Play FLAC files through 2-channel system

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by thoro, Jan 13, 2019 at 1:57 PM.

  1. thoro

    thoro New Member

    Messages:
    17
    As the header states I am looking at the best way to play FLAC and other lossless files through my main system (Nikko Beta 40 preamp and Nikko Alpha 440 power amp).
    I am currently using an old and noisy desktop PC connected to the preamp via a 3.5mm to RCA cable assembly. The sound is far from great and I believe the cheap soundcard is one of the main culprits here. The other issue is the fan which sounds like a Boeing 747.

    Could anyone advise on any units that can be connected directly to the preamp?
    All music is on a separate 1TB harddrive so if required I can move it from the PC and install in such unit.
    My budget is $500 or so.
    The last resort would be to buy a new desktop (which I intend to do anyway) with a good soundcard, but I am hoping to find a neater separate solution where I don't have to switch on the PC every time I want to listen to music.

    Thanks in advance
    Tom
     

     

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  2. dondoucette

    dondoucette Too Many Projects Subscriber

    Messages:
    524
    Location:
    Regina, Saskatchewan Canada
    I would look into Raspberry pi
    Lots of options there
    Many high quality output device choices
    Free software
    Supports 7” touch screen

    Can be put together for far less $ than your budget
     
  3. cpt_paranoia

    cpt_paranoia Super Member

    Messages:
    1,066
  4. ducati_EL34

    ducati_EL34 Super Member

    I use a raspberry Pi with an IQaudio DAC. 1TB disk for music storage. It isrunning rune audio server, which is ArchLinux ARM based.
     
  5. cpt_paranoia

    cpt_paranoia Super Member

    Messages:
    1,066
    A good choice.

    Chromecast Audio is also a good, cheap network renderer, either using its analogue output directly, or feeding its optical output to a DAC.
     
    awillia6 likes this.
  6. njcanuck

    njcanuck aka: MacGyver Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,786
    Location:
    Cape Coral, Florida
    The now discontinued Squeezebox units are great for this purpose, too. I use four of them.
     

     

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  7. xero-D-hero

    xero-D-hero Super Member

    Messages:
    2,431
    I gotta figure what you mean here is this "noise" you mention is the PC is affecting the audio output signal,right ?
    Just wanna be clear about this,as if you meant the PC itself was "noisey" than that's likely a whole other can-O-worms.
    What soundcard might I ask ?
    Does it have an optical output ??
    If it does than your answer may be as simple as using that optical output to feed an external DAC with an optical input.
    That's what I did and I could'nt be happier with the results...

    It would also help folks here to know what sorta resolution files you are listening to,as that can play into this deal as well.
    This one is simple,get some quieter fans.
    My prefered brand is Noctura,they move lots of air and are quiet as can be.
    Yes,as I said above what you really need to do is move away from using that 3.5mm to RCA cable assembly and get a DAC.
    There are tons of options there and they can use various interfaces (USB ~ Coax ~ Optical et-al) mostly depending on what the PC has for outputs.

    Anyhow this can be dealt with pretty easily,and w/o breaking the bank.

    BTDT

    Bret P.
     
    Bill Ferris likes this.
  8. thoro

    thoro New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Thanks for all replies so far...some interesting reading there and once I started reading up on one subject it led me to read up on other stuff too. I have a feeling that my learning curve will be steep as I am very old-school, but there are a wealth of solutions out there the by the look of it.
     
    John James likes this.
  9. akadrhouse

    akadrhouse New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    RTP - NC
    I too have been amazed at the CCA. They were just discontinued by google, so if you want one, get one quick before inventory goes away. As mentioned, you can use a toslink cable to go from the CCA into a DAC. But the 3.5mm out to two channel input into my Marantz 2270 sounds incredible. I can't believe the quality of sound from the internal DAC in the CCA hockypuck for 20 bucks.

    First post here btw. Hello all.
     
    bigx5murf likes this.
  10. Markoneswift

    Markoneswift Quartz locked n ready to rock

    Messages:
    3,513
    Location:
    Aotearoa New Zealand
    I stream FLAC files from my Windows 10 desktop to an Apple Airport Express. The Airport Express has an excellent DAC and can be found online for very little money I use a program called Airfoil on my PC which converts the audio stream to an Airplay compatible stream that the Airport can receive. The Airport then connects to my amp via a standard 3.5mm stereo jack to twin RCA.
     
