PC as source component

Discussion in 'PCs & Music Servers' started by RobV, May 26, 2005.

  1. RobV

    RobV Sansui Power

    Messages:
    405
    Location:
    Olney, Maryland
    I've been using a PC more and more lately as the source component for my stereo system. Primarily for internet radio bitstreams (128mps mp3). I just got a Chaintech AV-710 sound card for $25 (an upgrade from a $30 Turtle Beach Santa Cruz). I'm very happy with both the analog output (24bit/96mhz) and the digital output.

    I've got the onboard sound configured as the default sound for Windows XP; the sound card is only used by my audio player. This is important because the PC (an old 1.0ghz PIII) is the family's 'backup' PC, used by my wife and kids when the newer PC upstairs is in use. Whatever they do (games, web surfing noises) doesn't interrupt my bitstream. :)

    Any one else using their PC as source? What are you using?
     

     

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  2. jaywills

    jaywills New Member

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    5
    Getting surprisingly good results with a Mac

    Good morning. For the past couple of months or so, I've been experimenting with Apple lossless files via iTunes as my primary signal source with surprisngly good results. Bought an old Mac Cube (using Tiger OS 10.4.1) off ebay for a couple of hundred bucks because it's fanless/noiseless. Run usb out to an Edirol UA-5 (using the Tiger drivers, 2.1.0) set at "96 kHz play" (front rotary dial) and switched to "advanced" (back-side switch). The s/pdif output of the UA-5 goes into the digital input of a TacT 2.0 room correction device (BTW, the TacT, which shows input signal frequency, shows the Edirol signal as 96 kHz, which leads me to wonder if the Tiger Core Audio is upsampling the 44.1 files). The TacT s/pdif out runs into an outboard ack! dac, which is connected to a tubed Melos preamp and thence to a Transcendent Sound OTL amp. Speakers are Quad 63's. This has proven to be the most enjoyabily listenable setup that I've had in some time. In fact, I've not used any cd transport for redbook cd files in over six weeks. I'm still giving it some time to make sure, but it's increasingly likely that my cd transport days are over. There's a thirty buck remote for the Mac that lets me manage/play the iTunes files from my listening spot, which is an added convenience. Bottom line: the $220 Mac Cube plus the $100 Edirol UA-5 (ebay also) seems to completely smash the performance I was getting from my (fully broken-in) Sony DVP9000ES. That's my 2 cents. Cordially,
     
  3. rickwood

    rickwood New Member

    Messages:
    9
    My '99 Compaq presario has been assigned music duty. The integrated audio headphone out is patched to my 5.1 reciever and although it picks up some noise, fidling with line level and reciever volume generally yields decent sound. I try to keep 192kbps as my minimum bitrate. I am currently looking into higher quality soundcard-speaker combos.

    edit: but at what point does the music format/sampling rate become the fidelity bottleneck?
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2005
  4. VintageNut

    VintageNut Super Member

    Messages:
    1,884
    My cheap, but works great for me, motherboard by Via cost me about 60.00, it has the Integrated Realtek ALC655 6-channel AC'97 audio chipset, specs say it's 16 bit stereo, the strange thing is I think it sounds pretty good. What would I notice with a good quality sound card?
     
  5. OvenMaster

    OvenMaster RIP Mommy 1935-2018 Subscriber

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    Jeez, all I got is an eMachines with the Realtek integrated sound and a pair of Advent Powered Partners velcro'd to the monitor. I tweaked the response with the bundled equalizer and I'm a happy camper. But, hey, what do I know?
    Tom
     
  6. VintageNut

    VintageNut Super Member

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    1,884
    I guess the surprising thing is how good the cheap PC hardware sounds these days. I have my T-amp connected to my PC, and people are amazed how good it sounds. They are really amazed when I show them my anti-snobby, 20 gauge cheap speaker wire, it's only about 3 feet so it works OK, the $1.49 plastic housed RCA miniplug adaptor, for the input to the T-amp. , and then the plastic ,toy-like T-amp itself. The setup looks like something you would give a 8 year old to take to school. I'll probably upgrade some things on this setup, but for now, it's kinda fun to have it so cheap looking.
     

     

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  7. Strawman

    Strawman Moderator

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    I prefer "budget" over "cheap". I had a bunch of stuff laying around so I decided to try and set up a PC based system. So far I am running Soundforge thru a mixer into an old ISA Soundblaster thru a pair of Roland monitors. They are self powered, but how would I tie in an amp or reciever into this hodgepodge, into the mixer input?
     
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  8. dmd845

    dmd845 New Member

    Messages:
    17
    I am using a Sharp Laptop with 80 hours of music ripped at high vbr. I use Foobar 2000 as my media player. Currently using the analog outputs from the headphone jack (then mini-rca adaptor) into a Margules ADE-24 Analog/Digital Enhancer. Works in the analog domain and really smooths the cd to be more analog-like. From there my Sansui AU-777 feeds a modest pair of bookshelf speakers.

