2015 — 2 December: Wednesday

I was casting around yesterday evening, doodling some possible A/V system arrangements to see if it was either possible, or (worse) necessary, to "fit" my Audiolab pre-amp1 back into my system. As I worked through the switching possibilities and connection complexities imposed by the relatively limited I/O options of the Marantz pre-amp — keeping in mind the only unbreakable rule learned from the final stages of the merging of my Linux PC at one end of the living room and the A/V system at t'other end: don't ever let any HDMI anywhere near the Audiolab under any circumstances — it became clear that the Audiolab2 (fabulous piece of audio kit though it is) actually has no further rôle to play in my new HDMI-centric A/V world.

I have therefore now exiled it on the island of Elba up in the reading room. The strangely silent reading room, until I exhume that tiny little Class D amp and rebuild a simple audio-only system up there. No rush.

I would expand...

... on my reasoning but, alas, I must first nip out on a supplies run ahead of the local vultures if I'm to eat fresh food in the near-term future. TTFN

There is (inevitably) an updated system diagram here. The eagle-eyed will spot a change of minidisc model number, too. Plus the fact that there are now no differences between the audio and video versions, except in the descriptions.

As I tucked into...

... my piping-hot, thoroughly tried-and-tested, winter-dispelling crockpot (vastly different from yesterday's "Weeping tiger" and noodles, I agree, but no less tasty [and cheaper]) an hour or so ago I was also contemplating (with varying degrees of equanimity):

  1. the little pile of video goodies acquired in Asda after my more vital supplies run,
  2. the just-delivered (after a stream of daily emails promising them) pair of CDs, and
  3. the revealed-earlier-today (in a helpful email) set of four seemingly-identical "pull down" options offered by the PulseAudio volume control for association with the HDMI (and DisplayPort) outputs on my graphics card.

I shall focus on "3." If it turns out that one of these options activates HDMI audio and not DisplayPort audio3 it should solve those digital audio woes. The new goal, recall, is to get both audio and video delivered reliably from BlackBeast over to the A/V system via HDMI without having tinny audio on the Dell screen's DisplayPort connection blocking HDMI audio going to the A/V system. What could be simpler?

Not consciousness...

... that's for sure!

This fissiparous seething is one of the few ways to interpret quantum behaviour without awarding consciousness a central role, and when I was a physics student [Many Worlds Interpretation] was widely seen as a fringe concept. Today, it is becoming mainstream, in large part because the pesky problem of consciousness simply hasn't gone away.

Margaret Wertheim in Aeon

I shall now re-remove...

... the Creative X-Fi soundcard for my next batch of experiments as, so far, all attempts to get BlackBeast to "stay on" the Radeon graphics card's audio output as I worked my way systematically through all the displayed combinations of pull-down audio options have been silently unsuccessful. This is baffling. But, I figure if there's no X-Fi card knocking around, even Linux will have to admit that maybe it should look around for something else to use.


All is now audio sweetness and radiant light. Sound and video render beautifully on the Marantz and the Kuro respectively. The trick was to select the "Digital Surround 5.1 (HDMI) Output" output from the Radeon's pull-down. But (red face) it also really (I mean, really) helps if you plug your HDMI lead back into the Radeon graphics card output rather than into the motherboard graphics output that you disabled a couple of months ago... <Sigh> What an idiot!

I shall gloss over the fact that Linux reports the Marantz as a 50" screen. I shall also gloss over the fact that the Linux audio status on the bottom panel of my desktop is happily reporting its use of the X-Fi even though there is no link of any sort between that card and the Marantz and the sound pours out unperturbed by that minor detail. Still, I shall leave the X-Fi card in situ as (who knows?) one day I may even hook up its SP/DIF input to a minidisc player and set about digitising another chunk of my audio life.

A new world...

... of audio fun awaits me now that I've just been introduced to "JACK".

Moving right along. Here are those two (rather glorious) CDs that Mr Logistics has been driving his van around with for nearly a week:

Two CDs

The improvisations on Purcell are particularly enjoyable. [Pause, for evening meal.] Next, the two DVD titles:

Gambit + Blacklist DVDs

And, finally, a pair of Blu-rays:

Guardians of the Galaxy + Inside Out BDs

I actually quite enjoyed "Guardians" a couple of months ago but thought I'd let the price come down a bit. I've been looking forward to "Inside Out", which (I suspect) will more reliably detail the workings of our minds than Henry James, or many a neuro-scientist with an fMRI scanner.


Audio victory is not yet mine. The X-Fi is back in use. The HDMI link 'twixt BlackBeast and the Marantz is once more severed. Perfect stereo digital audio is once again blasting out from the big speakers at the other end of the room regardless of the on/off state of the Kuro. But the convergence of PC audio and video with the TV is once again on the back burner. There's a good description of the shambles that is Linux audio here, by the way. It's only five years old!



1  More on general principles than out of any deep conviction. After all, having spent £2,500 on it and its long-unused 7-channel power-amp sibling a mere six years ago I didn't feel it had quite earned its keep (as it were).
2  Having read about the many "improvements" Audiolab made to the HDMI side of their 2010 replacement model 8200AP, and further noted that they have yet to incorporate any HDMI capability in their even newer model 8300 pre-amp, I'm inclined to suspect that travelling any further along the Audiolab route will be yet another technological cul-de-sac better avoided.
3  Given how often you find HDMI inputs on A/V kit, and how rarely you find DisplayPort inputs, this should surely be a likely option. (But, then, it is Linux.)