  11. ic-racer

    ic-racer Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    984
    Location:
    USA
    If looking for inexpensive, I had an extra one of these $99 converters from my home studio. These are for home recording studio analog-to-digital, but I found the digital-to-analog output to be excellent, so I put the extra one in my hi-fi system to play form my computer files. About 25% of my computer files are compressed, but the non-compressed files sound the same to me as if I played the CD with my mid to high level CD player.
    Additional advantage is stereo tapes and LPs can be recorded to the computer with the analog-to-digital mode. I have multiple phono preamps, so I never tried it without a phono preamp.
    [​IMG]
     
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  12. ic-racer

    ic-racer Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    984
    Location:
    USA
    Another $99 solution I use for home-recording is this iPad converter. When not playing music files, this one can record from a turntable with its built-in phono preamp. I don't know enough about the specs of the Raspberry PI to know if that is any better for $30, but these two are inexpensive plug-and-play solutions I have used.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. orsen

    orsen just another old cheapskate that likes audio

    simple usb dac
    from $30 to infinity
    jriver for a good organizer player
     
  14. Ross6860

    Ross6860 AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Ohio
    I use my OPPO disc player. HDD/USB direct to the OPPO. You need a cheap video display/TV to operate it, though.
     
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  15. KingBubba

    KingBubba "Too Much Stuff" Subscriber

    Messages:
    10,094
    Location:
    Brooksville, Fl.
    Sometimes a plain old usb soundcard can accomplish your needs. I have yet to move to the use of a dac. I am still fighting the groundloop issue with my external usb hard drive StarTech. I have tried everything and I still get a low grade hum that I can live with. They have a great tech support, but were still able to assist me.
     
  16. grey_beard

    grey_beard Active Member

    Messages:
    168
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I do quite a bit of playback using a Chromecast. I have it run into an HDMI input in my Yamaha RX-A1010. The Chromecast is super simple and streams using wifi which works well for my situation, YMMV. I can "throw" music or video to it in a number of ways.

    That said, I would like to explore building something with a Raspberry Pi.
     

     

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  17. SpruceMoose

    SpruceMoose Super Member

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    1,666
    I just bought two Chromecast Audio devices for the only two stereos in the house without a pc or Apple TV attached to them. Now I can use any cell phone or tablet to stream pandora or music on my local hard drives to either my Dynaco tube rig or Kenwood Super Eleven rig.
     
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  18. Ears of Tin

    Ears of Tin New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Originally, I installed Plex server on my laptop and casted to a Chromecast Audio device connected via RCA to line-in on my system. Files were stored on NAS. The sound was very satisfactory to me and was music was easily controlled from phone or tablet with Plex app. But I didn't like clutter of leaving a laptop always on and laying about (I see the appeal of an Intel NUC and may go that way eventually). Found myself using the BubbleUp more and Plex less. But BubbleUp was a bit kludgy. And CCA requires internet connection even if streaming local files which seems very inelegant.

    Currently I use a Rasberry Pi running RuneAudio software. User interface is very clean and simple and works better for me than Volumio or BubbleUp. An I2S DAC snaps on top of the Pi and connects with RCA cable. Files are stored on an attached HDD and can be populated from my PC or tablet using the Pi's wifi connection. Very happy with this system for everyday use. Next step is to figure out access points/hot spots and then cut the router out of the chain.

    I still use the CCAs - one on main system for casting internet radio, one in spare bedroom and one as a "headphone amp" which I power with a portable charger.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019 at 8:28 PM
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  19. Ears of Tin

    Ears of Tin New Member

    Messages:
    8
    For what it's worth if you have a Roku equipped TV attached to your audio system you can immediately start streaming files from your laptop. Use one of the Roku channels such as "Roku Media Player" or "Plex channel" or "MyMedia". This method is better suited for video and slide shows but will handle audio. Downside is you have to find the TV remote to play some music. But it's a stopgap until you set up something else.
     
  20. Portkula

    Portkula Active Member

    Messages:
    378
    Formats (FLAC or others) have nothing to do with the composition of a system.
    Yes, of course. A NOT NOISY comp.
    In all my personal practice for years, a GOOD “onboard” soundcard is simply an “onboard” soundcard in good technical condition.

    On my two “generations” of desktops, their “onboard” soundcards were and one is for the moment, silent and, with their THDs of approx. “0.01%” (measured with an excellent quality program analyzer), deliver clear and absolutely undistorted sound.
     

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