    My goal is to add the Audigy NZ Notebook soundcard so I can run optical into my CI Audio DAC, then into the ADE 24. Also, looking to acquire 500gb usb/firewire drives so I can rip my entire CD collection. Hope to do DIY horn speakers using either Fostex or Jordan drivers.

    My CD transport days are through.

    My laptop has built-in WIFI so I use it around the house regularly. Recently, instead of cobbling together a home theater for the bedroom, I got an old rattan basket about 36 inches high with a top. Stuffed the PC subwoofer and speakers into it. I set my laptop on top of the basket whenever we want to watch movies in the bedroom and plug in the speakers. Works great! The rattan is acoustically transparent. Hides all that ugly equipment and wires. And I didn't have to spend any more money for movie in the bedroom functionality. I also use it for my jukebox for audio when I am back there. I really love the flexibility!

    The results on my Sansui are extremely satisfying. I am getting ready to sell a bunch of modern equipment that I paid hard-earned bucks for since I found the joy of assembling a great system for relatively little money.

    David
     
  9. dbwinger

    dbwinger Active Member

    Messages:
    224
    Location:
    San Diego
    my main rig

    My computer "rig" is my main rig since I live in a studio and space is at a premium.

    A couple of years back I built my own pc. I have an overclocked to 2.0 ghz AMD cpu with a Turtle Beach Santa Cruz sound card. I plan to eventually upgrade to a Chaintech or an M-Audio soundcard.

    My line out on my soundcard goes to my HK A-402 integrated amp. Most of the time I have a stack of Large Advents (usually only use one pair) hooked up to my amp. Before I upgraded the crossovers on one pair of Advents I had previously hooked up AR 5's, KLH Model Fives, Dynaco A30XL's, and some EPI M150's with the wrong woofers. I use my rebuilt Advents a majority of the time. During late night rock out sessions I use my Grado SR-60 headphones.

    I totally forgot I have the Acoustic Research TDS202 hooked up to the amp also and use it periodically. I also have a Sonic Impact T-amp that I used a little bit with my computer rig. I want to get a wall adapter before I think about using the T-amp for an extended time. I currently have it hooked up to my TV with some Dynaco A30XL's hooked up to it when I watch DVDs.

    To answer the question posed by vintagenut when I switched from onboard sound to my PCI soundcard everything sounded clearer andf fuller. Another plus was that there wasn't the lag from waiting for the board to process the sounds. I found sounds would take a couple of seconds to play where as the PCI soundcard things were instant. PCI soundcards don't rely on the boards resources as much. If you don't want to drop a lot of cash on a soundcard the Chaintech AV-710 is a killer card for $25.
     
  10. RobV

    RobV Sansui Power

    Messages:
    405
    Location:
    Olney, Maryland
    dbwinger,

    When I switched from the TBSC to the AV-710, I noticed two things - the AV-710 revealed more details, but the the TBSC had more bass. And this is using the digital output of each! I use foobar2000 with kernel streaming output (no DSPs) and can't get over how good the 128mbps bitstream internet radio stations sound. I sold my Sansui TU-719 tuner a few months ago because internet radio sounds better to me and is relatively commercial free. :D

    RobV
     
  11. JimmyNeutron

    JimmyNeutron Super Member

    Messages:
    3,235
    Location:
    San Antonio, Texas
    I've been using a computer as my music server in some form or other for the past 10 years. First few years it was using the line outs on the card to feed directly to my stereo's AUX input. Then came the Soundblaster line of cards that featured a seperate "digital box" with SPDIF and coax in's and out's, which fed to my recievers digital inputs (a major leap in sound quality as the reciever's DAC's handled all conversion). But what I have right now I feel is the best way to get your MP3's, internet radio streaming, from your main computer server to ANY stereo system in your house. I have an old Gateway Pentium 2 300mHz computer with a 150 gig hard drive filled with 600 CD's worth of music ripped at 320k, and it sits in my closet connected to my wireless router. In my bedroom and in my theater room I have a ROKU wireless media "tube". It's a wireless box that accesses my server in the closet wirelessly and I can see all songs on the display and pick them - in any order, playlists, random, etc. It also streams internet music stations, and it connects to my stereos with either digital output or standard RCA stereo output. All controlled with a remote control - too cool. I bought them off ebay real cheap. The sound is fantastic because the mp3's remain digital until your stereo decodes them using it's own DAC's. No cables, no blind navigation, no having to get up and go to the computer to play certain songs and skip others - it's just like a component in your rack. ROKU, as well as a ton of other companies have already released versions that will play your video's, pictures, and sound files - all thru your TV using Hi-Def component outputs - and for around $200.00!!! It makes me wonder why music servers from McIntosh and Escient are even in the market selling their versions for thousands more than using your computer!! And the computer is flexible, and can be upgraded, and......well you get the jist of it.
     

