Linux PC As Source To DAC, Help Please

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by Andrew Heck, Jul 7, 2018.

  1. Andrew Heck

    Andrew Heck AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Howdy friend, I have an old Dell running Linux that I want to use to stream Napster to my DAC without the interference of a sound card. I am not very tech savvy (I do have a go to guru, though). Let me ask the questions here...
    1) What kind of network interface card would be best for this computer. I have access to crazy fast internet but probably not the system with which to utilize it.
    B) I need a USB out card as well, which one?
    Next) I plan to run Router>PC>DAC, and use a device to control the PC for choosing what to play, is it just that simple?
    π ) What software, if any, do I need to use the USB out for pure digital signal?
    Finally) As I won't be using the computer for anything but music, should I format it or disable any systems or apps?
    Im sure I am not being complete in my line of questioning or scope of what is needed, so please help me.
    Thanks,
    A Heck
     

     

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  2. petehall347

    petehall347 the brandy coffee man Subscriber

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    what model dell ?
     
  3. RTally

    RTally Speaker addict Subscriber

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    Every Dell I've ever seen has network and USB ports built-in. Streaming audio requires only a low-bandwidth connection. Your built-in LAN port should be adequate. You need to ensure your Linux build has audio. To stream audio out to USB, you just need to select USB as the output device.

    You will also need music player software. I use Plex on my Mac. You will need to see what is available for Linux. You will also need to check if the Linux software has an app that runs on your mobile device, if you wish remote control, such as a headless music server.

    I would not worry about disabling stuff for a Linux music server. Linux is already pretty streamlined.
     
  4. Andrew Heck

    Andrew Heck AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    you'll laugh,

    Dimension 4300
     
  5. Andrew Heck

    Andrew Heck AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Yeah, it should have network and USB ports, but I harvested them years ago, lost...
     
  6. Andrew Heck

    Andrew Heck AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    It was a special build anyway, I have no idea what's in it.
     

     

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  7. petehall347

    petehall347 the brandy coffee man Subscriber

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  8. Andrew Heck

    Andrew Heck AK Subscriber Subscriber

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  9. petehall347

    petehall347 the brandy coffee man Subscriber

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    you might be able to add front usb or a card . or use a hub .. i found hubs to be troublesome though
     
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  10. Andrew Heck

    Andrew Heck AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    i found the usb ports, still no network availability.
     
  11. dshoaf

    dshoaf That high voltage buzz

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    If you're not too techie, Linux is going to be a lesson in patience, I'm afraid to say. First suggestion is to stick with a tried-and-true distribution like Mint. It will have most of the bindings for present-day USB devices. A standard soundcard that will enumerate (USB-talk for being discovered and installed) on Windows should work with that distro.

    As for the DAC, some like Steinberg devices use their own drivers and are not supporting Linux. Check with the vendor of the device you've got (what is it, by chance?).

    Currently I'm running an old Dell with a Benchmark DAC via USB. The distro here is an offshoot of Ubuntu called Unbuntu Studio. This one bundles in a lot of audio and video apps and allows me to keep them all updated via the standard Software Updater utility.

    The problem I had with it was that the wifi chip wasn't supported and I had to dink (a technical term!) around with it to bind in a driver. When you run in to problems like that, there's more than a good chance you aren't the first and the information on how to fix it is out there on the Linux forums. Careful, however, as the answer may not make any sense to you. If this is the case, my opening sentence applies.

    If you'd like to persevere, however, learn how the default file structures work, how to use the command line and how to update your distro. Learning Linux is a separate and parallel hobby!

