Using FFDShow Audio in Media Center

Warning: This hack modifies system files and may cause instability in certain Windows applications under atypical situations. It has been tested to the extent described in the article but not beyond.

When you’re done setting up FFDShow Audio check out this guide on setting up FFDShow Video as well.

Many enthusiasts prefer the ability to set their favorite codec for use in Media Center rather than the defaults. Unfortunately, this is more difficult than simply installing the chosen codec as you normally would. Windows 7 Media Center will default to the native codecs regardless of codec settings.

The fix for this situation is to install the desired codec, in this case FFDShow, then rename a system file to disable the native codec. First, download a copy of FFDShow Tryouts from the Sourceforge site right here. Follow the basic installation steps but make sure to enable FFDShow to be used for all available codecs when the option is presented. Windows 7 x64 users should download and install both the latest beta and the 64-bit SVN.

FFDShow Install

Enabling FFDShow for all audio codec types will lower the chance of instability in Windows 7 default applications such as Media Player. If you are confident in your codec setup you can most likely skip this and use your desired codecs.

Next you will need to have the “Take Ownership” registry hack we’ve used before in changing our Media Center theme. You can download the registry file to enable this menu here. Once you have the .reg file downloaded double-click to install the registry fix and permit it to change the registry when prompted.

To enable FFDShow to play your mp3 files in the music section, open Windows Explorer and navigate to “C:\Windows\system32\” and locate the file name “MP3DMOD.DLL”. Right-click to bring up the menu and choose “Take Ownership” then rename the file “MP3DMOD.DLL.bak”. Windows 7 x64 users will need to repeat this step for the C:\Windows\SysWOW64\" folder as well. This will disable the native filter and can be reversed by changing the file name back at any time.

MP3MOD.dll System Files

To enable FFDShow for live television and other formats using the MPEG2 codec inside of Media Center there is also a registry entry that needs to be changed. First we need to find the CLSID for FFDShow. To do that download Radlight’s Filter Manager right here. Extract the files to any location and run the exe file inside. Inside this program expand DirectShow Filters and scroll down to FFDShow Audio Decoder. Right click the entry and select “Copy CLSID to Clipboard”.

FFDShow Audio in Fitler Manager

Next, open regedit in Administrator mode: using the start menu type regedit then press ctrl-shift-enter. Then navigate to “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\MediaCenter\Decoder”. Inside there should be two strings, right-click “PreferredMPEG2AudioDecoderCLSID” and choose “Modify..”. Then enter the CLSID that you’ve copied from FilterManager in the box and press ok.

FFDShow Audio Media Center Registry Values

Media Center will need to be restarted before the changes will take effect but that should set your music, live television and most anything in Media Center to use FFDShow Audio instead of the native codecs included in Windows 7. The stability of this hack has not been tested outside of systems using purely Media Center as the user interface and may carry unintended consequences, perform at your own risk.

Check out this article for more detailed information on using the FFDShow codecs to tweak your sound and video settings in Media Center, including enabling surround sound for your stereo music files. Stay in touch using the Hack7MC RSS feed or follow along on Twitter!

Don't forget to check out this guide on setting up FFDShow Video in Media Center once you're done here!

18 comments:

Josh Pollard said...

this may sound like a dumb question, but why would someone want to do this?

MHealy said...

Media Center by itself includes almost no audio options. FFDShow allows up mixing stereo source to surround, channel swapping, an equalizer and really more options than I've even experimented with. It even allows for Winamp 2 DSPs to be used with Media Center.

I think the real question is why wouldn't you? As Microsoft continues to ignore those of us that want more control over our media I'm sure more than a few reasons for using this hack will arise.

Josh Pollard said...

The audio from my analog tuners sounds a little muffled. Would this help?

MHealy said...

It certainly could. FFDShow has a large number of options for enhancing audio output. Playing with the equalizer, crystality or some of the other settings could definetly improve sound quality. It's subjective based on the user and hardware both so it will just take some playing around to find what sounds right to you.

Another codec I really like is ACFilter, which you can get at http://ac3filter.net/. AC3Filter is only for 32-bit however. If you use a 64-bit version of Media Center AC3Filter won't work in most areas including live TV. FFDShow will work on both x32 and x64 with the right download package for your OS.

Anonymous said...

I'm running x64 Win 7. Have installed both the x32 and x64 versions of ffdshow. Is the CLSID the same for both the x32 and x64 versions of ffdshow? ie do x64 programs automatically use the x64 ffdshow if installed?

MHealy said...

Yes, the CLSID is the same for both x64 and x86 versions of the codec and the correct version will be loaded by the program. For example, if your default Windows Media Player is set to x86 then your music will use the x86 codec but the live tv will use the x64 version.

Paul said...

I wonder if we could use this method to change the default video codec Media Centre uses.. I'd quite like to try Media Player Classic - HT's codec.. It might be more stable decoding h264..

MHealy said...

The problem with changing the default video codec is the new wtv file format used for live and recorded tv. You can use MPCVideoDec for videos and movies but using it for live and recorded tv results in an error when trying to view. It's most likely intentional to keep control of DRM.

Anonymous said...

Thanks MHealy. So does that mean that we are stuck with the native video codec? Are there any methods currently available that will allow one to "upconvert" recorded shows in standard definition to higher quality? I was hoping to do this using ffdshow in combination with 7MC..

Anonymous said...

Sorry about that post, I just found the article about using ffdshow video in 7MC (http://www.hack7mc.com/2009/02/ffdshow-video-in-media-center.html}. Feel free to delete both of these comments.

MHealy said...

No worries, my fault for not linking to it from here to begin with!

Anonymous said...

This registry edit “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\MediaCenter\Decoder” helped me setup ffdshow as the default decoder for MPEG-2 files. Thanks a lot :)

Is there a similar registry hack to set ffdshow as the default decoder for H.264/MPEG-4 files?

[My MPEG-4/H.264 files still don't use ffdshow even though I have set the ffdshow merit to highest.]

MHealy said...

There are two files in the system folder that will over ride mpeg4 playback in some instances. You can rename them to disable them like with the mp3 decoder. They are named mp4sdecd.dll, mp43decd.dll and mpg4decd.dll.

Also, you can try using GraphStudio following this guide to determine what codec is interfering and lower the merit of the offending codec.

Anonymous said...

DTS in my DVD-audio plays fine now for the first time, thx a lot for showing me how to do it. But it seems like I can't play FLAC audio files after making these changes (FLAC worked before the changes). Any ideas?

MHealy said...

FLAC is disabled by default in FFDShow's audio settings. Turn it on to libavcodec under the Codecs section of the FFDShow Audio decoder configuration program. That should get your FLAC files playing again.

Anonymous said...

I've done that but it still won't play. In Media center's music library I get this message "Audio error C00D11B1". In Media browsers library I can't see the audio files at all just the folders.

MHealy said...

Do you have other codecs or codec packs installed as well or just FFDShow? Other codec packs could be causing a conflict.

There is also a guide specifically for FLAC files in WMP/MC right here.

Anonymous said...

It's working now, had to install both 32bit and 64bit oggcodec to get it to work (OS is 64bit). Thanks for your help and thanks for your awesome guides.

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