Smaller is Better DC2001 Multimedia System
In the early 80's, I created what I thought was the ultimate stereo. The unit was five feet high and ten feet across and consisted of 2 Beta stereo Hi Fi VCR's, 2 cassette decks, 2 turntables, 2 equalizers, 4 amplifiers, a mixing console, 4 x 4" video monitors and 6 speakers. This system had 1500 watts of room shaking power although it was impossible to ever turn it up that loud. A Tandy computer served as an audio analyzer and data base for the 9 music crates of LP's I owned at the time. The shear size of this monster was enough to aggravate my spouse who could never quite appreciate the awe and wonder of so many lights. I often thought of how great it would be if the computer could in some way control the other devices attached to it. As technologies progressed, systems became smaller and audio became more important in the computer industry, I again considered the Computer Based Stereo and even used a machine as a mixer processor at one point but it was always a large office looking area of electronics that nobody could understand or use. MP3 technologies, or the ability of reducing the size of the songs while maintaining sound quality matured. Hardware advancements in CPU speed, storage and miniaturization finally made it possible to achieve a self contained music source as well as a high performance audio/video computer, small enough that it could be considered a stereo rack component and placed within a stereo stand or on the TV. A conceptual design took shape (below) and the project was started.
The goal here was to build an ultra small PC that had the look of a standard stereo component and all the power and ability of a high power computer. The unit could use a computer monitor but the TV would be the preferred choice. The unit would have the ability of storing an incredible amount of music and still have space for lots of other applications. It would have networking built in to feed other machines and be Internet ready. The unit would have to support Theatre Surround (Dolby Pro-Logic), digital and Environmental Audio Effects as well as enhanced video and DVD, 3D gaming audio as well as standard stereo and video formats commonly encountered. The back end (pre-amplifier) would also have to be premium with support for front and rear audio as well as encoder technologies to support center channel for movies and sub woofer for deep rich base. To utilize the computers complexity to achieve true Digital input and output would be the cherry on the cake.
This unit (shown below) is all of this and more !
Specifications: (Note standard options in red)
600 to 3 GHz processor, 128 to 512 megs fast page Ram or DDR, 80 Gig Hard Drive ( That's No Typo), A3D/AC3/Wave Table 4 channel Audio, 5.1 digital audio support, Accelerated Video,1.44 Floppy Drive, CDROM (52X or CDR Burner or DVD-ROM or DVD-RAM) , PS2 Mouse Port, PS2 Keyboard Port, Joystick/midi port, Monitor Port, Video Out, Front/Rear Audio Out, Mic Input, Digital Audio Out Port, (free optional) SPDIF digital out RCA jack, 2 X USB Ports, 10/100 Ethernet Port, 56K Fax Modem, Printer Port, Wired Keyboard & Mouse , manual, Application Installer & Driver CD, cables and a stand for vertical use. Cambridge Sound Works DT2500 5.1 Stereo Surround Speaker System.
This system exceeded my expectations in operation and audio performance providing substantially more power than expected. The computer audio IO circuitry and the DT2500 input are perfectly matched and tuned creating efficiency found only in systems costing thousands of dollars. Video play back was full screen and flawless for both games and DVD.
This unit can be attached to any system in many ways as shown above.
The Speaker System (included) consists of the Cambridge Sound Works DT2500 5.1 Theatre Surround Package which includes cables, speaker stands, a controller amplifier, 5 cube speakers and a sub woofer. This system is virtually invisible to the eye as the satellite speakers are only 3 inches square. The sound will however blow you away. This unit supports Dolby Pro Logic Digital and has Front, Rear and digital inputs which provide crisp clean sound at power levels rivaling much larger and more expensive systems. The amplifier has controls for front, Rear, Center, and sub volumes as well as DSP switch functions for type of input and output desired. The base produced by this system is very low, very clean, and fully adjustable. For you audio files I got a surprising SPL of 105 from this system, as well as a base sweet spot at 49Hz. Connection from this system to the DC2001 is a simple RCA to RCA video cable (included)
The diagramn above shows the speaker layout I use that produces incredible results
All standard connectors for peripherals including video output for connection to your TV or VCR
The optional wireless Keyboard/mouse or remote provides freedom from wires and makes this system a pleasure to operate.
The new Aston Desktop Shell was chosen for its ease of use and configurability over the standard Windows Shell. As shown in these 3 screen shots, there are 4 separate and fully configurable tool bars . The start menu can be called from anywhere on the screen with a double click. You can eliminate unwanted icons that can't be removed in Windows Explorer.
Both Explorer and Aston are shells and exist together to be selected at will. This saves space over Microsoft's multi-user solution. You can keep your explorer desktop private by providing a password to its start screen. Which ever shell is in operation at shutdown will be the default shell at start-up. A selector tab is provided for easy switching between shells
This is there default Theme screen called "Spark" although new themes are promised soon. The helper programs provided by Aston allow the more adventurous to create their own as well as animations.
This unit comes loaded with Windows 98 SE edition as well as software to create and play most audio and video formats including DVD's, MP3 creation and playback software, Word Perfect Suite 8, Free Ad Based Internet (where available), Application Installer CD, Manual, all necessary cables and enough space to store a record store full of music.... All in one unit the size of a Text Book.
This unit has been optimized to produce full frame high speed video and audio as well as accelerated graphics for games. This unit can perform all the functions of a standard PC and more with out that office environment look. The unit can be plugged into a VCR or TV via the "video in" plug if so equipped.
If you have multiple machines on a network, this machine can be the "out of sight" ultra small storage server as well as the stereo, and or the internet server for the house using Microsoft Internet share component free with Windows 98.
The Sound... Staggering
The Applications... Endless.
X10 Mouse Remote, lamp modules, appliance modules. This remote can control it all and the rest of your stereo system including dimming your living room lights for that true theatre affect. This remote has a built in mouse and PC function keys for CD Player or DVD Player control as well as standard components like VCR's and TV's. Both the standard mouse and the remote mouse can coexist and be operated simultaneously. PS2 mouse connection and "pass through" socket for primary mouse.
Wireless Infra-red Keyboard/mouse with 16 foot range gives cable free control at almost any angle. Full Multimedia capability with programmable function keys for CD, Volume, Internet and more. Both the wireless keyboard mouse and the remote mouse can coexist and be operated simultaneously. PS2 connections for keyboard and mouse.