The Day The AV Dream Died, Cont.

But why do all this HTPC stuff when I have all the GT30‘s streaming services and Internet apps? Because you can only play in their restricted Net Garden of Money. Gimme the Ron Paul Real America Free Market offered only by a right to carry computer and a true blue Web browser.

The Net is also erupting with new business models for busting up the home budget monopoly of premium cable TV—Umm, do I buy food this month to feed the young’uns or pay my cable bill? If you want in on the cable trashing action, the only way is with an HTPC.

Also, with the HTPC I can do playlists by using iTunes or SlimServer and run the sound throughout my networked house. The firmware disadvantaged Oppo can't do either.

But, what happened when the HTPC went head to head with the Oppo in a hot AV cage fight? The PC got totally punked.


Only One Reigns Supreme, Fella

First, the sound: What was pouring out the Oppo's analog connectors, past the TGIII, down into the XLR'd Magtech, and out to the Valhalla-fed Greek ribbons was astonishing. I have never heard the system sound better.

True, because the TGIII is limited to 96kHz digital sampling, only the Oppo could Sherpa me up the dizzying 192KhZ heights. But even at lower, standard sampling rates the Oppo stomped all over the HTPC and its RME card. The HTPC was left black and audio blue top to deep bottom.

The sound coming out of the Omega's was palpably holographic. If I went into another room and a good recording was playing, I could swear a live performance was going on in the den.

The takeaway: The Oppo is a killer piece of audio gear—And it only costs about a grand. It's one of the best deals in high-end audio.

Next, as to which setup, the HTPC or Oppo, does the better job of playing Blu-ray movies the win once again goes to the Oppo:

  • DVD menu navigation is easier on the Oppo. PowerDVD requires a clumsy work around for some navigation options, which is no fault of its own, as navigation options are baked into the DVD authoring process that presume a standard remote control.

  • Although PowerDVD offers a wide range of playback options and the ability to broadly adjust video, as does the Radeon card, movie playback on the Oppo was more authentically film-like and overall offered a more satisfying home theater experience.

  • Because the Sunfire doesn’t have HDMI, I obviously can’t use the Radeon’s uncompressed audio over HDMI capabilities. But, the HTPC RME card only does digital coax, which restricts its multichannel support to shrink wrapped deli cuts of cold, compressed surround.

  • Blu-ray movie sound was thus much better with the Oppo than the HTPC, because I could get all the BDP-95's uncompressed audio goodies via the 7.1-channel analog hookup.

Between the better video and sound the Oppo walked off with the prize. The HTPC just sulked away in binary banishment.

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