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Home Theater Tips

After reading that Xbox Music had added a cloud based music locker service using OneDrive I decided to give it a quick test.

Due to my frustrations with the Xbox One, the loss (or at least the continued depreciation of…) Windows Media Center, I have switched over my music collection to work with Apple TV (and subsequently iOS on our new iPhones).

I have to say that our music experience at home has been pretty good after this shift.  (The Remote App works great and if I am willing to listen to non-cd quality I can stream music directly from iCloud.  The sound quality is noticeably better when streaming in loss-less directly from a PC running iTunes.)

Two years ago I ripped all of our CDs to loss-less FLAC files using DB Poweramp.  From there I convert the FLAC files to either WMA Loss-less (when using XBOX/WMP) – or more recently AAC Loss-less.  Some of our music is 24-bit purchased from HDTracks.  The Apple TV downgrades HD (24-bit) music to 16-bit (CD Quality) automatically.  My great hope for the XBOX One had been that it is capable of 24-bit playback via HDMI.

So here is what you actually read the article for.  I test uploaded a 24-bit AAC Loss-less file (Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories – not that it matters…) and attempted to play it back with both the Windows 8.1 Xbox Music App and the Xbox Music browser player.  Both gave me an error message stating that the music was not in a format that could be played back.  The few specs from Microsoft that are on the Xbox Music / OneDrive website do state that AAC is supported AND that WMA Loss-less is supported.  It does not make the claim that AAC Loss-less is supported.  My small test seems to confirm that AAC Loss-less is not supported.

In my case this means converting my FLAC files to WMA Loss-less and then uploading them via OneDrive, if I want to use this service.  If I knew that 24-bit audio was supported, it might be worth it.

That is, except for OneDrive’s major defect.

A while back I decided to backup all of our pictures and music to the cloud.  Since I have an Office365 Subscription which comes with unlimited OneDrive storage – I decided to use OneDrive.  It took a WEEK to upload our photo collection.  (When uploading documents in a complex folder schema it went totally berserk – creating unreadable duplicates and  nearly destroying my documents archive.)

Out of frustration I decided to try DropBox for cloud storage.  It uploaded the same photo collection in 12 hours.  My test upload of a single album to OneDrive today was also VERY slow.  If Microsoft truly wants us to move our digital lives to OneDrive, they are going to have to fix their upload problem.

FLAC support would be super nice too.  *AHEM*

With the death of my beloved Windows Media center I have been considering alternatives such as Plex and XBMC.  XBMC is by far the most versatile and full featured media center software made today.  For a while I had been seriously considering swapping over to XBMC (hell, and if they could get Civilization V to run on Linux…I’d ditch Microsoft all together and go open source).

However Windows Media Center has one distinct advantage over XBMC, and it is this – it can record TV shows that contain Copy Control DRM.  TV/Cable broadcasts are tagged as Copy Freely or Copy Once.  It is largely up to the cable provider how their content is tagged, and if they wanted to sow havoc with an XBMC/cablecard setup then they could simply tag all of their content as Copy Once.

Microsoft has paid the fees to CableLabs which allow it to use the CopyOnce content.  Premium channels like HBO are exclusively CopyOnce content.

This is really unfortunate (again, a first world problem) as XBMC has 24-bit FLAC support, remote apps for tablets and phones, and runs on anything more powerful than a toaster.

*SIGH*

Who knows?  Maybe these guys will be successful with their petition drive to get Microsoft to release a WMC app for the XBOX ONE.

http://xboxvideo.uservoice.com/forums/225596-xbox-video-suggestion-box

Few people will have need for this tip, but since I have experimented and succeeded I thought I’d share what I have learned and hopefully someone else can benefit from this.

I wanted to share a digital audio signal from a coaxial (RCA) style output with two receivers (well three, since my source device has analog out as well).  My home audio setup has a basement 7.1 surround movie theater as a powered zone, a family room 5.1 surround TV room, and a two channel analog -only amp that pushes out power to a speaker selector switch (with a protection circuit) to six other zones.

The two surround receivers and the analog amp are on opposite sides of what is essentially a closet.  This makes it possible to wire all of this together pretty easily.

My problem was that both of the surround receivers had all of their optical (TOSLINK) connectors in use, but had the coaxial (RCA DIGITAL) available.  I wanted to connect a Comcast DVR to all three amps so that I could select a music station and let the music run all day.

I have read some comments online that seemed to indicate that there are two views about whether splitting a digital signal is a good idea or not.  One seems to indicate that there will be signal loss – the biggest threat being jitter (losing the connection temporarily).  The other view is that digital signals are all-or-nothing connections.  You will either have sound or you will not.  I presume not having the signal is the presence of too much “jitter”.I used a cheap Radio Shack RCA (1 male to 2 female) splitter.IMG_20131128_113055_120Many devices can output both digital and analog audio simultaneously.  Here is the splitter attached to the back of the cable box.IMG_20131128_113201_124Lastly – here are both recievers showing that they are getting a digital signal.
IMG_20131128_113252_045 IMG_20131128_114050_115Is there any signal degradation? – so far none that I can hear.  So far as I can tell the all-or-nothing view seems to be correct as both receivers are indicating that they are getting a digital audio signal.