Originally Posted by Cutter
I don't have the laptop yet. I'll probably buy a Samsung Series 9 or something similar. The music will be stored on the laptop's hard drive, most of it in MP3 format at a high enough bitrate for the compression to be transparent, the rest of it in FLAC. I'm using foobar2000 for music and VLC for movies, but I don't want to depend on the software. Basically, anything that can be fed to a soundcard should be potentially playable on the living room's amp, even audio from a web browser (in case I want to play music from websites such as Grooveshark), or audio from games such as Battlefield 3.
You should be aware of a very simple and elegant solution, but with a few limitations. If you use iTunes, you can play out to AirPlay devices. One AirPlay device you may want to look into is the AirPort Express, which provides an analog and digital audio output to a stereo device. You can play your library out to several AirPlay devices at once, control the playback from your PC, and control individual volume levels for each device. You'll use ALAC rather than FLAC, but there is no difference in quality. You won't get audio out of other applications like that, though. But it's a very elegant, high quality and simple solution. All you need is the AirPort Express, no DAC, no cables.
If you want to play movies to a TV and use your stereo system for sound, consider an Apple TV. It is also an AirPlay device, and can play out videos you have in your iTunes library from your laptop, as well as navigate your library directly from an on-screen menu on your TV. Also very elegant, and cheap, no DAC, no cables.
With AirPlay, you also have the ability to play wirelessly from a portable iDevice, and use that same device to control your laptop playback. With AppleTV you can also play videos from your iDevice to your TV, as well as share the screen, play out photos, music etc. None of this may matter to you right now, but having that capability and discovering uses for it later raises the value of the solution.
I'm not sure why you don't want an AVR. Many of them offer some advantages you may want, and any of them will operate in two-channel stereo mode just fine. For example, some laptops provide HDMI outputs, either directly or with a simple adapter, which would let you connect your laptop to your AVR for video and audio playback. 10 meters is ok if you get a good quality HDMI cable. This would let you use VLC, foobar, and any audio from the PC that way too, though honestly, that combination is nowhere as elegant as the Apple TV or AirPlay/iTunes solution, and playing all audio from a PC is really a bad idea. People think they want to do it, then when they do, it gets old very fast.
If you're dead-set on doing it the hard way, a DAC at the laptop, stereo amp 10 meters away, and no integration to a TV, that's possible too, just get the unbalanced wire you need and give it a try. It will probably work just fine, and if not, you'll have to deal with an alternative solution of some kind.