     

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  12. shrinkboy

    shrinkboy AK Subscriber Subscriber

    god i feel stupid right now
     
  13. JimmyNeutron

    JimmyNeutron Super Member

    Messages:
    3,235
    Location:
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    And why is that, Shrinkboy?
     
  14. shrinkboy

    shrinkboy AK Subscriber Subscriber

    because i am a liberal arts major in a world of techies. i do well getting my main system wired up right and the sources playing through the right function buttons on my preamp. computers as music servers!? that's a quantum leap beyond for the old baby boomer/raised in an analogue world dude here.
     
  15. OvenMaster

    OvenMaster RIP Mommy 1935-2018 Subscriber

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    Shrink, if you got any questions, ask us, okay? That's why we're here!
    Tom
     
  16. Reel 2 Reel

    Reel 2 Reel Mad Dog Junkie

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    4,739
    Location:
    Rockport Texas
    I've said it before...but this is easier....


    clik me......


    Just post comments after you try it.....
     

     

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  17. hpsenicka

    hpsenicka Moderator Subscriber

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    ROKU looks interesting...

    Jimmy... the ROKU looks appealing, but one of its features may also be a weakness, or at least a limitation.

    Is there any way to feed a signal from the Roku to a typical vintage amp with analog RCA inputs?

    From what I see it looks like it might be digital output only... is that right??
     
  18. House de Kris

    House de Kris Loud-n-Deep

    Messages:
    2,219
    Location:
    Texas
    I'll have to agree with JimmyNeutron about using external HUI (Hardware User Interface) gear for computer music. I use a TurtleBeach AudioTron which is very similar in concept. Put the noisey computers in another room, and use the network to get the data into the living room. No disc drive noise, no fan noise and as easy to operate as a cassette deck. The AudioTron doesn't require a computer to steam data to it, it just grabs what it needs. Therefore, it can get songs from any computer in your network, or even NAS drives so no computers are required at all. I had all my songs on several discs in a Pentium Pro 150MHz machine running Win2kPro. Worked great without a glitch. I've since "upgraded" to a PII 300MHz, but really, a powerful computer is not needed.

    The AudioTron has a Toshlink out that I run to my Casablanca whose DACs are good enough for me. Also has analog. It'll play MP3, WMA, and WAV. Also internet radio. I keep my "heavy rotation" favorite albums in WAV on my drives for great sound and no need to touch CDs, the rest are in MP3.
     
  19. JimmyNeutron

    JimmyNeutron Super Member

    Messages:
    3,235
    Location:
    San Antonio, Texas

    Probably every media streamer/server has some weaknesses. The trick is to find one that works well for you and your needs. The ROKU fit my needs almost to a tee because of it's styling - hands down the best looking unit to blend with your home gear. The ROKU has both RCA analog line outs, as well as a coax digital out. All media conversion is done in the unit so there is no overhead on the PC itself. This unit is hooked up to my Krell via coax out and the Krell handles the conversion. In my bedroom system, my second ROKU is hooked up to my C-39 via analog RCA outs. Obviously, the Krells better DAC's and cleaner handling of the signal results in a very nice sound - almost as good as my CD's (but no, not CD quality). This could all change soon as one of the achilles heel of the ROKU will soon be adressed via a downloadable firmware upgrade - the ability to handle FLAC files! WooHoo!! Finally a real-world alternative to the crummy sound of mp3's!! This will be great!!

    There are also other products that handle not just the audio, but video as well. Roku's HD1000 unit will play mp3's as well as all your video files and photos - and output those photos in real hi-def to your TV's component input!!! Finally your 5 megapixel picture will look like a 5 megapixel picture on your TV and not like some washed out comic book cartton drawing!! I've seen this unit at CompUSA and let me tell you this is real computer/video/audio convergence here!! This will be my next purchase (when funds allow).

    HP, Linksys, Belkin, Netgear, etc all have similar models that do these things - and they do it wirelessly. We live in an awesome time right now. The world of Star Trek is already upon us :)

    BTW: Putting all your media on 1 computer and then tuck it into the closet is the way to go. I bought my Gateway for $5.00 at a yardsale just last month. All it needed was a hard drive. I have several lying around. All my music was transferred to it and tucked in the closet and connected to my network. Bingo - instant wireless server!! All easily upgradable to any format that a PC can handle!! And all for several thousand dollars less than the nearest audio component competitor!! It's cheap, easy, and sounds very good. And it's not a big and fast fancy computer either. It's a Pentium II 300 mHz with 512 RAM. But since the only program it's running is the operating system and the music server program, it has never studdered or bogged down. :thmbsp:
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2005
  20. hpsenicka

    hpsenicka Moderator Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,518
    Location:
    west of Toronto, Ontario
    My bad... did not look closely enough to see that the Roku has stereo RCA outputs.
     

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