I recently purchased an Onkyo TX-NR709 AV Receiver. I'm using it to intermediate between my TV, speakers, and PC. I am using the PC as the source for all media (MP3s, Netflix, Blu-Ray, etc.) The Windows 7 PC is feeding the signal out an HDMI cable via an ATI Radeon HD 5770.
The issue I'm having is dealing with the bewildering array of settings on the PC. It seems like there are multiple system/driver settings panels and application specific settings that all affect the end result that gets pushed out the HDMI. What I really want is to have as accurate a signal as possible, with a minimum of processing and manipulation done to the bits on the PC that get sent to the receiver.
Some specific questions that have come up:
1) There is a system volume control, as well as application specific volume controls for the digital audio (which gets sent out the HDMI). My understanding was that the volume should be 'fixed' at whatever the source is and just have the bits sent out the HDMI. Apparently this is not the case. What level should I set in order to ensure the signal has had a minimum of manipulation done to it? (I want to keep the level at reference and avoid applying any gain to it, which could introduce distortion and clipping). The manuals and reference materials I've been able to find have been remarkably unhelpful on this.
2) Are there any guides that outline, in painful detail, how to avoid all processing and hidden manipulation settings on the PC side of things? I'm still finding obscure settings that, say, would do the audio decode on the PC end instead of sending to the receiver like I want. I've searched through ask mefi and avsforums but haven't been coming up with much.
3) Would something like XBMC
allow greater control over the parameters I'm concerned about, or is that merely a nice interface for controlling media access?
I'm in the IT field and am comfortable getting as technical as required to accomplish my goal.
Any advice is greatly appreciated, thanks!