    Cheers,

    David
     
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  12. ldatlof

    ldatlof We are all steak Subscriber

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    There are a a lot of ways to skin this cat even with linux. I am using the squeezebox system. The benefits of using this system is that you can achieve bit perfect playback with very little effort, all the software is free and you can stream your own library, use streaming services like tidal and spotify and listen to internet radio. Also it is cheap and open source. This in a nutshell is how you would set it up:
    • Install ubuntu server (headless - no monitor) on your PC. If you are going to have a monitor attached to your PC then install ubuntu desktop or linux mint. Make sure you install ssh server if your are going headless. All this software is free.
    • ssh into the PC and install logitech media server (LMS) and squeezelite on to the PC (both free). There are many tutorials online on how to set this up.
    • you will need either a USB DAC or internal sound card on the PC.
    • you can control the server/player PC from any computer attached to the network. You can also use a smartphone or tablet to control the server/player PC with the Squeezer app (free) or the Orange Squeeze app (paid ~$5). There are others too. I use squeeze commander but it is no longer under active development.
    Here is what my system looks like (I have separated the server and player onto different machines):
    • Server: Dell Dimension 1100 (Celeron CPU & 2 GB RAM) runs LMS and connected via ethernet to the router. Music is stored on 2 1TB external USB HDDs. One is a backup.
    • Player #1: Gateway Netbook (Atom CPU & 2GB RAM) - runs Linux Mint and squeezelite and is connected to the server via WiFi (external DAC)
    • Player #2: Pogoplug v4 (Feroceon CPU & 128MB RAM) - runs arch linux and squeezelite and is connected to the server via WiFi (external DAC)
    • Player #3: Chromecast Audio - seen as a squeezebox player via a LMS plugin and is connected to the server via WiFi
    • Controllers: Any computer on the network, smartphone and tablet.
    Both LMS and Squeezelite are under active development. It doesn't take very much computing power to run this system. If you want to separate the server and player than you can use a netbook, raspberry pi, chromecast audio or even a android smart phone as a player. I don't recommend the pogoplug for beginners but in reality it is just cut and paste to set it up.

    In my main system I use a netbook because it is small, has a screen and keyboard, built in WiFi and it has an internal hard drive. It is cheaper than a Raspberry Pi at second hand computer stores.

    You can also have the same setup above using a Raspberry Pi and installing PicorePlayer as its OS.

    This is just one way to setup a digital front end using linux there are many others. Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2018
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  13. Andrew Heck

    Andrew Heck AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Thank you both for your in depth and informative posts. If you could give me a little more info I would be in your debt.

    I would love to connect to my DAC via optical without interference from any soundcard foolery, just straight digital information to the converter. What is my best option with Linux? I'm having a hard time finding a compatible output card. I was able to plug and play a network card and it would be nice to find something like that with the digital out.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018 at 3:42 PM
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  14. ldatlof

    ldatlof We are all steak Subscriber

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    I used a S.M.S.L. X-usb Digital Audio Interface which plugs into a USB port on the PC and outputs via optical (or coaxial) to the DAC. There are quite a few devices available that are similar.
     
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  15. dshoaf

    dshoaf That high voltage buzz

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    You’ll have to finish the question.

    “How may I use an optical output port in my <<insert computer model here>> with <<Linux distro to be used>>?”

    You’ll be rooting around in the BIOS supplied by the computor vendor and will need to find if there are bindings (libraries or specific versions of Linux) that supports it.

    i had this problem with a builtin wifi node on a Dell laptop. It took some digging in the techie Linux forums to find out where a driver was downloaded and the script to bind it into the kernel.

    Well formed Google searches are your friend. Good luck!

    Cheers,

    David
     
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  16. ldatlof

    ldatlof We are all steak Subscriber

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    I guess I got lucky because I didn't have to download any drivers or go into the BIOS for the S.M.S.L. X-usb Digital Audio Interface. I am using a Gateway LT20 netbook running Linux Mint 18.

    I have rarely had to download any drivers for the old hardware I run using Linux. Mostly Nvidia drivers (to run CUDA applications) and once for a WiFi dongle (most mainstream ones are supported now). dshoaf is right - google is your friend.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018 at 5:42 PM
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