drives in computers can play DVD movies if it has the appropriate software or hardware.

Computers with a processor greater than 350 Mhz can play movies with no additional hardware. If you have an SVGA monitor or a projector that accepts a VGA style input, a computer based system is actually capable of generating a quadrupled image--1280 x 1024. If you were to use conventional line quadruplers, you would have to pay about $10,000 to $20,000 to achieve this.

If you use a hardware solution available from Reel Magic or Creative, you can output to SVHS or standard video. The cost for a combination DVD player and MPEG 2 decoding card should be about $300.00.

Given that powerful computers are going for well under $1000.00, it might make sense to consider using a computer instead of a DVD player.

There are some very interesting video cards available today. My personal favorite is a video card based on the Riva TNT chip (now replaced by the much more superior GeForce and GeForce 2 chipset) and the ATI all in Wonder 128 (replaced by Radeon). ASUS makes boards based on these chipsets that are very good choices. They have very good 3D performance (for games) and integrates video in and video out. This means you can view the output on your TV or monitor. You can scale the video input up to 800 x 600. This means that you can use a video projector and increase or scale the resolution of any video source. It should also be possible to convert from one video standard to another. You could input PAL and output NTSC. Converting VCRs will cost much more than a computer that will do this for you.

For about $100, you can buy a TV tuner card. There are many available that use the fantastic chip from Brooktree called the BT848. A TV tuner card will allow you to watch TV or Cable on your computer. Many of these cards also include an FM tuner as well. I use the Lifeview video card. For less than $100, it includes a remote control that allows you to control the cursor from across the room.

A computer equipped with DVD, high performance video card and 300 MHz or better processing, will also allow you to play video games. Not only can you play games designed for PCs, you can also arcade games and do video game emulation.

The ATI all in Wonder 128 combines the functions of a DVD hardware decoder, TV tuner, video input (VCR) and 3D accelerator card.  I bought this card for under $200.00.  With a 30GB hard disk (about $100 now), you can record about 15 hours of MPEG 1 video.  You can edit the video and record it to tape or produce your own VCDs. The newer ATI all in Wonder Radeon offers even more functionalities at similar prices now.

You could use a computer to drive a data grade monitor.  The ATI All in Wonder 128 (or the later Radeon or like) will scale the image up.  You could watch a monitor set at 1280 x 1024 and the ATI card would act like a line doubler/quadrupler increasing the apparent resolution and increasing the scan rate of the video.

A program called ULE allows a computer to emulate a Nintendo 64. A program called Bleem emulates a Sony Playstaion. There is a program called M.A.M.E. that can play over 1,000 arcade games by using images from the original ROMs from these machines.

nOrh can not answer questions about any of these technologies but we think it is important for our readers to consider the implications these technologies will have.

The location of your computer vs. your projection system isn't all that important. You can get wireless keyboards and infrared transmitters that allow you to control your computer from virtually any location. There are microwave transmitters and receivers that will broadcast the audio and video from your computer to your home theater.


The DVD inside a computer can read audio CDs. Most sound cards have rather poor D/A converters but there are some exceptions. Turtle Beach makes some professional quality cards and many people have claimed that the new Creative SoundBlaster Live is very good. Newer boards from Creative have Dolby Digital decoding built in.

Most computer CDROM and DVDs have digital output. These are labeled SPDIF. There are a variety of web pages that describe creating TOSLINK or standard cables so that you can interface your output directly into a D/A converter or AC3 decoder.

Besides playing standard CDs and DVDs, computers have the ability to play a compressed format called MP3. MP3 is a format that the record industries hate. It was originally developed by Philips for their CD-I and their DCC tapes. The compression allows for information to be compressed down to 1/10th its original size. The compression used is less than minidisks so the quality of the sound should be better.

I wrote a response to an article that appeared in Stereophile about MP3. The author basically said MP3 is terrible. The author did not describe how he had listened to MP3 or what was specifically wrong with MP3s. I believe that the degradation caused by MP3 is slight. However, there are many applications for MP3 that are quite exciting.

One application might be to create a jukebox. You can load about 200 songs on a single CD. A four or five gigabyte disk could store hundreds of albums in MP3 format. Imagine a disc jockey with a laptop. That is about all he would need to store an entire CD collection. There is a project on the Internet where an individual is using Linux and a modest PC to build a 300 album MP3 player in the trunk of his car. He uses small LCD screen and keypad to make his selections.

A person could record their entire collection onto MP3 compressed files on a computer and set it up to play hours of music at a time.

It is also now possible to make your own CDs with a CD ROM burner. These are now about $300 USD. For about $1.00, you can buy blank CDROMs. You can make copies of your existing CDs and use them in your car or portable players. Please note, nOrh does not endorse stealing or pirating music. However, you do have a right to backup music that you already own or transfer it to another medium.

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